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February 24, 2005

Rico Carisch: One-question Interview

Rico Carisch PhotoRico Carisch is a frequent financial consultant and member of UN Panels of Experts, Journalist, and analyst specialized in compliance responses and security risks involving corporate networks, political power structures and rogue enterprises (criminal and terrorist)

Q: How can we tell a terrorist organization from a merely criminal one? Where are the boundaries, and how does the criminal activity of a terrorist band differ from the purely "businesslike" and non-political activities of a merely criminal entreprise?

A: The basic differences between criminal and terrorist organizations is that for criminals, illicit acts are the means to the goal – which is wealth. For terrorists, the illicit act is the goal – the exploding bomb which causes destruction. Criminals are satisfied with accumulating and maximizing material gains whereas for terrorists material interests are only enablers of their violent pursuits.

This very schematic and theoretical distinction falls quickly apart as a useful model for identifying criminal and terrorism patterns. In the real world, other issues come into play. There is also the additional challenge that well established, organized terrorism such as the armed groups associated with Hezbollah, Hamas, IRA, ETA, etc. are subject to constraints that small, ad-hoc groups of terrorists who operate with very little institutional support, do not have to consider.

Broadly speaking, and as a consequence of their organized activities both, criminals and terrorists have to pay heavy transactional costs in order to pursue their long-term objectives. For organized criminals to benefit over an extended period of time from their gains, well organized money laundering schemes are necessary. Terrorist organizations may face the same requirements. Their threats can only be menacing and ongoing, if their funding is institutionalized, and therefore, they, too may depend on well organized money laundering operations. Efficient long-term money laundering operations require solid structures and organizational support, manpower that has to be committed to defend these investments, and legal counsel and other services to build and maintain a screen of corporate entities.

For criminals these investments not only make sense, they are mandatory. After all, their goal is to achieve comfort, wealth, and eventually, they may even wish to become respected citizens. The smoother the conversion of illicit gains to licit wealth the closer criminals come to their ultimate goal. This is the cross section, where terrorism and crime go a separate path.

For terrorist organizations an opt-out or a change into legitimacy exists only as part of a political solution. They merely want to be a constant menace to the targeted society. For that purpose, they require infrastructure support and a ready supply of suicide bombers or fighters. The costs for these needs have to be met by whatever means available, be they legal or illegal. But there are significant motivations for terrorist organizations to procure funding and services as much as possible in a legal manner.

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The Workshop

On March 11th 2005 the Atocha Workshop on Global Terrorism, hosted by the Safe Democracy Foundation, will create a repository of original thinking on Global Terrorism that will continue to be fed weekly in the form of a weblog by creative thinkers on the subject from around the world.

The launching event will take place at the Atocha Train Station on March 11th, 2005 at the restaurant Samarkanda. Here, in in an atmosphere that will encourage creative thinking, around 400 people will participate as policy proponents, webloggers or as public; all will be engaged in the discussion of the proposed policies.
Preliminary Program >>

The People

The Workshop will bring together journalists, politicians, activists and scholars in the fields of democratic advocacy and terrorism analysis (see full list). We are introducing them by means of One Question Interviews. Anyone can register to the Workshop and participate by asking them further questions, challenging their assumptions or proposing their own alternative ideas.
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The Proposals

The general criteria for published ideas in the Atocha Workshop Weblog are that they be original, creative, potentially executable and most important that their implementation would likely lead to a more democratic world. The basic concept of the Worshop is that in politics, as in biology, diversity is needed to fight a threat. Political leaders, when confronted with the problem of global terrorism need a menu of possible responses. From the proceeds of the discussion on the weblog plus the physical event we will offer a series of Policy Proposals.
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The Issues

During the discussion stage we will be working from a series of topics that we will be refining down to ten main issues to be discussed at the physical conference. As you read this, participants in the workshop are already working together to boil them down to 10 from an original working set of 37.
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Credits

The Atocha Workshop is sponsored by the Safe Democracy Foundation.