Using drug money to finance terror

Expect to hear more in coming months about Middle East terrorists turning to the illegal drug trade to finance their evildoing.

Michael Braun, operations chief for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, says the "nexus between drugs and terror is growing at light speed," largely because more traditional sources of funds have been dammed up by anti-terror efforts and a pullback in the sponsorship of terror groups by countries such as Syria.

So drug money fills the void, providing financing to recruit, equip and train terrorist operatives, bribe local officials and arrange logistics.

And the amount of narcotics in play is astonishing. Over the past five months alone, the British navy has seized 30 tons of cocaine, opiates and other drugs as they were being transported in the Persian Gulf. The suspicion is the shipments were tied to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.


 

Count tiny El Salvador as one of America’s most stalwart global supporters when it comes to the U.S. effort in Iraq. The Central American nation — the only one in the region to contribute soldiers — just announced it will send a 280-person contingent of troops to Iraq this month. That will mark the 11th deployment of Salvadoran troops since the war began in 2003.

Another of the few foreign stalwarts — the Republic of Georgia, which now has 3,000 troops in Iraq — will likely be looking for robust U.S. support as payback as it battles Russia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia.


 

Oprah Winfrey, according to the Rocky Mountain News, has plunked down a reported $50,000 to rent a house in Denver for the week of the Democratic National Convention, which opens Aug. 25. Winfrey, who was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, has not revealed if she will actually attend the convention, speak at it or just throw some parties.


 

Next week, the odometer on the Hubble Space Telescope rolls past 100,000 — not miles, but orbits of Earth it has made since its April 1990 launch. Since then, the spacecraft has been zipping along at 5 miles a second ever since, racking up about 2.72 billion miles while being propelled by gravity alone.

The telescope is due for a final tune-up by the space shuttle Atlantis in early October, with astronauts replacing worn and micrometeorite-dinged parts, and adding a couple new instruments to improve the telescope’s view toward the edge of the universe.


 

It’s true that GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has gotten more than $1.3 million in campaign contributions from the overall oil industry, while Democratic White House contender Sen. Barack Obama has received only about $400,000. But campaign-finance watchdog OpenSecrets.org discovered that Obama has actually outraised McCain in individual contributions from oil-industry employees. Exxon employees, for instance, have given Obama $42,000 to McCain’s $35,000. Chevron workers have donated $35,000 to Obama compared to $28,500 to McCain.


 

QUOTABLE:

 

"If I tell her, ‘Sweetie, we’ve got Game 5 of the NBA finals on,’ she’s willing to give me a little slack. Most of the time, though, the TV is on HGTV, and I suffer that silently." — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, responding to a question from an entertainment-news outlet about his family’s TV preferences. (HGTV is owned by Scripps Networks Interactive Inc.)

 

(E-mail Lisa Hoffman at HoffmanL(at)shns.com. SHNS correspondents Lee Bowman and Michael Collins contributed to this column.)