President Joe Biden has pushed global anti-corruption measures to the forefront of US foreign policy, issuing a new direction to government agencies directing them to prioritize efforts to combat the problem.
The orders came in the form of a National Security Study Memorandum, which was issued on Thursday, Biden’s first day in office. The letter declares the battle against corruption to be a top national security priority.
The letter is significant because it informs federal agencies that they must comply with the law. “up their anti-corruption game,” said an administration official.
The letter calls for a 200-day interagency assessment of anti-corruption measures, culminating in a report and recommendations to the president.
Major portions of the directive, according to the official, would be devoted to financial crimes, including attempts to upgrade current anti-corruption legislation in order to combat cryptocurrencies and cybercrime.
“We are looking at crypto as a means of illicit finance,” the official said, “but by no means are these new steps limited to new technologies like crypto.”
The insider also stated that modifications to the Bank Secrecy Act, the principal way by which law enforcement may trace how money transfers through financial institutions, would likely be part of the effort.
“We’ll be looking for ideas of how to modernize these systems to respond to new technologies,” the official said.
Individual countries, currencies, or asset classes are not mentioned in the document.
The federal government would also “robustly” apply new laws enacted in January that compel American corporations to declare their beneficial owner or owners to the Treasury Department, according to the document. This is part of a larger attempt to “reducing offshore financial secrecy; improving information sharing; and, as necessary, identifying the need for new reforms.”
The document also emphasizes the need of combating strategic corruption by foreign companies and governments, “and their domestic collaborators”, in part by “closing loopholes exploited by these actors to interfere in democratic processes in the United States and abroad.”
This is a barely disguised reference to Russian, Iranian, and other rivals’ efforts in recent years to take advantage of gaps in the regulations governing foreign lobbying and political activities in order to fund misinformation operations and sway U.S. elections.
The campaign against corruption is part of a larger transition toward a new “foreign policy for the middle class.” The plan, which was developed in part by Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan, stresses how international and domestic policy may be combined to create a new middle ground between conventional conservative and liberal approaches to global affairs.
Foreign policy for the middle class attempts to guarantee that globalization, commerce, human rights, and military strength are all used to benefit ordinary Americans, not just billionaires and multinational businesses.