Can You Tell A Terrorist From A "Criminal"?

By The Terror Finance Blog | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld
Sunday, January 21st, 2007 @ 4:53AM

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While most terrorist organizations have circumvented funding prohibitions by creating “political” and “charitable” wings – a ruse that enables their individual and state supporters to contribute clean money to criminal/terrorist activities, most terrorist organizations also widely engage in common crimes to generate funds. This phenomenon has not been adequately recognized and addressed.

While most terrorist organizations conduct their own criminal activities, they exploit the official distinction that artificially separate transnational organized crime from terrorism. Thus, they frequently conspire with other criminal groups. Moreover, growing evidence suggests that terrorist groups not only extort “protection” money from traditional criminals, but that they partner with criminal organizations to carry out “ordinary” crimes such as arms, alcohol and cigarettes smuggling, and counterfeiting goods.

Indeed, they also jointly traffic in illegal drugs with established drug trafficking organizations. In addition to filling the terrorists’ coffers, such activities increase their underworld contacts, and provide them deniability regarding their terrorist activities and affiliations, making it more difficult to identify and prosecute the perpetrators for terrorism. Moreover, it helps terrorists to distort our perception regarding the magnitude and severity of their threat.

To address this problem, law enforcement should be given special guidelines and training to better spot the terrorists.


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