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The Growing Threat of Transnational Crime: Major Legal Systems and Legal Traditions Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

Executive Summary

This report examines the growing threat of transnational organized crime and the major legal systems and traditions involved in the fight against the menace. Transnational crimes are known to be on the increase due to lack of sufficient legislations in many of the countries involved in the fight against the menace. The effects are so pronounced in the field of terrorism and drug trafficking which is a major concern to our security. These criminals have exploited the advantage of globalization and technology to carry on with their activities of terror around the globe, some of them targeting our country and the American interests elsewhere. These criminals have gained footing in the fields of illegal activities, including trafficking in persons, counterfeiting, narcotics and arms smuggling, and money laundering and other financial crimes.

The report also explores the efforts of the United States in responding to international crime. Our legal system provides for a response to international crime, through the 1998 International Crime Control Strategy. In addition to this, legal precedence is applied in dealing with such crimes. Government agencies at play include the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security Justice, and Treasury.

            The report also highlights the international efforts at curbing transnational crime, as it is recognized no single country can go its own way if the fight against this problem.


The rise in transnational crime is exacerbated by the rise in undemocratic regimes across the world. Terrorism is so far the leading cause but there are still other aspects that contribute to the crime. The current trend of globalization has made the world an open place to conduct businesses, be it legal or illegal. Drug trafficking and human smuggling have been mentioned as among the major causes of transnational crime. It is however not possible to ascertain in real value the business in transnational crime, as most of the operations are conducted clandestinely- the black market.

Transnational crime thrives a lot in the black market operations. Drug trade has been the main source of this particular crime. Countries like Afghanistan are greatly hit by this as a result of high poverty and unemployment rates. People resort to the farming of illicit drugs, trafficking them to other countries to earn a living. Money laundering is also an issue at play. Criminal cartels have been established around the world dealing in the illegal business of money laundering.[1] The collaboration between criminals in money laundering and terrorist organizations is dangerous to state security, and so the United States is being called to task.


The concept of transnational crime has no definite definition, accepted by all. In a 1994 definition, the term was defined as a crime that in its very nature, when committed in one country, its effects would extend the borders of the country in which the crime was committed (Mueller 1998). They may not necessarily be international in nature. They comprise of crimes whose effects would be felt afar from the country the evil was committed. In these categories, there may be trafficking and smuggling human beings, terrorism, and illegal trade on arms, sex slavery and money laundering. In its Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the United Nations defines organized  transnational crime groups as a group of not less than three people operating at a period of time, and working together for the purpose of committing a serious crime in order to obtain a financial or other material benefit (United Nations).

            There are obvious differences between the traditional criminal gangs and the modern day gangs. The traditional ones were more organized in a hierarchical manner, in contrast to the current once which exist for a purpose without a complex structure. Moreover, the traditional ones could earn some contracts from the government, unlike the current structure where the possibility if getting government contracts may be higher in a corrupt society with no democratic governance (Shelley, L. 2005).

            It is regrettable that some states are conducting activities that are in themselves criminal. The People’s Republic of North Korea, for instance, is conducting businesses which are questionable. The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released in March 2005 accuses the country of participating in criminal activities as a matter of state policy (Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs 2005).

Transnational is not easy to contain as organized crime groups are formed in a way to allow them operate beyond borders of sovereign states (George Mason University). It is therefore imperative that all peace loving countries come together to forge a concerted effort against these networks. International terrorism is the biggest threat to international peace and security. This then translates to the direct losses that we are prone to, as the terrorists are fighting against the noble course we are pursuing in democratizing the world. It should be noted that after our swift response to the inhuman terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, and the successful efforts to dismantle major training camps of the al Qaeda network of terrorists through the regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq, our efforts are meeting resistance from the remnants of this terror network. The United States Government needs to put more pressure on countries which are not yet serious in the fight against terrorism.

