of Raphael Perl, Specialist in International Affairs, Congressional Research
Service, Library of Congress, Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee,
May 13, 2003
United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Narco-Terrorism: International Drug Trafficking and Terrorism
A Dangerous Mix
May 20, 2003
Specialist in International Affairs, Congressional Research Service
, Library of Congress
and Members of the Committee, I thank you for the opportunity to represent
the Congressional Research Service at todays hearing on this timely
and important topic.
their objectives differwith drug traffickers seeking profits and
terrorists pursuing political aims, both thrive on instability. Instability
provides the fertile ground for their ongoing operations and expansion.
activities of drug trafficking and terrorist organizations pose an escalating
danger to societies worldwide. Even in instances where groups do not
actively work together, the synergy of their separate operations and
shared efforts at destabilization pose an increasing threat. Whether
by design, or happenstance, each group serves as a force multiplier
for the other. Many experts view as imperative that these threats be
addressed together, not separately.
between drug trafficking and terrorist groups have long been recognized,
but the two threats were often treated as distinct and separate. To
achieve their separate ends, both types of organization have sought
to destabilize society: to neutralize law enforcement, subvert governmental
effectiveness, foment divisions, accentuate class differences, and exploit
the weak or opportunistic for their own purposes.
law enforcement, intelligence, and national security analysts, while
recognizing differences, also recognize the synergy. Terrorist organizations
and drug trafficking organizations share many organizational and operational
characteristics, and there is growing opinion that a multi-front, interdisciplinary
approach is needed to combat both. Many issues related to drugs and
terrorism cut across traditional federal agency jurisdictions and bureaucratic
types of networks operate globally and transnationally, benefitting
from trends associated with globalization and an open, deregulated environment.
Increasingly, we live in a multi-ethnic, globally-interconnected and
seamless world. Both terrorists and drug traffickers seek to merge into
unsuspecting -- or colluding -- ethnic communities, using a facade of
respectability enhanced by manipulative generosity.
and drug traffickers thrive in countries and regions without effective
government control. They seek weak, or failing states or localities
in which to develop and implement operations.
exploit porous U.S. borders and seek loopholes in U.S. immigration controls.
Generally, they seek to take advantage of our open and trusting society.
and drug traffickers rely heavily on technology to network and avoid
detection. Examples include: use of the internet, encryption, satellite
and cell phones, GPS technology, surveillance and eavesdropping technology.
types of organizations can change tactics and personnel overnight.
rely on the services of the criminal underworld. They need forged documents,
safe houses, and items such as stolen cars. They need guns, and they
need to have their money laundered.
trafficking and terrorism bring violence to our cities. For them, violence
is a means to an end.
are long-term phenomena for which there are no quick fixes.
and traffickers indiscriminately target civilian populations, one with
indiscriminate killings; the other with drugs.
they target youth either for recruitment into drug use or recruitment
into terrorist cells. Both take advantage of a nations vulnerability.
national security, intelligence, and law enforcement perspective, it
is increasingly important to recognize and exploit the nexus between
terrorist organizations and drug trafficking activity. At the same time
it is important to recognize that we are dealing with two distinct and
separate phenomena, linked mainly for convenience. To enhance U.S. counter-terror
goals, a growing number of analysts suggest that targeting narco-activity
for anti-terror objectives needs to be addressed carefully on an individual
case-by-case basis. Attacking the narco-funding activities of some terror
organizations may handicap the ability of a group to operate. On the
other hand, in instances where drug trade revenue contributes minimally
to an organizations finances, disruption of such funding may have
little impact and might make it harder to track the groups more
between terrorist organizations and drug trafficking organizations are
many, but differences are important as well. Narcotics traffickers profit
from the global economic system and the freedoms it accords them. In
short, narcotics traffickers have a stake in the system; they feed upon
it; they need it.
on the other hand, often do not see themselves as part of the existing
system and they do not see the system as benefitting them. Their goal
is to destroy what they see as evil, or replace it through violence.
wake of the events of September 11th , the international community has
placed emphasis on financing of terrorists groups, and has dramatically
enhanced efforts to seize sources of terrorist funding. This has spawned
renewed focus on the narcotics trade as a source of funding for such
groups. When studying such shadowy networks, our best sources of information
are the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Yet, intelligence
information is not generally collected for use as evidence in a court
of law, is not always reliable, and is often evaluated in terms of probability
of reliability rather than absolute certainty.
