|International Crime |
Prepared Statement of Louis J. Freeh, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation Before the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. Washington D.C., April 21, 1998.
Good morning, Chairman McConnell and members of the Subcommittee. I am honored to appear before you this morning and to be accompanied by General Ihor Smeshko who leads the Center for Strategic Studies and Analysis of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council and Captain Evgen Kostyuchencko, also of the Council. General Smeshko and his agency are one of the several organizations in Ukraine that are direct beneficiaries of the training and institution building programs that are the focus of this hearing and which the FBI is proud to present on behalf of the United States Government. Their presence here today stands as a testimony to the commitment by the Government of
Ukraine to develop modern law enforcement agencies that are based upon the rule of law. These two individuals are representative of the partnerships that the FBI is developing through its international crime, international training, and overseas expansion initiatives, partnerships that are of enormous benefit to the FBI and other U.S. law enforcement in our collective effort to enforce U.S. law and protect American citizens.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you and the members of the Subcommittee for the opportunity to discuss the threat posed to the United States by international crime, including that from Russian and Eastern European crime groups, and the international law enforcement initiative and programs developed by the FBI. I would also like to thank you for your long-standing interest and support of law enforcement training world-wide, especially in Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. I know you have taken a personal interest in Ukraine, and I am pleased to tell you about the continued cooperation we have received from Ukrainian officials through our Legal Attache office in Kiev.
Through our office in Kiev, the FBI has a number of ongoing money laundering and financial fraud cases. In addition, this joint cooperation led to the extradition of a United States Federal fugitive, despite the absence of an Extradition Treaty. Jeffrey Broner, a fugitive since 1993, was the only remaining defendant originally charged in a New York gasoline bootlegging investigation who had not been convicted in Federal Court. Broner is alleged to have played a part in a significant tax evasion scam from the late 1980s and early 1990s. He fled the United States shortly after a warrant was issued for his arrest and had remained in Ukraine since that time. Thanks to the developing relationships with Ukrainian officials, we were able to bring Broner back to the United States to face this charge.
The Need for International Cooperation
In recent years, the FBI's domestic law enforcement and national security missions have expanded and changed. In the first half of this century, the FBI earned its reputation as a preeminent law enforcement agency because of our success in response to the advent of interstate crime that swept the United States. As we approach the beginning of the 21stCentury, the United States now faces the increasing globalization of crime and criminal organizations. This growth of transnational crimes has been aided by the explosion in computer and telecommunications technology.
In a global economy, the United States is increasingly affected by crime originating in other countries. Criminal activities ranging from telemarketing fraud and financial institution fraud, to the more traditional drug and organized crime, come regularly to our shores. Sadly, terrorism has come as well. The international exporters of crime and terrorism, who seek to capitalize on vulnerabilities in free societies and open markets, include South American drug cartels, terrorists from the Middle East, and an array of organized crime groups from Europe, the former Soviet Republics and Asia. Regardless of origin, these and other international crimes impact directly on our citizens, often violently, and on our economy.
One of the most difficult challenges facing law enforcement is how rapidly criminals and terrorists — both domestic and international — adopt advanced technologies to thwart the ability of law enforcement to investigate those who wish to do harm to our Nation and its citizens. That is why encryption has become the most important technology issue confronting law enforcement.
Widespread use of robust non-recoverable encryption is beginning to devastate our ability to fight crime and terrorism. Uncrackable encryption allows drug lords, terrorists, and even violent gangs to communicate about their criminal intentions without fear of outside intrusion. This type of encryption also allows these same people to maintain electronically stored evidence of their crimes beyond the reach of law enforcement.
For example, convicted spy Aldrich Ames was instructed by his Soviet handlers to encrypt computer file information that was to be passed to them. Ramzi Yousef, convicted with others for plotting to blow up between five and twelve United States owned commercial airliners in the far east, used encryption to protect criminal information on his laptop computer. Major international drug traffickers are increasingly using telephone encryption devices to frustrate court-authorized electronic surveillance. Unfortunately, these types of situations will occur with more frequency as inexpensive encryption becomes more readily available to the public.
