Terror Criminal Links Growing

By FrontPageMag.com | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen
Thursday, September 13th, 2007 @ 4:40AM

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Al Qaeda’s sophisticated new media campaign clearly demonstrates that the group does not lack funding. Contrary to popular belief, organizing, maintaining, training, and operating terrorist groups require large and liquid sums. Most terrorist organizations circumvent funding prohibitions by creating “political” and “charitable” wings, a ruse that enables their individual and state supporters to contribute “clean” money to the terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Interviewed by ABC News on September 11, 2007, U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) Stuart Levey, said: “If I could somehow snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia.”
Still, the U.S. government does not designate the Saudis, or other oil producing countries as terrorist entities, although they are the major suppliers of “clean” money that feed of the global proliferation of radical Islam. As the West consumes more oil, the higher the price tends to rise and more petrodollars are available to spread radical Islam.

But “charitable” donations alone do not satisfy the terrorists growing appetite. They also regularly generate funds through “common” transnational crimes. Yet inadequate official recognition of this convergence lets terrorists operate below the radar.

A major funding source for terrorist and criminals is the trade in illegal drugs. In contrast to oil revenues, pricing illegal drug works precisely the opposite. The more heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines are produced, the larger global supply and consumption grow. Increasing supply force prices to drop precipitously, thereby creating even larger markets. In 1981, a gram of heroin cost $1,974 on U.S. streets; in 2003, a gram of heroin cost only $362, according to a National Drug Control Strategy document. 1 By September 2006, a gram of heroin cost only $75 to $95, according to two 2007 criminal indictments, filed by two northeastern Federal Districts.2

In late August 2007, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) reported that opium cultivation in Afghanistan had reached a new record. The area under opium cultivation grew 17%, to 193,000 hectares, compared with 165,000 hectares in 2006. Meanwhile, the opium yield grew by more than one third, to 8,200 tons, from 6,100 tons.

The UDOC attributes this amazing increase to the Taliban’s reversal of their 2000 edict banning cultivation, said Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.3 And Afghanistan now supplies some 95% of the world’s opiate/heroin market, according to Radio Free Europe.[1]

The nexus between transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups does not end illegal drug trafficking. Their partnerships are complex, linking money, geography, politics, arms, and tactics to create a mutually beneficial relationship. These links yield hundreds of billions, of dollars in revenues worldwide.

On July 14, 2007, Deputy Chief of the Los Angeles Police Counterterrorism Criminal Intelligence Bureau, Michael Downing stated that laundered funds now “account for about 10 percent of the total global flow of money–up from about 2 percent in 1998.” In May 2001,[2] the FBI estimated that “the amount of money laundered each year is approximately $2.8 trillion.”

The former International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director, Michel Camdessus, estimated that money laundered worldwide 1999, totaled between 2% and 5% of combined gross domestic product (GDP)—or approximately $1.8 trillion. By April 2006, the IMF’s World Economic Outlook estimate of the world economy was $65.174 trillion. Considering the rise of radical Muslim terrorist groups, and the dramatic increase in “ordinary” crime, as well as major technological advances, it is now estimated that at least $5 trillions are being laundered annually, 70% are thought to be generated from the illegal drug trade.

Even if only a little goes to terrorist groups, “it’s frightening,” Downing said. “Not only that, but you see the convergence of organized crime and terrorism occurring.”

In May 2007, Los Angeles Sheriff Department Lt., John Sullivan, stated: “organized crime groups in Los Angeles County are supporting international terrorists.” But this is not only Los Angeles’ problem.

According to a recent Gallup study, “counterfeiting and piracy costs Americans $250 billion in sales and 750,000 U.S. jobs annually[3].” These involve counterfeiting of “CDs, DVDs, handbags, medications, cigarettes and even toothpaste.”[4]

Defrauding the U.S. Government of hundreds of billions of dollars and undermining local economies is just what Osama bin laden ordered on Dec. 27, 2001: “It is very important to concentrate on hitting the U.S. economy through all possible means… Look for the key pillars of the U.S. economy. Strike the key pillars of the enemy again and again, and they will fall as one.”

Incredibly, despite substantial evidence that al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist organizations need vast sums to sustain their operational infrastructures and broaden their bases, 9/11 Commission Vice-Chair Lee Hamilton and Commissioner Slade Gorton stated, “Making it harder for terrorists to get money is a necessary, but not sufficient, component of our overall strategy”(emphasis added). The willful blindness behind this attitude may partially explain inadequate power and implementation of existing laws and legal instruments to more efficiently combat terror financing and criminal activities.

Jihad is not committed by the sword alone. While less transparent, economic and financial jihads are far more insidious aspects of the jihadist war to defeat the West, and especially the U.S.

With this in mind, it would seem prudent for law enforcement to take a closer look at the identities and profiles of each and every “ordinary” criminal seized, be it a drug dealers, car thieves, or “white collar” criminals.


1 Table 45, “Avg. Price and Purity of Heroin in the U.S., 1981-2003,” http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/policy/ndcs06_data_supl/ds_drg_rltd_tbls.pdf

2 www.usdoj.gov/usao/pae/News/Pr/2007/may/monegro.pdf and www.usdoj.gov/usao/md/Public-Affairs/press_releases/press07/ThreeBaltimoreDrugDealersSentencedtoLengthyPrisonTerms.html viewed on Aug. 28, 2007

3 Masood Haider, “UN Reports record production of opium in Afghanistan,” Dawn, Aug. 28, 2007, http://www.dawn.com/2007/08/28/top16.htm, viewed Aug. 28, 2007.

[1] Breffni O’Rourke, “Central Asia/Iran: Massive Afghan Opium Production Hits Neighbors,” Radio Free Europe/Liberty Radio, Aug. 28, 2007, http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/08/f58f6951-ad74-4996-bbb3-50fa2dcd7112.html, viewed Aug. 28, 2007.

[2] “Criminal Justice Resources: Money Laundering,” Michigan State University Libraries – Criminal Justice Resources, www.lib.msu.edu/harris23/crimjust/moneylau.htm, Source: “Money Laundering”, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin v.70 no.5 (May 2001): p.1-9

[3] “Congress needs to get tough on China trade,” The Oakland Press, August 17, 2007 http://www.theoaklandpress.com/stories/081707/opi_20070817134.shtml

[4] Troy Anderson, “Drug sales, counterfeiting funding terrorism. Sheriff’s office says it’s intercepted plots, traced money back to extremist groups”, L.A. Daily News, August 20, 2007

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is author of Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed—and How to Stop It, Director of American Center for Democracy and a member of the Committee on the Present Danger. Alyssa A. Lappen is a Senior Fellow at the American Center for Democracy.

Categories: U.S. Policy

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