Program In Advanced Security Studies Criminology

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In confronting the challenge of international terrorism, the first step is to call things by their proper names, to see clearly and say plainly who the terrorists are, what goals they seek, and which governments supports them. - William Joseph Casey, US Director of Central Intelligence. [] 

Terrorist and transnational criminal groups have long shared comparable characteristics and borrowed tactics and techniques usually attributed to the other. While efforts predate the terrorist attacks of September 11, the policymakers and researchers have taken a renewed interest since then to consider the potential confluence of criminal and terrorist actors and activities, consequent to events and reports which bring forth a central opinion of contemporary transnational threat environment - it is more difficult today to categorize malicious non-state actors using declarative labels like terrorist or organized crime.

2. Methodology

The research methods used for the completion of the essay were the content analysis based on differnt theories, historical and comparative case analysis. These methods will include investigation of the international experience in this field through the suggested materials and through the materials from Internet.

3. Introduction

It wouldn't be easy these days to define what terrorism is morphing into, when anyone can see the heinous acts of torture, murder, and beheadings in Mexico and Central America. The contemporary threat environment is growing in intricacy and one of the complex threats is emerging from the links between transnational organized crime and international terrorism. This knitted threat has a challenging evolution, having terror and crime groups evolving to resemble one another. Under these circumstances, it was noted that their convergence is undermining the conventional wisdom that limited crime-terror interaction to short term relationships, due to divergent motives. And both criminal and terrorist organizations have taken advantages on the infrastructures of globalization to advance their causes, often using common facilitators in the process. These developments and others have led to increased opportunities for these groups to collaborate with one another and have led to a collapse of the clear, bright lines that once separated them.

This essay explores the crime-terror interaction to reveal that threat convergence is more complex than policymakers and practitioners often realize. Having terror and crime groups evolving to resemble one another, their convergence is undermining the conventional wisdom that limited crime-terror interaction to short term relationships due to divergent motives.

Thus, the paper will frame in the Chapter 1 the nature of the modern threat environment and the relevance of the new threats, as the one emerging from the links between transnational organized crime and international terrorism.

Chapter 2 will bring in concrete examples of cases, analyzed in a temporal development frame and the lessons learned from these cases.

Chapter 3 will address the Convergence Theory, being focused more on the organizational analytical tradition, looking within groups for hints as to why they cooperate and why this cooperation is lately challenging the traditional wisdom.

Chapter 4 will conclude with a suggested response strategy to this convergent threat.

4. The emerging threat relevance - the links between transnational organized crime and international terrorism.

The conventional wisdom has held that criminal and terrorist organizations employ similar methods and thus cooperation on short term is possible, but the divergence of their motives will preclude long term collaboration - briefly said: methods, not motives. [] 

The motives seen as contradicting are mainly ideological, where the terrorists are seen dedicated to a goal above personal gains or benefits, while organize crime is purely lucrative, for the personal benefit of those who employ it. Transnational terrorists seek political ends when using criminal activities to fund their operations, unlike transnational organized criminals who lack an ideology, using corruption of politicians from across the ideological spectrum as a tool for their ends, and infiltrate the political system, running for office or even establishing a political party, but commit their crimes primarily for economic ends. [] A further argument deriving from the ideological one is the risk of distraction from the main goals or mission. In the same time, it can not be omitted that, as more detailed described below, this concern is often put aside based on pragmatic and opportunistic reasons, as for example money laundry, necessary to secure the financial resources to achieve the proposed goals.

Another argument, a more technical one, was formulated in regard to the secrecy, as an indispensable success component of the terroristic activities. It is acknowledged that the secrecy is ideal for both terrorists and mobs, both depending on it in many forms. On the other hand, the terrorists' engagement in criminal activities is seen as a risk multiplier of being uncovered and countered; an additional vulnerability to law enforcement. But there are certain advantages emerging from investing in criminal activities. Surprisingly, the criminal activities may serve as an efficient cover, dissimulating the true nature of activity - see the Madrid terrorists attacks case or the Ahmed Ressam case. Furthermore, by committing a wide range of criminal activities, which fall under scrutiny of different branches of law enforcement agencies, steady flow of profits can be secured, exploiting the absence of co-operation between different national or international agencies [] .