Developing a balanced approach to robust encryption is an extremely serious public policy issue. The Administration has launched a focused initiative to work closely with the information technology industry to develop technical and policy solutions that represent balanced approaches to strong encryption. However, we need the cooperation of all affected parties -- law enforcement, private industry, government officials, members of Congress, and the American public -- to create a solution which can protect individual privacy rights and permit law enforcement to fulfill its duties to protect the people from illegal and unlawful activities.
International Organized Crime Threat
International organized crime is an immediate and increasing concern not only for United States law enforcement, but also for the worldwide law enforcement community. International organized crime groups are engaged in a myriad of criminal activities that include: murder; extortion; corruption of public officials; bribery; drug trafficking; money laundering; financial fraud; kidnapping; prostitution; arms smuggling; and alien smuggling.
The widespread political, economic, social and technological changes and advances occurring within the last two decades have allowed these groups to become increasingly active worldwide. These criminal organizations are exploiting the increased ease of international travel, liberalization of emigration policies, expansion of free trade, high technology communications and sophisticated money laundering techniques to further their criminal efforts. The ability of international organized crime groups to adapt to these changes has hindered law enforcement efforts against them.
Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian criminal groups will pose a significant domestic problem for the U.S. in the future if they are not checked by law enforcement efforts. Russian Federation Ministry of Interior (MVD), Organized Crime Control Department officials report the existence of over 8,000 Russian/Eastern European/Eurasian criminal groups. There are allegedly over 150 ethnic-oriented criminal groups, including the Chechens, Georgians, Armenians and Russian-ethnic Koreans, of which 25 are active in the United States. Russian authorities also report the existence of some 750-800 so-called "Thieves-in-law", the Godfathers of the "Russian Mafia."
To date, Russian/Eastern European/Eurasian criminal groups in the U.S. have shown an ability to work closely with established American criminal elements, including the American La Cosa Nostra (LCN), Italian organized crime groups, and drug trafficking organizations. For instance, ties with the LCN date to at least 1983, when the head of the Organizatsiya in New York forged an agreement with the Colombo, Gambino, Luchese, and Genovese New York LCN families. The business relationship was centered on gasoline excise tax schemes and a payment by these groups of a per-gallon "mob tax" for gasoline sold in LCN-controlled areas. In return, LCN families would settle disputes, provide protection, and provide stability to the "bootleg" fuel market. As law enforcement efforts against established organized crime groups in the U.S. has become increasingly successful, Russian/Eastern European/Eurasian criminal elements are moving to fill the voids left by the other criminal groups.
Unlike some of the other ethnically-oriented organized crime groups in this country, the Russian/Eastern European/Eurasian criminal groups appear to gravitate at an earlier stage toward complex criminal activities, such as gasoline tax frauds, cyber security, bankruptcy fraud, insurance frauds, and health care industry frauds. That level of sophistication, coupled with a documented tendency toward violence, indicates that these criminal groups are becoming a significant criminal elements in the U.S.
Russian/Eastern European/Eurasian criminal groups in the United States are most visibly organized in the major metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York, Newark, Boston and Miami. Factions of these criminal groups have aligned themselves with the New York La Cosa Nostra families in certain criminal activities. While the so-called "Russian Mafia" appears to prefer economic crimes such as credit card, insurance, and gas excise and other tax fraud for larger schemes, they also engage in extortion, robbery, theft, murder, and drug trafficking.
Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov is a high-level Russian organized crime leader known to have taken up residence in the United States. Ivankov arrived in the United States in March 1992, reportedly to establish control of and direct Russian/Eurasian organized crime activities in this country. In 1995, Ivankov and five of his associates were arrested by the FBI in New York on federal charges of conspiracy to commit extortion. Much of the predication for this investigation was provided by the Russian MVD and the Canadian RCMP. In 1996, Ivankov was convicted and sentenced to a 9-year and 7-month term of incarceration. Ivankov was clearly one of the most notorious Russian organized crime figures operating at that time. Although he was based in New York, his criminal enterprise was truly global and posed serious threats to a number of countries.
