A ranking House Republican yesterday demanded a hearing based on recent reports that Islamic terrorists embedded in the United States are teaming with Mexican drug cartels to fund terrorism networks overseas.
Rep. Ed Royce, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs terrorism and nonproliferation subcommittee, said the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) document — first reported yesterday by The Washington Times — highlights how vulnerable the nation is when fighting the war on terrorism.
"I'll be asking the terrorism subcommittee to hold a hearing on the DEA report's disturbing findings," said Mr. Royce of California. "A flood of name changes from Arabic to Hispanic and the reported linking of drug cartels on the Texas border with Middle East terrorism needs to be thoroughly investigated."
Likewise, Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, said the DEA document revealed startling evidence that Islamic radicals are camouflaging themselves as Hispanics while conducting business with violent drug-trafficking organizations.
"I have been ringing the bell about this serious threat of Islamic individuals changing their surnames to Hispanic surnames for three to four years," Mr. Culberson said. "Unfortunately, Homeland Security's highest priority is to hide the truth from Congress and the public. I just hope we're not closing the barn door after terrorists have already made their way in."
Mr. Culberson, a member of the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, yesterday wrote a letter to the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. David E. Price, North Carolina Democrat, requesting a full investigation and hearing into the matter. A spokesman for Mr. Price said the committee is contacting the law-enforcement agencies and will work closely with Mr. Culberson's office on the matter.
"We certainly want to learn more about the matter from the agencies involved," said Paul Cox, press secretary to Mr. Price.
The 2005 DEA report outlines several incidents in which multiple Middle Eastern drug-trafficking and terrorist cells in the U.S. are funding terrorism networks overseas with the aid of Mexican cartels. These sleeper cells use established Mexican cartels with highly sophisticated trafficking routes to move narcotics — and other contraband — in and out of the United States, the report said.
These "persons of interest" speak Arabic, Spanish and Hebrew fluently, according to the document.
The report includes photographs of known Middle Easterners who "appear to be Hispanic; they are in fact, all Spanish-speaking Arabic drug traffickers supporting Middle East terrorism from their base of operations" in the southwestern United States, according to the DEA.
Michael Maxwell, a senior analyst with the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, said that the report is evidence that terrorism cells exist in the U.S. and are being aided by dangerous narco-trafficking cartels.
"While the procurement of fraudulent or multiple identities by terrorists to hide criminal activity is not new, the information suggests terrorist tradecraft is evolving and relationships now exist between Mexican and Middle Eastern individuals or groups, embedded here in the United States," he added.
The ties are as deep as family, according to the DEA report, which said that a Middle Eastern member of the Muslim Brotherhood, involved in narcotics sales and other crimes, married into a Mexican narcotics family.
"One of the targets of this investigation is an Arabic man," the document said.
A 2006 Department of Homeland Security intelligence report — also obtained by The Times — said that Al Qaeda has tried and is planning on using the Southwest border to enter the U.S.
Mark Juergensmeyer, director of the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara and a terrorism specialist, said that links between terrorism and narcotics trafficking have been well-established in foreign nations, such as Afghanistan.
But Mr. Juergensmeyer said the DEA report linking terrorist organizations in the United States to Mexican drug cartels displays a new evolution in terrorist tactics and poses a serious concern in the area of security.
"In some ways, that's even more frightening to think that drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico may adopt some jihadist ideology," he said. "If it's an ideology being adopted by a drug culture then that makes this situation very dangerous."