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Transnational Crime

Helping the World Combat International Crime

By Bruce Swartz
Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Criminal Division U.S. Department of Justice

The U.S. Justice Department is engaged in a variety of initiatives to help emerging democracies build stronger law enforcement and criminal justice systems as a strategy to curtail the activities of organized crime.


The complex and growing threat of international crime requires a multi-faceted response. The U.S. Justice Department's response to international crime is threefold: investigation and prosecution of criminal activity; creation of a network of international agreements to facilitate cooperation in the fight against international crime; and training and technical assistance programs for foreign countries that are striving to improve their legal infrastructure and law enforcement capabilities, the focus of this article.

The 1998 U.S. International Crime Control Strategy, a White House policy document, states: "Police and judicial systems in many developing countries are ill-prepared to combat sophisticated criminal organizations because they lack adequate resources, have limited investigative authorities, or are plagued by corruption. Many countries have outdated or nonexistent laws to address corruption, money laundering, financial and high-tech crimes, intellectual property violations, corrupt business practices, or (trafficking in humans.) Moreover, many governments have been slow to recognize the threat posed by criminal activities and increasingly powerful organized crime groups."

Without capable and reliable foreign law enforcement partners, the United States, as well as other countries, will remain vulnerable to criminal groups that conduct activities from countries where law enforcement is weak.

The United States attempts to address these dangers by providing technical assistance and training to improve the criminal justice capacities of other governments, and helping their police forces, prosecutors, and judges become more effective crime fighters. Such assistance not only helps build a framework for international law enforcement cooperation, but also enhances the ability of foreign governments to control their own crime problems before they extend beyond their borders.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT) is specifically tasked with providing assistance to strengthen criminal justice institutions in other nations and enhancing the administration of justice abroad. Often working in tandem with OPDAT is its sister unit within the Department of Justice, the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), which provides assistance to police forces in developing countries throughout the world. ICITAP's assistance is designed to strengthen police investigative capacities and imbue respect for human rights and the rule of law in emerging police forces.

Currently, the department provides justice-sector development assistance in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Newly Independent States, including the Russian Federation, and the Middle East. The department focuses its resources on six core areas that are critical to the efforts of the U.S. government in the battle against international crime: 1) organized crime; 2) money laundering and asset forfeiture; 3) corruption; 4) narcotics trafficking; 5) trafficking in human beings; and 6) intellectual property. These core substantive areas are specifically identified in the U.S. government's 2000 International Crime Threat Assessment as major international crimes affecting national interests.

Based on assessments conducted by experienced U.S. prosecutors and investigators, the Justice Department has concentrated on two "building blocks" that are fundamental to the successful investigation and prosecution of criminal activity, especially transnational crime. First, we promote the modernization of criminal procedure codes to introduce adversarial concepts, such as public hearings, cross-examination, and live testimony to bring greater transparency to the criminal justice process. Such a system also includes effective investigative techniques such as electronic surveillance, witness protection, and access to financial records -- consistent with basic civil liberties. Second, we emphasize the importance of greater cooperation -- or "team building" -- between prosecutors and police.

As a result of our assistance, several countries in Central Europe are adopting expedited trial procedures and other adversarial concepts that enable them to better investigate and prosecute complex cases. The Justice Department has also worked closely with the Russian Duma's Committee on Legislation as it prepared a new and more effective Code of Criminal Procedure, which, among its other features, provides for plea-bargaining and suppression hearings, concepts previously unknown in Russia. The Duma recently provided a successful second reading to the code, which is expected to be enacted into law prior to the end of 2001.

Cooperation between prosecutors and investigators was a previously unknown concept in Central Europe, where the initial investigation of a crime and the collection of evidence for trial typically have been compartmentalized. Now several Central European countries receiving assistance have proven receptive to adopting new ideas. In Bosnia, for instance, a U.S. prosecutor helped facilitate a task force of Bosnian prosecutors and police whose investigation of a bank fraud case resulted in the arrest of a former high-level politician suspected of converting more than a million dollars for his personal use. In Albania, the nation's chief prosecutor reorganized his office into six specialized teams with their own dedicated investigators. Additionally, a number of countries, including Bulgaria and Czech Republic, have formed financial intelligence units that work closely with prosecutors.

The Justice Department's assistance programs often draw upon the expertise of its specialized units. For example, the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Criminal Division has been instrumental in the drafting of a model statute designed to combat the exploitation of persons through trafficking and prostitution. This model statute serves as an important point of reference in the assistance designed to help countries strengthen their capacity to combat human trafficking. Further, in collaboration with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, we have integrated into our assistance projects a protocol known as the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), an initiative conceived within the Council of Europe that promotes the implementation of legal and policy measures to combat corruption through mutual evaluation by member states.

U.S. law enforcement agencies also provide training to their counterparts in other nations. In addition to providing in-country training, law enforcement has worked with host countries to establish International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEAs) in Hungary, Botswana, Costa Rica, and Thailand. At these academies, U.S. law enforcement experts introduce innovative investigative techniques and methods to law enforcement personnel and foster exchanges with their counterparts around the world.

The U.S. approach to international crime is thus forward-looking. It attempts not only to address today's crime threats, but also to lay the foundation for effective international law enforcement in the future. As criminal groups continue to exploit globalization and technological developments, and extend their enterprises across national borders throughout the world, the challenge of combating international crime will only increase. No country can successfully meet that challenge on its own. It is imperative that law enforcement agencies around the world continue to develop the capacity for enhanced international cooperation, and that the United States and other developed countries assist developing countries in strengthening their criminal sector institutions through training and other technical assistance.


Mr. Swartz supervises the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT) and the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP).