Thomas A. Constantine, Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration
Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary
April 10, 1997
Note: This document may not reflect changes made in actual delivery.
I. International Organized Crime
II. Organized Crime’s Surrogates in the United States
III. Violent Drug Trafficking Organizations in the United States
IV. Emerging Drug Problems
V. The U.S. Law Enforcement Response to Organized Crime
VI. The Fight Against Global Drug Trafficking: Lessons Learned
VII. DEA’s Fiscal Year 1998 Budget: Equipping the Agency for the Future
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee: It is a pleasure and a privilege to appear before you today to discuss details of the Fiscal Year 1998 budget for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Before that discussion, however, it is important to assess the current drug situation and discuss several lessons we have learned over the past several years, lessons which are shaping our current approach to drug law enforcement at home and overseas.
But first, I would like to take a few moments to express our deep appreciation to you, Chairman Gregg and Senator Hollings, and to the other members of the Subcommittee for the extremely generous support DEA received in our Fiscal Year 1997 budget. Your advocacy for our budget resulted in the first billion dollar budget for DEA and provided us with 261 additional new Special Agents to work in American communities and overseas in areas where the world’s most sophisticated drug traffickers are headquartered. Additionally, you provided us with funding to build the Justice Training Center at the FBI Academy at Quantico, which will give DEA the space necessary to train Special Agents, state and local partners, and international drug law enforcement officials. This center is more than just a building to DEA: it is a testament to the professionalism and creativity of DEA’s Special Agents and is a tangible symbol of your support for our mission. On behalf of the men and women of the Drug Enforcement Administration, you have our sincere gratitude.
During today’s hearing, I would like to provide you and the Members of the Subcommittee with a picture of how today’s international organized crime syndicates operate, how they rely on national drug trafficking organizations within the United States to carry out their business, and how violent trafficking groups have transformed many of our communities into virtual war zones. I will also discuss how the Drug Enforcement Administration is working around the world to target and build cases against the world’s most notorious drug traffickers, focusing attention on the major traffickers operating along the Southwest Border of the United States.
I. International Organized Crime
Powerful international drug syndicates continue to operate around the world, supplying drugs to American communities, and employing thousands of individuals to transport and distribute drugs. The most significant international drug syndicates operating today are far more powerful and violent than any organized crime groups we have ever seen before. Frequently, these organized crime groups are referred to as "cartels" or "federations" -- titles that do not capture the full range of their criminal activities, and give these vicious drug traffickers a veil of respectability.
Today’s leaders of major international organized crime syndicates trafficking in narcotics are simply the 1990's versions of mob leaders U.S. law enforcement officials have fought since the beginning of this century. However, there are stark differences between major international groups and their domestic counterparts. Members of international groups in Colombia and Mexico, have at their disposal, sophisticated technology--encrypted phones, faxes, and other communications equipment--that even the best law enforcement departments in the U.S. do not have access to. Additionally, they have in their arsenal, aircraft, radars, weapons and an army of workers who oversee the drug business from its raw beginnings in South American jungles to the urban jungles within the United States. Mob leaders operating in places like New York, Chicago or Las Vegas called their business shots on American soil; major traffickers from Colombia and Mexico make decisions from the safety of their headquarters in Cali or Guadalajara. Law enforcement officers in the U.S. were eventually able to identify, target, arrest and prosecute mob bosses, and today, organized crime in America is a shadow of what it once was. The new international drug syndicate leaders, in some countries, are virtually untouchable because their operations are headquartered in foreign countries and the likelihood that these leaders will ever face justice in their countries, or in the United States, is remote.
With the intense law enforcement pressure focused on the Cali leadership by brave men and women in the Colombian National Police during 1995 and 1996, all of the top leadership of the Cali syndicate are either in jail, or dead. The fine work done by General Serrano, and other CNP officers, is a testament to the commitment and dedication of Colombia’s law enforcement officials in the face of great personal danger, and a government whose leadership is riddled with drug corruption.
Since the Cali leaders’ imprisonment, on sentences which were ridiculously short and not nearly commensurate with the seriousness of their crimes, traffickers from Mexico have taken on greater prominence. The alliance between the Colombian traffickers and the organizations from Mexico had benefits for both sides. Traditionally, the traffickers from Mexico were involved in smuggling marijuana, heroin and cocaine into the United States, and had established solid distribution routes throughout the nation. Because the Cali syndicate was concerned about the security of their loads, they brokered a commercial deal with the traffickers from Mexico, which reduced their potential losses.
This agreement entailed the Colombians moving cocaine from the Andean region to the Mexican organizations, who then assumed the responsibility of delivering the cocaine into the United States. In 1989, U.S. law enforcement officials seized 21 metric tons of cocaine in Sylmar, California; this record seizure demonstrated the extent and magnitude of the Mexican groups’ capabilities to transport Colombian-produced cocaine into the United States. This huge shipment was driven across the Mexican/U.S. border in small shipments and stored in the warehouse until all transportation fees had been paid by the Cali and Medellin cartels, to the transporters from Mexico. Now, trafficking groups from Mexico are routinely paid in multi-ton quantities of cocaine, making them formidable cocaine traffickers in their own right.
