Since the end of the Cold War era and with increasing pressure from world leaders, post 9/11, to crack down on countries that aid and harbor terrorists, the phenomena of state-sponsored terrorism began to plummet (Makarenko, 2004). This left dissident terrorist organizations on their own finding new ways to fund and advance their cause. The 1990s brought to fruition potential new phenomena of terrorist organizations utilizing the tactics and means used by organized crime syndicates to make money (Makarenko, 2004). This review aims to examine the different nexuses that link terrorist organizations with transnational organized crime syndicates and the possibility that these nexuses lead to convergence. By examining different literary articles, this review makes the argument that convergence is a reality when certain factors are present.
Chapter One: Introduction
Since the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th, 2001, carried out by Islamic jihadists, attributed to the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, the concept of terrorism, specifically international terrorism, here in the United States has more or less become an increasingly hot topic issue. Until recently, The United States had been at war for nearly twenty (20) years, conducting a counter-insurgency, trying to defeat and control the growing influence of terrorist organizations over in the Middle East where organizations like The Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State (ISIS) spawned from.
Although terrorism has become an increasingly hot topic issue internationally since post-World War II and domestically since 9/11, terrorism is not a modern phenomenon because, in fact, its history spans centuries (Martin, 2018). Political violence and stories of state repression were common in ancient civilizations, such as the Roman Empire, where tyrannicide (the killing of tyrants) was an act of honor to the public (Martin, 2018).
During the twentieth (20th) century, and before the collapse of Cold War-era Soviet Russia (USSR), dissident political factions were often state-sponsored, which hence brought forth the Cold-War Terrorist Networking Theory. This theory was the belief by the Western block that Soviet Russia was sponsoring dissident revolutionaries from countries around the world such as Fidel Castro in Cuba, Mao Zedong in China, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the Middle East, via military support, finances, and training, to impose their communist ideologies during the rebuilding phase after the said revolution, and as well as to destabilize the West and its allies (Martin, 2018).
This belief also held onto the premise that the Soviets and their allies were at least indirectly, but also directly, the source of most international terrorism in the world. Although only a theory, the evidence was circumstantial and often inconclusive because not every ideological movement across the world had adopted Marxist movements (Martin, 2018).
However, after the dissolution of the USSR and the end of the Cold War, and even more so post-9/11, state-sponsored terrorism saw a drastic decline, and these dissident factions have been pressed to find alternative sources of financial support (Hutchinson & O'Malley, 2007). And they found that international criminal organizations were just as willing to finance their operations for their reasons, hence the 1990s can be deemed as the decade in which the crime-terror nexus was discovered between Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) and Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) (Makarenko, 2004).
TCOs and FTOs were once thought of, and theorized, as two separate phenomena, and the networking or convergence between these two factions was once considered impractical, mainly due to their differentiating ideologies and motives (Reyes & Dinar, 2015): TCOs are historically known to be profit-driven, while FTOs are historically politically, religiously, and ideologically-driven.
However, we are now beginning to see that they are not mutually exclusive. The rise of TCOs and the changing trends of terrorism means that the two historically separate nonpareils have begun to manifest many of the same operational and organizational trends (Makarenko, 2004).
Although most researchers coined the 1990s as the period when TCO and FTO convergence began to come to fruition due to the FTO’s need to find funding, the phenomenon known as “narcoterrorism” was coined back in 1983 by the Peruvian President at the time, Fernando Belaunde Terry, when terrorist-style attacks against the nation’s narcotics police by criminal entities (Martin, 2018). Back then narco-traffickers had already adopted terrorist-style attacks against the government to fulfill their supply demands.
In reviewing the literature completed by researchers, the intent is to reveal the common threads that align TCOs with FTOs, and that convergence is a reality when certain factors are present. In most of the studies completed, the researchers have cited a lot of historical facts and circumstantial evidence to help reveal and support the nexus. The research methods used were historical and explanatory, and backed with statistical and quantitative data to help prove the existence of a crime-terror nexus.
Definition of Terms
· Convergence – The idea that a criminal enterprise and terrorist organization, two traditionally separate factions, eventually adopt the same operational trends to become a single entity that initially displays characteristics of both groups simultaneously (Makarenko, 2004, p. 133)
· Dissident-Terrorism – Terrorism “from below” committed by non-state movements and groups against governments, ethnonational groups, religious groups, or other perceived enemies (Martin, 2018, p. 28).
· Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) – any criminal enterprise that traffics drugs as the main source of income and operational motivation.
· Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) – Any organization with political, religious, or social motivations that use violent tactics against opposing factions to replace the current government or social order, that either span across international borders or are housed within a foreign territory.
· Globalization - the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale.
· Narcoterrorism – The use of drug trafficking to advance the objectives of certain governments or terrorist organizations. These groups are organized groups complicit in the activities of drug trafficking to further, or fund, premeditated, politically motived violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets to influence a government or group of people (Martin, 2018, p. 238).
· Organized Crime – A network of actors who are engaged in ongoing continuous money-raising activities. These groups often generate such secondary characteristics as the corruption of political and law enforcement personnel, and the systematic and targeted use of violence as a means of maintaining operations and profitability (Hutchinson & O'Malley, 2007, p. 1098)
· Sporadic Crime – A group of individuals performing a one-off money-making criminal activity, or a series or more disconnected and intermittent actions/crimes (Hutchinson & O'Malley, 2007, p. 1098).
