- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The FBI’s top counterterrorism official harbors many concerns: weapons of mass destruction, undetected homegrown terrorists and the possibility that old-fashioned mobsters will team up with al Qaeda for the right price.

Though there is no direct evidence of organized crime collaborating with terrorists, the first hints of a connection surfaced in a recent undercover FBI operation. Agents stopped a man with reputed mob ties from selling missiles to an informant posing as a terrorist middleman. That case and other factors are heightening concerns about mobsters teaming with Osama bin Laden’s followers.

“We are continuing to look for a nexus,” said Joseph Billy Jr., assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. “We are looking at this very aggressively.”

The new strategy involves an analysis of nationwide criminal investigations, particularly white-collar crime, side by side with intelligence and terrorist activity.

“We have developed an ability to look harder and broader in a greatly enhanced way to see if there is any crossover,” Mr. Billy told the Associated Press.

Organized crime syndicates could facilitate money transfers or laundering, human smuggling, identification fraud or explosives and weapons acquisitions, officials said.

There are the five reputed La Cosa Nostra families in New York, Russian criminal enterprises from Brighton Beach in the New York borough of Brooklyn to Moscow, and the emerging Asian crime syndicates that operate in many Muslim countries with an al Qaeda presence.

A contract study produced recently for the Pentagon and obtained by the AP warned that the potential for organized crime assisting terrorists is growing.

“Although terrorism and organized crime are different phenomena, the important fact is that terrorist and criminal networks overlap and cooperate in some enterprises,” the study said. “The phenomenon of the synergy of terrorism and organized crime is growing because similar conditions give rise to both and because terrorists and organized criminals use similar approaches to promote their operations.”

The traditional Mafia has highly developed networks for acquiring goods and services and money, all for a price. The mob’s potential interest in helping a terrorist has nothing to do with ideology or sympathy but with greed, said Matt Heron, head of New York FBI’s organized crime unit.

“They will deal with anybody, if they can make a buck,” Mr. Heron said. “They will sell to a terrorist just as easily as they would sell to an order of Franciscan monks. It’s a business relationship to them.”

“If the mob has explosives and a terrorist wants them and they have the money, they could become instant friends,” he said.

Pat D’Amuro, a retired senior FBI official who is chief executive officer of Giuliani Security & Safety, said a Mafia boss once acknowledged that the mob would help terrorists.

“I am aware of a high-level Mafia figure, who was cooperating with authorities, being asked if the Mafia would assist terrorists in smuggling people into Europe through Italy,” Mr. D’Amuro said. “He said, ‘The Mafia will help whoever can pay.’”

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