The majority of cocaine entering the United States continues to come from Colombia through Mexico and across U.S. border points of entry. Most of the cocaine enters the United States in privately owned vehicles and commercial trucks. There is new evidence that indicates traffickers in Mexico have gone directly to sources of cocaine in Bolivia and Peru in order to circumvent Colombian middlemen. In addition to the inexhaustible supply of cocaine entering the U.S., trafficking organizations from Mexico are responsible for producing and trafficking thousands of pounds of methamphetamine, and have been major distributors of heroin and marijuana in the U.S. since the 1970's.
In addition to the sophisticated groups operating in Mexico and Colombia, there are numerous international drug trafficking organizations headquartered in Southeast and Southwest Asia. With the vast quantities of opium production in these regions of the world, and with the relative isolation of countries like Burma and Afghanistan, heroin trafficking flourishes. The influence and power of heroin traffickers such as Khun Sa, the world’s most notorious heroin trafficker, are unparalleled.
In 1994, DEA Bangkok and the Royal Thai Police initiated Operation Tiger Trap, which was an operation designed to disrupt the heroin trafficking capability of the Shan United Army (SUA). The objectives of the operation were to disrupt and immobilize the SUA infrastructure in Thailand and to arrest and extradite members of the organization under indictment in the U.S. Tiger Trap primarily targeted the heroin traffickers on the production and wholesale levels. To date, 15 targets of Operation Tiger Trap have been arrested.
As a result of Tiger Trap and other influences, in 1995, the SUA, formerly the principal producer of Southeast Asian heroin, experienced a number of setbacks. Its northern bases were attacked by the Burma Army and United Wa State Army (UWSA). Thailand restricted the flow of supplies to the SUA by maintaining a closed border policy with Burma’s Shan State that began in 1994. Months of secret negotiations between the Government of Burma and the SUA, resulted in Burma Army troops peacefully occupying the Ho Mong headquarters of the SUA on January 1, 1996.
Khun Sa, surrendered to Burmese authorities. These arrest of key members of his trafficking organizations denied Kuhn Sa the ability to market his heroin and collect monies owed from prior transactions. Many of the other SUA troops surrendered. Nevertheless, heroin production has continued, albeit at reduced levels, in the Shan-controlled areas. Law enforcement action further weakened the Shan marketing infrastructure in Thailand.
While Asian heroin trafficking organizations are a formidable force in international narcotics trafficking, the proximity of trafficking groups from Mexico and Colombia pose the greatest, most immediate threat, to both the national security of the United States and the quality of life in many American communities.
Trafficking Organizations from Mexico
A number of major trafficking organizations represent the highest echelons of organized crime in Mexico. Their leaders are under indictment in the United States on numerous charges. The Department of Justice has submitted provisional warrants, to Government of Mexico, for many of their arrests and only one, Juan Garcia Abrego, because he was a U.S. citizen, has been sent to the U.S. to face justice. The other leaders are living freely in Mexico, and have so far escaped apprehension by Mexican law enforcement.
The most powerful drug trafficker in Mexico at the current time is Amado Carrillo-Fuentes, who, as recently reported, allegedly has ties to the former Commissioner of the INCD, Gutierrez-Rebollo. His organized crime group, based in Juarez, is associated with the Rodriguez-Orejuela organization and the Ochoa brothers, from Medellin, as well. This organization, which is also involved in heroin and marijuana trafficking, handles large cocaine shipments from Colombia. Their regional bases in Guadalajara, Hermosillo and Torreon serve as storage locations where later, the drugs are moved closer to the border for eventual shipment into the United States.
The scope of the Carrillo-Fuentes’ network is staggering; he reportedly forwards $20-30 million to Colombia for each major operation, and his illegal activities generate ten's of millions per week. He was a pioneer in the use of large aircraft to transport cocaine from Colombia to Mexico and became known as "Lord of the Skies." Carillo-Fuentes reportedly owns a fleet of aircraft and has major real estate holdings.
Miguel Caro-Quintero’s organization is based in Sonora, Mexico and focuses its attention on trafficking cocaine and marijuana. His brother, Rafael, is in prison in Mexico for his role in killing DEA Special Agent Kiki Camarena in 1985. Miguel, along with two of his other brothers--Jorge and Genaro--run the organization. Miguel himself was arrested in 1992, and the USG and GOM cooperated in a bilateral prosecution. Unfortunately, that effort was thwarted when Miguel was able to use a combination of threats and bribes to have his charges dismissed by a federal judge in Hermosillo. He has operated freely since that time.
The Caro-Quintero organization specializes primarily in the cultivation, production and distribution of marijuana, a major cash-crop for drug groups from Mexico. The organization is believed to own many ranches in the northern border state of Sonora, where drugs are stored, and from which drug operations into the United States are staged. Despite its specialization in marijuana cultivation and distribution, like the other major drug organizations in Mexico, this group is polydrug in nature, also transporting and distributing cocaine and methamphetamine.
