DEA: An Established ‘Nexus’ Between Drug Traffickers and Terrorism Exists

Edwin Mora | March 15, 2012 | 2:52pm EDT
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Mexican soldiers stand guard around a huge cache of arms seized in a 2008 raid on safe houses in northern Mexico – across the Rio Grande from Hidalgo County, Texas – belonging to the notorious Los Zetas drug cartel. (AP Photo)

( – The DEA has informed Congress that an established nexus exists between drug traffickers and terrorism.

As an example, the agency, which is a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, mentioned its work in thwarting the scheme to murder the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. The plot involved Middle Eastern criminals who believed they were dealing with a member of a violent Mexican cartel.

“The nexus that exists between terrorism and drug trafficking organizations necessitates that DEA engage in proactive enforcement and intelligence gathering operations with its host nation law enforcement counterparts by targeting the command and control structure of drug trafficking organizations operating in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Southwest Asia,” states the DEA in its FY 2013 Performance Budget submitted to Congress.

DEA, in the document, identified the foiled plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador, which the agency first announced in October 2011, as a “success story” of its work in the narco-terrorism area.

“Although traditional criminal organizations continue to dominate the international drug trade at all levels, drug income is a source of revenue for some international terrorist groups,” adds the budget document. “DEA investigations have identified links between terrorist organizations and/or individuals under investigation for drug violations.”

Derek Maltz, the special agent in charge of DEA’s special operations division, warned lawmakers in November 2011 about the “nexus” between drug traffickers and terrorism again using the Saudi Ambassador’s murder plot as an example.

“The nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism is well established,” testified Maltz. “The most recent example of the alleged assassination plot of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S. illustrates the extent to which terrorist organizations will align themselves with other criminals to achieve their goals.” 

“In this case, it is alleged that Manssor Arbabsiar approached someone he believed to be a member of an extremely violent Mexican drug trafficking organization,” he continued. “Arbabsiar approached this individual because he believed that people in the narcotics business are willing to undertake criminal activity in exchange for money. Luckily, the individual who was allegedly approached was a DEA informant and the plot was thwarted.”

The defendants in the case were Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of Iran’s Qods Force, a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps believed to be a sponsor of terrorism.

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