Sunday, December 25, 2011

Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and the Cyber Threat

Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and the Cyber Threat
Posted by Ryan Mauro on Dec 23rd, 2011

Cuban, Iranian and Venezuelan officials have been caught actively
considering cyber attacks on the U.S., including ones that would be
"worse than the World Trade Center." In the frightening documentary, the
U.S.-based Spanish language Univision also exposes subversive operations
by Iran in Latin America.

The undercover operation began after a former computers instructor at
Mexico's National Autonomous University was recruited by another
professor in 2006 for a cyber terror plot requested by the Cuban embassy
in Mexico City. The instructor, Juan Carlos Munoz Ledo, turned the
tables on the Cuban government and later, its Iranian and Venezuelan
allies. He said he'd go along with the plot and get some students
involved to carry it out. In reality, he and his partners were starting
a seven-month investigation that would expose the evils contemplated by
these governments against the U.S.

Ledo and his team approached Mohamed Hassan Ghadiri in 2007, who was
then Iran's ambassador to Mexico. They discussed a plot to hack into
American computer systems at nuclear power plants, the White House, the
CIA, the FBI, the NSA and other critical sites from Mexico. A "digital
bomb" would be implanted that would be "worse than the World Trade
Center." The footage of Ghadiri shows his excitement over the plot. He
emphasized that the hackers should retrieve classified information
because Iran needed to know if the U.S. was planning an attack. Ghadiri
admits to having met with the students but claims that the Iranian
regime rejected their offer to attack the U.S.

In 2008, the team approached Livia Acosta, the cultural attaché of the
Venezuelan embassy in Mexico City. Like Ghadiri, she was interested in
the cyber plot. She promised to put any information they provide into
the hands of Hugo Chavez. She was particularly pleased when the team
claimed it could access the computers of nuclear power plants,
specifically Florida's Turkey Point and Arkansas' Nuclear One.

The documentary also revealed covert Iranian activities in Latin
America. The journalists obtained footage from a failed terrorist attack
against New York's JFK Airport in 2007. It is widely known that Al-Qaeda
was tied to the plot, but the involvement of Iran and Venezuela is less

The film reveals that the Iranian regime is still using Edgardo Ruben
Assad, an operative involved in the 1992 bombing of Israel's embassy in
Argentina that killed 29 and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural
center in Argentina that killed 85. Ghadiri worked to try to get this
terrorist operative into Mexico. One team member was recruited by
Ghadiri to go to Iran to study Islam for two months so he could come
back and preach the regime's ideology. He bravely went there and he met
Muslim converts from Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Bolivia who all
arrived for the same reason.

The filmmakers found out that Iran is financing mosques in Venezuela and
Islamic terrorists are being trained in camps in the country. In 2010,
Antonio Salas traveled to Venezuela by posing as a Palestinian jihadist.
He learned of six camps in Venezuela and joined a Hezbollah branch in
the country. He even met members of FARC, Hezbollah and Hamas in these
camps. Univision's investigators found out that the Iranian-backed
terrorists in Venezuela engage in money-laundering and drug trafficking.

More evidence recently came out that Hezbollah and the Mexican and
Colombian drug cartels have a three-way partnership in narcotics. A
judge unsealed the case against Ayman Joumaa, who is accused of being
involved in dealings between Colombian and Mexican cartels, specifically
the Zetas. Joumaa used the Lebanese-Canadian Bank to launder money,
which the Treasury Department has sanctioned for its Hezbollah ties.

The State Department said it found the documentary's information
"disturbing" but that the U.S. government doesn't have any proof to
confirm its allegations. President Obama has not commented on the
matter, but did criticize Chavez's alliances with Cuba and Iran in an
interview with a Venezuelan newspaper. He said that Chavez is too busy
"revisiting the ideological battles of the post." Chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee's Western Hemisphere subcommittee, Senator
Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairwoman
of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, say they will hold hearings on
Iran's activities in Latin America.

The cyber plot may date back to 2007, but Iran's interest in cyber
warfare did not end then. Iran has decided to spend $1 billion
bolstering its cyber warfare capabilities. Earlier this year, an Iranian
defector reported that the Revolutionary Guards assessed that the U.S.
power grid would be the best potential target for a cyber assault.

Apologists of Chavez and Iran will point to the fact that they did not
conceive of the terror plot, but they did entertain it. This
demonstrates a keen interest in doing harm to the U.S. through non-state
proxies. If these are the types of actions being considered by Iran,
Venezuela and Cuba that we know about, then what are they doing that we
don't know about?

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