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Transnational Crime

The Explosive Growth of Globalized Crime

By Paula Dobriansky
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs

The urgency of the world crime problem has elevated the issue
to a priority position on the international agenda.


To appreciate the growing phenomenon of globalized crime, consider the following:

  • The drug ecstasy, manufactured primarily in the Netherlands, is trafficked to the United States by, among others, Israeli organized crime groups.

  • A computer virus designed and sent from the Philippines caused computers at many U.S. government agencies to be shut down, some for as long as a week.

  • A major U.S. bank discovered that it was being used by Russian organized crime to launder money.

  • Colombian crime groups reportedly check via computer the bank accounts of drivers stopped at roadblocks to select rich kidnapping victims.

These examples represent the new face of crime. The extent of such illegal activity has increased enormously in the wake of globalization. And those involved in it have no respect for, or loyalty to nations, boundaries, or sovereignty.

Certain types of international crime -- terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and contraband smuggling -- involve serious violence and physical harm. Other forms -- fraud, extortion, money laundering, bribery, economic espionage, intellectual property theft, and counterfeiting -- don't require guns to cause major damage. Moreover, the spread of information technology has created new categories of cybercrime.

For the United States, international crime poses threats on three broad, interrelated fronts. First, the impact is felt directly on the streets of American communities. Hundreds of thousands of individuals enter the U.S. illegally each year, and smuggling of drugs, firearms, stolen cars, child pornography, and other contraband occurs on a wide scale across our borders.

Second, the expansion of American business worldwide has opened new opportunities for foreign-based criminals. When an American enterprise abroad is victimized, the consequences may include the loss of profits, productivity, and jobs for Americans at home.

Third, international criminals engage in a variety of activities that pose a grave threat to the national security of the United States and the stability and values of the entire world community. Examples include the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, trade in banned or dangerous substances, and trafficking in women and children. Corruption and the enormous flow of unregulated, crime-generated profits are serious threats to the stability of democratic institutions and free market economies around the world.

The U.S. State Department is committed to meeting the challenge posed by the growth of globalized crime. Our policy includes increasing resources devoted to fighting transnational crime, reaching out to other nations to develop a global response, and maintaining a steadfast determination to use all available legal means to counter this threat.

To confront the problem of globalized crime, the United States has developed several lines of defense. First, we are intensifying the activities of our law enforcement agencies abroad, so that the threat of foreign-based crime is initially met far away from our shores. The next line of defense is safeguarding U.S. borders through enhanced inspection, detection, and monitoring. We need to deny international criminals safe havens by cooperating with foreign law enforcement agencies and negotiating strong extradition agreements.

We can fight international financial crime, particularly money laundering, by hindering the movement of illegal proceeds and closing down offshore centers of fraud and counterfeiting. Trade crime can be attacked through interdiction of illegal technology exports and protection of intellectual property rights. The emerging global threat of high-tech crime requires not only meeting basic needs, such as law enforcement training and equipment, but also international legal cooperation regimes that will allow police and prosecutors to assist each other in "real time."

Our overarching policy is to build international support for the rule of law. In support of this goal, the State Department is active in a wide range of international fora. At the direction of the heads of state and government of the G-8, we are working in the Lyon Group to build a consensus for action on a wide range of initiatives to fight transnational crime.

In the United Nations, we are looking to follow up last year's landmark Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, a major step in international cooperation to fight international crime. We also participate in negotiations at the Council of Europe on a Cybercrime Convention. As a member of the Financial Action Task Force, the U.S. Government has helped to create and strengthen an international coalition to combat money laundering. Finally, the State Department is launching a new office to address the problems of trafficking in persons overseas.

In addition to its diplomatic initiatives, the department provides direct support through anti-crime funds for law enforcement abroad. This runs the gamut from counternarcotics support for nations in Latin America and Asia, increased foreign law enforcement training through international law enforcement academies, and building the capacity of foreign law enforcement to investigate and prosecute child pornography on the Internet. In support of activities like these, President Bush is seeking $45 million in his budget request for fiscal year 2002, an increase of 50 percent above the 2001 funding level.

Meeting the threat of transnational crime is a priority of the Bush Administration. The United States, as a free nation and the world's largest economy, has a tremendous stake in building an international consensus for action against globalized crime. As new dangers emerge, we must be dynamic and flexible in our approach. Only through determined, sustained, and united action can we succeed.


Ms. Dobriansky, as the Under Secretary for Global Affairs, is responsible for a broad range of foreign policy issues, including democracy, human rights, labor, counter-narcotics and law enforcement, refugee and humanitarian relief matters, and environmental/scientific issues.