By General Michael Webster
General JOHN F. KELLY, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS COMMANDER, of the UNITED STATES SOUTHERN COMMAND told the 114th CONGRESS SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
By General Michael Mick Webster, United States Civil Defense assoc.
March 14, 2015 at 8:00 AM PDT
The spread of Mexican Drug Cartels (MDC’s) and other criminal organizations in Mexico and other Central and South American countries are beginning to join forces with terrorist groups like ISIS.
Together they are tearing at the social, economic, and security fabric of our neighbors to the south. Powerful MDC’s are well resourced; these groups traffic in drugs and humans. This includes smuggling into the U.S. heroin, cocaine, marijuana, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, methamphetamine – small arms and explosives, precursor chemicals, illegally mined gold, counterfeit goods, humans, and dangerous terrorists and contraband.
They engage in money laundering using many American banks, bribery of officials from both Mexico and the U.S., intimidation and threats to business owners and individuals and bloody assassinations which include beheadings every bit as horrible as the recently depicted murders of innocent journalist and christens seen on worldwide TV by ISIS . They threaten the very underpinnings of democracy itself: citizen safety, rule of law, and economic prosperity. And they pose a direct threat to the stability of our partners and an insidious risk to the security of our nation.
While there is growing recognition of the danger posed by transnational organized crime, it is often eclipsed by other concerns.
According to General JOHN F. KELLY, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS COMMANDER of the UNITED STATES SOUTHERN COMMAND, who spoke before the 114th CONGRESS SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, “I believe we are overlooking a significant security threat.”
Criminal organizations are constantly adapting their methods for trafficking across our borders. There are reports from intel sources around the world who believe that there are clear indications that the criminal networks involved in human and drug trafficking are interested in supporting the efforts of terrorist groups, these networks could unwittingly, or even wittingly, facilitate the movement of terrorist operatives or weapons of mass destruction toward our borders. Potentially undetected and almost completely unrestricted. Some experts and American officials think some WMD’s are already within our borders.
General Kelly reports that the drug trade – which is exacerbated by U.S. drug consumption – has wrought devastating consequences in many of our partner nations, degrading their civilian police and justice systems, corrupting their institutions, and contributing to a breakdown in citizen safety.
The general points out that the tentacles of global networks involved in narcotics and arms trafficking, human smuggling, illicit finance, and other types of illegal activity reach across Latin America and the Caribbean and into the United States, yet we continue to underestimate the threat of transnational organized crime at significant and direct risk to our national security and that of our partner nations. Unless confronted by an immediate, visible, or uncomfortable crisis, our nation’s tendency is to take the security of the Western Hemisphere for granted. I believe this is a mistake.
In addition to thousands of Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence, foreign nationals from the Middle East including countries like Somalia, Bangladesh, Lebanon, and Pakistan are using the region’s human smuggling networks to enter the United States.
While many are merely seeking economic opportunity or fleeing war, others are seeking to do us harm. Last year, ISIS adherents posted discussions on social media calling for the infiltration of the U.S. southern border.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, 2013 Threat Assessment Spotlighted that the Economic Citizenship Programs provides a quick path for foreign nationals to acquire citizenship. Of concern, these “cash for passport” programs could be exploited by criminals, terrorists, or other nefarious actors to obtain freedom of movement, facilitate entry into the U.S., or launder illicitly gained funds.
Last year, almost half a million migrants from Central America and Mexico – including over 50,000 unaccompanied children (UAC) and families – were apprehended on our border, many fleeing violence, poverty, and the spreading influence of criminal networks and gangs. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson testified that the “UAC migration serves as a warning sign that the serious and longstanding challenges in Central America are worsening.” In my opinion, the relative ease with which human smugglers moved tens of thousands of people to our nation’s doorstep also serves as another warning sign: these smuggling routes are a potential vulnerability to our homeland. As I stated last year, terrorist organizations could seek to leverage those same smuggling routes to move operatives with intent to cause grave harm to our citizens or even bring weapons of mass destruction into the United States.”
There appears to be financial and operational overlap between criminal and terrorist networks in the region. Terrorists and militant organizations are believed to be taping into the international illicit marketplace to underwrite their activities and obtain arms and funding to conduct operations to spread extreme Islam throughout the globe.
POSTURE STATEMENT OF GENERAL JOHN F. KELLY, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS COMMANDER, UNITED STATES SOUTHERN COMMAND BEFORE THE 114TH CONGRESS SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE 12 MARCH 2015.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, 2013 Threat Assessment
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, FY 14 Border Security Report. According to the CBP, 239,229 migrants from the Northern Tier countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador were apprehended in 2014, representing a 68% increase compared to FY 13. 229,178 migrants from Mexico were apprehended, a 14% decrease.
Testimony of Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, United States House of Representatives, November 18, 2014.