· State-Sponsored Terrorism – Terrorism “from above” committed by governments against perceived enemies. It can be directed externally against adversaries in the international domain or internally against domestic enemies (Martin, 2018, p. 28).
· Terrorism – premeditated acts of violence perpetrated for political, religious, and/or ideological ends, against civilian targets to inflict harm, intimidate the public, and coerce government or state compliance with their demands (Hutchinson & O'Malley, 2007, p. 1098).
· Terrorists/Insurgents – Militants with political motivations who use violent tactics against opposing factions to replace the current government or social order (Reyes & Dinar, 2015, p. 381)
· Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) – Organized crime which has become an intricate web of illegal enterprises that incorporates both large and small criminal organizations that operate across national borders (Martin, 2018, p. 235)
Chapter Two: Literature Review
Defining TCOs and FTOs
To begin to examine the nexus between TCOs and FTOs, one needs to be able to properly define them, which historically has proven to be somewhat arduous due to the fluidity of motives and tactics of each faction.
Despite its long history spanning many different centuries and civilizations, the actual term “terrorism” can be traced back to the 1789 French Revolution to describe the French monarchy’s, “Reign of Terror”, where the state executed anybody, they deemed to be an enemy of the state (Meadows, 2019). Although a very complex concept to define, terrorism on a very primordial level can be described as acts that are the clash of political, social, and religious beliefs that result in violence (Meadows, 2019).
It’s even been described as a stage of violence orchestrated by groups or persons seeking to establish fundamental political change, and that violence is not only used to bring attention to the terrorists and their cause, but also to coerce, intimidate, and overall create an atmosphere of fear which the terrorists can exploit to obtain their goal (Hoffman & Kasupski, 2007, p. 1), but of course, one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom-fighter (Golder & Williams, 2004), so coming up with an agreed-upon definition for terrorism is crucial, especially when trying to combat it.
As Golder and William (2004) claim in their study about creating possible legal definitions for terrorism, they believe that it is often a tricky feat to tackle as making it too general poses the risk of labeling any sort of defiant group as terrorists while making it too specific makes it unadaptable to the changing of times.
However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) legally defines terrorism as violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups who are inspired by or associated with, designated foreign terrorist organizations or nations (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2022). So, for the sake of this review, the FBI definition will be the standard.
As for a definition of TCOs, the National Security Council (NSC) of the Obama White House era defined it in their Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime as those self-perpetuating associations of individuals who operate transnationally to obtain power, influence, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while protecting their activities through a pattern of corruption and/ or violence, or while protecting their illegal activities through a transnational organizational structure and the exploitation of transnational commerce or communication mechanisms (National Security Council, 2011, p. 1). The NSC then went on to list specific characteristics of TCOs, including:
· they commit violence or other acts which are likely to intimidate, or make actual or implicit threats to do so;
· They exploit differences between countries to further their objectives, enriching their organization, expanding its power, and/or avoiding detection/apprehension;
· They attempt to gain influence in government, politics, and commerce through corrupt as well as legitimate means;
Just by examining these few specific characteristics laid out by the NSC for TCOs, one can already surmise the existence of a nexus between them and FTOs. For example, the third TCO characteristic involves the attempt to sway government, politics, and commerce, which is one primary motive for any FTO. The difference, however, is that TCOs both influence and corrupt governments to fill their profit-driven pockets undetected, while FTOs will influence and disrupt governments to instill reform.
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in their protocols for the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2004) defines organized criminal groups as a structured group of three or more persons, existing for some time and acting in concert to commit one or more serious crimes or offenses established in accordance with this Convention, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit (p. 5). The UNODC then further applies the definition of any serious crime to where the offense is transnational and involves an organized criminal group (p. 6).
As one could see, the UNODC and NSC define TCOs slightly differently. The NSC gives a more in-depth description and list of character traits that include forms of political corruption, while the UNODC is broader on the issue where TCOs are for-profit or some sort of “other benefit”.
As already established, the decade that the crime-terror nexus was realized happened in the 90s; and it was a nexus that was built upon the foundation of what was already deemed narcoterrorism in the 1980s.
In 2004, Tamara Makarenko authored an article entitled The Crime Terror Continuum: Tracing the Interplay Between Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism, in which she discusses, as well as, establishes a continuum that each faction sits upon at either end, and can slide up and down at any time given the right circumstances, and which in turn illustrates how convergence between the two phenomena can happen (see fig. 1 from page 131 of the article).
In this diagram, Makarenko has organized crime and terrorism sitting on the same plane, but on opposite sides of the spectrum; organized crime to the far left, and terrorism to the far right, indicating that they are completely separate entities, with different characteristics. At the fulcrum point rests the idea of convergence between TCOs and FTOs, where both entities become one and share similar characteristics.
As one observes the various relationships that develop between TCOs and FTOs, seven categories are discernible, and each of them are illustrated as distinct points along the continuum. These seven points, however, can be divided into four general groups: alliances (1), operational motivations (2), convergence (3), and the ‘black hole’ (4)” (Makarenko, 2004, p. 131).
