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International Organized Crime: Recent Developments in Policy and Research

John T. Picarelli, Social Science Analyst, International Center, Office of the Director, National Institute of Justice, Washington, D.C.; Jennifer Shasky Calvery, Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, Director of the Attorney General's Organized Crime Council; Head, International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.; Lisa Holtyn, Senior Intelligence Adviser, Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.

Since 2008, DOJ has been reviewing its policies and programs on international organized crime, with the goal of strengthening law enforcement's response to this threat. In this NIJ Conference Panel, the speakers will explore how DOJ and other U.S. government agencies are responding to it. Attendees will learn more about the Attorney General's Organized Crime Council, the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center, and the recent National Intelligence Estimate on International Organized Crime. Staff from NIJ's International Center will discuss the results of a recent expert working group on research needs in this area and how the Institute is supporting its sister agencies with research and information.

John T. Picarelli: Jennifer Shasky Calvery serves as a senior counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, also as the director of the Attorney General's Organized Crime Council, or AGOCC, and head of the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center, mercifully shortened to IOC2. Ms. Shasky joined the Department of Justice in 1997 and has spent most of her career as a prosecutor in the Criminal Division's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section.

Sitting to my immediate right is Lisa Holtyn, who is a Senior Intelligence Adviser for the Criminal Division's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. Prior to joining the Department of Justice, Ms. Holtyn worked for the Departments of Defense, State, Treasury and an unnamed UN organization. During her career, she's focused on organized crime, money laundering, immigration fraud, arms control, nonproliferation and Eurasian affairs.

Both Ms. Calvery and Ms. Holtyn today will be walking us through some of the more recent developments on international organized crime, not just from the department's perspective but as an interagency approach, and then my comments towards the end will talk a little bit about what NIJ has been doing in this field and how we're supporting those efforts. And then we'll be happy to open the floor for questions towards the end.

So, without further ado…

Jennifer Shasky Calvery: Alright. So I'm going to kick things off here by talking a little bit about what the department's been doing, Department of Justice has been doing over the last couple of years together with kind of the broader federal law enforcement community in the area of international organized crime and then turn it over to Lisa to talk about more of what's happening in the interagency community, so both law enforcement and non-law enforcement.

From a department standpoint or a federal law enforcement standpoint, we really started to take a more serious or renewed look at international organized crime about two years ago, and why don't I start off by saying what I mean by “international organized crime” or, more appropriately perhaps as a start, what I don't mean by “international organized crime.”

As we undertook this kind of renewed focus a couple years ago, what we did not include in our initial focus — and this was very purposeful — was drug trafficking organizations and gangs, street gangs, and it's not that those are not forms of organized crime or international organized crime. They certainly are, and I'm willing to go toe to toe and argue that with anyone. However, from our perspective, we felt like there were already some programs that were fairly well positioned in doing some things right that we didn't want to interfere with and that the real gap for us at that point was a non-drug international organized crime.

And we were really focused on the most sophisticated organizations out there, which took us away from the kind of street gang focus. We were looking at groups that over the last 10 years, the last time the department had seriously focused on this issue, had grown in sophistication. You know, the Internet and kind of globalization had really taken the whole world to a different place than it had been 10 years prior, let alone the criminal world. We were looking at organizations that had literally billions of dollars at their disposal. They had the ability and do have leaders of foreign countries in their pockets. They have the money and the wherewithal to hire the best accountants, the best lawyers, the best financiers to help them further their criminal business. So we're looking at something quite sophisticated.

And we started out our focus by trying to really get a handle on what we thought the threats were from these groups, and within the department, within the federal law enforcement community, talking to partners in the interagency and the intel community, we came up with our own kind of threat assessment of what we thought the big, kind of most serious threats that we were seeing from international organized crime were. And I'll just briefly name some or all of them.

First was that international organized crimes penetrated the energy and other strategic sectors of the United States as well as allies of foreign countries, no doubt, but we were very focused on, you know, what are the threats to the United States specifically. So we were seeing, again, organizations that have so much money at their disposal that they were able and are able to buy into sectors of the economy and buy into our strategic sectors, and that was certainly of concern to us.

Secondly, we're looking at international organized criminals that are providing logistical support to basically anyone who's willing to pay. So that could be anything from a terrorist organization to foreign intelligence services to hostile foreign governments, obviously another big concern for us.

We're looking at international criminal organizations that smuggle people and contraband into the United States. So, while we put drugs to the side, we are looking at everything else that they bring in, and that could be anything from counterfeit goods to people, kind of the whole gamut of what's out there.

We were looking at international criminal organizations that exploit the U.S. and the international financial system to move illicit funds, which sounds like, you know, Money Laundering 101, which is essentially what that threat is, but the difference we were seeing is we were looking at organizations that are able to move billions of dollars on an annual basis through the U.S. financial system, through our banks and at the same time while evading all of our anti money laundering controls, obviously a big concern to us.

