Good morning and welcome to Washington, everyone! It is an honor to kick off your three-week program and host you in-person at the Department of State. Your cohort’s focus on tackling transnational threats we collectively face, such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, and cyber warfare, is timely and needed. No country is immune from criminals’ devastating impact on our communities and economies. As the leaders on the frontline, I want to start by acknowledging the valuable and brave work that you do to keep us safe. I cannot underscore the indispensable contributions and impact criminal justice professionals, like you, make. I also want to thank national security leaders from the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security here with us today.
Against the backdrop of an increasingly complex and fluid global landscape, the Department of State is laser focused on combating transnational criminal organizations, tackling corruption, countering malign influence, and fighting creation of synthetic drugs as well as drug trafficking.
You all are valued partners in countering the threat that transnational criminal organizations (or TCOs as we call them) pose to people around the world. TCOs are a global challenge that require a systemic and sustained response. Criminal networks operate across borders, exploiting the vulnerabilities of weak states and corrupt leaders, thereby undermining the rule of law. These networks traffic in everything from drugs and firearms to human beings and wildlife, causing untold harm to communities around the world. To combat this scourge, we seek to deepen the trust and cooperation among criminal justice institutions, as well as solidify strong partnerships with practitioners, such as yourselves.
Just last week at the Cities Summit of the Americas, Secretary Blinken reinforced the need to work together at all levels of government to tackle issues such as drug production and trafficking. He noted that we’re working every single day to break up and break down transnational criminal enterprises, but if we’re not working at the local level, at the national level, the international level – we’re not going to solve the problem.
One way that we are addressing this issue is by building up the cadre of professionals to combat transnational crime globally through our six International Law Enforcement Academies located in Botswana, El Salvador, Ghana, Hungary, New Mexico, and Thailand. Over nearly three decades, these academies trained over 70,000 people, from all levels of government, from 100 plus countries on topics such as cybercrime, anti-corruption, and money laundering.
Just last week, I presented our annual ILEA awards to three law enforcement officers who trained at these academies. One of the honorees hailed from Kosovo and received special recognition for her work on cases that revealed organized criminal groups used two border crossings with Albania to smuggle narcotics. Through collaboration with law enforcement colleagues met through the ILEA program, this individual contributed to the extradition of 11 criminals to the United States and seized approximately 400kg of cocaine. This example, one of many ILEA success stories, underscores the paramount importance of developing and sustaining partnerships to tackle transnational challenges. A second priority area that the Department supports to make the world safe and secure is combating corruption. To this end, the Biden Administration in December 2021 released the first United States Strategy on Countering Corruption. This strategy elevates the fight against corruption as a core U.S. national security interest and provides a roadmap for our domestic and international efforts to prevent, limit, and respond to the role corruption plays in transnational crime.
For instance, one of the strategy’s overriding objectives is holding corrupt actors accountable. In March 2022, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the launch of Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures that the United States has imposed, along with allies and partners, in response to Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine.
Another one of the anti-corruption strategy’s objectives is to preserve and strengthen the multilateral architecture. For our part, in December 2023, the United States will host the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in Atlanta. This Conference is the most high-profile, near-term multilateral event on anti-corruption, as it convenes the 189 states parties to the convention and focuses on ways to advance anti-corruption obligations and policy priorities.
A third priority area related to making the world safe and secure is countering authoritarian overreach. Authoritarian governments not only continue to increase repression at home but are also engaging in increasingly malign behavior abroad. We’re working to thwart the efforts of autocrats to use technology to repress people beyond their borders. For example, with 35 fellow governments in the Freedom Online Coalition, we led an effort to develop a set of guiding principles to encourage the responsible use of surveillance technology, to prevent its misuse by bad actors, such as targeting people based solely on their race, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, political views, or any other classification that is protected by international law. We took immediate steps to translate these principles into action. Late last month, President Biden issued an executive order that bans the U.S. Government’s use of commercial spyware that poses a risk to our national security or that has been misused by foreign actors to abuse human rights.
Lastly, today, more than ever, the United States is working vigorously to stem the flow of illicit synthetic drugs, like fentanyl, from entering the United States. This is an urgent problem as fentanyl is the leading cause of death among people between 18 and 49 years old in this country. As Secretary Blinken underscored last week in Denver, we can’t solve this issue alone. This is why the International Visitors Leadership Program is so critical, with its special emphasis on the global trade in synthetic opioids by transnational criminal organizations.
Now, some of you might be thinking that your country doesn’t have a problem with synthetic drugs. However, this truly is a global public health crisis and security threat to which no country is immune. In the United States and North America, it’s fentanyl. In the Middle East, it’s captagon. In Asia, it’s methamphetamine.
To address this global threat, the INL bureau is working closely with many of your agencies to target the criminal networks that traffic in precursor chemicals as well as manufacture, traffic, and sell synthetic drugs. On April 14, the United States announced a series of actions against those involved in illicit fentanyl trafficking. Through the Department of State, we announced rewards offers for information leading to the arrest or conviction of 27 individuals. Additionally, the Department of Justice announced significant indictments against fentanyl traffickers associated with the Sinaloa Cartel. The Department of the Treasury sanctioned five individuals and two entities involved in the trafficking of fentanyl precursor chemicals from the PRC. These actions demonstrate our resolve to promote accountability for criminals who perpetuate illicit fentanyl activity.
Throughout your time in the United States, I hope that the theme of shared cooperation comes through loud and clear. We are facing complex and evolving global challenges that require global solutions. The importance of strong partnerships in combating transnational organized crime is highlighted in the latest United States National Security Strategy, which affirms our readiness to work closely with our international partners to stop TCOs. Each one of you is a vital part of this effort. We thank you for taking the time to meet with your U.S. counterparts, exchange ideas, and share recommendations for how we collectively move towards a more safe and secure world.