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Differences Between Terrorism And Organized Crime Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3233 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In this assignment, we will be analysing both security issues of terrorism and organized crime as national and international security threats. Terrorism and organised crime, both two different forms of criminal activity and an equal threat to human security. It is important that establish the precise definition of both these activities, so we can categorically differentiate each act committed.

The definition of organized crime is widely debated term. Organized crime is generally focused mainly on economic profit, acquiring material benefits and obtaining as much of an illegal market share as possible, by the use of serious crimes such as Drug trafficking, fraud, violence etc. (Baylis J and Smith S (2001) p480-481)

Whilst terrorism motivated chiefly by ideological aims and by a desire for political change, by the use of violence, in the form of hijacking, bombing and other indistrimintory acts. We can already see the difference, by looking at the definition. However as we do develop detail’s of the differences between these criminal activities, it is also important to analyse the similarities.

(Collins, A (2007) p352-353)

Both Organized crime and Terrorism differ in motivation and objective. In Shelley, L and Picarelli, JT (2002), states “Yet, while the crimes committed by these two groups don’t differ in substance, they differ in motive.”

Terrorists are in essentially political groups; even if they are inspired by religious fundamentalism, their behaviour is designed to bring about political change.

While organized crime groups conduct profit-driven criminal activities, through the use illicit and illegal means.

Another interesting point, in which they both differ, mentioned by Schmid, A (2005) is “Terrorist groups usually seek media attention; organized crime groups do not,” Criminal organisation, do not directly attack infastrurer or indiscriminately attack normal citizens, like terrorism does, however there doing’s bring harm to those involved and create fear amongst people surrounded by there illegal activities. Therefore the magnitude of attack will be confined to small, domestic and under the radar attacks, whilst with terrorism when it blows ups, it is instant and devastating in its impact.

Williams, P(2005)

I believe that a criminal is not concerned with influencing or affecting public opinion; he simply wants to earn money in the quickest, easiest and most efficient way possible. Whilst, the essential aim of the terrorist’s violence is eventually to change the political system , about which the organised criminals, couldn’t care less.

However in some cases this is not true, Shelley, L and Picarelli, JT(2002) go on to discuss about organised criminals that “direct contact with the political system and politicians who they seek to influence for their own goals.” Phil Williams and Ernesto Savona (1995) gives us a excellent example that Colombian drug cartels and the Italian Mafia were both using terrorist attacks against the state and its representatives for four different reasons, disrupt investigations; to deter the introduction or continuation of vigorous government policies; to eliminate effective law enforcement officials, to coerce judges into more lenient sentencing policies. I believe fundamental is to create an environment more appealing to criminal activity.

But this only can occur in weak countries, where the government is weak, which we will discuss later in the essay.

Björnehed, E(2004) concludes that based on their objectives they “Constitute quite different types of security threats with regard to magnitude of attack, choice of target and weapons.”

In summary they both have a common enemy, and that is the state in general and in particular its law enforcement agencies. Both types of criminals function in secrecy, in the underworld, and they use the same or similar infrastructures for their activities and the same networks of corruption. Both use the same type of tactics: they engage in cross-border smuggling, money laundering, counterfeiting, kidnapping, extortion and various kinds of violence.

“Narco-Terrorism,” was the first identification of the link between Terrorism and organized crime. This discovery began in the 1980s when it was found that drug trafficking was also used to advance the political objectives of certain governments and terrorist organizations, “the attempts of narcotics traffickers to influence the policies of government by the systematic threat or use of violence”

Björnehed, E(2004)

Since then, much stronger and broader statements have been made, especially in Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) wherein the Council “Notes with concern the close connection between international terrorism and transnational organized crime, illicit drugs, money-laundering, illegal arms-trafficking, and illegal movement of nuclear, chemical, biological and other potentially deadly materials.…”

Björnehed, E(2004)

Emma Bjornehead has written a whole chapter on this topic because it is a relatively new phenomena and I believe it is relevant to this composition because it shows that Terrorism and Criminal activity have found a common ground.

Various authors keep referring to more or less the same examples, where this new phenomena is occurring. For example Hezbollah engaged in criminal schemes, such as cigarette smuggling, counterfeiting. Al-Qaeda cells in Europe conducting credit card fraud. We see it domestically happening in countries such as Colombia and Afghanistan where opium produces are funding Taliban, to carry out there war against US forces.

Williams, P(2005) describes terrorist, using criminal organisation methods to raise funds for their activities as very dangerous. This reliance between each other makes it difficult and a bigger domestic and international security threat because they can share their tangible and intangible resources, to achieve their objectives.

Giraldo, J and Trinkunas (2005) puts simple. They try to uncover whether it is a strategic alliance formed by these group, or is it simple “marriages of convenience.”

“For example, the language school that provided some visas for the 9/11 hijackers are also reported to have provided visas for prostitutes of a human trafficking ring.”

