March 21st, 2012
06:56 PM ET

Experts: Hezbollah positioned for attack in U.S

By Suzanne Kelly

Hezbollah is in the United States, and according to current and former intelligence officials testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, the Iranian-linked terror group is in a prime position to launch a terrorist attack against a U.S. interest if it desires to do so.

Hezbollah cells have been operating on U.S. soil for years, but experts say their efforts have mainly been in criminal activities aimed at generating revenue for their broader efforts. But escalating tensions with Iran over its nuclear program have cast a new eye on the dozens of Hezbollah support cells that have been raising money and drawing scrutiny from law enforcement officials for more than a decade through sometimes legitimate business operations.

Michael Braun, a former assistant administrator with the Drug Enforcement Administration, testified that the group started ramping up development of business operations inside the U.S. after September 11. He cited one particular case involving a bank investigation that led the DEA and the Department of Treasury to a string of car dealerships operated by Hezbollah supporters.

"There were over 70 used-car dealerships that were identified as part of the money-laundering scheme for laundering the hundreds of millions of dollars of cocaine-generated revenue, much of which was, you know, was tracked back to Hezbollah," Braun said. "I asked our investigators, 'how many of those businesses existed pre-9/11 vs. post-9/11?' The answer was 'absolutely none.' "

The concern now is that these support groups will move to an operational mode and that if they do, they are well-prepared for an attack.

Chairman Peter King told the committee that Hezbollah militants have "trained in weapons, explosives and spycraft in Lebanon and Iran, where the Revolutionary Guards Corps works hand-in-hand with Hezbollah." According to the chairman, there have been 20 federal investigations of Hezbollah operations inside the U.S. since September 11.

Matthew Levitt, a counterterrorism expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, detailed what a Hezbollah attack might look like, saying the group is well-established enough that it could call on local individuals or networks to support foreign operatives.

But other experts say that would be a big shift and that an attack within U.S. borders would undoubtedly come at a price, and Hezbollah undoubtedly knows it. According to Mitch Silber, director of intelligence for the New York Police Department, the consequences of U.S. retaliation against the group for any such attack is likely enough to keep them from carrying one out, even as a proxy of Iran. Silber says that the fact that Hezbollah has been on the radar of law enforcement for years has also given intelligence and law enforcement officials a human intelligence advantage with these groups.

A federal law enforcement official would not provide CNN with an estimate of how many people affiliated with Hezbollah are believed to be in the U.S. The official would say only that the cases the U.S. has brought involving Hezbollah have involved areas such as fundraising and attempting to procure arms and have not involved plots.

The state of play continues to be that the FBI is on the watch for possible activity here in light of world events, particularly those concerning Iran.

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. NYC Fitness Event

    This is a no brainier, If we attacked Iran there will be follow up attacks for years after our initial attack. One could only hope
    that we know were some of the cells are. We also must think about the home grown cells as well.

    January 31, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  2. the wise

    Let's not shed any more blood for Israel, nor squander our treasure.

    Down with criminal Israel.

    Jewsagainstzionism.com

    March 26, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Reply
    • ike036

      Pull your head out of your a$$, man!!

      August 14, 2014 at 11:47 pm | Reply
  3. Randy

    So, pretty much Homeland Security is a high budget failure, and we should all be as afraid of Hezbollah now as we were of sleeper Soviet agents. Great work CNN for reporting.... /sarcasm off

    March 25, 2012 at 6:42 am | Reply
  4. Naija

    Contributors to AIPAC should be put on the same watch list

    March 22, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  5. gmxusa

    II heard there are also Palestinian supporters among us, argh! The super data center the NSA is building uses a surveillance software created by Narus, an Israeli company owned by Boeing, and they will be able to flush out these people.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  6. gastrafitis

    The more spotlight that is given to the US Hezbollah, the more legal they will function. Legality is immunity. They wont put their current ways at serious risk. Why poison your most productive water well? If you need it, you protect it.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  7. CamelJockey

    Since we interred japanese americans during ww2, why not round up all the muslims now since we are in effect, in a state of war with Islam.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Reply
    • Rob

      this news reports that these people are providing material and financial support to hezbollah – a terrorist group. Therefore, they are in violation of federal law. There is no need to put them into an internment camp – just round them up and prosecute them now.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Reply
      • WorkingClassMan

        Illegal alien invaders are also breaking this "federal law," but they're being made legal. How do you justify that, Rob? Bottom line is, this government gets its marching orders directly from AIPAC, who get their directives from Mossad, and in their turn get their orders directly from Isn'treali high command. Thats how it works in the U . S . A .

        Remember these things, Hezbollah is not al Qaeda. They are also a political and social organization that benefits Shia, Sunni and Christians. They have in their alliance members of communist groups, Christian groups, etc.. They are rational, pragmatic and most of all ... EFFECTIVE. They aren't my enemy. This government doesn't represent my interests in anything, and in this case it is the same. I love Hezbollah.

        June 4, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
  8. EricW (NYC)

    Good. The US should be working proactively to prepare against attacks by these groups. A lot of nations just have a policy of appeasement. Ask France how that's working out for them lately.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Reply
    • Rob

      yah – I'm shocked they didn't surrender to the single, armed militant this week.

      March 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Reply
  9. rightospeak

    Just more of the fearmongering propaganda. Even writing comments is becoming more difficult-maybe because too many people told CNN the truth.
    Each time now I have to put my name and e-mail address, when before they seemed to have the info. If comments are contrary to propaganda they vanish, or you can not respond to people-there is definite manipulation of comments to mold the public opinion, just like in totalitarian states.

    March 22, 2012 at 9:18 am | Reply
    • Jim

      Just like this post disappeared ?

      March 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  10. michaelfury

    Doing your part to soften up the public mind for another false-flag, Ms. Kelly?

    http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/up/

    March 22, 2012 at 7:33 am | Reply
    • mipolitic

      well mike ; are you suggesting that this report by kelly is baseless and untrue ?

      if so you are WRONG !

      March 22, 2012 at 8:45 am | Reply
  11. dah

    Who let them in? Why don't they get deported since a) they are criminals and b) they are using money from drugs trades to finance terror?

    March 22, 2012 at 2:46 am | Reply
    • Rg2156

      Thevstate dept is lame

      March 22, 2012 at 3:11 am | Reply
  12. the wise

    More fear mongering.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  13. shrinkDave

    Unlike Al Queda, we know exactly where their bases are, GPS coordinates and all. They could be eliminated in a matter of days. They would be driven either deeper into Lebanon where they would engage the Lebanese Army, or driven into Syria, where they would have to decide who to support. Either way, the Israelis would volunteer to assist the US in every way, even to the degree of carrying out the entire operation. Hezbollah has no interest in terrorizing Americans. They're too vulnerable.

    March 21, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  14. WISE GUYS

    Now that Iran is operating inside the US and Obama is feeding them wheat from a recent export deal , makes me wonder what is he thinking ?

    March 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Reply

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