The Convergence of Crime and Terror: Law
Enforcement Opportunities and Perils provides
an analysis of the increasingly important link
between traditional criminal activities and
terrorism. By cataloging a number of relevant
cases, the authors have illustrated that terrorists
routinely resort to traditional
crimes, from drug trafficking to financial scams,
to further their objectives.
As a result, terror prosecutions must find
inspiration from historical government efforts
to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate notorious
violent criminals such as Al Capone on relatively
minor charges such as tax evasion. The aggressive
prosecution of such relatively minor offenses
can serve to disrupt grander malevolent schemes.
As the authors suggest, the rise of terrorism
means that the traditional, reactive law enforcement
model must change. We cannot afford to wait
until after a successful terrorist attack occurs
to investigate and prosecute. The examples from
Europe included in this paper provide a sobering
explanation for why that is so. Law enforcement
officials must consider disruptive investigations
and prosecutions that may not ultimately lead
to a criminal trial on terrorism charges but
that will stop potential terror plots before
they are put into motion.
We face a decentralized, networked, and self-sufficient
enemy. Independent cells are increasingly purchasing
that self-sufficiency with the proceeds of criminal
enterprises. This hard reality provides yet
another justification for transforming state
and local first responders into first preventers
of crime and terror.
The Center for Policing Terrorism thanks Daveed
Gartenstein-Ross and Kyle Dabruzzi for making
the case in this paper for prevention-oriented,
Timothy P. Connors
Director, Center for Policing Terrorism
About the Authors
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior
fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
and director of its Project on Religion, Politics,
and Radicalism. Gartenstein-Ross also consults
for a number of clients on issues of terrorism
and Islamic extremism, including the Manhattan
Institutes Center for Policing Terrorism,
the Christian Broadcasting Network, and law
Born into a Jewish family, Gartenstein-Ross
converted to Islam in his early twenties and
worked for the head U.S. office of the Al Haramain
Islamic Foundation, an international Wahhabi
charity that was a major al-Qaeda financier.
Prior to 9/11, Gartenstein-Ross left the Islamic
faith for Christianity. By the time the FBI
raided the Al Haramain offices where he had
worked, he was ready to assist the investigation.
This experience is detailed in his book My
Year Inside Radical Islam.
Gartenstein-Ross has testified before the U.S.
Senates Homeland Security and Governmental
Affairs Committee, discussing religious radicalization
in prisons. He frequently writes on the global
war on terror, including for such publications
as Readers Digest, the Wall
Street Journal Europe, The Middle East
Quarterly, Commentary, The Weekly
Standard, the Washington Times, and
the Dallas Morning News. He also frequently
appears as an analyst to discuss these issues
on national television and talk radio.
Previous positions that Gartenstein-Ross has
held include commercial litigator at Boies,
Schiller & Flexner and law clerk on the
United States Court of Appeals for the D.C.
Circuit. He received a law degree from the New
York University School of Law and a B.A. from
Wake Forest University.
Kyle Dabruzzi is a terrorism analyst
at the Gartenstein-Ross Group. His contributions
to the firms projects include producing
training PowerPoints for law enforcement and
providing analysis to the firms clients.
He has written for such publications as The
Middle East Quarterly and The Daily Standard,
and he is coauthor of two forthcoming book chapters.
Dabruzzi is also a frequent contributor to ThreatsWatch,
a web-based publication of the Center for Threat
Dabruzzi received a B.A. in political science
with a minor in Middle East and South Asian
politics from Wake Forest University in 2006.
While at Wake Forest, he conducted research
for a former FBI hostage negotiator on the communicative
aspects of threats made during hostage crises.
The Soviet Union was a major terrorist sponsor
during the Cold War. When the USSR collapsed,
terrorist groups were forced to look elsewhere
financially, and many turned to criminal activities.
Some fifteen years later, terrorist groups that
are not state-sponsored pose the greatest threat
to the United States.
Consistent with postCold War trends, these
groups have become heavily involved in criminal
activities. (While this paper discusses a number
of federal criminal statutes, state criminal
laws also are applicable; we use federal law
as a vehicle for discourse as a matter of convenience.)
Terrorist involvement in criminal activity
has two strategically significant aspects. First,
it allows terrorists to gain financially while
at the same time damaging the societies they
target. Terrorists, always on the lookout for
new ways to fund their violent activities, find
important sources of revenue in criminal enterprises.
Close scrutiny of jihadist terrorism since 9/11
demonstrates that these groups are often funded
through the drug trade, money-laundering schemes,
and a variety of financial scams that range
from the simple to the highly complex. Terrorists
also use other illegal activities, such as document
fraud and sham marriages, to facilitate their
A second strategic aspect is that law enforcement
can derive some advantage from the crime-terrorism
nexus. A comprehensive law enforcement model
for counterterrorism has echoes of the approach
used to fight the mob in the early to mid-twentieth
century. This approach was typified by the prosecution
of Al Capone, who in 1931 was the countrys
first celebrity criminal.
Everybody knew what Capone was up to: his litany
of offenses included murder, bribery, and running
illegal breweries. But the government would
have had trouble proving Capones guilt
beyond a reasonable doubt for his most notorious
activities. Instead, he was charged with tax
evasion, prompting the incredulous mobster to
say, The government cant collect
legal taxes from illegal money.
Capone proved to be wrong, and he entered an
Atlanta prison on May 5, 1932.
Shortly after 9/11, thenattorney general
John Ashcroft recommended that a similar disruptive
approach be used against suspected terrorists:
Attorney General [Robert] Kennedy made no apologies
for using all of the available resources in
the law to disrupt and dismantle organized crime
networks. Very often, prosecutors were aggressive,
using obscure statutes to arrest and detain
suspected mobsters. One racketeer and his father
were indicted for lying on a federal home loan
application. A former gunman for the Capone
mob was brought to court on a violation of the
Migratory Bird Act. Agents found 563 game birds
in his freezera mere 539 birds over the
The American people face a serious, immediate
and ongoing threat from terrorism. At this moment,
American service men and women are risking their
lives to battle the enemy overseas. It falls
to the men and women of justice and law enforcement
to engage terrorism at home. Historys
judgment will be harshand the peoples
judgment will be sureif we fail to use
every available resource to prevent future terrorist
Robert Kennedys Justice Department, it
is said, would arrest mobsters for spitting
on the sidewalk if it would help in the
battle against organized crime. It has been
and will be the policy of this Department of
Justice to use the same aggressive arrest and
detention tactics in the war on terror.
Let the terrorists among us be warned: If
you overstay your visaeven by one daywe
will arrest you. If you violate a local law,
you will be put in jail and kept in custody
as long as possible. We will use every available
statute. We will seek every prosecutorial
advantage. We will use all our weapons within
the law and under the Constitution to protect
life and enhance security for America.
The Al Capone/mob model for combating suspected
terrorists is not without its critics,
but it is a sensible response to the threat
that the country faces. Terrorists have killed
more innocent Americans than the mob ever did,
and if the next terrorist attack employs weapons
of mass destruction, it could be even more devastating
As with the mob, prosecutors often have difficulty
proving involvement in terrorist acts beyond
a reasonable doubt. But also as with the mob,
as the government investigates an individual
who is strongly suspected of terrorist ties,
it often uncovers evidence of other crimes.
