Global Counterterrorism Programs
Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) provides funding to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for expert assistance to foreign countries to enhance the ability of their law enforcement personnel to deter terrorists and terrorist groups. OPDAT receives funding from DOS/CT to deploy Resident Legal Advisors (RLAs) and Intermittent Legal Advisors (ILAs) and also to hold global programs covering over 25 countries. OPDAT also receives funding for a variety of multilateral, global initiatives dedicated to furthering counterterrorism objectives.
Justice Sector Responses to Lebanese Hizballah:
Worldwide attacks have focused an international spotlight on Lebanese Hizballah (LH) and other malign Iranian activities. DOS/CT provides resources to OPDAT to deliver technical assistance to partner nations addressing LH. Since 2015, OPDAT and DOS/CT have led an international diplomatic and law enforcement initiative to increase awareness of Hizballah / Iran’s dangerous and destabilizing activities, to increase cooperation in this area, and to build political support for action. In total, OPDAT and CT have implemented over 20 bilateral, regional, and global training seminars throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere, reaching over 35 countries and over 450 participants.
As a part of this initiative, CT and OPDAT regularly host a series of global Law Enforcement Coordination Group meetings (LECGs). The LECG is an informal partnership that unites law enforcement officials and criminal justice practitioners from around the world in a community of interest. The ninth meeting of the LECG took place in June 2022 with over 30 countries in attendance, and the tenth was held December 2022 with a focus on LH activity in Africa.
OPDAT, in partnership with CT and ICITAP, has also developed a 5-week long interactive national counter-LH program for countries where LH has historically operated. This program features overviews of host country officials’ experiences handling terrorism, and in particular, LH activity, as well as the challenges they face investigating and prosecuting LH, including legislative limitations; intelligence and information gaps; the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters (FTF); and evidence collection and presentation at trial. The first iteration of this initiative was delivered in 2019 to prosecutors and law enforcement officials from Cote D’Ivoire, and included an assessment visit to Abidjan, a 10-day post-blast investigation course in Abidjan, a study tour to Washington, D.C., and a weeklong trial advocacy course held at DOJ’s National Advocacy Center (NAC) in Columbia, S.C. The second iteration is currently in progress for prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officials from Bahrain and Argentina.
In September 2019, OPDAT and CT launched the first Counter Transnational Terrorism Forum (CTTF) to increase focus, awareness and understanding about Iranian sponsored and directed terrorist activity.
Foreign Terrorist Fighters:
To address the time-sensitive issue of SDF detainees and returning FTFs, as well as to play a crucial role in the Department and the Administration’s efforts to combat terrorism and protect the safety of Americans, OPDAT seeks to establish a cadre of experienced federal prosecutors, investigators, and judges to mentor on returning FTF cases overseas. This project will facilitate the delivery of U.S. and international expertise and sharing of best practices to support counterterrorism efforts and capacity building on specific counterterrorism tools and techniques. This project will also foster ongoing relationships between DOJ and State/CT and the target states to ensure continued cooperation in the future.
From February 22-24, 2022, OPDAT conducted a Department of State Counterterrorism Bureau funded workshop as the initial iteration of the pilot project focused on the use of battlefield evidence in Tunisian prosecutions and investigations. A follow-up workshop occurred in October 2022.
Meanwhile, RLAs around the globe continue to assess returning foreign terrorist fighter (RFTF) concerns and equip our foreign partners with tools to effectively investigate and prosecute those associated cases.
Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism (REMVE):
To increase focus, awareness and understanding among our law enforcement and criminal justice sector partners about global Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism (REMVE), OPDAT is coordinating with the U.S. Department of State to establish a Counterterrorism Law Enforcement Forum (CTLEF). The CTLEF will meet at least annually, and participating governments will aim to: Increase law enforcement cooperation to counter REMVE actors and networks’ activities; Bolster international information sharing on how and where REMVE groups and actors are operating, including their recruiting, training, plotting, travel patterns, propaganda, and financing; Explore how law enforcement and financial tools can be used to effectively counter REMVE activity and networks. The first CTLEF took place in May 2022 in Berlin, Germany, and was attended by nearly 100 participants from over 25 countries.
Rapid Response Fund (RRF):
Through its Rapid Response Fund (RRF), OPDAT oversees the deployment of attorneys and other subject matter experts, to include investigators and financial analysts, to serve as short-term advisors to host nations indicating a need and a willingness to investigate and prosecute terrorism cases more effectively. Small teams of advisors provide guidance and case-based mentoring to host nation stakeholders and justice sector officials that responsibly expands the host nation’s ability and capacity to support the investigation and prosecution of terrorism and terrorism financing-related cases and strengthen bilateral and regional counterterrorism capacity.