We're looking at international criminal organizations increasingly using cyberspace to target U.S. victims and infrastructure here without ever needing to enter into the United States, which is certainly a new challenge for us or complex, maybe not so new but a very complex challenge for us is try to deal with some of these organizations, particularly as we've seen kind of adept hackers or what we at one point through were kind of 20 something and 30 something computer specialists who were into committing one off crimes, linking up with criminal organizations and now becoming much more sophisticated when you brought the two together and having criminal organizations that were known for traditional organized crime type offenses, from prostitution and drug trafficking and racketeering now organizing cyber criminals by their areas of specialty and sending them out in a much more organized manner.

We're looking at — let's see what else — international organized criminals manipulating securities exchanges and perpetrating sophisticated frauds. The thing that comes to mind there is seeing different types of fraud schemes, whether it's health care fraud or mortgage fraud or a particular scheme of the day, seeing it happen all across the United States and, you know, in other foreign countries and starting to be able to put together the strings to see that we have maybe one organization that is running that and benefiting from that scheme. And that remains a huge challenge for us is trying to put all those pieces together of these individual schemes happening all across the United States and abroad and making the connections to show that it's an organization that's running this type of scheme.

And then the last two threats that we were looking at from international organized crime have been there since the beginning of time and I think kind of actually go to the definition of organized crime, and that is that they're using violence to protect themselves and the threat of violence and that they're engaged and attempting to be engaged heavily in public corruption also to protect themselves and further their criminal aims.

And so those are the threats, you know, that a couple of years ago we were very focused on, and certainly upon completing this assessment of what the problem was, there was no shortage of individuals who said we need to do something about this and we need to do something quickly.

And so what we did at the department was to reconstitute something known as the Attorney General's Organized Crime Council, which has been around in more form or another since, I think, the 1960s, if I have it right, and it comes out of a presidential order that puts the Attorney General in charge of marshalling all of federal law enforcement to fight organized crime, of course, at that time focused on the mob. But the purpose of this group is to bring together heads of federal law enforcement agencies and top prosecutors at a very high level, the heads of agency level, so that they can come up with a unified plan on how to deal with organized crime.

And so this group had not met in probably 10 or 12 years before the Attorney General reconstituted it. The thought was we're doing pretty well against the mob, things are going well, they seem to be on the decline, we've got our program in order. And the group had kind of fallen by the wayside in terms of having meetings, but in light of the new challenges and the new threats that we're now facing, there was a keen sense that we needed to do something and do something quick.

And so the Attorney General called this group back together. It's made up of or it's chaired by the Deputy Attorney General. It includes the heads of the FBI, the DEA, ATF, ICE, Secret Service, postal inspectors, Internal Revenue Service, diplomatic security at State Department and Department of Labor's Inspector General's office. And that's kind of based on the history of labor racketeering and some of the advantages that are taken of the different labor visa programs.

So we called this group back together. It also includes a couple more top prosecutors. It includes the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and one U.S. Attorney who kind of represents the entire U.S. Attorneys' office community, there being 93 of them — or is it 94? — 94 of them.

So that's the group. They called themselves back together. They met, and shortly thereafter, the U.S. law enforcement community came out with a strategy. I can tell you what the general parameters are of the strategy, and I think you might respond in the way that I've seen at least one Attorney General respond to, you know, what we think the key things are that we need to do. I think it was Attorney General Michael Mukasey who turned to me and said, “Duh.” You know, it's not light bulb stuff, but, by the same token, it's hard to do. It's easy to say and hard to do.

And so the main tenets of that strategy are, first, we all agreed we need to pull together all of our information and intelligence in this area. We've got all these different law enforcement agencies just on the federal level, let alone once we start talking about state and local and 18,000 different jurisdictions we have at the state and local level, but even on the federal level, we're not doing as good a job as we could be doing in pulling together all the bits and pieces of information that we have in this area and looking at our kind of combined picture, so marshalling information and intelligence.

The next thing was prioritizing and targeting the most significant international organized crime threats. You know, it's not the world of just looking at the La Cosa Nostra anymore and the five families. Now we're talking about groups from all across the globe, all of whom can travel, all of whom can operate in the United States, potentially thousands of organizations out there, how do we decide which ones we're going to use our limited resources to attack, so making sure that we're prioritizing and targeting the most serious groups out there, so that we all agree on that throughout the law enforcement community and agree that we'll work on those groups together.

We agree that we needed to attack these groups from all angles. We needed to use the specialties of each of our agencies to go after this group, whether it's, you know, if we could get them for a tax violation, we get them for a tax violation. If it turned out, you know, they're trafficking in contraband cigarettes, we'll go after that violation. It doesn't matter if we're going to use the specialties that all these agencies bring to bear and to our benefit.

A couple things that stand out in that arena are a real commitment to focus on going after the money. We know these organizations are profit motivated, and that if we can take away that money, that's going to have a serious impact. You know, following and taking away the money not only undercuts their motive, it also helps us to figure out who the real members of this organization are and who's benefiting, which public officials are they paying off. So we're very much focused on trying to do everything we can to go after the money.

And then the other piece that kind of falls under this attack from all angles theory is not just using law enforcement tools but also doing whatever we can as a law enforcement community to support non-law enforcement tools, whether that means working with State Department to deny visas or working with Treasury for them to use some of their sanctions programs. Anything we can do to attack these organizations, we need to make sure we're doing it. We need to be sure that we're thinking outside the box and using all the tools the U.S. government has to bring to bear.

And, obviously, kind of the last piece of the strategy but it's really the overall goal, our goal is to not only significantly disrupt but ultimately dismantle each of these organizations. So that's kind of the strategy in very broad strokes.

Two of the more concrete things that we've done in furtherance of that strategy, just to name a couple — there's been, I guess, several, but one is to set up a targeting program. It's called the top international criminal organization's target list or ticket list. The law enforcement community comes together, and we do, in fact, decide together on which organizations we think are the most serious and then agree that we're going to work on them together for reasons that may be obvious.

We don't make the organizations on that list public information, but we focus on two different types of targets. We have what we call “defined” and “developmental.” Our defined targets are kind of the type of thing that you would see or think of when I say we have a target list. It's an organization. We know the name of the organization. We know who pretty much the membership of that organization is. We know for the most part how it's structured. We know what we're going after. You know, we're going after the Colombo family of the LCN, and we kind of know who everyone is that's involved in that, that's our defined targets.

Our developmental targets are these — the more difficult situation that we're often confronted with, quite frankly, and that is to go back to this fraud idea. Let's say we have a certain type of health care fraud scheme that we see perpetrated across the country, in Canada and some other places in Europe. It has a similar M.O. We've got enough information to make us feel like we've got an organization, one organization that's involved in this, this fraud scheme, but we don't know yet exactly how that organization is formed, who the main players are. We've got enough, but we don't have it all. Those are developmental targets, and our goal there is to learn as much as we can to get them up to be a defined target, so that we can then really work on attacking that organization, disrupting, dismantling it. And that's kind of the newer area for us and I would say even for law enforcement is to get our hands around how we deal with that type of scenario.

And I guess that's where we come to the other very concrete thing that we've done over even just the last year, and that was to set up IOC2, the International Organized Crime, Intelligence and Operations Center. And, essentially, what that is, is we've brought together all of our participating law enforcement agencies, that whole alphabet list that I gave earlier. We brought them together in a task force setting, and we have basically all of their investigative reports and all of the information that they have that could potentially pertain to international criminal organizations there on the spot with some pretty good IT tools at our disposal to go through that information and make connections. We're able to do communications analysis. We're able to do a whole bunch of other types of connective analysis and really start to put the pieces together.

And it's been amazing over the last year. We had expected when we set this place up — and we collocated it with two pre-existing centers, the OCDETF fusion center, which is the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force's fusion center, so a drug focused center, and DEA's Special Operations Division, which is another interagency drug focused intelligence center. We collocated with those two groups under the theory of, well, we know that drug trafficking and supposedly nondrug organized crime, there's a lot of bleed over between the two of these, and we want to make sure that we're seeing that. It'll give us the ability to get up and off the ground fairly quickly. We already have kind of places there, IT tools, infrastructure, computers, everything we need to get going; let's go ahead and collocate them.

We always expected that we'd see this crossover between the drug and the supposedly non-drug organized crime. What's really been amazing is just how extensive that crossover is, and as we've also started to bring gang information into that, street gangs, we are seeing cyber organizations that no one would have thought that these cyber groups were involved in drugs. They're related and involved in drugs, which are related to, you know, street gangs in L.A., and everyone — all of these groups, or many of these groups, are working together and just performing different tasks for the criminal organizations helping each other out with their specialties.

So I guess in the same way that we're trying to bring together our federal law enforcement agencies and take advantage of each and every one of their specialties, so it is in the criminal world, and they must have their own Attorney General's organized crime council of their own where they all sit around the table and decide who's going to do what, but the crossover there has really been amazing for folks that have been involved in drug trafficking, counter drug trafficking efforts, counter gang efforts, counter organized crime efforts for years and years. I think we've all been surprised to see just how extensive the overlap has been between these organizations.

