The Threat From Terrorism and Human Trafficking in Latin America

 

This originally appeared in Insidesources: “Hypothetical, if unproven, scenarios often dominate the storyline of possible collusion between organized crime and jihadists in Latin America. But the growth of illicit networks and successful human smuggling operations poses a known and immediate threat to U.S. national security.

Complicated networks of fringe supporters, associate funders and full-time operators help connect criminal and terrorist elements from hot spots around the globe. Hezbollah works with powerful Colombian and Brazilian drug syndicates to move tons of cocaine into Africa and Europe. Networks of loosely affiliated criminal organizations facilitate the paid covert transfer of terrorists over international borders.

The fluidity of these networks, however, poses a problem for counterterrorism and interdiction efforts. Navy Adm. Kurt Walter Tidd explained that “what’s true about (a network) today … isn’t necessarily true tomorrow.”

Understanding the complexities of the international connections linking organized crime with terrorist organizations can be confusing since they remain in constant flux, he said.

Terrorism expert Douglas Farah offers a more static picture of networks, breaking them down into three essential elements: fixers, super fixers and shadow facilitators. Local fixers are business elites that profit from connecting seedy organizations to otherwise difficult-to-penetrate local financial networks, while the super fixers do something similar on a regional or global scale. The shadow facilitators, Farah writes, specialize in moving weapons and commodities, in addition to having access to fraudulent documents and money-laundering services.

Networks rely on these outsourcing operations. And that outsourcing has provided lesser-known actors capabilities once generally reserved for nation-states. This makes a relatively inexpensive operation, like human smuggling, accessible to virtually anyone. The small-time Islamist thousands of miles away now becomes a significant threat.

The problem for U.S. security is that networks in Latin America specialize in human smuggling and have known connections to countries of concern in the Middle East.

According to the Arizona attorney general’s office, a disproportionate amount of wire transfers come from the Middle East or from individuals with Middle Eastern names to specific border cities in Mexico. The majority of wire transfers arrive in Tapachula ‒‒ a city on Mexico’s southern border and a major hub for human smuggling. The second-highest amount goes to the northern city of Nogales, just over the border from Arizona. Neither city appears to have a notable immigrant population, which might otherwise warrant such significant transactions.

In August 2014, four Turkish men who claimed to have ties to terrorist organizations were detained after crossing the border into Texas. The four flew directly from Istanbul to Mexico City, and a Turkish-speaking contact sheltered them in a safe house for a month before their cross-border transit into Texas from Reynosa, Mexico. Each man paid a mere $8,000. Putting that cost in perspective: Hezbollah operatives have laundered as much as $200 million a month in cocaine revenue for some Latin American drug cartels.

Judicial Watch sources reported in 2015 that cartel associates had willingly and knowingly smuggled ISIS members through the weakly manned corridor between Acala and Fort Hancock, Texas. ISIS member Mahmood Omar Khabir ‒‒ a former al-Qaeda instructor expelled from Kuwait for extremism ‒‒ claims to have traveled back and forth across the border from his hideout in northern Mexico near El Paso to scout targets with the help of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Sharafat Ali Khan pleaded guilty in April 2017 to smuggling illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh through an elaborate underground railroad that originated in Brazil. One of those smuggled Afghans was later tied to a plot to attack the United States and pleaded guilty in April 2017.

The confusing overlaps between criminal and terrorist activities within the networks create uncertainties of jurisdiction for the military and law enforcement. Trying to stop the range of illicit activities of one criminal organization should change to emphasizing a specific type of operation. The U.S. government could concentrate on human smuggling in Latin America and counter the activity rather than the actor.

To supplement this strategy, the U.S. government could adopt a version of Drug Enforcement Administration Chief of Operations David Braun’s idea of helping Latin American countries craft powerful conspiracy laws. The Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act proved successful in taking apart the once impenetrable American mob because it allowed prosecutors to try organized crime leaders and associates for ordering or facilitating a criminal act, regardless of whether they personally committed the offense.

The U.S. adversaries who have infiltrated Latin America have proven capable and willing to move people into position to attack American communities. For that reason, human smuggling should be a priority.”

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Terrorism in Latin America (Part One): The Infiltration of Islamic Extremists

 

“The threat from Islamic extremists in Latin America remains an overlooked aspect of U.S. national security strategy. And the threat is worsening – not “waning” as the Obama administration claimed about Iran in 2013. The Trump administration should shift U.S. priorities in Latin America to strategies that preemptively disrupt the financial networks of Islamists, aid allied governments with legal and law enforcement support, and increase intelligence-gathering capabilities in the region.

