Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Introduction

By Council, National Security | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Introduction


Council, National Security, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


"Combating transnational criminal and trafficking networks requires a multidimensional strategy that safeguards citizens, breaks the financial strength of criminal and terrorist networks, disrupts illicit trafficking networks, defeats transnational criminal organizations, fights government corruption, strengthens the rule of law, bolsters judicial systems, and improves transparency. While these are major challenges, the United States will be able to devise and execute a collective strategy with other nations facing the same threats." National Security Strategy, May 2010 In January 2010, the United States Government completed a comprehensive review of international organized crime the first on this topic since 1995. Based on the review and subsequent reporting, the Administration has concluded that, in the intervening years, "international" or"transnational"organized crime has expanded dramatically in size, scope, and influence and that it poses a significant threat to national and international security. In light of the review's findings, we have adopted the term "transnational organized crime" (TOC) to describe the threats addressed by this Strategy. While the term "international organized crime" has been commonly used in the past,"transnational organized crime"more accurately describes the converging threats we face today.

As emphasized in the National Security Strategy: "these threats cross borders and undermine the stability of nations, subverting government institutions through corruption and harming citizens worldwide."

In years past, TOC was largely regional in scope, hierarchically structured, and had only occasional links to terrorism. Today's criminal networks are fluid, striking new alliances with other networks around the world and engaging in a wide range of illicit activities, including cybercrime and providing support for terrorism. Virtually every transnational criminal organization and its enterprises are connected and enabled by information systems technologies, making cybercrime a substantially more important concern. TOC threatens U.S. interests by taking advantage of failed states or contested spaces; forging alliances with corrupt foreign government officials and some foreign intelligence services; destabilizing political, financial, and security institutions in fragile states; undermining competition in world strategic markets; using cyber technologies and other methods to perpetrate sophisticated frauds; creating the potential for the transfer of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to terrorists; and expanding narcotrafficking and human and weapons smuggling networks.

Terrorists and insurgents increasingly are turning to criminal networks to generate funding and acquire logistical support. TOC also threatens the interconnected trading, transportation, and transactional systems that move people and commerce throughout the global economy and across our borders.

In October 2010, the national security advisors of 44 nations gathered in Sochi, Russia to discuss transnational crime. Representing the United States, former National Security Advisor General James L. Jones, USMC, Ret. warned of the TOC threats to international security and urged immediate international action, saying:"In a world full of transnational threats, transnational crime is in an ascendant phase. …

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