Since its establishment in 1973, the DEA, in coordination with other federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement organizations has been responsible for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of drug-related intelligence. The role of intelligence in drug law enforcement is critical. The DEA Intelligence Program helps initiate new investigations of major drug organizations, strengthens ongoing ones and subsequent prosecutions, develops information that leads to seizures and arrests, and provides policy makers with drug trend information upon which programmatic decisions can be based. The specific functions of the DEA's intelligence mission are:
The DEA's Intelligence Program has grown significantly since its inception. From only a handful of Intelligence Analysts (I/A) in the domestic offices and Headquarters in 1973, the total number of I/As worldwide is now over 680. DEA's Intelligence Program consists of several entities that are staffed by both I/As and Special Agents: Intelligence Groups/Functions in the domestic field divisions, district, resident and foreign offices, the El Paso Intelligence Center, and the Intelligence Division at DEA Headquarters. Program responsibility for the DEA's intelligence mission rests with the DEA Assistant Administrator for Intelligence.
The DEA divides drug intelligence into three broad categories: tactical, investigative, and strategic.
Legislation and Presidential directives and orders have expanded the role of the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense in the anti-drug effort. DEA interaction with both components occurs on a daily basis in the foreign field and at headquarters. At the strategic intelligence level, the Intelligence Division participates in a wide range of interagency assessment and targeting groups that incorporate drug intelligence from the anti-drug community in order to provide policy-makers with all source drug trend and trafficking reporting.
With analytical support from the Intelligence Program, DEA has disrupted major trafficking organizations or put them entirely out of business. The DEA Intelligence Division also cooperates a great deal with state and local law enforcement and will soon provide intelligence training for state, local, federal, and foreign agencies. This training will be held at the Justice Training Center in Quantico, Virginia, and will address the full spectrum of drug intelligence training needs. The best practices and theories of all partners in working the drug issue will be solicited and incorporated into the training. Academic programs, the exchange of federal, state, and local drug experience, and the sharing of and exposure to new ideas will result in more effective application of drugs intelligence resources at all levels.
In March 1974, in response to a request from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Department of Justice submitted a paper entitled, “A Secure Border: An Analysis of Issues Affecting the U.S. Department of Justice.” The report provided recommendations on how to improve drug and border enforcement operations along the Southwest Border. One of the recommendations proposed the establishment of a regional intelligence center to collect and disseminate information relating to drug, alien, and weapon smuggling in support of field enforcement entities throughout the region. In response to that study, the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) was created the same year and was initially staffed by representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS), and United States Customs Service (USCS).
In August 1974, EPIC began operations from a temporary office at Rio Bravo St., in El Paso, Texas. In December 1975, EPIC moved to East Missouri St., El Paso, Texas, and in December 1988 began moving into a new facility located on Biggs Army Airfield, Fort Bliss, TX. In 1998 construction began on an expansion project which added 20,000 square feet of new workspace. Dedication of the new addition was held in December 1999.
The 1974 report to OMB further recommended that "the Interagency Border Intelligence Service Center" would be managed by DEA, with multi-agency participation and would have the following responsibilities: Consolidate, analyze and disseminate upon request, all-source data regarding border related violations; Identify conspirators and the scope and method of their activities;
Assess and evaluate border conspiracy operations; Develop and maintain close coordination with the Southwest Border enforcement agencies so that a prompt response can be mounted for "hot" intelligence items developed by one agency which fall under the responsibility of another.
Initially, EPIC, as the facility became known, primarily served law enforcement operations along the United States/Mexico border, with an emphasis on Mexico's heroin traffickers and illegal alien smugglers. With the increased use of aircraft, seagoing vessels, and global networks facilitating drug-trafficking, EPIC’s focus broadened and became international in scope.
The 2000 General Counter-drug Intelligence Plan (GCIP) clearly defined the El Paso Intelligence Center as the center for tactical law enforcement assistance to the entire federal, state, local and tribal law community. The EPIC mission – as defined by the GCIP stated: “The El Paso Intelligence Center will support U.S. law enforcement and interdiction components through the timely analysis and dissemination of intelligence on illicit drug and alien movements, and criminal organizations responsible for these illegal activities. The focus of these will be within the United States, on both sides of the U.S. – Mexican border, across the Caribbean, and from other points of origin within the Western Hemisphere en route to the United States.”
In 2001, immediately after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, the multiagency environment of EPIC was called upon to support investigations to find those responsible. EPIC built upon its experience in supporting interdiction efforts and investigations regarding drug trafficking, alien and weapon smuggling, and other criminal activities.
Today, EPIC is an all threats center with a focus on the Western Hemisphere, and a particular emphasis on the Southwest border, that leverages the authorities and expertise of its partners to deliver informed intelligence.
EPIC has grown from an environment consisting of three law enforcement (LE) agencies to what is now, a center comprised of over 20 agencies who share a common quest: identify threats to the Nation, with an emphasis on the Southwest border. EPIC offers tactical, operational and strategic intelligence support to Federal, State, local, tribal, and international law enforcement organizations. The center provides access to LE systems with the opportunity to collaborate daily through exchanges with LE analysts and operators, as well as routine engagement with our Federal, State, local, tribal, and international partners. The key to EPIC’s success is a culture that transcends parochialism. EPIC is a team approach. Collectively, we deter threats and protect our nation.
For many years, state, local, and Federal law enforcement entities sought a drug pointer system that would allow them to determine if other law enforcement organizations were investigating the same drug target. The DEA was designated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in 1992 to take the lead in developing such a system to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies investigating drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and to enhance officer safety by preventing duplicate investigations. Recognizing that the development of this system would require a truly cooperative effort, the DEA drew from the experience of state and local agencies to make certain that not only were their concerns addressed, but that they had unrestricted input and involvement in the pointer systems’ development. Representatives from 19 states and 24 law enforcement organizations formed a Project Steering Committee and six working groups that developed the conceptual blueprint for the National Drug Pointer Index (NDPIX).
NDPIX became operational across the United States in October 1997. The National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS)—a familiar, fast, and effective network that reaches into almost every police entity in the United States—is the backbone for the NDPIX. Participating agencies are required to submit active case targeting information to NDPIX in order to receive pointer information from the NDPIX. The greater the number of data elements entered, the greater the likelihood of identifying possible matches. Designed to be a true pointer system rather than an intelligence system, NDPIX serves as a "switchboard" that provides a vehicle for timely notification of common investigative targets. The actual case information is shared only when collaborative contact is made between the officers/agents who have been linked by their common NDPIX target.
The web version of NDPIX (WebNDPIX) became fully operational in September 2008 with these features:
Law enforcement and emergency response personnel face challenges daily when responding to public safety incidents. Rapid and informed decisions are critical to preserving life and property. NLETS recognizes the importance of getting information to the right people as quickly as possible. NLETS is an action-oriented organization that offers states progressive solutions to meeting their information and communication needs.
NDPIX Mission Statement