Friday, October 27, 2006
WASHINGTON – Venezuela, whose leader Hugo Chavez has stood with Iran against the U.S., is providing documents that could help terrorists infiltrate the U.S.-Mexico, charges a new congressional report on homeland security.
Venezuela is providing support – including identity documents – that could prove useful to radical Islamic groups," says the report of the subcommittee on investigations of the House Homeland Security Committee. "The Venezuelan government has issued thousands of cédulas, the equivalent of Social Security cards, to people from places such as Cuba, Colombia and Middle Eastern nations that host foreign terrorist organizations."
The documents can be used to obtain Venezuelan passports and American visas, which in turn allow the holder to elude immigration checks and enter the United States.
The report found that the Chavez government has issued thousands of these identity documents that could help terrorists elude immigration checks and enter the United States.
"The potential is certainly there for terrorists to infiltrate the U.S. through Mexico," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chaired the subcommittee. "We apprehended five Pakistanis on the U.S. Mexico border with fraudulent Venezuelan documents."
The report, "A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border," says the number of aliens other than Mexican, known as OTM, illegally crossing the border has grown at an alarming rate over the past several years.
Aliens from "special interest" countries known to harbor terrorists or promote terrorism are routinely encountered and apprehended according to the report. The countries include Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Federal law enforcement personnel told the subcommittee's staff it is difficult to provide the total number of special interest aliens entering the U.S. because they pay large amounts of money, between $15,000 and $60,000, to employ the more effective Mexican alien smuggling organizations and are less likely to be apprehended.
In August, an Afghani man was found swimming across the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo, Texas. Last July in Jim Hogg County, Border Patrol agents found a discarded jacket with patches from countries where al-Qaida is known to operate. The patches feature Arabic-language martyrdom slogans that read "way to eternal life" and depict a jetliner crashing into the World Trade Center towers.
McCaul is concerned that Chavez is turning Venezuela into a staging area for terrorism in America's backyard.
"We know that Mr. Chavez in Venezuela has openly embraced the Islamic jihad world," he said. "We know that Hezbollah operatives have been given safe haven in Venezuela. So the threat is very real."
Last year, FBI Director Robert Mueller Jr. revealed to members of Congress that "individuals from countries with known al-Qaida connections have attempted to enter the United States illegally using alien smuggling rings and assuming Hispanic appearances."
He also testified that a Hezbollah cell had been "dismantled" after discovering that the terror organization was smuggling operatives across the U.S. -Mexico border to carry out terror attacks inside the U.S.
The McCaul report also points out that radical Islamic groups that support Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamiya Al Gamat are all active in Latin America.
"Given the ever-present threat posed by al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations – a threat that has been underscored by the recent events in London and the vulnerability of our borders – the need for immediate action to enforce our borders could not be more apparent," says the report.