In the past, the main source of terrorist financing was state sponsorship. The close of the Cold War and the international agreements put in place for countering terrorism led to a turn down in the number of potential state sponsors [] . It is recognizable that terror organizations had to seek to replace the lost sources of funding. The most promising and tempting source became the organized crime, not only because of the rapid source of cash which do not need in may situation even to be laundered, but several of the criminal enterprises may also be used to support logistical needs of terrorist groups. [] 

A United States Government report highlights a growing link between terrorists and transnational organized crime. "Terrorist activities and support for terrorist infrastructure are funded by contributions from individuals, false charities and front organizations, but also, increasingly, through other illicit activities such as trafficking in persons, smuggling and narco-trafficking," [] 

Transnational organized crime is also transforming throughout time, becoming in some of the cases an enterprise which is seeking security for its illicit activities by deploying political violence against governments. Under these circumstances, it is seen that both criminal and terrorist organizations have leveraged the infrastructures of globalization to advance their causes, often using common facilitators in the process, leading to criminal gangs employing terrorist tactics to enforce their illicit monopolies, as exemplified by the Zetas, Mexico-based enforcers for the Gulf drug cartel and MS-13, a Salvadoran gang engaged in criminal activities across North and Central America. These developments and others have led to increased opportunities for these groups to collaborate with one another and have led to a collapse of the clear, bright lines that once separated them. The link between terrorists and criminals is becoming a two-way street.

If we look at the crime-terror nexus we can not ignore a significant binder in between these two, which is corruption. Widespread corruption in many developing or transition countries wires the proliferation of organized crime and terrorist actions, facilitating its operations and illicit activities. Furthermore, many transnational criminal organizations are based in transition or developing countries, with weak governance and weak state institutions. Under this perspective it is obvious that corruption is another assisting factor of terrorism and crime. It acts as a rope which binds them together and multiplies their threat. Corruption provides criminal groups the opportunity to operate under relatively safe circumstances. Criminal groups and terrorist may use corrupt networks to infiltrate and neutralize government institutions, obtain falsified documents, influence policy making or restrain law enforcement to their advantage. Weak or corrupt financial systems also facilitate financial movements and money laundering transactions to sustain their activities and to ensure their founding.

Another factor that serves as a catalyst for threat convergence is found in the conflict zones or those areas recovering from conflict and countries with poor governance. [] It is therefore not surprising to find organized crime groups and terrorist organizations moving into these spaces. [] The Western Balkans are often brought in discussion as being a safe haven for the organized crime and it also can be seen as an facilitator of transit for the extremist Islamic activists. A scholar, Manwaring, observes important similarities between contemporary insurgency, terrorism and organized crime, concluding that these represent a new form of war that security planners must now consider as a part of their national security studies. [] 

5. Case Studies

Though researchers have been examining the crime-terror nexus for some time, the threat convergence of crime and terrorism is a relatively a new concept of threat and it is more complex than policymakers and practitioners often realize. Having terror and crime groups evolving to resemble one another, their convergence is insidiously undermining the common understanding on them.

In order to argument the existence and continuous development of this new concept of threat, it is worthy to look on concrete examples of cases, analyzed in a temporal development frame and the lessons learned from these cases.

The Mumbai attacks.

In the afternoon of 12th of March 1993 bomb explosions took place in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. At 1:30 p.m. a powerful car bomb exploded in the basement of the Bombay Stock Exchange building. The 28-story office building housing the exchange was severely damaged, and many nearby office buildings also suffered some damage. About 50 were killed by this explosion. About 30 minutes later, another car bomb exploded, and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:40 p.m. a total of 13 bombs exploded throughout Bombay, resulting in up to 257 fatalities and 700 injuries. The coordinated attacks were the most destructive bomb explosions in the Indian history. The attacks were coordinated by Dawood Ibrahim, don of the Bombay-based international organized crime syndicate named D-Company. It is believed that the attacks were carried out in retaliation for the Muslim casualties and widespread damage to the Muslim-owned businesses and properties which occurred during the Hindu-Muslim riots in Bombay between December 1992 and January 1993, in the fall-out of the demolition of the Babri Mosque.