-Quintero is the subject of several indictments in the United States and is currently the subject of provisional arrest warrants issued by the United States Government. In an act of astonishing arrogance, he called a radio station in Hermosillo, Mexico last May stating that he was bothered by statements I had made, and indicated that he was an innocent rancher and that charges made against him by DEA were untrue. He then had the audacity to give his address and invite law enforcement officials from Mexico and the United States to visit him--yet he remains at large.
The Arellano-Felix Organization (AFO), often referred to as the Tijuana Cartel, is one of the most powerful and aggressive drug trafficking organizations operating from Mexico; it is undeniably the most violent. More than any other major trafficking organization from Mexico, it extends its tentacles directly from high-echelon figures in the law enforcement and judicial systems in Mexico, to street-level individuals in the United States. The AFO is responsible for the transportation, importation and distribution of multi-ton quantities of cocaine and marijuana, as well as large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine, into the United States from Mexico. The AFO operates primarily in the Mexican states of Sinaloa (their birth place), Jalisco, Michoacan, Chiapas, and Baja California South and North. From Baja, the drugs enter California, the primary point of embarkation into the United States distribution network.
The AFO does not operate without the complicity of Mexican law enforcement officials and their subordinates. According to extradition documents submitted by the Government of Mexico in San Diego, California, key family members reportedly dispense an estimated $1.0 million weekly in bribes to Mexican federal, state and local officials, who assure that the movement of drugs continues to flow unimpeded to the gateway cities along the southwestern border of the United States.
The Arellano family, composed of seven brothers and four sisters, inherited the organization from Miguel Angel Felix-Gallardo upon his incarceration in Mexico in 1989, for his complicity in the murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena. Alberto Benjamin Arellano-Felix assumed leadership of the family structured criminal enterprise and provides a businessman’s approach to the management of drug trafficking operations.
Ramon Eduardo Arellano-Felix, considered the most violent brother, organizes and coordinates protection details over which he exerts absolute control. Ramon Arellano’s responsibilities consist of the planning of murders of rival drug leaders and those Mexican law enforcement officials not on their payroll, as well as AFO members who fall out of favor with the AFO leadership or simply are suspected of collaborating with law enforcement officials. Enforcers are often hired from violent street gangs in cities and towns in both Mexico and the United States in the belief that these gang members are expendable. They are dispatched to assassinate targeted individuals and to send a clear message to those who attempt to utilize the Mexicali/Tijuana corridor without paying the area transit tax demanded by the AFO trafficking domain.
A joint task force composed of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been established in San Diego, California, to target the AFO; the Task Force is investigating AFO operations in Southern California and related regional investigations which track drug transportation, distribution and money laundering activities of the AFO throughout the United States.
-Contreras brothers, operating out of Guadalajara, Mexico head-up a methamphetamine production and trafficking organization with global dimensions. Directed by Jesus Amezcua, and supported by his brothers, Adan and Luis, the Amezcua drug trafficking organization today is probably the world’s largest smuggler of ephedrine and clandestine producer of methamphetamine. With a growing methamphetamine abuse problem in the United States, this organization’s activities impact on a number of the major population centers in the U.S. The Amezcua organization obtains large quantities of the precursor chemical, ephedrine, utilizing contacts in Thailand and India, which they supply to methamphetamine labs in Mexico and the United States. This organization has placed trusted associates in the United States to move ephedrine to Mexican methamphetamine traffickers operating in the U.S. Jose Osorio-Cabrera, a fugitive from a Los Angeles investigation until his arrest in Bangkok, was a major ephedrine purchaser for the Amezcua organization.
Like most organized crime groups, major drug traffickers in Colombia, Mexico and Southeast Asia rely on corruption and intimidation to further their goals. The problems of corruption and violence are particularly acute in Mexico.
Since 1993, twenty-three major drug-related assassinations have taken place in Mexico, particularly in the Tijuana area. Virtually all of these cases are unsolved. In the February 24, 1997 issue of U.S. News and World Report, an article titled "An Inferno Next Door" reports that "Mexico’s drug gangs buy the officials they can---and kill those they can’t." In a particularly grisly episode, the article tells the story of Hodin Gutierrez, a young prosecutor who was one of eight law enforcement officials recently killed in Tijuana. After winning a conviction against a corrupt state police officer and investigating the murder of a police chief who had refused a bribe, Gutierrez was shot 120 times and his killers then repeatedly ran their vehicle over his dead body. The killers were allegedly working for Mexican drug traffickers.
Unfortunately, the violence that is attendant to the drug trade in Mexico is spilling over the border into U.S. towns, like San Diego, California and Eagle Pass, Texas. Last summer, ranchers along the Texas/Mexico Border reported they were besieged by drug organizations smuggling cocaine and marijuana across their property--fences were torn down, livestock butchered and shots were fired at the ranchers’ homes at night. Ranchers reported seeing armed patrols in Mexico with night vision equipment, hand-held radios and assault rifles that protected a steady stream of smugglers back packing marijuana and cocaine into the United States. The problem became so acute that the State of Texas and the federal government, sent support in the form of additional U.S. Border Patrol Agents, DEA Special Agents, Officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard. Life has returned somewhat to normal in that area, as the drug gangs reacted to law enforcement pressure and have moved their operations elsewhere.
II. Organized Crime’s Surrogates in the United States
The international drug trafficking syndicates cannot operate effectively without an infrastructure in the United States composed of high level managers, transporters, accountants, communications experts, storage experts and enforcers. The Colombian traffickers, and to a large extent the traffickers from Mexico who are currently dominating the international drug traffic, establish bases of control in major U.S. cities, and rely on an intricate network of cells, similar to the structure employed by international terrorist organizations. Cell managers maintain close communication with organized crime figures in Colombia and Mexico, and are in some sense, the "foreign service" of these drug organizations, representing the syndicate’s interests abroad.
These managers use an effective system of communications to coordinate daily operations. Cell phones, beepers, pay phones and faxes ensure that U.S. representatives are given the most recent information on loads, prices, storage locations and contacts in order to conduct the complex business of drug trafficking. A cell director typically reports directly to the cartel’s principals in Colombia and oversees a city-wide area of operation. He directs specific functions including accounting, financial movement, storage of the product, a motor pool and other logistical matters requiring high level attention and discretion.
Both Colombian and Mexican organizations headquartered overseas rely on their networks in the U.S. to distribute vast quantities of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana. At the present time, Colombian organizations are responsible for supplying heroin and cocaine to traffickers on the East Coast of the United States. Mexican organizations dominate the cocaine trade in the Western portion of the U.S. and the methamphetamine business, which is rapidly growing throughout the West, Midwest, Southwest and increasingly, Southeast sections of the United States. Colombian trafficking organizations are now providing free samples of South American heroin as part of their cocaine transactions in order to introduce users to their high potency and relatively inexpensive product. In the methamphetamine trade, large organizations in Mexico, which produce methamphetamine, distribute the product to Mexican groups within the United States for distribution in California, the Southwest and the Southeast regions of the country.
Primary bulk cocaine distribution centers within the United States include Southern California, Southern Texas, New York City and Southern Florida. From these centers, cocaine is shipped throughout the United States for delivery to lower level distribution groups in secondary source cities. Distribution groups within the United States usually include street gangs and ethnic groups, and in the case of New York, primarily Dominican traffickers with strong ties to Colombian organizations.
A recent case in New York illustrates the flexibility of these trafficking organizations and demonstrates clearly how the structure of trafficking groups changes to meet new situations and opportunities. Just last month, nine members of a cocaine distribution ring operating in New York City were arrested and over two tons of cocaine was seized. What was different about this organization was the fact that Mexican traffickers were supplying lower-level Colombian distribution groups in New York City. In most previous cases, Colombian traffickers in the U.S. controlled the top supply and distribution levels, relying on traffickers from the Dominican Republic to distribute cocaine at lower levels.
Many of the most significant drug trafficking cases made today begin, not in foreign countries, but on the streets of our major cities where the surrogates of the drug mafias are operating a multi-billion dollar enterprise. By making strong cases against the top mafia representatives operating in the U.S., large conspiracy cases can be constructed and indictments against the mafia principals can be handed down. However, mafia leaders understand that the larger the number of surrogates operating within the U.S. who are directly tied to the leaders in Colombia, Mexico, or Burma, the greater the vulnerability of the entire operation.
III. Violent Drug Trafficking Organizations in the United States
Violence and the drug trade go hand-in-hand, and while overall crime figures are down for the fifth year in a row, drug-related violence continues to be an extremely difficult problem facing too many American communities.
While violence permeates every level of drug trafficking, it is particularly acute at the local level where drug dealers use violence as a method to gain control of the trade, or rectify differences. Many violent drug dealers are themselves users, and their violence is fueled by crack or methamphetamine.
If the drug trade is seen as a seamless continuum, it is evident that the violent drug dealer operating on the streets of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, the Southwest Border--or in rural areas such as Sandy Level, Virginia, or Rocky Mount, North Carolina--is connected directly or indirectly to the major traffickers headquartered in Cali or Guadalajara. In some cases, there is a direct link between homicides committed within the United States and the orders of drug lords across international borders.
Along the Southwest Border, there have been many incidents of violence and intimidation carried out by representatives of the major traffickers in Mexico; last summer, there were numerous press accounts of ranchers along the Texas/Mexico border who were targeted by drug organizations smuggling cocaine and marijuana across their property. Livestock were killed and gunfire was aimed at the ranchers’ homes. The problem was so serious that additional law enforcement resources from the state and federal government were sent to improve the situation.
In San Diego, a violent group called the "Logan Heights Calle 30" was acting on the orders of the Arellano-Felix group to carry out executions and maintain security for their distribution efforts. Six members of this group were arrested by DEA and the San Diego Police Department for the murder of a man and his son in San Diego. A total of 49 members of "Calle 30" have been arrested by the San Diego Task Force on drug trafficking and violent crime charges.