The Process Began Decades Ago. Islamic extremists have used Latin America as a base of political and financial support since the immediate years preceding the formation of Israel in May 1948:

  • A handful of Arab officials and Arab-Palestinian sympathizers began fundraising efforts and circulated anti-Israeli literature throughout parts of Latin America not long after the first Arab-Israeli war (1948- 1949).
  • As networks developed and diplomacy turned to violent activism, more militant groups moved in; for instance, in the 1960s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) used established networks to build their own base of support among guerrilla factions, local anti-Semitic organizations and Arab civic groups in Argentina.
  • Furthermore, the PLO and others also collaborated with rebels in Nicaragua in the 1970s and with the Cuban government in the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict.

Aided by these local networks, Iran began settling its agents in Latin America in the early 1980s and operatives from Hezbollah ‒‒ a militant Islamist group based in Lebanon and proxy force of Iran ‒‒ soon followed.

Latin America Is Important for Relationships and Money. Today, international Islamists, especially Iran and Hezbollah, employ much more sophisticated fundraising and recruitment operations that reach far and wide. Former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States Roger Noriega told Congress in March 2012 that Iran now has 80 Hezbollah Islamist operatives in at least 12 Latin American nations –‒ including Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Chile. In fact, the U.S. Treasury Department froze the assets of Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami in February 2017 for his collaboration with drug organizations and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.

Separately, author and senior Pentagon consultant Edward Luttwak describes the lawless triborder region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, 800 miles north of Buenos Aires, as the most important base for Hezbollah outside of its headquarters in Lebanon. The $6 billion-a-year illicit economy in this Hezbollah stronghold has allowed a variety of terrorist organizations to earn an estimated $10 million to $20 million a year from arms trafficking, counterfeiting and drug distribution, among other illegal activities…”

See more here.

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America Should Be Ready, Venezuela Might Become the Next Syria

 

This originally appeared in Townhall. “Said former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Nazi buildup in Europe: “When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure.” The unwillingness to act when such action would have been simple and effective constitutes the “endless repetition of history,” he concluded.

Today, observers would rightly associate this statement with Syria. But Churchill did not make this proclamation so future generations would seek out examples that affirmed his logic. He made the statement so future generations would break that dreadful repetition. This is not just a quote of self reflection – it’s a call to action.

Syria is thoroughly out of hand and late remedies are now being applied. The cycle of historical inaction will not be broken in Syria. Pundits, politicians and military officials would be wise to stop reliving what could have been done there, and start looking at what can be done elsewhere. Therefore, the American government must determine the likelihood of Venezuela becoming another Syria – this time in the western hemisphere. The United States and its Latin American allies must then collectively decide whether to do anything about it.

In their quest for more and more power, Chavez and then Maduro made reliable access to basic necessities a virtual impossibility. Maduro then had the Supreme Court dissolve the Congress after the Venezuelan people stocked the legislature with opposition members through democratic elections. Although international outcry forced him to partially rescind that order, Maduro continues to issue tyrannical edicts that will have the same effect at a slower pace. Now the Maduro regime has armed loyalists to seek out and kill dissenters. Over twenty people have died in riots over the last few weeks.

This administration would rather starve its people than relinquish power. Maduro would rather dismantle government and assassinate opponents than keep the country viable. History tells us that such despotism and subsequent international inaction can lead to Assad-like levels of oppression.

Making matters worse, this regime has allowed international criminal networks and terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah, to thrive within the country’s borders. This permissive environment has thoroughly compromised the upper echelons of the Venezuelan government and allowed illicit behavior to permeate the economy and society.

Most important, the same actors in Russia and Iran that prevent Assad’s demise are the same players underwriting Venezuelan tyranny. Remember that Vice President Tareck El Aissami is Hezbollah’s go-to guy in the administration. Experts should not be fooled into thinking that geographic distance will dissuade Russia or Iran from intervening on Maduro’s behalf. Neither country will so easily cede such a strategic and lucrative relationship – one that each country has spent years cultivating.

