The Attorney General and the Justice Department are announcing a new strategy to go after the problem.
From the press release on fbi.gov:
Today, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey announced a new strategy in the fight against international organized crime that will address this growing threat to U.S. security and stability. The Law Enforcement Strategy to Combat International Organized Crime (the strategy) was developed following an October 2007 International Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOC Threat Assessment) and will address the demand for a strategic, targeted, and concerted U.S. response to combat the identified threats. This strategy builds on the broad foundation the Administration has developed in recent years to enhance information sharing, and to secure U.S. borders and financial systems from a variety of transnational threats.
In the press release, Attorney General Mukasey sums up the threat by saying:
The strategy specifically reacts to the globalization of legal and illegal business; advances in technology, particularly the Internet; and the evolution of symbiotic relationships between criminals, public officials, and business leaders that have combined to create a new, less restrictive environment within which international organized criminals can operate. Without the necessity of a physical presence, U.S. law enforcement must combat international organized criminals that target the relative wealth of the people and institutions in the United States while remaining outside the country.
Also stated in the verbiage of the press release is that there will be more coordination of information between federal law enforcement agencies. "This unprecedented coordination will include utilizing all available U.S. government programs and capabilities, including existing economic, consular, and other non-law enforcement means," according to Attorney General Mukasey.
"The Law Enforcement Strategy to Combat International Organized Crime (the strategy) was developed following an October 2007 International Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOC Threat Assessment)," according to the press release.
The press release identifies and defines the following strategic threats:
International organized criminals have penetrated the energy market and other strategic sectors of the U.S. and world economy. As U.S. energy needs continue to grow, so too could the power of those who control energy resources.
International organized criminals provide logistical and other support to terrorists, foreign intelligence services, and foreign governments, all with interests acutely adverse to those of U.S. national security.
International organized criminals traffic in people and contraband goods, bringing people and products through U.S. borders to the detriment of border security, the U.S. economy, and the health and lives of those human beings exploited by human trafficking.
International organized criminals exploit the U.S. and international financial system to move illegal profits and funds, including sending billions of dollars in illicit funds through the U.S. financial system annually. To continue this practice, they seek to corrupt financial service providers globally.
International organized criminals use cyberspace to target U.S. victims and infrastructure, jeopardizing the security of personal information, the stability of business and government infrastructures, and the security and solvency of financial investment markets.
International organized criminals are manipulating securities exchanges and engaging in sophisticated fraud schemes that rob U.S. investors, consumers, and government agencies of billions of dollars.
International organized criminals have successfully corrupted public officials around the world, including in countries of vital strategic importance to the United States, and continue to seek ways to influence—legally or illegally—U.S. officials.
International organized criminals use violence and the threat of violence as a basis of power.
What alarmed me the most in this news release, especially with out of control oil prices, was that organized crime was involved in the energy sector. Randall Mikkelsen at Reuters must have been interested in this statement and questioned Alice Fisher, head of the DOJ criminal division. Fisher seemed downplay the statement by saying "I don't think that you can directly link the two." Fisher did go on to state that organized crime had a foothold in global financial markets?
To me, that's at least as scary as organized criminals being involved in the energy sector. What we do know is that both the financial and energy sectors seem to be causing the average citizen a considerable amount of pain and suffering, lately.
The reason for this response might be that investigative entities don't generally want to comment on the specifics of any ongoing investigations? There are good reasons for not doing so.
Interestingly enough, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which is run by some Eastern European journalists has covered potential organized criminal involvement in the energy sector in Eastern Europe. On a story, which can be seen on the home page of the site, it states:
In between are the energy traders. They say they are the future of low-cost energy but that is a promise yet to be fulfilled. These politically connected and well-financed businessmen have reaped billions in sales, often at the expense of state companies. Investigators in a number of countries are trying to determine whether some of them made their millions in profits illegally or legally in systems that have few laws and not enough regulations.
Although the executives at Enron were never found to be involved with organized crime, the Enron debacle illustrates how a little dishonesty in the energy sector can create a lot of financial havoc for a lot of people!
Also alarming, is the statement that public officials around the world are being corrupted by these groups.
As I stated in the first paragraph, I've often written about some of the items now being identified as strategic threats. We live in a society, where identities are stolen in mass, counterfeiting is rampant and rumors of foreign governments hacking into military and industrial systems are surfaced, too frequently.
And so far as hacking, criminal organizations -- who seem to be run as efficiently as any successful corporation -- appear to have the ability to crack into whatever defenses the good guys put into place. There has been speculation that these groups can afford to recruit the best and the brightest in a lot of "disciplines" in addition to information technology, also.
These factors have also enabled a lot of other (even more dangerous) criminal activity to spread at what some consider, epidemic proportions.
Given all these trends, the only successful strategy is to go after the people behind it. Nothing else has seemed to work very well, at least so far!
The full press release can be seen, here.
Reuters story can be seen, here.
I would also like to thank Suad and Lazarus at Paper Weapons, Heike at The Dark Visitor (information on Chinese hacking) site and the journalists at the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project for the links, which I seeded in this post to make a point.