Elements of the FBI's Response to International Crime
There are three key elements to the FBI's international law enforcement initiative. First, the FBI must have an active overseas presence that fosters the establishment of effective working relationships with foreign law enforcement agencies. There is already a well-documented history of our Legal Attaches who have drawn upon their investigative experiences and backgrounds and enlisted the cooperation of foreign law enforcement on innumerable cases enabling the arrest of many U.S. fugitives and solving serious U.S. crimes.
Second, training foreign law enforcement officers in both basic and advanced investigative techniques and principles is a powerful tool for promoting cooperation. We use the FBI's National Academy program as our model. For decades it has fostered comity with state and local law enforcement agencies.
Finally, institution building is necessary to help establish and foster the rule of law in newly democratic republics. Establishing rule of law will promote greater confidence and stability in these new governments by their citizens. Fostering the development of democratic principles in these countries will not only protect United States' interests and citizens in those countries, but also bring stability to a region which has been fraught with strife throughout its history.
These three elements draw upon my own experiences with the Italian-American Working Group (IAWG) when I served as an agent and a federal prosecutor. This group continues to show how effective the cooperative effort between United States and Italian law enforcement is. The IAWG mounted a coordinated and sustained attack against the Sicilian mafia. The success of the IAWG framework resulted from developing cop-to-cop partnerships and focusing upon a common and agreed upon strategy.
We are working with our law enforcement partners in Central Europe and elsewhere to replicate this framework. The Central European Working Group, sponsored by the FBI, consists of 13 nations focused on the identification of common law enforcement threats and the establishment of lines of communication among partners. Through the working group, we are strengthening working relationships and leveraging resources against organized crime groups and individuals involved in transnational criminal activities.
I firmly believe the FBI's initiatives in response to the problem of international crime are based upon sound and proven approaches that have been successfully used here and abroad. This approach must now be extended to other partners in the international arena.
Legal Attache Program
The first element of the FBI's international law enforcement initiative is our Legal Attache program. The FBI has long recognized the need for assigning personnel to American embassies abroad, and first began assigning personnel abroad during World War II. Agents who serve as Legal Attaches are among our most experienced investigators. They possess appropriate security clearances, and, with very few exceptions, are fluent in the language of the country to which they are posted.
Legal Attaches are the FBI's first line of defense beyond our borders. They are part of a permanent presence that is alert to the potential perils around the world. Their goals are simple — to keep foreign crime as far from American shores as possible and to help solve as rapidly as possible those international crimes that do occur.
Finally, it is important to emphasize that FBI Agents stationed overseas are not intelligence officers or shadow intelligence officers. They do not engage in espionage. FBI Legal Attaches are in place to facilitate the international battle against crime and terrorism by establishing operational links with foreign law enforcement and security agencies.
At the present time, the FBI operates 32 Legal Attache offices around the world, staffed by 82 agents and 61 support employees. During 1997, these employees handled over 19,200 investigative matters, ranging from kidnapping to drug trafficking, from terrorism to money laundering, from financial fraud to extortion. These agents and support staff serve as the conduit through which law enforcement information and cooperation flow between the United States and its foreign partners.
All FBI field offices have sought Legal Attache assistance in covering leads, with the largest portion coming from major metropolitan offices. More than 80 percent of the current case load handled by Legal Attache offices is in direct support of domestic FBI investigation not only covering leads, but organizing the arrest and extradition to the United States of wanted criminals.
The Legal Attache office in Moscow — opened in July 1994 as part of our expansion plan--provides an excellent example of the success of our overseas program. When our office in Moscow opened, it started with a caseload of approximately 35 cases; three years later, that caseload has grown to 185, covering some 660 leads from domestic FBI investigations. We opened the Moscow office after we found Russian-related crimes were increasing in certain United States cities. We quickly learned, as a result of increased inquiries from FBI field offices and growing cooperation with Russian authorities, that the problem was more extensive than we had thought.
The cooperative professional relationships which we have worked to develop recently proved their worth. On March 18, two twenty-year old Americans serving as missionaries for the Mormon Church in Saratov, Russia, were assaulted and kidnapped. The victims were lured to an apartment by individuals posing as potential converts. After being assaulted, the victims were bound, gagged and blindfolded. They were held hostage for five days while their captors demanded $300,000 ransom from the Mormon Church. The Moscow Legal Attache office, in conjunction with the Regional Security Office of the U.S. Embassy, began coordinating with Russian law enforcement officials immediately. The FBI dispatched a Russian speaking Special Agent who was trained in hostage negotiations and was familiar with the Saratov area and local Russian law enforcement personnel to Moscow. Within hours after his arrival, the victims were released without any ransom being paid. Three days later, the Russian Federal Security Service arrested the kidnappers.