President Trump must be prepared for the possibility of a Syria in the western hemisphere. The administration has already taken steps to sanction high-level Venezuelan officials for their work with cartels and known terrorist organizations. But they must also be prepared for preemptive action:

  • Anticipate and be prepared for the possibility that Russia, Iran and/or Hezbollah will help Maduro crush dissent, covertly or otherwise. Do not be caught off guard when they block U.N. resolutions, cripple Maduro’s adversaries through cyber attacks, or, in an extreme situation, deploy military assets.
  • Consider how and where to erect safe zones because a failing state may create a refugee crisis in a region already plagued by economic and social instability.
  • Work with Latin American allies to demand a democratic resolution. Don’t wait for collapse to be spurred into action.

This is not a call for military intervention. It is merely a reminder that the arc of history bends toward inaction – something we often come to regret.”

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Do World Leaders Actually Know How to Respond to Terrorism?

 

This first appeared in Townhall: “A vehicle attack in London. Another in Sweden. A subway bombing in Russia and attacks against Christians in Egypt. The attacks by jihadists just continue.

It seems like world leaders are completely out of ideas.

Here in America, Republican policymakers and terror experts told the public that we just needed a president willing to identify the threat. The Obama administration was the only obstacle to ultimate victory.

Now that the threat has been named (radical Islam), officials have been forced to fall back on their preferred method for action: engineer a solution that contains the exact ingredients necessary to please opposing opinions and inspire their political base – an answer that will lead to decisive action everywhere and avoid unintended consequences anywhere. An impossible standard that can never be met.

The war against radical Islam might well become Obamacare for national security. Americans will continue to suffer, while elected officials dither.

War hawks try to explain away the absence of a plan by claiming that delicate geniuses are test-tubing the most complete, well-rounded approach to defeating jihadists. Leaders bicker over who can render the broadest definition of terrorism – one that offends no one and saves everyone. When that’s settled, “allies” in the Middle East will act offended at what the government believes to be the most inoffensive title possible.

Meanwhile, this hubris then manifests itself in the defense sector, where experts and industry claim they can build weaponry that will literally sniff out a jihadist among civilians and explode the bad guy dead, all the while dispersing candy to the innocent within the blast zone. They just need $50 billion and a 20 year contract.

The modern liberal, especially the European variety, is even more useless in this regard. These secular overlords have the audacity to determine that a jihadist cannot be a Muslim or identify as one, but a 10-year-old boy can become a girl. Their only solution is to facilitate behavior that reflects their preconceived notions. Save Bill Maher, the progressive seems incapable of even admitting the threat might even be related to Islam, bastardized interpretation or otherwise. Instead, they draw moral equivalencies among all belief systems, only to lead us down another path of worthless strategy. No one can expect adequate protection from those that would cling to a conviction in the face of devastating evidence to the contrary.

Those willing to fight this war, regardless of party affiliation, should consider several things.

First, we must know our values and apply them without compromise. Strategy can change. Principles do not. Nikki Haley has put this practice to good use at the United Nations where the United States rightly refuses to continue to play along with the hypocrisy of those bashing Israel. The same unbalanced minds that attack the Jewish state for “human rights abuses,” are some of the same that fund, support or otherwise endorse Islamic terror. Standing firm here will have positive effects downstream.

Second, especially for Republican establishment types, appreciate the nuances but don’t fall into analysis paralysis. The two attacks against Christians in Egypt, for instance, are rooted in the Islamic State’s hyper-Sunni identity and its mission to spark wars along religious lines. They know that this puts western officials in a pinch because either the west responds and faces the inevitable accusations of being the crusades revisited. Or it responds tacitly, which allows terrorism to grow.

Do not concern yourself with trying to disprove an untrue statement. Do not respond to the frame that others create. Instead, just say you are the martyr-maker they’ve asked for, and be on your way.

Lastly, stop fighting the last war. Yes, it’s similar to communism but it cannot be addressed in the same way. The enemy requires quick, decisive action, applied relentlessly on multiple fronts. It requires investment in the less sexy areas of psychological warfare, financial interdiction, and intelligence gathering and requires a vision of what success looks like.

At least for now, President Trump cannot be held responsible for bringing in experts who claimed to have solutions or listening to elected officials who crowed for the past eight years. In fact, unsaddled by the typical worries of political careerists, President Trump has already made major changes to the national security team, clearly unfazed that some will call these early adjustments a sign of a troubled presidency.

Let’s just hope this war doesn’t become the “you can keep your doctor” moment for Republicans. The consequences are far more deadly.”

