Speaking at an Interpol assembly in Singapore, deputy U.S. Atty. Gen. David Ogden and other delegates link crime syndicates to terrorist networks and say the groups are a growing threat to national security.
Reporting from Washington – International law enforcement officials, including deputy U.S. Atty. Gen. David Ogden, called today for a far more coordinated global response to the growing threat of organized crime syndicates, which they said are increasingly teaming up with terrorist networks and drug traffickers to pose an unprecedented national security threat to the United States and its allies.
Speaking at the 78th general assembly of the global police agency Interpol in Singapore, Ogden and some of his counterparts acknowledged that they need to do much more to work together on many fronts, including attacking the money laundering pipelines that are enabling the crime syndicates to flourish in terror hot spots such as Pakistan and Afghanistan and other strategic locations such as Europe, Africa and Latin America.
In an earlier interview, Ogden cited Mexican drug cartels, South Asian heroin-trafficking clans and the more traditional crime families from Asia and the former Soviet-bloc countries as continued threats.
In unusually frank language, Ogden told the assembled delegates that they need to act far more aggressively to combat transnational organized crime groups whose proceeds, he said, now comprise up to 15% of the global gross domestic product.
In his speech and in a recent interview, Ogden said that newfound economic clout has enabled some crime groups to neutralize and co-opt for their own unlawful ends a wide array of political, judicial and law enforcement institutions — especially in failed or fragile states that have been destabilized by conflict or economic depression.
“Criminal organizations can and do use their economic power to target individual public officials, public institutions and even entire countries to look for new victims and new markets,” Ogden said. “We are now witnessing in many parts of the world what U.S. Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy almost a half century ago presciently condemned in my own country as the ‘private government of organized crime.’ “
But, Ogden added, the lack of coordinated response by law enforcement agencies has allowed the crime syndicates to become even stronger and forge close ties not only with one another but with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and corrupt government officials. Some are now exploiting advances in technology to the point at which they are operating with virtual impunity.
“Encumbered in many ways, law enforcement has not been as quick to adapt to globalization, and criminals are well aware of this fact,” Ogden said. “Transnational criminal organizations exploit the inherent difficulties of international law enforcement to conduct their illegal activities and hide their illicit proceeds in ways that minimize the risk that they will ever be arrested or prosecuted, or forfeit their assets.”
Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, said his country has experienced first-hand the dangerous synergy between Al Qaeda, radical Islamic militants and organized crime and drug trafficking groups. “Terrorists have no boundaries, no religion,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “This is the time we have to sit together and put our heads together. The cooperation needs to be even more effective.”
Interpol, which is based in Lyon, France, has been struggling since its inception in 1923 to coordinate global crime-fighting efforts, its Secretary General, Ronald Noble, acknowledged in an interview last year. Ogden and other delegates warned that law enforcement agencies must urgently boost the sharing of intelligence to fight hybrid criminal organizations and pass strong anti-money laundering and asset-forfeiture laws that would make it easier to seize their criminal proceeds. And they said law enforcement agencies must stop feuding with each other over turf and weed out the corrupt officials on their payrolls, so they can be trusted with sensitive information about ongoing crime-fighting efforts.
In the interview, Ogden said he has made organized crime one of his top priorities and that he is now trying to forge much closer cooperation among at least nine U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, in part through the creation of a new International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center.