As Ashcroft suggested, prosecutors have not
hesitated to use every available statute
against suspected terrorists.
The growing postCold War terrorist involvement
in criminal enterprises has provided more opportunity
for the government to prosecute suspected terrorists.
From a law enforcement perspective, it is critical
to minimize the advantage that terrorists gain
from involvement in criminal activity and maximize
the opportunity to prosecute them for the full
range of illegal activities in which they engage.
With this paradigm in mind, this paper explores
five areas of criminal enterprise where there
has been known terrorist involvement: drug trafficking,
financial scams, cyber-crime, illegal money
transfers, and immigration violations.
Terrorist groups have derived a great deal
of profit from the illegal drug trade. As U.S.
News & World Report has stated, Nearly
half of the 41 groups on the governments
list of terrorist organizations are tied to
narcotics trafficking, according to DEA [Drug
Enforcement Agency] statistics.
Terrorist involvement in drug trafficking began
with the collapse of the Soviet Union, as groups
that lost their major state sponsor were forced
to look for alternative funding sources. One
such source proved to be the drug trade. Moreover,
the fall of the Soviet Union coincided with
the rise of globalization, which is characterized
by instantaneous connectivity. This connectivity
has helped to facilitate terrorist involvement
in drug trafficking, as explained by Steven
W. Casteel, the DEAs assistant administrator
Globalization has dramatically changed
the face of both legitimate and illegitimate
enterprise. Criminals, by exploiting advances
in technology, finance, communications, and
transportation in pursuit of their illegal endeavors,
have become criminal entrepreneurs. Perhaps
the most alarming aspect of this entrepreneurial
style of crime is the intricate manner in which
drugs and terrorism may be intermingled. Not
only is the proliferation of illegal drugs perceived
as a danger, but the proceeds from the sale
of drugs provides a ready source for funding
of other criminal activities, including terrorism.
The term narco-terrorismwhich
has acquired at least a dozen definitions over
to characterize the use of drug shipments as
a means of financing terrorist organizations.
The DEA defines a narco-terrorist organization
as an organized group that is complicit
in the activities of drug trafficking in order
to further, or fund, premeditated, politically
motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant
targets with the intention to influence [that
is, influence a government or a group of people].
While some other definitions of narco-terrorism
focus more on the actions of the drug traffickers
themselves, the DEAs
definition perfectly fits the activities described
in this section. Islamic terror groups that
have been involved in the drug trade include
Hizballah, al-Qaeda, and the cell responsible
for the 3/11 train bombings in Madrid, Spain.
Hizballah is a Shia terrorist group that first
reached the publics attention in October
1983 with a suicide bombing attack against a
Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed
241 American servicemen.
With this single attack, Hizballah killed more
Americans than any other terrorist group did
until 9/11. Although it is unclear how much
money Hizballah derives from drug trafficking,
there are at least three known cases of proceeds
from the U.S. drug trade being sent to this
In January 2002, the federal investigation
dubbed Operation Mountain Express III
culminated in a series of raids that took place
on a single day in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit,
Fresno, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Riverside,
San Diego, and Carlsbad.
The raids resulted in charges against 136 people
and the seizure of nearly 36 tons of pseudoephedrine,
179 pounds of methamphetamine, $4.5 million
in cash, eight real estate properties and 160
cars used by drug gangs.
These raids were directed at a drug ring that
had been smuggling pseudoephedrine tablets from
Canada to such midwestern cities as Chicago
and Detroit. (Pseudoephedrine is a key methamphetamine
ingredient commonly found in allergy and cold
medicines.) After being routed through these
cities, the tablets were resold to Mexican-based
Men of Middle Eastern descent ran this drug
ring. In the wake of the operation, Asa Hutchinson,
then the DEAs director, revealed that
[a] significant portion of some of the
sales are sent to the Middle East to benefit
Hutchinson specifically fingered Hizballah as
one group that had benefited from pseudoephedrine
trafficking, but DEA
officials were quick to say that they didnt
know exactly how much money had reached Hizballah
or other terrorist groups.
Around the same time as Mountain Express III,
federal investigators were also engaged in Operation
Green Quest, a multi-agency task force
on terrorist financing designed to bring the
Treasurys expertise to bear in identifying,
disrupting, and dismantling the financial infrastructures
and sources of terrorist funding. 
Green Quest likewise exposed instances of drug
money being laundered in support of Hizballah.
A third case of Hizballah benefiting financially
from the U.S. drug trade is centered on Ohio
resident Mohammad Shabib. Steven Emerson, the
executive director of the Washington-based Investigative
Project on Terrorism, summarized Shabibs
Beginning in the early 1990s, Shabib hauled
about three tons of pseudoephedrine from Canada
to California, where his colleagues sold the
medicine to Mexican gangs that would turn it
into the street drug methamphetamine. It is
unclear exactly how much of this money went
to finance terrorism, but Shabibs drug
trade did contribute to Hizballahs financing.
Although there arent many known instances
of profits from the U.S. drug trade financing
al-Qaeda, the U.S. market is only one part of
the broader international drug trade. A large
amount of drug trafficking occurs outside U.S.
borders, and al-Qaeda is in an ideal position
to benefit from the international drug trade
because of its strong presence in Pakistans
North-West Frontier Province, which is adjacent
to Afghanistan. Afghanistan lies at the center
of the Golden Crescent, which is a Central
Asian version of Southeast Asias infamous
drug-supplying Golden Triangle.
The country boasts a large number of poppy fields,
and often these poppies are converted into opium
Although drugs are forbidden within Islam and
are particularly taboo in the puritanical strain
of the faith that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda
promote, the ends justify the means when it
comes to the drug trade. One defense official
told the Washington Times: Bin
Laden does not mind trafficking in drugs, even
though its against the teaching of Islam,
because its being used to kill Westerners.
An August 2004 article in Time Asia
titled Terrorisms Harvest
outlined al-Qaedas involvement in the
opium and heroin trade.
This involvement stretches back to the days
when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. A Western
antinarcotics official told Time Asia
that early in 2001, al-Qaedas financial
experts teamed up with top Afghan drug traffickers
to persuade Taliban leader Mullah Omar to ban
opium cultivation. Although this move initially
appeared to combat the drug trade, it was actually
self-serving: opium prices soared from $30 a
kilogram to almost $650 after the ban, thus
benefiting al-Qaeda and its trafficker allies
who already had large stockpiles.
Reportedly, neither the Taliban nor al-Qaeda
is involved in growing poppies. Instead, [t]heir
involvement is higher up the drug chain, where
profits are fatter and so is their cut of the
Asia reported on recent evidence of al-Qaedas
[Mirwais] Yasini, the Afghan antidrug
czar, says the terrorists receive a share of
profits from heroin sales by supplying gunmen
to protect labs and convoys. Recent busts have
revealed evidence of al-Qaedas ties to
the trade. On New Years Eve, a U.S. Navy
vessel in the Arabian Sea stopped a small fishing
boat that was carrying no fish. After a search,
says a Western antinarcotics official, they
found several al-Qaeda guys sitting on a bale
of drugs. In January, U.S. and Afghan
agents raided a drug runners house in
Kabul and found a dozen or so satellite phones.
