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 You are in: Under Secretary for Management > Bureau of Diplomatic Security > News from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security > Bureau of Diplomatic Security: Testimonies, Speeches, and Remarks > 2004

A Global Perspective on Terrorism and Organized Crime

Ambassador Francis X. Taylor, Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director, Office of Foreign Missions
Keynote Speech to the International Conference on Asian Organized Crime and Terrorism
Honolulu, Hawaii
April 12, 2004

MODERATOR: To present a global perspective on terrorism and organized crime, ladies and gentlemen, Ambassador Francis Taylor.

AMBASSADOR TAYLOR: Thank you very much. Aloha. A day out of Washington is a day truly in sunshine, so I'm very pleased to be here to provide this perspective status. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I think it was about six months ago I was asked to participate in this conference, and all I had to say is "How soon?" Because talking about terrorism, and the war on terrorism, has been really my life since the 13th of July of 2001, when I was sworn in as the coordinator for counterterrorism in the Department of State.

Everyone knows what happened on the 11th of September 2001. The events of that day have stayed much of my professional and personal life since 2001. Terrorism is a threat and a challenge to all of us, whether you're from Honolulu, Indonesia, Singapore, or any separate or state or country in the world. Each of you as law enforcement officials and executives play a crucial role in this fight against terrorism.

Terrorism is, indeed, the ultimate crime, and it encompasses many of the other crimes that you investigate and solve on a daily basis. Whether you're investigating and prosecuting or preventing document fraud, credit card fraud, alien smuggling, or pirating of goods, the same techniques that terrorists use are used by criminals that are involved with those sorts of business.

You are the typical sword in the war on terrorism. It is through international cooperation across waters and the public and private sectors that will determine how successful we will be in this fight. We cannot afford to sit down or lose momentum if we hope to see a world safe for our generation and the generations to come.

Now, during the course of this speech—and you've heard it from your earlier speakers—there are six principles in the war on terrorism; and they go something like this: Cooperate, cooperate, cooperate, communicate, communicate, communicate. There's going to be a test at the end of my presentation; and the test is, what are the six principles for success in the global war on terrorism? So, get prepared for the test.

Since 9/11, the battleground tactics and ferocity of this war have changed for both sides. Whereas terrorism within the homeland is relatively new in the United States, some of you are from countries that have encountered these problems for generations, and realize that the road ahead for all of us is a difficult one. Terrorism is like a seven-headed viper. You cut off one head, and another terrorist group or another terrorist organization takes it's place.

Since 2001, the face of our enemy has changed. On 20 September 2001, President Bush called on the world to join in a global coalition against terror. I remember that speech. As a former military officer, I spent 31 years on active duty with our Air Force. That speech was unique, because it called for a different type of war. It called for a war that would bring together our intelligence, law enforcement, financial, diplomatic, and military capability, and that of our allies, in a global, coordinated effort to end terrorism as a legitimate political tool.

September 11 was caused by al Qaeda. Bin Laden and his group operating from Afghanistan was responsible for al Qaeda. I had the privilege of making that point to the North Atlantic Council, at NATO, in Brussels. NATO invoked Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty for the first time in the history of that alliance. This was an attack on the United States and therefore an attack on all of NATO.

Do you know what happened on the 7th of October as we began our military operations in Afghanistan? Those operations, and the subsequent worldwide effort—using all the tools that I described earlier, that President Bush had called for—has essentially rendered al Qaeda—the al Qaeda we knew on 9/11 is no longer in existence.

Their training bases in Afghanistan have been taken away. Their leaders—70 percent of them have been either killed or captured. The centralized command and control that we knew of before 9/11 no longer exists. But that doesn't mean that al Qaeda does not present a threat to our country and to our global system. Al Qaeda's subsequent members are still focused on a spectacular attack against the United States. They are still focused on strategies to try to hijack airplanes; still focused on strategies that could involve the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies.

Nonetheless, the al Qaeda that we knew before 9/11 is no longer the al Qaeda that we know today. That threat is mutating, as I mentioned, and it's mutating because of what I call the "ism" of Islamic extremists. It is my belief that what we're seeing happening is an evolution of al Qaeda from a group of people who served in Afghanistan against the Soviets, and in a world where adherence to bin Laden's brand of Jihad was law, to groups of people who share a common political philosophy called the philosophy of Islamic extremism.

Now I am not talking about people who fundamentally practice Islam. Being fundamental in one's religious practice is not a crime. In fact, one should support the fundamental practice of one's religious belief. But the extremism I'm talking about is the extremism, the political extremism, that says that we will impose upon you our political philosophy through violence. And that is what is being taught in some of the more radical mosques around the world, and being taught I think more dangerously in places like Islamic schools, the madrasses.

About two years ago, there was a CNN show on the madrasses of Pakistan. At the end of the show was an interview of a 8-year-old boy who had been sent by his parents to such a school in the northwest frontier province. This young man spent three years there; he had learned the Koran, could recite it back and forth, knew all the passages. The reporter asked the young man, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" His answer was quite chilling.