to U. S. Government law enforcement sources, analysis in May 2003 of
information from data bases of the United States law enforcement
and intelligence community warrants a conclusion that six of the thirty-six
organizations on the Department of States Foreign Terrorist Organization
list (FTO) have been linked to drug trafficking activity. Moreover,
eight additional terror groups may be linked to drug activity. Much
of this information can be abstracted from Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA) briefings to Congress and DEA testimony presented to Congress
on narco-terrorism, issues posted on the DEAs website.
these 14 groups represent approximately one-third of the total number
of designated groups on the Department of States list of Foreign
organizations reportedly linked to drug activity include:
- The National
Liberation Army (ELN), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC),
and the United Self Defense Forces (AUC) All are organizations that
reportedly benefit from the drug trade. Individuals from these organizations
have been systematically involved in a full range of drug trafficking
activities including cultivation, providing protection, processing,
The Syrian supported Lebanese-based radical Shia group is responsible
for numerous anti-U.S. and anti-Jewish attacks, and many of its members
are reportedly engaged in drug trafficking activity. In the case of
Hizballah, drug trafficking is considered to be a major source of funding
for a wide range of the organizations activities.
- The Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is widely reported to be involved
in the Balkan heroin trade, with activities ranging from brokering heroin
deals between other parties, to controlling and owning laboratories
and drug transhipment.
Aum Shinrikyo. This Japanese based group was responsible for the March
1995, Tokyo, subway gas attack. According to intelligence data and media
reports, Aum, at least in the past, has reportedly produced crystal
methamphetamine, as well as LSD, for use by its members and for sale
groups may also be linked to drug activity, although U.S. law enforcement
officials are unable to fully confirm their suspicions. These are: (1)
the Abu Nidal Organization; (2) the Abu Sayyaf Group; (3) the Basque
Fatherland and Liberty Organization (ETA); (4) Hammas; (5) the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU); (6) the Liberation Tigers of Eelam (LTTE,
or Tamil Tigers); (7) the Turkish-based Revolutionary Peoples Liberation
Army; and (8) Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path, or SL).
policy issue is the extent, if any, of Al Qaedas involvement in
the drug trade. Al Qaedas political and economic links to the
former Taliban regime which was known to be involved in the drug trade,
are undisputed, and media reports suggesting Al Qaeda involvement in
Afghanistans lucrative heroin trade are plentiful. There are also
unsubstantiated allegations of personal investment by Osama Bin Laden
in the trade. However, allegations of drug trafficking by Al Qaeda have
received little, if any, public mention by Administration officials.
of links between terrorist groups and illicit drug trafficking activity
are nothing new. Reports of drug trafficking activity by members of
the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Irish Republican Army
(IRA) abounded when these groups were considered by many to be terrorist
organizations. A report on PLO finances, prepared in the 1990's by the
General Accounting Office (GAO), remains classified. In the case of
the IRA, interest in the organizations alleged ties to drug trafficking
groups was again sparked by the arrest in Bogota on August 11, 2001
of three men, two of whom are confirmed IRA members, on charges of giving
weapons and explosives training to members of the FARC.
instances, the links between drug trafficking and terrorist organizations
are well documented. In some instances, guns for drugs connections
have been reported. However, in the vast majority of such cases, links
involve terror groups engaging in some aspect of the drug trade, often
in places where areas exist beyond the effective control of government:
Lebanon, the Balkans, Chechnya, Colombia, Peru, Burma, Afghanistan.
The groups or organizations that often stood out were the FARC, the
ELN, Sendero Luminoso, the Kosovo Liberation Army(KLA), and Chechen
radical groups. Analysts have also pointed to Hizballah in the Bekaa
Valley. In areas beyond the reach of government control and the rule
of law, the line between the criminal world, the drug trafficking world,
and the terrorist world, is becoming increasingly difficult to draw.
we have also seen many instances of strong connections between nation
states that sponsor and support terrorist activity and those that support
or condone drug trafficking activity. It is noteworthy that at least
four of the seven states on the State Departments list of countries
supporting terrorism have had at least some history of condoning or
supporting drug trafficking: Syria, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba. Moreover,
indications today strongly suggests that the Government of North Korea
is involved in large scale drug production and trafficking of heroin
and methamphetamine as a matter of state policy.
between terrorist and drug trafficking organizations the so called
guns for drugs connection -- and (to a greater extent) terrorist
involvement in the drug tradethe drugs for money connection--are
well established and not new, then what is there that is new today?
at least three evolving developments of note.
in todays deregulated and interconnected global economy, illegitimate
activities appear to be expanding in scale, scope, and reach. The ability
of illegitimate activities such as terrorism and drug trafficking to
harm the United States population and to damage important U.S. interests
may be expanding as well.
importantly, as overt state support of terrorism has decreased, it seems
that drug trade income has become more important to terrorist organizations.