But that's essentially what we've been involved in at the department over the last couple years. The trend kind of moving forward, because of this great crossover that we see, is to more and more put our policy in the programs in these three areas, gangs, drug trafficking and nondrug organized crime, really align it, make sure that the types of tactics that we're using against one type of group, we're using it against the other. It's just the polices we put in place for one, we should be trying to put in place for the others, make sure that everything we're doing across the three programs is very coordinated, that's bringing us more in line with our foreign counterparts who have been doing this for years, and I think we're looking at better things ahead.

Lisa Holtyn: Hi. Thank you very much. My name is Lisa Holtyn, and as John mentioned, I'm with the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section within the Criminal Division at Department of Justice.

Before I get into my piece, I wanted to just briefly mention what we do within Organized Crime and Racketeering Section because we have sort of a pivotal role within the department related to organized crime.

We have three different sections. One is the litigation section. We have a bunch of prosecutors who go out and prosecute organized crime cases around the country, including international organized crime cases. More often than not, they work in tandem with our U.S. Attorney's offices, the prosecutors in those offices, but, in some cases, we take cases that are, you know, separately, independently, especially if they span multi jurisdictional kind of cases.

We have a RICO unit. This unit, anytime you hear about a RICO case being brought within this country, it's reviewed and approved by our unit first to make sure that — because it's such a powerful tool.

Does everyone know what RICO is? Racketeer Influenced [and] Corrupt Organizations Act. It's the statute by which we prosecute organized crime groups, and because it's such a powerful tool, we review those cases to make sure that the statute is being applied properly and that there aren't any inadvertent abuses.

We also have a labor racketeering unit, and these guys, along with the RICO unit, they provide advisory services to people prosecuting labor cases and racketeering cases.

One of our main roles is to coordinate the department's organized crime program, and as such, we've been involved in a lot of the efforts underway that Jen's just described in terms of helping do the threat assessment, creating the strategy, and implementing the strategy. And we've also been involved in a lot of the interagency efforts underway, which is what I'm getting ready to describe right now.

I wanted to talk about two things today, and some of what I'm going to say or much of what I'm going to say might sound redundant to Jennifer's presentation, but just keep in mind that what she's described has been happening within the law enforcement realm, the federal law enforcement realm, and led by the Department of Justice. The piece I'm describing is sort of a parallel process that's occurring within the interagency. When I say interagency, I mean the federal government community.

Firstly, Jen described some of the threats that we identified in the law enforcement threat assessment that we conducted a couple years back. After the publication of that strategy, there was a request at a later date by a couple agencies, non-law enforcement agencies, to look at the problem in a more robust way, not just from a law enforcement perspective but bringing to bear many of the other agencies that had not contributed to the law enforcement strategy. So a request was made to conduct what's known as a “National Intelligence Estimate,” or an NIE.

The NIE, for those of you who aren't familiar with the term, it's done by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Within the Office of Director of National Intelligence, there's an entity called the National Intelligence Council, and they oversee the production of all NIEs that are done. They do about 12 to 14 a year, and they are typically done at the request of either the President himself or at the request of the National Security Council or agencies that participate within the NSC.

So a request was made to do an NIE on international organized crime, and we did that over the course of the last year. In January, it was published, and the findings, not surprisingly, tracked quite a bit with what DOJ and the law enforcement community had found in its threat assessment.

There are a couple key points before I get into the five threats that were identified, and I want to mention one — back up a little bit and tell you the NIE is typically a classified document. This document is highly classified; however, the points I'm speaking about are unclassified version of, you know, what the main thrust of the NIE has found. So I am not going to be able to get into as much detail as I would if we were in a classified forum.

A couple things. One is that, firstly, there was an NIE that was conducted on international organized crime back in 1995. The threats that were found in this NIE were quite similar to those identified in the 1995 NIE. However, what's more, there's been quite a bit of evolution over time, and, basically, we've seen the threat more from what we would classify or describe as a public security threat to that of a national security threat.

Why has this happened? A couple key drivers. One is globalization. It's allowed criminals to become more entrepreneurial, more market focused. They can travel. Another piece of that is technology, the technological innovation that's occurred since '95, if you think about the advent of the Internet and how that has allowed criminals to perpetrate all sorts of significant crimes, especially in the financial realm, without ever even leaving their country of origin.

And the other, the third prong is the collapse of the former Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed and there was already an organized crime, entrenched organized crime to some extent, but this problem really proliferated in all of the Soviet successor states, and there is a level of sophistication that was sort of brought to bear with the Eurasian organized crime groups that has really impacted the state of organized crime as we know it. And so those have been sort of like the key changes that have occurred since 1995 that have allowed organized crime to proliferate to the extent that it has.

What we've seen, what couple kind of major changes in terms of the evolution, what we used to think of, as Jen described, the mob or La Cosa Nostra, you think of anybody who's watched the “Sopranos” knows that there's a hierarchical structure to an organized crime group. Those types of groups still exist to this day. We've also seen a decentralization into more loose networks that are nonhierarchical, or sometimes you have more structured organized crime groups collaborating with more networked organizations, so they're opportunistic.

This poses a huge challenge to law enforcement because, number one, it's harder to identify the perpetrators. It's harder to target them. You can't just take out a couple of the key players in the organization when they're loosely networked like that and have a significant impact the way you could disrupt a criminal organization if you're attacking the mob and you go after the godfather or one of the capos or something like that and when you make a key impact.

There's also been a blurring of licit and illicit worlds, and what I mean is organized crime groups have increasingly penetrated the licit economy and just the licit world in general. They are oftentimes — though they may be engaged in a lot of nefarious criminal activities, they're also investing in legitimate investments for the purposes of money laundering and buying real estate, investing in the securities markets, investing in strategic sectors. We've seen an increase in investment in things like metals industry and the natural gas industry, other types of mining, just areas where the U.S. would have a major concern about its supplies and access to those types of materials.

And in the blurring, when I talk about blurring of illicit and licit worlds, there's also been a trend towards organized criminals co opting what we call legitimizers, basically lawyers, bankers, other types of legitimate players out there. And sometimes there's a complicity, and sometimes it's unwitting. So you have, in some cases, people who are legitimate bankers, they may not realize that they're actually facilitating criminal activity on the part of an organized criminal. In other cases, you have people who are completely witting of the fact that they're doing this, and yet they're maintaining an air of legitimacy by continuing with their legitimate operations.

And this has the effect of reputation cleansing. Many of these organized criminal have taken great pains, as they've amassed more wealth and more clout, to try to cleanse their reputations and their images. They want to appear legitimate, even while they're engaged in activities like drug trafficking and other things, and so they're making greater use of these types of people, corrupt politicians and others, to create a licit facade.

And in terms of actual key threats that we've identified — and this will sound much like what Jen just spoke about regarding the law enforcement threat assessment that we conducted — one of the top threats was international organized crime penetration of influence on state institutions. And what we mean by this is everything from co opting state leaders where we have, in some cases, international organized crime groups that actually have state leaders in their pockets, to maybe states where there's weak governance and weak police powers and things like that and where organized criminal groups have just been allowed to flourish by virtue of the fact that there hasn't been adequate rule of law in place to prevent their increase.

Also the threat to the global economy is another major threat that we've identified. That's based in part because organized criminal groups continue to amass great financial clout, and they're able to, therefore, have greater impact on the economy.

I already mentioned penetrating financial and commercial markets as a major concern, and one of the other big concerns that we have is that they're increasingly driving out legitimate business. They're making it harder and harder for legitimate business to compete because they're engaged in many underhanded tactics. They may have corrupt public officials in their pockets. They engage in bribery and fraud, violence and other things that will allow them to gain the upper hand and the legitimate businesses to lose market share.

Another concern from the economic standpoint is piracy. I'm not talking about on the high seas but piracy of intellectual property, meaning, you know, counterfeit products, DVDs, that kind of stuff. There's been — between the increase in piracy of these types of products coupled with corrupt state relationships whereby, you know, organized crime groups are able to produce stuff, these types of products and pay off officials to look the other way, markets are getting flooded with cheap or counterfeit products, many of which may not even be safe when you get into the pharmaceutical realm and other things.

And some of the industries that are most impacted are the pharmaceutical realm, fashion, computing, finance, entertainment, publishing, and all of these are areas where the U.S. is considered to be — that's its economic strength.

Another concern with regard to the economic realm is just that emerging market countries are particularly vulnerable to organized crime penetration, and they're going to increasingly — you know, based on the fact that there's corruption, weak law enforcement oftentimes and lack of transparency, they're fertile ground for this continuing to evolve. And that we're also concerned about the fact that these coercive and shady business practices employed by international organized criminals will further undermine transparency and confidence in some of the other strategic sectors that we've talked about.

Three other threats that were identified in the NIE are the growing cyber crime threat, and cyber crime costs consumers at least billions annually, talking about, you know, criminals engaged in phishing schemes, online auction fraud, hacking into computers, all sorts of tactics, but the losses are staggering, even though they're in some ways rather difficult to quantity. We do know we have some information that correlates or supports the dollar losses being in the billions.

We're concerned about not just the losses to consumers but also how this undermines confidence in the banking sector, financial markets and what we call “global trust systems,” banks, stocks and credit card services.

And, also, the other aspect of this is, you know, cyber crime in and of itself is sort of a force multiplier in terms of increasing the threat profile of these groups.

