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Terry O’Neill, Esq. • 6 November 2006

In May 2000, one of my many informants emailed me an article from the London Times announcing that Tom Constantine, late of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, had been appointed to serve as Oversight Commissioner for the implementation of the Patten Commission reform agenda for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. About the same time, I read a number of reports that actor Pierce Brosnan was negotiating to star in yet another James Bond film in which 007 would foil a plot to derail the peace process in Northern Ireland. I answered these stories with a press release indicating that now that Tom Constantine was on the job, Mr. Bond’s services would not be required. Apparently my point was taken as no such movie was ever made.

I have personal reason to appreciate the honor the British government bestowed upon Mr. Constantine in handing him this challenging and historic task. Certainly as head of the DEA and earlier superintendent of the New York State Police, he had earned a distinguished reputation and a high public profile. But now, he had emerged on the international stage in a role considerably more complex and demanding that his four decades of crime-fighting. He was now heading up the most ambitious effort yet to implement a re-imagined vision of policing, one that would make its organizational transformation an essential element in resolving decades of communal conflict. Compared to this, fighting international drug cartels was a walk in the park. Mr. Constantine emerged, in short, an international public figure of considerable value that has yet to be applied to a public benefit purpose appropriate to his character and accomplishments. That is about to be remedied.

I met Tom Constantine a few days after Governor Mario M. Cuomo nominated him to head the New York State Police in December 1986. My first encounter with him was memorable and emblematic of the man he is. I attended a meeting of police executives at which the new superintendent was being literally swarmed by colleagues congratulating on his nomination. In the midst of all this embarrassingly ardent adulation, I remember him looking up at the ceiling and saying: “I can’t believe this happened to a kid from Buffalo.” I was touched by his humility. Indeed, I have never met anyone in public service who more genuinely regarded the opportunity to serve as the greatest of all privileges. As I had occasion to tell the Belfast Telegraph years later, he’s the closest thing I’ve ever encountered to a knight in shining armor.

In 1999, I was in the service Assembly Assistant Speaker Edward Griffith, a distinguished New York state legislator from Brooklyn. Speaker Griffith returned that year from a visit to his native Panama appalled by the damage wrought by the American military operation that extracted strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega. In discussing with him what he had seen in Panama City, I explained to Speaker Griffith that Noriega had effectively turned the financial institutions of his country into a personal piggybank and money laundry for the Colombian drug cartels and that he could be assured that the same thing was being done in any number of the small nations of the Caribbean Basin. The cartels were that rich and powerful. Speaker Griffith was a man of rare insight and imagination in using the legislative process. He asked me to draft legislation that would put New York at the forefront of the international struggle to confront and defeat these increasingly global criminal and terrorist conspiracies. The idea we came up with was transform the legacy of Tom Constantine into a permanent institution promoting excellence in the field of public safety and serving as a center for generating new strategies for confronting our criminal and terrorist adversaries. This legislation will be introduced in the New York State Legislature during its 2007 session. It will authorize the creation of the Thomas A. Constantine Institute for the Study of Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism.

Our initiative is particularly timely. With the continuing disorder and carnage in Iraq and the world’s concern over terrorism and the dangerous nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, it’s difficult to discern a ray of progress or hope. Nonetheless, there have been two recent developments, long in the making, that will be inscribed on the positive side of the ledger of history -- both in Tom Constantine’s distinctive handwriting.

In late September 2006, two Colombian nationals, Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, pleaded guilty to international drug trafficking, agreed to forfeit more than $2 billion in criminal assets, and received sentences of thirty years in federal prison. As they are both in their sixties, it is highly unlikely that the pair will ever taste freedom again. Their plea delivered what the United States government called "the final, fatal blow" to what has been acknowledged to have been the largest and most powerful criminal organization in history, the infamous Cali cocaine cartel.

In Northern Ireland, the Independent Monitoring Commission, a four-man panel that includes former directors of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the anti-terrorist unit of Scotland Yard, reported in early October that the Irish Republican Army has stopped recruiting members and has shut down units responsible for bomb-making and weapons smuggling. Three decades of terrorist violence appear to have ended. Historic negotiations are underway to establish a representative government in the long-troubled province. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said there now exists "the basis for the final settlement of the conflict in Northern Ireland."

These two historic developments are worthy of celebration in themselves. They also have a special meaning for the people of New York because our own Tom Constantine played a major role in bringing about both.

From 1984 he led the New York State Police and then the Drug Enforcement Administration in long-term investigations that led to the dismantling of the Cali organization and the arrest of its kingpins in 1995. This stood in stark contrast to the Colombian government’s earlier war against Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel which was prosecuted using paramilitary proxies, death squads and horrific extra-legal violence that cost the lives of thousands of innocents. The long struggle against the Cali organization was quite different. It was a genuine, international law enforcement effort. It set historic precedents in international law enforcement collaboration. It ultimately led to the extradition treaty that has brought the Rodriguez brothers to face American justice.

Mr. Constantine’s subsequent service as Oversight Commissioner for the implementation of the Patten Commission reform of the Police Service of Northern Ireland lent his steady guidance and professionalism to legitimizing that agency in the eyes of the Catholic/Nationalist minority in the province. Over the three decades of The Troubles, the former Royal Ulster Constabulary had lost all credibility and trust with that minority. The Patten Commission recognized that only someone of international stature and sterling integrity could certify the reality of reform. Only a truly professional and fully accountable police agency could vitiate the need for the British military presence and so guarantee civic order that any public sympathy for the paramilitary groups that had held sway for so long has largely evaporated. The PSNI is truly emerging as a community police force in every positive sense of that term.

With these two signature career accomplishments -- for which, of course, he would be the first assign credit to many thousands of dedicated law enforcement officers -- Tom Constantine has showed us as probably no one else conceivably could that the key to successfully confronting the threats of transnational organized crime and terrorism is honest, dedicated, professional law enforcement operating within the bounds of the strictest constitutional, legal and ethical standards. There is a right and civilized way to confront these threats that does not require or justify preemptive wars, forced regime change, chronic states of emergency, abridgement of long-standing conventions of warfare or cherished constitutional rights, no Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay, no barbaric interrogation methods. That is a message that this troubled world badly needs to hear. The legislation that I have prepared to create the Constantine Institute for the Study of Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism will broadcast that message far and wide.

Seventeen hundred years ago, history was made and changed in the far western Roman garrison town of Eboracum, today known as York, when the legions proclaimed Flavius Valerius Constantinus emperor. He set out to reunify a disintegrating empire, end religious persecution, stand off invasions, found one of the world’s great cities and establish the values of the Judaeo-Christian tradition as the foundation of Western Civilization. He is, of course, known to posterity as Constantine the Great.

Fifty years ago, the noted American sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote: "For the first time in American history, men in authority are talking about an 'emergency' without a foreseeable end. Such men as these are crackpot realists: in the name of realism they have constructed a paranoid reality all their own." Today, there are many such “men in authority” who are trying to say that that civilization is in grave danger because of terrorists, criminal conspiracies and rogue states. That is their paranoid reality. I invite thoughtful men and women of good will everywhere to contemplate the achievements of Tom Constantine, the “kid from Buffalo” -- something of a far western garrison town in New York -- and not to worry.

AN ACT in relation to establishing the Thomas A. Constantine Institute for the Study of Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism within the State University of New York and making an appropriation therefor

The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:

Section 1. Declaration of legislative findings and intent. Transnational society today includes multinational corporations, nongovernmental organizations, criminals, and terrorists. In this environment, organized crime, in particular, has gone global. It has emerged as the mortal enemy of democratic institutions worldwide and it infects and distorts world commerce and financial institutions. It has forged alliances with terrorist organizations and links to outlaw states. It is ruthless and inhuman and has raised a capital of such gargantuan proportions that these organizations can make themselves masters of governments through intimidation, violence and corruption.

New York has a unique and celebrated tradition of leadership in confronting and eradicating organized crime. With the 1957 Appalachin incident, the New York State Police dramatically exposed the existence of La Cosa Nostra to an unsuspecting world sparking decades of intense effort to combat criminal conspiracies that had grown pervasive and entrenched. Today, as a result, the traditional Mafia is in full retreat.

In 1991 the New York State Police, under the leadership of Thomas A. Constantine, exposed the operations of Colombia’s Cali cocaine cartel when the culmination of a six-year investigation disrupted a far-reaching and sophisticated organization that had been established in the state by the cartel. It was again the first time that a state law enforcement agency had brought the secretive hierarchy of a major criminal conspiracy out into the light of day -- this time, one based in a foreign country and with tentacles in many nations.

Mr. Constantine made further history when, as head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, he oversaw an international effort that led to the surrender of the Cali Cartel's leaders and the effective break-up of its organization during the mid-nineties. This investigation stood in stark contrast to the previous effort to eradicate Pablo Escobar’s Medellin-based cartel which was prosecuted by the Colombian government through paramilitary proxies and a campaign of horrific extra-legal violence that cost the lives of many innocent civilians.

Mr. Constantine is a most accomplished and unique figure in American law enforcement. Not only had he a hand in bringing down the Cali Cartel -- generally acknowledged to have been the largest and most powerful criminal conspiracy in history -- but soon after he retired from the DEA, the British government recruited him to oversee the reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and its reestablishment as the Police Service of Northern Ireland, a key component of the Good Friday Agreement to end three decades of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland.

In both of these signature career accomplishments, Mr. Constantine showed us that the key to successfully confronting the threats of transnational organized crime and terrorism is honest, dedicated, professional law enforcement operating within the bounds of the strictest constitutional, legal and ethical standards. Mr. Constantine is, as the result, recognized and respected worldwide among his peers as the paradigm of that kind of professional law enforcement.

The problem of transnational criminal conspiracies is growing and metamorphosing at a frightening rate. We are already in mortal confrontation with organizations that threaten peace, prosperity and public confidence in law enforcement's ability to protect our people, our democratic institutions and our economic well-being. With the internationalization of organized crime and the emergence of global terrorism, the challenge to law enforcement has grown exponentially. To meet that challenge, we must develop the legal and diplomatic frameworks within which the law enforcement authorities of many nations may cooperate along with the essential personal and professional relationships that build trust and unity of purpose. There is an urgent need for research, policy development, law reform and education to confront the threat of transnational organized crime and terrorism.

This legislation establishes the Thomas A. Constantine Institute for the Study of Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism within the state university of New York. Inspired by Mr. Constantine’s extraordinary career achievements and the international respect he has earned in the field of public security, this entity will provide a focus for deliberations on the control of these phenomena and for public education about their manifestations. The institute will sponsor a diverse research program that will reflect a balance among the issues relating to legal, operational, social, political, and economic aspects of international organized crime and terrorism. It will organize conferences and symposia that will bring together the best minds among academics, law enforcement professionals, the intelligence community, lawmakers, the diplomatic corps and the business and financial community to develop strategies, tactics, relationships and legal and diplomatic frameworks for more effective international cooperation in the control of transnational organized crime and terrorism. Its ultimate goal is to be a valuable and practical resource for the world’s law enforcement agencies, governments and the international business community.

§ 2. There is hereby established within the State University of New York the Thomas A. Constantine Institute for the Study of Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism. Such institute shall organize conferences and seminars, develop training programs for law enforcement officers, sponsor and promote research, publish its proceedings and maintain a library. The chancellor and trustees of the state university shall appoint a person well qualified by education and experience to administer such institute. Such institute shall be authorized to establish a development program to build its own endowment.

§ 3. The sum of two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000), or as much thereof as may be necessary, is hereby appropriated to the state university of New York from any monies in the state treasury in the general fund for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of this act. Such sum shall be payable on the audit and warrant of the state comptroller on vouchers certified or approved by the commissioner of taxation and finance, or his duly designated representative in the manner provided by law. No expenditure shall be made from this appropriation until a certificate of approval of availability shall have been issued by the director of the budget and filed with the state comptroller and a copy filed with the chairman of the state senate finance committee and the chairman of the assembly ways and means committee. Such budget and a copy of each such amendment shall be filed with the state comptroller, the chairman of the state senate finance committee and the chairman of the assembly ways and means committee.

§ 4. This act shall take effect immediately.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

7 November 2006

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