THE GLOBAL UNDERWORLD: Terrorists, Drug Traffickers and Organized CrimeDate: November 01, 2004
Source: Mich News Com
In 1995, Americans spent approximately $48 billion to buy cocaine and heroin, all of which originated from foreign sources. In 1996, more than 600,000 Americans were arrested for heroin or cocaine-related violations, and more than 60 percent of all adult male arrestees tested positive for drugs in 20 of 23 cities. Illegal drug use kills over 14,000 Americans annually and generates 225,000 hospital emergency room visits.
One billion dollars worth of stolen cars are taken out of the United States annually. The illegal duplication and piracy of U.S. films, compact disks, computer software, pharmaceutical and textile products results in annual losses to U.S. companies of up to $23 billion.
Two thirds of all counterfeit U.S. currency detected in the United States is produced abroad.
At least several hundred U. S. organizations, corporations, financial institutions, government agencies and universities have suffered computer-related security breaches so far in 1998, resulting in losses totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.
These and other international crime threats will be a growing challenge in the years ahead as criminals continue to take advantage of the same factors that are feeding the rapid globalization of trade. The challenge is particularly acute because, unlike governments and law enforcement agencies, international criminals exploit national boundaries and are not constrained by national sovereignty. As articulated in the National Security Strategy, international crime today poses a direct threat to important U.S. interests whether occurring in this country or overseas.
American citizens living and working at home or abroad are primary targets for international criminal activities. In addition to the toll on individual American victims, international criminal activity undermines the safety and integrity of communities across the United States.
International Drug Trafficking
Drug trafficking is one of the greatest threats to Americans and their communities. International organized crime groups take advantage of sophisticated global transportation and communications links to funnel illicit drugs into the United States. They have increasingly demonstrated both innovation and technological sophistication in conducting their drug smuggling activities. Their ruthlessness and financial strength make them a potent threat.
Approximately 13 million Americans were current users of illegal drugs in 1996. Drug abuse exacts a terrible human toll in addiction and associated health costs. This abuse also undermines family cohesion, reduces workplace productivity and correlates strongly with other crime. In 1995, Americans spent approximately $57 billion on illegal drugs -- including $38 billion to buy cocaine and $10 billion on heroin, both of which are smuggled into the United States from countries in Latin America and Asia by international criminal organizations. Illegal drug use costs our society additional tens of billions of dollars each year. Approximately 60 percent of federal prisoners in 1995 were sentenced for drug violations.
Researchers have found that one-fourth to one-half of men who commit acts of domestic violence also have substance abuse problems, many involving illegal drugs. In addition to the damage they do at home, international drug trafficking organizations ruthlessly protect their activities. They threaten and sometimes resort to violence against U.S. law enforcement officers and Americans working and living in drug producing or transit countries.
As evidenced by the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York City, the 1995 Riyadh and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombings in Saudi Arabia, and the 1995 assassination of two U.S. nationals in Karachi, Pakistan, international terrorism is a significant threat to American lives and property, at home and abroad. In 1997, there were 123 terrorist attacks against U.S. targets worldwide, including 108 bombings and eight kidnappings. And the most devastating terrorist attack occurred in 2001 in New York and Washington, DC.
International terrorists are adept at exploiting the advantages associated with reduced political and economic barriers to move people, money and material -- including arms and explosives -- across international borders. They are becoming more sophisticated in their use of computer and telecommunications technology to support their operations. Terrorists also use drugs trafficking and other criminal activities to finance their operations.
Illegal Immigration and Smuggling
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) estimates there are 5 million undocumented aliens illegally in the United States, representing nearly 2 percent of the total U.S. population. This figure includes aliens who were smuggled into the United States, those who illegally entered on their own, and those who are in the country illegally because they have overstayed their visas.
The aliens who are smuggled into the United States are subject to use by drug traffickers as "mules" to carry illegal drugs and often treated as "human cargo" -- shipped into the United States in cramped, unhealthy and dangerous conditions. They suffer abusive treatment from their handlers en route and sometimes are held in enforced servitude, including prostitution and drug peddling, for years after their illegal arrival to pay off debts to their smugglers. Moreover, illegal immigration is often tied to document fraud, a criminal offense that facilitates the commission of many other international crimes, such as terrorism and drug trafficking. There are many crimes committed by illegals, including the murder of police officers.
Contraband smuggling across U.S. borders -- including currency, stolen cars, firearms, cigarettes, alcohol and wildlife -- is also a significant problem. Much of this trafficking is to evade import-export taxes imposed on legal international commerce, thereby allowing criminals to reap significant profits, often while undercutting legitimate businesses.
Smuggling stolen vehicles out of the United States is a very profitable criminal venture. The National Insurance Crime Bureau, a private investigative organization, estimates that, of the 1.4 to 1.6 million automobiles stolen every year in the United States, 200,000 -- valued at approximately $1 billion -- are illegally transported out of the country.
Trafficking in exotic species, a $5 billion dollar per year operation worldwide, threatens biodiversity and could expose unsuspecting Americans to deadly diseases.
Organized Crime Gangs
Organized crime groups are threats to Americans and U.S. businesses around the world. They are active in drug trafficking, arms trafficking, extortion, intimidation and violence. Organized crime groups have increasingly displayed a willingness to cooperate and work together on joint criminal enterprises. This increased cooperation is facilitated by technological enhancements in communications and transportation and transcends ethnic and cultural lines. These groups and the disreputable business interests sometimes aligned with them use corrupt political connections, payoffs and intimidation to secure highly profitable deals at the expense of free and fair competition. American business persons are not immune to the strong-arm tactics, including extreme violence, used by criminal groups to protect their interests or resolve disputes.
Wide ranging and often complex financial frauds by international criminals are robbing Americans of billions of dollars annually. One of the most notorious fraud schemes is the advance fee fraud. Nigerian and other international criminals have sent thousands of unsolicited letters and faxes with fraudulent representations to individual Americans with the promise of great profits after paying up front cash fees. In 1996, Americans were bilked of at least $100 million in Nigerian advance fee scams alone. The total loss is probably significantly greater, however, because fear and embarrassment keep many victims from reporting this crime. International criminals also victimize American businesses and financial institutions, resulting in lost opportunities, lost revenue and lost jobs.
Financial fraud crimes have become more prevalent in recent years asinternational criminals take advantage of the significantly greater personal and corporate financial information now available and readily exploitable through computer technology and access devices such as credit cards, debit cards and smart cards. As a result, financial losses to American businesses from insurance and credit card fraud are increasing. Major credit card issuers suffered fraud losses in excess of $2 billion in 1996, about one-third of which occurred because of international fraudulent activity. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates financial losses in the United States from fraud schemes by domestic and international criminals at more than $200 billion per year.
Money Laundering Operations
Criminals launder money to prevent governments and law enforcement agencies from identifying the source of illicit proceeds, from tracing the funding for specific criminal activities, and from freezing or seizing criminals' financial assets. Some estimates place the amount of money laundered internationally at between $300 billion and $500 billion annually. In...
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