Foreign Cooperative Investigations:
Cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies is essential to the DEA mission because the trafficking syndicates responsible for the drug trade inside the United States do not operate solely within its borders. Such cooperation was initiated in 1949 by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, one of the DEA's predecessor agencies. At that time, two agents were sent to Turkey, which was the world's main producer of morphine base, and to France, where the morphine base was converted into heroin and shipped to the United States. The number of agents working on international cases gradually increased, and by the 1960s and 1970s, federal drug law enforcement agents were conducting major international operations. International efforts at that time focused on reducing marijuana trafficking along the border with Mexico and on curbing heroin trafficking by members of the French underworld, a case that became known as the "French Connection." In 1973, the DEA was created, and the number of agents stationed in foreign countries continued to increase. By the 1990s, drug syndicates possessed greater financial and technological resources than ever before and as a result, had a greater ability to operate on a global scale. International cooperation became even more crucial to effective drug law enforcement. To support international investigations, the DEA is operating in 58 foreign countries in 2002. In 1976, the U.S. Government, through the Mansfield Amendment, adopted formal rules concerning DEA agents' duties and activities while working abroad. Among the many restrictions, DEA agents were prohibited from active involvement in arrests of suspects in host countries and from participating in unilateral enforcement actions without the approval of officials from the host government. Operating strictly within these guidelines, DEA agents participate in five different law enforcement functions while working abroad:
DEA special agents assist their foreign counterparts by developing sources of information and interviewing witnesses. Agents work undercover and assist in surveillance efforts on cases that involve drug traffic affecting the United States. They provide information about drug traffickers to their counterparts and pursue investigative leads by checking hotel, airport, shipping, and passport records. In addition, when host country authorities need to know the origin of seized illicit drugs, DEA agents ship them back to DEA facilities in the United States for laboratory analysis. The DEA also seeks U.S. indictments against major foreign traffickers who have committed crimes against American citizens. In a number of cases, international drug trafficking syndicates were severely crippled when the DEA had kingpins indicted in the United States for violating U.S. laws and then extradited.
The DEA actively participates in several international forums to promote international law enforcement cooperation. One forum is the annual International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) that brings together upper-level drug law enforcement officials from South, Central, and North America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Far East, to share drug-related intelligence and develop operational strategies that can be used against international drug traffickers. The yearly conferences focus on such areas of common concern as the growing sophistication of drug trafficking organizations and money laundering.
The DEA tries to help host countries fight the criminals in their midst by working with the people who have the integrity and the courage to pass strong anti-drug laws and build strong law enforcement institutions. For example, DEA's successful operations in concert with the Colombian National Police (CNP) are an outgrowth of its long-term, persistent strategy to develop strong working relationships with reliable, honest governmental institutions. The fact that the CNP has been able to remain steadfast in the face of continuing threats of violence and the temptations of corruption is testimony to the honesty and valor of its leadership. The DEA has excellent working relationships with law enforcement in other countries as well, and these partnerships have resulted in tremendous successes across the globe. For example, the DEA works very closely with counter-narcotics agents in Peru, Bolivia, and Thailand. The DEA's cooperative efforts with these countries have helped them develop more self-sufficient, effective drug law enforcement programs.
The DEA, respected for its drug intelligence gathering abilities, supports its foreign counterparts' investigations by providing information, such as who controls the drug trade; how drugs are distributed; how the profits are being laundered; and how the entire worldwide drug system operates at the source level, transportation level, wholesale and retail levels. One U.S. federal effort is the Joint Information Coordination Centers program, which provides computer hardware and software, as well as training, to 20 host country nationals overseas, primarily in Central and South America and the Caribbean. This program enables those countries to establish intelligence-gathering centers of their own and is modeled after the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center.
The agency conducts training for host country police agencies at the DEA training facilities in Quantico, Virginia, and on-site in the host countries, as well.