In recent years, the San Diego area has been the scene of much drug-related violent crime. In 1993, twenty-six homicides related to the methamphetamine trade were committed. As recently as December of 1996, the Arellano-Felix organization ordered the death of an individual who was shot in the face five times during a rush hour homicide in an exclusive community in Coronado, California.
Drug-related violence is not limited to the Southwest Border of the United States. Puerto Rico has experienced a dramatic increase in violent crime as the drug trafficking situation there is worsening. Violence is also not limited to urban areas; during last year’s appropriations testimony we discussed the tragic situation in Sandy Level, Virginia, where violent crack dealers
had terrorized the residents of this small town which had been settled by freed slaves. Increasingly, areas of the country, once immune from the effects of drug-related violence, are now reeling from murders, assaults and other violent crime related to the drug trade. With the spread of methamphetamine to rural areas in Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee and other states, drug-related violence is quickly following.
IV. Emerging Drug Problems
Within the past several years, the problems of methamphetamine production, trafficking and use have significantly increased. Between 1990 and 1995, methamphetamine related hospital emergencies tripled. During this same time period, there was a dramatic increase in the number of meth-related deaths in cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Diego. Even in cities relatively untouched by drug abuse, methamphetamine was taking a terrible toll. From January 1993 to June 1994, Oklahoma City witnessed 14 meth related deaths; in the next year, the number increased to 36, an increase of over 150 percent. Similar patterns were beginning to emerge around the country as methamphetamine spread. In Arkansas, meth-related investigations rose from 543 in 1988 to over 2,000 in 1995. Missouri authorities tripled their lab seizures between 1994 and 1995. In 1995, 80 percent of Iowa’s drug investigations were meth-related.
The methamphetamine problem had previously been relatively isolated to places like California, and some rural areas where outlaw motorcycle gangs had operated small labs and supplied small quantities of the drug. However, during the past several years, drug traffickers from Mexico have taken over the meth trade and have expanded it significantly, increasing not only the supply of meth, but the violence associated with the trade. As previously indicated, in 1993, a total of 26 murders took place in the greater San Diego area, all of which were the result of rivalries among meth trafficking organizations. Numerous incidents, such as the death of DEA Agent Richard Fass in 1994 and a recent killing of two Riverside Sheriff’s deputies by a meth-crazed gunman, graphically illustrate the tragedies spawned by methamphetamine.
DEA has irrefutable evidence that sophisticated trafficking organizations based in Mexico dominate the U.S. methamphetamine market. They operate labs in Mexico and California and these traffickers have plans to expand production and trafficking eastward. Recent seizures in Florida, Georgia and Iowa are proof that methamphetamine is no longer a West Coast problem.
In 1996, DEA hosted a national conference on methamphetamine, at which time, representatives from state and local departments provided DEA and other law enforcement agencies with information on the meth problem, and suggested ways to address it. Many of these suggestions were incorporated into the President’s national methamphetamine strategy and were included in the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996, which Congress passed last year.
The heroin problem is also a serious law enforcement challenge. Heroin has been an issue for over two decades, but today’s version of the heroin threat is critical because of the wide availability of the drug, as well as its high potency and low price. In 1995, retail heroin had an average nationwide purity close to 40%, over five times higher than the 7% which was common only a decade ago. There has been a marked increase in the number of heroin-related overdose deaths as well. Over 4,000 people died of heroin overdoses in each of the last three years. Today’s mortality figures are the highest ever recorded, surpassing the totals in the mid-1970's when deaths reached over 2,000. Emergency room admissions for heroin have doubled between 1990 and 1995 and the impact of increased heroin availability has been evident in cities such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and smaller cities, such as Orlando, Florida.
One of the most serious developments in the heroin problem has been the emergence of South American heroin as a significant segment of the heroin supply. During 1995, 62% of the heroin seized in the U.S. was of Colombian origin, up from 32% the previous year. It is cheaper, purer and more widely available than the heroin we have previously seen in the U.S. Using already-established trafficking networks and contacts within major urban areas, Colombian traffickers have successfully assumed the lion’s share of the lucrative heroin market in the northeast corridor of the United States, using techniques such as brand names, free samples and cut-rate prices to lure a new heroin clientele. Heroin this pure can be smoked, a method of delivery which appeals to a wider range of drug users who do not wish to inject heroin.
At a recent heroin conference sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration, state and local law enforcement officials repeatedly told participants that the heroin problem was growing more severe in their areas of jurisdiction, and many reported that South American heroin was widely available from New England to South Florida and that overdose incidents were dramatically increasing.
V. The U.S. Law Enforcement Response to Organized Crime
DEA is working with a number of other federal law enforcement entities--the FBI, the U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, the U.S. Customs Service, the Border Patrol--and a host of state and local law enforcement organizations, to respond to the significant problems posed by organized crime groups from Mexico. In order to effectively meet the challenges presented by sophisticated drug trafficking organizations, it is necessary for us to attack the command and control mechanisms of these organizations.