The nexus between terrorism and crime is so vague, that the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there is a little difference, from the motive of an act. Terrorists operate for reasons of defending a political or religious cause, while criminals do operate for economic gains. However the nexus is further diminished by the resort of terrorists to engage in crime so as to fund their filthy operations of unleashing terror against innocent civilians. T

he regrettable bombing in Madrid in March 2003 had the funding from drug deals, for instance (Zarata


Threats to the United States

            It is difficult, if not impossible to measure transnational crime. The United States National Security Council led an interagency working group which drafted the Government’s International Crime Threat Assessment in 2000 a report designed to gauge various global criminal activities. The report found that the largest international crime threats with respect to their potential impact of destruction include:

  1. Smuggling of nuclear materials and technology;
  2. drug trafficking;
  3. trafficking in persons;
  4. intellectual property crimes; and,
  5. Money laundering.

It is logical that organized criminals may help states in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. Rogue states like North Korea are thriving in such criminal activities to manufacture deadly weapons, and the United States has a responsibility of keeping such practices on check in concert with United Nations. It was shocking news in October 2003 when it was discovered that a Pakistani nuclear scientist was selling nuclear technology to, among other entities, North Korea and Libya (Medalia).

            The United States suffers substantially in terms of the cost incurred as a result of illicit drugs. About 17,000 Americans are killed every year as a result of consuming illegal drugs. In monetary terms, the social and economic cost incurred is estimated at $160 billion (US Drug Enforcement Agency). Overall, average trades in these illicit drugs count at $700 billion worldwide. In this group, heroine ands cocaine is the major products as they fetch so much profit fir the dealers. The cocaine business for instance, earns the terrorist organization the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

            Violations in the intellectual property spheres are so high, costing the United States over $200 billion per year in lost sales. Interpol reports suggest that illegitimate trade in this menace grows faster than legitimate trade since the early 90s (Interpol).

            Human trafficking for sexual exploitation or forced labor has also been a concern in the underworld of organized crime estimated by the FBI to cost an annual generation of $9.5 billion. An average of 3 million people fall victims every year. Human smuggling is also on the rise. The greatest concern is that the smugglers may assist terrorists to gain entrance into the United States, and other countries as well where they can attack our interests (U.S. Department of State).

Legal Framework in Place

The legislation of the 2001 Act on Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) is a milestone in the homeland security of the United States. The “International Money Laundering Abatement and Financial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001,”which is the third Title of the USA PATRIOT Act is geared towards the arrest of the money laundering crime, which finds its way into hands of terrorists. Notable is the amendment to the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 and the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970. This has performed marvelously in the containment of terrorism activities through having them to substantially cut ting down their expenditure (United States 2001).

The first Title of the Act establishes a fund for activities of counter-terrorism. It recognizes the equal rights of all Americans. It aims at bonding the American society by condemning the discrimination meted against Arab and Muslim Americans following the heinous attacks against the United States in September 2001. Under the same title, the military has the authority to provide assistance in situations involving the lethal weapons of mass destruction upon request by the Attorney General.

The eighth title, redefined domestic terrorism to include mass destruction, kidnapping and assassination as an act of terror. Any act with the intent of intimidation or coercion to civilian population, or blackmail to a government and a violation of the criminal code of any state within the United States falls within the definition of terrorism.

Title IX effectively amended the National Security Act of 1947. The Director of Central Intelligence is now obligated to strengthen security by establishing priorities for available foreign intelligence, and advising the Attorney General appropriately. Any foreign intelligence acquired by the U.S. Department of Justice should be communicated to the Director of Central Intelligence by the concerned Government Department or agency, if the information is not prejudicial to an ongoing law enforcement investigation.

Enhancing surveillance procedures was among the critical provisions of the Act. It covers areas of suspected terrorists, suspects of computer fraud, and agents of foreign powers who engage in clandestine espionage activities against the laws of the United State. These agents may pose a danger of organizing attacks for terror organizations, by using the loopholes in the security system they investigated for a long time. This provision is in Title III of the Act, entitled “Enhanced Surveillance Procedures.”

