The Southwest Border Initiative (SWBI), in operation since 1994, is a cooperative effort by federal law enforcement agencies to combat the substantial threat posed by Mexico-based trafficking groups operating along the Southwest Border. These groups are transporting multi-ton shipments of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana. They are also hired by trafficking groups from Colombia to transport equally huge amounts of cocaine into the United States.
The SWBI attacks organizations by targeting the communication systems of their command and control centers. Working in concert, the DEA, the FBI, U.S. Customs Service, and U.S. Attorneys offices around the country conduct wiretaps that ultimately identify all levels of the Mexico- or Colombia-based organizations. This strategy allows the DEA to track the seamless continuum of drug traffic as it gradually flows from Colombia or Mexico to the streets of the United States where it is distributed.
The initiative is anchored by the DEA's belief that the only way to successfully attack any organized crime syndicate is to build strong cases against its leadership and their command and control functions. With the assistance of foreign governments, the long-term incarceration of those in leadership positions typically leaves entire organizations in disarray and renders them unable to conduct business in the United States.
This initiative, along with bi-national task forces in Monterrey, Juarez, and Tijuana, has provided a solid base for effective law enforcement operations aimed at major international drug traffickers. Examples of the success of the SWBI can be found in several DEA operations. Specifically, Operation Zorro II, Operation Reciprocity, and Operation Limelight each relied extensively on numerous court-ordered wire- taps that were coordinated and monitored by law enforcement officers operating under the SWBI. Collectively, these three operations resulted in the arrest of 156 individuals and the seizure of over 22,000 kilos of illegal drugs and $35 million. The SWBI has also helped to reduce corruption, violence, and alien smuggling associated with drug trafficking activities carried out along the border.