The Diplomacy of Crime

December 19, 1993

It might seem presumptuous of the director of the FBI to tour abroad and negotiate foreign policy. But in truth, he has as much business as army generals in meeting his counterparts. Crime is worldwide; it straddles borders and knows where national jurisdictions end. Any attempt to contain it must be as sophisticated.

Mr. Freeh invaded the Mafia's turf in Palermo, Sicily, to pay homage to Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, Italian crime fighters assassinated by the Mafia. He pledged the full backing of U.S. law enforcers to the Italian effort to dismantle the Mafia. He told the Mafia it was doomed.

Heady stuff. But connections between U.S. and Italian organized crime are well known. The drug-smuggling and money laundering of these particular Italians have American dimensions.

In Germany, Mr. Freeh took on a different order of foe, the neo-Nazis. These are not just people who say Hitler was good or deny the Holocaust happened. Some of them also beat up foreigners, non-whites and disabled persons. Others set fire to buildings in which immigrants live.

It is illegal to publish Nazi propaganda in Germany. It is legal, protected by the First Amendment, to do so in the United States. Material legally printed in the U.S. has been illegally distributed in Germany for some time. Gary Lauck of Lincoln, Neb., who is not well known in this country, has been publicized as a major figure in supplying Germans with illegal material.

Mr. Freeh, in meeting with counterpart, Hans-Ludwig Zachert, president of the German Federal Criminal Office in Wiesbaden, promised to cooperate in the enforcement of German law in Germany and in looking for infractions of American law.

The blurring of European borders in the European Union has been a godsend for criminals, smugglers and money launderers. It has also been a boon for the new breed of criminal liberated from communism in Eastern Europe.

Anti-crime police and prosecutors must internationalize to catch up with these felons. The U.S. was not alone or first in dealing with the BCCI banking scandal. Criminal gangs among Asian immigrants have ties to organizations along the Pacific Rim. Interpol is not a new idea.

The Freeh trip to make common cause with crime fighters in Europe symbolizes the international dimensions of organized crime in America, and the American dimension of illegal activities in Europe. When crime flowed across state borders, the U.S. needed federal agencies to deal with it. Now that it flows worldwide, law enforcement authorities must share information and cooperate as never before. Just to keep the playing field level.

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