1995 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

Great Seal Robert S. Gelbard, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Statement Before the House Committee on International Relations
Washington, DC, December 7, 1995


Fighting Transnational Crime
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee: Our foreign law enforcement, democracy and broad rule of law programs all work together on a continuum. They are integral to the success of every foreign policy objective we have set for ourselves. This is because solid judicial and law enforcement systems--which operate effectively and enjoy public confidence--are basic to advancing the growth in democracy we have seen and are supporting around the world. The President has been emphatic about the Administration's determination to counter international criminal elements which undermine our goals. As he said at the United Nations when he announced his international crime initiative, "Nowhere is cooperation more vital than in fighting the increasingly interconnected groups that traffic in terror, organized crime and drug smuggling."

The Administration departments and agencies represented at this table each play an important role in our endeavors, as are numerous other federal organizations not present. This is testament to the enormity of the task we face and the complexity of the policies and activities we have undertaken to achieve our goals. The importance of what we are trying to do is immeasurably heightened for reasons that are perfectly clear. The nations of the world are no longer divided into two basic camps. Each day our world becomes more interdependent and we now face universal threats to our peace and security.

The growing phenomenon of transnational crime is a trend which, unchecked, can destroy the many remarkable advances around the world. International criminal elements corrupt emerging democracies, free-market economies and our citizens' security. We need urgently to work with the international community to stop the advance of the criminal underground. Nowhere has this been more apparent to me than in Russia, one of my stops on a two-week trip to that part of the world from which I recently returned.

Since we last met with this committee on this important subject, the Administration has worked hard to develop policies and programs to attack the international criminal networks which directly affect the health and well being of all Americans. Further, we have worked hard to do this in a manner that furthers our fundamental interests in fostering the rule of law abroad. The effort involves many people and organizations and there are growing pains. Indeed, our systems are not perfect. However, the will is there and the goals of the various institutions are the same. As each day passes, we have a better idea of what we're dealing with and our track record shows the ability for fast, flexible responses to lightning-speed political developments. And we can point to concrete achievements.

Our umbrella strategy against international crime contains political and programmatic tactics involving a wide variety of initiatives. To foster a universal approach in the foreign policy context, the Secretary of State two years ago broadened the scope of my Bureau to include coordination of overseas law enforcement activities through the creation of the Office of International Criminal Justice. Since then, we have undertaken a wide range of anti-crime initiatives. Some of them are far-reaching and require considerable time for execution. Others we have been able to effect quickly in response to immediate foreign policy objectives.

As we continue our efforts in this important arena, we have discovered that much of the work we have carried out against major drug traffickers and their money laundering operations is entirely applicable to combating transnational crime. This is true whether we consider strategies, political pressures, training and technical assistance, or provision of equipment. Ultimately, institution building is key; we have seen this in Colombia. I dare say progress in Colombia in bringing down top traffickers would not have been possible were it not for the considerable strengthening we have fostered in Colombia's law enforcement and judicial organizations. Certain safeguards have helped to ensure, in the Colombian model, that police training supports our broader human rights, rule of law and democracy objectives. The flexibility to train police--in keeping with our other foreign policy objectives--is central to our ability to attack transnational crime.

Anti-Crime Training Initiative
We learned from our experience with international narcotics control that one of the most effective ways to get immediate results is to provide law enforcement training in the most threatened countries where we are able to conduct programs. In this way, we achieve two primary tangible benefits. First, trustworthy links are established between U.S. and foreign law enforcement entities that help roll back organized crime's move into the United States. Second, improved foreign law enforcement expertise heightens national ability to control organized crime and specific major crime problems that negatively affect the growth of free markets and democracy.

Under the Administration's rule of law and democracy initiative, we have targeted Russia, the New Independent States, and Central Europe for law enforcement training. Indeed, we consider this effort essential to these new nations' first line of defense against corrupting influences. Further, we have worked closely not only with federal law enforcement agencies in an interagency working group, but also with the Department of Justice and AID, to coordinate these programs. In 1995, the law enforcement effort involved some $20 million in Freedom Support and SEED Act funds.

I would like to share with this committee some remarkable statistics. In the last 12 months, our single-minded efforts in collaboration with dedicated colleagues in the various Justice and Treasury agencies have resulted in the delivery of over 120 training programs for more than 4,000 law enforcement officers.

These courses, conducted by the FBI; DEA; Secret Service; Customs; Treasury's FINCEN, IRS, ATF, FLETC; and ICITAP, have ranged from combating white collar crimes and financial institution fraud to drug enforcement seminars and basic law enforcement techniques. All of them are conducted in the spirit of democratic and community-based policing. Students from all over Central Europe and the NIS have studied, mostly in two-week seminars, in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Omsk, Warsaw, Prague, Vilnius, Riga, Tbilisi and other far-flung places. In our country, their travels for course work have ranged from Quantico, Virginia, to Glynco, Georgia, to gain the fundamental knowledge they need to confront the criminal threat at home.

We are achieving momentum in the law enforcement training program and expansion of the effort has been closely linked to our rule of law programs. Most important, the instruction on combating transnational criminal activity calls immediate attention to the need for criminal law reform in the region. There can, after all, be no seizures of criminal assets if there are no asset forfeiture laws. Nor can we prosecute smugglers when possession of narcotics and nuclear materials is perfectly legal.

The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), now operational in Budapest, is a central component of our program. Mr. Chairman, I encourage members of this Committee to see the Academy for themselves, first-hand. Since the initial classes got underway only six months ago, ILEA is now a fully functioning institution. It is a truly international school with increasing support from our European allies. With an expected annual graduation of some 250 mid-level law enforcement officers, its eventual influence in support of U.S. and international police work should not be underestimated. The return on our relatively small investment--roughly $3 million this year--holds significant promise.

Rapid Responses to Criminal Threats
More than ever before, we must act quickly to counter the nearly instantaneous threats that undermine our foreign policy goals. The perpetrators of organized crime, ever opportunistic, are only too ready to work political events to their advantage. Haiti is perhaps a classic example. While permanent democracy in Haiti is perhaps still a vision, I believe that the international effort mounted to establish a secure environment respectful of fundamental human rights has laid the important groundwork for its ultimate achievement.

The rapid installation of some 1,000 police monitors and support staff from 20 different countries, followed by speedy training in collaboration with our Justice Department to start up the new National Haitian Police Force, were essential elements in the overall effort. Crime, of course, has not been eradicated in Haiti, but law enforcement in the country, based on community policing and the protection of human rights, is making important strides. Certainly, our experience in Haiti prepares us with the international community to confront similar situations in other parts of the world.

The Administration is honing its ability to respond to other transnational crime that threatens the security of our own and other nations. With the Immigration and Naturalization Service, for example, we are working to develop new programs to counter the destabilizing influences of international alien smuggling, which the President calls "the traffic in human misery." This global, criminal activity pays handsomely for highly organized groups that earn billions with relatively little risk of detection or punishment. On a bilateral and multilateral basis, we are working to secure new laws that criminalize alien smuggling which, remarkably, is still not a crime in most countries. We have reports of literally thousands of illegal aliens all over the world, most of them apparently "warehoused" by the smugglers for eventual delivery to the U.S. These include as many as 60,000 Chinese illegally in Moscow and innumerable Asians presently located at various spots throughout Latin America.

Similarly, we have responded concretely to criminal activity that directly affects American business. Each year, thousands of cars stolen from the U.S. wind up in Central America. With the support of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), we have undertaken initiatives designed to halt this thievery, which causes astronomical losses for ordinary Americans. Special treaties designed to help recover stolen vehicles have been signed with seven Central American countries, and new FBI-designed training programs for stolen car investigations are underway for local law enforcement officials in Latin America. The NICB considers the training so critical that it is helping to underwrite a portion of it.

The Crime Initiative
I would like to turn for a moment to the President's new Crime Initiative. The new Presidential Directive, made public at the UN, is important because it reinforces our mandate for combating transnational crime. Moreover, it clearly establishes the principle that fighting crime is not just a domestic or internal matter. Taken as a whole, the initiative provides a comprehensive policy framework for combating this growing threat to our national security.

Key to this framework is the Executive Order under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) aimed at ending the scourge that major narcotics traffickers centered in Colombia have wrought in the United States and beyond. The IEEPA Executive Order is designed to deny such traffickers the benefit of assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and to prevent U.S. persons from engaging in commercial and financial dealings with them. The money laundering initiative instructs the Secretaries of State and Treasury and the Attorney General to identify the nations that are most egregious in facilitating criminal money laundering and press them to enter into bilateral or multilateral arrangements to conform to international standards against money laundering or face possible sanctions.

On the legislative side, the President also instructed the Administration to prepare a comprehensive legislative package to enable law enforcement authorities to better investigate and prosecute international criminals. The Administration will also seek appropriate authorities for U.S. agencies to provide additional training and other assistance to friendly governments to help in their own efforts to combat international crime. Finally, the President called for the negotiation of a universal Declaration on Citizens' Security which is also intended to focus on the nexus of issues related to crime and narcotics such as terrorism and the illegal trafficking of arms and deadly materials.

Working With the International Community
In accord with the crime initiative, we are also working through traditional bilateral relationships as well as the web of international organizations to advance our counter-crime policies and programs. Recently, we pushed the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to adopt a more practical focus, especially in terms of helping countries to update outdated criminal codes. Likewise, the 28-member international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has succeeded in upgrading financial crimes, especially money laundering, as a foreign policy concern throughout the world. The Administration's directions within the FATF are specifically designed to intensify the risks for money launderers, particularly through anti-money laundering regulations and enforcement.

I cannot overstate the importance of our European partners in these endeavors, particularly to the emerging institutions of the European Union. Our European friends have the institutional strength and technical expertise to play a leadership role in helping those countries at greatest risk, and we are working with them to fulfill our international obligations.

We are close to reaching consensus on the new U.S.-EU Transatlantic Agenda, which includes responding to the global challenges of organized crime, narcotics trafficking, immigration and asylum. Moreover, we are using the Working Group on Transnational Organized Crime, announced at the G-7 Summit in Halifax, to advance the international anti-crime agenda. The G-7 group is a particularly good venue to advance the President's Universal Declaration on Citizens' Security, as envisioned in the President's crime initiative. At the meeting of the working group in Ottawa last week we tabled 20 different multilateral initiatives aimed at getting countries to work together against international crime. These innovative proposals cover everything from financial crimes and illegal firearms trafficking to counterfeiting, extradition, mutual legal assistance, asset forfeiture, and smuggling of illegal immigrants.

In this hemisphere, the Summit of the Americas is emerging as an important multilateral forum to counter crime. Just a few days ago in Buenos Aires, a ministerial meeting on money laundering, one of 23 major Summit of the Americas initiatives, considered new hemispheric measures designed to counter financial crime, which has emerged as a tremendous threat to our political, economic and social well being. We expect that the involvement of well-established institutions, such as the OAS, will be an important part of this initiative.

The Road Ahead
Transnational crime threatens advances around the world and our own way of life. The American people know it. Public opinion polls show that 95% of Americans consider crime a critical national issue. The Russians, Hungarians, and Poles I met earlier during my trip last month also understand how crime undermines the gains they have made in freedoms, and honest men and women are willing to do whatever it takes to stop it. We owe it to ourselves and our children to help them. And we can do it with thoughtful and well-coordinated programs that make careful use of our resources.

We can't entirely rid ourselves of transnational crime, but we can minimize its effects. It is true that international criminals have great power in the form of money and weapons for corruption and intimidation, but the citizens and governments working against them have an even greater advantage. We have the political will and the moral authority to expose and isolate the perpetrators. We have the power to deny criminals, and their profits, a safehaven by pursuing good governance strategies and enforcing established international rule of law standards. There are no quick or easy solutions, but I am sure that if we fight transnational crime on every front we can reduce it until it no longer poses a serious threat to our security or that of the world.

[end of document]