Cablegate: Spain/Ct: Proposal to Create a Southern European

DE RUEHMD #1914/01 2751547
P 021547Z OCT 07

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 MADRID 001914




E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/02/2017

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Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Hugo Llorens for Reasons 1.4 (B) and (

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY. In order to confront the sustained
terrorist threat to the United States and our European
allies, we must find innovative, flexible and proactive
approaches to strengthen the effectiveness of international
cooperation in the fight against terrorism. My Mission
inter-agency team has held extensive discussions of
prevailing threat levels in Europe and Spain's role in the
collective security scheme of Europe and the western
Mediterranean and believes that the creation of a
counterterrorism and law enforcement hub in Barcelona would
significantly bolster US regional capabilities.
Specifically, we propose that our Consulate General in
Barcelona become the platform for a multi-agency,
jointly-coordinated counterterrorism, anti-crime, and
intelligence center to work with our Spanish hosts in
combating the target-rich environment of terrorist and
criminal activities centered in the region. END SUMMARY.

2. (S/NF) Spain is a past and current al-Qaeda target and a
critical player in US-EU counterterrorism efforts, due to its
close proximity to the Maghreb and the presence of over 1
million Muslims. Mission Spain's Country Team strategy has
been to develop a two-nation, multi-agency approach to
confront the terrorist threat in all its aspects. We
leverage the human and organizational resources, in addition
to intelligence capabilities, of relevant US and Spanish law
enforcement agencies as we increasingly recognize and combat
the links between terrorist networks and criminals involved
in the contraband of goods, drug trafficking, money
laundering, human smuggling, and document falsification. Our
approach is to maximize our resource allocation by ensuring
that all Mission elements have a role to play in working with
our Spanish hosts in the fight against terror and crime.

3. (U) Barcelona is the capital of the region Catalonia and a
city of approximately 1.6 million people located on the
Mediterranean Sea in northeastern Spain. Situated just below
France's southern border, the inhabitants of Spain's second
city have historically believed themselves to be different
culturally from the rest of Spain; a crossroads of languages,
cultures, and history. Barcelona has become one of Europe's
premier cities (sealed during its successful hosting of the
1992 Summer Olympic Games), but also a haven for illicit
activities that threaten our interests.


4. (C) Large Muslim Population Susceptible to Jihadist
Recruitment: As a result of increased monitoring of radical
Islamist activity since the March 11, 2004 train bombings in
Madrid perpetrated by al-Qaeda affiliates in Spain and the
Maghreb, Spanish and US authorities have identified Catalonia
as a major Mediterranean center of radical Islamist activity.
In February 2007, a suspected al-Qaeda operative was
arrested near Barcelona and charged with recruiting new
members for a terrorist cell based in North Africa. Three
months later, authorities detained 11 more suspected Islamist
extremist terrorists in and around Barcelona, including at
least one purported imam. These individuals had false
documents, large sums of cash, and multiple mobile phones,
and Spanish police say their aim was to recruit terrorists
for attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Spanish media reported
in July 2007 that the Iraqi terrorist group Ansar al-Islam
had established a recruiting cell in Catalonia to route
would-be suicide bombers through a terrorist pipeline to Iraq.

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5. (C) Heavy immigration - both legal and illegal - from
North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria) and Southeast
Asia (Pakistan and Bangladesh) has made this region a magnet
for terrorist recruiters. The Spanish National Police
estimates that there may be upwards of 60,000 Pakistanis
living in Barcelona and the surrounding area; the vast
majority are male, unmarried or unaccompanied, and without
legal documentation. There are even more such immigrants
from North Africa. Once here, they share a similar fate:
they live on the edges of Spanish society, they do not speak
the language, they are often unemployed, and they have very
few places to practice their religion with dignity.
Individually, these circumstances would provide fertile
ground for terrorist recruitment; taken together, the threat
is clear. In light of recent suspected activity, there is
little doubt that the autonomous region of Catalonia has
become a prime base of operations for terrorist activity.
Spanish authorities tell us they fear the threat from these
atomized immigrant communities prone to radicalism, but they
have very little intelligence on or ability to penetrate
these groups.