Dawood Ibrahim, one of India's most wanted terrorists runs a vast illegal business empire, D-Company, which had also operated as a terrorist organization, and allegedly operates from Pakistan under the shield of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) - the all-powerful intelligence wing of the Pakistani military establishment. Until the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 1993 Mumbai serial bombing was the single-most destructive terrorist act committed in modern history. Currently Dawood Ibrahim is on the most wanted list of Interpol for his involvement in organized crime and counterfeiting and ranking number four on the Forbes list of the world's Top 10 most dreaded criminals. Also Dawood was declared a specially designated global terrorist by the United States State Department in October 2003 due to his alleged al-Qaeda links. According to the US Treasury Department's charge sheet, Dawood maintained close links with Osama bin Laden. The US Treasury Department suspects Dawood on his connection with al-Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Pakistani militant group. [] 

By linking with the other terrorist organizations and providing the crime-terror enterprise with the funding, contacts, and logistical support coming from the criminal activities, the crime-terror threat in this case amplifies in terms of capabilities and durability.

The Madrid attacks.

On the morning of 11th of March 2004 (three days before Spain's general elections), a series of coordinated bombings against the commuter train left 191 people killed and 1,800 wounded in Madrid. [] The official investigation by the Spanish Judiciary determined the attacks were directed by an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist cell, although no direct al-Qaeda participation has been established. [] The group who carried out these attacks, formed by young Islamic extremists, was led by two men, one a hashish dealer from Morocco and the other an economics doctoral candidate from Tunisia - ideological leader of the cell. Many of its members had criminal records in Spain for drug trafficking and other petty crimes. They operated a transnational criminal enterprise of a half-dozen perpetrators that imported hashish from Morocco into Europe. The group possessed the entire infrastructure required of a drug trafficking organization, the financial resources resulted from organized crime and the connectivity to criminal network for acquiring the needed materials. Though they were already under police attention for organized crime, in late February 2004, the simple case of an organized crime group took an unanticipated turn, the drug trafficking organization traded 30 kilograms of hashish for 500 kilograms of explosives, stolen earlier from a mine. In 2007, when the judicial investigation was concluded, Spain learned that this was not just a drug trafficking organization which blasted the life of hundreds on Madrid commuters' trains, and not only.

The Madrid case proves how the capabilities of potential terrorists can be greatly improved when they are able to recruit criminals who possess technical expertise and connections to illicit material. The Madrid case also highlights the increased threat that decentralized cells may pose when cell members harness their criminal resources and capabilities.

The inquiry into the March 11th, 2004, which reinforced a new concept of contemporary transnational threats, resulted in the political will coagulation on developing information exchange co-operation systems. On 27th of May 2005 the Prüm Convention was signed, implemented inter alia the principle of availability on the exchange of information. The Convention is signed at date by 13 European countries and the data exchange provisions are to be implemented until 2012.

Conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

An African man has pleaded guilty in New York on 18th of November 2011 to a terrorism charge, admitting that he engaged in the drug dealing trade with men who claimed they worked for terrorists who committed kidnappings. The suspects - Oumar Issa, Harouna Toure and Idress Abelrahman - were charged with conspiracy to commit acts of narco-terrorism and conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization after they allegedly agreed to transport 1,000 kilos of cocaine. Allegedly, the drugs were earmarked for western European countries and the United States. The men were linked to al Qaeda. An indictment issued in 2009, charged the men with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, namely Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). The indictment alleged that they were a part of a narco-terrorism conspiracy. [] Oumar Issa pleaded guilty to providing support to Al Qaeda and FARC.

According to the NACOP (National Association of Chiefs of Police's Terrorism and Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs committees) report, Colombian drug kingpins use the same transshipment techniques in Africa that they have successfully used in Latin America. More then that, the Colombian traffickers utilized al-Qaeda protection services in order to facilitate the transport of certain shipments. [] 

This operation confirms once again the suspicion that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups are involved in narcotics trafficking to found their terror operations and uses the criminal and terror groups' infrastructures in a two way mode to facilitate their operations.

