Confirmed: Hezbollah terror operatives, "sleeper cells" poised in the U.S.
by DOUGLAS J. HAGMANN, DIRECTOR
17 July 2006: Operatives of the Lebanese Islamic terrorist organization Hezbollah, the same group presently firing missiles into Israel and labeled as one of the most dangerous Islamic terrorist group in the world, are believed "to be planning to activate sleeper cells located in New York and other larger cities inside the U.S." to stage attacks Americans. "The FBI and Justice Department have launched urgent new probes in New York and other cities targeting members of the Lebanese terror group." Law-enforcement and intelligence officials stated that "about a dozen hard-core supporters of Hezbollah have been identified in recent weeks as operating in the New York City area (alone)."
The above appeared in an article published in The New York Post on May 22, 2006. Not surprisingly, that very same information was verified through several sources within law enforcement agencies and agents contacted by the Northeast Intelligence Network this weekend.
One federal law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated, "We are very concerned about sleeper-cell activation due to the current 'effervescent' situation between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel." The same source confirmed that there is "active surveillance of known surveillance operatives" in New York, and added that surveillance is also being conducted by agents in other U.S. cities.
The U.S. designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 and listed it as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in 2001. Three members of Hezbollah: Imad Mughniyeh, Hasan Izz-al-Din, and Ali Atwa, are on the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists" list for their role in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 during which a U.S. Navy diver was brutally murdered.
The extent of Hezbollah activity in the U.S. was first exposed in June, 2002, when two Charlotte, North Carolina, brothers, Mohamad and Chawki Hammoud, were convicted of providing material support to Hezbollah through a cigarette smuggling ring that knowingly directed money to the terrorist organization. In that case, the terror cell reported directly to a senior Hezbollah military commander in Lebanon and was part of a larger North American network responsible for raising funds and procuring dual-use technologies for Hezbollah. Items were purchased in the U.S. as well as Canada; they included goggles, global positioning systems, stun guns, naval equipment, nitrogen cutters and laser range finders.
According to the same federal source providing information to the Northeast Intelligence Network, Detroit is the main center of Hezbollah's fundraising activity in the U.S. Their international operational budget is estimated to be $200-$500 million annually, including $100 million in contributions provided directly by Iran. Other sources of funding include Syria, U.S. and other national charitable organizations, individual donations, legitimate business, and illegal trade such as illegal arms trading, cigarette smuggling, currency counterfeiting, credit card fraud, theft, operating illegal telephone exchanges, and drug and arms trafficking.
The Presence of Hezbollah in Canada
Investigation by the Northeast Intelligence Network, verified by contacts within CSIS and U.S. federal agencies, confirmed that Hezbollah – banned in December 2002 - has an active presence in Canada. According to Canadian intelligence, Hezbollah raises money, recruits terrorists, purchases military supplies, and forges travel documents in Canada. Money is raised in Canada in much the same fashion as in the Unites States - through credit card scams and counterfeit rings. In two cases, alleged Hezbollah agents wanted for terrorist activities overseas were found hiding in Canada. Hezbollah theft rings have stolen luxury cars in Canada and sent them to Lebanon for use by senior Hezbollah officials.
The North Carolina Hezbollah terror cell cited above was part of a larger Hezbollah network that included Canadian operatives. The Canadian part of the network was reportedly operated by Mohammed Hassan Dbouk and his brother-in-law Ali Adham Amhaz, who allegedly received money from Hezbollah officials in Lebanon and engaged in credit card and banking scams in Canada in order to finance the purchase in Canada and the U.S. of military items which were then smuggled into Lebanon.
Amhaz was indicted in North Carolina in March 2001 on charges of providing material support to Hezbollah. In October 2001, Canadian authorities arrested him based on an American arrest warrant calling for his extradition. Amhaz was freed in December 2001 after the U.S. dropped the arrest warrant; the U.S. indictment against him still stands, although Dbouk has since fled back to Lebanon.
May 22, 2006: The New York Post about Hezbollah Operatives in New York
The May, 2006 article outlined that "additional law-enforcement attention is being centered on the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, where there have already been three episodes in the last four years in which diplomats and security guards have been expelled for casing and photographing New York City subways and other potential targets."
This weekend, our federal source added to this earlier article, stating, "we know that Hezbollah, an extension of Iran and Syria, have insinuated operatives into sensitive areas within the U.S. "in anticipation of these events." Our source declined further comment about the reference to "sensitive areas," although stated that some known operatives who are under active surveillance "have access to high-profile target areas."
"Sources said the activities of these New York-based operatives are being monitored by FBI counterterrorism agents as part of a nationwide effort to prevent a possible terror strike if the confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program spins out of control.
The nationwide effort to neutralize Hezbollah sleepers in the United States, being spearheaded by the FBI and Justice Department's counterterrorism divisions, was triggered in January in response to alarming reports that Iran's fanatical president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, met with leaders of Hezbollah and other terror groups during a visit to Syria.
Among those attending the meetings, according to reliable reports, was Hezbollah's chief operational planner, Imad Mugniyah - considered one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world - who is responsible for the bombings of the 1983 U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and who, more recently, provided Iraqi guerrillas with sophisticated explosive devices."
A U.S. counterterrorism official called the latest effort a "major undertaking," with separate probes also under way in Los Angeles, Boston and Detroit.
Hezbollah has so far limited its activities in the United States to fund-raising and criminal enterprises. The FBI has already taken down two major rings, one in Charlotte, N.C., and one in Detroit, in which members were smuggling cigarettes, Viagra and baby formula, and kicking profits back to Hezbollah.
Walid Phares, a highly-recognized private terror expert who has briefed law-enforcement officials on Hezbollah in recent weeks, described Hezbollah as being very "well funded, very well organized, and we assume that their penetration of the U.S. is deeper than al Qaeda's. It is only rational for the U.S. to think in pre-emptive ways. An attack here is clearly in the realm of the possible," Phares added.