Alliances happen when TCOs form relationships with FTOs and vice versa, and the nature of these relationships can vary based upon the needs of each faction at the time, spanning from a one-off, short-term alliance to a more long-term one. (Makarenko, 2004). FTOs may align themselves with TCOs for a variety of reasons. The superficially obvious one that has been established thus far is funding, however, Makarenko points out another: FTOs seeking expert knowledge from TCOs in the realm of counterfeiting, money-laundering, bomb-making, and even operational support in the realm of infrastructure by utilizing their smuggling routes (Makarenko, 2004).
On the flip side, TCOs may align themselves with FTOs for the benefit of destabilizing the state and undermining law enforcement so that they can openly conduct their criminal activity with minimal government intrusion (Makarenko, 2004), which too will be discussed further later.
Hutchinson & O’Malley (2007) further break down the type of long-term v. short-term relationships as temporary, parasitical, and symbiotic. They believed that a temporary relationship is the most likely circumstance and can be observed through one-time contracts for a quick profit or intermittent cooperation over time because symbiotic relationships may require each side to go against their tactics or goals i.e., TCOs preferring underground, undetected operations where FTOs want to be seen and heard to advance their ideologies (p. 1104).
Parasitic relationships fall in between and involve some sort of long-term relationships between TCO and FTO groups, although it is one where FTOs are feeding off TCO profits and operations; like a parasite. This is primarily because such illicit operations and criminal markets have already long been dominated by TCOs, which are often new terrain for FTOs and other cells (Hutchinson & O'Malley, 2007).
Regardless of however long-term or short-term the alliances may be between TCOs and FTOs, each group does prefer some sort of autonomy, in which case they may forgo an alliance, and branch a step further into Makarenko’s continuum, known as operational motivations where each side adopts the operational tactics of the other to maintain that autonomy.
As Makarenko (2004) points out in more detail, FTOs and TCOs may ‘mutate their structure and organization to take on a non-traditional, financial, or political role, rather than cooperate with groups who are already effective in those activities (p. 133). And the primary reason for acquiring in-house capabilities is to ensure a sense of security for both their organization and operations, in doing so, criminal and terrorist groups have sought to avoid the inherent problems present in all alliances, which would include conflicting priorities, different strategic philosophies, distrust, the danger of defections, and the possibility that the alliances could ultimately create competitors (p. 133). That is exactly what Hutchinson & O’Malley meant when they concluded that symbiotic relationships or alliances are the least likely of any of the three that they listed.
Once the operational motivations step of the continuum is reached, this is where one can begin to see the nexus between the two groups unfold as each develops the skills and comprehension necessary to engage in both criminal and terroristic activities: TCOs using terrorism as an operational tool to help destabilize the government, and FTOs taking part in criminal activities as an operational tool to fund and advance their cause (Makarenko, 2004).
The final leg of the continuum is a convergence where Makarenko (2004) makes this point:
“The ‘convergence thesis’ refers explicitly to the idea that criminal and terrorist organizations could converge into a single entity that initially displays characteristics of both groups simultaneously, but has the potential to transform itself into an entity situated at the opposite end of the continuum from which it began” (p.135).
Once a group has reached this stage of the continuum, she further notes that the ultimate aims and motivations that the group originally had have changed.
Within the ‘convergence thesis’ lies two independent components. The first component is TCOs who display political motivations. This happens when the group forgoes using terror tactics as a means to just merely destabilize the courts or attempt to block anti-crime legislation, which would be common in the operational motivations stage, and instead, they are more interested in attaining political control via direct involvement in the political process and infiltrating political institutions of the state, or using terrorism to corner the lucrative economic sectors of the state, i.e. natural resources or financial institutions. (Makarenko, 2004).
The second component is FTOs who are just as interested in criminal profits but ultimately begin to use their political rhetoric as a front solely to indulge in criminal activities. They are no longer driven by their political ideologies, but instead by the profits of their criminal activities, and only continue to engage in the use of terrorism for two reasons: to keep the government and law enforcement distracted on political and social issues, as opposed to initiating criminal investigations against them, and second to be used as a means to establish dominance over other rival criminal enterprises (Makarenko, 2004).
The question thus lies: ‘what external factors are needed for convergence to happen?’ The answer to that may lie in the fulcrum of Makarenko’s (2004) continuum; the black hole thesis. This specifically refers to the situations in which weak or failed states foster the convergence between transnational organized crime and terrorism, and ultimately create a safe haven for the continued operations of convergent groups (p. 138).
A ‘black hole’ state refers to a failed state that has successfully been taken over by a converged group as outlined in the previous leg of the continuum (Makarenko, 2004) as a result of a power vacuum, meaning, that when a state collapses or ceases to exist for one reason or another, these hybrid groups sweep in to fulfill that role, thus being able to operate freely as one criminally governing entity. A prime, and most recent, example of this black hole state is the United States military extraction from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021.
As soon as the US extracted itself as the support system for the Afghan government, the Taliban made their move almost unopposed, defeated the newly weakened Afghan government, collapsed the state, and are now in complete control of the country where they have more or less established an Islamic State. However, according to recent news from multiple news sources, specifically Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press (2022), the Afghan economy is collapsing under Taliban rule.