Organized crime groups from Mexico operate in a similar manner to their Colombian counterparts, compartmentalizing their operations to reduce the possibilities of damage should one element of the operation become vulnerable. Working together, federal law enforcement agencies are conducting court-authorized wiretaps that target the communications systems of the organizations, ultimately identifying them from top to bottom. In so doing, it is possible for law enforcement to track criminal syndicates working from boardrooms in Colombia, to their distribution rings within the United States.
Based on the tested premise that the only way to impact these criminal organizations is to go after their top leadership and U.S. based infrastructure, the Southwest Border strategy is highly successful in targeting the leadership of these groups operating within the U.S. However, without commensurate, consistent action by law enforcement in Mexico, the world’s most significant drug traffickers will remain at liberty to conduct their business. We have seen important changes in the Colombian drug trade which are the result of the Cali leaders’ incarceration. It is our goal to effect similar, dramatic changes in the organized crime groups from Mexico.
Later in this testimony, details of Operation Zorro II, a prototype of an organized crime investigation used in our Southwest Border Strategy, will be discussed. Investigations such as this one are intensive and expensive, but are worth the investment. Currently, there are additional ongoing investigations, the details of which can be shared with the committee in closed session.
Highlights, 1996 -- A Year of Results
During the past year, DEA, working with state, local and international counterparts, targeted high level drug traffickers around the world. A number of significant cases came to fruition, leading to the arrest and incarceration of major drug traffickers.
Operation Zorro II: As part of the inter-agency Southwest Border initiative, on May 2, 1996,
federal, state and local law enforcement agencies successfully completed a unique operation which targeted a Mexican-run cocaine smuggling and distribution network within the United States with ties to the Colombian drug mafia. Using over 90 court-authorized wiretaps, law enforcement personnel were able to arrest 156 traffickers from Los Angeles, Chicago, El Paso, Houston and other cities, and seize 5,600 kilograms of cocaine, over a thousand pounds of marijuana and almost a kilogram of crack cocaine. Operatives of organized crime groups in Mexico smuggled cocaine over the Mexican/U.S. border and once in the U.S., the cocaine was stored in the LA area for eventual distribution to Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Newark and Richmond, by representatives of Mexican organized crime and the Cali Colombia syndicate. Zorro II involved over 40 state and local law enforcement agencies, DEA, the FBI, the DOJ Criminal Division, 10 U.S. Attorney’s Offices and seven other federal agencies. This case was extremely significant because it simultaneously dismantled both the organization that owned the cocaine, as well as a second organization that ran the transportation system.
Operation Global SEA: In an important heroin case, federal, state and local law enforcement officials disrupted a Nigerian-run narcotics network which stretched from Thailand to the U.S. Working with international law enforcement officials, the DEA, FBI, U.S. Customs Service and the United States Attorney’s Office targeted the heroin organization which was responsible for trafficking multi-kilogram quantities of heroin from Thailand to Chicago. Typically, heroin couriers working for the Nigerian organization traveled with heroin-laden suitcases through Europe and Mexico before bringing the heroin over the Mexican/Texas border for distribution in Chicago. Forty-four individuals were arrested in the United States and abroad. The total amount of heroin seized in Operation Global SEA was worth between $20-25 million on the streets of the United States.
Mobile Enforcement Teams: On the homefront, DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Teams (METs) made a positive impact in many American communities. Based on the premise that drug trafficking and drug related violence contribute to the degradation of the quality of life in too many American communities, DEA’s response has been to aggressively target and build cases against individuals involved in violent drug trafficking activities.
The METs were developed to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to address the problems of drugs and drug-related violence. Since their initial deployment in 1995, these teams have worked with state and local law enforcement agencies to address drug-related violence in cities and rural areas around the nation. In places such as Spartanburg, South Carolina; the Rampart section of Los Angeles; Galveston, Texas and Toledo, Ohio, MET teams have, to date, deployed 85 times, arrested 2,577 individuals and seized over $3.0 million in currency and 250 weapons. The MET program, which was fully funded by Congress in FY 97, is based on the belief that those who distribute drugs on the streets of the United States and commit violent activities are part of a seamless international continuum of drug trafficking organizations headquartered in Colombia, Mexico and Southeast Asia.
During 1996, in just one example of how drug law enforcement efforts can make a significant difference, a MET deployment in the Rampart area of Los Angeles assisted state and local law enforcement officers to help combat drug-related crime and the violence associated with open-air drug markets. The neighborhood had been ravaged by drug dealing and drive-by shootings, and was the most dangerous area of Los Angeles. Between April and July of 1996, DEA, working with the ATF, INS and the Los Angeles Police Department of Corrections, made 412 arrests ranging from minor offenses, to violations of federal law. DEA arrested 141 individuals on drug charges, including gang members. The entire operation netted $70,000 in U.S. currency, 28 weapons, 1,270 grams of black tar heroin, 640 grams of cocaine, 104 pounds of marijuana and a small quantity of methamphetamine.
After the deployment, crime and violence in the area dropped immediately, and for the first time in five years, there were weeks when no homicides were committed. Aggravated assaults, sexual assaults and burglaries were down significantly.
