Archive Site for State Department information prior to January 20, 2001.
This site is not updated.
RETURN to the current State Department web site.

Great Seal logo

Press Briefing by National Coordinator for Security
Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism for NSC Richard
Clarke, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics
and Law Enforcement Rand Beers, Deputy Assistant Secretary of
Treasury for Enforcement Joseph Myers, and NSC Director of
International Crime Group Fred Rosa

The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, The White House
Washington, DC, December 15, 2000

Blue Bar rule

MR. CROWLEY: Good morning. Yesterday I think you heard a compelling speech by the President in Coventry, England, about the challenges and opportunities of a global age, the unprecedented opportunities for peace and prosperity to spread to sections of the world that have been developing in the late 20th, and now 21st century, and the opportunities to address some of the critical issues that we face in terms of global poverty, education, infectious disease, and so on.

The President, throughout his administration, as he's been pushing this global agenda, has also been focused on the flip side of globalization -- that as the world, if you will, becomes more sophisticated and smaller, also the same opportunities that Americans have, and others around the world, for progress, we now confront a more sophisticated criminal network, as well, that have access to the same kinds of technology and the same kinds of open borders and the same kinds of opportunities for their networks to flourish.

And that represents a challenge for individual Americans; it also represents a challenge for the United States in terms of our national security interests, because if the stereotype of typical criminal as a godfather figure who breaks bones, now you have a more sophisticated criminal figure who can hack your computer, who can influence financial markets around the world, and who can destablize countries or regions of the world that are important to the United States.

Two years ago, the President commissioned an international crime assessment to focus more attention on this aspect of a globalized age. Last year that assessment was produced at the classified level, and this year it has been produced at an unclassified level and is being released today.

We have representatives from the NSC, State, Justice, and Treasury here to go through the major points of the report with you. We'll start off with Richard Clarke who is the National Coordinator for Security Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism. And then from there we'll go to Q&A and Dick can play moderator here at the podium.

After the briefing there will be copies of the report available, as well as a statement by the President on the report, and factsheets galore. But I know that these gentlemen are attached to other issues that have your attention, as well, but if we could, let's go through the major elements of the international crime assessment first. If you want to branch out into other subjects, let's try to do that at the tail end of the briefing.

So we'll start with Dick Clarke. Thanks.

MR. CLARKE: Thank you, PJ.

Foreign criminals operating abroad and in the United States cost Americans their lives, and cost Americans billions of dollars. They also threaten our foreign policy and national security goals by undermining emerging democracies and distorting free markets in countries around the world. Those are the conclusions of the first ever unclassified threat assessment to the United States with regard to international crime.

It was ordered by the President; it has now been completed. It is a comprehensive study that looks at all of the forms of international organized crime. Too often in the past we have looked upon these issues in isolation or thought about them exclusively as law enforcement issues. But the people who are perpetrating these crimes are, in fact, international cartels, transnational corporations of crime. In effect, they deal in multiple kinds of crime -- counterfeiting of money, counterfeiting of CDs and software, smuggling of people, smuggling of arms, smuggling of precious gems. There's a wide range of activity that these cartels now engage in, and they affect all of us.

One example that hits every American in the pocketbook, every American who has a car and has to buy auto insurance, is the fact that 200,000 cars were stolen in the United States last year and moved abroad and sold abroad as part of the international criminal cartels. Only one percent of those cars were recovered.

The magnitude of these crimes in terms of dollar impact is also underlined by the violations of international intellectual property agreements. Copying of materials that are protected by copyright, illegal copying, cost the United States $12 billion last year alone. The magnitude in terms of human suffering is demonstrated by the fact that in one year 700,000 women and children were forcibly moved by international criminal cartels around the world engaged in prostitution and kidnapping; 40,000 to 50,000 of those women and children were brought illegally to the United States in one year and put into various forms of sexual servitude.

So these are crimes that have enormous personal impact, they have enormous financial impact, and as the President has said, they have enormous national security and international economic impact.

