Congressional Statement, FBI

December 13, 2000

Statement for the Record of
Steven C. McCraw, Deputy Assistant Director
Investigative Services Division
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Organized Crime, Drug Trafficking, and Terrorist Acts

Before the
House Judiciary Committee,
Subcommittee on Crime
Washington, D.C.

Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you on this important issue. The threat posed by the convergence of organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism is significant. Worldwide economic, political, social and technological changes over the last decade have resulted in a more dispersed, complex, asymmetric threat to our nation. Criminals and terrorists have significantly benefitted from these rapid changes which have permanently shrunk the world, made it more open and created new methods for interacting and communicating.

Organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorist acts are no longer insular, distinct activities that can be contained and eradicated through traditional enforcement. Instead, they are integrated activities which through their very commission have a reverberating impact on our national interests.

To meet these new challenges, we can not focus on singular criminal activities. Rather, the law enforcement and intelligence communities must understand and develop strategies to address all aspects of criminal and terrorist enterprises. Thus, my testimony today will illustrate the diversity of crime within criminal enterprises and the interrelationships between gangs, drug trafficking organizations, organized crime and terrorist groups. We must understand all aspects of the threat to address the threat.

Drug trafficking organizations engage in other criminal activities to support their operations. Similarly, organized crime groups, street gangs and some terrorist organizations are involved in drug related activities. For example, drug trafficking organizations are engaged in the corruption of U.S. law enforcement officials, kidnappings, tortures and murder to further their drug trafficking operations. Mexican drug trafficking organizations use street gangs to murder rivals and to distribute drugs throughout the United States. Russian organized crime groups, which distribute drugs in the United States, are also involved with the American La Cosa Nostra in sophisticated financial fraud, money laundering and other white collar crime schemes. And, Colombian drug trafficking organizations interact with terrorist organizations.

El Paso, Texas, which is contiguous with Juarez, Mexico, has long been a gateway for drugs controlled by the Carrillo Fuentes Drug Trafficking Organization (CFO) and illustrates how violence is an integral part of drug trafficking. During the past few years, there have been approximately 300 drug related disappearances in Juarez, Mexico, including 27 U.S. citizens. In El Paso, there have been 120 drug related homicides and 73 drug related disappearances.

In "Operation Plaza Sweep", a joint FBI and Republic of Mexico investigation, 17 murders and 24 kidnappings were documented and eventually led to the discovery of three burial sites used by the CFO in Mexico. The positive identification of seven victims buried at these sites resulted in a superceding indictment adding murder charges to a 46 count indictment against Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

When major drug trafficking organizations lose a load of drugs they kidnap, torture and often execute those involved. If the individual responsible for the loss flees, a close family member is kidnapped and threatened until the individual turns himself into the organization.

Drug traffickers also employ violence to escape detection and arrest. For example, on June 3, 1998, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Alexander Kirpnick confronted three drug smugglers along the Arizona/Mexico border and was shot to death. The shooter fled to Mexico and was eventually captured in Mexico and convicted in the United States for the first degree murder of a federal officer.

Drug trafficking organizations systematically engage in corruption to support their drug operations. This is particularly problematic along the southwest border of the United States. U.S. law enforcement officials along the southwest border have been convicted of participating actively in drug-related crimes, including waving drug-laden vehicles through Ports of Entry in exchange for money, coordinating the movement of drugs across the border, using their official positions to transport drugs past checkpoints without being suspected, and disclosing drug intelligence information. In an 18 month period, an FBI-led public corruption task force in Southern Arizona conducted a series of drug corruption investigations which resulted in the conviction of 10 federal officers, two deputy sheriffs, three local police officers and one local judge.

The "Operation Ghostload" investigation illustrates the impact of drug related corruption in the United States. In January 1999, four Immigration Naturalization Service Inspectors who were assigned to the Nogales, Arizona, Port of Entry, and seven drug traffickers, were arrested. These inspectors were responsible for passing over 20 tons of cocaine into the United States for which they received over $800,000 in bribes. Clearly, international organized crime groups constitute a significant threat because of the scope and magnitude of their criminal activity. Furthermore, despite tremendous successes against the LCN, vigilance is required to minimize their impact on our financial markets. All organized crime groups are using the increased ease of international travel and the latest advances in telecommunications and technology to move large segments of their criminal enterprises into the United States market. For example, Oleg Kirillov, the leader of a Russian organized crime group based in Russia, established an operation in Miami, Florida, to launch a cocaine smuggling route between Peru and Russia. An investigation by FBI Miami determined that the network of this group stretched from various locations in the United States to Russia, Europe and South America. In addition to drug trafficking, group members were also actively engaged in a variety of criminal offenses, including stock manipulation, credit card fraud and motor vehicle thefts. Kirillov and several of his associates were indicted and later convicted for their involvement in these criminal activities.

Similarly, the inter-relation of drug traffickers and violent street gangs poses a challenge to law enforcement. Street gangs continue to expand their illicit activities and build strategic ties to domestic and international criminal organizations. While gangs are involved in a broad range of criminal activity, drug trafficking remains the principal source of their revenue. These criminal organizations are firmly entrenched in regions near major trans-shipment points, freight terminals or bulk warehouses. They are also responsible for moving stolen cargo and high technology commodities into other countries. These high tech shipments are then available for exploitation by major criminal organizations.

The impact of the violence these groups have in the U.S. is significant. For example, here in the Nation's Capital, neighborhood drug-based gangs have been responsible for substantial levels of violent criminal acts. Just last month, a District of Columbia Federal Grand Jury returned a 158 count indictment with 31 charges of murder and multiple violations of drug trafficking and weapons offenses against local gang members. These indictments stemmed from an FBI-led Safe Streets Task Force investigation targeting the entire criminal enterprise.

In January 1997, an FBI-led violent crime task force was initiated in Gary, Indiana, to target pervasive gang-related violence and gang controlled, street level drug trafficking. A series of criminal enterprise investigations freed the community from gang related terror, reducing the assaults with firearms by 62 percent and homicides by 24 percent.

The threat of terrorism to America continues worldwide. The increasingly prominent U.S. role in international peacekeeping, diplomacy and business has increased America's visibility and vulnerability and encouraged the increased levels of activities by terrorist groups. While there is no evidence of narco-terrorism within the United States, intelligence has revealed that some terrorist organizations, such as Columbia's FARC, and to a lesser extent the National Liberation Army (ELN), support their activities through funds acquired as the result of their protection of drug traffickers or the distribution of drugs in Columbia. These terrorists also target U.S. interests in their country. For example, in January 1993, three U.S. missionaries were kidnapped from a village in Panama by members of the FARC and remain missing. In February of last year, three U.S. citizens who were working in Colombia were kidnapped by suspected members of the FARC. These Americans were later executed in Venezuela.

Regardless of the source of funding, the threat of terrorism is very real here and abroad. As an example, the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, killed six Americans, injured over 1,000 and caused property damages amounting to over half a billion dollars. Most recently, the U.S.S. Cole was attacked while in the Port of Aden, Yemen. This act of terrorism took the lives of 17 young American servicemen and women and resulted in the injury of 39 others.

I can assure you that the FBI is prepared for the substantial challenges posed by these evolving threats to our national security. As this subcommittee is aware, the FBI is a member of both the law enforcement and intelligence communities, hence we are uniquely positioned to work closely with our law enforcement and community partners to identify and neutralize the threats to our nation.

The character of these threats, increasingly an integrated conglomerate of activities inimical to our national interests, have resulted in the FBI's pro-active posture which is designed to deter and prevent rather than react to criminal and terrorist activities. This proactive approach requires that the FBI have an intelligence capability far different from what has supported us in the past. In fact, to apply the FBI's enterprise theory of investigation to these increasingly compound threats requires an intelligence capability that can disaggregate these patterns of complex, intertwined behaviors and, at all times, provide an accurate understanding of the present and future threat.

The foundation of the FBI's strategy to address these activities is a preeminent intelligence capability. In November 1999, as part of our Strategic Plan, the FBI realigned its intelligence resources and placed a new emphasis on developing a strategic analytical capability. As you are aware, at that time, we placed all personnel dedicated to criminal, terrorist, and foreign intelligence analysis into a new Division and charged them with developing a comprehensive understanding of the threats faced by our Nation. Through this realignment we are working toward exploiting all information, regardless of where it is collected, developing national crime and intelligence threat assessments in order to react effectively to current problems, and establishing the intelligence base from which we can project future threats.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to testify before the subcommittee today. I would be happy to respond to any questions you have at this time.

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