His answer was, "I want to go and fight America, because America is against Islam." Now, this is an 8-year-old child who has never been out of the northwest frontier province of Pakistan, who has been filled with hate — hate for people he's never met, a way of life he's never experienced, a philosophy—a global philosophy—of our Constitution and that of the international community.

Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that that is the generation that we now face, and will continue to face, as we fight the war against not just al Qaeda, but Islamic extremism as manifested by the words of that young man in the northwest frontier province. Therefore, the threat continues to be as significant as it was before and since 9/11.

The second change in the scene since 9/11 is the shifting from military and diplomatic and governmental targets to what are known as soft targets. That is high-value targets with strong, symbolic value, guaranteeing a significant number of casualties. The nightclub bombing heralded this new targeted mindset, and we have seen several more. The J.W. Marriott bombing in Djakarta, the hotel bombings in Casa Blanca, the HFB Bank bombing in Istanbul are all among those targets that the terrorists have begun to focus on.

But that isn't the only change we see in targets. We are also seeing a change in motivation. Since 9/11, terrorists have been adapting their tactics and techniques. With the 9/11 attacks, the purpose was to kill as many people as possible; and that fact was, indeed, the end game. But now we are seeing the murder of innocent people being used as a means, instead, to influence politics. Consider Madrid, and the attack on the four trains just before a major election; it shifted the political landscape in Madrid and brought in a new government.

Consider also the kidnapping of three Japanese citizens in Iraq, with the threat to the Japanese government that these citizens would be killed if they did not withdraw their troops. Similarly, Americans kidnapped over the weekend with similar claims, or demands, from terrorist organizations. We will begin to see these organizations use terror as the means of transforming the political landscape and indeed attempt to influence our own political process through terrorist attacks in our own country prior to our election.

The third change we are seeing is the phenomenon of global message. Terrorism of technologies, allowing al Qaeda and its extremist appearance to proselytize its message far and wide. Through the Internet, al Qaeda is able to share their knowledge, their plans, their ideology with people who have never been to Afghanistan or Iraq. Al Qaeda can communicate with JI in Indonesia, or the ETA in Spain, to franchise their ideas in another way of adherence to that philosophy.

New technology is facilitating that communication and allowing terrorists to coordinate and strike effectively. But technology is also a benefit for us. The soldier on the battlefield can pass intelligence to a border officer in the United States that allows that border officer today, in very short order, to interdict and stop an al Qaeda or Islamic extremist trying to enter our country. Technology in the Information Age allows global linkages to be made, so that Islamic extremists can connect to other terrorist organizations, as I mentioned, such as JI and ETA.

Does it matter that it wasn't an al Qaeda operative who set off bombs in the trains in Spain or the local Marriott in Djakarta? Probably not. The reaction was still the same. Fear, intimidation, and scores of people killed or injured. These folks are not, however, ten feet tall; and they do make mistakes. Indeed, the very fact that they have continued to attack innocent people have caused countries, on defense, to join the fight with increased zeal.

Al Qaeda's big mistake was in May of 2003, when it hit civilian targets in Saudi Arabia and caused the government of Saudi Arabia to reexamine its approach to extremism in that country and its cooperation with the global community. It has served to unearth within that country many al Qaeda cells, whose support Saudi law enforcement and security elements are today effectively dismantling in a way that would not have been the approach prior to the May 2003 attacks in Riyadh.

So what does it mean for you, or the investigators and specialists of organized crime and related enterprises? What are the Asian organized crime groups involved in micro traffic enforcement, trafficking in prostitution, smuggling of contraband, credit card fraud, money laundering, cyber crimes, explosives, and identify theft. Just consider: are we talking about Asian organized crime, or are we talking about terrorist groups?

I would submit that we're talking about the same. Terrorist groups use the same criminal enterprises to fund their activities. Because these are all the same crimes that terrorists are committing in the furtherance of their activities. So if we're investigating whatever crimes make up our specialties, we're using the same tactics and techniques and need to investigate terrorism.

There is a defined nexus between organized crime and terrorism. I hope that by my comments, I have convinced you that you are a critical part of the war against terrorism, because it is law enforcement that will break the back of terrorist organizations.

I'm quite proud, having watched our military forces operating in Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm sure you—as mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who serve so valiantly in those two conflicts—are proud and overwhelmed with their success. But the fact is, the military has never solved or defeated a terrorist organization alone. Terrorist organizations in history, have never been defeated alone by military force. It is done through the rule of law that terrorist organizations have been dismantled and defeated and their ferocities exposed. Because Bush was not kidding when he said it would take our military, political, economic intelligence, and law enforcement capabilities to be successful in this fight.

In law enforcement, it takes two things. It takes intelligence, and it takes the execution of our sworn officers to arrest, prosecute, and convict these members. I've been quite impressed in watching American and international law enforcement for the 2 1/2 years, as they went forth to do their job in supporting military operations and diplomacy.

There have been more than 4,000 al Qaeda members arrested in more than 100 countries around the world. You don't hear about that every day. But it happens because law enforcement works together and uses the intelligence that's generated by our intelligence organizations. Remember that thing called the six principles? Cooperate, cooperate, cooperate? Well, it was clear before 9/11 that that cooperation did not exist both within our country and among our international partners.