6. The Convergence Theory.

Although the threat convergence has recently entered the lexicon of law enforcement, the academic researchers have been exploratory the crime-terror nexus for some time by now. Consequently, the Convergence Theory was analyzed by now from few perspectives:

One of them is the demographic and social profile of the group members, which may generate a self-identification of both criminals and terrorists. The scientists concluded that "the similarities are significant enough to suggest a predilection towards collaboration between the two. [] 

The structure of organizations - network - is giving both criminals and terrorists better opportunities and reasons for collaborating with one another. Researchers have noted that information technology advancement and the globalized business have permitted crime and terror groups to take on adaptive organizational structures with distributed decision making system. Members of these networks tend to have an entrepreneurial spirit and have more opportunities to exploit it than members of hierarchical organizations. [] In the same time, there are opinions which argue that the networked forms of organizations can not alone clarify collaboration between criminals and terrorists. It is recommended that the analysis should focus on the flows of information within and between these networked organizations. An argument in this sense would be the diversity of interests in terror organizations: "a terrorist network is at the nexus of multiple groups and constituencies who are linked in significant but non hierarchical ways and can only be understood in context." [] 

The Convergence Theory is approached from a different angle, more tangential but still demonstrated, though is more indirect, when the focus is put on third parties which act as common nodes among criminal and terrorist organizations (the so called employed specialist). This is an approach embraced more by investigators and other practitioners, who call such third parties as facilitators, since they frequently play a role in supporting and endorsing organized crime, terror or other forms of transnational threats. As an example of this in practice is the case of money laundry activities, meant to move money around the globe. An analyze ( Rudner) provides a detailed image of Hezbollah's financial system and notes that terrorist organizations are inclined to launder their funds through the formal and informal banking structures of countries with high levels of criminal profits. [] 

Another connection between criminal and terrorist groups is to be found in the facade companies and other organizations that conceal the illicit activities of terrorist and organized crime groups. Such companies provide apparently legal platforms and mechanisms to transport goods and personnel around the world, with a given credibility, and even can serve as another joint in the money laundering operation. A very important example is made by the private security companies, which are one of the fastest growing economic opportunities and consequently are attracting the increased interest of criminals and terrorists groups. Researchers have brought many examples of criminal and terrorist organizations using private security firms as cover for their illicit operations. [] It is important to be mentioned here that Abu Bakr Naji's al-Qaida strategy document "Management of Savagery" cites private security companies as a target for infiltration and a potential vulnerability in the security apparatus fighting terrorism. This clearly shows that the opportunity is seen in two ways: one is to conceal the illicit activity and the second to infiltrate in a targeted institution.

One more approach, in which the nexus in between transnational organized crime and terrorism is analyzed, in a more complex one, is seen where each organization is operating in ways that imitate the other. As the terrorist groups continue to engage in organized crime over time, they are more likely to shift their nature from political to economic goals. Likewise, some researchers have acknowledged how organized crime groups have assumed campaigns of violence that more closely look like terrorist operations. [] One of the first to discuss this transformation theory in his studies, Dishman noted that a "growing number of transnational criminal organizations such as the Medellin Cartel and the Sicilian Mafia had engaged in campaigns of violence for political ends that approached if not met the definition of terrorism".

There are other researchers who analyzed similar cases of transformations of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) [] , Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) [] . Transformation is not restricted to terrorist organizations, but it can be a noticed in the opposite way, as well. The brutal and vast campaigns of violence conducted by the drug cartels in Mexico relatively recently have sought to challenge the state's authority. In a detailed study, Fernando Pacheco supports the case that these cartels and their offshoots are waging terrorism in Mexico [] .

7. Strategies for responding the convergent threat of crime and terror.

The crime-terrorism nexus extend over wide ranges of illicit activities, actors, and environments that encompass multiple countries and jurisdictions and link them together with seeming disregard to political boundaries.