6. (C) Drug Traffickers, Money Launders Gravitate to the
Region: Drug use is on the rise all across Spain, but
particularly in Catalonia. Spain remains the principal entry
and transshipment zone for the large quantities of South
American cocaine, Moroccan cannabis, and Afghan heroin
destined for Spanish and European Union consumer markets.
Spain is also a major source and transit location for drug
proceeds returning to South and Central America. A recent
report by the US Department of the Treasury notes that Spain
is the European base where drug traffickers start the process
of cleansing their cash proceeds. US and Spanish officials
consider Barcelona to be a key operational base for
distribution and financing for Colombia's cocaine cartels.
These drug traffickers view the region as a hospitable
environment and increasingly ply their trade in and around
Barcelona. Spanish authorities are having trouble following
the flow of illegal drugs and laundered money through this
region, but believe that cartels have established
interconnected groups of front companies and continuously
changing bank accounts to pass of drug money as legitimate
earnings. ICE Madrid has conducted several recent
investigations involving money launderers who are conducting
business for the purpose of laundering illicit proceeds in
Catalonia. These individuals represent various ethnic groups
and nationalities, reinforcing the region's magnetic effect
on nefarious activity.

7. (C) Trafficking in Persons and Illegal Smuggling: Spain
remains both a transit and destination country for
internationally trafficked persons, primarily women
trafficked for prostitution, and we are seeing increasing
incidences of trafficking based in Catalonia. The Department
of Homeland Security reported that the Barcelona airport has
seen an increase in the number of trafficking victims passing
through in recent months. Spanish authorities tell us that
Chinese, Romanian, and Kosovar-Albanian mafias have settled
in Catalonia and spread down the Mediterranean coast in
recent years, and continue to gain strength. These groups
use their military training and criminal expertise to run
prostitution rings, and Spanish authorities do not have a
complete grasp of the entire spectrum of the mafias'
activities. ICE Madrid has worked closely with the Spanish
National Police to disrupt a child pornography ring run by a
Russian criminal organization based in Catalonia.

8. (S/NF) Organized Crime and Counterfeiting: The Spanish
government is at the forefront of European and global efforts

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to combat organized crime. Major crime groups made up of
Russians, Ukrainians, and Lithuanians have set up shop along
Spain's eastern coast; including Barcelona, Tarragona, and
Valencia. Most Chinese organized crime is located in
Barcelona, and to a lesser extent Valencia. Spanish
authorities have had a string of operational successes
against some of these groups, but remain challenged to cope
with the magnitude of the problem, and key organized crime
figures and groups continue to operate in Spain. Counterfeit
euro and US dollar bills are increasingly manufactured in and
passed through Spain. Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and
nearby Andorra are prime areas for this illicit movement.
More than 25% of the EU's 500-euro notes are found along
Spain's eastern coast, where they are presumably used in
large-scale drug and money transactions. In addition, our
Mission agencies have to focus more on credit card fraud
perpetrated by a web of diversified criminal organizations,
often comprised of immigrant communities in Catalonia.

9. (C) Port Security: The Container Security Initiative
(CSI) team is at full strength and working with Port of
Barcelona officials to screen US-bound shipments before they
leave port. The port is one of Europe's busiest,
facilitating shipping throughout the Mediterranean. In June
2007, CSI Algeciras seized a large shipment of weapons (many
of them stolen and with their serial numbers scratched off),
reportedly destined for Nicaragua by way of Puerto Rico.
Spanish authorities recently have seized many cocaine-laden
containers in the Port of Barcelona. Our CSI colleagues
believe the seaports along Spain's eastern Mediterranean
coastline will see an increase in the amount of cargo passing
through, and US and Spanish authorities will be further
challenged to detect illegal contraband.


10. (S/NF) The presence of a highly professional inter-agency
team working out of our Consulate General in Barcelona would
help leverage the substantial resources and expertise of
Spanish and regional authorities in a more focused campaign,
and serve as a force multiplier for our joint fight. The hub
concept can also serve as a potential model of how we can
work with our European allies in common purpose on law
enforcement, security, and intelligence initiatives away from
the more bureaucratic and politicized world of capital
cities. Certainly, the Spanish government has been focused
on terrorism for almost 40 years due to its struggles against
the Basque terrorist group ETA. Since March 11, 2004, Spain
has also actively worked to counter the threat from Islamic
extremism. The Spanish political class is gradually waking
up to the amorphous threat represented by the nexus of
terrorism, crime, and drug trafficking, and would likely look
favorably on our proposal. On a regional and local level,
Catalan security forces have substantial capabilities and
would welcome the opportunity to increase the depth and
breadth of CT and law enforcement cooperation with the US.
However, we would have to carefully broach this hub concept
with the central Spanish government, who may be wary of
ceding more authority and responsibility to Catalonia. CG
Barcelona has maintained excellent contacts with the Spanish
National Police, Civil Guard, Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan
security force) and Barcelona Police, but these contacts
could and should be put to better use by the on-the-ground
presence of the agencies with greater experience that could
dedicate more focused day-to-day interaction with the key
players in the region. Embassy Madrid has established
extensive bilateral contact with the Spanish government on
issues of counterterrorism and law enforcement, but the USG
now needs a regional approach that extends our focus and

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reach into the entire western Mediterranean.


