'Hundreds' of 'Soldiers of Hezbollah' Inside the U.S., Says Homeland Security Chairman

March 23, 2012 - 9:20 AM

Hezbollah

Members of Hezbollah parade on Hezbollah Martyrs Day in 2011 outside of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

(CNSNews.com) – At a Wednesday hearing, House Homeland Security Chairman Pete King (R.-N.Y.) said that "at a minimum" there are hundreds of "soldiers of Hezbollah" inside the United States.

"Now, how many Iranian and Hezbollah terrorists are here already?" said King. "The highly-disciplined soldiers of Hezbollah are trained to lie low for years, or for decades. Those who have gone up against this enemy for our government estimate the number to be at a minimum--at a minimum--in the hundreds."

At the same hearing, the former chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration testified that Mexican drug cartels are in "very close contact" with Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda. He then pointed to what he called the possibility of a "nightmare scenario" in which Hezbollah and the Iranian al Quds force "focus on our Southwest border and use that as perhaps a springboard in attacking our country."

“When most people think of, you know, [the] drugs-terror nexus, they immediately think of Latin America,” Michael Braun, who retired from the DEA in 2008, told the committee on Wednesday.

“But let me be perfectly clear," he said. "As Europe’s demand for cocaine continues to grow and as the Mexican and Colombian cartels, including the FARC, have sent their operatives into West Africa and North Africa to establish the transshipment infrastructure needed to move tons of those drugs, these bad guys are now routinely coming in very close contact with the likes of Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda who are vying for the same money, the same turf, and the same dollars.”

Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda and FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) all have been officially designated by the U.S. government as foreign terrorist organizations.

“If anyone thinks for a moment that Hezbollah and the [Iranian] Quds Force, the masters at leveraging and exploiting existing illicit infrastructures globally, are not going to focus on our Southwest border and use that as perhaps a springboard in attacking our country, then they just don’t understand how the real underworld works.”

Homeland Security Chairman Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) told the hearing, "we know" that Hezbollah "is in America," and that the Iranian-sponsored group "has been trained to lie low for years."

"Since 9/11, America's counter-terror officials have focused on finding al Qaeda operatives inside America, as weill as homegrown radicalized Islamist extremists ready to perpetrate violence against our people," King said.

"Now, as Iran moves closer to nuclear wepaons, and there is increasing concern over war between Iran and Israel, we must also focus on Iran's secret operatives and their No. 1 terrorist proxy force, Hezbollah, which we know is in America," King said.

"That's right. We know Hezbollah operatives are here," King emphasized. "The question is whether these Hezbollah operatives have the capacity to carry out attacks on the homeland, and how quickly they can become fully operational."

"More than 20 federal investigation since 9/11 identified by the majority's investigative staff offer a chilling view of Iranian and Hezbollah's operations inside the United States," said King.

King pointed to the possibility that Iranian backed terrorist could strike the United States from inside the United States.

"So will Iran launch terror strikes inside our homeland if it feels threatened?" King asked. "In light of last year's bomb plot, in light of the 20 Hezbollah cases prosecuted since 9/11, and in light of Hezbollah attacks overseas, we have a duty to prepare for the worst."

This possibility, he said, was underscored by the fact that there are already hundreds of Iranian and Hezbollah terrorist inside the U.S.

"Now, how many Iranian and Hezbollah terrorists are here already?" said King. "The highly-disciplined soldiers of Hezbollah are trained to lie low for years, or for decades. Those who have gone up against this enemy for our government estimate the number to be at a minimum--at a minimum--in the hundreds."

King said that Iranian officials at the U.N. have already been removed from the country after they were discovered photographing the rail systems in New York City.

"Also, there are 55 Iranian diplomats at its U.N. mission in New York, and another 29 Iranian officials here at its interest section in D.C., according to the Obama Administration; many of whom, it must be presumed, are intelligence officers," said King.

"Several of their comrades of these U.N.-mission types in New York were removed from the U.N. mission and sent back to Iran after the NYPD caught them photographing the city's rail systems in the years since 9/11," said King.

"Intelligence officials and leaders have told us that Hezbollah is the group most capable of flipping its nationwide network of criminal fund-raising cells into an operational terror force, capable of great violence on orders from its leaders in Iran or Lebanon," said King.

Last fall, U.S. law enforcement foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. by blowing up a Washington, D.C., restaurant. The plot involved a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Iran who had been a member of Iran’s Quds Force, an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps component.

The Iranian suspect tried to hire a DEA informant who was posing as a member of a violent Mexican drug cartel.

In its latest budget justification submitted to Congress, the DEA highlighted the thwarted plot to murder the Saudi ambassador as an example of the established nexus between terrorism and drug trafficking organizations.

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, told lawmakers last month that Iran is “now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States.”

Historically, the State Department has dismissed Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America as being solely focused on fundraising and not operational.

“In the Western hemisphere, Hezbollah has tapped into Muslim communities to raise funds … we do note, however, that we have no credible information to indicate that Hezbollah has an operational presence in Latin America,” Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, told lawmakers in June 2010.