September 11, 2001 is a day that many people will never forget. It was the day that the realities of terrorism became apparent to the American public. Several movies were made to honour the heroes of that day and to remember the consequences of terrorism. However, there is more to terrorism that remains unseen in the events of this one day. How do terrorist groups operate? What other activities are they involved in when not violently killing thousands? How does organized crime differ from terrorism? Organized crime groups and terrorist groups often operate using the same methods but they differ in the motives behind their actions.
Terrorist groups and organized crime groups often appear to be similar or even the same. Terrorist groups often become involved in organized crime and organized crime groups to fund their political activities (Linden, 467). In other cases, organized crime groups may become involved in acts of terror and political struggles (Linden, 467). It is not surprising then that people may think they are the same. Furthermore, they often use similar methods and participate in similar activities. For example, when operating transnationally, both terrorist and organized crime groups often use a “network structure” (Shelley and Picarelli, 306). The network structure operates using “loosely-organized networks of cells” which provide the secrecy required to function (Shelley and Picarelli, 307). Both tend to find holes in the police network so as to not be caught (Shelley and Picarelli, 307). Another similarity is the tendency to intermingle illegal and legal proceedings and use money laundering to make them difficult to trace (Shelley and Picarelli, 308). Both are also involved in activities such as human trafficking and the drug trade (Shelley and Picarelli, 311, 312). While they may engage in the same activities, the goals of organized crime and terrorist groups are not the same.
The main difference between terrorism and organized crime is the motive behind the behaviour. Acts of terrorism, including the September 11 attacks, are politically motivated (Linden, 467). Terrorist groups operate to “eliminate political competitors” and influence “political struggles” through “acts of terror” (Shelley and Picarelli, 308; Linden, 467). What prevents organized crime and terrorism from being the same is that organized crime groups are interested in “revenue or profits”, whereas terrorist groups use the profit to “further their respective objects”, which are political (Linden, 467). These motives influence every aspect of terrorist and organized crime behaviour.