In 1997, an employee of a Jacksonville, Florida, armored car company perpetrated a robbery of almost 19 million dollars in cash. This individual was arrested crossing the Mexican border back into the United States. Investigation conducted by our Legal Attache in Mexico City identified the hiding place for the stolen money in North Carolina. As a direct result of the Legal Attache's efforts, 99.4 percent of the stolen money was recovered. In this one case alone, an FBI Legal Attache contributed to a recovery of $19 million, almost two-thirds of the FBI's 1997 operating budget of $28.7 million for its overseas offices.
This past December, FBI Top Ten Fugitive Thang Thanh Nguyen was arrested by the People's Police of Vietnam. After his arrest, Nguyen was transported to Bangkok, Thailand, by the People's Police, where he was turned over to a team of FBI Agents and then escorted back to the United States. Nguyen was being sought on murder charges stemming from a 1992 New York home invasion robbery during which he allegedly shot a victim in the stomach and the head.
This arrest came about as a result of close cooperation between the Government of Vietnam, the United States Ambassador to Vietnam, the United States Ambassador to Thailand, the Diplomatic Security Service of the Department of State, the FBI Legal Attache in Bangkok, the Monroe County District Attorney's Office and Irondequoit Police Department in New York, and the FBI's Buffalo Field Division.
These case examples, of which there are many more, represent a very sound return on Congress' confidence and investment in our Legal Attache Expansion Program. Legal Attaches need to be stationed where they can have access to information in a timely fashion, where other foreign law enforcement colleagues can provide this information in an arms-length fashion. Even if we cannot prevent a Khobar Towers bombing, we need the capability to respond without delay. The FBI is currently completing a threat-based assessment for existing and proposed Legal Attache offices. We hope to submit our findings to the Congress in the next few months.
International Training Programs
The second element of the FBI's international law enforcement initiative is training. Training of foreign law enforcement officers is particularly critical to combating international crime. In addition, citizen confidence in law enforcement agencies depends upon the development of professional law enforcement officers who understand and operate under the rule of law. In return for this investment in training programs, the FBI is able to work cooperatively with foreign law enforcement agencies that share a common perspective and understanding of investigative procedures. During the past three years, the FBI has provided training for over 13,000 foreign law enforcement personnel from over 60 countries.
Through a program of in-country training, the FBI conducts one and two-week schools which are designed to meet a country's particular training needs. The schools concentrate on subjects such as basic and advanced police operations, technical skills, ethics, and internal police controls. Senior FBI agents serve as instructors, bringing their knowledge and expertise to these programs. Their credibility is not only essential for effective instruction, but also very effective for building the cop-to-cop bridges that we so critically need.
Practical Case Training (PCT) is also an important part of the FBI's international training program. Practical Case Training is an on-the-job training program that enables foreign police entities and FBI agents to work together on actual investigations of mutual interest, such as money laundering, bombings, bank fraud, fugitives, drug trafficking, and crime scene investigation. In 1997, the FBI conducted 14 Practical Case Training initiatives.
This program has resulted in a number of successful investigations. For example, under this program, Russian Federation Ministry of the Interior (MVD) officers traveled to the FBI's New York field office to participate in an unprecedented cooperative investigation targeting the aforementioned Russian organized crime figure Yvacheslov Kirillovich Ivankov. Russian MVD officers working side-by-side with FBI Agents were able to recognize and decipher codes used by the Ivankov organized crime group. This cooperation immeasurably aided the investigation and directly led to the conviction of Ivankov and his associates.
Under the auspices of the Department of State's Antiterrorism Training Assistance program, and working with the Department of Defense, the FBI has also developed three training courses which attempt to counter threats of concern to the United States. These three courses include: Major Case Management, Terrorism Crime Scene Management, and the Criminal Justice Executive Forum. Each two-week course provides senior level law enforcement officials with leadership, management, and organizational concepts and experiences that are critical to the direction of national law enforcement agencies and to the coordination of multi-agency crisis management policy and strategy. In 1997, the FBI taught six courses for six countries under this program. We plan to conduct eight courses for eight countries during 1998.
International Law Enforcement Academy
The third element of the FBI's international law enforcement initiative is the International Law Enforcement Academy, or ILEA, in Budapest, Hungary, which opened in April 1995. The FBI serves as the lead agency for coordinating activities at the ILEA in Budapest. Operating funds for the Academy are provided by the Department of State.
The ILEA in Budapest serves as a law enforcement training center for officers from Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic states. The Academy is currently hosting its fifteenth session. After that class graduates in May 1998, 632 students from 20 countries will have completed the eight-week program at ILEA.
Instructors at the Academy represent a true cross-section of federal law enforcement agencies, including subject experts from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, United States Customs Service, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. We have also used law enforcement instructors from other countries and the European Law Enforcement College.
Training at the Academy can also be customized to meet the needs of participating countries. In 1997, 19 specialized courses were conducted by 6 different United States Government Agencies. For example,
The FBI and the Department of Defense provided counter-proliferation training to law enforcement officers from the nations of Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan. This training is of international importance in preventing hostile nations from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities and in preventing terrorist groups from obtaining nuclear materials that could be used against the United States.
An FBI course on organized crime was attended by 22 students from Austria, England, Hungary, Israel, Romania, Slovenia, and the United States; and,
The United States Secret Service taught a counterfeiting course for 53 students from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Estonia.
Through the Academy we are building cop-to-cop relationships not only between law enforcement from the United States and participating countries, but also between officers from participating countries themselves. For example,
Hungarians and Romanians have executed various memorandums of understanding (MOUs) because of their introduction to various officials while attending ILEA. These law enforcement MOUs were the foundation for national treaties between the countries regarding human rights and minority issues;
Ukraine and Hungary have established a close working relationship on their border as a result of their students attending the Academy. Together, they have apprehended organized crime members that have ties to the United States;
Baltic countries have sought FBI assistance on organized crime matters that directly affect United States national security. It was former ILEA graduates who spearheaded the contacts with United States law enforcement; and,
Polish students used techniques learned at the Academy to detect and subsequently dismantle a clandestine drug laboratory. Some of these drugs were destined for the United States.
The immense success of the ILEA in Budapest demonstrates the need for additional training academies. For example, the establishment of an ILEA to serve Asia is being negotiated with the Royal Thai Government. The FBI looks forward to joining the Drug Enforcement Administration in the leadership of ILEA Asia.
We are confronted on a daily basis with the reality that the safety and security of American citizens is increasingly threatened here and abroad by criminals who know no boundaries. The only way to reduce that threat is to create and develop substantive international links--personal networks of law enforcement professionals dedicated to bringing these criminals to justice. The FBI is addressing the threat of international organized crime and terrorism through the international law enforcement initiatives that I have just described. The overseas program of the FBI is the most effective tool available in protecting our Nation from the threat of international organized crime and global terrorism. Increasingly, crime in the United States is influenced from outside our borders. It is essential that we have experienced FBI personnel posted in foreign countries to enable us to get the information we need to accomplish our domestic mission.
The funding that Congress provides under the auspices of the Department of State's International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the Freedom Support Act, the Support for Eastern European Democracies, and the Antiterrorism Training Assistance programs is absolutely critical for the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to provide necessary training and institution building support to our colleagues from Eastern Europe and around the world. These programs allow United States law enforcement to build bridges of cooperation and understanding with their foreign counterparts at the investigator level. Such bridges and relationships are among the most positive steps the United States Government can take to keep foreign crime problems from reaching the shores of America.
In just a few, short months from today — in July — the FBI will celebrate its 90th birthday. Since its beginning in 1908, the FBI has built a distinguished record of serving the American people by effectively recognizing and responding to the crime and national security challenges of our times. As I look ahead toward the challenges that will face the FBI as it approaches the 21st Century, I am confident that the FBI's international perspective and the support of this Committee and Congress have given our international efforts will serve as major factors in our Country's ability to address the globalization of crime and terrorism.