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FOXNEWS: Grantham says Trump must have a plan for terrorism in Latin America

 

This originally appeared in Fox News based on Grantham’s recent study “Terrorism in Latin America (Part One): The Infiltration of Islamic Extremists”

“The growth of Islamic extremist activity in Latin America is a major security threat to our country. And Iran’s influence in Latin America demands a new national security strategy in the region.

That is all according to a new report released by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan public policy research organization.

The report, authored by David Grantham, senior fellow on national security at the center, looked into the growing influence of countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran in Latin America…” read more here.

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5 Reasons the U.S. Should Defund the U.N. Palestinian Refugee Program

 

(This piece also appeared in the Times of Israel and is co-authored by Calev Myers)

“American taxpayer money is wasted on UN programs, such as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), for which the United States remains the single largest donor of any country, having given $380 million toward a nearly $1 billion budget in 2015.

The United Nations set up UNRWA in 1950 to provide relief services for Palestinian Arabs displaced after the 1948 war between the new State of Israel and its Arab neighbors. The organization was intended to provide temporary social services only to Palestinian Arab refugees and only until they could be integrated into the country that sheltered them. UNRWA has instead grown into a near-permanent refugee industry with substandard education, health care and social services for the millions of Palestinian Arabs under its care.

Despite billions of dollars in aid over the past six decades, there has been little improvement in the lives of Palestinians under UNRWA’s care. Some 65 percent of Palestinian refugees live in poverty, which worsened for some in Gaza after Israel’s withdraw in 2005; the refugee infant mortality rate stands at nearly 22 percent; unemployment in Gaza reached nearly 30 percent in 2011. But five issues, in particular, undermine the rationale for its very existence:

  1. Flawed Legal Mandate

A Palestinian-only refugee agency is legally unsound and morally unjust. Indeed, all other refugees around the world –‒ 130 million since World War II ‒‒ are cared for under the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR has a specific mandate to integrate refugees into the country where they reside to avoid creating generations of people dependent on foreign assistance. UNRWA does just the opposite by applying refugee status to third and fourth generation Palestinians who were never displaced. As a result, the number of “Palestine refugees” grew from roughly 700,000 in 1950 to over 5 million today.

  1. Conflicts of Interest

UNHCR avoids employing aid recipients to escape conflict of interests, whereas UNRWA is staffed mainly by Palestinians and those with an interest in maintaining and growing the system. Making matters worse, an overstaffed UNRWA employs one person for every 182 Palestine refugees registered by UNRWA, compared to UNHCR’s one staff member for every 5,500 refugees.

  1. Faulty Logic of Refugee Status

Approximately 2 million Arab Palestinians live in the area west of the Jordan River, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and are registered by UNRWA as refugees from Palestine. The problem is that these refugees cannot be considered refugees from Palestine since they already live in the Palestinian Authority; the vast majority of them were born in their current place of residence and were never displaced. That twisted logic has now allowed thousands of Syrians of Palestinian origin to register with UNRWA, despite the fact that the majority of them were born in Syria and lived there as citizens until civil war displaced them. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of other Syrian refugees not of Palestinian origin receive no such preferential treatment.

  1. Radicalizing the Innocent

UNRWA textbooks are based largely on Hamas ideology and systematically indoctrinate students in violent jihad. Their schools also periodically hold ceremonies to honor “shahids” or those who have carried out terrorist attacks. Even the UNRWA schools in Gaza were revealed to have been used as munitions storage for Hamas on three different occasions in 2014. In one instance, UNRWA officials simply handed confiscated missiles back to Hamas.

  1. UNRWA Terrorism Connection

The Hamas faction has won the last three elections for the employees’ committee within UNRWA, meaning most employees are members of or support Hamas. That poses a significant problem because, among other issues, Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mash’al admitted that Hamas often reallocates for military use large amounts of donations intended to rebuild civilian infrastructure.

The US government must rethink funding UNRWA. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) began the process with the 2014 UNRWA Anti-Terrorism Act. But US officials could go one step further by refusing to renew UNRWA’s mandate when it expires in June 2017, and by giving UNHCR responsibility for Palestinian refugees. All UNRWA operations west of the Jordan River could then be transferred to the Palestinian Authority.

American taxpayers and the average Palestinian have virtually nothing to show for the millions provided to UNRWA. The U.S. government and others must demand new solutions.”

