There’s a new strategy paper in town, and like most other unclassified strategy papers published in Washington, it doesn’t go into too much detail as to how funds or forces will be marshaled in order to accomplish certain goals so much as it simply lay out a series of proposed actions and desired end states.
But where this one does differ from other strategy papers is that it actually does go in to some detail about how authorities can put its ideas into practice — and comes with a real, live, Executive Order signed by President Obama that gives the whole thing some legal and operational teeth. The National Security Council’s “Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime” identifies 56 different actions the U.S. government says it wants to take to tackle the growing threat from cash-soaked, heavily armed, and extremely influential international criminal gangs who operate around the globe — organizations who all operate, on some level, inside the United States.
The Executive Order targets the assets and property of four organizations “that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person.” It targets the Japanese Yakuza, the Naples, Italy-based group the Camorra, the Zetas gang in Mexico, and the Brothers' Circle, a group based primarily in areas of the former Soviet Union. The order further states that president Obama has determined that “significant transnational criminal organizations constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and [I] hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”
The goal of the new effort “is organized around a single unifying principle,” the paper says, “to build, balance, and integrate the tools of American power to combat transnational organized crime and related threats to national security — and to urge our foreign partners to do the same. The end-state we seek is to reduce transnational organized crime (TOC) from a national security threat to a manageable public safety problem in the United States and in strategic regions around the world.” In addition to the Executive Order, the NSC also proposes a legislative package that will “enhance the authorities available to investigate, interdict, and prosecute the activities of top transnational criminal networks;” along with a presidential proclamation under the Immigration and Nationality Act that denies entry to “transnational criminal aliens and others who have been targeted for financial sanctions;” a rewards program to entice people to give up information about suspects; and yet another interagency “Threat Mitigation Working Group” that will “ensure the coordination of all elements of national power to combat” these criminal networks.
What this all means in practice remains to be seen, and what resources will be utilized is also unspecified. But an Executive Order and a proposed “legislative package” do make it sound like the White House is serious about the effort, whatever it may be. If nothing else, it’s something that civil liberties groups are going to keep a close eye on.