Crime and Terrorism

Crime and Terrorism

 

by Colonel Robert Killebrew

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The U.S. has been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan now for eight years, and a great deal of our best thinking and most focused military development has quite rightly gone into fighting those two conflicts. We have built an effective counterinsurgency doctrine, we have re-equipped and re-re-equipped our forces, and we have perforce built huge bases of experience in dealing with Islamic insurgent and terror organizations. This is as it should be -- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' admonition to "win the war you're in" is right on target.

In those eight years, though, as we have focused on the wars we're in, there have been some profound changes in the structure of global terrorism, particularly with regard to the relationship between terrorist movements and international crime. According to a panel of experts at a recent conference sponsored by the Center for a New American Security, terrorism and crime have now merged, to such an extent that all terrorist movements -- all of them -- have become partly criminal organizations to fund their operations, expand their reach -- and incidentally make the people on top extremely rich, while lower-level zealots continue to be recruited for suicide missions.

Download the full article: Crime and Terrorism

Robert B. Killebrew is a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Killebrew is a retired Army colonel who served 30 years in a variety of assignments that included Special Forces, tours in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, XVIII Airborne Corps, high-level war planning assignments and instructor duty at the Army War College.

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Not to disrespect the Colonel's paper, but is this news to the MI community? Going after the money is basic counter-terrorism - even Congress caught on after 9/11; the financial provisions are probably the best thing about the Patriot Act. Law enforcement has known this for a long time. On the military side, Tequila Junction goes into this subject at great length and the entire point of the book is to propose ways to attack these networks. Adams' The Financing of Terror was published over two decades ago, and went into depth about how terrorists perennially resort to crime to finance their operations (the hardcover can also be picked up for the price of a coffee). It is only the largest and most established terror organizations (i.e. the PLO) who have the portfolio established to support terror operations without significant amounts of crime.

Better cooperation between agencies responsible for operations abroad vs. at would certainly help, but the basic premise that this is new is definitely not true. Terrorism and crime have long been joined at the hip. It has been more important than state sponsorship in keeping terror groups operating - state sponsors (especially the Soviets of decades past) are notoriously stingy.

This is obviously part of the evolution of terrorism. In the past we have had success targeting suppliers for the terrorists. Now it only makes sense that we will need to target the funding where ever it is coming from. As terrorism and its means evolve, so must we in order to be successful.