This indicates sharing networks, each could complement each other therefore making it easier to carry out objectives.

An intelligence analyst even describes it as ‘criminal service providers.’ This means that both in criminal organisations, due to their established networks, act as service provider for terrorists, so they can carry out their terror activities.

Another good point made is that this increased self-reliance of terrorist networks makes criminal organisations difficult to detect, especially as they are both bound by secrecy.

The Madrid bombing are a great example,

“Future-occurred in Spain where members of a small but well-established

Moroccan drug trafficking organization led by Jamal Ahmidan, became radicalized and

were subsequently integrated into the cell that carried out the Madrid bombings. The contribution of the radicalized drug traffickers is difficult to overestimate: they provided the finance, the logistics, the safe houses, and the connections that enabled the cell to acquire the explosives. Indeed, without their resources and expertise, it is unlikely that the attacks on the trains would have taken place, and certainly not on such a destructive scale.”

Williams, p(2009)

This example so shows that both organisations are sharing its man power and those criminals are venerable to being radicalized, like shown above. It can also be seen as method of attracting people with two personality types: one with strong political views, coupled with a desire to become wealthy.

In summary that they cross paths; give in to one another which make them reliant on each other. Organized crime can use the power tool of political crime to create the social and economic context that makes its profitable activities viable. Terrorists, on the other hand, need funding to push their own agendas.


Due to the coordination between the two, an integrated counter-terrorism and organised crime should be implemented, to dissolve the creation of a strengthen connection.

Law enforcement agencies have to approach this in a different angle because the traditional separate policing of organised crime and terrorism, do not apply. After 9/11, steps have been taken to increased cooperation between law enforcement and intelligence agencies that police domestic and international matters. I can see the huge benefits that increasing the cooperation can bring.

The sharing of information on both sources of threats enables governments to penetrate these secret groups and prevent crimes from being perpetrated. Also breaking down one criminal organisation, can lead to discovering other terrorist organisations at the same time, therefore increasing their leads.

However according to Bjornehead, E(2010) states that at times war on organised crime, in particular drugs, can sometimes undermine the war on terror. She one of many examples, that of Taliban and how a reduction is poppy field in Europe, increased the price of opium, which Taliban made huge gains, which is helped fund their terror organisations.

Questions need to be raised on which one is a bigger domestic threat, politicians may believe terrorism is a threat as they want direct change in governance and how that government acts, for example USA I believe has a stronger stance and policy on terrorism, rather than organised crimes. Whilst organised crimes haven’t got a direct objective against the political system, it might be the case that for individual’s in society that due to its hidden, secretive nature that “criminal organizations themselves, pose a threat to society that goes far beyond the harm posed by the profit-driven crimes they commit.”

Collins, A (2007)

We can also see this in a poll in an 11 countries that was conducted showing that what people feared, and the highest was Criminal activities with 27%, whilst terrorism was third with 15%.

Human security centre (2005)

There a continuous argument in US about what poses a bigger threat US security. Recent Barack Obama states that “The single biggest threat to US security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organisation obtaining a nuclear weapon.” However In a many recently, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), recent stated that “Drug-related crime biggest threat to public safety in the Americas.” This is also backed up by Retiring CIA chief Michael Hayden “Mexico could rank alongside Iran as a challenge for Obama perhaps a greater problem than Iraq.”

UN news centre(2008)

I believe this could be due to drug cartels domince in Mexico, and due it the geography and globalization; it has been spilled in the street of US.

Williams, P, (2008)

Another difference is Terrorism is a bigger point of discussion in the wider world due to the fact that they seek media attention and not shy to hide its terror activities,

Whilst Organized crime is very secretive and behind closed doors. Hence why it is people may perceive it to be a bigger threat.

After the post cold war era, there was a huge shift from in national security threats, from communism, to terrorism and organised crime. What the fall of communism did, was not only did it leave eastern countries, lawless and poor, it left it venerable to radical ideologies and organised crime, including what we call ‘globalization.’

I also believe that ideological terrorism has severely since the cold war, and a new breed of ethnic and religious inspired terrorism.

Collins, A (2007) p356

I a published paper by Stephens, M (1996) on globalized crime, and describes why organised crime was on the rise after the Cold war era and in summary; “Post-Cold War opportunities such as the lowering of economic and political barriers; the end of communist regimes and the founding of fragile new democracies.”

Stephens, M(1996)

A Report Prepared by the Federal Research Division,Library of Congress(2003) discusses areas on the world that are venerable to organised crime and terrorism, and states that in reference the “In the former Soviet states, progress toward the rule of law has been hindered by the sudden disappearance of national authority (the Soviet state) in areas having no individual tradition of state authority or civil society but having very well developed traditions of underground criminal activity.”