The phones were passed to the CIA station in
Kabul, which found they had been used to call
numbers linked to suspected terrorists in Turkey,
the Balkans and Western Europe. It was
an incredibly sophisticated network, says
the official. In March U.S. troops searching
a suspected terrorist hideout in Oruzgan province
after a firefight found opium with an estimated
street value of $15 million.
Intelligence officials have stated that bin
Laden profits from the drug trade because his
allies regulate smuggling routes from Afghanistan
into such countries as Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan.
Essentially, they impose a tax on each shipment
to allow it to pass. Intelligence community
sources report that they dont know precisely
how much money al-Qaeda derives from the drug
trade, but estimates are in the millions
The Afghan drug trade is unlikely to abate
on its own. Opium continues to fuel half of
Afghanistans economy, and there was only
a 2% eradication of opium production in 2006.
Al-Qaeda will likely continue to be involved
for two reasons. First, drug trafficking is
seemingly a significant source of revenue. Second,
the drug trade helps to destabilize Afghan president
Hamid Karzais government. Since Karzai
is unable to tax the illegal sale of drugs,
the drug trade costs him money and influence.
Other terror groups allied with al-Qaeda have
also been involved in the drug trade. The Washington
Times notes, for example, that al-Qaedas
Southeast Asian ally Jemaah Islamiyah also profits
from illegal narcotics trafficking.
The Madrid Cell
Terrorists have also benefited from the retail
side of the drug business. In Madrid, ten explosions
rocked four commuter trains during the height
of rush hour on March 11, 2004. When the dust
settled, 191 people were killed and there was
also political fallout. A socialist government
replaced Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznars
administration, which generally supported U.S.
policies in the global war on terror. The new
government promptly withdrew Spanish troops
One little-known aspect of the train bombings
is that the Madrid cell received substantial
financing from the sale of drugs, something
that the cells ideologues justified as
a weapon of jihad.
Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, believed to be
the cells ringleader, apparently thoughtperhaps
because of his theological mentorsthat
drug trafficking was acceptable if the profits
were used to advance Islam. In fact, Jamal Ahmidan,
a Moroccan drug dealer who helped finance the
attacks, traded a load of hashish for
the dynamite that slaughtered 191 people.
Ahmidan was a street thug who was transformed
into a jihadist while under detention in Spain.
Although he was known for fanaticism at the
mosque he attended, Ahmidan would also routinely
go to bars and discos. The Los Angeles Times
reported that Ahmidans neighbors thought
of him as friendly and flashy, and
they remember him zooming by on a motorcycle
with his long-haired girlfriend, a Spanish woman
with a taste for revealing outfits.
The Los Angeles Times went on to describe
how critical drug traffickers were to the 3/11
The traffickers took charge of obtaining
money, weapons, phones, cars, safe houses and
other infrastructure. Ahmidan rented a rickety
rural cottage [on]... Jan. 28, turning it into
a headquarters and bomb factory. He enlisted
Spanish jailhouse contacts to arrange the exchange
of 66 pounds of hashish for 220 pounds of dynamite
stolen from a mine in the Asturias region in
The Madrid cell is not the only example of
Islamic terror groups in Europe funding themselves
through drug trafficking. An Italian prosecutor
alleged that a member of the Neapolitan Mafia
converted to Islam and set up an exchange of
arms for drugs with Muslim terrorists.
Overall, its clear thatdespite Islams
edicts against drugsterrorist groups have
used drug trafficking to finance their activities.
Terrorist groups and their backers have taken
part in scores of financial scamsranging
from tax evasion to credit card fraudwithin
the United States. This section focuses on four
major financial scams that terrorists have engaged
in: identity theft, bank fraud, cigarette smuggling,
Identity theft is possibly the most lucrative
enterprise in which terrorists have engagedand
they get much more than money from this crime.
Dennis Lormel, the chief of the FBIs Terrorism
Financial Review Group, explained in testimony
before the U.S. Senate that technological advances
have made it easier than ever to commit identity
theft. Advances in
computer hardware and software as well as the
growth of the Internet have made it easier to
obtain a targets personal information
and produce the counterfeit documents necessary
to steal someones identity.
One critical aspect of identity theft, according
to Lormel, is the cloak of anonymity
that it provides. He
noted that identities are often stolen in order
to carry out such violations of federal law
as bank fraud, credit card fraud, wire fraud,
mail fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and computer crimes.
Moreover, this cloak of anonymity means that
[t]he use of a stolen identity enhances
the chances of success in the commission of
almost all financial crimes.
In the context of terrorism, identity theft
poses an additional danger because terrorists
can use their new identities to avoid the watchful
eyes of federal investigators as they plan and
prepare for attacks.
The 9/11 Commission Report established
that terrorists have committed identity fraud.
For terrorists, the report noted,
travel documents are as important as weapons.
Terrorists must travel clandestinely to meet,
train, plan, case targets, and gain access to
attack. The report
went on to say that terrorists have used altered
and counterfeit passports and visas, and
it warned that [f]raud in identification
documents is no longer just a problem of theft.
At many entry points to vulnerable facilities,
including gates for boarding aircraft, sources
of identification are the last opportunity to
ensure that people are who they say they are
and to check whether they are terrorists.
Bob Sullivan, an MSNBC technology correspondent,
criticized the 9/11 Commission Reports
treatment of the identity-theft issue for not
going far enough. While the report noted the
issue, Sullivan consulted with experts who believed
that the connection between identity theft and
terrorism received short shrift in congressional
pointed out that an al-Qaeda training manual
instructs trainees to have five false personas.
Information-security architect Brian Koerner
has written that terrorists increasingly make
use of stolen identities.
He outlines four major reasons that terrorists
find identity theft desirable: avoiding watch
lists; obscuring their whereabouts; funding
terrorist activities; and gaining unauthorized
access to entry points such as airline
gates, border crossings, or other facilities.
Identity theft doesnt just benefit terrorists:
it also harms the society against which it is
directed. The FBIs Financial Crimes
Report to the Public, released in mid-2005,
noted that identity theft hurts the monetary
victims of the fraud but can also be devastating
to the individual whose identity is stolen:
[T]he individual victim of the identity
theft may experience a severe loss in their
ability to utilize their credit and their financial
identity. The loss can be short in duration,
or may extend for years. It may result in the
inability to cash checks, obtain credit, purchase
a home or, in the most insidious cases, the
arrest of the individual for crimes committed
by the identity thief.
Identity fraud constitutes a violation of federal
law. Federal code 18 U.S.C. § 1028 lists
eight kinds of prohibited activity, including
producing identity documents without legal authority,
transferring stolen or forged identity documents,
possessing such documents, or trafficking in
false authentication features or false identity
documents. There is also a federal statute for
aggravated identity theft that covers acts of
identity fraud that occur in relation to acts
of terrorism transcending national boundaries.
However, as previously discussed, it is often
difficult to prove involvement in a terrorist
plot beyond a reasonable doubt; thats
why Attorney General Ashcroft recommended adopting
a law enforcement strategy similar to the one
employed against Al Capone and the mob. Applying
that model, a suspected terrorist taking part
in identity theft is more likely to be convicted
under the statute for simple identity fraud
rather than aggravated identity theft.
A number of individual crimes can be considered
bank fraud under federal law. But the common
denominator for all offenses in this category
is that they are designed to defraud financial
institutions. According to the U.S. Code, the
criminal penalty for bank fraud is a fine not
more than $1,000,000 or imprison[ment] not more
than 30 years, or both.
The most profitable kind of bank fraud is credit
card fraud. Terrorists have employed this tactic
in the past, as MSNBCs Bob Sullivan writes:
The Millennium Plot terrorists, Ahmed
Ressam and Mokhtar Haouari, allegedly used credit
card fraud, and even made plans to buy a gas
station and steal customer account numbers that
way, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
And the indictment of terrorist suspect Ali
Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who has been linked to
alleged Sept. 11 paymaster Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi,
alleged that al-Marri was arrested with a laptop
computer that had 1,000 stolen [credit card
numbers] on it, along with a host of Internet
bookmarks pointing to fraud and fake ID-related
Additionally, various criminal enterprises
that raise money for Hizballah have used bank
fraud. A 2004 FBI report noted that these
criminal enterprises, primarily based in the
Detroit area, are engaged in a wide range of
offenses, including credit card fraud, bank
fraud, mail fraud, mortgage fraud, wire fraud,
bankruptcy fraud, and others.
Cigarette smuggling is an arbitrage scheme
that has been used to raise funds for terrorist
groups from within the United States. Central
to such smuggling schemes is the variance in
cigarette tax rates between the states. Some
states, such as Virginia and North Carolina,
have low cigarette taxes. Others, like New Jersey
and New York, have higher cigarette taxes. In
a cigarette smuggling scheme, the smugglers
purchase large volumes of cigarettes in states
that have low tax rates and resell them below
market prices in states with high cigarette
taxes. Theyre able to undersell the market
since the smugglers dont pay taxes on
the cigarettes they resell. Steven Emerson has
explained that such schemes can yield extraordinary
As a senior ATF [Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] official explained,
such smuggling is quite lucrative. For example,
a smuggler could buy a carton (ten packs) of
cigarettes for around $20 in Virginia (where,
until September 2004, the cigarette tax was
2.5 cents per pack), and then resell it in New
York City (where the tax is $1.50 per pack)
for about $40 a carton. A single truckload of
cigarettes can yield a $2 million profit.
The best-known case of cigarette smuggling
involved a cell in Charlotte, North Carolina,
that raised money for Hizballah. Brothers Mohamad
Hammoud and Chawki Youssef Hammoud would buy
van loads of cigarettes in North Carolina, where
the tax was 5 cents per pack, and transport
them to Michigan, where the tax was 75 cents
a pack. Douglas Farah has noted that [t]he
brothers could clear $8 to $10 per carton, and
each van load netted them up to $13,000.
This is not the only case in which profits
from cigarette smuggling were diverted to terrorist
groups. By mid-2004, the ATF had more than 300
open cases of illegal cigarette trafficking,
and an official reported that several of these
were linked to terrorist fund-raising. Assistant
ATF director Michael Bouchard told the Washington
Post: This is a major priority for
us. The deeper we dig into these cases, the
more ties to terrorism were discovering.
Counterfeit goods have become another illegal
source of revenue for terrorists. Criminology
professor Mark S. Hamm has written that there
is mounting evidence of terrorists involvement
in the lucrative underworld of counterfeiting.
One example he provides is the FBIs 1996
confiscation of 100,000 counterfeit T-shirts
that had both a fake Nike swoosh
and Olympic logos. Followers of Sheikh Omar
Abdel Rahman, who was sentenced to life in prison
for his involvement in a 1995 plot to bomb New
York City landmarks, reportedly ran that operation.
Moreover, multiple sources have discussed Hizballahs
involvement in the sale of counterfeit products.
Summarizing the evidence on this point, Steven
Carratu International, a leading corporate
investigation company, claimed in 2002 that
some counterfeit products offered at Internet
sites and street markets may be sold to fund
terrorist organizations like Hizballah. Fake
goods range from power tools to designer
clothes and pharmaceutical products, such as
Viagra, Prozac, and Xenical. Stratfora
leading private intelligence firm that provides
corporations, governments, and individuals with
geopolitical analysis and forecastsreports
that Hizballah has even supported past operations
by selling knockoff designer products on New
York City street corners.
An indictment unsealed in March 2006 provided
a window into Hizballahs counterfeiting
operations. The Department of Justice explained
that a Dearborn, Michiganbased ring was
indicted for events that occurred between 1996
and 2004, including cigarette smuggling and
the sale of counterfeit goods. These goods included
counterfeit Zig Zag rolling papers and
Senior FBI agent Bob Clifford commented that
trafficking in counterfeit Viagra made sense
because the tablets are small, theyre
in high demand and theyre easily transportable.
Theyre the perfect medium.
The profits were allegedly sent to Hizballah
Intellectual property crime, a violation of
federal law, has been
defined as counterfeited and pirated goods,
manufactured and sold for profit without the
consent of the patent or trademark holder.Terrorist
involvement in counterfeiting further shows
how terrorists and their supporters make ingenious
use of opportunities for illegal profit. From
terrorist involvement in counterfeiting and
cigarette smuggling, we can infer an appropriate
law enforcement strategy of following up on
leads when it is suspected that terrorists may
derive profits from certain illegal schemes.
Doing so may help law enforcement determine
where to concentrate resources. For example,
a nationwide crackdown on black market
tobacco began after authorities learned
that such terror groups as al-Qaeda and Hizballah
were profiting from this sector of the underground
Cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism are emerging
threats. Some kinds of cyber-crime are simply
financial crimes that make use of the Internet.
For example, from December 1999 to April 2000,
five Moscow-based hackers stole about 5,400
credit card numbers from Internet retailers
and pocketed about $630,000, before their arrest.
As with other kinds of financial crimes, law
enforcement should maintain a watchful eye for
terrorist links to cyber-crime.
But there is another danger: catastrophic cyber-terrorism.
So far, this threat has not been actualized.
But law enforcementas well as businesses,
government agencies, and even individualsshould
be aware of it. H. H. Whiteman, director general
of Transport Canadas security and emergency
preparedness, wrote that [c]yber terrorism
must be considered to include the full range
of threats, vulnerabilities, risks, and technological
matters that anyone employing IT systems at
the core and even on the periphery of their
business must contend with today.
There are many ways that a cyber-terrorist
attack could damage the United States. One of
the most frequently discussed is an attack on
civil aviation. Seymour E. Goodman, a professor
of international affairs and computing at the
Georgia Institute of Technology, has written
that transportation systems are especially
attractive targets for malicious or reckless
attack with potentially serious casualty and
Civil aviation is a tempting target and is extraordinarily
dependent on computer-telecommunications information
There is evidence that cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism
are growing increasingly attractive to terrorists.
Gabriel Weimann, a senior fellow at the United
States Institute of Peace, has listed five major
reasons for the attraction to cyber-terrorism.
First, its cost effective: all that a
terrorist needs to carry out an act of cyber-terrorism
is a personal computer with Internet access.
Second, there is relative anonymity in cyber-terrorism.
Terrorists need not be physically present at
an attack and can use screen names and other
cloaks of anonymity to disguise themselves from
authorities. Third, there are a large number
of targets. A cyber-terrorist could target
the computers and computer networks of governments,
individuals, public utilities, private airlines,
and so forth.
Critical infrastructure such as electric power
grids and emergency services would be vulnerable.
Fourth, its easier for an organization
to recruit people for cyber-terrorist attacks
because their remote nature means less need
for physical training and risk of mortality.
Finally, cyber-terrorism can affect a larger
number of people than traditional terrorist
methods. This fact can be seen in the speed
with which destructive computer viruses spread
throughout the world.
Terrorists increasingly sophisticated
use of the Internet provides further reason
for concern about the threat of cyber-terrorism.
One example is a hacker called Irhabi 007, which
translates as Terrorist 007. For
two years, Irhabi 007 served as an al-Qaeda
conduit and had hacked into American university
computers, propagandized for the Iraq insurgents
led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and taught other
online jihadists how to wield their computers
for the cause.
A case study produced by the SITE Institute,
a Washington, D.C.based counterterrorism
research center that monitors online jihadist
activity, explains that Irhabi changed
the face of the jihadi Internet world through
his ability to covertly and securely disseminate
violent materials including manuals of weaponry,
videos of jihadist feats, such as the beheadings
perpetrated by Iraqi insurgents, and other inflammatory
When Scotland Yard officials arrested four
youths suspected of taking part in a bomb plot
in October 2005, one of those men, Younis Tsouli,
turned out to be Irhabi 007.
Before his arrest, Irhabi managed to pave the
way for future online jihadists. For example,
in June 2005 he posted a long message on an
al-Qaeda message forum titled Seminar
on Hacking Websites, which provided readers
with a detailed study of hacking that was over
twenty pages long.
The example of Irhabi 007 shows not only the
threat of cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism but
is also indicative of the increasingly sophisticated
means of propagandizing for terrorist groups.
Another sign of this increasing sophistication
came in the wake of the controversy over Danish
cartoons satirizing Prophet Muhammad that resulted
in rioting throughout the Muslim world in February
2006. In early February 2006, the British computer
magazine Computer Shopper noted that [g]angs
of pro-Muslim computer hackers have unleashed
a withering cyber attack on Danish and Western
websites in the past week.
Some 578 Danish websites were knocked off-line
in a single week.
There are many mechanisms that terrorists could
use to target the virtual world.
The U.S. Armys handbook Cyber Operations
and Cyber Terrorism illuminates some of
these tools. Of particular
concern are computer worms, which are destructive
software programs containing codes capable of
gaining access to a computer or network and
causing harm by deleting or manipulating the
data. In a worst-case scenario that policymakers
fear, a worm that infects the U.S. financial
sector could shut down Wall Street, or one infecting
airlines databases could result in millions
of missed flights or even downed flights. Another
concern is computer viruses, which are designed
to infect and damage software programs.
For some time, pure cyber-terrorism has been
seen as a threat that hasnt yet actualized.
A 1999 report released by the Center for the
Study of Terrorism and Irregular Warfare at
the Naval Postgraduate School stated that pure
cyberterrorism is a thing of the future. For
the present, terrorists are much more likely
to pursue cyberterror as an ancillary tool.
However, as time and resources permit, groups
of certain ideological types at particular growth
stages will attempt to build on already existing
Eight years later, the time may fast be approaching
when cyber-terror is seen as far more than an
ILLEGAL MONEY TRANSFERS
This paper has already shown that terrorist
groups see the United States as fertile ground
for terrorist fund-raising. Another criminal
act, complementary to terrorist fund-raising,
is the illegal transfer of funds to terrorist
groups. This process has been carried out in
different ways. This section outlines four examples:
the Benevolence International Foundation, the
Holy Land Foundation, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation,
Benevolence International Foundation
The Benevolence International Foundation (BIF)
was an Islamic charity founded and incorporated
in Palos Hills, Illinois, in March 1992.
At its inception, one of BIFs directors
was Sheikh Adel Abdul Jalil Batterjee, who was
affiliated with the Golden Chain
group from the Persian Gulfa group of
wealthy donors who financed the mujahideen in
the Afghan-Soviet war during the 1980s and went
on to become major al-Qaeda backers.
BIF achieved tax-exempt status as a charitable
organization in March 1993. Around that time,
BIF replaced Batterjee and the other founding
directors with new directors, one of whom was
The FBI began to investigate BIF in 1998 after
a Washington, D.C., conference that an agent
attended. There, the agent learned of
foreign intelligence reports indicating that
Arnaout was involved in providing logistical
support for jihadists.
Opening a full field investigation in 1999,
the FBIs Chicago field office put BIFs
headquarters under surveillance and even dug
through its garbage.
Before 9/11, the FBI was unable to bring a criminal
case even though agents had come across suspicious
material during the search and even though the
agents involved believed BIF had substantial
ties to al Qaeda, was supporting jihad, and
was sending a great deal of money overseas.
After 9/11, more information was made available
to the FBI. For example, al-Qaeda cooperators
whom the FBI was allowed to interview after
9/11 revealed BIFs financial dealings
with al-Qaeda in the early 1990s.
This new information allowed the Treasury Departments
Office of Foreign Assets Control to freeze BIFs
assets as a specially designated terrorist organization,
and the FBI finally garnered enough evidence
for a criminal case. Ultimately, Arnaout pleaded
guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy
for fraudulently diverting charitable donations
to finance overseas combatants.
At his sentencing, Arnaout admitted to supporting
various kinds of jihadist groups overseas through
BIF. He admitted that BIF sent boots to mujahideen
in Chechnya; boots, tents, and uniforms to soldiers
in Bosnia-Herzegovina; and uniforms for a provisional,
unrecognized government in Chechnya. The court
found that BIF had diverted a total of $315,624
to overseas fighters.
The indictment also drew heavily from documents
seized from BIFs Bosnia offices to link
BIF and Arnaout to the formation of al-Qaeda.
However, as part of the plea agreement, the
government agreed to drop charges that BIF had
supported al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The plea
agreement prevented the court from weighing
the evidence on this point.
For a long time, BIF was able to use its tax-exempt
status and reputation as a charitable organization
to conceal its funding of foreign fighters.
It hid this funding from authorities by lumping
its donations to military operations into other
donations that were devoted to legitimate charity
The Holy Land Foundation
The organization that came to be known as the
Holy Land Foundation (HLF) originally assumed
the name Occupied Land Fund. It
was created in about 1998 for the purpose of
providing support for Hamas, which has been
responsible for a large number of attacks against
Israeli civilians and other targets. Originally
located in California, the group moved to Richardson,
Texas, where it eventually became known as the
Holy Land Foundation, a tax-exempt charity whose
stated objective was to provide support to the
needy in the West Bank and Gaza.
HLF had a long-standing relationship with Hamas.
During the late 1980s and into the 1990s, HLF
openly provided support for Hamas, which was
named a specially designated terrorist organization
in 1995. Shortly after
its creation, HLF sent approximately $100,000
to Abu Marzook, Hamass future political
bureau chief. HLF also sent $725,000 to the
Islamic Center of Gaza, which Hamas spiritual
leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin established to serve
as a front for Hamas activity.
HLF sponsored a number of conferences and conventions
featuring radical sheikhs and Hamas officials
that were designed to help them raise funds;
some events featured songs and skits depicting
the killing of Jews.
After the Oslo Accords, which were designed
to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians,
HLFs principals met with Hamas activists
in Philadelphia to try to determine how HLF
could support Hamass opposition
to the peace plan and to decide how to conceal
their activities from the scrutiny of the United
And HLF subsidized Hamass vital
recruitment and reward efforts in the West Bank
and Gaza. Multiple
links exist between HLF and Hamas.
