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5 Research Agenda J ransnational crime is clearly a social and legal problem worthy of attention; there are too many documented instances and too much ~ credible theory to dismiss it as mere journalistic sensationalism. However, it is less clear as to just how large it is, whether it is expanding rapidly, poses important new threats to American society, or requires major changes in U.S. law enforcement. Nor is there much understanding of what conditions foster it. A research agenda must address all of these mat- ters: how it should be described and measured, how it affects American society, and what are the means of controlling it. The underlying question is what can the United States do to keep transnational organized crime to a low level. A research agenda with this theme would have at least three elements: problem identification, develop- ment of data sources and possible methodologies for empirical and theo- retical analysis, and assessment of the consequences of regulation and con- trol. Separating the elements is, of course, not so neat. For example, the identification of the problem to be studied has implications for the appro- priate choice of datasets and methodologies, and what can be studied is very much a function of the datasets that are likely to be available. The following agenda draws on discussions characterized by divergent views; hence it allows for alternative emphases among and within the various topics. 40
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RESEARCHAGENDA 41 PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION Scope The focus of the workshop was on transnational organized crime, pri- marily as it affects the United States, either domestically or in terms of U.S. foreign interests. In Mexico and Russia, internal organized crime is impor- tant since it raises issues of specific concern to the United States. It is increasingly evident that Mexico has a major organized crime prob- lem. Not only are large sums being earned by drug-trafficking organiza- tions, but also those organizations are corrupting very high levels of the government and may be responsible for a number of important political assassinations.] Some U.S. officials are more willing to collaborate even with Colombian enforcement agencies than with those of Mexico, because the corruption of the latter has been so pervasive. Given that the United States and Mexico are so intertwined economically, politically, and cultur- ally, a Mexican organized crime problem becomes a major U.S. concern. For example, the United States, even in the face of the requirements for open borders of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has continued to inspect Mexican truck trafficking because of concerns about the lack of integrity in Mexican border controls). The concern with Russia has related origins. It is not as former adver- sary but as the owner of a substantial nuclear stockpile under weak security conditions that the United States has a special interest in how organized crime weakens the governance of Russia. Russia's biological weapons pro- gram is also a concern. The U.S. government has a variety of programs aimed at strengthening the institutions of government and civil society in Russia in order to prevent either the rise of a hostile government or the leakage ofthe nuclear (or biological weapons) capability (materials or skilled personnel) to other adversaries, such as Iran, Iraq, and Libya, or to terrorist groups. Thus an American research program on transnational organized crime should include coverage of organized crime in Mexico and Russia. A second issue of scope needs to be addressed. Many important issues involved in transnational organized crime are more appropriately the sub- ject of investigation rather than research, usually because they involve clas ~A useful source on these matters are the Mexico chapters of the U.S. Department of State's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
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42 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME sifted materials or require the peculiar legal capabilities of law enforcement agencies. For example, U.S. intelligence organizations have in the past collaborated with drug-smuggling organizations, in both Asia and Latin America. Social scientists may contribute to understanding these phenom- ena and what mechanisms generate them or could lead to earlier detection, but the basic task of developing knowledge is likely to be the province of Congress or agencies such as the inspector general of the Central Intelli- gence Agency. Harms of Transnational Organized Crime A research agenda aimed at policy making should include research on the nature of the adverse consequences of various forms of transnational organized crimes, which would help guide resource allocation decisions, both between transnational organized crime and other crimes and within transnational organized crime. Here we identify the harms that prior re- search suggests deserve more attention. National Security As reflected in Presidential Decision Directive 42, already mentioned. transnational organized crime is asserted to be a national security threat. For example, Jonathan Winer, a senior State Department official, testified that "transnational organized crime threatens America's national security and foreign policy interests in a number of regions of the world, undermin- ing legitimate economies and threatening emerging democracies."2 This is offered as a justification for the leadership role that the State Department has taken in various overseas programmatic activities in this functional area, such as the International Law Enforcement Training Academy in Budapest. An appropriate research task is assessing what forms of transnational organized crime threaten national security and in what ways. For example, it is asserted that money laundering threatens global liquidity and the soundness of the global financial system. Although in theory money laun- dering on a large-enough scale could indeed pose such a threat, it is worth examining whether in any instance it has had a major impact and the cir- cumstances under which that might yet occur. 2Winer Testimony before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control of the Subcommittee on Trade of the Senate Finance Committee, July 30, 1996.
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RESEARCHAGENDA 43 Clearly drug trafficking has had a substantial impact on some pro- ducer nations' security. The government of Burma over a 30-year period has been engaged in a struggle with irredentist (rebel) groups that are fi- nanced substantially by the drug trade; the Sendero Luminoso movement in Peru was better able to fight the government in the 1 980s because of its taxation of the local coca industry. Colombia, with many sources of large- scale violence, has had its internal security efforts further compromised by drug traffickers. But apart from Mexico and Russia, it is much more diffi- cult to see how these phenomena imperil U.S. national security, except under the very broadest of definitions, and that U.S. research is needed. International Treaties The rising concern about global environmental protection has created new international regulations and treaties that are dependent on compli- ance by many nations. The Montreal Protocol on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is an early example of a successful treaty of this type. Any regula- tion offers the opportunity for profitable evasion, but, since treaties often impose lighter restrictions on poorer nations, niches are created for transnational organized crime activities that undermine the agreement. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITE) is another agreement, intended to control a trade that usually involves purchasers in rich countries buying from suppliers in very poor nations. Understanding the impact of transnational organized crime on the effectiveness of these agreements may be an important topic. In a perverse way, transnational organized crime also sometimes repre- sents a threat when barriers are being lowered. NAFTA was designed to facilitate trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico and the elimination of numerous barriers. That should have reduced the role of criminal organizations. However, NAFTA's continuation is dependent on popular support, which may be withdrawn in the United States to the extent that drug traffickers and smugglers of immigrants seem able to ben- efit from the easier rules for crossing the U.S.-Mexican border. Increasing U.S. Criminal Victimization As a rich nation, the United States is an attractive target for crime. For example, cars stolen for sale in poorer countries, by expanding the demand for car theft, worsen the crime problem in the United States. Such theft
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44 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME presents lower risk for the thieves than does sale to domestic purchasers of stolen cars, because recovery from the ultimate buyer is so much less likely once the car has left the country. Insurance spreads that cost but also raises . . . . . · · · . · . it oy insurers aamlnlstratlve and managerial expenses. Intellectual property theft constitutes perhaps the most significant of these transnational losses for the United States. Industry estimates, which partake of advocacy but surely have some foundation, are that the interna- tional piracy of software and recordings results in the loss of billions of dollars for U.S. corporations (Dertouzos et al., 1999~. Here the interaction of criminal and legitimate organizations is particularly troubling. The mar- keting of these pirated products in the United States or elsewhere is done primarily by legal business corporations. How many and what kinds of firms are involved in these activities and how much is known by the owners or senior executives are reasonable questions. Worsening Americans Drug Problem No doubt the removal of foreign supplies from the U.S. market for illicit drugs would result in some substitution of domestically produced synthetics. However, analysis of changes in drug abuse indicators following three incidents of disruption of foreign drug supplies suggests that the sub- stitution is far from complete; for example, more opiate users sought treat- ment after the mid-1970s reduction in heroin imports, even though phar- macological substitutes were available from domestic sources (Renter, 19921. Thus the extent to which transnational organized crime increases crime and drug-related mortality and morbidity in the United States should . . . receive some research attention. Corruption Transnational organized crime may have a substantial impact on gov- ernment corruption, particularly at the federal level. Cross-border smug- gling of many kinds exposes border agents, including military personnel, to considerable temptation. Transnational organized crime may facilitate cor- ruption by lowering transaction costs; a single negotiation can establish the schedule of payments for a series of shipments, rather than expose the agent to the risks of repeated contact and negotiations with individual smugglers. It is also possible that transnational organized crime can purchase protec- tion more efficiently at the local level for the same reason, but its compara
