The role of wildlife trafficking in funding militancy and terrorism has received intense attention from conservationists globally as well as from members of the U.S. Congress. Yet the fact that some terrorist and militant groups have been involved in poaching of iconic species such as elephants for the illegal global ...

After 10,500 unaccompanied minors crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking asylum in October and November, many asked, what kind of parents would send their children on such a dangerous journey to an uncertain future?  Well, when you’re from the world’s most violent region not at war, the cost-benefit calculus changes.  In ...

The problems plaguing the Northern Triangle—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—are plenty, but for retired DEA Agent Michael Vigil one stands out among the rest. “Drug trafficking is synonymous with violence and the Northern Triangle is not exempt to this rule,” he explained.  Even more problematic, the resulting violence is not ...

The so-called Northern Triangle in Central America—namely, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—has been depicted as one of the must dangerous and violent regions in the world.  International organizations, human rights groups, politicians, and even churches and other religious entities, not to mention journalists and members of academia, contribute extensively to ...

Does the deteriorating security situation in Mexico affect us here in the U.S.?  Is it really a U.S. national security issue?  If Mexico continues on a downward spiral, as long as you’re not vacationing there, does it matter?  The answer is a big yes.  We share a long 2,000-mile border ...

For almost a decade, the Mexican government has deployed the latest version of a much longer effort to address the growing threat of Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs). Previous phases in this effort produced two phenomena: on one hand, the strengthening, sophistication, and territorial expansion of DTOs; and on the other, ...

In the last scene of the movie Sicario, children in Ciudad Juarez play soccer as their parents cheer from the sidelines.  Gunshots are heard in the distance.  Everyone pauses.  And then the game continues. Despite being fiction, this scene symbolizes what is true for people living in Juarez, and many ...

There was a sigh of relief when the Mexican government successfully re-captured drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman last week.  El Chapo, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, is arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world, exporting volumns of illegal narcotics globally and spreading violence in its wake.  However, ...

Labeled as the richest terrorist group in the world, the Islamic State (ISIS) continues to amass substantial funds to bankroll its military, economic, recruitment, and propaganda campaigns. The key sources of ISIS income are grounded in illicit networks, as ISIS utilizes the black market to generate significant revenue streams. ISIS ...

The Islamic State, popularly known as ISIS, is in many ways an innovative economic actor. But its method of bringing oil to market has been anything but cutting-edge. ISIS took advantage of a black market that had been sharpened long ago, when Saddam Hussein’s regime looked for ways to skirt ...

The Islamic State (ISIS) and the threat from terrorism has dominated the news for the past 18 months. ISIS emerged from the chaos in Iraq and the Syrian civil war to seize control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria, declare itself a “caliphate,” and become the richest terrorist group ...

Retired Brigadier General Russell Howard discussed ISIS’s involvement in antiquities trafficking with The Cipher Brief, explaining that ISIS taxes artifacts that are smuggled in territory it controls and even directly sells artifacts to antiquities traders on the black market. According to Howard, as the U.S. continues to target ISIS’s oil ...

With over 30 years working as a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, Michael Vigil has an extensive understanding of illicit trafficking networks.  The former DEA Chief of International Operations shared with The Cipher Brief how drug trafficking in Latin America must be addressed–or risk being a destabilizing force for Latin ...

Major and growing illicit trafficking networks link Latin America to Europe, Asia, and North America. Through these networks, illicit drugs and trafficked human beings flow towards the developed world, while dirty money and smuggled guns flow back in return. The criminal enterprises that administer these networks contribute to making Latin ...

The reach of Latin American illicit trafficking networks extends well beyond the region, according to former U.S. diplomat Celina Realuyo, now a professor at the National Defense University. Realuyo spoke with The Cipher Brief about the nexus between crime and terror, noting that these networks – and the organized criminal ...

Two assumptions about transnational crime disrupt the design of effective security policies worldwide: Assuming that corruption is mainly an economic issue in which private agents bribe officials, and assuming that only pure and “full time” criminals participate and sustain organized crime. To interpret corruption as an economic problem is to ...

As the military campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS continues to dominate U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, there is also an effort to disrupt and eliminate the terrorist group’s financial capacity. Terrorist financing networks are complex and intricate. Groups pull together funds from a variety of sources ...

The Somalia based terror group al-Shabaab has “diversified its economy” to ensure a constant income, from kidnapping for ransom and confiscating food and aid sent to rural populations, to forcing households to have expatriate family members send remittances from abroad to al-Shabaab’s coffers.  Some of the group’s most notable financial ...

For decades, belligerent groups have financed their operations by tapping into a variety of locally available economies, including illegal ones. The Shining Path in Peru was among the first groups to tax drug cultivation and smuggling. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia prolonged its life by being heavily involved in logging. ...

In mid-October, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea published its latest report confirming that despite years of effort and the recent territorial gains that AMISOM (the African Union’s mission in Somalia) and the Somali government have made against al-Shabaab, the group continues to garner the finances it needs ...

Pablo Escobar’s childhood dream was to be a millionaire by the time he was 22.  It is unclear if he met that specific goal, but at the height of his wealth, Escobar was worth $30 billion, money he earned as a Colombian drug lord.  In its new series, Narcos, Netflix ...