In confronting such a globalized threat, policymakers are challenged to sort through a wide array of programs, policies, and strategies that should link law enforcement, intelligence, diplomacy, international trade, foreign aid, and private sector banking regulation. In the same time, analysts widely agree that links between terrorist groups and transnational crime groups, including the use of common tactics, are difficult to identify or confirm.

A response strategy to the complex crime-terror convergence would vary by location and would be an ample approach of a wide set of preventive measures, along with building the capacity of effective reactive countering policies. On a long term perspective, in a preventive approach, the focus should be set on the already identified environments which serve for developing and hosting this threat: globalization, poor governance and conflict areas.

The response to globalization, as a fertile soil for spurring this threat, has to be a better and wider cooperation and commitment to building strong partnerships in order to give countries the tools they need to safeguard their citizens from crime and terrorism and to protect their authority. The weak institutions and consequently the poor governance should be approached with a continuing monitoring, support and assistance, inclusively international aid, for the democratic countries and institutions. The conflict areas were always a fecund ground for crime and terror. The Afghanistan case and the lessons learned highlight the possibility that, at least in some cases, there may be convincing reasons to prioritize efforts in one threat area over others. In such situations, policymakers are confronted with the problem of determining how to balance allocations of personnel, funding, equipment, and programs between counterterrorism and anti-crime activities. Over a throughout analyze the priority should be given where the threats are crosscutting and multiplying in their destructive effects. On the other hand, the construction of the state capacity and the local ownership are key factors in developing the proper tools for countering this threat efficiently on a long run.

From the reactive approach, nowadays the efforts to combat the crime-terror convergent threat are directly linked to policy responses to transnational crime and international terrorism individually. The absence of a policy to combat crime-terrorism connections could not mean necessary lack of will or capability to engage, as programs to combat either terrorism or transnational crime may have positive feedback effects on the other.

In U.S., while many strategies and programs are designed to combat international terrorism and transnational crime separately, fewer efforts focus specifically on addressing the confluence of terrorism and crime. The efforts that do exist on the convergent threat focus mainly on human smuggling and clandestine terrorist travel, money laundering and terrorist financing and narco-terrorism links between drug traffickers and terrorists. [] 

The challenges of tackling down this complex threat have far-reaching implications for the international security environment and the failure to address this convergent threat may undermine the global security or provoke poorly, overdue or overreacting government responses.

A set of tools, tightly interlinked, in responding and targeting the crime-terror convergent threat should consider:

1. The counter terrorist agencies must have in their view the centrality of criminal activity in preparing, supporting and performing terrorist activity. There are many successes gained in fighting terrorism but any defeat is extremely costly in irreplaceable terms. Practice has shown that frequently terrorism and organized crime are seen as separate phenomena, vital warnings emerging from the criminal activities of terrorists being ignored or not connected to the true nature of their activity.

2. An improved training and equipment of law enforcement agencies to better focus on the crime patterns of non-traditional criminal groups that might be connected with terrorists; a good example in this area is the professional analysts community, which must be educated, based on the best practices registered by the most successful law enforcement agencies, in order to be able to recognize and connect criminal activities to terrorists and their goals. The US needs to do more to export best practices to other states with less exposure to these phenomena.

3. The key factors for a successful analytical outcome are the availability of relevant data bases and the cooperation in between the law enforcement authorities. The assistance and exchange of data is vital both at national level, between agencies responsible for different areas and international as well, bilateral and multilateral level. Relevant examples are the USA Patriot Act at the national level, the Prum Convention - at the EU level, or the agreement signed between INTERPOL and Europol on Dec. 20th 2011, for enabling the secure exchange of information between the two law enforcement organizations. Another good response on countering these threats can be considered the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Crimes of Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), a unique institution with responsibilities in both areas.

4. The governments need to encourage the development of public-private partnerships programmes to address the organized crime as financing resource for terror, to educate the citizens in recognizing the existence of a possible threat and communicate it, to narrow down the opportunities for crime-terror activities. For example, the regulation of international trade and private sector banking would be exceptionally beneficial. Increased cooperation in these areas may lead to information sharing between private firms and law enforcement/intelligence agencies, which might bring valuable information for all the parties.

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