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RESEARCHAGENDA 45 rive advantage in that respect looks less distinctive. The nature and scope of government corruption related to transnational crime is an appropriate sub- ject for future research. Loss of Border Control A nation is partly defined by its ability to control who and what crosses its borders. Smuggling is inevitable for a large, wealthy country with in- creasingly strong trading relations with the rest of the world. Powerful transnational organized crime may substantially exacerbate both illegal bor- der crossings (whether for the purpose of immigration or for more oppor- tunistic criminal activities) and smuggling of goods either prohibited (e.g., protected species) or subject to other restrictions (textiles from a nation whose legal imports already meet quota levels). Better estimates of illicit goods and illegal immigrants smuggled across U.S. borders is an important element of a research agenda on transnational crime. Beneficiaries Transnational organized crime, precisely because it so often involves the servicing of markets, is not simply an involuntary transfer of assets. It also is income-generating. Thus some foreign governments are ambivalent, because some forms of transnational organized crime create employment and bring in dollars. For example, in Bolivia a substantial fraction of its peasant population has weak economic alternatives, particularly in areas, such as the Chapare, that have developed specifically for coca growing (Clawson and Lee, 19961. The Bolivian government has manifested a re- luctance to take strong actions to reduce this production. Similarly, some Asian nations, including China, have clearly been ambivalent about the suppression of software piracy, as demonstrated in U.S.-China trade nego- tiations in recent years. In that case, it is not only producers who benefit but also customers in those countries in which software is so much more cheaply available. This list, though incomplete, suggests that the consequences of transnational organized crime are potentially many and varied. Describing and classifying them are preliminary steps to measurement and should form r 1 . . . an important part or research activities.
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46 i, TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME DATA SOURCES Official Records Official records such as court and regulatory proceedings must be an mportant source of information. They are frequently highly detailed and, at least in the United States, accessible public information. The trials of the major U.S. Mafia figures in the 1980s generated a vast number of public records, although apparently they have been little used for research.3 In Italy, similar records, augmented by interviews with the principal infor- mants jentitti), have already generated a number of studies that provide considerable insight into the workings, both national and international, of Italian organized crime (e.g., Gambetta, 1993; Paoli, 19971. Some caveats are in order when using such data, however. Court records report on a small and unrepresentative set of activities, usually the most serious ones. Even in the population of actual prosecutions, itself unrepresentative of all criminal activities of these enterprises, most cases do not go to trial but are settled through plea bargains, which generate little public information beyond the indictment itself. Most indictments iden- tify a set of specific criminal acts that provide only modest illumination of the underlying organization, although some prosecutors do use the indict- ment document to reveal much of the relevant evidence. Nevertheless, official, agency-generated records are currently one of the best sources of useful data on transnational crime. Investigative Records Some scholars have been able to obtain investigative records from agen- cies for purposes of researching organized crime (e.g., Cressey, 1969; Hailer, 19911. Such access is highly opportunistic, dependent on the whims ofthe agency and on the personal skills and connections of the researcher, even with industrious use of the Freedom of Information Act. These records may indeed constitute an important source of data, though these access problems may stymie their extensive use in a research program. Also, like court records, they present problems of agency bias. Investigation is not 3More from these transcripts can be found in the popular literature; see, for example, Blum and Todd (1995).
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RESEARCHAGENDA 47 random (and should not be) but it is difficult to determine the conse- quences of the agency's choices as a sampling strategy, so to speak. Ethnographic Studies and Surveys Ko-Lin Chin has conducted a number of studies of Chinese organized crime in the United States, using interviews with community members as a principal data source (Chin, 1990, 19961. He has also conducted a mail survey of gang members and was able to obtain some information about their criminal activities by that means. Patricia and Peter Adler (Adler and Adler, 1985) described the organization of the cocaine trade in the late 1970s by observation of participants whom they had met socially. Ethnographic studies and surveys are considered jointly because they derive information in the field. Both are valuable, but each has important limitations. On one hand, surveys are expensive and subject to particularly serious problems of nonresponse (exacerbated by the sensitivity of the sub- ject) and gaps in the sampling frame (because many subjects are undocu- mented aliens). On the other hand, ethnographic work is labor-intensive and mostly suitable for the low end or street level of a trade (see, e.g., Curtis and Svirdoff, 1994), which may not yield much information about the transnational aspects. The multiplicity of languages used by the varied national groups involved in transnational organized crime also complicates this kind of research. However, when well done, ethnographic research provides detailed knowledge that cannot be captured in surveys or other empirical studies. Informants Related to ethnography is the use of informants, whether recruited through an agency (e.g., Hailer, 1991) or by personal contacts (e.g., Ianni, 19721. The distinction is not a sharp one, but the informant may be inter- viewed in circumstances very distant from his or her natural setting, whereas ethnographers are generally rooted in the naturalistic setting of those pro- viding the information. Informants may also be recruited in prisons, al- though again there is serious question of how representative they are of the larger participant population (see, e.g., Renter and Haaga, 19891.
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48 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME Financial Records of Illegal Enterprises Some investigations result in the seizure of the financial records of illegal enterprises, particularly larger ones that use computers for such pur- poses. Only a little use has been made of these for the study of domestic drug distribution (e.g., Levitt ancl Venkatesh, 1998), but they can provide valuable descriptive information. One of their attractions is that investiga- tive agencies are likely to regard financial records as less sensitive than records on inclivicluals. Other Sources Transcripts from electronic surveillance can provide a great clear of in- formation about operations. Sometimes even when they are not included in court transcripts, they can be obtained for research. Investigators, par- ticularly those who have workocl under cover for long periocls, can prove at least as useful as criminal informants. They may have less understanding of the context of events, but they are likely to be more observant ancl capable of providing analytically coherent accounts. Incliviclual prosecutors may also provide important data concerning cases (without specific names) that they did not pursue to court. In summary, there are numerous potential data sources for the study of transnational organized crime. Each has substantial weaknesses, ancl most have an opportunistic element, since they are from operational sources. However, taken jointly ancl using methods to combine them, they may allow the development of a credible ancl multifaceted description of the . . . ~ . . . actlvltles of transnatlona . organlzec ~ crime. TOPICS Of course, to be useful for policy, the research would go beyond the descriptive ancl also attempt to answer more analytic ancl causal questions, particularly related to enforcement. Contlitions Promoting Transnational Organized Crime What conditions facilitate the development of transnational organized crime? Passas (1998) has suggested that a principal factor is the existence of cc . . . . '' 1 · 1.rr 1 crlmlnogenlc asymmetries, tnat IS, clltterences among nations in laws or
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RESEARCHAGENDA 49 regulations or in the effectiveness of enforcement. Thus one nation may provide a safe haven, or at least a safer haven, for conducting criminal activities in the other. Certainly this applies to the international drug mar- ket. Coca could readily be grown in the United States (as it has been in lava, Bengal, and Taiwan at various times in the 20th century), but the much lower risk of sanction in the Andean nations, along with cheaper land labor, has allowed them to be the dominant production centers for the U.S. market. Similarly, weak efforts at vehicle identification and theft in Eastern Europe and Latin America facilitate the exporting of stolen cars from Western Europe and the United States. The hypothesis proposed by Passas offers a starting point for study of what facilitates and impedes the growth of transnational organized crime. Immigration, both its numbers and characteristics, is also potentially an important factor, but much may depend on the strength and stability of government in the sending country, especially the firmness of the rule of law and the specificity of legislation targeting criminal activities. The opaqueness of many immigrant communities to policing allows organized crime networks to flourish in a relatively safe setting. The extent to which the receiving country is open to immigrants, providing opportunities for the learning of language, culture, and new skills and a niche in the legal economy, may influence the extent to which organized crime can gain a foothold in immigrant neighborhoods. It would be important to examine the roles of the sending country's economic and political conditions, the size and geographic distribution of immigrants in the United States, the speed of economic and linguistic assimilation into the broader community, and political traditions in the sender countries. Prices Prices are an important element of any illegal market. They affect who purchases the incentives for participation, and the damage that the activi- ties cause in each nation. That Chinese immigrants apparently pay smug- glers $45,000 per person for successful entry into the United States (Chin, 1998:25), compared with quite nominal amounts paid by Mexicans seek- ing illegal entry into the country (Cornelius, 1989) may generate more violence (both by smugglers in protection of their cargo and in collecting these large debts) and corruption. Not only do price data need to be collected in a systematic fashion, perhaps with informant debriefings as a major source, but they also need
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50 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME systematic analysis. For example, how much is enforcement able to influ- ence price? A simple framework has been developed (though not yet tested) for the relationship between drug prices and drug enforcement (Renter and Kleiman, 19861. That may be generalizable to other illegal market activi- ties, including money laundering. Prices are also essential for analysis of demand and supply factors that might lead to identification of other factors susceptible to regulatory control. Enforcement Description and Classification A possible starting point is a listing and systematic classification of what constitutes enforcement activities relevant to the control of transnational organized crime. It will be primarily a list of federal efforts. Complementary to that list is a conceptual framework that suggests how particular programs and interventions might be expected to affect transnational organized crime that is, by what means each may affect particular aspects of transnational organized crime. In terms of local en- forcement, more research attention would be needed on the nature and frequency of transnational organized crime and white-collar crimes that come to police attention, as well as the conditions that give rise to them. Such epidemiological or surveillance measures might support theory devel- opment, provide for greater clarity with respect to the goals of enforcement and prevention responses, and lead to more precise outcome measures. Outcome Measures Inasmuch as a program specifically targets transnational organized crime, it will be necessary to develop measures to assess its success beyond the apprehension and sanctioning of the targeted individuals and organiza- tions. These include the classic elements of deterrence, general and spe- cific, as well as the opening (through churning) or closing (because of the incapacitation of a critical link) of new opportunities. Attention should also be paid to unintended consequences. Money-laundering controls may produce transaction costs that are borne by poor persons (as with limiting the amount of cash that can be collected at urban bodega) or that reduce the competitiveness of U.S. financial institutions.
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RESEARCHAGENDA Preventive Strategies 51 Recently there has developed a line of analysis and innovation focused on "opportunity blocking" for organized crime Jacobs et al., 19941. It represents an understanding that much organized crime activity involving legitimate industries is the exploitation of opportunities that arise from the structure of contracting, regulation, or markets. Careful analysis of firms or industries to identify vulnerabilities may prevent the emergence of orga- nized crime. This may have application to transnational organized crime and is an appropriate subject for research. Prevention strategies that operate at a still broader level may be appro- priate subjects for research, for example, more strategic policing of immi- grant communities focused on preventing criminal groups from developing power over legitimate community institutions. This would need to be done in a way that recognizes the sensitivity of new immigrant communities to discriminatory enforcement, but research building on the frameworks de- veloped in community policing may be helpful. RESEARCH METHODS No single research approach is likely to dominate in this area. At one level, as a workshop participant later suggested, the discussion could be characterized as a debate between "skeptic describers" and ''quantifiers.'' At another level, it was about the choice of unit and the most appropriate . . . .. . .. socla1 science alsclpllne. Economics must play a role because markets are such an important element of transnational criminal activities. But the standard economic approaches have their limits in settings in which violence and legal penal- ties serve as very discriminating selection mechanisms for participation. The visible hand of violence may make the invisible hand of competition less effective, although there are some major illegal markets in which that appears not to be the case (Renter, 19831. Economic approaches emphasize systematic modeling and measure- ment. Economists are reluctant to enter research fields without the kind of quantitative data that allow them to use the sophisticated techniques that are now the staple and requirements of publication in good journals. Data on transnational organized crime are not likely to reach that richness and density for some time. It is worth noting, however, the observation or
