Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Friday, December 22, 2017

Follow the Money: Terrorism Financing, Drug Smuggling and U. S. Maritime Security

The Josh Meyer Politico article The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook contains so many interesting trails that it is easy to forget the key point:
The untold story of Project Cassandra illustrates the immense difficulty in mapping and countering illicit networks in an age where global terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime have merged, but also the extent to which competing agendas among government agencies — and shifting priorities at the highest levels — can set back years of progress.

And while the pursuit may be shadowed in secrecy, from Latin American luxury hotels to car parks in Africa to the banks and battlefields of the Middle East, the impact is not: In this case, multi-ton loads of cocaine entering the United States, and hundreds of millions of dollars going to a U.S.-designated terrorist organization with vast reach.
In addition to funding terrorism, the routes used to smuggle illegal drugs into the U.S. are national security threats.

For example, let's take a look at the now nearly routine capture of "drug smuggling submarines" - see CBP, Coast Guard Seize Drug Smuggling Submarine from earlier this month:
Customs and Border Protection based out of Corpus Christi said they captured a drug submarine attempting to smuggle nearly two tons of cocaine into the country.

Crews from the CBP Air and Marine Operations tracked the sub last month while operating in international waters.

Officers tracked the sub for several days before a Coast Guard Cutter stopped it and arrested its crew.

Over 3,800 pounds of cocaine were seized and three suspects on board face multiple charges.
Or Jaime Seidel's
AMERICA is fighting a new front in its war on drugs — locating, tracking and intercepting fleets of sophisticated homemade submarines loaded with cocaine.
BURIED deep in the jungles of South America are covert shipyards.
They’re hand-building submarines. And they’re churning out dozens every year.
They have just one job to do.
Covertly carry tons of cocaine, along with crews of armed smugglers.
They skim just beneath the surface of the Carribbean and Pacific, out of sight and under the radar of law enforcement ships and aircraft.
U.S. Coast Guard video of a capture of a drug smuggling boat in June 2017:
Coast Guard Cutter Waesche crewmembers intercept a suspected low-profile smuggling vessel seizing an estimated 5,550 pounds of cocaine worth more than $74 million while on patrol off the coast of Central America, June 8, 2017. Waesche is a 418-foot long National Security Cutter homeported at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, Calif., outfitted with the most advanced command, control, and communications equipment for detecting and disrupting transnational organized crime networks. U.S. Coast Guard video courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Waesche/Released.

Notable is the amount of money involved in this trade Coast Guard in Florida offload $23 million worth of cocaine:
The Coast Guard Cutter Pelican brought ashore almost one ton of cocaine Monday.

The cocaine is valued at $23 million, and along with the seizing of the drug, three smugglers were also arrested.

The cocaine came from a drug bust in the Caribbean Sea on Nov. 11, just south of Jaragua, Dominican Republic, say officials with the Coast Guard.
You will note that arrests are made in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific, an indication of how wide-spread the the operations of these drug cartels are. Spreading the smuggling routes forces the law enforcement agenices to spread themselves thinner to cover larger areas with the same limited number of assets.

Clearly, by the amount of illegal drugs successfully entering the country, the capture rate, even of expensive semi-submersibles, is merely a "cost of doing business" in the lucrative trade.

While much has been made of the potential to use these routes for human smuggling of terrorists, perhaps the amount of money generated through illegal drugs is sufficient to make such efforts unnecessary because it is just as easy to fund locally grownn terrorists or import "refugees" who may be funded to perform acts of terror. At least, that is. so far.

The drug smugglers are innovative and well-financed. As a result, they freely experiment with new tech:

It's a problem and one that we need to find better solutions to handle.

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