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Justice Dept. Attache -Rome

EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY (GS-905-15)
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ATTACHE – ROME, ITALY
OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (OIA)
CRIMINAL DIVISION
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
WASHINGTON, DC

VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT NUMBER: 10-CRM-DET-004
Closing Date: February 4, 2010


About the Position: The United States Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Office of International Affairs (OIA) is seeking an experienced attorney to be detailed as OIA’s representative in Italy stationed at the United States Embassy in Rome. The Attorney will work as a member of OIA’s European team responsible for extradition and mutual legal assistance requests between the U.S. and Italy, and will serve as the principal representative of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice in Italy, working directly with U.S. and Italian law enforcement authorities on issues related to criminal investigations and prosecutions, as well as supporting the Department in the formulation and execution of bilateral and multilateral criminal justice programs and policies.

Responsibilities and Opportunity Offered: The responsibilities of this position include:

· Developing and facilitating the execution of U.S.-Italian requests for extradition and legal assistance in criminal investigations and prosecutions, and resolving problems regarding those requests;

· Working directly with Italian judges, prosecutors and the most senior Italian law enforcement authorities on criminal investigations and prosecutions, and serving generally as liaison with those offices and federal, state and local prosecutors and police agencies in the U.S. to ensure the law enforcement interests of the United States and the Department of Justice are understood and given adequate consideration by Italian authorities;

· Serving as legal advisor to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement attaches and other U.S. law enforcement personnel stationed at the Embassy on operational and case-related issues, including the conduct of joint investigations with Italian authorities;

· Developing expertise in the criminal laws and procedures of Italy to assist U.S. authorities with questions on law enforcement matters, and assisting Italian authorities with questions regarding U.S. criminal laws and procedures, with the goal of achieving better coordination and cooperation through mutual understanding;

· Working closely with Embassy and senior Department of State (DOS) officials on international criminal maters, ranging from major organized crime and narcotics initiatives to terrorism and fraud cases, with a particular view towards clearly articulating the interests of the Department of Justice, and working toward effective integration of those interests with the policies and priorities of the Embassy and the Department of State;

· Representing the Department of Justice in multilateral fora on issues relating to law enforcement issues;

· Serving as liaison between and among the Office of International Affairs, senior representatives of the Italian Government, U.S. federal officials, and state and local agencies in connection with international criminal matters.

This appointment is for two years with the possibility of a one year extension and is expected to begin in the Summer of 2010.

Required Qualifications: Applicants must possess a J.D. degree, be duly licensed and authorized to practice as an attorney under the laws of a State, territory, or the District of Columbia, have at least five (5) years of post-J.D. legal experience, and be a current employee of the Department of Justice with significant experience in federal criminal prosecutions and international matters. Applicants should also have:

1. Significant experience in federal criminal cases involving international extradition and mutual legal assistance;
2. Significant experience dealing with complex legal and policy issues;
3. Working knowledge of federal and state judicial systems, prosecution, investigative and regulatory agencies;
4. Ability to establish and maintain harmonious relations with state and federal law enforcement agencies, representatives of foreign governments and the public;
5. Experience dealing with foreign governments and officials, and international organizations in law enforcement matters;
6. Understanding of, and ability to work within, US Missions abroad;
7. Familiarity with federal regulatory and investigatory agencies;
8. Ability to implement and effectively advocate Departmental policies on all matters relating to the assigned areas of responsibility;
9. Professional proficiency in the use of spoken and written Italian.

Travel: Routine travel as necessary.

Salary Information: The salary range is for a GS-15 position.

Location: Rome, Italy

Appropriate relocation and housing costs in Rome will be paid by the Department of Justice. If the individual selected is detailed from outside the Criminal Division, salary, benefits and travel costs will be reimbursed to the employing organization.

Submission Process and Deadlines: All interested attorneys should submit a resume to:

U.S. Department of Justice
Criminal Division, Office of International Affairs
1301 New York Ave., NW
John C. Keeney Building, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20530
Attn: Rome Attache Position

We encourage applications and resumes to be submitted by e-mail to Position, Rome on your DOJ Global Address Book, or Rome.Position@usdoj.gov Applications and Resumes may also be telefaxed to 202-514-0080. Submissions must be postmarked or received by February 4, 2010.

Internet Sites: This and other attorney vacancy announcements can be found at: http://www.justice.gov/oarm/attvacancies.html

For more information about the Criminal Division, visit the Criminal Division Web page at: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/

Department Policies: The U.S. Department of Justice is an Equal Opportunity/Reasonable Accommodation Employer. It is the policy of the Department to achieve a drug-free workplace, and the person selected will be required to pass a drug test to screen for illegal drug use. Employment is also contingent upon the satisfactory completion of a background investigation adjudicated by the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice welcomes and encourages applications from persons with physical and mental disabilities and will reasonably accommodate the needs of those persons. The Department is firmly committed to satisfying its affirmative obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to ensure that persons with disabilities have every opportunity to be hired and advanced on the basis of merit within the Department of Justice. This agency provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. If you need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application and hiring process, please notify the agency. Determinations on requests for accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Feds Nab Big Fish in Violent Colombian Cartel

Authorities nabbed a major fish in the drug war. The question is: Will it have any impact on cocaine traffic in the U.S.?

By CURT ANDERSON
AP Legal Affairs Writer
MIAMI — The reputed kingpin of a violent Colombian cartel blamed for smuggling cocaine worth $10 billion to the U.S. was flown aboard an FBI plane to Miami on Friday to face a 12-count federal indictment.
Diego “Don Diego” Montoya, described as the notorious head of the North Valley Cartel, could spend at least 20 years in prison if convicted on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, obstruction of justice and witness retaliation by murder.
Montoya, who did not yet have a U.S. lawyer following his extradition, was being held without bail awaiting an initial court appearance Monday.
Under Montoya’s leadership, the North Valley Cartel in the mid-1990s become Colombia’s dominant cocaine smuggling organization, taking over from the Cali cartel whose leaders also were prosecuted in Miami. At its height, North Valley controlled about 60 percent of Colombia’s cocaine trade, authorities said.
For Full Story

Other Stories of Interest

Federal Law Enforcement’s Goodwill Ambassadors

Arguably, the most important product America has to give to the third world nations and emerging democracies in a dangerous and volatile world is not foreign aid or preventive military action but support for the rule of law. Several hundred federal law enforcement officers and attorneys sacrifice personal security and the comforts of hearth and home to promote this objective.

The Lemisch family from the Detroit area was excited about their one-year adventure to Belgrade, Serbia where Dan would assume the duties of a Resident Legal Advisor attached to the U.S. embassy. Dan, an assistant U.S. Attorney, had previously served short term training assignments in Moscow, Siberia, Indonesia and Nigeria, and enjoyed the experience. But each member of the family made sacrifices for the move. Carol put her own legal career on hold and temporarily abandoned the comfortable suburban home she had decorated. The children, Ben and Sophie, left their friends and activities during important high school and middle school years. Dan not only gave up the possibility of promotion in the Detroit U. S. Attorney’s Office, but also handed off drug and money laundering cases he had worked for several years to prepare.

Still, all four arrived in Belgrade last January enthused about the experience to come. Their arrival occurred at a colossally inopportune time in U. S.-Serbian relations. One month after settling in, Serbian resentment over the U. S.-led recognition of the secessionist state of Kosovo, the ancestral heartland of Serbian Orthodoxy, boiled over as tens of thousands of outraged Serbs demonstrated outside the U. S. Embassy. Some of them stoned the building, broke in and set it afire, as Serbian authorities watched. No Americans were hurt, but families and non-essential Embassy personnel were evacuated from the country. Dan’s family was ordered to return to Michigan while he remained in Belgrade to begin his duties under inauspicious circumstances.

Surprisingly, however, Dan found the Serb judges, prosecutors and police officers both friendly and receptive to his efforts. Most of his time has been spent as an instructor for various groups who are in the process of reforming the Serbian justice system. Their efforts are key to the eight-year struggle in Serbia between the forces of virulent, pro-Russian nationalism and the country’s democratic transformation, which could lead to membership in the European Union and ties to the West. Fortunately, the latter seem to be winning.

Dan copes with the separation from his family by keeping a busy  schedule. He helped a working group of police and attorneys draft Serbia’s first asset forfeiture law, which passed the Parliament in late October. His unique contribution was a provision for administrative forfeiture, a method of avoiding court hearings on non-contested assets. This addition to the law should save hundreds of hours of already scarce court time. His office also helped create a regional witness protection program for Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria where each country has the ability to hide its protected witnesses in the others. Dan recently traveled to Albania to assist the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutors Office, which is investigating the 1999 kidnapping of 300 Kosovar Serbs who were imprisoned, tortured and whose organs were allegedly harvested and sold in Western Europe. Despite the political sensitivity of this case to Albania, he and the Tirana RLA were able to broker a productive meeting between Serbian prosecutors and the Albanian Ministry of Justice to facilitate the investigation.

American concepts of justice are often foreign in Serbia, as in many “civil law” countries. For example, their criminal law recognizes no burden of proof. Nor do the prosecutor and case agent have the opportunity to organize its evidence and present a case. These tasks at the heart of American jurisprudence are, instead, the province of the court itself.

Much has been accomplished this past year by Dan and the other members of the RLA staff in Belgrade. Perhaps the most important of these has been the good will which has developed with the attorneys and police of both nations. In a time when American popularity abroad is said to be at an all time low, these rank and file professionals are forging relationships which are helping to reverse this trend.

Dan isn’t the only one helping from the Detroit area. In fact, at a time when the world questions its ability to provide cars, Detroit continues its longtime tradition in supplying international law enforcement trainers. Former U. S. Attorney Steve Markman made repeated trips to the Ukraine Republic to help its founding fathers draft a new constitution. DEA Country Attaché George Papadopoulos, using Athens as a base, travels throughout the Balkans with not only enforcement support for those countries but also training sessions on undercover work, financial investigation, intelligence gathering, and other tools of American federal agencies. AUSA and Drug Unit Chief Kathy McCarthy just returned from a trip to Belgrade where she participated in a seminar on the ins and outs of money laundering prosecutions. DEA agent Ed Donovan went to the same site with a team of lawyers and agents to present a program on cooperating witnesses. These missions sometimes provide cultural experiences out of the Americans’ comfort zones.

Former Detroit DEA agent John Graetz spent four years supporting Brazil’s law enforcement and two more as an international training supervisor. In a trip to Kazakhstan where he and other agents presented a drug enforcement school, the regional Kazakh leader planned an all-day wild mountain goat hunt to celebrate the occasion. After much traipsing in the cold mountain air, a magnificent goat was killed and grilled at an outdoor feast held in the Americans’ honor. Following many vodka toasts and declarations of good will, the Kazakh leader presented John with a bowl containing the delicacy of the roasted animal. With everyone watching, John looked into the bowl to find two reproachful goat eyes staring up at him.  Not wishing to offend, he swallowed one eyeball whole, palmed the other one and much celebratory gunfire ensued.

Like Detroit, many other American cities and agencies contribute international trainers to help build law enforcement capabilities. The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center sponsors training sessions in Glynco, Georgia as well as overseas for foreign law enforcement officers. The International Law Enforcement Academy, formed in 1994 under the leadership of the FBI, now has centers in Bangkok, Budapest, Gabarone, and San Salvador. These centers provide up to 5 eight-week sessions a year for thousands of international police in such subjects as financial management, human rights, ethics, and rule of law. Instructors from FBI, DEA, Secret Service, ATF, IRS, the State Department, Department of Energy, and Homeland Security, as well as other countries, lead sessions on their areas of expertise.

A third U. S. program is the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program. Created in 1986, this DOJ-State Department program is located in 17 field offices and serves 45 countries. The 168 trainers in the field, as well as several hundred contract law enforcement personnel, organized 1117 training events involving 82,911 foreign participants this year. ICITAP provides a comprehensive program of public safety training and assistance for foreign law enforcement officers. Perhaps the most dangerous and important of these projects involve the deployment of attorneys and agents to Afghanistan and Iraq. About 300 federal employees spend up to one year in the danger zones serving as mentors and trainers forthe new generation of law enforcement in those countries who are building a criminal justice system from the ground up.

Before peace and freedom comes security. These American ambassadors sacrifice attending their children’s soccer games and the comforts of home to provide, inch by inch, progress on the rule of law to developing nations, something it has taken ten centuries of Anglo-American tradition to achieve.

Obama Needs To Fix Shortcomings of Dept. of Homeland Security

In these exciting transition times after the election it is good sport to speculate on what might be coming with the new President’s government. Already there is buzz about another New Deal. That may be a good thing when you consider the problems facing Federal law enforcement. The net result of years of mission creep and unfunded mandates has left its mark on Federal law enforcement. The old complaint about having more mission than people has never been truer.

The creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in the wake of 9/11/01 was a shock to the system from which Federal law enforcement has yet to recover. In creating DHS, the Bush Administration combined the failed managements of Treasury’s Customs Service and Justice’s Immigration and Naturalization Service. Consequently, the DHS succeeded in creating an agency that has yet to find a coherent identity. Another “Fed Frankenstein” is Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The media is full of stories from this DHS quadrant, particularly about the shortcomings of the Air Marshal’s Service and the airport screeners.

Perhaps the Obama Administration “New Deal” might provide some relief here. Its transition teams should make certain no good budget dollars follow bad ones and management fixes internal control weaknesses in these organizations. A top to bottom analysis of DHS should determine a new strategic plan to bind this cabinet department together. Some agency pieces may need to be jettisoned or returned to other Executive Branch departments. The DHS needs to have a common sense organization that benefits the Nation rather than the bureaucratic lash up of today. A litmus test for the transition team is to review the DHS of today against the findings of the 9/11 Commission and determine if there are still homeland security gaps to be filled.

Some effort must be focused on the DHS mission. The schizophrenic Immigration enforcement laws and regulations need to be addressed. These laws need to be free from political manipulation and grounded in fairness and uniformity, particularly when it comes to the protection of the border.

Perhaps the national service idea (besides Armed Forces duty) that President-elect Obama articulated during the campaign as a way for young citizens to earn college tuition credit might include helping fulfill some of the broad mission of DHS. In any case, DHS is definitely a place for a “New Deal.”

Strong Writing And Good Grammar Can Make The Difference In Job Hunt

This week I’m sharing some thoughts from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) International Conference held in Detroit. I was very impressed with the keynote address given by automotive legend Bob Lutz, currently the Vice Chairman of Global Product Development for General Motors. Lutz returned to GM in 2001 to instill some passion back into the company after a period of producing what Lutz calls “bland cars”. This guy gets the value of communications. He is 67-years old and writes a blog called “GM’s Fastlane Blog”. Check it out. (http://fastlane.gmblogs.com) He told an audience of communications professionals that he sees the corporate blog as an opportunity to have a real dialogue with customers and to put GM’s message out to the public “unfiltered”. He likes the immediacy of the blog and the fact that it gives him an opportunity to skewer the media when they get it wrong.
Speaking of media, Lutz says communications professionals should view the media as an opportunity, not an obstacle. As a former reporter, I love hearing that. Lutz believes building relationships with key media is important, and you do that by listening carefully, avoiding condescension, and just being straight with them. Reporters are trained to view public relation professionals with skepticism. And they’ve had plenty of experiences to support the idea that a corporate press release is just spin.
Lutz paused during his speech to address a concern felt by many in the business community, including myself. “Allow me to take a minute to get on my soapbox and say that the general state of writing in the professional world is deplorable. And e-mail and text messaging aren’t helping any,” said Lutz. How many times have you seen the phrase, “sneak peek”, spelled “p-e-A-k”? Is that a clandestine mountain? Or seen the word ‘attain’ when it should be ‘OB-tain’? Lutz added, “Those who can express themselves precisely and effectively have a huge advantage over those who can’t. Period. And if you can go one step further and make it precise, effective and interesting, you really have something. Success inevitably follows.”
I couldn’t agree more. My firm, The Repovich Reynolds Group specializes in finding exceptional talent for corporations worldwide, in the core functions of communications, marketing, investor relations and finance. There’s my marketing plug. Unfortunately, Lutz’ criticism of the marketplace is accurate and ubiquitous. I see too many communications professionals with poor writing skills. Recently, I was hired to find a Director of Communications for a Fortune 1000 company. The lead candidate completed two rounds of interviews with executives, psychological testing, and a face-to-face meeting with the CEO. The company was ready to make an offer, pending the outcome of a writing test. The candidate failed. Careless writing errors cost the candidate the job. In this world of instant communications, where everyone has a megaphone; strong writing, accurate spelling and grammar still matter and can make the difference in your next job opportunity.

A Letter To The President-elect About Federal Law Enforcement

Dear President-elect Obama,

Congratulations on your election by the American people to be their Chief Executive. Now comes the hard part.

I write this letter to provide some unsolicited advice about one of your most important duties, the enforcement of federal law. Neither you nor your opponent said much about crime or law enforcement during the campaign. I hope this doesn’t signify a belief that these issues are not among the most important challenges facing our nation. Frankly, those of us who are or have been in law enforcement cannot tell whether your administration will commit the attention and resources to make crime reduction one of the priorities of the new government. Whether you know it or not, there are significant decisions to be made to maintain the nation’s security and its effective public administration of justice.

First, you must select as an Attorney General, 93 United States Attorneys, and the other “political” appointees in the Department of Justice, men and women of exceptional dedication, integrity and ability. They must be independent of political partisanship and committed to the full and fair administration of justice and the zealous investigation and prosecution of crime in all of its forms. Please don’t re-pay political obligations or allow party loyalty to become factors in deciding on these appointments.

Second, resist the pressures and temptations in this economic crisis to reduce the federal budget for criminal and civil law enforcement. This is not to say that federal agencies cannot be more efficient and effective in spending the public’s money. But cutting back on law enforcement resources would be a mistake. Some areas, such as combating the international drug trafficking-terrorism nexus and fraud investigations of financial and business institutions, to name a couple, need more resources, not fewer. The return from this additional investment in federal law enforcement will be worth the initial pinch.

Third, make a clear and unmistakable pronouncement that the Department of Justice, under your watch, will operate in a culture of impartiality, transparency, and fairness. Particular attention must be given to reverse the practices of politicization of the previous administration. Decisions on individual investigations and prosecutions must be made based strictly on the applicable law and facts of a particular case. Complaints and attempted influence by politicians, including the Congress and the White House, on individual cases are inappropriate and must be both resisted and the attempt made public.

Such policies should not impair the healthy debate and communication by the legislative and executive branches to the Department and law enforcement agencies as to the policies and priorities on specific categories of cases, as well as practices and procedures.

Fourth, re-establish the practice of nonpartisan hiring of career employees of the Department of Justice. Career attorneys, agents, and other staff members are the backbone of the federal criminal justices system. They prosecute and investigate the individual cases which adjudicate rights and liberties and provide for the incremental development of the rule of law. Moreover, on policy questions, they maintain continuity, develop essential expertise on increasingly complex matters, and provide perspective and objective advice. Career law enforcement officials should be consulted and should participate in all policy discussions. This omission, as much as any other, was at the root of the failures of the Gonzalez Justice Department.

Fifth, you have a unique opportunity to influence segments of society who seem to have lost faith in law enforcement. The more visible wear “No Snitch” t-shirts and sing rap songs about the cops being the enemy. Even more disturbing is the seemingly increasing ethic to refuse to talk with police and federal agents. The anti-snitch culture has moved from an antipathy for informers to the advocacy of non-cooperation with all of law enforcement. The results in some places are falling crime clearance rates, witness reluctance and intimidation, and juror skepticism. Even more dangerous are those who openly obstruct the efforts of federal agents, such as providing personal information on agents and cooperating witnesses on internet websites. We cannot afford to undermine the legitimacy of law enforcement in communities which most need its protection. Oppose legislation which would dilute the effect of cooperating witness testimony, such as reliability hearings and corroboration requirements. Use your position to re-establish the norm that assisting law enforcement is every citizen’s responsibility.

Finally, there are several substantive areas in law enforcement which need your attention. Immigration and the continuing struggle against violence and lawlessness on both sides of the Southwest border should be a priority. The financial scandals have prompted much needed investigations which not only need more resources but have highlighted legal areas where enforcement can be made more effective. Consistent with our newly expanded constitutional right to bear arms, legislative efforts to limit guns for non-criminal purposes ought to be pursued. Other fine-tuning of statutes on subjects such as hate crimes, transnational offenses, “medical” marijuana use, to name a few, need your support for further study and debate.

Well Mr. (almost) President, I fear I have gone on too long, especially since you didn’t ask my advice in the first place. I ask only that, in fulfilling promises made on the campaign trail, you don’t forget the fundamental functions of government which made this country a great place in which to live.

Sometimes Untraditional, Counter-Intuitive Career Goals Are Best

This week I was in Detroit for the Public Relations Society of America 2008 International Conference where there was a lot of talk about social networking, blogging and the changing landscape of communications in America. So I thought I’d share with you some of the career advice offered by the speakers. Penelope Trunk, a career columnist for the Boston Globe, and author of “Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success” offered these tips for navigating today’s workplace. Warning: some of her untraditional, counter-intuitive ideas that may shock you.

1. Money doesn’t equal happiness. We all know that, just look at the divorce rate in Hollywood, but a decent pay check sure makes it a whole lot easier to pay the bills and get a good night’s sleep.

2. Focus on optimism. “Anybody can switch their optimism around by changing daily things that they do,” she said. That’s a better route than saying, “My life sucks, so I need a new job.” She continued: “The key thing about increasing your happiness is your sex life. It has nothing to do with your job. As long as your job is OK, then you should focus on your sex life.”

3. Mentoring is the new currency. Keep your learning curve steep. One way to do that is find a mentor. Everyone needs one no matter where they are in their career. Even those of you who are about to embark on a Second Act need the guidance of someone who has made the transition before.

4. Job Hop. No, it’s not a misprint and I don’t agree. Trunk advocates changing jobs as soon as your learning curve flattens. She says young people get that and are not afraid to make the leap. She cited statistics that workers ages 18-30 last in a job an average of 18 months. “This means they’re building their skill set really fast. They’re more engaged. They’re building their networking faster.” That may sound good to an audience of 25 year olds, but the fact of the matter is many companies still frown on job hopping. I am working with a client right now that wants to set a limit for the number of job changes they will accept from prospective candidates.

5. Breaks are good. “The people who have no breaks in their resume are the people who don’t take any time to think about what they are doing,” Trunk said. “So everybody should cultivate some breaks in their career. It makes you look more thoughtful.” I think that depends on how long the break last. As a recruiter, I need to explain a gap in a resume. My advice: find some consulting work while you are contemplating your next career move.

6. Think about writing a blog. Blogs are a tool for career stability. They allow you to take control of your personal brand. People who are willing to put out their ideas are engaging. Blogs are also a hunting ground for thought leaders in various professions.

7. Office politics are nice. They are an inescapable part of work life. Putting your head down and doing your work is a good way to ensure that you don’t connect with anyone, Trunk said. “People who do office politics best are the people who sit back and look around to see who needs help…and what their own skill set is to help them.” I like this idea. We all have to play the game. If you think that just doing good work will result in a promotion, guess again. Connect with the stakeholders in your organization, find out what matters to them and figure out how you can contribute to their end goal.

8. Everyone is in PR. “You can’t associate yourself with your corporate brand all the time. You have to associate yourself with what you stand for, what you believe in, and how you generate ideas. You have to define your brand for people, so they know how to connect with you.”


The Growing Link Between Terrorism And Drug Trafficking

The alarming and increasingly close working relationship between the $300 billion global narcotics market and worldwide terrorist organizations was underscored last week by two federal cases in Miami and New York. The cases also underscored something else: The urgent need for the U.S. to develop a smarter, more comprehensive plan to cut off the drug money that has allowed terrorist groups to flourish and attack the U.S. and its allies.

As reported on Oct. 22 in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere, U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Colombian law enforcement agents in Bogota arrested Lebanese money laundering kingpin Chekry Harb, a/k/a Taliban, along with 35 others who were allegedly involved in laundering cocaine funds from sales in the United States and Europe and using tens of millions of these dollars to finance the activities of Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist organization. Harb and a dozen others are expected to be extradited to face an indictment in Miami.

Federal law enforcement officials point to the case as the most recent evidence that Hezbollah is moving into Latin America. Other incidents involving the organization have been reported in Venezuela and Argentina. What’s more, the close ties between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iran, Hezbollah’s chief supporter, raise concern over this trend, particularly in view of the fact that one-third of the Colombian cocaine destined for the U. S. and Europe now travels through Venezuela.

In the second case, on Oct. 23, New York DEA agents arrested Afghan drug kingpin Haji Juma Khan under the 2006 federal narco-terrorism statute, which prohibits the distribution of drugs to support a terrorist organization. The indictment in the Southern District of New York is believed to be one of the first uses of the new law.

Using his close ties to the Taliban, Khan is alleged to head an organization in southern Afghanistan which sells morphine base, the opium derivative used to produce heroin, in quantities large enough to supply the entire United States heroin market. Khan allegedly provided millions of dollars to help fund the Taliban’s insurgency campaign of roadside bombs, kidnappings and military activities. In exchange, the Taliban protected the Khan organization’s drug routes, production laboratories, and poppy fields.

A September 2008 United Nations report estimates that the Taliban will receive up to $70 million from the opium poppy harvest this year. Last year’s report indicated that half of all identified terrorist organizations are known to be involved in drug trafficking.

Some experts believe that the enhanced terror and military capabilities of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which has caused several pessimistic appraisals by some NATO military officials, is directly due to the increased funding by drug traffickers since 9-11. This financial support has permitted more sophisticated weapons and explosive devices, as well as the ability to train and equip increased numbers of Taliban fighters. Some coalition officials doubt the likelihood of success of a “surge” military strategy such as that used in Iraq to combat this threat.

The link between terrorism and international drug trafficking is well established. DEA officials point out that it is no coincidence that major drug source countries are also the home bases for organizations which use terror methods to advance their causes. To name a few, these include, in addition to the Taliban in Afghanistan, FARC in Colombia, PKK in Turkey, and MEK-PMOI in Iran. There is growing evidence that other organizations, such as the ETA in Spain, a major drug shipping center for Europe, are also beginning to use drug profits for financing.

Considering the central importance that counter-terrorism has assumed in the U. S. foreign and military policy, it is astounding how piecemeal the attack is on the drug-terror cartels. Not that some federal law enforcement agencies aren’t doing good work in this area, but the support for and coordination of these efforts are sadly lacking. DEA, under the leadership of its Chief of Operations, Michael Braun, not only has mounted successful enforcement operations, but also has attempted to educate the rest of the government on the danger posed by this relationship and the need for increased resources. However, compared to the billions spent militarily every month in Iraq and Afghanistan, the financing and commitment devoted to take on narco-terrorists is a drop in the bucket.

What should the United States be doing to sever the link between the drug trade and terrorist organizations? First, we need a well thought out, internationally supported strategy to investigate and disrupt the financial aspects of these organizations. As outlined in the recent counter-terrorism blog by David Lormel, “Understanding and Disrupting Terrorist Financing,” this strategy must include more training for government, business and financial entities about how terror groups raise money, launder it, and transfer the funds to support their activities. The involvement by these groups and their support are critical for any enforcement strategy to detect sources of funding, identify those who facilitate the financial transactions, and terminate the flow of money.

Next, Congress and the new Administration must come to recognize how important it is to set a priority to establish this strategy and set about to implement it. Detecting and disrupting the cash pipeline is critical to the war on terror as well as the effort to combat international drug trafficking. More resources are needed so that federal law enforcement agencies can dedicate more highly trained agents and the most sophisticated and effective enforcement tools.

An equally large challenge to the success of this effort will be to achieve coordination and communication among federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This appears to be minimal at present. Increased intelligence gathering, access to information such as satellite and wiretapping data, the formation of many more inter-agency working groups and task forces, and shared resources on the investigations of the money channels will be essential. Sporadic and under-funded efforts by individual agencies are doomed to failure.

Finally, something more has to be done about the mounting dangers posed by the mess at the Southwest border. Coming north are not only drug shipments, but also, according to frequent reports, human smuggling rings of Middle Easterners with false Latin American citizenship documents. Potential terrorists pay better than guest workers.

Going south are bulk drug cash, precursor chemicals and sophisticated weapons. These exports are fueling the epidemic and brutal violence which has claimed over 5,000 lives in drug wars in Mexico in the two years since President Felipe Calderone’s efforts to clamp down on drug trafficking in his country.

Conscious ignorance of the ugly reality at the Southwest border by U. S. Congressional and Administration officials, who want a kinder and gentler immigration policy, amounts to aiding and abetting. It’s an untenable situation.
Which means, we need to strike a balance between our National Security and trade.