U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Turbulent Nexus of Transnational Organised Crime and Terrorism: A Theory of Malevolent International Relations

NCJ Number
Global Crime Volume: 7 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2006 Pages: 1-24
Date Published
February 2006
24 pages

This article offers a new perspective from which to understand the relationship between organized crime networks and terror networks.


Previous research on interactions between crime groups and terror groups have generally concluded that although these groups occasionally come together to reach mutual goals, their ultimate motives and purposes are too different to sustain long-term collaborations or alliances. Shortcomings within the two theoretical paradigms used to explain political events led to the development of the postinternationalist paradigm, which focuses on the relational ties that bind collective actors, in this case criminal and terrorist actors. In order to examine the interactions between crime and terror groups, a postinternationalist perspective shifts the focus from individual actors to an examination of terror and crime groups as organizations. Three relational ties--control, authority, and legitimacy--serve as an analytical perspective from which to examine the goals and behavior of crime and terror groups. Two types of crime and terror groups emerge when examined from this perspective: sovereign-bound and sovereign-free crime and terror groups. Sovereign-bound crime and terror groups share many similarities. They have a shared approach to gaining authority and legitimacy within localities--through the use and threat of violence. Sovereign-bound crime and terror groups also demand a similar ideological vision from their members that supports the status quo and advocates a locally-focused worldview. Sovereign-bound crime and terror groups are fated to part company, however, because both groups seek to substitute their own sovereignty for the State’s sovereignty, causing friction between the two groups. Sovereign-bound crime and terror groups thus uphold the notion that long-term collaboration is unlikely. Sovereign-free crime and terror groups, on the other hand, reject organizational structures and share a global worldview. These similarities make it much more likely that sovereign-free crime and terror groups could come together under long-term collaborations. The analysis calls attention to the need for innovative research approaches to the crime-terror nexus. Footnotes

Date Published: February 1, 2006