– The explosion in the narcotics trade has provided drug cartels with thecapability of acquiring radioactive material, chemical weapons and other WMDtechnologies, a top US State Department official warned Tuesday.
“The sums of money involved are growing in extraordinaryamounts, and that raises the possibility, because of the sums and the areas inwhich these groups have begun to operate, for that opportunity to beexploited,” said David Johnson, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau ofInternational Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
“Some of these criminal syndicates have the organizationaland financial wherewithal that could potentially allow them to acquire and sellradioactive material, biological and chemical weapons, and technologies usedfor weapons of mass destruction.”
Johnson, who was speaking at the Washington Institute ofNear East Affairs, attributed the massive growth in drug profits to increasingdemand and supply in the worldwide market.
“The supply particularly of heroin is growing in ways thatare hard to fathom,” he said.
When it comes to the ,however, Johnson said that most of the major terror organizations get theirfunding from state sponsors rather than drugs and other criminal activities.
“If you’re looking at the areas around Israel, you’retalking about state sponsors driving the organizations and this being moreopportunistic rather than a direct impact on what they’re doing,” Johnsonassessed, calculating that even the drugs grown in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanonare not a major source of income for Hezbollah.
“It’s more the case of criminal groups producing productsand providing services that are quite useful to these groups that are engagedin even more nefarious activities,” he said, pointing specifically to smugglingand border crossing as a useful form of support criminal groups provide. Healso spoke of the nexus of contraband and terror activity running through thetunnels Hamas has dug from into .
In the West Bank, Johnson noted that the has beenhelping train security forces there to deal with narcotics and other types oflaw enforcement and praised the efforts to date.
“We’re quite pleased with that program. The quality andcapability of the individuals who came into it was significant,” he said of theforce assembled under American General Keith Dayton.
He pointed to the crowd control the Palestinian policeexerted during ’sstrikes on last winter as “extremely effective.”
He said that, “The Palestinians were able to exercise theirconstitutional right to protest, but they did so in a manner which you wouldn’thave contemplated before.”