Posted: Jan 3, 2012 6:32 PM
Updated: Jan 3, 2012 7:00 PM
Federal authorities say it is possible Mexican cartels are using its Mexican communication towers on this side of the border.
Cartel towers were found all across Mexico. They belonged to the Zetas. The frequency it sent could be picked up in the Rio Grande Valley. It's a communication network so advanced it's reserved for the military.
"HF can go as far as you want it go. It just needs to find a station to receive it and transmit it," says Ret. Col. Robert Killebrew.
The Mexican military took towers, antennas, repeaters and radios from the Zeta cartel. The communication network allowed the Zetas kidnap, extort and move drug loads without anyone over hearing the plans. It enabled communication from Tamaulipas down to Guatemala.
"I suspect, as I understand the way the network was configured, they're probably used to communicate within Mexico and to the south. There is no reason they couldn't communicate into the United States," says Killebrew.
Killebrew is an expert on national defense issues for the Washington think tank Center for a New American Security.
"What makes the Zetas stronger in Mexico also makes them more of a threat to us," says Killebrew.
Killebrew says it's not likely the Zetas could set up the same heavy-duty high-frequency nets here. They could use enough repeaters to get their communication across. The United States could do little to stop it.
"The FCC is not a military organization that sees things like this as a threat," says Killebrew.
A spokesman with the enforcement arm of the Federal Communications Commission said they work with local law enforcement and "we have the ability to work with the Department of Justice to have equipment seized."
The problem is the equipment may be hard to find.
"Their signals from Mexico can be propagated into the United States. Signals don't stop at political boundaries to direct activities in this country, but the establishment of the net happened across the border," says Killebrew.
We know the Zetas operate on this side of the border. They're established in hundreds of U.S. cities. The third highest Zeta member has a communications tower on his Starr County ranch. If they use their military-style communication on this side, experts say it's another example the war in Mexico is a battle in our homeland, too.
We checked the FCC's history of catching unlicensed or illegal towers. There were several throughout Texas. None indicated any cartel activity.