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Two-Faced Trump Haters

 

Originally appeared in Townhall.com: “The increasing hysteria around Trump from the absolute resistance crowd brought to mind the former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and her statement that peace would come when Israel’s enemies “love their children more than they hate us.” An appropriate parallel would be: Americans will not see peace until Trump’s opposition loves this country more than they hate him.

We have learned that Trump’s progressive opposition will literally protest, violently in some cases, the very things they cared nothing about only one or two years prior:

  1.  James Clapper lied under oath to Congress and never stepped down. No protests.
  2. President Obama ended America’s wet-foot dry-foot policy with Cuba, which left poor Cuban refugees stranded in transit or stuck permanently under the despotism of an emboldened Communist government. No protests.
  3. The Obama administration literally laundered cash and delivered it under the cover of darkness to the greatest state-sponsor of terror. No protests.
  4. President Obama handed out Obamacare waivers at random and then changed the requirements of the law at will. No protests.
  5. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and others previously supported school choice options. No protests.

Here’s what that teaches us about politics and society:

  1. Hypocritical protests are not organic. Genuine, organized protests challenge an idea regardless of the actor. Premediated, often violent protests, are based on the actor.
  2.  Progressives see their political ideas as deities to be worshipped, not policy solutions to be negotiated. Don’t believe me? Tell a progressive that you are willing to allow national gun confiscation only if they agree to outlawing all forms of abortion. Although you have gone as far as sacrificing a constitutional right for an extra-constitutional privilege, they will not accept it.
  3.  The peaceful transition of power does not end on inauguration day. Democrats in office have chosen self over constitutional duty by refusing to attend hearings or otherwise stonewalling appointments. And now Michael Flynn is out in what Bloomberg’s Eli Lake believes to be a political assassination by Obama holdovers.
  4.  Allegations matter more than facts. The Trump administration is learning that in politics if you are responding, you are losing. It was never a Muslim ban and now it doesn’t matter.
  5.  The most powerful position in the world is not liberating. Undoing executive orders put in place by Obama is a valid objective. However, governing through EOs will not have the same staying power as those results that come from work with the legislative branch.
And where does the  administration go from here:
  1. Move quickly to fill all other cabinet positions, particularly those held by Obama loyalists. This slow, disjointed approach to building a government will continue to undermine the president, especially since Americans now know Obama has effectively constructed a shadow unit to undermine any attempts at erasing his harmful policies.
  2. Become more organized, more professional and more calculating. This “you can cash me outside” strategy to governance is more than just unbecoming – it’s cavalier and dangerous. Vice President Pence should take a greater role in crafting an improved image, message and strategy for the administration.
  3.  Remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council. His presence is unnecessary and unwise.
  4.  Move forward with anti-terrorism goals, like concentrating the focus of the counter-extremism program on radical Islam. Those that always beat a hasty retreat to their “not all Muslims are terrorists” safe space after a terrorist attack must understand that such a reaction does not help good Muslims – it hurts them. Defining the enemy protects the innocent. Sebastian Gorka, James Mattis and K.T. McFarland can together define the enemy like no one else.
  5. Encourage more high-profile, off-season debates like the recent engagement between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. Cruz thoroughly dismantled Sanders’ deity of democratic socialism, showing his political religion to be completely unrealistic in both concept and execution. Reaffirming political philosophies in the public square can help forthcoming legislation.”
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The Failure of a Dam in California Is Warning About the Grid

 

This column originally appeared in Townhall.com. “What in the world does the frightening news about the Oroville Dam in California have to do with America’s electric grid? Answer: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The California state government is scrambling to address the failing dam after heavy rains have damaged the main concrete spillway and water is now pouring over the emergency spillway for the first time in history.  The erosion of the natural barrier –? the last line of defense between Californians and the emergency spillway ?? has prompted the evacuation of some 185,000 residents. Some outlets are even reporting that the dam might very well break, a mini-doomsday scenario for those in the immediate vicinity of the deteriorating infrastructure.

This brewing catastrophe might have been avoided had FERC acted some years ago to upgrade the capabilities of the dam, according to early reports. A motion was filed with the federal government on Oct. 17, 2005, “urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete, rather than remain as an earthen hillside,” Mercury News writes. FERC officials, however, rejected the fix, arguing that the upgrades were “unnecessary” when compared to the costs; and they called “overblown” the scenario that enough water could accumulate to overwhelm the emergency spillway. FERC concluded the assessment with its age-old mantra that dam’s safety measures met “engineering guidelines.”

