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Column 092412 Brewer

Monday, September 24, 2012

Organized Crime and Other Threats to the Western Hemisphere

By Jerry Brewer

The true tyranny of transnational organized crime in Mexico and Central America rests in the geographical paradox of neighbor nations, lying between the leading drug consumption markets and the largest drug producers.

Border security between these linked routes faces the unrealistic ambitions of impacting and curbing drug trafficking, transnational gangs, the illegal proliferation of weapons, and decentralized cells of terrorism without establishing new, and strengthening existing, foreign intelligence relationships to meet the increasing security challenges.

This joint fight against these transnational organized crime threats requires a coordinated and unprecedented engagement that not only disrupts their criminal operational acts, but serves in institutionalizing the rule of law.  Not an easy task, but necessary in achieving much needed 21st-century border initiatives that build mutual trust and systematically work to prevent and interdict contraband and the human trafficking criminal elements.

Effective border security is much more. The threats faced by the nations within the vast choke point between Panama and the U.S. increasingly and overwhelmingly cross international boundaries. While preventing the illegal movement of goods and people across mutual borders, there must also be a concentrated effort of encouraging and nurturing lawful cross-border trade and travel between the countries while disarming criminal operational capabilities, money laundering, the trafficking in arms and other crimes.

Existing and emerging national security priorities must include the elimination of antiquated and redundant tactics and initiatives that add little value to proactive result oriented strategies.  A strong unity of purpose between those nations in harm's way could go a long way in eventually restructuring former embattled towns and cities ravaged by violent crime, and building resilient communities along the blood-laced routes.

Just how does a nation position itself to be strategic and proactive in the face of violent adversity? One key ingredient to potential success and overcoming previous obstacles is to properly assess threat, both short and long range. Preventing insurgency, aggression and other forms of transnational interference requires sound counterintelligence capabilities.

Efforts to predict and interdict threats to national security necessitate the ability to develop innovative ways to penetrate and analyze the most difficult targets.  Counterintelligence anticipates developments of strategic concern and identifies the vulnerabilities -- as well as the opportunities for government policymakers to strategically plan for successful intervention.

When a viable principal target or organization has been identified, intelligence has already identified its inherent characteristics. Operational plans are then constructed, and teams selected to strike. The end result should be that the criminal organization is not merely pruned so it can strengthen and come back stronger later, but completely uprooted and eliminated so that organization will never prosper again.

As in the case of narcotrafficking, it is said that you can't put narcotics in prison -- the problem is people.

The successes of the U.S. Southern Command and related drug enforcement operators in Latin America are well-documented. As well, Panama, Colombia and Peru recognized the critical need to fight narcotrafficking and terrorism, and quickly expressed interest in alliances with U.S. efforts. The success of Colombia against the FARC guerrillas, as well as Mexico's valiant fight against its narcoterrorist organized criminals has also included U.S. support and assistance.

Building an integrated intelligence capability to address threats to the various homelands within this hemisphere, as well as establishing enforcement operating locations throughout the operational theater, are paramount to  security and justice institutions with detailed emphasis on protecting human rights, increasing transparency and accountability of public institutions, fighting corruption, and enhancing training for law enforcement personnel.

Even with conscientious efforts at coordination, others have noted that fundamental differences remain between matters of law and of national interest in a world of sovereign nation states. Enforcement of international law and the extraterritorial application of U.S. law can be vigorously and, at times, effectively resisted by other countries. The need to adapt U.S. responses to transnational threats in specific situations can also undermine respect for law by making enforcement appear inequitable.

Countering these criminal insurgents will require the collaborative efforts of intelligence, law enforcement and strategic military assistance. These combined efforts are inherently necessary using a plethora and blend of capabilities that include science and electronics, the judicial process, and the requisite amount of armament/weapons to effectuate superior control over the resistant forces and weapons being used against them. 

Taking control of the violent insurgency that has tested the northern cone nations of Central American nations and Mexico to the point of near failed state status for some has required U.S. technical and financial assistance. It also came with harsh admonitions from some to respect their sovereignty.

Tracking, capturing and prosecuting violators within this operational theater is extremely complex for all intelligence and enforcement operators, a dilemma due in part to local policing capability failures and corruption, as well as destroyed judicial processes. However, the threat to all within this path of destruction remains strong and requires extreme vigilance.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

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