The Department of Justice and Homeland Security is the lead agent in transnational crime investigation in the United States. The Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section provide prosecutors to the Crime Strike Force Units of the Attorneys’ Offices that supervises investigations and prosecutions thereafter on matters of transnational crimes. International investigative cooperation is also fostered by the Department. The FBI’s Office of International Operations has Legal Attaches in several countries, receiving foreign cooperation in gathering evidence on transnational criminal practices.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The United States should expand its cooperation with the United Nations and other regional blocs for effectiveness in the fight against transnational crime. Bilateral and multilateral forums should be organized regularly where issues of transnational crime as discussed at length, reprimanding effectively states which are lax on the fight against such activities.

The performance of the several security agencies in place should be measured in terms of effectiveness and appropriate measures taken to have the United States more secured from such criminal gangs. Also, crime and terror policies should be coordinated. This is because terrorism and crime interrelate at some point. It has been noted that terrorists use crime to get funding for their activities.

The role of Interpol should be reviewed to ascertain what it can best do, in relation to regional security agencies like the European body Europol, or the South Asian Aseanapol. There should be no conflicts as to the operations of these different organizations but performing similar functions.

The United States Government should also come up with a strategy to strengthen partnership between the Government and the private sector. Multinational cooperation should, for instance have some responsibilities in the protection of the borders of the United States. The transport industry as the facilitator of the entry and exit to the United States should enhance measures aimed at maximum security.

In conclusion, the security situation in the United States has been enhanced marvelously since the barbaric acts of al Qaeda on September 11th, 2001. The various presidential directives and laws put into place have made the United States a more secure country. However, our country should dwell much or regional and international cooperation on security.


Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, International Narcotics          Control Strategy Report, March 2005.

Gerhard O. W. Mueller, “Transnational Crime: Definitions and Concepts,” Transnational           Organized Crime, vol. 4, Autumn/Winter 1998.

George Mason University Terrorism, International Crime and Corruption Center at the School of          Public Policy. Retrieved August 1st, 2008 from       http://policy.traccc.gmu.edu/transcrime/transcrime.shtml

INTERPOL. Funds Derived from Criminal Activities Retrieved August 1st, 2008 from            http://www.interpol.int/Public/FinancialCrime/MoneyLaundering/default.asp

Interpol. The Impact and Scale of Counterfeiting. Retrieved August 1st, 2008 from            http://www.interpol.com/Public/News/Factsheet51pr21.asp.

Louise Shelley, “The Unholy Trinity: Transnational Crime, Corruption, and Terrorism,” Brown  Journal of World Affairs, Winter/Spring 2005.

Medalia, Jonathan. Nuclear Terrorism: A Brief Review of Threats and Responses CRS Report    RL32595.

Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Juan Zarata, Treasury Department press release,          February 1, 2005.

United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. Retrieved August 1st,        2008 from http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/crime_cicp_convention.html.

United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, 2005, p. 13. June 3, 2005.     Retrieved August 1st, 2008 from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005.

United States Department of State. Arresting Transnational Crime. An Electronic Journal of the            U.S. Department of State – August 2001 Volume 6, Number 2. Washington. Retrieved            August 1st, 2008 from http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itgic/0801/ijge/ijge0801.htm

United States Drug Enforcement Agency. Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization. Retrieved August 1st, 2008 from http://www.dea.gov/demand/speakout/director.htm.

United States. The USA PATRIOT Act October 24, 2001.  Retrieved August 2nd, 2008 from            http://epic.org/privacy/terrorism/hr3162.pdf

Wagley John R. (2006) Transnational Organized Crime: Principal Threats and U.S. Responses.  CRS Report for Congress, March 20th, 2006. Retrieved August 1st, 2008 from        http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33335.pdf

[1]              Money laundering is any act or attempted act that disguises the identity of proceeds obtained through unlawful means, to come up with an apparent view that the acquisition was proper. This definition was adopted by INTERPOL General Assembly in 1995. Source: http://www.interpol.int/Public/FinancialCrime/MoneyLaundering/default.asp

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