Donnie R. Marshall, Acting Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration
United States Department of Justice
Subcommittee on Crime, House Judiciary Committee
July 29, 1999
Note: This document may not reflect changes made in actual delivery.
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee: I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Drug Enforcement Administration's mission, strategies, accomplishments and future challenges. DEA appreciates the support we have received over the years from Chairman McCollum, Ranking Member Scott and the Subcommittee's other members. Without your steadfast backing and your faith in the men and women of the Drug Enforcement Administration our job would be infinitely more difficult.
Today I would like to provide the subcommittee with information on a number of topics: first, an assessment of the drug threat facing the United States in 1999 and information on how dramatic changes in the international drug trade affect our nation; second, an overview of DEA's strategy to combat the complex drug threat we face today; third, a summary of our recent accomplishments; fourth, a brief discussion on how DEA measures our progress in a variety of areas; and fifth, a prospective look at what challenges we believe lie ahead in the years to come.
I. The International Drug Trade and Its Impact on the United States
The international drug trafficking syndicates that are operating today are more powerful and sophisticated than any criminal enterprises our nation has previously faced. They are well-organized, influential and extremely savvy, relying on a worldwide network of personnel, technological assets and financial resources that rival those held by international businesses.
The vast majority of the drugs available in the United States---all of the cocaine and heroin, and much of the methamphetamine and marijuana ---originate overseas and is smuggled into the United States through elaborate networks and methods. Foreign-source methamphetamine and heroin availability have increased significantly during the past five years, adversely affecting major regions of the United States.
The nature of the international drug trade has changed a great deal over the past fifteen years, although these changes are not readily visible to the average American. At the height of the cocaine epidemic, the manufacturing and importation of that product was controlled by a group of traffickers from Medellin, Colombia, whose boldness, violence and political fervor stunned the world. Beginning in the late 1970's, the major cocaine trafficking organizations based in Colombia generally relied on an intricate smuggling network which facilitated the shipment of multi-tons of cocaine predominantly through the Caribbean. These traffickers also amassed great wealth and they invested heavily in luxury products and property within the United States. Until July 1991, when a new Constitution in Colombia was adopted, members of the Medellin cartel were truly fearful of the threat of extradition to the United States, and they successfully bribed and intimidated officials in the Government of Colombia to outlaw their extradition.
While the Medellin cartel engaged in high-profile violence and political action, the Cali organization assumed a much more businesslike approach to their cocaine smuggling enterprises. They slowly and steadily established markets within the United States, particularly in New York, and dominated the cocaine trade after the leaders of the Medellin cartel were arrested or killed. One of the Cali organization's major strengths was their utilization of the "cell" structure, and they used it in much the same way as terrorist organizations did, insulating their members from knowing too much about overall strategies and operations. Cells were routinely set up in major cities around the United States and compartmentalized decision-making and activities allowed the Cali leaders to control all aspects of the cocaine business from communications to security to transportation and financial management.
The Cali leaders also mastered sophisticated business techniques and relied on state-of-the-art communications equipment and technology to monitor all phases of their business dealings in Colombia, Mexico and the United States. Through a complicated network of cell phones, faxes, pagers and computers, they tightly controlled their U.S. workers and reduced the need for top leadership to operate on U.S. soil.
During the 1980's and early 1990's leaders of the cocaine cartels turned to traffickers in Mexico to assist them in transporting tons of cocaine into the U.S. For many years, traffickers in Mexico had been using their expertise to smuggle heroin and marijuana into our nation, and the organizations in Colombia began to rely on them to fly large quantities of cocaine over the Mexican border. Eventually, traffickers from Mexico demanded and received payment in cocaine rather than cash, and they were then able to assume an even greater role in cocaine trafficking, leading to their major role today. Coupled with the arrests of the major Cali leadership in 1995 and 1996, the re-alignment of traffickers' roles in the cocaine business allowed traffickers from Mexico to gain unprecedented power and influence.
Three other important changes in drug trafficking have had major negative results on the United States: the orchestrated efforts by traffickers based in Mexico to saturate markets with methamphetamine; the Colombian traffickers' aggressive production and marketing of strong, pure heroin; and the re-emergence of well-established trafficking routes and methods in the Caribbean.
Methamphetamine Situation: Today, there are two major forces fueling the methamphetamine trade within the United States: first, the well-organized, high volume, "super-lab" methamphetamine manufacturing and trafficking groups based in Mexico; and second, a widely scattered series of local methamphetamine producers, predominantly based in rural areas around the United States.
Traffickers based in Mexico control all phases of their involvement in the methamphetamine trade from beginning to end. Because methamphetamine is a synthetic drug created from a mixture of chemicals, traffickers based in Mexico do not have to rely on traffickers in other nations to provide coca or finished cocaine for distribution. These groups initially had ready access to precursor chemicals on the international market. These chemicals have fewer controls in Mexico and overseas than in the United States, a fact which allowed the organizations to produce large quantities of high purity methamphetamine in clandestine laboratories, both in Mexico and Southern California. Methamphetamine organizations based in Mexico have developed international connections with chemical suppliers in Europe, Asia, and the Far East, and with these connections, they have been able to obtain ton quantities of the necessary precursor chemicals (ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine) to manufacture methamphetamine and amphetamine. In recent years, with the growth of DEA-led international efforts to control the flow of bulk ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine, Mexican traffickers have also turned to tableted forms of these precursors to manufacture their product and now frequently buy their products from rogue chemical suppliers in the United States.
In addition to readily available precursor chemicals which allow groups from Mexico, such as the Amezcua-Contreras trafficking organization, to produce thousands of pounds of methamphetamine in laboratories in Mexico and California, the methamphetamine organizations based in Mexico also have well-established, polydrug distribution networks in place throughout our country. Trafficking organizations from Mexico have infiltrated numerous communities around the nation, particularly areas where large numbers of Mexican workers are involved in the meat packing business or other agricultural industries. It is common now to find hundreds of traffickers from Mexico, many of them illegal aliens, established in communities like Boise, Des Moines, Omaha, Charlotte, and Kansas City, distributing multi-pound quantities of methamphetamine.
The impact of methamphetamine trafficking on these communities has been devastating. In Iowa, health officials expressed deep concern about the thousands of infants who have been exposed to methamphetamine before their births. Furthermore, an expert associated with Marshall County Iowa's Juvenile Court Services estimated that in 1998, one third of the 1,600 students at Marshalltown High School had tried methamphetamine.
While the vast majority of methamphetamine available in the United States is produced and trafficked by the well-organized groups from Mexico, domestic production of methamphetamine by U.S. citizens is also a significant problem. The production level of these laboratories, often makeshift and described as "mom and pop" labs, is relatively low; however, the large number of these labs and the environmental and law enforcement concerns associated with their operation pose major problems to state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as to DEA.
Our nation's growing methamphetamine lab epidemic can also be attributed to the evolution of technology and the increased use of the Internet. In the past, methamphetamine chemists closely guarded their drug recipes; but with modern computer technology and chemists increasing willingness to share their recipes, this information is now available to anyone with computer access. Methamphetamine is one of the only widely abused controlled substances which an addict, without chemical expertise, can make on his own. A cocaine or heroin addict cannot make his own cocaine or heroin, but a methamphetamine addict only has to turn on his computer to find a recipe for the chemicals and processes required to make the drug.