The fourth threat that we identified was threatening the crime — basically the nexus between crime and terror. We have some groups, some criminal groups or some terrorist groups, rather, like FARC, Taliban and Hezbollah have been engaged in narcotics trafficking to raise funding, but, conversely, we also have concerns about criminal groups providing logistical services to terrorist groups, whether it's document fraud or smuggling or those types of things.

And the fifth is expansion of drug trafficking because, unlike the DOJ threat assessment which intentionally neglected to look at the drug trafficking aspect, the NIE did encompass drug trafficking. And the drug trafficking expansion is a great concern from the standpoint of we're seeing groups that were previously not involved in producing drugs forming alliances with drug producers, so that they have their entire distribution network.

We also see groups expanding, expanding their market share like groups from Colombia and other parts of South America now using West African groups to traffic cocaine. So these are the primary concerns that were identified in the NIE, and now what we're doing about it is something similar to what we did a couple years back within the law enforcement realm. We're trying to figure out how we're going to shape a responsive strategy, and we're right now in the process of working within the National Security Council with all of our partner agencies to put together a strategy that will address some of these threats.

And I don't know if any of you are familiar with the National Security Strategy that just came out May 27, but we're modeling a little bit after that in terms of we're trying to find something that is basically utilizing the strength, a whole of government kind of response, using the full power of the government to include authorities and powers like Jen mentioned in terms of non-law enforcement options, too.

The primary strategy objectives will be roughly — I mean, we're still in early stages of developing it, but we'll be looking to protect Americans from harm, that'll be a key point, protect the financial sector, fight the corruption that feeds organized crime, conduct international outreach and engage in public diplomacy and work also with the private sector and private industry.

So can't get into — we're in the pre-decisional, pre-deliberative phase right now, and we can't, you know, get into kind of the deliberations that are ongoing right now, but just to say we're at very early stages in this process, and we're taking a look at all strategies that have previously been employed, including the strategy that Jen just told you about and sort of trying to put all of the possible tools in the tool box out on the table to figure out what would make the most sense to use for this particular purpose.

We're hoping that the strategy — this is a very rough estimate, but we're hoping to roll it out by the end of the year and expect that it will be crosscutting in terms of the approach.

John T. Picarelli: Thank you, Lisa.

In some of the time we have left before I open it up for questions, I wanted to talk a little bit more about the National Institute of Justice and how we fit into all this.

Before I do, I wanted to talk briefly about the International Center for those of you who aren't familiar with us. We were founded about 10 years ago, a little over 10 years ago, and our purpose at NIJ is to try and look at these international connections. Sometimes that's a topic area like what we're talking about today which, by its very nature, is an international criminal phenomenon. So it could be something like human trafficking, drug trafficking, organized crime and what have you.

But other times, it can be more of a comparative approach, looking at what we would normally consider to be more domestic concerns like the investigation of crime or prosecutorial techniques, but using a comparative method to look at how other countries do this and are we doing it the best way and, if we're not, to evaluate projects and programs that are overseas for access by U.S. law enforcement, U.S. criminal justice agencies to say there are other ways to do this, and we might want to look at some of these. And that includes, of course, when we think we're doing something better than most, we want to make sure we publicize that as well.

So, in many ways, as the current chief of the International Center likes to say, we are an export import bank. Now, if we only had the resources of a bank, I'd be pretty happy about that, but the export import part is pretty good.

Now, NIJ and its International Center has studied elements of international organized crime over the years. We've had studies and we've sponsored studies of environmental crime that was conducted by organized crime. We've looked at Russian organized crime in the late 1990s. We sponsored a project that married — not literally but figuratively — U.S. based researchers and Ukrainian based researchers to look at international organized crime, and we've looked at topics like crime terror interaction in some studies.

But what we're doing now at NIJ is we're trying to make this more of a recurring effort in our overall research portfolio at NIJ, and a lot of this is tied to what Jen and Lisa have outlined. And we are trying to hook into the need not only for intelligence and classified intelligence, but there's a lot in the open realm, a lot in the research arena that needs to be informing many of the very innovative ways they're trying to approach this issue.

And so some of the things that we have just done in the last year as we've sponsored our first research solicitation on international organized crime, which just closed a few weeks ago, and we've also begun to look at conducting some evaluations of legal codes overseas, some other programs overseas to try and, again, say what are other countries doing here and how might that work here if we were to adopt it, but that's not the only thing that we're doing.

The goal overall in this effort is to try and provide the best information possible not only to NIJ's traditional clients, which are state and local law enforcement, state and local criminal justice agencies, but also our colleagues not only at the department but in this interagency and the federal government and try and provide them the best information that we can on international organized crime.

