Organized crime responsible for $119 oil?
Amid the desperate finger-pointing that's been spawned by both the credit crisis and the worldwide commodities boom (It's storefront mortgage lenders! It's OPEC! It's speculators!), the U.S. attorney general has just thrown in his two cents.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey warned Wednesday that organized
criminal networks have penetrated portions of the international energy
market and tried to control energy resources.
In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in
Washington, he said similar efforts have targeted the international
financial system by injecting billions of illicit funds to try to
corrupt financial service providers.
CNN's account is incredibly thin on the details of who might be behind all of this, but Reuters says Mukasey "cited recent cases, many with links to the former Soviet bloc."
He cited Semion Mogilevich, indicted by the United States in 2003 and
arrested in Russia this January, who was suspected of exerting
influence over "large parts" of the natural gas industry in the former
The groups launder billions of dollars through U.S. financial
institutions, and invest profits in publicly traded companies. They
also "exploit the Internet," by running scams on eBay, flooding
in-boxes with e-mail spam and laundering money through "virtual worlds"
such as Second Life, Mukasey said.
Suspected arms traffickers such as Viktor Bout, a Russian national
arrested in Thailand in March, provide support to terrorists, officials
said. But they said there are no signs of close ties between organized
crime and the "core al Qaeda" organization.
The Justice Department's report that Mukasey trotted out with his speech lays out eight threats posed by this shadowy network:
THREAT 1: International organized criminals have penetrated the energy and other strategic sectors of the economy. International organized criminals and their associates control
significant positions in the global energy and strategic materials
markets that are vital to U.S. national security interests. They are
now expanding their holdings in the U.S. strategic materials sector.
Their activities tend to corrupt the normal workings of these markets
and have a destabilizing effect on U.S. geopolitical interests.
THREAT 2: International organized criminals
provide logistical and other support to terrorists, foreign
intelligence services and governments
THREAT 3: International organized criminals smuggle/traffic people and contraband goods into the United States.
THREAT 4: International organized criminals exploit the U.S. and international financial system to move illicit funds.
THREAT 5: International organized criminals use cyberspace to target U.S. victims and infrastructure.
THREAT 6: International organized criminals are manipulating securities exchanges and perpetrating sophisticated frauds.
THREAT 7: International organized criminals corrupt and seek to corrupt public officials in the United States and abroad.
THREAT 8: International organized criminals use violence and the threat of violence as a basis for power.
Excuse me, but except for maybe the human trafficking part and the uber-vague "targeting of U.S. victims and infrastructure," which of these activites does the U.S. government not engage in itself? Go back over the list and think about it. And that last item is really rich. What's the nature of government, after all, except a legal monopoly on the use of force?
A blogger at the Financial Times site treats Mukasey's "long and thoroughly alarmist speech" with the derision it deserves: "The general theme
is that Mukasey, his law enforcement colleagues, and the US population
at large face a global conflux of terrorists, mobsters, east Europeans
and LatAm revolutionaries that puts historical threats like the Mafia
into the shade."
It reminds me of an article I read in U.S. News and World Report, oh, probably 30 years ago, describing how terrorist acts from the Middle East to Northern Ireland to South Africa were all part of a sinister nexus that probably led straight to the Kremlin, though of course that couldn't be proved. It made quite an impact on an impressionable 12-year-old. Thank God I grew up, even if Michael Mukasey hasn't.