International Crime Control:

Sustained Executive-Level Coordination of Federal Response Needed

GAO-01-629: Published: Aug 13, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 2001.

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International crimes, such as drugs and arms trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, and public corruption, transcend national borders and threaten global security and stability. The National Security Council (NSC) told GAO that international crime and the framework for the U.S. response are under review by the new administration. The extent of International crime is growing, but measuring its true extent is difficult. Several efforts have been made to gauge the threat posed to the United States and other countries by international crime. The 1999 threat assessment was classified, but a published version of the 2000 assessment divided the threat into the following five broad categories: (1) terrorism and drug trafficking; (2) illegal immigration, trafficking of women and children, and environmental crimes; (3) illicit transfer or trafficking of products across international borders; (4) economic trade crimes; and (5) financial crimes. NSC identified 34 federal entities with significant roles in fighting international crime. These included the Department of Justice, Treasury, and State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The efforts to combat public corruption internationally involves two strategies: the elimination of bribes in transnational business activities, such as government contracting, and the implementation of law assistance, which focuses on U.S. support for legal, judicial, and law enforcement reform efforts by foreign governments. Much of the technical assistance that the U.S. provides to other nations for fighting international crime involves training, particularly training at law enforcement academies established abroad. There are no standard measures of effectiveness to assess the federal government's overall efforts to address international crime. Justice's, Treasury's, and State's plans describe their efforts to combat specific types of crime, along with the performance measures to be tracked. In some cases, however, these measures do not adequately address effectiveness.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its annual Performance and Accountability Report, the Department of Justice provides the President, the Congress, and the public with information (including outcomes) about how the department is working toward accomplishing its mission and strategic goals. One outcome goal, for example, is to dismantle a specific number of organized criminal enterprises, such as Italian and Balkan organized crime groups, Russian/Eastern European/Eurasian criminal enterprises, Middle Eastern criminal enterprises, and Asian criminal enterprises, as well as Nigerian/West African criminal enterprises.

    Recommendation: Recognizing the establishment of the PCC for International Organized Crime and its intended responsibilities and priorities, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs should take appropriate action to ensure that this PCC provides sustained and centralized oversight of the extensive and crosscutting federal effort to combat international crime. Consistent with the coordination and related issues discussed in this report, as the responsibilities of the PCC are defined, they should include systematically developing outcome-oriented performance measures linked to the strategy's goals and objectives to track and assess progress, identify emerging challenges, and establish overall accountability.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs: Policy Coordination Committee

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As chair of the Organized Crime Council, the Deputy Attorney General is responsible for executing The Law Enforcement Strategy to Combat International Organized Crime (April 2008), which establishes an investigation and prosecution framework for sharing information and intelligence, prioritizing the most significant threats, and utilizing law enforcement's expertise and resources to mitigate those threats. In addition to the Deputy Attorney General, the Council consists of the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, the chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, and the leaders of nine federal law enforcement agencies. Under leadership of the Deputy Attorney General, the role of the Organized Crime Council is to oversee implementation and dedication of resources dedicated to this strategy, review progress in combating international organized crime, examine options for how best to organize the international organized crime program, and provide recommendations to the National Security Council on new interagency efforts or capabilities to advance the fight against international organized crime. Also, in May 2009, the Attorney General announced the formation of the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center to further enhance partnering and leveraging of resources. For instance, the new Center is to work closely with the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Fusion Center and with the Drug Enforcement Administration-led Special Operations Division.

    Recommendation: Recognizing the establishment of the PCC for International Organized Crime and its intended responsibilities and priorities, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs should take appropriate action to ensure that this PCC provides sustained and centralized oversight of the extensive and crosscutting federal effort to combat international crime. Consistent with the coordination and related issues discussed in this report, as the responsibilities of the PCC are defined, they should include systematically identifying and aligning the necessary resources with the strategy's execution.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs: Policy Coordination Committee

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As chair of the Organized Crime Council, the Deputy Attorney General is responsible for executing The Law Enforcement Strategy to Combat International Organized Crime (April 2008) and resolving any jurisdictional issues. In addition to the Deputy Attorney General, the Council consists of the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, the chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, and the leaders of nine federal law enforcement agencies. Under leadership of the Deputy Attorney General, the role of the Organized Crime Council is to oversee implementation and dedication of resources dedicated to this strategy, review progress in combating international organized crime, examine options for how best to organize the international organized crime program, and provide recommendations to the National Security Council on new interagency efforts or capabilities to advance the fight against international organized crime.

    Recommendation: Recognizing the establishment of the PCC for International Organized Crime and its intended responsibilities and priorities, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs should take appropriate action to ensure that this PCC provides sustained and centralized oversight of the extensive and crosscutting federal effort to combat international crime. Consistent with the coordination and related issues discussed in this report, as the responsibilities of the PCC are defined, they should include systematically designating responsibility for executing the strategy and resolving any jurisdictional issues.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs: Policy Coordination Committee

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Following a threat assessment conducted in October 2007, the U.S. government developed and issued a strategic plan in April 2008. Specifically, on April 7, 2008, the Organized Crime Council recommended and the Attorney General signed The Law Enforcement Strategy to Combat International Organized Crime. The Organized Crime Council consists, among others, of the Deputy Attorney General and the leaders of nine federal law enforcement agencies: (1) Federal Bureau of Investigation, (2) Drug Enforcement Administration, (3) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, (4) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (5) Secret Service, (6) Internal Revenue Service, (7) Postal Inspection Service, (8) State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and (9) Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General. The Organized Crime Council has existed in various forms since 1970 and has long been charged with establishing priorities and formulating a national unified strategy to combat organized crime. But, 2008 marks the first time the Council has ever been convened to focus on the threat from international organized crime and to develop a responsive strategy to that threat.

    Recommendation: Recognizing the establishment of the PCC for International Organized Crime and its intended responsibilities and priorities, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs should take appropriate action to ensure that this PCC provides sustained and centralized oversight of the extensive and crosscutting federal effort to combat international crime. Consistent with the coordination and related issues as the responsibilities of the PCC are defined, they should include systematically updating the International Crime Control Strategy, or developing a successor--to include prioritized goals and implementing objectives--as appropriate to reflect changes in the threat.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs: Policy Coordination Committee

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Our report was issued on August 13, 2001. About 1 month later, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9-11) occurred. Thus, despite the threat posed by international organized crime, it largely fell off the government's radar after 9-11 when priorities shifted toward counterterrorism. More recently, however, the government has recognized the need for renewed attention to transnational crime. Specifically, in October 2007, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its law enforcement partners conducted a comprehensive assessment of international organized crime. The assessment lays out the threat that international organized crime poses to U.S. national security; the stability of the U.S. government; and the integrity of government institutions, infrastructure, and systems in the United States. DOJ noted that the assessment was based on the best available information known to the U.S. government through the combined efforts of the law enforcement, intelligence, and interagency communities.

    Recommendation: Recognizing the establishment of the Policy Coordination Committee (PCC) for International Organized Crime and its intended responsibilities and priorities, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs should take appropriate action to ensure that this PCC provides sustained and centralized oversight of the extensive and crosscutting federal effort to combat international crime. Consistent with the coordination and related issues discussed in this report, as the responsibilities of the PCC are defined, they should include systematically updating the existing governmentwide international crime threat assessment to maintain a thorough understanding of credible existing and emerging threats.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs: Policy Coordination Committee

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its annual Performance and Accountability Report, the Department of Justice provides the President, the Congress, and the public with information (including outcomes) about how the department is working toward accomplishing its mission and strategic goals, including, for example, the outcome goal of dismantling a specific number of organized criminal enterprises, such as Italian and Balkan organized crime groups, Russian/Eastern European/Eurasian criminal enterprises, Middle Eastern criminal enterprises, and Asian criminal enterprises, as well as Nigerian/West African criminal enterprises. Also, regarding human trafficking, which is a particularly heinous type of transnational crime, the Attorney General publishes the Annual Report to Congress on U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

    Recommendation: Recognizing the establishment of the PCC for International Organized Crime and its intended responsibilities and priorities, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs should take appropriate action to ensure that this PCC provides sustained and centralized oversight of the extensive and crosscutting federal effort to combat international crime. Consistent with the coordination and related issues we have discussed in this report, as the responsibilities of the PCC are defined, they should include systematically periodically reporting the strategy's results to the President and the Congress.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs: Policy Coordination Committee

 

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