It can be assumed that it is due to the lack of financial and economic infrastructure, but with that said, since Afghanistan is now a black hole state under Taliban rule in dire need of financial infrastructure, one can infer logically that the likelihood of convergence with TCOs, and the adopted use of their tactics by the Taliban is inevitable; and it will most likely be in the form of drug trafficking of heroin due to the rich poppy fields that flourish in that country.
An article written by Alda & Sala in 2014, although never citing Makarenko’s continuum as a foundation for their research, suggested a three (3) prong continuum of sorts as opposed to the four (4) just discussed. They believed that any TCO and FTO nexus falls within the prongs of coexistence, cooperation, and convergence.
Their suggested stage of ‘coexistence’ is more of a precursor to Makarenko’s stage of ‘alliances’. Alda & Sala (2014) state that in the case of coexistence, the groups might both be sharing and/or operating in the same geographic space, but there appears to be little cooperation between them, but this does not necessarily mean that the activities of each don’t benefit the other (p. 4).
Alda & Sala’s (2014) second stage of their continuum, ‘cooperation’, coincides with Makarenko’s first stage of ‘alliances’. They state that the collaboration between terrorists and criminal organizations takes place when each group decides that their inherent fear of contact with each other outweighs the risks, meaning that there are some mutual benefits to be had that satisfy some organizational necessity. And just like Hutchinson & O’Malley (2007), Alda & Sala (2014) believe the cooperation between the two factions to be temporary, as any long-term cooperation may create a lot of disincentives in the long run such as increased and unwanted attention, surveillance, fear of compromising internal security through infiltration, and the heightened prospect of capture.
Alda & Sala (2014) lastly contend that it is often left open-ended by observers in the research community whether or not convergence is possible in such short-term circumstances. They contend that the short-term relationships would have to mature into long-term ones where each of their separate and distinct characteristics become merged and blended.
Regardless, in their conclusion, Alda & Sala (2014) observed, just like Makarenko, that TCOs and FTOs operating in the same geographic location is no coincidence, and that they do work best together operationally when it is in an environment characterized by either a weak or failed state. Criminals will provide terrorists with whatever they require provided the price is right, and in turn, terrorists are prepared to engage in criminal activities if they serve their needs (Alda & Sala, 2014).
Lastly, Hutchinson & O’Malley (2007) also contended that weak or failing states are a possible breeding ground for convergence, but also added some other trends that may also sustain the possibility of convergence: the expanding forces of “globalization: which facilitates rapid communication, travel, surveillance, and information access; economic hardships in various regions (like Afghanistan currently as previously discussed) leading to a lack of incentive to fight TCOs and FTOs; the extensive availability of small arms that can be trafficked for money or used in operations; and unsecured international borders.
So far, the different types of relationships that take shape between TCOs and FTOs, which could ultimately lead to convergence have been discussed. And one can infer this far that the most obvious nexus to those relationships is criminality, which is primarily used to increase funds.
In the National Security Council’s (NSC) 2011 report to the White House, they state that:
“Terrorists and insurgents are increasingly turning to TOC to generate funding and acquire logistical support to carry out their violent acts. The Department of Justice reports that 29 of the 63 organizations on its FY (fiscal year) 2010 Consolidated Priority Organization Targets list, which includes the most significant international drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) threatening the United States, were associated with terrorist groups” (National Security Council, 2011, p. 4).
And according to Hutchinson & O’Malley’s (2007) research, drug trafficking is thought to be the largest source of income for both TCOs and FTOs, with the estimation that trade in narcotics amounts to two (2) percent of the global economy, and up to seven (7) percent of international trade (p. 1096). Reyes & Dinar (2015) concluded as well that drug trafficking is considered to be the main facilitator of crime–terrorist interaction.
According to Michael Braun, former Chief of Operations for the DEA, “19 of the 44 officially designated global terrorist organizations are involved in drug trafficking.” Groups such as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC), the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self Defenses of Colombia—AUC), and the Sendero Luminoso de Peru (Shining Path), among others, continue to fund themselves through this illicit practice (Reyes & Dinar, 2015, p. 382)
The NSC further expresses concerns that involvement in the drug trade by FTOs, specifically the Taliban and FARC, has been a critical means for these groups to fund their terrorist activities (National Security Council, 2011, p. 4). They’ve further expressed concerns that FTOs, such as al-Shabaab, have engaged in other criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom and extortion, to also help generate funding for their operations (National Security Council, 2011, p. 4). But lastly, their biggest concern over the presence of a crime-terror nexus is that it presents opportunities for the successful criminal transfer of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) materials from TCOs to FTOs, and the perpetuating of human smuggling networks as a means for terrorists to enter the United States” (National Security Council, 2011, p. 4).
As one can see, the criminality nexus between TCOs and FTOs is a major concern for governments, especially the United States. And it’s not just narco-trafficking that is the biggest concern. The NSC’s list of criminal activities that they believe are plaguing national security and creating a nexus between TCOs and FTOs is vast and broken down as such:
· Drug Trafficking - The demand for illicit drugs, both in the United States and abroad, fuels the power, impunity, and violence of criminal organizations around the globe. Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are escalating their violence to consolidate their market share within the Western Hemisphere, protect their operations in Mexico, and expand their reach into the United States. In West Africa, Latin American cartels are exploiting local criminal organizations to move cocaine to Western Europe and the Middle East (National Security Council, 2011, p. 5).
