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East/West: U.S. Urges Cooperation In Fighting World Organized Crime

The U.S. is urging governments around the world to cooperate more on fighting the spread of international organized crime. It also wants agencies within its own government to work together more closely. But as RFE/RL correspondent Andrew F. Tully reports, such cooperation within and among governments can be difficult.

Washington, 19 December 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The White House has issued a new report urging more cooperation in the war against international organized crime. The document says the problem is a threat to the national security of the U.S. and other countries.

The report says the global economy, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the revolution in technology has led crime cartels to expand their reach and the kinds of activities in which they make illegal profits.

According to the document, the breakup of the Soviet Union, for example, has given crime syndicates in Eastern Europe and Central Asia opportunities to expand from regional to global enterprises. And these enterprises have expanded to include worldwide human trafficking and the counterfeiting of money and compact disks containing either entertainment titles or computer software.

The report was prepared by representatives of several U.S. government agencies as part of the U.S. President's International Crime Control Strategy. It recommends that agencies within the U.S. government coordinate their efforts more closely to fight the growing menace of international organized crime. It also urges other governments to coordinate their crime-fighting efforts internationally.

Of particular interest among American political leaders is the trafficking in human beings -- particularly women and children for prostitution. Last March, an official of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) testified that this is a growing problem in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The FBI official, James Weber, said at the time that it is difficult to estimate the scope of such human trafficking in the region. But he said more will be learned through a program called the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative, or SECI. The participating countries are the U.S., Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey and Macedonia. Weber gave his testimony in Washington on March 23 before the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The authors of the new report on international organized crime say the document itself is evidence that U.S. agencies can work together without conflict. But American agencies have a reputation for competitiveness that can interfere with cooperation.

Peter Pitorri -- a former U.S. government intelligence and security analyst -- is the director of the Computer Fraud Investigations Program at George Washington University's satellite campus outside Washington. He told RFE/RL that agencies within the U.S. government will not be able to cooperate as the report suggests.

Pitorri says each agency has its own agenda and wants to outperform other agencies when it comes to fighting crime. He attributes this to simple rivalry and institutional egotism.

"I have been present in closed rooms when federal agencies and state agencies have practically come to blows [physical violence] as to who's going to do what on a particular assignment that everybody has theretofore agreed to. And I'm thinking, 'This is insane.'"

Pitorri says there is an optimistic interpretation of why the federal government would expect the kind of interagency cooperation outlined in the report. This view is that the authors of the document were not being entirely realistic. But the security analyst said his own view is less charitable.

"I'd say that they're pandering to what they think the public wants to hear."

Pitorri says that in his experience, cooperation among nations probably will be no more likely. He says there will be political reasons for governments to withhold vital law enforcement information from one another. Until governments can overcome what he calls petty competitiveness, he says, governments will only encourage the spread of international organized crime.

The U.S. agencies that contributed to the presidential report are the Central Intelligence Agency; the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Customs Service, the Secret Service, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the National Drug Intelligence Center, the National Security Council, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Cabinet Departments of State, the Treasury, Justice and Transportation.