So, in order to really kind of kickstart this effort, in January we pulled together about 50 experts, and these experts were from academic institutions, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, and not just from here in the United States but from other countries as well.

The group was interdisciplinary. It wasn't just criminologists or sociologists. We had economists, historians, political scientists, international relations experts, folks who are more focused on development who had focused on various aspects of international organized crime, cyber crime, for example, and so on.

The group was international, as I mentioned. We had experts from Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, and a number of other countries and not just from research institutions but also their government agencies, their experts who are trying to fashion a comprehensive response to international organized crime.

And from the perspective of the U.S. government, who is interagency? We had representatives from the State Department, the Treasury Department, the National Security Council, various parts of the intelligence community and others, as well as many elements from the Department of Justice who attended the meeting.

And what we did was something very basic. We just said, look, there's three questions we'd like you to answer. The first question is what is the state of organized crime research, just what is out there, what do you think of it, is it useful, is it not useful, is it robust, what can it tell us. The second question is, well, then where are the gaps, what are the things that we don't really know right now, what are the things that some are maybe starting to research but we haven't really developed anything in the ways of findings.

And then the all important third question was so what, and the “so what” question is what can we do here, There are a lot of gaps that we have when it comes to research on international organized crime, but what can we actually do in the next 5 years or 10 years. What are the obstacles to doing research in general? Is it data? Is it access to data? Is it methodology? Is it just the lack of resources? Of course, everyone will put their hands up and say, “Well, there's no money.” OK, we understand that, but let's move forward with what are the other challenges here.

And what we did was we employed this simple rubric in six areas. We looked at the actors in international organized crime and the research that's been done on how it's organized or not organized. We looked at the intersections between international organized crime and national security, so that included not only penetration of governments but also this crime terror interaction that's been mentioned.

We looked at smuggling, smuggling in a very general sense. Most all international organized crime involves the movement of stuff or people from Point A to Point B, OK, and that includes information when we start talking about cyber crime and identities and things like that.

We talked about the penetration of economic sectors and critical infrastructures. We talked about piracy and cyber crime, and then, finally, we talked about the very important topic of corruption, and corruption especially how it's linked to international organized crime.

Now, one of the most shocking conclusions, as I'm sure you'll agree, was that the group found that while research is robust in some areas, it's weak in others. And just about in every area, there are — it's uneven. There are gaps you can usually drive a Mack truck through, and so there is a lot that remains to be done, even though this is, like I said in some areas, especially when we talk about actors and the study of the organization of international organized crime. There's actually quite a bit that's been written out there, but there's still a lot more unanswered questions to be explored.

Now, the group had a lot of specific ideas on how to provide more research. I am not going to sit here and try and go through every single one of those. I should be hearing applause at this point.


Picarelli: Let me just kind of hit some of the highlights for you.

One is that we need more cross cultural and comparative research to derive the factors that drive the organization and operation of international organized crime. Now, that's basically a very fancy way of saying we need to look at this in many different countries and regions — it might even be in cities — to try and say what exactly is the role of economics in all this, what is the role of cultural identity, of education level, of all these structural factors that we can talk about and actually how international organized crime groups come together and then how smuggling or other operations unfold.

One example was how sociocultural factors influence a person's decision to join an international organized crime group, and, more importantly, how does that differ? So, if we're going to come up with these grand policies and programs, it would be very good to know what are the natural limitations built into them, and we know there will be some, especially if we're looking at this in multiple countries.

Another, I think, kind of interesting recommendation that came up quite a bit was we need a more historical approach to international organized crime. Now, this might sound strange because we've been talking about more the near history over the last, let's say, 20 years today, but, ironically, we spent a good, maybe, half hour or hour discussing the robber baron era and how that might be in some ways informative of what's going on today when we use the term oligarch, but, in other ways, it may not be very helpful. So, when that comparison is made, it could actually be very dangerous. But the historical approach will give us a better sense of how some of these structural factors have unfolded over time and how that has gotten us to the present day.

Now, that being said, of course, this has to be balanced, as I'll mention in a bit, with concrete recommendations, not only for researchers and future research, but for the practitioners. It's great to come up with a really solid historical study, but if it doesn't have very much relevance to practice and policy today, it's probably not something that agencies are going to want to sponsor. It's going to be something more that'll come out of a think tank or what have you.

Another idea that came out was searchers need to really bring out the right ideas, the right details of their studies for practitioners, as I was mentioning, but they shouldn't lose the rigor of academic analysis. There's always this concern that if I put my methods up front and my literature review, I'm going to lose all the practitioners because they're going to see that and say, oh, it's just academic mumbo jumbo, chuck it in the circular file, and that's going to be it. That still needs to be in there, but we need to be maybe a little more cognizant of the fact that an executive summary is a very useful thing for saying here's where I came up with — here's my conclusions and what I think you may want to derive from this study and then here's how I got to that point. If the executive summary is written in a very compelling way, someone is going to read that all the way through.