There have also been instances of Afghan DTOs operating with those in West Africa to smuggle heroin to Europe and the United States. Many of the well-established organized criminal groups that had not been involved in drug trafficking are now establishing ties to drug producers to develop their own distribution networks and markets (National Security Council, 2011, p. 5).
Although TCOs and DTOs are the biggest facilitators of the drug market, obviously there is a nexus to FTOs who utilize the same industry, such as the Taliban who traffic opium and heroin out of the poppy fields of Afghanistan, as well as FARC who dominate Colombia’s cocaine market (Martin, 2018, p. 239). The opiate market alone is worth approximately $65 billion, and Afghanistan has controlled about 80–90 percent of the production and distribution for over a decade (Reyes & Dinar, 2015, p. 383).
· Human Smuggling - the facilitation, transportation, attempted transportation, or illegal entry of a person or persons across an international border. With the presence of human smuggling, TCOs and FTOs can move criminals, fugitives, terrorists, and trafficking victims, as well as economic migrants. This crime undermines the sovereignty of nations and often endangers the lives of those being smuggled (National Security Council, 2011, p. 5).
The 1990s saw an enormous rise in human smuggling and trafficking by organized crime, in part because of a significant potential for profits coupled with a lessened risk of detection and prosecution in comparison with the drug trade (Hutchinson & O'Malley, 2007, p. 1097).
In its 2010 report The Globalization of Crime: A Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that the smuggling of persons from Latin America to the United States generated approximately $6.6 billion annually in illicit proceeds for human smuggling networks (p.66).
There has been substantial evidence that points to the Tamil Tigers, an FTO out of Sri Lanka as having smuggled and trafficked Sri Lankans to obtain funds for continuing their operations, and the movement of Afghans and Pakistanis in the Middle East has been used to mask the passage of at least one Al Qaeda operative (Hutchinson & O'Malley, 2007, p. 1097).
· Trafficking in Humans - human trafficking, refers to activities involved when one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service, such as involuntary servitude, slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor. Groups specifically target the trafficked person as an object of criminal exploitation often for labor exploitation or sexual exploitation purposes while simultaneously abusing the victims (National Security Council, 2011, p. 5). According to the 2010 UNODC report The Globalization of Crime, in 2005 the total illicit profits produced in one year by trafficked forced laborers was estimated at $32 billion (p. 39).
· Weapons Trafficking - Criminal networks and illicit arms dealers also play important roles in the black markets from which terrorists and drug traffickers procure some of their weapons (National Security Council, 2011, p. 5). According to the 2010 UNODC report The Globalization of Crime, “The value of the documented global authorized trade in firearms has been estimated at approximately $1.58 billion in 2006, with unrecorded but licit transactions making up another $100 million or so” (p. 129).
The Tamil Tigers, again, along with another FTO out of Kosovo, the Kosovo Liberation Army, have utilized the practice of arms trafficking to fund their criminal-political organizations, and advance their insurgencies (Martin, 2018, pp. 239-140)
· Cybercrime - “Cybercrime” has been used to describe a wide range of offenses, including offenses against computer data and systems (hacking or security breaches), computer-related forgery and fraud, content offenses (child pornography), and copyright offenses (bootlegged or pirated content) (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, 2010, p. 203).
According to the NSC (2011), TOC networks are “increasingly involved in cybercrime, which costs consumers billions of dollars annually, threatens sensitive corporate and government computer networks, and undermines worldwide confidence in the international financial system. Through cybercrime, transnational criminal organizations pose a significant threat to financial and trust systems such as banking, stock markets, e-currency, and value and credit card services; all of which the world economy depends on” (p. 5).
And while the NSC has determined that the aforementioned crimes are of most concern in locating the nexus between TCOs and FTOs, Hutchinson & O’Malley (2007) cite two more:
· Kidnapping for Ransom - Kidnapping for ransom has also become a key tool for terrorist financing (p. 1097). Abu-Sayyaf, an FTO from the Philippines, has utilized kidnapping and extortion as a means to enhance their jihad against the Filipino government (Martin, 2018, p. 240).
· Cigarette Smuggling - Cigarette smuggling has also become a source of income for such groups, most notably perhaps in North Carolina where cigarettes were smuggled to other states such as Michigan where taxes are higher. Money from these ventures went from the Detroit-based Hammoud brothers to Lebanese-based Hezbollah (Hutchinson & O'Malley, 2007, p. 1097).
Renee Novakoff in her 2015 article, Transnational Organized Crime: An Insidious Threat to U.S. National Security Interests cited her own figures from the NCS and UNODC: “money-laundering accounts for $1.3 trillion to $3.3 trillion-or between two and five percent of the world's gross domestic profit (GDP). Bribery from TCOs rings in close to $1 trillion to that amount, while drug trafficking generates an estimated $750 billion to $1 trillion, counterfeited and pirated goods add another $500 billion, and illicit firearms sales generate from $170 billion to $320 billion. This totals some $6.2 trillion or 10 percent of the world's GDP” (p.140).