VI. The Fight Against Global Drug Trafficking: Lessons Learned
Over the past several years, there have been major successes in law enforcement across the board, and many of the lessons learned from increasingly sophisticated responses to violent crime and drug trafficking have had an impact on DEA’s operations, and the operations of other law enforcement agencies. It is very clear, after years of intensive and smart law enforcement efforts, that law enforcement works. This is particularly true in places such as New York City, where dramatic reductions in the crime rate confounded many who thought law enforcement could not be an effective answer to the crime problem. It was also clear that effective law enforcement costs money, and requires that infrastructure needs be maintained in order to ensure that personnel have the tools necessary to do the job. We have also learned the importance of identifying and acting against emerging drug threats in order to get ahead of the curve --- a hard lesson we learned from our response to the crack epidemic.
Law Enforcement Works: During the late 1980's and early 1990's, when drug-related violence rose to unprecedented levels, communities supported the premise that federal, state and local law enforcement had to act decisively to address crime. Consistent, energetic and targeted law enforcement efforts resulted in dramatic decreases in the crime rates in many cities: in New York, the murder rate has fallen by 50 percent in five years; in Houston, 49 percent; and in Boston, 62 percent. The overall crime rate in our nation has fallen to its lowest level since 1969.
How did this happen? Communities began fighting back, and making a difference, with smart, targeted law enforcement programs. In New York City, a widespread philosophy of aggressive law enforcement was begun. Increases in the police force and in the number of prison beds were approved. No crime was too small to go unpunished. From panhandling, to turnstile-jumping, to graffiti --- all quality of life crimes were considered serious offenses against the public good. Arrests went up across the board, and precinct commanders were made responsible for reducing crime numbers in their jurisdictions. Since many crimes are committed by the same criminals, police sought to identify patterns in these crimes, and were able to link crimes to specific individuals. By all accounts the New York City experience is a solid example of what happens when law enforcement targets all levels of violators, including those who degrade the quality of life in communities: citizens can see measurable gains. Increased numbers of police, more prisons and tougher crime policies have paid off.
DEA contributed to the decline in crime rates by working with state, local and other federal law enforcement agencies to aggressively target drug traffickers operating within the United States. Through task forces and DEA’s REDRUM program, drug trafficking organizations, and violent drug trafficking rings, were identified and dismantled during the past decade.
Sophisticated Targets Require Sophisticated Investigations: Drug trafficking networks, controlled by sophisticated organized crime leaders headquartered in Colombia, Mexico, and in many other countries, have sophisticated technology and modern equipment at their disposal. Organizations rely on an intricate system of communications devices -- cell phones, faxes, encrypted messages -- to carry out their day-to-day operations.
In order to penetrate these organizations, and gather information to make solid cases against their leadership, DEA must compete on a level playing field. Effective investigations, such as Zorro II and Operation Global SEA, are expensive and labor-intensive. The Zorro case, which took three years from beginning to end, depended in large part on wiretaps. This investigation was extremely complex and labor intensive with an estimated cost of $13 million. Many hours also go into building complex cases: over 103,000 hours were devoted by DEA Special Agents, and another 10,300 by Intelligence Analysts. These costs and manpower estimates do not take into account contributions made by state and local agencies.
In Operation Global SEA, wiretaps were used over a forty-day period in which 23,000 calls were recorded between members of the trafficking organization and the source of supply. A total of $2.0 million was spent on wiretap-related services, such as translations and lease lines.
It is Critical to Identify and Act Quickly Against Emerging Drug Threats: Drug trafficking, use and abuse patterns change quickly, with newer, cheaper, and more lethal drugs rapidly entering the scene. The rapid growth of the cocaine and crack trade during the course of the 1980's caught law enforcement officials largely off-guard and proved to have a devastating impact on the citizens of this country. In just a few, short years, law enforcement and public health attention has been refocused on methamphetamine, heroin and synthetic drugs -- drugs which have caused misery, addiction, and all too often, violence in many American communities.
Aggressive, Effective Law Enforcement Requires Sound Infrastructure:The success of ongoing drug enforcement efforts is in large part predicated upon the quality of operational support systems law enforcement organizations have in place. Over the years, the majority of resources provided to law enforcement have been directed towards placing more Special Agents and police officers on the streets, often times at the expense of the critical support and infrastructure systems necessary for long-term enforcement productivity. Without state-of-the-art technical investigative equipment, intelligence, automated data processing systems and operational support facilities, law enforcement’s ability to make significant inroads in its efforts to dismantle the operations of major drug trafficking organizations is greatly diminished.
The drug traffickers operating on a global scale today have, at their disposal, technology, transportation capabilities and communications equipment which are the envy of many U.S. corporations. Law enforcement capabilities must match, or exceed, the capabilities of major traffickers. However, with rapid changes in technology, such as digital communications systems, and encrypted equipment, and with only modest assistance from U.S. manufacturers, law enforcement is facing a difficult situation which, unless quickly addressed, will impede our ability to do business in just a few, short years.
DEA, like many other law enforcement agencies, has had difficulty meeting infrastructure needs over the years. Many of these needs have taken a back seat to operational or personnel needs, and they have finally become critical. Two such areas are the DEA laboratory system, which is key to the success of DEA cases being made against major drug traffickers around the world, and the DEA computer system which is fast becoming the lifeblood of DEA investigations.
VII. DEA’s Fiscal Year 1998 Budget: Equipping the Agency for the Future
DEA’s Fiscal Year 1998 Budget request includes funding for important initiatives to target the most significant drug traffickers operating along the Southwest border of the United States, address the methamphetamine and heroin problems which adversely affect so many communities across the nation, and restore DEA’s infrastructure needs. DEA is requesting a total of $1,145,830,000 in direct funding, including 7,216 positions, of which 3,358 are Special Agents. This request includes an enhancement of 382 positions (168 Special Agents) and $87,042,363 in new program initiatives and represents and overall increase of $91,812,000 million over DEA’s 1997 appropriation level.
DEA’s budget is spent on program efforts which are dedicated to assisting communities across the nation, and fifty nations around the world in their efforts to identify, target and dismantle the most significant drug trafficking organizations operating at home and overseas. DEA’s budget includes support for over 7,200 personnel; a series of state and local task forces which serve as a multiplier effect in major cities and rural areas of the United States; DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Teams which are dedicated to addressing drug-related violent crime; and special programs including marijuana eradication, training, demand reduction and international investigations. DEA’s budget is also spent on technical equipment, vehicles, aircraft, and supplies which assist DEA personnel in their day-to-day investigations and investigative support functions.
The $87 million DEA is requesting in new program funding, is broken into five strategic funding initiatives. These initiatives include the Methamphetamine Initiative, Southwest Border Initiative, Heroin Initiative, Infrastructure Initiative and a Laboratory Reconstruction Initiative.
To address the explosion of methamphetamine abuse, I am requesting $11 million and 74 positions, including 60 Special Agents. These resources will allow DEA to expand its domestic enforcement efforts, reduce the availability of the chemicals that feed the illicit "kitchens" that pollute the bodies of our citizens and our environment, and provide for the safety of law enforcement personnel through specialized hazardous waste handling training. An all out effort against this highly addictive and dangerous drug will save lives, protect the environment, and help ensure a safe future for our youth. This initiative fully supports the National Methamphetamine Strategy and is vital to stalling the momentum of this growing drug of choice.
To expand our continuing interagency effort on the Southwest Border, I am requesting $29.7 million and 192 positions, including 96 Special Agents. These resources will purchase investigative equipment, enhance intelligence gathering, provide increased air support to this vast open border, and provide additional agents and support staff to deal with the increase in investigative caseload. The increasing concentration of DEA, FBI, and INS resources working cooperatively along the 2,000 mile border with Mexico is not only getting results, it demonstrates that federal law enforcement can save resources, share information, and work effectively in joint investigative efforts. These additional resources are the next installment in our growing border presence and are sorely needed to cope with the huge volume of drugs transiting this area.
To address the growing availability of increasingly pure and cheap heroin, I am requesting the resources to continue to build upon our Domestic Heroin Enforcement Strategy, begun last year. For FY 1998, I am requesting $5 million and 60 positions, including 12 Special Agents. The growth in popularity of this deleterious and addictive drug is an ominous sign to those of us who are aware of heroin’s destructiveness and the huge costs it brings to our nation’s health care system. This reemerging menace cannot be allowed to go unaddressed.
For many years, DEA has been forced to build its investigative force by eroding vital infrastructure resources and redirecting them into operational enforcement activities. Last year, you helped us address this problem for the first time by providing significant new resources to restore our eroded infrastructure base. While some of the funding for these critical investigative support components was provided, I am requesting $33.4 million and 19 support positions to further strengthen our infrastructure in support of law enforcement efforts. These funds are absolutely essential if DEA is to field a modern investigative work force. Our Special Agents must have the computers, aircraft, and tools of technology to do their job. These tools must be maintained, replaced, and upgraded periodically if they are to multiply our agents effectiveness. Most importantly, I need sufficient funds to relocate Special Agents when the job requires them to change their place of duty. Career Special Agents should not be denied the opportunities for development, training, advancement and protection afforded by periodic changes of duty station.
Last year, you provided nearly $31 million in construction funding to build a much needed training facility at Quantico, Virginia, and seed money to begin bringing obsolete laboratories up to acceptable health and safety standards. I am pleased to report that construction at Quantico will begin in early April. Our laboratory reconstruction effort is also well underway. I am requesting an additional $4.0 million this year to continue the financing of a multi-year, $21 million effort to rebuild unsafe and inefficient laboratory facilities. We owe our chemists and support staff a safe working environment and we owe the nation facilities that can handle the increased volume of drugs and evidence flowing from burgeoning investigations.
In closing, I would like to again thank the Committee for its long standing support of DEA and urge your support of these important initiatives. I will be happy to answer any questions the Committee may have at this time.