Federal Research Division(2003)

Both types of organizations lean to enlist the majority of their members from the same pool of an insignificant sector of the population, which are subject to social, cultural or political frustration.

This is backed up by Rosenau(1990), Galleotti (2001), Cusimano-Love (2003),

and Castells (2000) who have compared transnational crime and terrorism as malicious non-state actors that take advantage of failures in the state-centric global system, such as the limitations of sovereignty, legal jurisdictional boundaries and the opportunities that failed or weak states create for safe havens.

As much as globalization ha s been beneficial for many nation states, it has also been disastrous in reference to Organised crime and terrorism, which Williams, p(2002) describes as a “motivator and facilitator.”, opening a way for transnational activity. In this era of accelerated global interaction, transnational organized crime and international terrorism are flourishing.

In Baylis, J and smith, s(2005), James D kiras writes has a whole chapter dedicated towards to Terrorism and globalisation, he writes “the technology and processes linked with globalization have enabled terrorism to grow from regional phenomenon, into a global one.”

He also mean’s that the use of Globalization has also lead to changes in the means of conducting terrorism and organised crime. For example in Freedman (2002) ” Prior to 11 September 2001 most acts of terrorism had depended on the conventional explosives.” And then compares it to current situation where “the ability to mount simultaneous attacks, commitment and choice targets,” “using aircraft as guided missiles.” I believe that globalisation has a part to play in this change because it has opened up the world. The borders have faded or are no longer as well guarded, the market is globalized, financial and commercial mergers and the deregulation of state intervention provide new opportunities, and communication technology is presenting unexpected innovative technological possibilities.

I also believe globalization has spread national crime to international organised crime because large-scale migration across the globe has created new emigrant refugee communities that can serve as recruitment bases and as hiding places, especially as they live a poor lifestyle, they have no alternatives, apart from turning to crime.

Organised crime actors share the same objective as legal corporations in a sense that “In a increasingly global marketplace, illicit actors, like licit counterparts, take advantage of business opportunities wherever they occur.” For organised crime, going across borders, increases their wealth and profit just as it does for legal businesses, as they have new customers and can take advantage of infrastructure to cover their illegal activities.

An example used in Collins, A (2007) was after the creation of North American free trade area, trade grew in the billions, and however it was this area, thrived in reference to aid smuggling of illegal goods and drugs.

There have been political and economic developments have brought terrorism and organized crime together. There are also clear structural similarities that would appear to make alliance beneficial for both of them and I believe that it is case of ‘marriage of convenience,’ rather than ‘long term strategic alliance’.

Collins, A (2007p 361)

It is becoming a huge aspect of security, that both organised crime and terrorism are flourishing over one another, and in particular terrorist groups are rely on crime to fund their operation, and criminal expertise is become available to terrorist groups. I believe that in this day of age, where the world become evermore globalized, any security threat that is national, ends up spilling over the borders, and becoming a international problem.

Schmid, A(2005) Links between Terrorism and Drug Trafficking: A Case of “Narco-terrorism”?

Galleotti, M. (2001) ‘Underworld and Upperworld: Transnational Organized Crime and Global Society’, In Josselin, D. and Wallace W. (Eds.). Non-State Actors in World Politics, Palgrave: New York, pp. 203-17.

Ciment, JD and Shanty FG(2008) Organized Crime: From Trafficking to Terrorism, Volume 1, ABC-Clio, Califonia

Berry, V. et al(2003) “Nations hospitable to organized crime and terrorism”[online] Available from: http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/Nats_Hospitable.pdf [Accessed May 2010].

Shelley, L and Picarelli (2001) “Methods Not motives: Implications of the convergence of international organized crime and terrorism” [online] Available from: http://www.law.syr.edu/Pdfs/0methods_motives.pdf.[Accessed May 2010]

Stephens, Mora(1996) “Global organized crime as the threat to national security” [online] Available from: http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/snyder/globalcrime.htm. .[Accessed May 2010]

Williams, P(2009) “Strategy for a New World: Combating Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime.” In Balyis, J(eds.) Chapter 9

Bibes, P(2001) “Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism.”Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, Vol. 17, Sage Publications

Björnehed, Emma(2004) ‘Narco-Terrorism: The Merger of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror’, Global Crime, 6: 3, 305 – 324, Routledge, London

Kiras, JD(2001) ‘Terrorism and Globalization.’ In Baylis, J and Smith, S(eds.) The Globalization of work politics: An introduction to IR, Chapter 21, Oxford, Oxford university press.

Lutz, B and Lutz, J(2007) ‘Terrorism.’ In Collins, A (eds.) Contemporary security studies, 2nd edtion, chapter 20, Oxford, Oxford University press.

Lutz, B and Lutz, J(2007) ‘Transnational crime.’ In Collins, A (eds.) Contemporary security studies, 2nd edtion, chapter 25, Oxford, Oxford University press.


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