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Confronting Transnational Organized Crime: Getting It Right to Forestall a New National Security Threat

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Journal article

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Security threats to the United States are evolving. For most of the 20th century and before, threats were state-on-state. Since 911, however, threats to the homeland have grown to include terrorism and transnational organized crime TOC groups and networks. These networks represent a different danger than we experienced during the Cold War. This is not a force-on-force threat but rather something more insidious. These borderless groups infiltrate levers of power to create spaces from which to carry out their activities unimpeded. Currently, these groups are destabilizing friendly governments not by direct means but through behind-the-scenes attempts to gain political space to develop their illegal businesses. These groups also have ties in the United States, endangering our citizens and our economic infrastructure. The scale of their enterprises, the impact they have on legal economies, and their prospective continued growth argue for sustained national and international attention and resources as a tier-one security threat.1 To understand and counter these threats, the U.S. Government must work across bureaucratic lines, which will take new organizational constructs and relationships that are not wedded to parochial border norms. In addition, the Intelligence Community will be the first line of defense. To fully understand the motivations and vulnerabilities of these TOC networks, the Intelligence Community will need to develop analysts who can assess a sophisticated mix of opensource, law enforcement, and traditional intelligence. The United States will need to deploy a new type of intelligence professional who is able to work across organizational and geographic boundaries and is willing to share information. This analyst must be an integrator who can work in the collection and analytical worlds and communicate with counterparts in all parts of government, academia, and partner nations.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Unconventional Warfare

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