thomsonreuters | According to our new study, released in conjunction with The Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point, connectivity between terrorist and criminal activity is highest in developed, resource-rich countries, and those with policies actively supporting criminal elements, countering previous assumptions.
The study, Risky Business: The Global Threat Network and the Politics of Contraband, uses information from our Thomson Reuters World-Check database to examine the relationships of those who produce and profit from illicit activities that include terrorism, the illegal narcotics trade, organized crime, human smuggling and political corruption. The network analysis includes 2,700 individuals linked by 15,000 relationships spanning 122 countries.
Key findings include:
- Connectivity among actors within the illicit marketplace is relatively high. This should not be construed to say that the network is a cohesive organizational entity. Rather, the phenomenon is a self-organizing complex system built through social connections from the bottom up.
- By most measures of connectivity, terrorists are more interconnected than almost all other types of criminals, second only to narcotics smugglers. The transnational nature of terrorist actors allows them to link disparate criminal groups.
- An analysis of social connections shows that 35 percent of the links that criminals and suspicious individuals maintain cross into terrorism.
- Connectivity between terrorists and criminals is highest in resource-rich countries. This challenges conventional wisdom that assumes this is a product of failed or economically poor states. However, the study found there is connectivity among poor countries that use criminality as an economic or national security tool.
- Identifying financial irregularities is critical to tracking dirty money, questionable transactions and illicit actors. Many government agencies are not training analysts in the intelligence or defense communities to think about the convergence of commerce, economics and threats. This skill gap represents a challenge confronting law enforcement and national security authorities.