The final point occupying the crime–terror continuum is the 'convergence thesis', which refers explicitly to the idea that criminal and terrorist organisations could converge into a single entity that initially displays characteristics of both groups simultaneously; but has the potential to transform itself into an entity situated at the opposite end of the continuum from which it began. Transformation thus occurs to such a degree 'that the ultimate aims and motivations of the organisation have actually changed. In these cases, the groups no longer retain the defining points that had hitherto made them a political or criminal group' .
In its most basic form, the convergence thesis includes two independent, yet related, components. First, it incorporates criminal groups that display political motivations; and second, it refers to terrorist groups who are equally interested in criminal profits, but ultimately begin to use their political rhetoric as a facade solely for perpetrating criminal activities. The first category can be further subdivided into two parts. First, it includes groups who have used terror tactics to gain political leverage beyond the disruption of judicial processes or attempts to block anti-crime legislation (which is a common tactic utilised by organised crime in order to secure their operations). Instead they are interested in attaining political control via direct involvement in the political processes and institutions of a state. Second, it includes criminal organisations that initially use terrorism to establish a monopoly over lucrative economic sectors of a state. In controlling economic sectors—including strategic natural resources—and financial institutions, these entities proceed to ultimately gain political control over the state itself. This is based on the premise that in a contemporary world dominated by the dynamics of the free market economy, economic strength is the obvious prerequisite for political power; and political power subsequently sustains both the life of the organisation and its activities—be they criminal and/or political. As Xavier Raufer notes, 'Grabbing control of financial institutions can both bring home the cash and advance political ambitions. Many groups, of course, will retain narrow portfolios of objectives, targets, and methods; others are becoming conglomerates of causes' .
This is a key point: "it includes criminal organisations that initially use terrorism to establish a monopoly over lucrative economic sectors of a state. In controlling economic sectors—including strategic natural resources—and financial institutions, these entities proceed to ultimately gain political control over the state itself."
This is an indirect coup d'etat or revolution, in which criminal organizations seize control over a state. It should be noted that this need not be what we understand as a criminal organization; what we think of as a traditional terrorist or guerrilla organization could gain power this way as well. And, the lucrative economic sectors of the state being taken over need not be legal economic sectors.
This is what is meant by "state capture" -- the topic of another series of posts (State Capture, Part I, Part II, Part III), with reference to Kosovo.
Russian and Albanian criminal organisations provide such examples of 'conglomerates of causes' as both groups seek to produce an environment once only associated with terrorism: to 'break or ruin the sense of social and political calm in a country' . In several regions of the Russian Federation—including the Maritime Province of the Russian Far East—and in Albania, organised criminals have found that 'in order to mobilise sufficient power to resist the state, they must move their organisations beyond pure criminalism with its limited appeal to most citizens and add elements of political protest' . Commenting specifically on the rise of the Albanian Mafia, Ralf Mutschke of Interpol has called it a 'hybrid' group because its activities indicate that its 'political and criminal activities are deeply intertwined’ . Mutschke further notes that the Albanian mafia is intrinsically linked to 'Panalbanian ideals, politics, military activities and terrorism,' explaining why Albanian criminal organisations used their criminal profits to purchase arms and military equipment for the Kosovo Liberation Army from 1993 . Contributing to the convergence between crime and politics in Albania is the fact that Albanian criminal and terrorist groups have an interchangeable membership and recruitment base—essentially posing as terrorists by day and criminals by night.
Notice the mix of political and criminal economic activities. If non-criminal economic activities enter the mix -- and at some point they must -- then we have the Shadow Realm that I describe.
How interesting that Albanian organized crime is given here as an example of what we are calling in other posts "state capture"!
And notice how Russian organized crime is given here as another example. It is already gaining political influence in parts of Russia. Can we anticipate the day when all of Russia, nuclear arsenal included, might come under the political control of a hybrid criminal-terrorist group?
Does this have to end with ethnic Albanian groups in the Balkans, and with Russian organized crime? Or, might this extend to Turkey -- the Turkish Deep State?
Is it possible here in America?
The second component of the convergence thesis addresses terrorist groups that become so engaged with their involvement in criminal activities (as discussed in the previous section) that they merely maintain their political rhetoric as a facade for perpetrating criminal activities on a wider scale. There is growing evidence indicating that despite increasingly focusing on criminal activities, terrorist groups 'maintain a public facade, supported by rhetoric and statements, but underneath, they have transformed into a different type of group with a different end game' . No longer driven by a political agenda, but by the proceeds of crime, these formerly traditional terrorist groups continue to engage in the use of terror tactics for two primary reasons. First, to keep the government and law enforcement authorities focused on political issues and problems, as opposed to initiating criminal investigations. Second, terror tactics continue to be used as a tool for these groups to assert themselves amongst rival criminal groups. Added to this, by continuing to portray their political component to the public domain, these terrorist groups are able to manipulate the terrorist support network that had previously been put in place. For example, they continue to focus on political grievances (combined with financial rewards) to attract recruits—giving justification to what would normally be regarded as purely criminal acts. Thus by simultaneously focusing on criminal and political goals, these groups are able to use two sets of networks which allow them to 'shift focus from one application of terrorism to another, or to pursue multiple applications simultaneously' .
This is a particularly significant paragraph.
Instead of discussing a hybrid criminal-terrorist group as I did before the above paragraph, I will now talk about a hybrid criminal-political group.
What would happen if a hybrid criminal-political group gained political control of a major military power? Suppose that hybrid criminal-political group also had interests that included what society would consider legitimate business?
Might this be considered a "semi-legit" organization? That is the term Sibel Edmonds uses to describe those implicated in bribing US government officials and influencing US policy.
Might the leaders of such a hybrid criminal-political group, "despite increasingly focusing on criminal activities", be able to retain political power and channel it toward criminal endeavors? Might such leaders "'maintain a public facade, supported by rhetoric and statements, but underneath, they have transformed into a different type of group with a different end game'"?
In that last paragraph, Makarenko gives two reasons why criminal organizations, despite their own focus on criminal proceeds, might continue with violence that appears political in nature:
First, to keep the government and law enforcement authorities focused on political issues and problems, as opposed to initiating criminal investigations.
To my readers familiar with the Sibel Edmonds case, does this sound familiar?
Second, terror tactics continue to be used as a tool for these groups to assert themselves amongst rival criminal groups.
Of course it does not have to be terrorist tactics; we know it could be ordinary organized crime activities.
Could it also be state-sanctioned military activity?