The Holy Land Foundation was ultimately indicted
for money laundering. Money laundering refers
to the metaphorical cleansing of
money. Individuals and groups can engage in
money laundering in many different ways, ranging
from bulk cash smuggling to trade-based money
laundering to online payment systems.
There are two basic kinds of money laundering.
The first kind is designed to disguise the
fact that drug dealers and others who profit
from illegal ventures obtained the money illegally.
Thus, the United Nations Office on Drugs and
Crime defines money laundering as a three-stage
process which disguises illegal profits without
compromising the criminals who wish to benefit
from the proceeds. This requires: first, moving
the funds from direct association with the crime;
second, disguising the trail to foil pursuit;
and third, making the money available to the
criminal once again with the occupational and
geographic origins hidden from view.
The second kind of money laundering is designed
not to disguise the source of funds but rather
their destinationin that the money
in question is going to finance illegal activities
overseas. U.S. law prohibits this type of money
laundering as well.
HLF was indicted on twelve counts of money
laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit
money laundering. The
indictment charges that HLF transmitted
or caused to be transmitted approximately $12,400,000
to various HAMAS controlled zakat committees
The indictment lists seventeen wire transfers
that were designed to support these organizations,
as well as twelve instances in which the HLF
defendants transmitted funds to the West Bank
and Gaza with the intent to contribute funds,
goods, and services to Hamas. These wire transfers
and transmissions allegedly violate U.S. laws
against money laundering.
Like BIF, HLF appears to have used its tax-exempt
status and reputation to conceal the funding
of terrorism. The criminal case against HLF
Al Haramain Islamic Foundation
Al Haramain Islamic Foundation was established
in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1992 and quickly
became one of the most important international
At its peak, Al Haramain had offices in more
than fifty countries and an annual budget of
Its head U.S. office was located in Ashland,
Oregon. Al-Haramain was organized as a
public benefit corporation exclusively for religious,
humanitarian, educational, and charitable purposes.
It obtained tax-exempt status.
Al Haramains U.S. branch and two of its
directors were indicted in January 2005 for
illegally moving money out of the country.
Central to the prosecution was the requirement
that anyone who transports more than $10,000
in currency or monetary instruments in or out
of the United States is required to provide
details of that transaction in Form 4790, Report
of International Transportation of Currency
or Monetary Instruments.
The actions that investigators honed in on began
in February 2000, when an Egyptian man wire
transferred about $150,000 to a bank account
in Ashland belonging to Al Haramain.
In an e-mail, the donor stated that the money
was designed to participate in your noble
[sic] support to our muslim brothers in Chychnia
[sic]. Shortly after the money was wired,
one of Al Haramains directors, Soliman
al-Buthe, flew from Saudi Arabia to the
United States, where he met another director,
Pete Seda (a.k.a Pirouz Sedaghaty). On March
10, the two men went to a branch office of Bank
of America and bought 130 American Express travelers
checks, all in the $1,000 denomination.
Al-Buthe signed a check for $131,300 to
buy the travelers checks; the next day,
Seda returned to the bank and collected the
rest of the funds that had been wired from Egypt,
in the form of a $21,000 Bank of America cashiers
Al-Buthe left the U.S. for Saudi Arabia
on March 12 with the travelers checks
and cashiers check. On the way out, he
failed to file a Form 4790 indicating that he
was transporting $150,000 out of the United
States, in violation of federal law. Al Haramain
then attempted to disguise al-Buthes
money transfer by inflating the cost of a building
that it purchased in Missouri in the income
tax return that it filed at the end of the year.
The indictment against Al Haramain states that
the group attempted to disguise the monetary
transfer because the organization intended that
the funds be delivered to the Chechen mujahideen.
A number of individuals and groups that raised
money for Hizballah in the United States illegally
transferred money and other items of support
to the terrorist group. One such case, detailed
above, is the cigarette-smuggling cell in Charlotte,
North Carolina. The second superseding indictment
in that case explains that members of the terrorist
cell sent money to Hizballah leaders and also
purchased equipment that they sent to Lebanon.
This equipment included night-vision goggles,
global positioning systems, mine- and metal-detection
equipment, advanced aircraft analysis and design
software, stun guns, and laser range finders.
Ultimately, the defendants in the Charlotte
case were convicted under a Patriot Act provision
that outlaws providing anything of value to
a group designated as a terrorist organization.
There are other cases of individuals in the
U.S. supporting Hizballah through money laundering.
For example, after the indictment of a Dearborn,
Michigan, group involved in cigarette smuggling
and counterfeiting was unsealed in March 2006
(as mentioned above), the DOJs press release
explained that the group had engaged in these
criminal enterprises in order to launder money.
Money raised in the U.S. through both legal
and illegal means has frequently made its way
to terrorist groups in the Middle East. Authorities
can vigorously counteract terrorist financing
by being cognizant of organizations that are
known affiliates of terrorists or terrorist
groups, or else supportive of terrorists
messagesand should check their bank and
other financial records to determine whether
they have been involved in terrorist financing.
Law enforcement should also keep abreast of
ways that terrorists adapt in an effort to thwart
investigations. Stuart Levey, undersecretary
of the Treasurys Office of Terrorism and
Financial Intelligence, said in Senate testimony
that his office has witnessed a decrease
in the average amount of transactions that we
[T]his observation carries across
various financial conduits and terrorist organizations
and we have no reason to believe that it is
unrepresentative. Interpreting this indicator
is more difficult. It could reflect an overall
decrease in the amount of money moving to and
from terrorists. Just as easily, it could indicate
that terrorists are breaking their transactions
out into smaller sums, fearing interception.
Alternatively, the trend could be an outgrowth
of a movement by terrorist organizations away
from banks towards less formal mechanisms, like
Terrorists frequently adapt to policing and
intelligence measures. For example, after learning
that the National Security Agency could monitor
only the e-mails that had been sent, some terrorists
began using shared e-mail accounts (to which
all members of a cell would have the password)
and saving messages as drafts. Since the messages
were never sent, terrorists were able to avoid
NSA surveillance. Likewise, terrorists may be
adapting to anti-money-laundering efforts.
For many terrorists, immigration violations
are the first acts taken in a long line of criminal
activities. A significant number of terrorists
who came from overseas have done so illegally,
through such mechanisms as document fraud and
sham marriages. Michael Cutler, a fellow at
the Center for Immigration Studies, has written
that when an alien acquires immigration
benefits through fraud and deception, the security
of the system is breached and it leaves the
door open to criminals and terrorists gaming
Individuals who have planned acts of terror
against the United States or raised money for
terrorist organizations have often engaged in
immigration violations. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind
of the first World Trade Center attack, in 1993,
used an altered passport and fraudulent documents.
Some members of the Charlotte cell that raised
money for Hizballah were in the country illegally.
Following 9/11, the government has aggressively
pursued immigration violation cases against
known Islamic radicals and individuals who are
suspected of terrorist ties.
Several kinds of document fraud can occur during
the immigration process. Document fraud, through
forgery, lying, false statements, or the misuse
of visas, is punishable under federal law. The
Immigration and Naturalization Act makes it
illegal for an alien to use, acquire, or provide
fraudulent documents for the purpose of acquiring
citizenship or naturalization.
Document fraud violations may result in civil
and criminal penalties. Most significantly,
there are also immigration consequences: an
alien who is culpable in document fraud may
be prevented from receiving visas to be admitted
to the United States.
Document fraud is also a ground for deportability.
Suspected terrorists have been deported from
the U.S. or else arrested for document fraud.
One example is Fawaz Damra, a Cleveland-based
imam who was born in the West Bank. In 2004,
Damra was convicted of lying on his citizenship
application by failing to disclose his links
to terrorist organizations.
Even though he was convicted of an immigration
violation rather than terrorism charges, government
attorneys sought Damras deportation because
they consider him a national security threat.
Ultimately, Damra agreed to be deported in
January 2006. Another example is Maher Amin
Jaradat, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Palestinian
descent, who was indicted in May 2005 for making
false statements on his application for citizenship:
he failed to disclose his membership in the
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
But in the past, there may have been under-enforcement
of immigration laws when it comes to known terrorists
operating in the United States. Janice Kephart,
former counsel to the 9/11 Commission, authored
a report titled Immigration and Terrorism,
which examines the histories of ninety-four
foreign-born terrorists who operated in the
United States between the early 1990s and 2004.
It concludes that of these ninety-four terrorists,
about two-thirds (59) committed immigration
fraud prior to or in conjunction with taking
part in terrorist activity.
Because of these widespread terrorist violations
of U.S. immigration law, Kephart suggests that
the lax immigration system poses
a danger and recommends strict enforcement
of immigration lawat American consulates
overseas, at ports of entry, and within the
The report details various methods that terrorists
have used to enter the United States. Those
covered in her study applied for naturalization
twenty-one times; twenty applications succeeded.
Yet she notes that there were eleven clear
indications of fraud in these applications,
including document fraud and withholding of
material facts. Kephart
notes that with naturalization comes a U.S.
passport, which can create particular problems.
For example, Iyman Faris, who in 2003 admitted
to plotting to cut the Brooklyn Bridges
suspension cable and derail passenger trains
on orders from al-Qaeda, was a naturalized U.S.
citizen. Thus, after
his 1999 naturalization, Faris could easily
travel in and out of the U.S. He traveled to
Afghanistan at least twice, conducting business
for al-Qaeda upon each return.
The fact that terrorists have in the past obtained
entry to the United States and have even become
naturalized U.S. citizens through fraudulent
means has national security implications.
Sham marriage is a commonly used method of
allowing terrorists to stay in the United States,
even opening the door for them to become permanent
residents or naturalized citizens. Federal law
allows an alien who is a spouse of a U.S. citizen
to be considered the citizens immediate
relative, thus allowing the alien to gain lawful
permanent residency in the U.S.
Great leeway is provided for aliens to remain
in the United States if they are able to marry
a citizen. However, federal law also prohibits
marriage fraud, which is defined as a marriage
that is entered into solely for the purpose
of evading any provision of the immigration
A number of terrorists and terror supporters
affiliated with al-Qaeda, Hizballah, and the
Palestinian Islamic Jihad used sham marriages
to stay in the United States. One example is
the Charlotte Hizballah cell, where one of the
key figures was Said Mohamad Harb. Kephart writes
that Harb helped secure three fraudulent
visas and three sham marriages for the purpose
of legally bringing in the United
States his brother, his brother-in-law, and
sister so that they might become legal permanent
one case, two of the women who married
coconspirators were in reality a lesbian couple
who lived together rather than with their husbands.
Immigration laws should be our first line of
defense against those who would enter the United
States to raise money for terrorist groups or
participate in acts of terrorism. So there is
a national security reason to ensure that immigration
laws are not under-enforced when individuals
violating these laws are suspected of involvement
in terrorism. Clamping down on immigration violations
is one of the governments major tools
in employing the Al Capone model of preventing
another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
In mid-2005, the Washington Post noted
that in the past two years, officials
have filed immigration charges against more
than 500 people who have come under scrutiny
in national security investigations.
The reason for the high number of immigration
charges is that authorities are using immigration
laws against suspected terrorists.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE AL CAPONE MODEL
Many analysts have wondered why the United
States hasnt been attacked since 9/11.
Surely, terrorists have not lost their desire
to attack America, as successful attacks in
Britain, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines,
Russia, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, and many other
countries make clear. While there is no single
answer to this question, the governments
law enforcement model seems to have played an
The Al Capone model of anti-terror policing
holds that law enforcement should disrupt would-be
terrorists before they can strike. Terrorists
can be disrupted through prosecution of all
crimes committed, including minor offenses.
As this paper has shown, there are many indications
of heavy terrorist involvement in criminal activity.
This criminal involvement, coupled with the
increasing difficulty of winning convictions
for terrorism offenses, makes pursuing lesser
The British Experience
British law enforcement and intelligence has
had many notable successes in dismantling terrorist
cells. However, some of the failures of British
anti-terror policing highlight the importance
of the Al Capone models aggressive pursuit
of leads and disruptive prosecutions. This pursuit
of leads involves not only digging until theres
no more dirt but also undertaking cross-referencing
and background checks of other subjects who
are found to be associated with radicals or
potential terrorists. Often when an individual
or group that is being investigated meets or
develops a relationship with another individual
or group, its for a reason.
The British system tends to let radicals operate
longer because of the intelligence benefits
gained from seeing what the suspects do. The
problem is that this policing model allows some
terrorists to slip through the cracks, as shown
in the wake of a recently concluded trial in
which five men were sentenced to life in prison
for a plot to attack a number of London targets
with bombs made of fertilizer (known as the
fertilizer plot). Before the fertilizer
plotters were arrested in March 2004, they had
come into contact with 7/7 transit-bomb plotters
Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer.
Agents listening in on a bug monitoring the
fertilizer plotters heard Khan state that he
planned to kill non-Muslims; moreover, a tracking
device was placed in Khans car a year
before the 7/7 attacks, his meetings with radicals
were reported to British domestic spy agency
MI5 at least four times, and he underwent terrorist
training in Pakistan with some of the fertilizer
counterterrorism officials were forced to concede
after the fertilizer-plot trial that intelligence
that could have raised alarms before the July
7 transit attacks was never thoroughly investigated.
Those attacks ended up killing fifty-two people.
British counterterrorism officials explained
that they never thoroughly investigated the
7/7 bombers because other intelligence leads
seemed more urgent. The Intelligence and Security
Committees investigation into the London
attacks states that because of limited resources,
it was decided not to investigate [Khan
and Tanweer] further or seek to identify them.
When resources became available, attempts were
made to find out more about these two and other
peripheral contacts, but these resources were
soon diverted back to what were considered to
be higher investigative priorities.
But MI5s report on links between the 7/7
bombers and the fertilizer plotters reveals
that MI5 did have enough information
to prosecute Khan and Tanweerfor lesser
offenses. The report shows that Khan and Tanweer
met with the fertilizer plotters on five occasions,
and explained methods of fund-raising to them:
Conversations record Khan and Tanweer
discussing how to raise cash through a variety
of fraud scams, such as purchasing building
equipment on credit, defaulting on payment and
selling the goods on for cash.