Another nexus that bridges the gap between FTOs and TCOs are facilitators, both semi-legitimate and illegitimate ones. The NSC, in their Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime (2011), recognized that even legitimate facilitators such as accountants, attorneys, notaries, bankers, and real estate brokers, who provide services to legitimate customers, also service, aid, and abet criminals and terrorists alike due to corruption. And these legitimate turned semi-legitimate facilitators create a nexus between FTOs and TCOs.
The NSC (2011) cites these examples:
· TOC networks rely on industry experts, both willfully and unwilfully, to facilitate corrupt transactions and to create the necessary infrastructure to pursue their illicit schemes, such as creating shell corporations, opening offshore bank accounts in the shell corporation’s name, and creating front businesses for their illegal activity and money laundering (p. 6).
· Business owners or bankers are enlisted to launder money, and employees of legitimate companies are used to conceal smuggling operations (p. 6).
· Human smugglers, human traffickers, arms traffickers, drug traffickers, terrorists, and other criminals depend on secure transportation networks and safe locations from which to stage smuggling activity or to store bulk cash or narcotics for transport. They also depend on fraudulently created or fraudulently obtained documents, such as passports and visas, to move themselves or their clients into the United States and illegally reside here (p. 6).
In Rohan Gunaratna’s 2004 book, Inside Al-Qaeda: Global Network Terror, he cites a few sources of Al-Qaeda’s use of semi-legitimate facilitators. According to Gunaratna, Al-Qaeda has relied on wealthy Arab benefactors in the Middle East to generate vast sums, including respected individuals in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, as financial mainstays (Gunaratna, 2004, p. 82).
Gunaratna also describes Al-Qaeda’s heavy use and dependence on the Hawala banking systems, which are facilitated by legitimate Pakistani Bankers. The Hawala banking system is an informal system whereby funds are transferred without financial or governmental scrutiny or accountability. The Pakistani Bankers estimate that the Hawala system accounts for $2.5 to $3 billion entering their country each year compared to only $1 billion in the formal banking system. In Pakistan alone, there are more than one thousand (1,000) hawaladars, of which some deal involves as much as $10 million (Gunaratna, 2004, p. 84).
As far as illegitimate facilitators are concerned, Renee Novakoff in her 2015 article, Transnational Organized Crime: An Insidious Threat to U.S. National Interests, describes the use of common street gangs as facilitators between TCOs and FTOs, because these smaller groups or gangs are those middlemen who have little or no allegiance to one group and often have no intention to develop their group or cell into a major trafficking network. They merely make a living by trafficking goods. For example, Los Zetas, a major TCO in Mexico, has been known to contract work out to smaller, lethal gangs, such as the notorious MS-13, to cut down and save on resources (Grayson, 2014).
Novakoff (2015) also goes on to cite that major crime groups such as Mexican cartels and Colombia's FARC contract with smaller, local criminal organizations, or other vetted individuals that serve as mules to smuggle goods across borders, dispatch legal support, or perform a plethora of other activities needed to run the big organizations these groups oversee (p. 142). Increasingly, FTOs also need assistance in laundering money, obtaining travel documents, etc. and the facilitators or individuals involved with these activities are paramount in some cases, to ensure that the operation keeps moving.
Globalization and Infrastructure
As previously established in Hutchinson & O’Malley’s (2007) conclusion in the continuum section, a third example of the nexus lies within the globalization of criminal networking, and the infrastructures they create, which Liana Reyes and Shlomi Dinar argue in their 2015 article, The Convergence of Terrorism and Transnational Crime in Central Asia.
They cite a quote from John T. Picarelli to describe the nexus created by criminal globalization: “Both criminal and terrorist organizations have leveraged the infrastructures of globalization to advance their causes, often using common facilitators in the process” (p. 383). Globalization simply put, could refer to Latin-American groups who conduct business in Africa and Asian groups who conduct business in Latin America.
Reyes & Dinar (2015) cite the Northern Route in Central Asia as an example of the nexus globalization and infrastructure create between TCOs and FTOs. The Northern Route has long been a dominant trafficking route of illicit goods that cuts through Central Asia. It’s a strategic location that connects the leading consumer of opiates (Russia) and the leading producer of opiates (Afghanistan – Al-Qaeda), thus leading Central Asia to become a breeding ground for illicit behavior (p. 383).
And due to it being financially lucrative, the Northern Route has provided the opportunity for different ethnic groups, drug traffickers, insurgents, and/or terror organizations to network and converge, which ultimately blurs the lines of their once distinctive qualities (Reyes & Dinar, 2015, p. 383).