These are the same phrases FERC uses to explain why they have not required greater protection of the electric grid. When industry leaders and FERC officials are faced with questions about the fragility of America’s grid system, the potential for damage to the grid from high impact threats and the possibility for prolonged blackouts, both groups routinely call the threats overblown, suggest that recommended upgrades are unnecessary and fall back on the mediocre conclusion that the grid “meets required guidelines.”

FERC is a U.S. federal agency that regulates the transmission and wholesale sale of electricity and natural gas in interstate commerce, and, among other things, sets reliability standards for the power grid. This organization is not to be confused with the private corporation called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which also regulates bulk transmission of electricity, while creating and regulating reliability standards.

But as Thomas Popik, Chairman of Foundation for Resilient Societies explains, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 created a “hybrid system” wherein NERC writes grid guidelines and FERC reviews and approves. And any FERC recommendations have to be approved by two-thirds of NERC’s members, and that includes private electric companies of all shapes and sizes. In other words, the industry can essentially set its own standards of reliability through a cost-benefit analysis, and then point to those guidelines as satisfactory for safety.

That arrangement can be a worthwhile mechanism for shielding private business from costly and unnecessary government regulation. It becomes a problem when an industry that oversees arguably the most vulnerable and most important infrastructure in America determines security measures based largely on its profit margins. Indeed, NERC and its members often fight what it calls “unfunded mandates,” government regulations that add unfunded costs to their bottom line. But it is also unacceptable that an industry can essentially set its own standards. Fire marshals can shut down the headquarters of an electric company if the building does not meet certain safety standards. Why then exactly is the grid, an infrastructure of far superior importance, able to largely avoid external oversight? This is the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.

The incestuous FERC-NERC relationship has created a closed-system of decision making that involves the protection of America’s most vital asset. More worrisome is the fact that the use of identical phraseology to explain away threats to the dam more than a decade ago is used today to explain away threats to the grid. Americans are witnessing the consequences of this arrangement.

The failing of the Oroville Dam in California is teaching us that critical infrastructure needs rigorous protection. Rahm Emanuel reminded us to never let a serious crisis go to waste. But his intent was to empower big government.

In a free-market economy, those standards can be achieved without government interference. It requires electric companies to agree that better protection is necessary; consumers who demand higher standards; and security specialists who can field a cost-effective product that is attractive to utilities in both price and capability. One begets the other. And Oroville shows us that it’s time to harden the dam grid.”

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Syrians Quietly Investigated During the Great Immigration Panic of 2017

 

This originally appeared in Townhall.com: “President Trump’s executive order to halt immigration from several Middle East countries comes at the same time Americans are learning of Syrians who may have slipped through the cracks.

The Los Angeles Times reports the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are reinvestigating several dozen Syrian refugees who have already resettled in the United States after derogatory information surfaced that may have disqualified them from entering the country. This development should come as no surprise since the government never had the capacity to handle such a task. President Obama admitted 15,479 Syrian refugees last year alone, an increase of over 600 percent from 2015. And the U.S. government has accepted more than 18,000 Syrians seeking asylum since the civil war began in their home country.

Those on the front lines should be commended for having to execute such a momentous and ultimately impossible order at the behest of an administration oddly intent on forcing through an inordinate amount of people from an area teeming with militant Islamists. The composition of the refugee population raises additional questions since nearly 99 percent of those admitted in 2016 were Muslim, out of a country where Christians make up approximately 10 percent of the population. All of this as jihadists repeatedly proclaimed their intent to embed fighters in refugee populations.

It’s hard to tune out conspiracy theorists while watching this unfold. But let’s give the former administration the benefit of the doubt. At best, this strategy told the American public that their safety came in second to that of the refugees, and that the Obama administration had determined, internally, some acceptable level of risk.

In essence, the administration and its supporters cannot deny the potential danger so they instead favored charity in light of the threat. They determined that welcoming of thousands in need of a better life outweighed the potential for American deaths. But how did they quantify that? Was there a minimal threshold of casualties? France had favorable risk probabilities. But now, 1,071 people have died or were injured between 2015 and 2016, partly due to its immigration policies.

The last gasp of justification I heard before the transition between administrations came from a misguided soul who pointed out that the Statue of Liberty says to “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” I gently reminded her that Lady Liberty and the words inscribed on the bronze plaque adorning her base have no constitutional authority. I then recalled for her the irony that the statue was a gift from France ?? the very country that faces a crisis in security as a result of its immigration policies.

