The Growing Nexus between Drugs and Terrorism

By Michael Jacobson

On July 18, the Washington Institute hosted Michael Braun, the Chief of Operations at the Drug Enforcement Administration, and a career DEA Special Agent who has served in a variety of positions both in the US and abroad. According to Special Agent Braun, the nexus between drugs and terror is growing at light speed. In his view, this is not a new trend -- there have been numerous links identified between drugs and terror over the last twenty-five years. Of the forty-three officially designated foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has linked nineteen of them to some aspect of the global drug trade, and believes that up to sixty percent of terror organizations are connected with the illegal narcotics trade.

Terrorist organizations have chosen to participate in the narcotics market for several reasons, according to Special Agent Braun. State sponsorship of terrorism is declining, and the Department of Treasury, Central Intelligence Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and FBI have done a very good job at identifying private donors and disrupting the flows of terror financing. The United States has worked with its allies and significantly disrupted al-Qaeda's ability to communicate with their cells and nodes around the globe. Partly for this reason, al-Qaeda has shifted from a corporate to a franchise leadership model in recent years.

Terrorist groups, therefore, are increasingly in need of new sources of funds. The drug business fills this need perfectly. The UN estimates that the international drug trade generates $322 billion per year in revenue, making drugs by far the most lucrative illicit activity.

To read the entire written summary of his remarks, or to listen to the audio, click here


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