I'd like to use a football analogy, and since I've got a mixed group here, I'll use the international football analogy. When I talk to an American group, I talk about American football. When you attack a defense, what a striker does—and my daughter's a striker in soccer—you try to confuse the defenders. You try to make them think that something is happening that isn't happening so you can put the ball between them, to be able to strike into the back of the net.

The same is true in American football, if you attack a zone defense, you attack a zone defense on the seams, where two defensive backs are not communicating, and the quarterback tries to get around them to exploit that lack of coordination between the defensive backs. Well, terrorists do the same thing. Unfortunately, the environment that they operate in is the international system. So nation states that don't cooperate create seams, and through those seams, terrorist are able to move to their targets and attack innocent human beings.

No nation in this international circumstance can take a back seat to its responsibility to coordinate and cooperate with its partners to close those seams. Nineteen young men came to the United States of America to conduct the worst attack in the history of our country since the Civil War. And they came to our country because of seams that were created in our own institutions and institutions that we work with internationally.

It is the seam that is closed by international law enforcement that will be the most important seam in denying terrorists the areas that they can operate in with impunity. I am so very proud to have been able to carry a badge for so long in my career and watch my colleagues in law enforcement work so valiantly together against this terrorist problem.

I would ask you to continue to work hard but also to understand, because sometimes we get in our silentness, thinking we do narcotics, trafficking in people, murder cases, robbery cases, and not understand that terrorists and other criminals don't care about the silence. We have to cooperate horizontally with each other. We have to share information with each other that on the surface may not appear to be information that someone else needs.

I think the example this morning from Detective Gomez is an excellent one. Unfortunately, he had to come to a conference for that kind of sharing to occur. We need to make that sharing occur every day, across all of law enforcement, so that people who are at the point of attack—our officers who are on the street—have the information they need, so that when they encounter an individual who threatens our country, or threatens our security, they can make the arrest in time to make a difference.

Muhammad Atta was stopped twice on traffic violations before 9/11. Wouldn't it have wonderful if the officers who stopped him knew that this individual was someone we wanted for questioning and could have prevented those attacks from happening.

In appearing before an audience of this size, I have to do a little advertising for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the Department of State, not the largest but certainly the most far-flung federal law enforcement agency, with 32,500 employees assigned to more than 170 countries, from Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, from Moldovia to Madagascar.

We are the Department of State's law enforcement arm. But more importantly, we are your conduit, through our activities, to foreign law enforcement in the furtherance of your investigations. We work with the FBI, and Secret Service, and others who have foreign operations, but we are at every embassy the United States has around the world.

We also operate in three areas that I think will be of interest to you. The first of those is the Overseas Security Advisory Committee. This is a public/private partnership with more than 2,500 American businesses and entities that operate overseas. What we do in this partnership is share information. We believe that in sharing information with our private partners, who are conducting business overseas, they're able to better make decisions about the security of their people and the security of your operations. It's been adjudged one of the two best public/private partnerships in our government.

The second program that we manage is the program called Rewards for Justice, with $30 million in reward for the Hussein brothers, paid by our department under the Rewards for Justice Program. Congress has given us the authority, where terrorism is involved, to place up to a $50 million price on the head of anyone involved in terrorism against the United States.

The third program is the Antiterrorism Assistance Program. That program spends about $150 million a year to help our foreign partners improve their capacity to conduct counterterrorism operations and investigations and intelligence collection. That program is also administered out of my office and is available to our foreign partners through the U.S. embassies.

I can't stand before you and give a speech about terrorism in the world without talking about Iraq. One July is the key date and one that many are watching with great trepidation, not the least of which is the State Department, and me, who's going to be responsible for security on 1 July, when the coalition provisional authority transitions to the American embassy.

I don't know how you feel about the decision to go to Iraq; it's really irrelevant to me. The American people will make a judgment on that in the election. But what I do know is that now that the fight has been enjoined in Iraq, and also in Afghanistan, we're not going to lose. Al Qaeda, Islamic extremists, and others have chosen to challenge us and the international coalition in Iraq. You have seen what is happening in the cities today, as Iraqi elements, or the foreign elements, are conspiring to undermine the transition to the transitional government.

The United States of America will use all resources available to it to prevail in Iraq, and the reason for that is simple. If we do not prevail, if Iraq does not come out of this conflict with a more broadly democratic—and I'm not saying a democratic, but more broadly democratic—system than existed under Saddam Hussein, the world will see great difficulty in taking on (inaudible). It is a key factor in the war on terrorism and one that we intend to prevail in, with whatever resources it takes to make that happen.

Again, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, we must demonstrate to our adversaries that we will not back away from our commitment to the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan, or to their children, or our children, to fight this fight with as much energy and resources as we can muster.

I've given you a very general overview of the war of terrorism, and I would hope that there are many questions you may have that I did not answer. I'd be pleased to answer any questions you may have right now. Thank you.

Released on April 27, 2004

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