Under the British model of anti-terror policing,
Khan and Tanweer were allowed to continue operating
even though they shared their criminal expertise
with known terrorists and expressed a desire
to kill British citizens. In contrast, they
probably would have been picked up under the
Al Capone model and tried for their involvement
in financial scams. In the situation that the
British facedwhen so many potential plots
are being investigated that not all leads can
be aggressively pursuedthere is even more
reason to arrest radicals who are clearly involved
in criminal enterprise in order to disrupt their
activities. Had the British done so, the 7/7
attacks may have been prevented.
Critics of the Al Capone Model
Critics of the current U.S. anti-terror policing
model do not appreciate the value of disruption.
The New York University School of Laws
Center on Law and Security published a Terrorist
Trial Report Card in 2006, containing a
comprehensive database of all cases that came
through the federal court system that were at
some point classified as terrorism cases.
The report had a number of factual findings
descriptive of the adoption of the Al
Capone model at the federal level:
- Conviction, no matter how short the
period of time or how minor the charge, is
the primary goal. The average prison
time for individuals who were arrested on
suspicion of terrorism is 51 months, or just
over three years, a valid technique if the
goal is disruption of alleged plots but not
a sufficient means of long-term incapacitation
or deterrence. The average sentence for federal
terrorism charges is 206 months, or just over
- The DOJs pattern of pursuit
is focused on early detection rather than
conviction on federal terrorism charges. This
has resulted in a relatively small share of
federal terrorism convictions out of the total
convictionsonly 15% of the total 307
convictions were for federal terrorism crimes.
- No sleeper cell with logistical or
tactical links to al-Qaeda has been convicted
of plotting an attack to be carried out within
the U.S. While the government has
convicted groups in the United States conspiring
and attempting to levy war against the U.S.
abroad (like the Portland Seven), individuals
conspiring to commit terrorism here at home
(like Siraj in Brooklyn), and groups linked
to al-Qaeda (like the Virginia Jihad Network),
the government has not convicted al-Qaeda
cells in the U.S. with instructions to attack
inside the country.
- The vast majority of cases turn out
to include no link to terrorism once they
go to court. In the 510 cases announced
as terrorism cases, only 158 individuals have
been prosecuted on charges of terrorism and
material support to terrorism. The remaining
352 individuals have been prosecuted on lesser
charges and no criminal link to terrorism
was substantiated in court.
Based on these findings, the Terrorist Trial
Report Card argues that either the terrorist
threat is much less than originally assumed
or else the policies of the United States
have reduced the threat through deterrence,
and, yes, through excessive vigilance.
The report then concludes that there seems to
be few, if any, prevalent terrorist threats
currently within the U.S. and argues that
[a]ny future policy must be premised on
Although this statement is vague, it suggests
that a less aggressive law enforcement model
should be adopted.
The Terrorist Trial Report Card is clearly
critical of the Al Capone model of anti-terror
policing. Its first conclusion is that the current
model only works if the goal is disruption,
not if it is deterrence or incapacitation. But
how do you deter this enemy? The 9/11 attacks
and our subsequent experience fighting Islamic
insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq show that
many Muslim radicals are willing to die for
their cause. They are unlikely to be deterred
by a seventeen-year prison term. There is indeed
a trade-off between disruption and long-term
incapacitation, but Britains failure to
stop the 7/7 bombers despite all that was known
about them shows that the value of disruption
should not be underestimated.
The Terrorist Trial Report Card also
asserts that there are now few, if any,
prevalent terrorist threats in the U.S.
While it may be true that policymakers overestimate
the domestic terrorist threat, the Terrorist
Trial Report Cards statistics prove
no such thingand, in fact, the reports
other conclusions undermine this finding. The
report concedes that the DOJ wants to win convictions
no matter how short the period of time
or how minor the charge and that DOJ is
focused on early detection rather than conviction
on federal terrorism charges. This applicable
prosecution model helps to explain both the
lack of proof in the courtroom of sleeper cells
with logistical or tactical links to al-Qaeda
and the reason that the majority of cases have
no link to terrorism once they go to court.
This phenomenon is entirely explainable by authorities
earlier disruption of plots.
Brian Michael Jenkins, senior advisor to the
president of the RAND Corporation, has noted
that suspects may be apprehended while
their plans are in the talking stage,
which makes prosecution difficult because suspects
can claim that they were only talking
and never had serious intentions.
The practical result is predictable:
As a consequence, the number of prosecutions
is small compared with the number of people
detained, which reflects a preventive law enforcement
approach rather than the traditional reactive
approach. It is sufficient to say that the operational
capabilities of the jihadists have been degraded
and that terrorist operations are being thwarted.
Keeping score is difficult and irrelevant.
Jenkins may overstate: perhaps keeping score
is not irrelevant, but it certainly is difficult.
It is clear, though, that the Terrorist Trial
Report Card does not come close to proving
a lack of jihadist threat inside the United
States. The only factor that the report considers
is what has been proved in the courtroom, which
is far from determinative. The fact that Al
Capone was only convicted of tax evasion doesnt
change the fact that he was a powerful and vicious
mobster: focusing only on the crime someone
was convicted of may obscure his actual activities.
Thus, premising future policy on the Terrorist
Trial Report Cards conclusion, as
the report urges, is a risky path to follow.
The value of the Al Capone model should thus
be apparent: it allows authorities to disrupt
terrorist activity before plots can become operational.
It is designed to succeed where other models,
such as the British model, would allow terrorists
to continue to operate.
After the 9/11 attacks, the United States was
faced with an unprecedented challenge. Americans
learned how devastating a terrorist attack could
be, and there were fears that the next attack
could be even worse. An open society like the
United States has a number of inherent vulnerabilities,
and when 9/11 occurred, the government had little
information about other possible terrorist activity
inside the country. It was then that law enforcement
adopted the Al Capone model of fighting terrorism.
This paper examined five kinds of illegal activity
that terrorists have engaged in: drug trafficking,
financial scams, cyber-crime, illegal money
transfers, and immigration violations. Terrorists
gain many advantages from engaging in these
enterprises, advantages that range from raising
funds to posing a risk of a catastrophic cyber-terrorist
attack to entering the country in the first
place. And just as terrorists can gain from
their illegal activities, law enforcement can
exploit the crime-terror nexus by charging suspected
terrorists with lesserand easier to proveoffenses
than involvement in a terrorist plot.
There are three principles that law enforcement
should adopt in trying to gain advantage in
this manner. First, law enforcement should have
a method of determining who is a possible terrorist
threat. One important element in this analysis
is terrorist associations that individuals or
organizations may have.
Second, law enforcement should be aware of the
kind of criminal enterprises that terrorists
have entered. For example, after the government
learned that terrorists were smuggling cigarettes
to raise money, more law enforcement resources
were devoted to combating that practice. It
is proper to devote more resources to an area
that has not just criminal, but also national,
Third, law enforcement should continue to recognize
the value of using all available laws to combat
suspected terrorists. Modifications may be necessary;
for example, perhaps law enforcement should
wait longer before making arrests in some cases,
to maximize the intelligence that it gains.
But after 9/11, it was proper for authorities
to prosecute terrorists for the full range of
offenses that they committed. The value of disrupting
plots should not be underestimated. The difficulty
of prosecuting terrorist offenses increases
the importance of law enforcement using all
the tools at its disposal that are within the