Another example, as previously mentioned, is the Tri-border region in South America where the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay come together, and illicit drug trafficking runs rampant due to its weakened judicial and militaristic state (black hole theory) (Stanislawski, 2005). In this region Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed state-sponsored FTO based in Lebanon (Martin, 2018) has utilized globalization to operate, in cooperation with FARC, to create extra funds in conjunction with their Syrian state-sponsorship. Through globalization and infrastructure exploitation, Hezbollah was able to finance the bombings of the Israeli Embassy and Jewish Cultural Affairs Center (Reyes & Dinar, 2015)
So, with the lucrative nature of drug trafficking markets combined with unsecured borders, a growing infrastructure, enhanced transportation technology, and the growing interaction and cooperation among various ethnic groups, globalization has, more or less, facilitated the networking and convergence among these once traditionally independent groups. And as globalization continues to expand the legitimate movement of goods and people around the world, it also continues to provide evidence of the nexus between TCOs and FTOs that ultimately blurs the lines of their distinctive characteristics (Reyes & Dinar, 2015, p. 388).
Reyes & Dinar (2015) lastly cite Jean-Marie Guehenno from his 1998 article, The Impact of Globalization on Strategy, that the diffusion of globalization has been a facilitator of the sharing of tactics, methods, and motivations across international and state borders. Groups involved with drug trafficking, insurgency, and terrorism are becoming increasingly intermingled, and the nexus has intensified mainly due to globalization (p. 389).
It's not hard to fathom just how easy and accessible infrastructure and information can be at the expense of globalization. Networking amongst different FTO and TCO factions is at an all-time high due to the information age we live which, in turn, facilitates globalization.
Black Hole States
The last, and perhaps, the most important nexus that is crucial for convergence between FTOs and TCOs are the black hole states. This is because there are either weak or non-existent governments or opposing forces to keep either faction under control. According to Makarenko (2004), examples of weakened states that fall within this category, and are susceptible to the potential black hole syndrome as a result of current or past experiences, include countries like Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the Middle East, Angola, and Sierra Leone in Africa, and North Korea and Myanmar in Asia. Makarenko (2004) also points out other areas in Pakistan, Indonesia, and Thailand whose government control is extremely weak as a result of civil wars.
Makarenko (2004) further contends that Afghanistan could first be considered a ‘black hole state’ back in 1989 during the withdrawal of Soviet troops after the Afghan-Soviet War. This is for several reasons:
“First, although factions fighting in the Afghan civil war (notably the Northern Alliance) officially articulated ideological goals, their involvement in criminal activities, and frequent changes in group allegiances and alliances, indicate that group survival was their paramount concern. In the absence of any central authority capable of establishing widespread stability and order, warlords were able to divide the country into local fiefdoms to secure territorial control to sustain activities such as the production and trafficking of opiates and the smuggling of weapons and a variety of licit commodities (specifically pharmaceuticals) across the border with Pakistan” (p. 138-139).
“Second, as a result of incessant instability sustained by rival warlord factions, Afghanistan became an important safe haven, congregation, and training point for a number of FTOs and TCOs. The cauldron of terrorist and criminal interests converging and cooperating in Afghanistan, therefore, illustrates the dangers inherent in the ‘black hole’ syndrome” (Makarenko, 2004, p. 139).
But it was not just Makarenko who observed that black hole states were and continue to be a breeding ground for convergence. Hutchinson & O’Malley (2007), Novakoff (2015), Alda & Sala (2014), Stanislawski (2005), and Reyes & Dinar (2015) have all recognized through their research and reviews that FTOs and TCOs depend on black hole states to advance their own individual needs, while at the same time converge based on operational needs at the time.
· “Where there is some evidence of alliances between existing organized crime groups and terrorist groups, these alliances tend to occur in weak and transitional states, especially where black markets and economies are largely or completely controlled by existing organized crime groups, and between newer transnational organized crime groups and terrorists” (Hutchinson & O'Malley, 2007, p. 1106)
· “Drug trafficking in Central Asia is also becoming increasingly violent with recent clashes in Tajikistan.93 And the weakness of the states involved is progressively making the situation worse” (Reyes & Dinar, 2015, p. 388)
· “Here is where the criminal enclaves or “black spots” mentioned earlier become particularly useful; they provide relatively protected places where such devices [weapons of mass destruction] can be developed and where people with the skill needed already reside” (Stanislawski, 2005, p. 159)
· “There is no doubt that transnational organized crime, especially in the western hemisphere, has grown over the past ten years. This growth is an unintended consequence of open borders, globalization, and technology that allows individuals to communicate, and move funds, goods, and people around the world more easily. These criminal elements prey on nations that have weak institutions, poverty, and a population that feels disenfranchised from its government” (Novakoff, 2015, pp. 135-136).
“Criminal organizations and terrorist groups are both dependent upon the presence of weak governance and law enforcement institutions. In other words, these groups thrive in the presence of a weak government, which seems to be the case in the countries of this region. Governments may simply turn a blind eye to criminal activity, or governmental institutions may simply be too weak to be able to successfully confront the criminal networks or terrorist organizations” (Alda & Sala, 2014, p. 4).
As one can infer from these conclusions alone, black hole states are paramount for TCO and FTO operations to thrive and ultimately converge. It more or less amounts to that old childhood adage, “when the cat is away, the mice will play”. When there is no government (cat) to oversee public order and security, TCOs and FTOs (the mice) will conduct their criminal dealings with a feeling of complete comfort and ease.
Gus Martin (2018) concluded that “the best defense against terrorism is a government which has the broad popular support to control terrorist activities through normal channels of law enforcement without resorting to counter-terror” (p. 434). That is significant as this hypothesis supports the idea that the absence of government in black hole states will breed convergence.