11. (S/NF) Under the direction of the Deputy Chief of
Mission and co-coordinated with the CG Barcelona, we reached
out to the relevant agencies and sections in Mission Spain
and came to agreement on the minimal structure and level of
resources needed to get the hub up and running and provide
the basis of an effective multi-agency and
jointly-coordinated center. As this concept moves forward,
we will fine tune staffing as required. We also will analyze
ways to pool ICASS resources between the USG agencies
represented to minimize the number of support staff needed.
The Principal Officer in Barcelona would lead the center and
would report to the Ambassador through the DCM. Each
Assistant Attache would also report to their respective
agency and section heads in Madrid, who would maintain
traditional contact with their home agency headquarters in

LEGAT - Assistant Legal Attache and one OMS support staff.
The ALAT would focus liaison efforts with the Mossos
d'Esquadra, who have the most significant law enforcement
presence in the region. This ALAT would enhance the
effectiveness of the Madrid LEGAT office, coordinating
operations in the Catalonia region. The FBI's regional
responsibilities would include counterterrorism, cyber-based
attacks and high technology crimes, transnational organized
crime as well as law enforcement training.

ICE/CBP/CSI - Assistant ICE/CBP Attache, who would serve as
the senior DHS representative in the consular district and
would supervise CSI operations in Barcelona and Valencia. In
addition, the representative would work with TSA to monitor
flights departing Barcelona for the US.

GRPO - One senior officer to work directly with Spanish
counterparts in Barcelona and the surrounding area, and
possibly one additional officer in a support capacity.

DEA - A Regional Agent in Charge (RAC) plus one special agent
to provide expertise and assistance to foreign agencies on
narcotics and dangerous drug enforcement and control
programs. The RAC would also participate in investigations
of international illicit drug trafficking and would develop
and report on tactical and strategic intelligence.

USSS - Assistant Attache to work counterfeit US currency,
credit card fraud, cyber crimes and traditional protective
duties. Additionally, the Attache would assist other law
enforcement agencies by coordinating financial crimes
intelligence information available to them through our
relationships with local and regional financial institutions.

ICASS/Management/PAO - One associate management officer, one
communications officer, and one LES support. The Public
Affairs Officer in Barcelona would deal primarily with
hub-related activities and strengthen our engagement with
local Muslim communities to help counter the extremist
messages reaching susceptible audiences.

RSO - One RSO, one OMS, and one LES investigator to work as
senior security staff for the consulate, represent the lead
agency on visa and passport fraud, and assist the American
Citizen Services unit with US victims of crime. The RSO
would also direct residential security, law enforcement
liaison, and local guard programs in Barcelona and monitor

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the proper storage of classified information. The LES
investigator would maintain liaison with all local and
regional forces on matters related to Mission security.


12. (S/NF) The threat in Catalonia is clear. Barcelona has
become a crossroads of worrisome activities, a natural
meeting place and transit point of people and goods moving to
and through the region from all countries bordering the
western Mediterranean. The US needs an on-site ability to
quickly see who and what is passing through the area from
places such as Algiers, Tunis, Rabat, and the south of
France. The Consulate General in Barcelona would be the
ideal platform for the hub because it has the space
available, secure communications and a prime location.

13. (S/NF) COMMENT: The hub concept is a field-driven
strategic proposal to counter, disrupt, and eliminate
terrorist and organized crime networks that cross national
borders by breaking down regional stovepipes within USG
departments and agencies. This center would also build host
nation cooperation and capacity to address transnational
threats, focusing on the entire western Mediterranean region.
Catalonia has become a key theater of operation for those
who would threaten our interests and national security, and
the complex and evolving threat requires flexible interaction
among the entire Country Team; a challenge that the hub would
meet head-on. END COMMENT.

© Scoop Media

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