National Security

DOJ’s New Strategy on Transnational Crime

Organized crime. Second only to “terrorism,” its likely the most feared domestic security threat in the United States. It’s certainly the oldest and long-lasting danger to law and order America has had to deal with. Of course, the criminal organizations that represent the prime danger to America today are not comprised of local thugs and drug dealers. It’s the transnational crime syndicates that are the real problem—and who are often orchestrating those low- level thugs and dealers.

Local and federal governments have for decades sought innovative ideas on how to deal with this problem. Some solutions have been less successful than others.

Recently, the Trump administration rolled out its plan for dealing with this menace to American society. It may be the most all-encompassing and resolute scheme on combating large scale criminal activity in U.S. history.

The Department of Justice recently announced its new strategy in a 15 October press release. In the official announcement, Department of Justice (DOJ) Attorney General Jeff Sessions laid out the new measures his agency would be taking in light of the new strategy. “The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump sent me an executive order to dismantle transnational criminal organizations—the gangs and cartels who flood our streets with drugs and violence,” Sessions told the press. He asserted that DOJ “embrace[s] that order” and has in fact been “carrying it out every single day” since. But now, Sessions revealed, in an effort to “increase our effectiveness, I am putting in place new leadership to drive our transnational organized crime efforts and forming a Transnational Organized Crime Task Force of experienced prosecutors that will coordinate and optimize the Department’s efforts to take each of these groups off of our streets for good.”

Off the streets for good. That’s quite the goal. How does Sessions and his Department plan on accomplishing this?

First off, the DOJ has now created a special unit —the Transnational Organized Crime Task Force— in charge of conquering transnational crime syndicates. It was announced that the first head of this department will be Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The Task Force will draw its authority —and more importantly, resources— from one of the earliest acts as president taken by Donald Trump.

On 9 February 2017, Trump issued Executive Order 13773. The order directed the federal government to “ensure that Federal law enforcement agencies give a high priority and devote sufficient resources to efforts to identify, interdict, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations.” Translations: transnational crime is now priority numero uno. They will get the money and personnel they need.

While specific methods of the Task Force have not yet been released (Rosenstein has 90 days to deliver a report on that), there are a few important details that have already been revealed.

First, is that the Task Force is not just about locating and arresting criminals. The efforts of the TOC will be multi-tiered including the utilization of “diplomacy.” This means a large part of DOJ’s new job will be to get the cooperation of the countries from which these organizations originate.

Second, DOJ has posted a list of the top organized crime threats. They are a venerable “who’s who” of international devils. The list included:

  • MS-13
  • Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG)
  • Sinaloa Cartel
  • Clan del Golfo
  • Hezbollah

This catalogue of global thugs shouldn’t surprise anyone. Of course the big Mexican drug cartels like Sinaloa and CJNG, responsible for the lion’s share of illegal narcotics in the U.S., made the cut. Hezbollah, whom most of the public probably sees as a Middle Eastern problem as opposed to a domestic criminal one, also deserves a spot. While Hezbollah is primarily a Middle Eastern organization interested in Middle Eastern issues, like all organizations, it needs funding. And business can be very lucrative in the Western Hemisphere. The militant Shiites have long run their illicit activities in South America, often encroaching on mainland United States. Now it’s time to crack down.

In fact, Hezbollah’s inclusion in DOJ’s “top five” may be the most welcomed part of the DOJ announcement, as it may mean the reversing of the catastrophic Obama-era decision to back off on investigating Hezbollah operations taking place in America’s backyard, and even within United States territory.

One more point worth drawing attention to is the role the current attorney general has in this new development.

If Jeff Sessions seems to many as a quintessential old-school hardliner, that’s because he is.

Sessions has taken a rather tough stance on a number of contentious issues. Sessions has advocated seizing individuals suspected of crimes but not charged. He would like the federal government to crack down on the medical marijuana industry, and has tried to completely defund sanctuary cities in the United States. The goal in all of these instances, and many others like them, was, as Sessions undoubtedly sees it, to bring order to a federal justice system fraught with too many leniencies and too weak to solve the problems of the day.

While some of Sessions’ policy moves have been steeped in controversy, cracking down on the scourge of organized crime and big-league gangs is probably an issue where everyone can find common ground. Sessions has for long been “chomping at the bit” so to speak when it comes to dealing with the big gangs. The attorney general has been bringing up MS-13, for instance, since the early days of his term. Now he’s been given the green light.

An uncompromising conservative may be the perfect personality to orchestrate the fight against the transnational criminals plaguing American communities.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Samuel Siskind

Samuel Siskind studied intelligence research at the American Military University in West Virginia. He served as a squad commander in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Corp of Combat Engineers, in the Corps' ground battalions and later in its Intelligence Wing at regional and divisional stations. For the past five years, Samuel has worked as a consultant and researcher on physical and information security issues for private and governmental institutions, in the US, Africa, India, and Israel. He currently lives in Jerusalem.

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