Authors Tom Diaz and Barbara Newman talked about their book, Lightning Out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil. In it, the authors chronicled the story of Mohammed Youssef Hammoud, a Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist who started a Hezbollah terrorist cell in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1992. The authors also wrote that the Charlotte cell was representative of some of the other Hezbollah cells in the United States that the FBI had monitored in the last fifteen years. Mr. Diaz and Ms. Newman also talked about the divisive issues in the Middle East such as ethnicity and religion that are often cited as the driving forces behind terrorist groups. The authors made the case for stricter screening policies at international airports and border crossings while maintaining a balance with the civil liberties of the individual. Following their remarks they answered questions from members of the audience.
SMUGGLING CIGARETTES. NOW PEOPLE THINK ABOUT CIGARETTE SMUGGLING AS SOME KIND OF VICTIMLESS ALMOST MERITORIOUS CRIME. THE WORST PART OF IT IS THAT PEOPLE END UP SMOKING CIGARETTES BUT, SO, A FIVE CENT A PACK CIGARETTE TAX IN NORTH CAROLINA SOMETHING LIKE $4.5 IN DETROIT YOU CAN DO THE NUMBERS THEY WERE MAKING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS SMUGGLING CIGARETTES IN VANS. THAT WAS ONE OF THE CRIMINAL ENTERPRISES. THERE IS A GUY, A FASCINATING GUY WHO WAS ONE OF THE MOST ACTIVE IN THIS CELL BY THE NAME OF SAID. WE DESCRIBE HIM. THE LAW ENFORCEMENT PEOPLE AS THEY OFTEN DO LOVED THIS GUY. IT WAS JUST THAT HE WAS ON THE WRONG SIDE. HE WAS THE PERP THEY LIKED. BUT HE WAS A GENIUS AT CREDIT CARD FRAUD, BANK FRAUD, HE EVEN GOT INTO SOME INTERNET PORNOGRAPHY AND HE’S GOT A VERY INTERESTING WAY AS A MUSLIM TO RATIONALIZE ALL THIS THAT HE REALLY WASN’T FOR EXAMPLE HE DIDN’T ACTUALLY DO THE PORNOGRAPHY. IT WAS JUST A BUSINESS. THE COMMON DENOMINATOR OF ALL OF THESE CRIMINAL ENTERPRISES WAS THE FOLLOWING. AND WE SEE IT ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES AND CERTAINLY IN THE 14 CITIES THAT WE WERE ABLE TO IDENTIFY AS HAVING ONGOING INVESTIGATIONS. THEY DON’T DO VIOLENT CRIME BECAUSE THAT WILL ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF THE LOCAL POLICE. THEY DON’T DO MUGGINGS, BANK ROBBERIES, WHAT HAVE YOU. THEY DON’T DO REALLY HIGH PROFILE KINDS OF FRAUD THAT ARE GOING TO ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF THE FEDERAL OFFICIALS. WHAT THEY TRY TO DO IS THE KIND OF MID-LEVEL CRIME. VERY LUCRATIVE, OFTEN THOUGHT TO BE VICTIMLESS. AND THEY WERE GETTING AWAY WITH IT FOR A LONG TIME….
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