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The Intelligence Analyst and the ‘Money-Terrorism-Crime’ Triangle


Knowledge is Power

The quest for knowledge is a constant in every aspect of life. The public and private sectors employ individuals as intelligence analysts to produce the coveted knowledge. The importance of intelligence results in the expenditure of large amounts of money to acquire basic data and information that is transformed into knowledge. Intelligence analysts are employed for national security (CIA, NSA, DIA, the military services), law enforcement (FBI, DEA, ATF, DHS, police units), and in the private sector for business security and to gain competitive advantages. The analysts use an intelligence education as the key capability to generate knowledge to support planning and policy decisions. Knowledge of the intelligence process provides strategic advantages to governments and businesses, which translates into national security and corporate profits. However, building this knowledge base is a daunting challenge. There are opposing forces at every step, and the baseline information is never completely accurate.

The Tri-border Triangle of Money-Terrorism: Crime

All human endeavors require resources; money and people are two assets required for any mission. Terrorism ties the money-people to the intelligence analyst and the importance of intelligence. Terrorist organizations routinely turn to criminal enterprises to acquire money to finance their operations. The Tri-border area in South America, the intersection of the Argentinean, Brazilian, and Paraguayan borders, has long been known as a lawless region for local and international crime operations. The international criminal activities include currency counterfeiting, money laundering, as well as the trafficking, of illegal drugs, weapons and people.  An ominous new danger emerged in the Tri-border, as the interests of international terrorism and international crime converged. The Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah is active in the Tri-border region and by extension, South America.1, 2  Hezbollah is the creation of Iran and serves Iranian overt and clandestine policy interests around the world. While Iran provides substantial funding and support for Hezbollah, Hezbollah pursues a variety of criminal activities to supplement the Iranian funding. Of particular concern is Hezbollah’s ties with Mexican drug cartels. While the illegal drug trafficking is a concern, the main threat emanates from Hezbollah’s establishment of a base of operations in the Western hemisphere.3  Hezbollah’s threat from criminal activities is minor as compared to the ready access Hezbollah gained to infiltrate North America. The trafficking of high-quality false official documents is a standard business practice in the Tri-border region.  The drug cartels have established successful smuggling routes to move illegal drugs and trafficked persons into the US. The infiltration channels provide a made-to-order process to infiltrate Hezbollah terrorists and equipment into the US. In addition, US agencies report that Iran and Hezbollah are giving training in devising IED systems and weapons to certain drug cartels.2 
The importance of intelligence on the collaborative Hezbollah-drug cartel activities is a vital concern for US national security practitioners and law enforcement personnel. The challenge to obtain such information is formidable and demands a combination of courage, resolution, and a solid intelligence education.

Dealing with the Terrorist Threat from the South

The porous US borders provide ample opportunity for drug cartels to import illegal drugs and trafficked people into the US. Clearly, the first line of defense is intelligence.  Intelligence information will come from professionals who are grounded in a sound intelligence education. There are online education universities that specialize in intelligence and security education. The top school in this area employs faculty members who have served in the field and bring that invaluable real-world experience to the students.

1. Hudson, R. (2003). Terrorist and Organized crime Groups in the Tri-Border Area of South America. Library of Congress. Retrieved: www.loc.gov

2. Levitt, M. (2012). South of the Border, A Threat from Hezbollah. The Journal of International Affairs. Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved: www.securityaffairs.org

3. Hudson, R. (2010). Terrorist and Organized Crime Groups in the Tri-border Area of South America. Library of Congress, Federal Research Division. Retrieved: www.loc.gov