Reported cartel drone found near Texas border. Are we prepared for this very real national security threat?

· June 13, 2019  
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Border Patrol truck
Loren Elliott/AFP | Getty Images

Not only are the cartels weaponizing mass migration to tie down our border agents so they can bring in dangerous people and contraband, they are apparently monitoring the migrant flow in real time with spy drones.

A border agent in the Rio Grande Valley sector informed me that Border Patrol recovered a cartel drone on Sunday that crashed in La Grulla, Texas, near the river. “In the afternoon on June 9, 2019, Border Patrol agents were ‘sign-cutting’ a group of illegals south of the town of La Grulla, TX, when they encountered a drone laying in the brush,” said the veteran Texas agent, who must remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the press. “The lights on the drone were blacked out with electrical tape, so as to not be seen at night.  This area has recently seen an influx of illicit trafficking.”

Cartel drone

DHS officials have publicly said for over a year that the cartels are using the mass influx of family units to get in dangerous people away from the agents, but the use of drones further accentuates the point that this is much more of a strategic invasion than just an immigration issue. “The cartel is investing in technology to guide groups to a stash house or to a ‘load driver’ waiting to pick them up,” said the agent, who feels that he and his colleagues are being outmaneuvered by the dangerous insurgent groups operating on both sides of the border.

“First, they started giving the illegals smart phones equipped with land navigation apps and map overlays, along with battery chargers and a compass. This cut out the need for a ‘guide.’ Now, with the use of drones, the cartel can see us for miles. They can direct the groups of illegals away from agents and have the load driver go to them or choose a different stash house. They were already at an advantage with the amount of U.S. citizen [smuggling scouts]. Now they can direct movement from above in a 360-degree view and pinpoint accuracy, even in the thick brush or dense sugar cane. There is nowhere an agent can approach the group without being seen.”

The cartels now have a perfect system of technology and the weaponization of family units to ensure that our apprehension rate of the real bad guys is quite low. Just the previous Sunday, the agent said there were 347 “got aways” in this Texas County.

I reached out to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for confirmation of this incident and comment on the general use of spy drones by the cartels in the process of migration flows, but have not received a response. However, CBP did put out a press release on April 17 revealing that agents observed a “a small airborne object” traveling back and forth across the border several times one night in the El Paso sector. It said that approximately two minutes later, “a group of 10 subjects made an illegal entry into the U.S. in the same area in which the object had been traveling.” According to CBP, this was “the first known time in recent history that a drone has been utilized as a ‘look-out’ in order to aid in illegal entries in the El Paso Sector.”

I asked the agent if Border Patrol would ever shoot down these drones, and he said we would never do it in Mexican airspace nor target the individuals responsible. “The only policy we have regarding drones is if we catch the pilot we can arrest him if he doesn’t have an FAA license.”

However, the pilots all remain on Mexico’s soil, and most of the drones wind up staying in Mexican airspace after briefly breaching our airspace. In other words, the cartels can literally spy on our Border Patrol, National Guard, and military bases with impunity and direct an invasion using the real-time intelligence from spy drones, yet we will continue to respect “Mexican sovereignty,” when they are violating our sovereignty and their government has no control over the cartels anyway.

I spoke with Col. Dan Steiner, a retired Air Force veteran who coordinated military operations at our border for the Texas government alongside NORTHCOM, and he was very disturbed by the national security implications of this growing trend. “The drone sitting there and collecting information will only get smarter … and they will move on to the next level, if we stick our heads in the sands and only view this as ‘Mexico being Mexico’ and not a prime national security threat,” said the colonel on my podcast Tuesday.



“Our lack of response does nothing but embolden the cartels, which are terrorist groups. Given that we already know they work with Hezbollah, it’s likely they are helping them with technology in return. If we have terrorists flying drones on our border in order to circumvent our sovereignty on our border, what in the hell are we doing?”

Michael Braun, former chief of operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, previously warned in an interview with CR that “Hezbollah’s growing involvement in the global cocaine trade over the past decade has resulted in the formation of alliances with Colombian and Mexican drug trafficking cartels.”

Steiner explained on my podcast how it’s a no-brainer for the cartels to fly a drone near Juarez that can see into Fort Bliss, for espionage purposes. “When you give them the impression that they can gather any intelligence at our border, it’s a slippery slope and we would have no way of knowing if they are using it for other espionage while pretending to use it for migrants and drugs, which evidently our government doesn’t care about. They are in bed with terrorist organizations, and it’s time we treat them that way.”

It’s truly shocking how our government allows cartels to weaponize migration with strategic tools of espionage and warfare, yet we continue to believe asylum law somehow demands that we tolerate a strategic invasion. Trump can designate the cartels as terrorists tomorrow, direct operations against their assets, and refuse to allow in all migrants and asylum requests, not just with his immigration powers, but with his national defense powers. He needs to begin viewing this as the orchestrated invasion it is, not an immigration or asylum issue.

“The best invasions are the ones you never realize are taking place until it’s too late,” warns Col. Steiner. “Just ask the Romans.”


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.