Terrorist organizations need money to operate. But in todays interconnected
world economy, state sponsors are not easy to come by. Few world leaders
or nations today would risk global sanctions by openly funding Bin Ladens
organization. No state exists today that would be likely to openly fund
the FARC in Colombia. Increasingly, terrorist organizations must fund
themselves, and the illicit drug trade serves as an attractive and highly
lucrative source of income for them.
of growing concern to many, is the enhanced threat level the combined
forces of drug trafficking and terrorism pose to U.S. interests: to
regional stability, to our national security and to the future of our
by terrorist groups in narcotics trafficking activity presents both
challenges and opportunities for policymakers.
for policymakers, yet to be resolved, is the issue of trade-offs when
counter-terrorism priorities overshadow counter-drug agendas. Central
to the debate are important strategic issues. When counter-narcotics
activities are pursued largely for anti-terrorism reasons, to what degree
do they obstruct terrorist groups? Could situations arise where giving
priority to anti-terrorism goals detracts from the effectiveness of
counter-drug efforts deemed important to the national interest?
challenge relates to the fact that not all drugs produced or trafficked
by terrorist groups are destined for the United States. If our drug
enforcement community increasingly focuses on interdicting drugs not
destined for the United States as part of counter-terrorism efforts,
how much does this reduce the resources available to keep foreign-source
illicit drugs from reaching the streets of our cities?
policy challenge arises in regard to conflicting counter- terrorism
and counter-drug priorities. In Afghanistan, for example, many of the
warlords on whose support America relies in the war on terrorism are
reportedly heavily involved in the heroin trade. Which priority, counter-drugs
or counter-terrorism, should dominate? Whatever the decision, including
the option of allocating partial resources based on a flexible or inflexible
standard, it is important that we are apprised of the potential consequences.
cite a fourth challenge as the need to reverse a long-standing erosion
of Americas ability to conduct diplomacy abroad, largely as a
result of budgetary limitations. To combat drugs and terrorism, the
United States may need to develop more contacts within the middle levels
of host government societies. Such relationships of trust are seen as
indispensable, but increasingly difficult to cultivate as diplomats
find themselves spread thin by other work. Arguably, investing in diplomacy
to help deal with these problems may well prove far less expensive in
terms of money and human lives than use of military force and other
some of the challenges we face. The new National Strategy for Combating
Terrorism, released in February 2003 places law enforcement at the center
of a long term integrated counter-terrorism strategy, paving the way
for enhanced resources to support law enforcement operations. When terrorists
engage in the drug trade, they become increasingly vulnerable to law
enforcement activity worldwide. Moreover, when terrorists deal in drugs
they must interact with members of the criminal underworld who are motivated
by profit and not bound by fervent ideology to a cause. This
is an important vulnerability which the law enforcement and intelligence
community can exploit.
posed to the United States and the world community by the combined threat
of drug trafficking and terrorist groups are undeniably formidable.
But with challenges come opportunities. Narcotics trafficking organizations
and terrorist organizations share many similar characteristics and use
many of the same criminal structures. If we effectively combat one,
it helps battle the other. Measures such as a more transparent financial
system that reduces money laundering, better control of borders including
reducing immigration fraud and smuggling, and containment of rogue states
and lawless areas are measures that directly impact on the operations
of both types of organizations.
campaign against these combined threats may indeed make the world safer
and more secure. By according recognition and policy focus to the combined
threat of drug trafficking and terrorism, we may be better able to devise
cohesive strategies to deal with these threats in an effective and holistic
this concludes my formal remarks, and I welcome your questions and comments.
As of May 29, 2003, this document was also available online at http://judiciary.senate.gov/testimony.cfm?id=764&wit_id=2115