Enter President Trump. He has temporarily suspended new immigration from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. But the Heritage Foundation published an interactive list of 93 terrorist plots and attacks in the United States since 9-11 back in September 2015 and a majority of those suspects were Pakistani. Several were even Uzbeks and Afghans. That trend has continued. If the objective was to stop the massive Syria influx, then do that. If the objective was immigration threats in general, the president should have modified the list to reflect the threat. Instead, we have mass panic from those who were silent about the same issue for eight years (no surprise) and a negligible improvement to American security.

Nevertheless, the two reactions explain two different realities – the United States was expected to endure the threat from militant Islam under former President Obama. The United States is expected to prevail under President Trump. That’s at least a good start.”

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Why Are We Ignoring Jihadists in Latin America

 

This originally appeared in Townhall: “Famed Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz said Obama will go down in history as the worst foreign policy president of all time, after the U.S. chose to abstain in the U.N. Security Council vote on the resolution condemning the construction of Israeli settlements. Cataloging the president’s foreign policy blunders and their consequences will keep scholars busy for some time. But his inability to craft a meaningful strategy for combating Islamic terrorism in Latin America with U.S. partners may be the most significant for U.S. national security. The American public will face the deadly consequences of Obama’s failure there unless Trump changes course.

The presence of Islamic terrorists in Latin America can be traced back decades to the Iranian-sponsored bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) headquarters in 1994 – together the attacks killed and injured over 650 people. The international community was reminded of those heinous events when, on January 18, 2015, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found murdered the day before he was to present evidence to the Argentine Congress that showed then-president Cristina Kirchner and other Argentine officials had conspired with the Iranian government to cover-up Iran’s involvement in the AMIA attack. Joseph Humire, an expert on Iran’s influence in Latin America, called it the “most important political assassination in Latin America of the 21st century.”

Eight hundred miles to the north, Hezbollah and Hamas maintain a robust presence in the virtually lawless tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. This largely ungoverned locale is considered a breeding ground for terrorism and is known as a busy transit point for the sale and smuggling of contraband, which generates billions of dollars annually for groups like Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Author and senior Pentagon consultant Edward Luttwak describes the area as the most important base for Hezbollah outside of Lebanon. North Carolina-based Hezbollah cells involved in cigarette smuggling during the 1990s relied on assets in the tri-border area.

Infiltration by international terrorists of a region known for transnational organized crime has resulted in marriages of convenience. A report from Spain’s Defense Ministry in December 2016 outlined how Islamic terrorists have teamed up with drug trafficking organizations like El clan Barakat in Paraguay and Joumaa in Colombia to launder cash used to support terrorist activities. In fact, law enforcement officials in the southwest United States reported a significant increase in Hezbollah tattoos and imagery among imprisoned gang members.

Immigration stories naturally dovetail. A source for the U.S. State Department revealed in 2010 that Mexican drug cartels were likely smuggling known Arab extremists across the border into Texas. A lesser known story involves Hezbollah operative Muhammad Ghaleb Hamdar, who was arrested in Peru in October 2014 for planning a terrorist attack. He used an actual “marriage of convenience” to one Carmen Carrión Vela as part of his cover. She was arrested in November 2015 for material support to terrorism. The truly frightening detail of this episode: The convicted wife was a dual-citizen of Peru and the United States, and had twice traveled to the U.S. before Hamdar was arrested in Lima.

The Islamic State is now in the mix. The aforementioned Spanish report found that rapidly expanding Muslim communities have given rise to recruitment where as many as 100 Latin Americans have joined ISIS — 70 alone allegedly came from Trinidad and Tobago. That island nation says today’s radical Islamic elements operate like the local Jamaat al Muslimeen group that tried to overthrow the government in 1990.

These stories only gloss over a much bigger problem that also involves nation-state collaboration between the likes of Venezuela and Iran, nuclear technology in Argentina and the spread of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi Islam in Latin America.

Despite all of this, the president shies away from confronting radical Islam. Despite all of this, the president helped enrich Iran to the tune of $10 billion. “Often considered a foreign policy backwater for the United States,” Joseph Humire writes, “Latin America has become a top foreign policy priority for the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Others like ISIS and Al Qaeda are not far behind.

Trump must reverse course and team up with Latin American partners to fight this war. Failure here will pale in comparison to failures elsewhere.”

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