The Terrorist-Criminal Nexus: An Alliance of International Drug Cartels, Organized Crime, and Terror Groups, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Terrorist-Criminal Nexus

An Alliance of International Drug Cartels, Organized Crime, and Terror Groups, 1st Edition

By Jennifer L. Hesterman

CRC Press

351 pages | 39 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2013-04-17
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Postmodern global terrorist groups engage sovereign nations asymmetrically with prolonged, sustained campaigns driven by ideology. Increasingly, transnational criminal organizations operate with sophistication previously only found in multinational corporations. Unfortunately, both of these entities can now effectively hide and morph, keeping law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the dark and on the run.

Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that al Qaeda, Hezbollah, FARC, drug cartels, and increasingly violent gangs—as well as domestic groups such as the Sovereign Citizens—are now joining forces. Despite differing ideologies, they are threatening us in new and provocative ways. The Terrorist-Criminal Nexus: An Alliance of International Drug Cartels, Organized Crime, and Terror Groups frames this complex issue using current research and real-world examples of how these entities are sharing knowledge, training, tactics, and—in increasing frequency—joining forces.

Providing policy makers, security strategists, law enforcement and intelligence agents, and students with new evidence of this growing threat, this volume:

  • Examines current and future threats from international and domestic criminal and terror groups
  • Identifies specific instances in which these groups are working together or in parallel to achieve their goals
  • Discusses the "lifeblood" of modern organizations—the money trail
  • Describes how nefarious groups leverage both traditional funding methods and e-commerce to raise, store, move, and launder money
  • Explores the social networking phenomenon and reveals how it is the perfect clandestine platform for spying, communicating, recruiting, and spreading propaganda
  • Investigates emergent tactics such as the use of human shields, and the targeting of first responders, schools, hospitals, and churches

This text reveals the often disregarded, misunderstood, or downplayed nexus threat to the United States. Proving definitively that such liaisons exist despite differing ideologies, the book provides a thought-provoking new look at the complexity and phenomena of the terrorist-criminal nexus.

This book was excerpted in the February/March 2013 issue of The Counter Terrorist.


" … Jennifer L. Hesterman has a solid professional career as a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel with multiple unit commands, including leadership of an Air Force Base EOC during 9-11… . The Terrorist-Criminal Nexus squarely focuses on the threat posed by violent non-state actors (VNSAs) and their increasing levels of interaction and cooperation. … As a reviewer, I very much enjoyed the chapters of the work on terrorist and criminal traditional financing methods (Ch. 6) and on terrorist and criminal exploitation of E-commerce (Ch. 7). They provided a nice contrast between the old and the new methods of raising, storing, and moving wealth via the illicit (dark) economy. Also, the inclusion of ‘drug cartels’ in the book – and considered by Hesterman distinct from organized criminals – was of great interest … ."

e-International Relations

" …aimed at North America, but much applies to the UK."

Professional Security Magazine Online

" … the reader’s awareness of this alarming alliance of politically or religiously motivated terrorists and materialistic criminals will undoubtedly be heightened by this work."

—Hugh J. Martin, Retired Police Chief, Wisconsin, in Security Management

Table of Contents

A Poisonous Brew

Transnational Organized Crime: The Dark Side of Globalization

Multinational Corporate Sophistication

Transnational Organized Crime on the Rise

Scoping the TOC Challenge

Fighting Transnational Crime Overseas … and within Our Borders

National Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime

Agencies and Methods

Major Areas of Concern, Progress, and Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Postmodern Terrorist Groups

Postmodern Organizational Theory: The Rise of Modern Terrorism and Groups

Modern Terrorism’s Roots

International Terrorist Groups: The "Big 3"

Al Qaeda and Affiliates



Domestic Terrorism and the Homegrown Threat

History of Domestic Terrorism in the United States

The Twenty-First Century and the Rising Tide of Domestic Extremism

Homegrown Terror

The Lone Wolf

Gangs: Evolving and Collaborating

The Way Ahead

Drug-Trafficking Organizations Go Global

The Battle in Mexico

Major DTOs Impacting the United States

Special Concern: Los Zetas

DTOs Cross the Border: Cartels in the Heartland

Nexus Area: Terrorists, SIAs, and DTOs

Corruption at the Border: Opening the Gates

DTOs: Foreign Terrorist Organizations?

Traditional Terrorist and Criminal Financing Methods: Adapting for Success

Funding Terror

Earning, Moving, Storing



Storing, Earning, and Moving

The Way Forward

Terrorists and Criminal Exploitation of E-commerce: Following the Money Just Got Tougher

New Payment Methods Defined

NPM Financing

Devices with Stored Value

Auction and Bulletin Board Websites

Auction Sites

P2P Websites

Digital Precious Metals


The Battle Ahead

Exploitation of Social Networking and the Internet

The Internet: A Twenty-First-Century Black Swan

Rise of Social Networking: Are We Users … or Targets?

The Mind as a Battlefield: The War of Ideology

Looking through a New Lens at Social Networking

Enter Hackers and Cyber Vigilantes

The Way Ahead

Sharing Tactics

Drug-Trafficking Organizations and Terrorist Group Interface

IRA Inc.

Hezbollah and Hamas: Partnering for Success

IEDs, Fertilizer, and Sticky Bombs

First Response and the Threat of Secondary Devices

Use of Human Shields by Terror Groups on the Rise

Asymmetric Threats


Conclusions about the Nexus and Thoughts on Resiliency and the Way Forward

Resiliency as a Weapon


Appendix: List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations

Current List of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations



Legal Criteria for Designation under Section 219 of the INA as Amended

Legal Ramifications of Designation

Other Effects of Designation


About the Author

Colonel (Ret.) Jennifer L. Hesterman was commissioned in 1986 as a graduate of Air Force ROTC at Penn State University. During her twenty-one-year career, she served three Pentagon tours and commanded multiple units in the field. Her last assignment was Vice Commander, 316th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, the home of Air Force One. Her decorations include the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal with five oak leaf clusters. Colonel Hesterman is a doctoral candidate at Benedictine University and also holds master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Air University. In 2003, she was a National Defense Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, where she immersed herself in a year-long study of the nexus between organized crime and international terrorism. Her resulting book won the 2004 Air Force research prize and was published by AU Press. She is a cleared professional for the MASY Group, a national security and intelligence firm; contributing editor for The Counter Terrorist magazine; and a guest lecturer for federal and state law enforcement agencies.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
LAW / Forensic Science
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Terrorism