Monday, November 19, 2007

Terrorist Exploitation of Criminal Infrastructure

Douglas Farah reminds us of the nexus between criminal and terrorist activity, writing about this criminal case, in which "A Palestinian national and a former detective with the Colombian Department of Administrative Security (DAS) have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and alien smuggling."

Farah writes:

What is interesting in the case is that criminal groups are willing to knowingly transport terrorist to the United States, and not simply using the “coyote” route through Central America and Mexico.

Rather, the criminal groups offered false passports from Spain with all the supporting documents, to those posing as terrorists seeking safe passage to the United States.

This highlights numerous points of overlap between criminal and terrorist groups that are necessary. Access to secure entry and exit points of a country, the need for legal travel documents and the supporting paperwork, the need for safe travel.
Terrorism can be thought of as a specialized form of organized crime. Unlike more common crimes, terrorism requires an infrastructure. The organization has to train its people; test its plans; move money, people, weapons or other dangerous agents; gain access to the target; etc. Generally speaking, the more dangerous and deadly the terrorist threat, the greater infrastructure that's required.

Partnerships with existing criminal networks can be an efficient way for terrorists to meet their needs by accessing existing infrastructure. However, this is both an asset and a potential liability for both partners.

When terrorists "outsource" some of their needs to criminal organizations, they can become exposed through this alliance, and vice versa. It is another form of vulnerability.

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