The United States Needs a Terrorism Czar

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The United States Needs a Terrorism Czar


Drug trafficking activity and terrorism activity have much in common. Both drugs and terrorism have strong national security and law enforcement components, they have military components, border control components, economic and trade components, medical components, and agricultural components. Today there are some 50 federal agencies with some degree of counterdrug responsibilities and at least 12 federal agencies with important counterterrorism responsibilities. This paper examines one model for unifying them under an executive branch, White House director's office, as outlined below.

Drug trafficking and terrorism are illegal clandestine activities with strong national security and law enforcement threat components and operational similarities. Terrorists like drug traffickers, need weapons and engage in violence to achieve goals. Terrorists, like drug traffickers, are often involved in hiding and laundering sources of funds. Both terrorists and drug traffickers operate transnationally, and often get logistical and operational support from local ethnic satellite communities. Both groups often rely on the criminal community for support: they may need smuggled weapons, forged documents and safe houses to operate effectively. Finally, both groups need a steady cash flow to operate. In the case of terrorists, where state sources of funding are rapidly diminishing, drug trafficking is an attractive funding option. Increasingly, terrorist organizations are looking to criminal activity and specifically the drug trade as a source of funding. The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces, a guerilla force) in Colombia are but one of many cases in point.

Some experts have looked to the "drug czar" model in seeking to reform government structures to fight terrorism. Counternarcotics efforts have forced local, state and federal agencies to build operable, cooperative, inter-agency relationships. The need to build and maximize similar relationships to deal with terrorism exists and some have suggested that the "Drug Czar" [White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)] model may have applicability to the counterterrorism arena. Legislation is currently before Congress on this issue [H.R. 4210]. It appears that the bill will not be enacted this year but will likely be reintroduced next term.

Another structural option might require that federal departments and agencies make their counterterrorism capabilities available for the efforts of the terrorism director.
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