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October 24, 08

NEWS / 22 October 2008 United States Focuses on Corruption-Terrorism Connection Integrated approach sought

By Andrzej Zwaniecki
Staff Writer

Washington — The international community needs to apply multiple capabilities in a strategy designed to tackle more effectively the threats posed by the convergence of transnational criminal networks and terrorist groups, U.S. officials say.

The United States will emphasize this theme and the impact of related issues on national security — along with the U.S. Strategy to Internationalize Efforts Against Kleptocracy, the U.S. policy to deny refuge to corrupt officials, and other initiatives — at the October 30-November 2 International Anti-Corruption Conference in Athens, Greece. David Luna, the director for anti-crime programs at the State Department’s Bureau of International and Law Enforcement Affairs, heads the U.S. delegation to the meeting organized by nongovernmental groups.

So far, according to Luna, transnational crime — such as narco-trafficking, kleptocracy and arms smuggling — and international terrorism mostly have been viewed as separate threats.

But there is growing evidence of convergence: terrorist organizations evolving into crime enterprises and criminal organizations resorting to radical tactics. This is particularly true in countries where corruption is rife and institutions are weak, he told America.gov.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, 19 of the 44 groups that the U.S. government has designated as foreign terrorist organizations participate in the drug trade and other criminal activities. The engagement of the Taliban in heroin and opium trafficking in Afghanistan and of the FARC in coca trafficking in Colombia has been well publicized. In October, U.S. and Colombian investigators dismantled an international cocaine-smuggling and money-laundering gang that used part of its profits to finance Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite militia, according to Colombian officials.

“The terror-crime nexus cripples not only a government’s ability to make progress in the fight against terrorism, but also undermines government institutions and general law enforcement efforts,” Luna said.

In recent years, Mexico has been terrorized by powerful drug cartels, and some Central American republics have faced a threat from growing gang violence and increased radicalization.
The huge amount of money generated by the global drug trade allows drug lords to corrupt police, customs and other public officials and establish structures and networks that can be used to facilitate other criminal or terrorist activities, said Robert Leventhal, the director of anti-corruption programs at the same bureau.

This indicates the need for a new approach to the terror-crime nexus that combines anti-corruption, counterterrorist and anti-crime measures, he told America.gov.

Luna said the United States works with partners to elevate the awareness of the challenge posed by threats stemming from transnational illicit activities. It also wants to ensure better international cooperation in taking the fight directly to criminals and terrorists and dismantling their operations and networks. Luna also said the international community needs to be “smarter” in confronting transnational threats; he urged communities to enhance intelligence and evidence collection to better understand the linkages between organized crime networks, corruption nodes and terrorist organizations.

“We cannot come up with solutions if we fail to comprehend the full dimension of a challenge,” he said. “We need to simultaneously drain the swamp and illicit cesspools associated with crime, corruption and terrorism.”

Luna said the international community will not make much progress unless it dismantles the illicit support structure that enables financing of terrorism activities, international travel by terrorists and criminals, and other crime and terror business functions. For example, anti-money-laundering measures can help expose the infrastructure of criminal organizations or a conspiracy to commit terror acts; recover drug or terror money; and create an effective deterrence.

According to Leventhal, the full spectrum of measures must be combined in an integrated approach because soft measures such as strengthening institutions and hard measures such as law enforcement reinforce each other. Institutional measures that enhance legitimacy of a government contribute to stability, which limits terrorism, he said. Intelligence and law enforcement efforts help not only in exposing terrorist and criminal activities but also in getting rid of corrupt public officials.

“It is going to take a collective effort by all countries and all sectors of the society” to implement a new strategy, Leventhal said.

He said the United States has worked with many developing countries to boost their ability to combat corruption, crime and terrorism, based among other things on the U.N. Convention against Corruption. The convention provides a road map for anti-corruption reform. The U.S. also has promoted the involvement of nongovernmental groups in the fight against corruption and the ills it breeds. Civil society has expertise, will and energy to push for integrity and good governance and hold governments accountable, Leventhal said.

See Luna’s remarks on the State Department Web site for more information on narco-terrorism.



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