Chapter Three: Methodology
After having reviewed and presented the many research journals about the topic of the nexus between TCOs and FTOs, the majority of the methods used to formulate the results associated with the issue were historical, as previously mentioned in chapter 1.
One of the main sources used in this review to help define and support the facts stated by the researchers was Gus Martin’s, Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues, as it was essentially an encyclopedia of terrorism. The entire book is a historical look at the many organizations, both state and dissident, that have been at the forefront of terror throughout history. But Martin also uses quantitative data, with statistical evidence, of terrorist trends to project a hypothesis of what direction the phenomenon of terrorism may be heading and ways to possibly better combat it in the future.
The research done by Tamara Makarenko (2004), was the centerpiece of this review. Her hypothesis of the crime-terror continuum was developed using observational and historical trends to explain and apply the continuum on a practical level, and it can be deemed deductive in nature, in that she developed the continuum to better understand the nexus which had already been hypothesized to exist.
Hutchinson & O’Malley (2007) provided much of the same type of research as Makarenko. It was historical and explanatory with the intent to deduce a better understanding of the nexus between TCOs and FTOs. They specifically broke down the sociological behaviors that each faction has been observed to utilize to truly identify both similar and differentiating trends which proved useful in painting the picture of the existing nexus.
Alda & Sala (2014), as well as, Reyes & Dinar (2015) also used historical and deductive types of research, however, it was to explain a nexus in specific areas of the world as opposed to a global trend. It’s also sufficient to notate that these researchers used explanatory methods as well to properly detail and explain the nexus.
Novakoff’s (2015) research methodology was similar to Hutchinson & O’Malley (2004), Reyes & Dinar (2015), and Alda & Sala’s (2014) in that her research was historical, deductive, and explanatory, however, the intent and purpose were not only to present the nexus between TCOs and FTOs but also to explain what an insidious threat the nexus is to national security interests. She also presented statistical data to support the claims of criminality being a large nexus between the two.
As for the research done by both the National Security Council and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, both entities utilized quantitative and statistical data to explain the ongoing trends of crime and terrorism. The NCS further utilized those statistics to explain the nexus between TCOs and FTOs, and applied that research to develop a strategy to combat the phenomenon of transnational organized crime.
Chapter Four: Results
The results of each of the researches presented were all in agreeance that there is a nexus between TCOs and FTOs, whether it be criminality, infrastructure, facilitators, or the absence of governments in black hole states; the observational and statistical data is there to support the consensus.
Out of the four nexuses that were identified throughout this review of the multiple pieces of research, the black hole state theory is the most compelling factor when making the argument over the nexus between TCOs and FTOs. This is due in part because it’s quite obvious historically, observationally, and statistically, that both FTOs and TCOs tend to converge and thrive mainly in failed states such as Afghanistan and the Tri-Border region of South America.
The second biggest compelling nexus between FTOs and TCOs is criminality, specifically drug trafficking. As previously mentioned in chapter 1 that even before a nexus was realized, DTOs had already been utilizing narcoterrorism since the early 80s in Central and South America. Both Hutchinson & O’Malley (2007) and Alda & Sala (2014) were able to conclude that drug trafficking is the largest trend of crime utilized by both TCOs and FTOs. The statistics provided by NSC and UNODC were the most compelling and supportive pieces of evidence to conclude that criminality and drug trafficking are a large nexus to the potential convergence of FTOs and TCOs.
And whether they ever completely merge along the continuum or not, FTOs and TCOs have been observed most often indulging in the profits of criminality and drug trafficking together, and mainly in black hole states.
Chapter Five: Conclusion
As established in chapter 1, the majority of the twentieth (20th) century saw that dissident political revolutionaries were often significantly state-sponsored, which hence brought forth the Cold-War Terrorist Networking Theory where Soviet Russia was suspected of sponsoring dissident revolutionaries and initiating proxy wars in countries around the world. After its dissolution and lack of state sponsorship thereafter, dissident revolutionaries needed to find funding elsewhere, bringing to fruition the realization of a crime-terror nexus, and the subsequent need to research the phenomenon.
Again, in reviewing the literature completed by researchers, the intent was to reveal the common threads that align TCOs with FTOs, and that convergence is a reality when certain factors are present; and the intents and purpose of this review have been met.
For approximately the past twenty (20) to thirty (30) years, researchers have established many common characteristics that FTOs and TCOs share and have placed their movements on a continuum. With this review of literature from multiple sources from the past 20 years, four nexuses have been recognized as being most paramount for convergence to occur: shared criminality operations; the facilitators, both legitimate and illegitimate who middleman and facilitate the movement of weapons, money, and narcotics; the globalization and use of established infrastructures; and the presence of black holes states that have minimal to no government intrusion. It is when any of these four nexuses are present, whether simultaneously or not, that the probability for convergence is most likely to occur.
Continuing to review and research these characteristics is important. Recognizing these four components can help establish sanctions and strategies to help deter convergence from happening. With state-sponsorship of FTOs at its all-time low, if convergence can be avoided, it could potentially suffocate FTOs financially, and hopefully diminish the movement and attacks from FTOs we’ve seen plaguing Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and even the United States for the past two decades.
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