DISPATCH: Understanding & Response to Transnational Criminal Threats

On 16 June 2016, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing to gauge the progress and challenges of transnational criminal threats.  Here’s a summary of relevant testimony from the Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.


In this Dispatch…

  • Summary of Congressional testimony on transnational organized crime

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  • Transnational organized crime (TOC) includes illegal trafficking in drugs and people, as well as cybercrime.
  • U.S. consumption of cocaine is down 50% over the past two years, but the U.S. needs to transition to the heroin epidemic.
  • Most heroin used in the originates in Mexico.  In the past three years, Mexican heroin production has doubled.
  • In the past two years, the cocaine production in Columbia has doubled.
  • Afghanistan produces over 80% of the world’s heroin.
  • TOC requires corruption and poor economic conditions to thrive.
  • Mexican TOCs replaced declining demand for cocaine for increasing demand for heroin.
  • Mexican TOCs have vertical integration, having control over both production and logistics.
  • Columbia used to produce half of the heroin used in the U.S., and Mexico has replaced that production, being closer to the U.S.
  • Fentynol is being produced in China, and is cheaper to produce.  Sen. Corker is concerned that it’s the next epidemic.
  • The challenge for law enforcement is going after then thousands or tens of thousands of acres under poppy cultivation.
  • There’s a major amount of influence and penetration of Mexican TOCs in the border region.
  • In many instances, drug trafficking and human trafficking are done by the same organizations.
  • The TOCs are skilled and well-informed enough to identify weak points in border security.
  • Transnational criminal databases are greatly aiding the interdiction and law enforcement effort.
  • China is the world’s largest pharmaceutical industry.  There may be up to 160,000 pharmaceutical companies in China.
  • China is producing hundreds of pharmaceuticals products per year, but only 20-30 per year are registered with the UN.
  • The overwhelming majority of fentanyl consumed in the U.S. is produced in China.
  • A gram of fentanyl is 80-100 times as powerful as morphine and 40-50 times as powerful as heroin.
  • Fentanyl distribution can be facilitated through the mail.

You can watch the entire testimony here.


Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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