Computer Crime Research Center

Organized Crime, Terrorism and Cybercrime

Date: September 27, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Louise I. Shelley

The merger of transnational crime, terrorism and corruption is profound. The idea that these ideas can be discussed separately is problematic. Such compartmentalization limits our ability to analyze and address the diverse forms of transnational criminal activity. Highly corrupt societies give little opportunity for legitimate social mobility and their high level corruption is a deterrent to economic growth and investment. Under these circumstances, the employment opportunities of transnational crime groups provide a desirable economic alternative to youth without legitimate opportunities. Terrorist groups flourish in environments where youths have limited chance for advancement within their societies.

The phenomena of transnational crime, terrorism and corruption are all too often viewed as separate phenomena. These phenomena have grown in tandem because the economic and political conditions that give rise to these phenomena are quite similar. The evolution of the transnational crime-ideologically based or economically based depends on specific environmental factors that have proliferated in many developing and transitional countries that have not successfully integrated into the global Economy.

Terrorists and transnational criminals use many of the same strategies to promote their operations, chief among these being the use of information technology to plan and realize their activities. The rise of greater international mobility and the proliferation of information technology throughout the world have facilitated the growth of both transnational crime and
terrorism. The ease of communications in the contemporary era makes the location of groups and actors less significant than it was previously. The ability to exploit security holes in the system makes crime groups and terrorists operate out of unexpected locales rather than their home territories.

Most transnational crime and terrorist groups are based in transitional and developing countries. The illicit businesses are now the largest and most profitable to be located in the developing world. For example, the drug trade now represents about 7% of world trade according to late 1990s estimates of the United Nations. Their vast profits and enormous assets make them powerful actors in their home countries and in their regions. Because they are so large relative to the legitimate businesses based in their region or in the countries through which they operate, they have a large influence on politics and business.

The vast profits of illegal businesses allow them to hire the best specialists domestically and internationally. Facilitating this trade, is an ever greater reliance on information technology to promote their activities secretly. For example, international (End Page 303) drug traffickers are among the most widespread users of encrypted messages, coded messages by cell and satellite phones and use anonymizer features on computers. They also are able to hire technical specialists capable of using steganography and other means to make messages hard or impossible to decipher. This access to high level specialists allows illicit businesses and terrorist organizations to transcend borders and operate internationally without detection. Often the crime and terrorist groups do not need to go outside their region to hire such technical specialists. Some
of the leading specialists in the technical area are located in regions that house major transnational crime groups and terrorist organizations.

The presence of many highly trained technical specialists in the countries of the former Soviet Union and in the Indian subcontinent means that transnational crime groups means that a vast array of specialists are available for hire.6 While some specialists will not work for criminal or terrorist organizations willingly, some will do it unaware of their employers whereas others
will agree to provide assistance because well-paid legitimate employment is scarce in theirregion.

The widespread problem of corruption in many developing countries allows the
proliferation of transnational organized crime and terrorism. The official corruption facilitating this activity may assume many different forms and is not just based on bribery. Top government officials provide falsified documents to smuggled criminals and terrorists, restrain law enforcement from acting against suspicious groups and provide them a safe space to operate.

Because of this, criminals can use the high level technology available in the former Soviet Union and the Punjab region to facilitate not only their own crime and terrorist groups but those of other regions of the world which find save haven on their territory. In this way criminals exploit information technology to carry on their operations in a safe and secure manner.

The connections between transnational crime and terrorism are not unique to developed and developing countries. As investigations in the advent of September, 11th have shown, terrorists in developed countries use criminal activity to survive. Arrests in Spain revealed that terrorists were selling counterfeit airline tickets to survive and such groups in the United States
were surviving by means of money laundering and other criminal offenses.
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2004-10-04 17:17:09 - hi jim
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