Link Grows Between Terrorism, Organized Crime, Officials Say

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2012 — The two mis­sions of fight­ing ter­ror­ism and com­bat­ing glob­al orga­nized crime are increas­ing­ly linked, senior Defense Depart­ment offi­cials told Con­gress yes­ter­day.

Michael A. Shee­han, assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for spe­cial oper­a­tions and low-inten­si­ty con­flict; Gar­ry Reid, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for spe­cial oper­a­tions and com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism; and William F. Wech­sler, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for coun­ternar­cotics and glob­al threats, tes­ti­fied before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Committee’s emerg­ing threats and capa­bil­i­ties sub­com­mit­tee.

The hear­ing focused on the Pentagon’s role in imple­ment­ing the nation­al strate­gies for coun­tert­er­ror­ism and com­bat­ing transna­tion­al orga­nized crime under the 2013 defense bud­get request.

“Ter­ror­ism, drug traf­fick­ing and oth­er forms of transna­tion­al orga­nized crime are increas­ing­ly inter­twined,” Shee­han not­ed, adding that his office — which is respon­si­ble for over­all super­vi­sion of spe­cial oper­a­tions forces — is unique­ly posi­tioned to pro­vide pol­i­cy guid­ance and pro­gram over­sight to the department’s efforts in both mis­sions.

Wech­sler not­ed four trends in ter­ror­ism and transna­tion­al crime:

— Ter­ror­ist groups are adopt­ing crim­i­nal tech­niques, includ­ing drug traf­fick­ing, to raise funds;

— Crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions are adopt­ing ter­ror­ist tech­niques, such as behead­ings;

— Ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions and crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions that have been sep­a­rate are now “work­ing togeth­er in ways that pre­vi­ous­ly we hadn’t seen … [such as] the attempt­ed assas­si­na­tion of a Sau­di ambas­sador here in the Unit­ed States”; and

— Some coun­tries are using crim­i­nal activ­i­ty to pro­duce rev­enue.

Shee­han said that while the Defense Depart­ment plays a cen­tral role in fight­ing ter­ror­ism and a more sup­port­ing role bat­tling transna­tion­al orga­nized crime, the nation­al strate­gies gov­ern­ing the two mis­sions are com­ple­men­tary and mutu­al­ly rein­forc­ing.

While the coun­tert­er­ror­ism focus on al-Qai­da remains, he said, the land­scape is chang­ing. As al-Qai­da and oth­er ter­ror groups meld with inter­na­tion­al crim­i­nal net­works, DOD is expand­ing its efforts beyond direct strikes against ter­ror­ist tar­gets in sup­port­ing an inter­a­gency approach, Shee­han said.

“All our nation­al secu­ri­ty chal­lenges … [are] becom­ing increas­ing­ly inter­a­gency,” he not­ed.

Fight­ing ter­ror­ism increas­ing­ly includes tar­get­ing the glob­al drug trade, he said. “Nowhere is the link between transna­tion­al orga­nized crime, insur­gency and ter­ror­ism more appar­ent than in Afghanistan, where the Tal­iban con­tin­ues to receive a large per­cent­age of its rev­enue through hero­in trade,” he added.

Fight­ing insur­gents, pros­e­cut­ing crim­i­nals and apply­ing pres­sure to states prof­it­ing from ter­ror or crim­i­nal activ­i­ty involves agen­cies from DOD to the Drug Enforce­ment Agency to the State Depart­ment, Shee­han not­ed. And while direct strike is an impor­tant spe­cial oper­a­tions capa­bil­i­ty, even pure­ly mil­i­tary action often focus­es on a part­ner­ing approach, he said.

“Just as impor­tant … are the spe­cial oper­a­tions forces’ efforts that build the capa­bil­i­ty and capac­i­ty of our part­ners to shape the glob­al infor­ma­tion and ideas envi­ron­ment, as well as train and equip the capac­i­ty of oth­er coun­tries,” he added.

Work­ing with Pak­istan to keep pres­sure on al-Qai­da is essen­tial, and Yemen serves as an impor­tant front against al-Qai­da on the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la, he not­ed.

DOD con­tin­ues to col­lab­o­rate exten­sive­ly with the Yemeni forces on oper­a­tional mat­ters, and togeth­er we are close­ly mon­i­tor­ing [al-Qai­da on the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la] and reg­u­lar­ly improv­ing our under­stand­ing of its exter­nal plots,” Shee­han said.

Com­bat­ing the nexus of ter­ror­ism and transna­tion­al orga­nized crime, he said, “is a call to action to lever­age all of the ele­ments of nation­al pow­er to pro­tect cit­i­zens and U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests and to enable our for­eign part­ners to do the same.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)