● This report aims to provide a comprehensive examination of Hezbollah-affiliated activity in America by examining all publicly-known federal criminal cases from 1997 to 2020 in the United States with a concrete link to Hezbollah. The authors found evidence of 128 individuals that meet these criteria.
● The majority of cases involve small, centralized hubs of Hezbollah operatives, who engage in illegal activities in conjunction with wider criminal enterprises to create an array of networks across America. These relationships of convenience have resulted in Hezbollah operatives collaborating with financially-motivated individuals, criminals, and other non-ideological actors, in furtherance of a broader operational mission. These arrangements, in turn, have allowed Hezbollah to profit financially and deepen its influence in the United States, even as many such cases display minimal direct connective links to the terrorist organization itself.
● Based on analysis of the cases, the authors identified two distinct categories of participation in Hezbollah-affiliated activity in America: individuals who provided financial support to Hezbollah (109 individuals), and those who provided operational support (19 individuals).
○ 87% of individuals provided financial or material support to Hezbollah as money launderers, bundlers, fraudsters, and goods smugglers, with many raising funds from others to be provided to Hezbollah or directly providing funds to the group themselves. This finding supports existing assessments that Hezbollah’s primary aspirations in the United States are to use it as a financial support hub.
○ 13% of individuals in the dataset engaged in operational conduct in support of Hezbollah, including as human smugglers, weapons procurers, pre-operational surveillance, and travelers who sought to join the group. Despite the prominence of Hezbollah’s financing activities in the United States, elements within Hezbollah remain intent on developing the capacity and capability to plot attacks on U.S. soil.
● The vast majority (92%) of cases involved network activities between two or more individuals. Larger geographic hubs operated out of Michigan (55 cases), California (19 cases), North Carolina (16 cases), and New York (15 cases). 90% of individuals operating in these four states and 76% of all cases in this dataset were a part of just six networks.
○ Large parts of network activity involved individuals with limited evidence to suggest a direct link to Hezbollah. As discussed above, these individuals actively collaborated with persons with an evidenced connection to the terrorist organization, and in many cases appear to be driven primarily by financial rather than ideological motivations. This in and of itself is a manifestation of Hezbollah’s activities in the United States, which sought to use local criminal actors in furtherance of their illegal activities. Further, in several significant instances, network activity often involved friends or family members engaged in organized conspiracies.
● 84% of individuals were convicted and sentenced to an average of 49.6 months in prison. Notably, only 19 of the 128 individuals (14%) were charged with providing material support to Hezbollah, while the others were charged with non-terrorism related offenses. Individuals sentenced on terrorism material support charges received an average sentence length of 85.6 months, almost twice as long as the average sentence for individuals not sentenced on material support charges.
● Hezbollah-affiliated individuals were primarily male (83%) and tended to be older (average age: 37) than members of other designated foreign terrorist organizations in the US, in particular the Islamic State (average age: 28).
Kokinos, Anyssia S.; Jahanbani, Nakissa P.; Lewis, Jon; Margolin, Devorah; Program on Extremism, George Washington University; National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center; and Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, "Hezbollah's Operations and Networks in the United States: Two Decades in Reviews" (2022). Reports, Projects, and Research. 17.