So today we are highlighting three things. We have been doing a number of things for the last several years, but three things recently and today which we want to underline. First of all, we are releasing on an unclassified basis the international threat assessment. Secondly, we are announcing the creation of another interagency center. The State Department and the Justice Department are announcing today the creation of a center for combatting the trafficking in women and children, and alien smuggling.

This is one of a number of interagency centers that we have been establishing over the course of the last several years to break down the stovepipes that have existed in the interagency in the past, and the treatment of these issues as single-agency issues or exclusively law enforcement issues.

Earlier this year, the FBI and the Customs Bureau jointly formed the new center to fight intellectual property rights violations. Two years ago, the intelligence community enlarged what was then the illegal narcotics center, and created a center in the intelligence community for international crime and narcotics.

The third thing we're highlighting today is that we have signed -- we, the United States, have signed the new International U.N. Convention on International Crime. It was signed earlier this week in Palermo, Italy. And it, when ratified, will allow us to engage in greater international cooperation on all of these issues. It is, for the first time, an international document that recognizes, as President Clinton did four years ago, that all of these issues are connected. They are connected by the people that do them and they are connected in the ways in which we have to cooperate internationally to combat them.

We have a number of experts with us here to answer your questions. Rand Beers is the Assistant Secretary of State for International Crime and Law Enforcement and Narcotics. Jody Myers is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement. Bruce Schwartz is the Deputy Associate Attorney General for International Programs. And Fred Rosa is the Director here at the National Security Council for International Crime and Narcotics.

We want to highlight that, while we are releasing this report today, it is part of an ongoing program that the President initiated several years ago when he issued Presidential Decision Directive 42, declaring that international organized crime is an international security and international economic issue.

I will be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Clarke, the section on institutional shortcomings addresses mostly institutional shortcomings around the world. Could you address the subject of institutional shortcomings in the United States?

MR. CLARKE: Yes. As I said, when we started looking at this at the President's direction four years ago, we discovered that these issues were all being handled seriatim or in what bureaucrats like to call stovepipes. People were working on counterfeiting; other people were working on alien smuggling; other people were working on narcotics. And we were not integrating across agencies the knowledge base that, in fact, all of the perpetrators of these activities are frequently the same people.

Terrorists are engaged in narcotics smuggling. People engaged in auto theft are also engaged in smuggling of arms. People engaged in insurgencies in Africa, for example, are often engaged in the elicit transit of precious gems and endangered species. So we had a problem and we continue to some extent have a problem in our own government, both in the Executive Branch and in Congress, in terms of having a holistic view of these threats and combating them across agencies.

The creation of the center today for combating the trafficking in women and children and alien smuggling is an example of the ways in which we are trying to break down those organizational, departmental, Cold War ways of looking at the problem, and to create a new approach in the Executive Branch to deal with transnational threats not just as national security issues or law enforcement issues but as all of the above.

QUESTION: Where will that center be based?

MR. CLARKE: The center physically, I believe, will be in the Department of State.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: It will be in property rented by the Department of State.

MR. CLARKE: Property rented by the Department of State.

QUESTION: You have mentioned the centers where the smuggling takes place. What kind of cooperation are we getting from the governments involved?

MR. CLARKE: Well, I think it varies enormously. There are many governments that are cooperating significantly with us. Obviously, Colombia, here in this hemisphere, has put its own law enforcement personnel and government officials at risk in order to cooperate with us. But then there are governments like Afghanistan which are engaged in the smuggling of heroin and the harboring of terrorists. And governments such as Afghanistan, I think, have to be considered criminal organizations, because they are engaged in criminal activity as a government. So there is a wide variety of cooperation, from a great deal to active hostility.

QUESTION: Just to follow that up, some of the governments may want to cooperate but they lack the means or the materials or the personnel or the finances to cooperate. Will the United States be helping them to improve their law enforcement operations?

MR. CLARKE: Yes. A key part of the President's strategy, which was released two years ago -- the strategy, by the way, is on the White House NSC website. It was released two years ago, the International Strategy on Combating International Crime.

A key element of that strategy is giving other governments the tools so they can do the job. Maybe that's a good time to introduce Assistant Secretary Beers who coordinates the international assistance programs and the international training programs across our government.

Randy?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BEERS: In terms of the projects and training activities that the United States government works on with countries around the world, we probably spend on the order of $100 million or more on an annual basis. The training is done by the Justice Department and law enforcement agencies of Justice and Treasury and by Treasury Department officials, as well as other officials that are hired by the United States. It involves training in peacekeeping situations like Bosnia or Kosovo, or in countries like Colombia or Indonesia, states of the former Soviet Union. It goes from straight law enforcement training of individual law enforcement officers, to training of prosecutors and judges, or efforts to change criminal legislation in countries around the world in order to harmonize laws among countries.

It's a wide variety of subjects, and we work to coordinate that on a regular basis. State, Justice and Treasury have a steering group which look every year at all of the project proposals and make determinations to ensure that it is both representative of the needs of all of those agencies and sufficiently coordinated so that we're not duplicating our efforts in the various agencies around town.

We've worked at this for the last three years in order to improve that, and as Dick said, this is one of those examples of an area where we have sought to overcome institutional boundaries in order to deliver, on behalf of the United States, in the interest of all citizens of the world, an improved training program and a better global law enforcement effort.

QUESTION: As far as international crimes go, what's the one largest threat to U.S. citizens right now?

MR. CLARKE: I think the largest threat is obviously posed by international narcotics smuggling, which costs a number of lives and costs an enormous amount of money. But more and more, we see that the people who are engaged in international narcotics smuggling are also engaged in other businesses, other illegal activities.

And whether it's counterfeiting or IPR violations or trafficking in women or drug violations, it all comes back to money. The reason that international criminals do what they do is to make money. And what the President asked us to do four years ago was to follow the money. And we have done that significantly in the Treasury Department programs, particularly over the course of the last year and a half.

We have now received cooperation from the G-7 nations and, together, the G-7 nations have, for the first time, issued a list of countries where massive money-laundering is taking place. And the G-7 nations have, together, said that they will take actions, financial actions, against those money-laundering havens.

So, at root, the common thread through all of these international crimes is money, and if we can stop money-laundering, then we can significantly put a crimp into these international organizations.

Jody Myers from the Treasury Department has been leading this effort on money-laundering, and, Jody, you might want to make a few remarks about what we've done in the last year.

DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY MYERS: Yes. I would, just to follow on to what Dick said, he accurately described what we've been doing. I think we've seen a great deal of progress over the last couple of years, first in getting agreement, not only in the G-7, but across the 29 nations that participate in the financial action task force to work on this list.

At Treasury, we're very cognizant of trying, when we issue regulations or other restrictions on our bank's ability to freely move money around, that we try to issue those rules and regulations in a way that doesn't affect their business interests adversely, and so, getting multilateral agreement on this was a significant step.

Since the list came out in June, we've been very busy working with, again, in a cooperative spirit, with the countries' officials from countries on the list to improve their systems. We've been very involved, both on a bilateral basis and a multilateral basis, negotiating with them.

We've seen legislation pass in Israel, we've seen legislation pass in Cayman Islands, we've seen legislation pass in Liechtenstein, all since the summer. We are working very actively with the government of Russia right now in a similar fashion, so we're very gratified to see this kind of progress.

QUESTION: Mr. Clarke, can you or one of your colleagues tell us how serious the alien smuggling problem is right now, and are we seeing some sort of a transition from the illegal immigration problem going from individuals coming through from Mexico to international cartels smuggling people for money?

MR. CLARKE: There obviously continue to be individuals transiting our borders, but for the last seven or eight years we have seen an increasing trend of cartels.

In China, in Southeast Asia and in parts of Latin America and the Middle East, organized cartels, moving people great distances and at great risk to the individuals involved and at great financial prices into the United States. We find only the tip of the iceberg, but we find them with great regularity, people smuggled into the United States in containers, shipping containers at risk to their lives on the terrible sanitary conditions.

All too often, what we find is that the people who are smuggled into the United States, then when they get here are put into work environments that amount to servitude, involuntary servitude. And particularly troubling is when that occurs to women and children and they are forced in the United States as well as overseas into prostitution. That is an increasing trend around the world, but the United States is the most attractive destination for these organized groups.

Gentlemen, any one of you, Fred, do you want to enlarge on that?

MR. ROSA: I would just offer briefly to supplement what Mr. Clarke has said, that in terms of order or magnitude, if you're looking at the migrant-smuggling problem from a U.S. perspective, our estimates indicate that approximately 500,000 people are smuggled by various organizations, organized crime groups or smaller organizations that are involved in that activity for profit.

And an additional 500,000 come into the United States essentially on their own. And as everyone here is aware, a substantial percentage of those come across the border from Mexico.

If you look at the related, yet distinct problem of trafficking in women and children, the estimates that we have there indicate that at least 700,000 -- I've also seen an estimate that goes as high as 2 million -- women and children in particular are trafficked on a global basis each year.

And as I think Mr. Clarke mentioned earlier in his opening remarks, we have a sense that approximately 45,000 to 50,000 of those women and children are targeted and are actually brought here into the United States. And I think it's worthwhile to add that as I indicated a moment ago, these are related but distinct problems.

There's certainly, at one end of the spectrum, is a situation in which an individual simply wanting to get into the United States because of attractive opportunities here simply pays an organization to accomplish that transit in illegal entry, and essentially, if they're successful, the activity ends there. But as you move along the spectrum, there are some who are smuggled into this country that, although they think they're simply buying illegal entry, they find themselves, when here, in an indentured service situation.

And then you move along the spectrum and you get to the trafficking in persons problem, where you have actually recruitment of and, in many cases, kidnapping of individuals for purposes of exploiting them as persons -- typically for sexual purposes.

This is an area that we are becoming more and more aware of, and it is an increasing priority for us as evidenced by the announcement by the Departments of State and Justice today to establish an inter-agency center.

QUESTION: Why do you think it's increasing so much?

MR. ROSA: I'm not sure that we have a great answer for that. I think that the very straightforward answer is that it's a source of enormous profit. The opportunities are there. If you look at what the world has seen in terms of the globalization trend in the post-Cold War period, the more open borders, the advances in communications and technology and all of those related developments, clearly you have the opportunity to move these individuals. You have individuals in depressed economies where there are limited opportunities who have an incentive to look for an alternative, even if it's a desperate alternative.

So again, as I think Mr. Clarke said earlier, fundamentally, this comes down to money. And these organizations that are involved in international crime are increasingly poly-crime organizations, and this is a particularly attractive undertaking for them.

And I would also add, just as a footnote, that one of the reasons why the U.N. convention that was signed earlier this week by over 100 nations is so important, is that certainly, one of the motivations of an organized crime group to go into trafficking in human beings, has been that in many instances, it is a less risky -- or, it has been a less risky proposition in terms of the criminal laws available to use against those individuals.

Drug-trafficking is certainly a crime that, in most jurisdictions in the world, carries with it some very significant penalties. But there are other areas -- smuggling of non-drug contraband in this particular area where, unfortunately, the criminal penalties are often not as available or they are not as significant.

QUESTION: Could you provide more details on the cartels, where they are based, which are the biggest cartels? And do they work like major sort of companies with different departments? How do they work?

MR. CLARKE: There are major cartels geographically based. For example, there is a major cartel that's based in Nigeria. There is a major cartel that's based in the former Soviet Union. There is a Chinese ethnic cartel that's based in Southeast Asia.

And, increasingly, as Fred Rosa said, they are polycrime organizations and they go for profit centers. They may originally have been pushing heroin. If they find out that cocaine is more profitable, they add that to their line. If they find out that trafficking in people is a new source of income, they add that to their line.

They are based overseas. They find their origins overseas, but they are present in every major metropolitan area in the United States. And that's the thing that we need to understand as a nation, that foreign international criminal cartels are present in our cities. They are risking the lives of Americans and they are costing Americans billions of dollars. That's why the United States Government has been doing so much and will be doing more, we hope. That's why we are seeking international cooperation, because we can't do it alone.

QUESTION: Do you have any names of these cartels? Do you have any prominent leaders of the cartels?

MR. CLARKE: I think they are outlined in the threat assessment. But essentially they are the Colombian, Nigerian, Russian and Chinese cartels. There are specific organizations mentioned in the threat assessment, particularly those in the former Soviet Union. There are some names of individuals. Many of these individuals have been indicted. Some of them have successfully been brought back to the United States.

The President earlier this year designated 12 individuals as international organized crime and narcotics kingpins. Since then, we have brought two of them back to the United States for prosecution, two from Nigeria were brought back earlier this month.

QUESTION: As far as high-tech crimes go, are we talking copyrighting or are we talking about stealing a credit card? What are we talking about as far as high-tech crime?

MR. CLARKE: High-tech crime is all of the above. It is credit card fraud, cell phone cloning. It is cyber crime and extortion. There is an increasing problem in this country of extortion originating overseas with hackers who hack their way into American companies and then say to the American companies, you obviously have a cyber security problem and we will solve it for you; we will become your computer consultants. Just send a million dollars to this offshore bank somewhere and your computer problem will go away.

It's a simple extortion racket, but it's happening in cyberspace. The fact that there has been the growth in high technology has meant that the borders that used to protect us against this sort of international phenomenon are increasingly less significant and particularly in cyberspace there are no borders.

QUESTION: You spoke earlier about the government of Afghanistan as a criminal organization. You said that it exports heroin, harbors terrorists and so on. Is there -- can we -- should we rule out in our minds any idea that the Clinton Administration in its last few weeks would take any kind of military action in Afghanistan either to extract the terrorists or to send a message to the Taliban about these things? I know you're taking moves in the United Nations to try and consolidate internationally.

And I would also like to, as a second half of this, ask you what would your recommendations be to the incoming Bush Administration in terms of how to handle a criminal state like Afghanistan?

MR. CLARKE: I expect that early next week the United Nations Security Council will pass for the second time a series of sanctions against the Taliban regime that rules most of Afghanistan. That resolution will be co-sponsored by Russia and the United States and we expect it to gain widespread support in the Security Council.

There is, I think, almost universal recognition around the world that the Taliban regime that pretends to be the government of Afghanistan is a criminal organization and is threatening many countries, not just the United States, is threatening many countries in the Middle East and in the Caucuses in central Europe through terrorism and through the export of narcotics.

Obviously, the United States takes this threat seriously. And we are doing and have been doing a number of things in cooperation with our friends and allies. Some of those things are not terribly visible or at least are not yet terribly visible. And I think that the President has made clear that it's a high priority for this administration and I'm sure it will be a high priority for the next administration.

And what we have done over the course of the last several years is to use all means available to us, diplomatic, economic, intelligence activities. And we have used military force in the past against the government of Afghanistan. I trust the next administration will have a similar policy.

QUESTION: But on the question of whether you would rule out using military force between now and January 20th -- time is running out.

MR. CLARKE: That's obviously something for the President to decide and I don't think it's appropriate to get into that here. But I think the important thing to recognize is that we have been using all means available to us to combat the threats emanating from Afghanistan and other countries have as well. And that's an ongoing program, for which the 20th of January doesn't have a great deal of significance.

Let me sum up by saying, this threat assessment is available now in hard copy. It will be on the White House web site, at the NSC location on the White House web site, and all of these gentlemen, and Bruce Schwartz, who hasn't had the opportunity to stand up here yet, will be available during the course of the day, before you file, for telephone interviews and follow up.

Thank you very much.

[end of document]

Flag bar

Bureau of INL | Department of State