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52 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME injunction of Alfred Blumstein (Carnegie Mellon University) that "the way to get good data is to do something useful with bad data." Other social sciences with more developed traditions for dealing with qualitative data have much to offer. Network analysis and other frames for the study of organization may generate a great deal of insight with the qualitative data that will be available for some time. Criminology provides a set of tools useful for the study of sanctioning effects. Williams (1998) has shown that international relations can offer important insights. In a setting in which quantitative data are scarce but stories are numer- ous, case studies may prove a fruitful way to advance knowledge. Graham Alison's Essence of Decision, a study of decision making during the Cuban missile crisis, helped develop a new framework for analyzing government decision making (Alison, 19711. Its power derived in part from the rich- ness of its description of the decision process. Case studies have a well- established role in many other fields of social science research, particularly related to crime (e.g., Klockars, 1975; Sutherland, 19371. The Cuban missile crisis was atypical, perhaps the only time Armaged- don was squarely faced by the U.S. government. That atypicality turned out to be analytically useful, because it threw so much of the process into stark relief. A detailed examination of a major transnational crime event or process may have the same power. For example, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International case, involving numerous nations, organizations, participants, and services around a fundamentally fraudulent institution, could serve this role. Various agencies have published detailed reports on the investigations they conducted on specific aspects of the case, both in the United States and elsewhere, and Passas (1993, 1996) has conducted a careful examination of these materials. Building on the work of Passas (1996), a reexamination of all these materials to provide a precise descrip- tion of the evolution of the bank could help develop hypotheses about transnational organized crime or at least some major elements of it. Inter- views with decision makers may well be an important component of such work, as it was for Alison's classic study. A critical research decision is whether the unit of analysis is the offense, the offender, or the enterprise. For measurement purposes, the offense is the more tractable unit. For purposes of theory and case study, it is the offender or enterprise. In criminology there has been a great deal of atten- tion to the offender and some attention to cooffending, which allows for a distinction between acts and offenders for purposes of enumeration. In transnational organized crime the enterprise is also important whether it
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RESEARCHAGENDA 53 is large or small, durable or transient, motivated by greed or a cause, pro- tected by corrupt relations or trying to operate through secrecy. IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY Transnational organized crime presents a long-term research issue. At this point it is possible to map out only the beginnings of a research agenda. Moreover, despite the political urgency of the problem, research funds for crime generally are extremely scarce (Wilson, 1997), and transnational or- ganized crime will have to compete with spousal abuse, the deterrent effects of imprisonment, and a dozen other important topics. In the short run, it is important to use available opportunities, particu- larly as a new area of research does well to establish its bona fides early. The growing interest of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in corruption as a central problem of development and governance will probably generate some related research activities at two institutions with strong research traditions. The United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention has established a modest research program in this area; although that should not drive the U.S. effort, its existence and form should not be ignored. In particular, the UN has selected three crime types for its efforts: drugs, people trafficking, and corruption. The president's speeches have also given considerable emphasis to these same offenses. The research agenda sketched here starts early in the process of con- ceptual and descriptive development. To attract good scholars into the field will require that some of the initial investment go to conceptual efforts that will demonstrate that this is more than a project of enforcement agen- cies with little patience or taste for scholarly work. Attracting good schol- ars to the field also will require a considerable funding investment, so that a long-term, systematic, rigorous, and objective program, characterized by well-established peer review procedures, can be mounted.
Representative terms from entire chapter: