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Thursday, January 21st, 2021

NSF, START examine cartel tracking

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National Security Forum (NSF) and Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) personnel are espousing the benefits of a recent dialogue session focusing on efforts to track drug cartels.

“An exciting development for our upcoming programs is a new collaboration NSF is building with START, which is the premier organization in the United States conducting research on the drivers for terrorist activities,” NSF Programs and Commentary Director Maureen McCarthy said with regard to last month’s NSF session in which START Director William Braniff offered an overview of START research and capabilities.

“START is a public good,” Braniff said. “We’re primarily a terrorism research center, but we’re not exclusively a terrorism research center. If you’re studying terrorism, you’re also studying transnational criminality, [and] you’re also studying influence operations and how propaganda – whether that’s state propaganda or terrorist propaganda – can be used to manipulate populations.”

The purpose of the Tracking Cartels project, per authorities, is to build a holistic and accurate understanding of transnational criminal organization (TCO) activities in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

“Our team is sort of agnostic in where we do our research,” Geospatial Research Unit (GRU) Director Marcus Boyd said. “We’ve done research in Malaysia, Africa, Mexico, Central America – more or less globally. Specifically, with a look at transnational trafficking, where we have been very interested in how we can blend social science methods, particularly geospatial and geographic methods, to better understand how organizations move things around the world, whether it’s people, weapons or drugs.”

Boyd said there is interest in determining how cartels are interacting with human trafficking and human smuggling.