A recent report by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), a division of the U.S. Justice Department, downplays the threat of terrorists crossing the U.S.-Mexico border even as it paints a picture of a border wide open to the smuggling activities of Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), whose poisons and criminal co-conspirators are now found in every region of the United States.
The NDIC's National Drug Threat Assessment for 2010, released on March 25, twice appears to assert that there have been no documented cases of terrorists illegally entering the United States across the Mexican border, an assertion contradicted by a 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, a 2007 statement to the El Paso Times by then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and 2005 testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by FBI Director Robert Mueller.
"Of some concern to law enforcement officials is the potential for using drug smuggling routes to move terrorists or transport weapons of mass destruction into the United States," says page 14 of the NDIC threat assessment. "However, there have been no incidents of this type documented, and according to federal law enforcement officials, the involvement of Mexican DTOs in this type of activity is very unlikely."
Three pages later, the report states:
"Of particular concern is the smuggling of criminal aliens and gang members who pose public safety threats to communities throughout the border region and the country. These individuals include hundreds of undocumented aliens from special-interest countries, primarily China, but also Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, and members from transnational gangs such as Barrio Azteca, Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13), transnational Surenos (including 18th Street, Florencia and Los Wonders), who also illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border annually. Available reporting indicates that some ASOs (alien smuggling organizations) specialize in smuggling special-interest aliens into the United States. Of those undocumented aliens from special-interest countries that have been interdicted, none have been documented to be known or suspected terrorists. Moreover, according to law enforcement and intelligence reporting, DTOs have demonstrated no interest in engaging in terrorist smuggling from Mexico into the United States."
"Special interest countries," according to GAO, are those "the Department of State has determined to represent a potential terrorist threat to the United States."
Taken at face value, DOJ's National Drug Threat Assessment seems to say that even though some alien smuggling organizations now cater to illegal aliens coming from countries that pose a potential terrorist threat to the United States, none of these aliens "have been documented to be known or suspected terrorists."
An August 2009 GAO report on Customs and Border Protection checkpoints erected on highways flowing north from the Mexican border said the opposite. "CBP reported that in fiscal year 2008, there were three individuals encountered by the Border Patrol at southwest border checkpoints who were identified as persons linked to terrorism," the report said.
The GAO report also said there were hundreds of other illegal aliens from "special interest countries" intercepted at Border Patrol checkpoints just north of the Mexican border who were not tied to terrorism. "In addition," said the report, "the Border Patrol reported that in fiscal year 2008 checkpoints encountered 530 aliens from special interest countries, which are countries the Department of State has determined to represent a potential terrorist threat to the United States. While people from these countries may not have any ties to illegal or terrorist activities, Border Patrol agents detain aliens from special interest countries if they are in the United States illegally and Border Patrol agents report these encounters to the local Sector Intelligence Agent, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations and the CBP National Targeting Center."
In written testimony presented to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Feb. 16, 2005, FBI Director Mueller said a man indicted for providing material support to Hezbollah had illegally entered the United States through Mexico.
"In Detroit, Mahmoud Youssef Kourani was indicted in the Eastern District of Michigan on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to Hezbollah," said Mueller. "Kourani was already in custody for entering the country illegally through Mexico and was involved in fundraising activities on behalf of Hezbollah."
Kourani later pleaded guilty. "According to federal prosecutors, Kourani was a fighter, recruiter and fundraiser for Hezbollah and operated in both Lebanon and the United States," The Associated Press reported when he was sentenced in June 2005. "Prosecutors said his brother, Haidar, was chief of military security for the group in southern Lebanon and directed Kourani's U.S. activities."
On Aug. 22, 2007, the El Paso Times published an interview with Mike McConnell, then-director of national intelligence. "So are terrorists coming across the Southwest border?" McConnell asked rhetorically. "Not in great numbers."
"There are some cases," asked a reporter.
"There are some," said McConnell. "And would they use it as a path, given it was available to them? In time they will."