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Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2012 15 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Thema: Frieden und Konflikte, Sicherheit



“We will direct every resource at our command to win the war against terrorists, every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence. We will starve the terrorists of funding, turn them against each other, rout them out of their safe hiding places, and bring them to justice” (Cited in Biersteker and Eckert 2008: 1).

President George W. Bush, September 24, 2001

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001 President W. Bush declared America’s “War on Terrorism” in which he assured to defeat terrorist movements and their methods of funding that could be used to support the acts of global terrorist (Biersteker and Eckert 2008; 1). The examination of broader terrorism studies literature shows “financial and material resources are correctly perceived as the lifeblood of terrorist operations, and governments have determined that fighting the financial infrastructure of terrorist organizations is the key to their defeat” (Grialdo and Trinkunas 2007; 1). Since the attacks of 9/11 the US has designed a strong strategy to fight terrorist groups and their financing. International and national measures have been carried out such as the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, the enforcement of international sanctions, and the expansion of law enforcement to target terrorism financing and disrupt terrorist operation (Sheppard 2002). However, the spectrum of terrorist funding is broad. In particular, the increasing reliance on criminal activities by terrorist since the end of the Cold War and the subsequent decline of state sponsorship, such as the rising pressure of law enforcement, network structures became an essential source to safeguard the existence of many terrorist and criminal groups. The development of the so- called “crime- terror” nexus, in which two traditionally autonomous groups started to expose various operational and structural parallels, implicated a key income source for terrorists and has brought sheer difficulty to develop successful strategies to freeze the terrorist monetary trail. In the following, this essay examines the involvement of terrorist groups in criminal activities as a source of funding and whether or not it is a sustainable and profitable source for terrorist funding. Moreover, we try to evaluate to what extent the so- called “terror-crime nexus” poses a threat to global security.

Flowing from this introductory chapter, we will support the hypothesis that there is a nexus between organised crime and terrorist groups and that the key motivation for implementing criminal strategies is to sustain and raise the organization ideological grounded actions. Furthermore we will argue that the nexus can be viewed as a positive development due to the fact that tracking terrorist for their illicit activities, rather than their terrorism-based undertakings, is less complicated

In order to give substantial weight to our thesis, we will split our essay into two main chapters. First of all, we have found relevant to craft a thematic and theoretical overview of what enables and sustains the nexus of terrorism and organized crime. In that prospect, we will examine the reasoning why terrorist groups choose to engage in criminal activity. Moreover, we will focus on how terrorist and organized crime groups differ from each other in order to demonstrate why this relationship is so unique. By evaluating the possible motives and methods, such as benefits and risks we will further discuss why the aliance between these groups is functioning after all.

Once we have designed a background to our thesis, it will be necessary to verify our statements with a meaningful empirical scrutiny. To that end, the second part of our essay will aim at illustrating the range of the terror- crime nexus by means of two case studies of two different types of alliances between criminal organizations and terrorists groups. In the course of this section this essay analyses to what extent organized crime methods provide a vital source of income for terrorist groups and how this poses a threat to global security. The first choice we make is to focus on the Lebanon-based Shia group Hezbollah and the illicit trade of legitimately produced cigarettes from North Carolina to Michigan by exploiting the varying state’s tax structures on cigarettes. The second case study explores the so- called “narco-terrorism” - the trafficking of illegal narcotics along the transit route from Central Asia and the involvement of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) that is seen as one of the major non-state actor in drug trafficking.

Before going into further detail in examining the terror- crime nexus it is first of all necessary to point out the existing complexity of finding a common definition on “terrorism” or a group being designated “terrorist”, as well as give explanations on the term “transnational organized crime”.

The vast number of motives, forms, and methods used in terrorism generate a sheer difficulty to form a precise definition. The nonexistence of a universal definition on terrorism has the consequence of misusage, for instance, in falsely designating groups that are not approved of as terrorist organizations, to achieve popular political support or to repress domestic repression (Bjorgo 2005; 1-3). Hoffman (2006; 13) warns that the term is based on personal moral judgment and it is therefore highly subjective. In this context, the dispute over the delineation of terrorism often translates into the integration or exclusion of “specific groups” or “violent campaigns” (Bjorgo 2005; 2). However, scholars have come to an agreement that there is no single meaning for terrorism, because of “the different types of terrorism with highly disparate foundations”, the term itself entails “primarily an extremism of means, not one of ends” (Bjorgo 2005; 2). As the question “What is terrorism” is still – and will probably always remain, open to debate, the only statement we can confidently pronounce at this stage is that political reality is highly subjective. It is therefore important to acknowledge that our essay does not seek to uncover an indisputable truth, but rather will try to develop an original reflection consistent with the theoretical and empirical data at our disposal.

Given the variety of definitions, of which our previous paragraph has attempted to provide an overview, the following reflection will be based upon the differentiation of terrorism and transnational organized crime; we will therefore understand those terms as two autonomous entities. For the purpose of this essay we will focus on the definition according to the Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 26556(d) in which “terrorism” can be described as:

“premeditated, politically-motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience”.

(Cited in Alison Jamieson in Bjorgo 2005; 165)

The fund raising methods of terrorist groups are most often lumped together under the general gendre of ‘terrorism’ financing’. Although we are aware of the fact that many different ways of terrorist fund raising exist, for the scope of this essay we will focus gradually on the nexus with transnational organized crime. The definition on the financing of terrorism will be based on the Wolrd Bank and International Monetary Fund as:



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
517 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
terrorism transnational organized crime



Titel: Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime