National Homeland Defense Foundation
Editor's note: The 2011 NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM on Homeland Security and Defense™ includes a session on the impact that transnational criminal organizations are having on security in the Western hemisphere. This article addresses some of the issues that are expected to be raised during the session, scheduled for Oct. 31-Nov. 2 at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Transnational criminal organizations have increasingly taken advantage of technological advances and our increasingly interconnected world to expand their illicit activities.
These networks are growing their operations and diversifying their activities to obtain power, influence and commercial gains wholly or in part by illegal means.
"Transnational criminal organizations pose a significant threat to our homeland security," according to Dr. Nadav Morag, director of homeland security programs at Colorado Technical University in Colorado Springs. "They have the ability to turn areas into zones of large-scale criminality, ensuring social and economic instability."
These networks also corrupt political systems and thus weaken the very underpinnings of government, Morag explains. They possess real and potential links to international terrorist organizations, often providing services such as money laundering and the smuggling of individuals into the United States.
Examples can be found worldwide of crime groups proliferating and striking powerful alliances every day. The Department of Justice found that 29 of the 63 top drug trafficking groups had links to terrorists in 2010. Also, these networks are increasingly involved in cybercrime, costing consumers billions of dollars annually.
In July, President Obama committed his administration to working with our international partners to constrain, shrink, disrupt and dismantle these groups.
The president's plan revolves around: protecting Americans and our partners from harm and violence; helping partner countries strengthen their capabilities in this fight; destroying crime networks' economic power; defeating organizations that pose the largest threat first; and, building new partnerships with industry, finance, academia, civil society and non-governmental associations.
"To ensure our borders remain safe and secure every day, our nation's homeland security organizations such as our Coast Guard and Customs, Border and Protection are on the front lines responding, deterring, detecting, locating and taking decisive actions against organizations who wish to do us harm," said Bob Lally, dean of homeland security program development at Colorado Technical University. "Their success, along with all the other homeland security organizations, is vital to our nation's security efforts."
THE PANEL: "Transnational Criminal Organizations and their impact on Western Hemispheric Security," 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2.
PANELISTS: Dr. Richard Downie, director of the Center for Hemispheric Studies; Dr. Luis Bitencourt, dean of academic affairs and professor, Center for Hemispheric Studies; Cresencio "Cris" Arcos, former U.S. ambassador and political advisor, Center for Hemispheric Studies.
The NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM on Homeland Security and Defense™ is the nation's leading public forum on homeland security and homeland defense. The 2011 symposium is the ninth annual conference organized by the National Homeland Defense Foundation. The symposium features international experts discussing the latest research, operations and policies affecting homeland security and defense.
Watch the NHDF web site at www.nhdf.org for more information about the symposium, including updates on speakers and panelists.
WHEN/WHERE: Oct. 31-Nov. 2, The Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs, Colo.