Another thing that came out was that we need to provide perhaps more specialized training to researchers. There's a number of researchers who are highly motivated to study this topic and are very creative in the way they go about it, but they're not forensic accountants. They're not experts in cyber crime, but if they had a little more training or training was offered for them to gain those skills, it may be very useful in building the research community and getting us the more detailed and concrete studies that we would like.

But the last two recommendations, I definitely want to highlight for you because they came up time and again throughout the meeting and have come up since. The first was the need for more evaluation studies, evaluations of current practice and policies that are in place not only here but around the world, to make sure they are not only the most effective for going after international organized crime but to describe how we might implement them elsewhere. If we're going to talk about technical assistance to other countries, for example, with RICO, it would be very good to kind of look under the hood of RICO and say here's the reasons why it works so well, so let's make sure that those foundations are there first before we just hand over the RICO tool kit to another country and say go forth and do great things.

The other was we need to focus a lot more on the study of harm, and this came up over and over and over and over again, harm in terms of economic harm, social harm, harm to businesses, harm to individuals, harm to society, in a number of different ways. And measures can be the most literal quantitative derivation of measures which are obviously very useful, but it could also be a more qualitative solid description of here exactly is how a community was impacted when an identity theft ring moved in and stole the identities of 50 of its members, and you were able to really get a sense of exactly what happens when international organized crime lands on your doorstep.

Now, that being said, we did ask the “so what” question, so a number of obstacles were tabled at the meeting. There are always concerns about the quality of data, and that's something that will be ongoing. There are always concerns about the access to data and information from government agencies, and one of the most interesting dynamics in this meeting was a back and forth between the researchers and the practitioners that wasn't finger-pointing. It was more, OK, well, how do we come about getting you data, and how do we get you in to look at our data without compromising your ability to be objective in your analysis as researchers and our ability to use that data at trial or where we need it.

There was a need — the researchers were actually quite adamant that we actually need to be doing more theory building in international organized crime. In other words, we need to be focusing on how to explain what's going on and what we're seeing out there. We need to look at this in a more multidisciplinary way, especially in the way we set up our studies. One of the great concerns in the room, as was mentioned by both of my colleagues, when you're looking at this phenomenon, you're looking at it as an economic, as a criminal, as a political phenomenon. It has various aspects to it. Well, in the same way, if we are doing this as we're conducting research, we cannot just limit ourselves to criminology or to sociology or to political science. We need to be tapping all of the various tools and the ways of looking at international organized crime from all these different disciplines in order to bring forward the best results. We can't ignore what economists are doing on international organized crime if we are criminologists and we're looking at this as a form of crime, in other words.

And one of the lasting quotes from the meeting was the need to avoid policy correct language. In other words, bending the results of our studies as researchers to the whims or the perceived whims of practitioners and the need especially in some of these topics that can be very charged as political topics, to ensure that the results speak for themselves.

So, overall, personally I think the working group was a great success. It really demonstrated that there is research out there, that it's growing and that it is of use to practitioners. One of the more interesting things was I was able to attend the AGOCC meeting in January, and there was an article from a law review that came up in this very high level discussion and its findings and its impact on some of the current policies. So the research is there, and it is coming forward and being heard by the people who need to hear it. What that means is the conveyer belt needs to keep feeding more research to them.

Another thing is that this meeting really did show that practitioners and researchers have a serious stake in working together. The dynamic in this room for two days really was never contentious as all. It was really a group of 50 people of one mind: we need research, we need to come together on how to get that research, so what do we need to do and where do we need to head.

And then, finally, it really did provide a number of helpful suggestions on how to move beyond some serious but not fatal obstacles to conducting international organized crime research.

So, in the future, NIJ continues, we'll be continuing this. We'll be continuing to sponsor research on international organized crime. We'll continue to have more meetings of this sort in order to support the goals of the department and the goals of the interagency community.

To that end, I'll end on two notes. The first is my standard mantra to please register as a consultant, so that in the future as we may need very smart people to come in and help us with some of this research, you're available and known to us, and that includes peer review of some of these solicitations, if you chose not to apply, but also register at NIJ for a solicitation, so that you know when these solicitations are posted, and you have an opportunity to digest them and apply for them as you might see fit.

The other is that on the table with the projector that we're not using, you'll see copies of the final report from this working group that I have been describing. If you're unable in the mad dash that is about to occur in order to acquire the 20 something copies that are there printed in high gloss, beautiful color, it is available online at the NIJ website. If you just search “international organized crime,” it'll pop up.

So may I conclude with a round of applause for my colleagues.


Date Created: August 13, 2019