Methamphetamine is, in fact, a very simple drug to produce. A user can go to retail stores and easily purchase the vast majority of the ingredients necessary to manufacture the drug. Items such as rock salt, battery acid, red phosphorous road flares, pool acid, and iodine crystals can be utilized to substitute for some of the necessary chemicals. A clandestine lab operator can utilize relatively common items such as mason jars, coffee filters, hot plates, pressure cookers, pillowcases, plastic tubing, gas cans, etc. to substitute for sophisticated laboratory equipment. Unlike Fentanyl, LSD, or other types of dangerous drugs, it does not take a college educated chemist to produce methamphetamine. In fact, less than 10 percent of those suspects arrested for the manufacture of methamphetamine are trained chemists, which may be one reason we see so many fires, explosions, and injuries in clandestine lab incidents.
Methamphetamine production also poses a grave problem to the communities in which where they are located. Several years ago, during a major case, DEA discovered a working methamphetamine laboratory at an equestrian center where children were taking riding lessons. In another case, a laboratory capable of producing 180 pounds of methamphetamine was discovered within a thousand feet of a junior high school. This type of discovery is being made more and more frequently by DEA and other law enforcement agencies working methamphetamine cases.
The threats posed by clandestine labs are not limited to fire, explosion, poison gas, drug abuse, and booby traps; the chemical contamination of the hazardous waste contained in these labs also poses a serious danger to our nation's environment. Each pound of methamphetamine generated in a clandestine lab can result in as much as five pounds of toxic waste, which clandestine lab operators routinely dump into our nation's streams, rivers, and sewage system to cover up the evidence of their illegal operations.
Colombian Heroin: The current heroin problem that has emerged in the United States is controlled not by American organized crime, but by a new group of international organized crime figures from Colombia. In much the same way that their Medellin and Cali predecessors ensured their dominance over the cocaine trade in the 1980's, heroin traffickers from Colombia are employing savvy marketing concepts to successfully rebuild American users' interest in heroin.
Beginning in the early 1990's, independent traffickers from Colombia began to supply retail level outlets primarily in the Northeast United States with high quality, cheap heroin. Colombian traffickers had spent several years cultivating opium and refining their heroin production capabilities, positioning themselves to take advantage of a gradually diminishing crack market. By supplying dealers with high purity heroin to give away as free samples, and by establishing "brand names" to garner customer loyalty, Colombian traffickers quickly gained a foothold in the burgeoning heroin market in cities such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. They also began using Puerto Rico as a major transit area to distribute their product to places such as Florida and New Orleans. Colombian heroin was also more attractive than competitors' products because of its low price-$75,000 per kilo in New York City-and its extremely high purity.
The impact has been staggering. A snapshot of the drug situation in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1950 compared with 1997 illustrates how the scale of the heroin problem has changed dramatically. In 1950, Baltimore had 300 heroin addicts out of a population of 949,708, meaning that one in 3,166 individuals residing in Baltimore was a heroin addict. By 1997, there were 38,985 heroin addicts reported in Baltimore, representing one heroin addict for every 17 residents of Baltimore.
Most of the heroin seized by the DEA now comes from Colombia and Mexico. Previously, Southeast and Southwest Asian heroin dominated the U.S. market, but these types are no longer available in sizeable quantities in cities along the East Coast, where, historically, there had been the greatest demand for heroin. In 1997, the DEA Heroin Signature Program indicated that 75 percent of the heroin seized in the United States originated in South America and another 14 percent came from Mexico. Further evidence of increasing amounts of Mexican heroin was substantiated in a 1998 study by an independent organization which indicated that the volume of heroin from Mexico could exceed 25 percent (at the dealer level).
Mexico: Nearly all of the heroin produced in Mexico is destined for U.S. distribution, and Mexico-based heroin continues to dominate the market in the western half of the United States. Evidence suggests that trafficking organizations from Mexico are attempting to produce higher purity heroin. For example, a 1997 analysis of samples of Mexican heroin distributed in Plano, Texas, revealed purity levels of 30 to 60 percent, with some samples reaching levels of more than 70 percent. Higher purity heroin has resulted in a greater number of heroin-related deaths. In New Mexico, heroin-related deaths more than doubled in the three-year period 1995-1997 (274 deaths) compared to the period 1989-1991 (131 deaths). Mexican heroin distribution networks in the United States are managed almost entirely by criminal organizations operating from Mexico and by Mexican-American criminal gangs that are in charge of the street-level distribution of heroin.
Increased Drug Trafficking in the Caribbean: The Colombian trafficking organizations' presence and influence in the Caribbean are overwhelming. The Caribbean has long been a favorite smuggling route used by the Cali and Medellin crime groups to smuggle thousands of tons of cocaine to the United States. During the late l970's and the l980's, drug lords from Medellin and Cali, Colombia established a labyrinth of smuggling routes throughout the central Caribbean, including Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamian Island chain to South Florida, using a variety of smuggling techniques to transfer their cocaine to U. S. markets.
Today, independent groups of traffickers from the Northern Valle dal Cauca and splinter groups from the Cali syndicate have risen to prominence and are responsible for huge volumes of cocaine and heroin being shipped to the United States through the Caribbean.
Trafficking groups based in Mexico normally charge Colombian traffickers 50% of each shipment to transport their product through Mexico to the U.S. Meanwhile, groups from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic offer the same service for as low as 20%. Thus, many groups from Colombia, particularly those who have risen to power since the Cali syndicate's fall, have returned to traditional smuggling routes in the Caribbean. This has resulted in larger shipments of cocaine transiting the Caribbean. Seizures of 500 to 2,000 kilograms of cocaine are now common in and around Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are the United States' southern most points of entry, and as such, provide an excellent gateway for drugs destined for cities on the East Coast of the United States. More importantly, Puerto Rico's commonwealth status means that once a shipment of cocaine, whether smuggled by maritime, air or commercial cargo, reaches Puerto Rico, it may not be subjected to further United States Customs Service (USCS) inspection en route to the continental U.S. Today, cocaine and heroin traffickers from Colombia have transformed Puerto Rico into the largest staging area in the Caribbean for smuggling Colombian cocaine and heroin into the U.S.
Dominican Republic: In the past, the role of traffickers from the Dominican Republic in illegal drug activity was limited to being "pick up crews" and couriers who assisted the Puerto Rican smugglers in their drug smuggling ventures. Much of this has changed with the evolution of the drug trade over the last three years. This new breed of Dominican trafficker functions as smuggler, transporter, and wholesaler in many U.S. cities on the East Coast. In the last year, criminals from the Dominican Republic have emerged as the dominant force in the mid-level cocaine and heroin trade on the East Coast of the U.S., in cities ranging from Boston to Charlotte, North Carolina.
Haiti: As is the case with the Dominican Republic, Haiti presents an ideal location for the staging and transshipment of drugs. There is effectively no border control between the two countries, allowing essentially unimpeded traffic back and forth. The vast amount of the South American drug traffic, which arrives in Haiti, is transported across the porous border with the Dominican Republic, and then on to Puerto Rico by Dominican transportation groups. Once the heroin and cocaine reach the Dominican Republic, Dominican groups take control over both smuggling the drugs into the U.S. and carrying out an increasing percentage of wholesale and some retail distribution along the East Coast.
The Bahamas: The Bahamas remains a central conduit for air and maritime shipments of drugs moving through the Western and Central Caribbean to the Southeast United States. Transportation groups located in the Bahamas utilize a variety of methods to move cocaine from the islands to the United States. Colombian traffickers air drop shipments of cocaine off the coast of Jamaica, or utilize boat to boat transfers on open seas.
Transportation groups from Jamaica and the Bahamas then use canoes to smuggle their payloads into the Bahama chain, frequently using the territorial waters of Cuba to shield their movements. The cocaine is then transferred to pleasure craft which disappear into the inter-island boat traffic. Traffickers also use twin-engine turbo-prop aircraft, with long range capability and Global Positioning Systems, which pinpoint drop zones and meeting spots in the middle of the ocean. Cellular telephones are used to minimize their exposure to interdiction assets and ensure the smooth transfer of their cargo of cocaine for shipment onto the United States.
Drugs and Crime in the United States: The sale of narcotics on the street, the so-called retail sale, is typically handled by a diverse assortment of criminals, many times controlled by traffickers based overseas. Throughout the United States, lower-level dealing in drugs is being increasingly handled by violent and highly organized criminal gangs. Many street gangs are indigenous to the neighborhoods in which they operate. But numerous gangs have gone national. Such "supergangs" are hard to distinguish from major organized crime groups. For example, two supergangs, the Crips and the Bloods, have their origin in Los Angeles in the late 1960s. At first, their activities were confined to large urban areas. But these two gangs now have more than 1,000 affiliates in more than 100 cities. Many of the affiliates are "cultural" rather than "structural," meaning they take a gang's recognizable name but are not necessarily associated with other chapters. Almost half of these cities are small to mid-size, with populations of less than 100,000, because drugs often yield much higher profits in small cities and in rural areas than they do in big cities. Consequently, members of both gangs have moved to smaller cities and set up distribution networks that reach back to their counterparts in the large cities and sometimes to the major international trafficking groups themselves.
This situation demonstrates that international drug trafficking organizations and their surrogates operating in the United States have had a tremendous impact on the drug trafficking and crime problems in U.S. communities. The link between violent crime and drug use and trafficking has been established in numerous studies, including the 1998 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (ADAM) published by the National Institute of Justice. This report indicated that 65 percent of males arrested on various offenses used drugs at the time they were arrested. Statistics also indicate that homicide rates increased dramatically during the crack cocaine epidemic in the late 1980s which peaked in 1992. During this time period, violent crime rates increased by over 50% and murders increased by 31%.
Fortunately, law enforcement has also had a tremendous impact on the levels of violent crime in communities around the United States; these levels have dropped dramatically in places like New York, Los Angeles, and Houston, cities that were hardest hit by the crack epidemic and the proliferation of violent criminals during the past decade. Consistent, aggressive law enforcement is one of the most effective solutions to the problems posed by violent drug trafficking in the United states and in other nations.
New York City illustrates this point. In the early 1990s, after three decades of rapidly increasing levels of violent crime that were exacerbated by the crack epidemic , the City of New York embarked upon an ambitious program to enhance its law enforcement capabilities. City leaders increased the police department by 30%, adding 8,000 officers. Arrests for all crimes, including drug dealing, drug gang activity, and quality of life violations that had been tolerated for many years , increased by 50%. the capacity of New York prisons was also increased. The results of these actions were dramatic: the total number of homicides in 1998--633--was less than the number of murders recorded in 1964. Over an eight-year period, the number of homicides was reduced from 2,262 to 633--a reduction of more than 70%.
Drugs Moving to Smaller Cities: Despite the dramatic decreases in violent crime in many major urban areas, similar reductions in smaller cities and suburban and rural areas have not been realized. In fact, many smaller cities are confronting the same problems that larger urban areas faced a decade ago: increased drug trafficking activities, escalating homicide rates, the influx of illegal aliens involved in the drug trade, and criminal justice infrastructures that are ill-equipped to handle these new pressures. While 1998 violent crime rates decreased (-9.5%) in cities having populations between 250,000 and 999,999, significantly smaller decreases took place in suburban counties (-5%) and rural areas (-2%). However, between 1997 and 1998, violent crime rates increased in a number of mid-size communities. For example, during this time period, the violent crime rate in Plano, Texas, rose 86%. Omaha, Nebraska, and Spokane, Washington, also experienced dramatic violent crime rate increases of 54% and 42%, respectively.
The emerging drug problems of smaller cities and rural areas have been exacerbated by the emergence of methamphetamine trafficking and the violence that accompanies meth production and use. As previously mentioned, since 1994, methamphetamine has become a major drug trafficking and abuse problem for cities such as San Diego, Phoenix, Des Moines, and Boise. High-purity, cheap heroin from Mexico and Colombia have also taken a serious toll on smaller cities like Plano, Texas and Orlando, Florida. Unlike large urban areas where heroin addiction and abuse are commonplace, these cities were caught unprepared to deal with the tragedies associated with heroin use by young people. In the past five years, DEA investigations and investigations carried out by state and local law enforcement indicate that powerful international drug syndicates based in Mexico and Colombia have established operations in places such as Charlotte, North Carolina; Omaha, Nebraska; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Salt Lake City, Utah; Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and many other places which were previously untouched by major drug trafficking and abuse problems.
II. DEA's Strategy to Address Drug Trafficking
DEA's enforcement strategy has several essential elements: to target and build cases against the most significant international drug traffickers who have an impact on the United States; to target and immobilize their surrogates in this country; and to assist communities as they work to reduce drug trafficking and violent crime.
DEA's International Strategy: Since the time of America's first major drug epidemic at the beginning of this century, policymakers have recognized the need for international cooperation as the basis for a successful strategy. Recent historical events, including the rise and fall of the French connection, the Medellin cartel and the Cali organization for example, all illustrate the need for close international cooperation to dismantle the sources of the supply of drugs coming to the United States. While it has been true for a period of time that international drug lords operate from their headquarters overseas, with the elimination of extradition in Colombia, and with aggressive law enforcement within the United States the heads of international drug trafficking organizations are now likely to remain in their own countries, conducting their business from afar. It is that much more critical for the U.S. and foreign governments to work cooperatively to deny safehavens to these international criminal organizations.
As complex as the command and control communications arrangements of international organized criminal groups are, U.S. law enforcement agencies have been able to exploit their communications by using court approved telephone intercepts. With the top leadership of these organizations physically beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement, we have directed our resources at their organizational structure, and their transportation and distribution elements in the United States.
By using intelligence to focus on drug trafficking organizations' command and control function, DEA will be able to arrest the leadership of these organized crime groups in the U.S., including the surrogates who act as their wholesale outlets, and will be able file provisional warrants for the arrest of the organizations leadership hiding in foreign countries. With this strategy of mounting strategic strikes on command and control, DEA will be able to degrade the ability of the organizations to conduct business and impede their ability to import drugs into the United States. Each time we demolish an organization as part of this strategy, we will further facilitate the intelligence collection process which is critical to the dismantling of drug organizations. DEA will gain vital intelligence about the rest of the organization to use both in further strikes and in increasing the accuracy of information provided to interdiction operations conducted by other agencies.
Effective intelligence can also support law enforcement efforts against the independent cocaine and heroin trafficking organizations in Colombia, and the splinter groups from the Cali organization, which are ultimately supplying the majority of cocaine to the Eastern United States. Many of these groups are returning to traditional smuggling routes in the Caribbean corridor to smuggle cocaine and heroin into the United States. While building cases against these criminal groups, DEA will employ intelligence gained from its investigations in coordination with Coast Guard, Treasury Department, and DoD assets, making it possible to substantially step up interdiction of smuggled drugs at geographic and transportation choke points along maritime routes and at ports of entry.
Additional resources have allowed DEA to improve our technological edge and address some critical infrastructure needs that support our international investigations. With the growing sophistication of today's internationally based and national drug trafficking organizations, law enforcement, including DEA, relies heavily on investigative tools such as Title III wiretaps to successfully investigate major drug trafficking organizations. DEA has also developed sophisticated methods to compile investigative information which ensures that all leads are properly followed and coordinated through our Special Operations Division (SOD). This mechanism allows all DEA field divisions and foreign offices to capitalize on investigative information from various sources as cases are being developed. Numerous major cases have been developed with the assistance of the SOD, which is increasingly a central player in cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin investigations.
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. 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, international federal drug law enforcement agents were conducting major 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 offices in 56 foreign countries in 1999. 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 six different law enforcement functions while working abroad:
Bilateral Investigations: 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. Also, the DEA, in collaboration with federal prosecutors, 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 cartel leaders indicted in the United States for violating U.S. laws and then extradited.
Foreign Liaison: 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, as well as the Caribbean, 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.
Institution Building: 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) is 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, particularly Director General Rosso Serrano.
Intelligence Gathering: 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.
Vetted Units: To successfully disseminate classified information between U.S. and foreign officials, it is necessary to ensure that the officials receiving the information maintain integrity and are incorruptible by criminal elements. This is accomplished by vetting foreign nationals that need access to sensitive information. During October 1996, Congress approved $20 million for Fiscal Year 1997 to expand and support the vetted unit program in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. In January 1997, the first (vetted) Sensitive Investigation Unit became operational in Mexico. Since then, units also have become operational in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Thailand, and Brazil. Currently, DEA is seeking to expand the vetted unit program to Pakistan, Ecuador, Chile, and Nigeria.
International Training: DEA's International Training Section consists of 16 Special Agent instructors and six support personnel. From the base of operation in Quantico, three teams of instructors travel around the world, providing drug law enforcement training to the DEA's foreign drug law enforcement counterparts. Since 1969, the DEA and its predecessor agencies have trained more than 40,000 foreign officers and officials. In 1998 alone, the DEA trained over 3,000. The goal of the international training curriculum is to build on the capabilities of drug enforcement officials in other countries. The subject matter covered includes such enforcement techniques as surveillance methods, drug field testing, intelligence collection, as well as law enforcement management principles and skills. The DEA's new Justice Training Center offers state-of-the-art training for visiting foreign law enforcement officers. In addition, the international training section of the DEA offers counter-narcotics training at three International Law Enforcement Academies: one in Budapest, Hungary, a second tentatively located in Panama City, Panama, and a third, operated in cooperation with the Royal Thai Police and the DEA in Bangkok, Thailand.
Part of DEA's international training program includes a leadership school for foreign officials. The current environment in international drug law enforcement mandates that all DEA supervisors, managers and senior executives possess effective leadership and management skills. Through DEA's Career Development Plan, we have established a model training program for first and second line supervisors. Our training programs focus on leadership, management, and ethics and integrity, as well as financial and human resource management. The establishment of the Leadership and Ethics Training Unit will expand our quality leadership training to the mid-level management and executive training levels.
While we already have included ethics training in all of our employee training programs, the inclusion of an ethics component in the Leadership Training Unit will significantly enhance and professionalize the ethics training program. Significantly, we will be able to include an ethics training component in our International Training Programs, including our Vetted Unit training.
Attacking Domestic Surrogates: DEA employs an aggressive strategy against the leaders of international organized crime groups who are responsible for the distribution of narcotics into and within the United States. This strategy is modeled after law enforcement's efforts to dismantle the American mafia and it recognizes that the leadership of today's international drug syndicates reside and operate in foreign countries.
As a result, DEA targets the surrogates of these international drug lords who operate on U.S. soil. We attack these organizations at the highest levels of their command and control structures of these organizations. DEA also attacks the leaders of the domestic gangs who distribute drugs in local communities and are responsible for the vast majority of the violent crimes that are associated with their drug activities.
DEA employs complex wiretap and other communication intercept investigations to identify these organizations at all levels and to obtain actionable information which can lead to the dismantling of these organizations.
The Southwest Border Initiative (SWBI), in operation since 1994, is a cooperative effort by federal law enforcement agencies to establish seamless narcotic law enforcement strategies and operations that dismantle entire identified Mexico-based trafficking organizations along the U.S. Southwest Border.
The SWBI attacks these organizations by targeting the communication systems of their command and control centers. 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.
Caribbean: In 1995, the DEA established the Caribbean Division based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as its 21st field division. As traffickers operating in this area began to have a serious impact on the United States, controlling the sale of multi-hundred kilogram shipments of cocaine and heroin, it became clear that a re-invigorated strategy to attack all aspects of the drug trade in this region needed to be forged. The Caribbean Corridor Initiative, now a major part of the Southern Frontier Initiative, was created to disrupt and ultimately dismantle criminal organizations that smuggle illicit drugs into the United States through the Caribbean Corridor. This corridor consists of the islands of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and the Lesser Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao), and has become increasingly more important as a smuggling route for Colombia-based trafficking organizations as a result of law enforcement success along the Southwest Border. Recent data also shows that Puerto Rico has become a major transshipment point for Colombian heroin destined for the United States. Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Netherlands Antilles are also major money laundering centers.
The results of the Caribbean Corridor Initiative include several major multi-national operations. One, Operation Summer Storm, conducted in 1997, was a combined effort of all the Caribbean nations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the navies of Great Britain, the Netherlands, France and the United States. It succeeded in closing down the Eastern Caribbean to drug trafficking for about 60 days. Operation Summer Storm resulted in the seizure of large amounts of drugs, including 57 kilograms of cocaine, and the arrests of 828 people.
Operation Genesis, conducted in late 1998, was a multi-national initiative, involving the United States, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Prior to this operation, Haiti and the Dominican Republic had never coordinated their anti-drug efforts with one another. The precedent set by Operation Genesis will aid in improving the ability to coordinate anti-drug efforts on the island of Hispaniola.
DEA has also provided a communication system, known as Unicorn, which allows the island nations to exchange drug enforcement information among themselves. This same system is also linked to the larger Information and Coordination Center, based in Puerto Rico.
HIDTA: DEA has programs in a number of major cities around the nation, particularly in those where drug trafficking is especially intense. DEA works closely with its counterparts on the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program (HIDTA), which was authorized by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and is administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Since the original designation of five HIDTAs in 1990, the program has expanded to other areas of the country. The DEA plays a very active role, and now has 255 special agent positions dedicated to the program.
The HIDTA's mission is to reduce drug trafficking in the most critical areas of the country, thereby reducing its impact in other areas. This is accomplished by institutionalizing teamwork among local, state, and federal efforts; synchronizing investments in strategy-based systems; and focusing on outcomes.
OCDETF: In 1982, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) program was initiated to combine federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts into a comprehensive attack against organized crime and drug traffickers. OCDETF objectives are to target, investigate, and prosecute individuals who organize, direct, finance, or are otherwise engaged in high-level illegal drug trafficking enterprises, including large-scale money laundering organizations; to promote a coordinated drug enforcement effort in each task force region; to encourage maximum cooperation among all drug enforcement agencies; and to make full use of financial investigative techniques.
Aspects of the program have served as models for every major law enforcement initiative in recent years, such as HIDTAs, Weed and Seed, and the Anti-Violence Initiative. The success of OCDETF has been attributed to fostering collaboration among federal, state, and local law enforcement and effectively using prosecutors at the early stages of investigations. Since the inception of OCDETF, the DEA has played a leading role and now has 1,000 positions, including 775 special agents, dedicated to the program.
Assisting Communities to Fight Drug Trafficking: An additional way we target drug traffickers is by working hand-in-hand with our state and local counterparts to attack the leaders of domestic drug gangs. These gangs are responsible for distributing drugs in local communities and often commit the violent crimes that are associated with their drug activities. These criminals can in effect take over a community and paralyze citizens with fear.
State and local agencies often suffer from limited resources to combat these violent offenders. Beginning with the creation of our State and Local Task Force and REDRUM programs years ago, the DEA has long had a commitment to help state and local agencies that are experiencing problems arising from violent drug-related crime in their communities. In 1995, we established the Mobile Enforcement Team--MET--program, where, upon the request of local law enforcement, we deploy teams of special agents directly to communities affected by drug-related violence. We work cooperatively with the requesting local law enforcement agency to target drug gangs and individuals responsible for violent crime. Through this cooperative and aggressive approach, we have achieved numerous successes. We have jointly arrested more than 8,200 of the most violent drug traffickers and have made more than 200 communities across the country safer places to live.
Statistics indicate that, on average, communities participating in the MET program have seen a 12% reduction in homicides, 15% reduction in robberies, and 7% reduction in assaults. More important than any statistics, however, is the immeasurable improvements in the quality of life for thousands of Americans who suffered at the hands of violent drug-trafficking organizations for too long.
An important aspect of the MET program is that we are able to accomplish this with a relatively minimal budget and staffing. In fiscal year 1999, we have 250 special agents assigned to MET teams throughout the country with a total operating budget of $51.1 million.
Another way the DEA works to assist communities in fighting drug trafficking is through our State and Local Task Force Program. This program provides a federal presence in sparsely populated areas where the DEA would not otherwise be represented. Combining federal leverage and the specialists available to the DEA with state and local officers' investigative talents and detailed knowledge of their jurisdiction leads to highly effective drug law enforcement investigations. The DEA state and local task force program currently consists of 173 state and local task forces, of which 122 are funded and 51 are provisional. Participating state and local officers are deputized to perform the same functions as DEA special agents.
We also make it a priority to share our knowledge, expertise, and information with law enforcement officers working in anti-narcotics efforts across the country. The DEA offers numerous training opportunities to state and local law enforcement officers in all areas of drug law enforcement. One example is the clandestine laboratory training course we offer. We've trained well over 1,000 state and local officers, and the course has taken on increasing importance with the growing production of methamphetamine. Dismantling one of these meth labs is the equivalent of bomb disposal and cleaning up an EPA Superfund site all rolled into one. Raiding a clandestine drug lab is one of the most dangerous activities law enforcement officers can engage in, so we make sure they're all properly trained in safety techniques.
In addition, the DEA will soon begin providing intelligence training for state, local, federal, and foreign agencies to help meet the expanding need for such training for a wide-range of users. We will work to raise the level of analysis and management capabilities across the drug intelligence community and to establish consistent and comprehensive analytical techniques.
While the program is still evolving, we intend to present a framework of courses ranging from basic drug intelligence to the Master's degree level. Officers, agents, and analysts from agencies at all levels involved in the drug issue, along with visiting scholars and guest speakers from around the world will provide instruction on drug intelligence.
A final way we're working to help law enforcement at all levels combat drug traffickers is through the National Drug Pointer Index Program. In a truly cooperative effort, we jointly developed with state and local law enforcement agencies a mechanism to provide timely notification to law enforcement agencies working common drug targets. Law enforcement at all levels has long recognized this as an absolute necessity in this time of highly mobile traffickers. NDPIX, as it's called, became operational almost two years ago, and more than 40,000 targets of drug investigations are in this secure, automated telecommunications systems. The system allows officers to determine if an active case suspect is under investigation by any other participating agency. As more and more law enforcement agencies participate in NDPIX, it will have far-reaching implications in the effort to dismantle drug organizations.
In this age of mobile, wealthy, sophisticated drug traffickers, no single agency can accomplish the job of dismantling them alone. The DEA has and will continue to dedicate numerous resources to assisting communities, large and small, across the nation that are under siege by violent criminals and drug trafficking organizations.
III. Recent Accomplishments
Examples of recent accomplishments include:
Major Cocaine Transportation Organization Seizure: The DEA and European and Colombian authorities conducted a joint investigation of a Greek maritime shipping company that utilized vessels to smuggle multi-ton quantities of cocaine concealed in legitimate cargo from Colombia into the United States and Europe. As a result, with our counterparts, we effected the seizure of 18.7 tons of cocaine in maritime vessels destined to both Europe and the United states. This organization is considered a major cocaine distributor suspected of smuggling in excess of fifty tons of cocaine into the United States and Europe. The joint investigation yielded the arrest of Gustavo Gomez-Maya and ten associates on June 8, 1999, on drug charges in Colombia by Colombian National Police with assistance from the DEA. The United States has requested the extradition of Gomez-Maya and several of his associates. This case is ongoing with follow-up leads being investigated by the DEA, Spanish, British, Colombian, and Greek authorities.
MDMA Tablet Seizure: Working with our European counterparts, the DEA initiated an investigation against a major Israeli organized trafficking group involved in the acquisition of MDMA (Ecstasy) tablets in the Netherlands and distribution of the drug in cities throughout the United States. This organization is the largest known supplier of Ecstasy to U.S. Cities, and to date, has been directly linked to the seizure of over 2 million MDMA tablets. The leader of this organization and a second high level member have been arrested, and this investigation is ongoing with additional arrests and seizures expected.
Operation Cali-Man: This Miami, Florida, based investigation is still active and is targeting major Colombian narcotics and money laundering organizations. To date, the arrest of 135 individuals and the seizure of over $40 million in assets are attributable to this operation.
Operation Full Circle: This investigation began in the spring of 1998 and is targeting the New York cell head of a Medellin, Colombia, based cocaine trafficking organization. To date, we've arrested 34 individuals and seized 1,500 kilograms of cocaine and $786,000 in currency.
Operation Back-Track: This operation began in February 1997 and targets gray market chemical companies and other independent operators who distribute large quantities of precursor chemicals that are diverted for the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine. Back-Track's accomplishments include: 167 arrests nationwide, 134 million precursor tablets seized, more than 10,000 pounds of methamphetamine has been prevented from being manufactured, and more than $10 million in assets has been seized.
Los Angeles Investigation: On November 11, 1998, an investigation conducted by DEA's Los Angeles Field Division, in conjunction with several state and local law enforcement agencies, resulted in the issuance of nine federal search warrants and ten federal arrest warrants. All ten of those arrested were from Apatzingan, Michoacan, Mexico. The drugs this organization distributed were sold in Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Nebraska. Two of those arrested included Mario Sanchez, the cell leader, and Maurillio Sanchez, the methamphetamine laboratory operator based in Mexico. The investigation also resulted in the seizure of 129.2 pounds of meth, 68.4 pounds of black tar heroin, 10.4 pounds of amphetamine, 92 pounds of cocaine, $156,600 in U.S. currency, 16 vehicles, and 18 arrests.
New York Investigation: On July 1, 1998, the New York Field Division Task Force concluded a 27-month investigation of a major Colombia-based heroin distribution organization with the arrest of its Bogota-based head, Maria Lara-Nausa, and her husband, Julio Cesar Casas, in Orlando, Florida. The following December, Maria Lara-Nausa's brother, Jaime Lara, was indicted in New York and arrested in Colombia. Formal extradition papers have been filed. The Lara-Nausa organization supplied 15 to 20 kilograms of heroin each week for the "911" organization in New York. Both Lara-Nausa and her husband have pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing. More than 60 other people were arrested during this investigation.
Operation Rio Blanco targeted a trafficking and smuggling group based in Mexicali, Mexico, headed by Jorge Castro-Gastelum. Six members of the gang, including Castro-Gastelum himself, were arrested on June 26, 1998. This organization has been identified as smugglers and domestic distributors of cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. In addition, they provided transportation services for Colombian groups that operated distribution cells in New York and New Jersey. During this investigation, more than 5,000 telephone calls were intercepted by law enforcement. The operation seized about 4,300 kilograms of cocaine, 150 pounds of methamphetamine, 1413 pounds of marijuana and $17 million in U.S. currency. All told, more than 100 individuals were arrested.
Richard Pena cocaine organization: On January 14, 1999, Richard Pena, the head of a New Orleans-based organization of cocaine distributors, pled guilty to an assortment of charges, including murder, and will receive a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Pena's history of violent crimes made him a great threat to the New Orleans community. The six year investigation of his organization concluded not only with his conviction, but with the arrest of 35 other defendants, the closing of sixteen murder investigations, and the seizure of $4 million dollars in drug-related assets.
The James Mulholland drug distribution organization: This independent drug trafficker helped smuggle thousand-gallon quantities of the chemical, P2P, into the United States from China via Mexico for the purpose of manufacturing methamphetamine. During the pat several years, the DEA has seized numerous meth laboratories operated by outlaw motorcycle gangs and other career criminals that were receiving large quantities of P2P from the Mulholland organization.
MET deployments: Earlier this testimony referenced our MET deployments and what we have achieved since the program's inception in 1995. To illustrate the kinds of successes we can achieve by cooperatively with our state and local counterparts, I'd like to give you a brief summary of a recent MET deployment and describe the results. At the end of last year, we completed a deployment in Pueblo, Colorado. During this 3-month operation, we were able to dismantle a large-scale cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking organization, which utilized violence to maintain its distribution network. 76 individuals were arrested and significant amounts of drugs and weapons were seized, resulting in an overall reduction of crime in the targeted area. Colorado authorities were also able to close six licensed bars utilized by the drug trafficking organization.
Southwest Border Operations: DEA has undertaken several successful operations in support of the Southwest Border Initiative. 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.
Linear Program accomplishments: The Linear Approach Program was created through a collaborative effort between the DEA and CNC, with the goal to bring together law enforcement (LEA) and intelligence community (IC) resources to work more effectively against major Latin American narcotics trafficking organizations. The Linear Approach Program has targeted 37 organizations, from 1994 to 1998. The arrest statistics are categorized by main targets and associates arrested. For the period 1994 through 1998 there have been 21 main targets and 22 associates arrested, for a total of 43 arrests. The Linear Approach Program not only targets organizations but also creates LEA and IC working groups to target the transportation and financial aspects of narcotics organizations, commissions interagency studies for publication, and has created a regional strategy to target organizations operating in regions with limited resources. The Linear Approach Program has maintained a strategy of making more effective use of all U.S. Government counter drug collection, analytical and operational capabilities, while adapting to continually changing narcotics organizations and methods of operation throughout the years.
Other Recent Successes: DEA has had a number of major successes over the years, as illustrated by the following major cases:
Operation META (1997): The influence of the Mexico-based methamphetamine-trafficking organizations in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years. DEA reports indicate that methamphetamine (meth) seizures at Mexico ports of entry have increased from 6.5 kilograms in 1992 to 438 kilograms in 1997. This trend was illustrated by Operation META, a large-scale investigation that targeted a major U.S. meth-trafficking organization that was supplied by the Amezcua-Contrera group from Mexico.
As part of Operation META (meta means "the goal" in Spanish and is traffickers' slang for methamphetamine), the DEA worked in collaboration with the FBI and other federal agencies. This Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation also involved state and local agencies in 17 different U.S. cities in nine states. Through extensive surveillance, the DEA was able to uncover the trafficking group's system of moving precursor chemicals to the Los Angeles area where they were converted into methamphetamine. The group then shipped the drug to Dallas for distribution throughout the United States.
Operation META, which concluded in December 1997, was a huge success. It resulted in the arrest of 121 members of the trafficking ring and the seizure of 133 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,765 pounds of marijuana, and 1,100 kilograms of cocaine. During the META raids, agents discovered and dismantled three methamphetamine labs that were each capable of producing more than 300 pounds of methamphetamine at a time. One of these labs was located near a day-care center and another was close to an equestrian center where riding lessons were being conducted.
The Operation META seizures were especially important because they alerted the law enforcement community to the growing methamphetamine problem in the United States. At one time, meth trafficking was confined to the West Coast. However, Operation META intelligence revealed that meth was being distributed to cities in North Carolina, Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas'obviously indicating that the meth problem is spreading eastward.
Larry Hoover & The Gangster Disciples (1997): In 1997, several indictments marked the beginning of what law enforcement officials predict will be a long battle to completely dismantle the notorious Chicago-based prison gang, the Gangster Disciples. For the past 25 years, the reputed leader of the organization, Larry Hoover, had run the 30,000-member, militaristic gang and its drug trade from a state prison.
Hoover was serving a 200-year sentence for a 1973 gang-related murder. The gang had been selling about 2 kilograms of cocaine per week for the past five years. Finally, the five-year undercover investigation by the federal government led to drug conspiracy, extortion, and other criminal charges against Hoover and other high-ranking members of the street gang.
Hoover and six associates were found guilty of these charges, and Hoover was transferred to a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Hoover's incarceration in the federal prison is expected to seriously disable the Gangster Disciples gang.
Operations Reciprocity and Limelight (1996): Two investigations in the late 1990s demonstrated that Mexico-based drug traffickers had displaced some of the Colombia-based cocaine organizations that had traditionally dominated the New York City cocaine traffic.
During a highway interdiction stop on October 30,1996, near Tyler, Texas, two state troopers discovered over $2 million in cash concealed in a van heading south. This stop was the first seizure linked to Operation Reciprocity. On December 3, investigators seized 5.3 tons of cocaine from a Tucson, Arizona, warehouse. Evidence linked the warehouse operation to a Los Angeles investigation, a New York operation, a Michigan transportation group, and a trafficking cell connected to the Carrillo-Fuentes organization. On December 13, the same state troopers stopped a tractor trailer truck in Tyler, Texas, and seized 2,700 pounds of marijuana from a hidden compartment in the ceiling of the vehicle. The investigation revealed that traffickers were smuggling cocaine to the New York City area in concealed compartments in the roofs of tractor trailer trucks and in hollowed-out five-foot tall stacks of plywood. The same trucks were being used to transport the cash in kilo-sized packages of $5, $10, and $20 bills, back to Mexico.
On April 9, 1997, the U.S. Customs Service found $5.6 million in street cash hidden in a tractor trailer truck ceiling compartment in an Operation Reciprocity seizure in El Paso, Texas. This operation resulted in 41 arrests, as well as the seizure of 7 tons of cocaine, 2,800 pounds of marijuana, and more than $11 million. Meanwhile, an investigation initiated by the DEA's Imperial County, California Resident Office in August 1996 developed into Operation Limelight, which involved several state, local, and U.S. Treasury agencies, including the IRS and the U.S. Customs Service. The investigation focused on the Alberto Beltran transportation and distribution cell, which was part of the Carrillo-Fuentes organization.
Operation Limelight resulted in the arrest of 48 people and the seizure of over 4,000 kilos of cocaine, over 10,800 pounds of marijuana, and over $7.3 million. State and federal investigators believed this Beltran cell was responsible for the monthly smuggling of at least 1.5 tons of cocaine, typically concealed in crates of vegetables and fruits and trucked across the United States by Mexican nationals.
In March 1996, the head of the Beltran organization in the United States, Gerardo Gonzalez, was arrested by Operation Limelight investigators. The arrest was the result of the carrot case, which also led to the New York seizure of 1,630 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a 30-ton shipment of chopped up carrots used for horse feed. At that time, the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force also seized $1.3 million and arrested nine organization members. Eight more members of the organization, including Gonzalez's wife, were arrested on August 1, 1997, in the second phase of this investigation.
Operation Zorro II (1996): As part of the Southwest Border Initiative that was launched in 1994, the Zorro II investigation targeted Mexico-based cocaine smuggling and distribution organizations, as well as the partnership groups based in Colombia. Working together, these organizations were responsible for importing and distributing almost six metric tons of cocaine throughout the United States.
Zorro II illustrated the close and efficient partnership that existed between the drug organizations from Mexico and Colombia. More importantly, this case showed that the international drug trade was a seamless continuum, a criminal enterprise that stretched, without interruption, from the jungles of South America across transit zones, such as Mexico to the cities and communities of the United States.
Zorro II was particularly important because, for the first time, law enforcement dismantled not only a Colombian organization that produced the cocaine, but also the organization in Mexico that provided the transportation. During the course of the 8-month investigation, law enforcement officers coordinated and shared information gleaned from more than 90 court-authorized wiretaps. The operation involved 10 federal agencies, 42 state and local agencies, and 14 DEA field divisions across the country.
As a result of the investigation, over $17 million and almost 5,600 kilos of cocaine were seized, and 156 people were arrested. Zorro II confirmed that Mexico-based traffickers were not just transporters, but had their own distribution networks throughout the United States.
Operation Global Sea (1995): In 1994, Southeast Asian heroin, which was smuggled by ethnic China and Nigeria-based traffickers, was one of the greatest drug threats to the United States. Almost 60 percent of the heroin that came to the United States at that time originated in Southeast Asia's "Golden Triangle"--Burma, Laos, and Thailand. Those mainly responsible were ethnic Chinese traffickers who controlled sophisticated international networks that smuggled hundreds of kilograms of heroin in commercial cargo on a regular basis. In addition to the China, Nigeria and West Africa-based trafficking organizations helped smuggle the heroin, typically using the "shotgun" approach to smuggling by recruiting third party couriers to travel aboard commercial airlines and smuggle from one to 10 kilograms of heroin per trip. In response to this facet of the drug trade, Operation Global Sea targeted a Nigerian, female-led, drug trafficking organization that was responsible for smuggling into the United States $26 million worth of high-purity Southeast Asian heroin.
Global Sea, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force operation, was comprised of the DEA, the U.S. Customs Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and law enforcement authorities in Thailand, Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Mexico, and the Netherlands. By the end of this 18-month investigation, Operation Global Sea had immobilized the Chicago-based drug organization by seizing 55.5 kilograms of heroin with an average purity of 80 percent and arresting 44 defendants in Bangkok, Chicago, New York City, Detroit, and Pakistan.
Operation Foxhunt "Zorro" (1994): In September 1994, the DEA concluded Operation Foxhunt, a two-year investigation of a major Cali organization transportation operation based in Los Angeles. The investigation targeted two Colombian cell transportation directors who were responsible for the movement of multi-ton quantities of cocaine from main distribution points in Los Angeles to wholesale distribution centers in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago. The drugs were then moved to consumer distribution points in cities such as St. Louis, Missouri; Newark, New Jersey; San Antonio, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and New Orleans, Louisiana. The operation took its name from one of the investigation's primary targets, Diego Fernando Salazar-Izquierdo, a Cali transportation cell director in Los Angeles, known as "Zorro," which is Spanish for "fox." The second cell director, Over Arturo Acuna, referred to as Arturo, directed parallel drug operations in Los Angeles. Both Zorro and Arturo reported directly to drug lords in Cali, Colombia. It took 31 concurrent investigations and two years to identify and arrest Zorro, because the Cali operatives used sophisticated systems of fax lines and cellular communications to foil wiretaps. They also used computer software to "clone,"or steal the telephone numbers of unsuspecting individuals and segmented organizations to avoid detection. By the time the investigation concluded, 6.5 tons of cocaine and over $13.5 million had been seized, and 191 suspects had been arrested. Fifty-five federal, state, and local agencies had participated in this investigation.
Tiger Trap (1994): Operation Tiger Trap was conceived at DEA's Bangkok Office during June of 1994 with the goal of identifying and targeting the major heroin traffickers in the region. Operation Tiger Trap was the first of its kind, a multi-agency international operation designed to dismantle or disrupt the trafficking activities of the world's largest heroin trafficking organization, the Shan United Army (SUA). Also known as the Mong Tai Army, it was located primarily in the areas of Burma adjacent to the northern border provinces of Thailand. The SUA Warlord Khun Sa claimed that his army, which was financed primarily through heroin trafficking, was fighting the Burmese for the independence for the Shan people.
The SUA controlled the cultivation, production, and transportation of heroin from the Shan State. Although other insurgent groups in Burma also trafficked heroin, the SUA had been the dominant force in worldwide distribution. Prior to Operation Tiger Trap, the percentage of southeast Asian heroin from the DEA's Heroin Signature Program rose from 9 percent in 1977 to 58 percent in 1991.
Tiger Trap was divided into phases which would all target key Shan United Army (SUA) functionaries. On November 27, 1994, the operation culminated when teams of Royal Thai Police, Office of Narcotics Control Board Officers, and Royal Thai Army Special Forces Soldiers working with DEA agents lured targets in Burma into Thailand where they were then arrested. This action significantly damaged the ability of the SUA to distribute heroin. The Royal Thai Army then worked with the Thai Border Patrol Police to close the Burma border to "commercial quantities" of goods entering the Shan State.
When law enforcement authorities had completed their operations, 13 senior SUA traffickers were arrested, and all were pursued for extradition/expulsion to the United States. These 13 principal defendants in Operation Tiger Trap included some of the most persistent and high-level heroin traffickers operating out of Thailand. They were all subjects of U.S. indictments in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY). The defendants were a mixture of three distinct categories: those who were eligible for expulsion (illegal aliens in Thailand); those who possessed fraudulent identification; and authentic Thai citizens.
Operation Dinero (1994): Operation Dinero, a joint DEA/IRS (Internal Revenue Service) operation, was launched by the DEA's Atlanta Division in 1992. In this investigation, the U.S. Government successfully operated a financial institution in Anguilla for the purpose of targeting the financial networks of international drug organizations. In addition, a number of undercover corporations were established in different jurisdictions as multi-service "front" businesses designed to supply "money laundering" services such as loans, cashier's checks, wire transfers, and peso exchanges, or to establish holding companies or shell corporations for the trafficking groups. Believing these services were legitimate, the Cali organization engaged the bank to sell three paintings, a Picasso, a Rubens, and a Reynolds. These paintings, estimated to have a combined value of $15 million, were seized by the DEA and IRS in 1994.
The operation resulted in 116 arrests in the United States, Spain, Italy, and Canada and the seizure of nine tons of cocaine, and the seizure of more than $90 million in cash and other property. The two-year joint enforcement operation was coordinated by the DEA, IRS, INS, FBI, and international law enforcement counterparts in the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, and Spain.
Operation Green Ice (1992): By the late 1980s, the DEA's financial investigative skills had evolved to such a high degree that the agency set up its own bank to lure drug traffickers looking to launder their profits. In 1989, the investigative team created Trans America Ventures Associates (TARA) and established its credentials in the financial community. The result was so convincing that Hispanic Business Weekly listed TARA as one of the top 500 Hispanic Corporations in America. Undercover agents then posed as money launderers and offered to pick up funds anywhere in the world. They used informants to identify drug money brokers from Colombia who acted as middlemen between Cali organization kingpins and money laundering operations in the United States.
Beginning in San Diego and Los Angeles, the investigations took undercover agents to Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Chicago, and New York to pick up money and to establish "fronts," such as leather goods shops, in these cities. During the course of the investigation, DEA agents laundered more than $20 million for the Colombia-based cartels. As the investigation developed, cartel operatives asked the undercover agents to provide money laundering services in Europe, Canada, and the Caribbean. Consequently, Operation Green Ice was expanded into a coordinated international law enforcement effort involving Canada, the Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In September 1992, undercover agents finally arranged a meeting with top-ranking Cali financial managers at locations in the United States, Italy, Spain, and Costa Rica. The drug lords arrived, expecting to discuss plans for their criminal business, but instead were arrested. Operation Green Ice was an unprecedented collaboration of talent and financial expertise that successfully formed the first international task force to attack the monetary networks of the Cali organization. Operation Green Ice led to the arrest of seven of the Cali organization's top financial managers, the seizure of more than $50 million in assets worldwide, and the arrest of 177 persons, including 44 in the United States.
Methamphetamine Effort: DEA statistics indicate that in 1993, DEA seized a total of 218 methamphetamine labs. This total increased to 263 labs in 1994; 327 labs in 1995; and 879 labs in 1996. In 1997, DEA participated in the seizure of 1,451 clandestine labs, 98% of which were methamphetamine labs. In FY-1998, DEA seized over 1,600 methamphetamine laboratories, and to date in FY 1999, we have seized over 1,200.
IV. How DEA Measures Success
The American people expect that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and that their government is providing them with the most effective programs possible. The Drug Enforcement Administration appreciates the support and faith that the American people have invested in us, and we work hard to ensure that this faith is justified. Where once federal law enforcement measured success in the number of violators arrested, and the amount of drugs seized, we are now acutely aware of the fact that these statistics do not tell the entire story. The quality and long-term impact of arrests are more telling than sheer numbers, and the reductions in criminal activity and corresponding increases in the quality of life of various communities are also critical to our eventual success.
The nature of the global drug trafficking trade is essentially fluid, fueled by the existence of well-entrenched international drug syndicates that target U.S. communities with well-marketed products and take advantage of changing trends and opportunities. It is important that DEA's strategic goals and objectives, as well as our performance measures reflect our commitment to a clear articulation of what we can achieve and the timeframe in which it can be achieved.
Later this afternoon, I am meeting with a select group of Special Agents in Charge of DEA's major field divisions. One of the purposes of this important meeting is to convey to them the importance of identifying, setting, reaching and reporting on ambitious goals. I am informing them that DEA will have a new five-year strategic plan in place by January, and that they and their colleagues will be required to carry out specific activities in furtherance of our strategic plan. Performance measures will emanate from this plan which will also be consistent with the National Strategy established by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
In general terms, the strategic plan will identify DEA's priorities in combating the highest levels of the international drug trade, and will articulate how we plan to target international traffickers, halt the operations of their surrogates within the United States, and assist state and local partners as they work to reduce violent crime in their communities. I will aggressively monitor how well we are reaching our goals, and will manage DEA's programs and personnel to ensure that we have achieved what we set out to do. DEA has been working with the Department of Justice and ONDCP in establishing accurate and measurable performance indicators and targets. These working groups include representatives from all DOJ components. Meetings are held regularly to develop appropriate measures.
Additionally, DEA has hired a contractor to facilitate its establishment of a GPRA compliant 5-year strategic plan and to validate/develop GPRA compliant performance measures. This will be accomplished during strategy development sessions with field and headquarters management officials. The performance management sessions will address strategic and program planning, performance measurement and other GPRA-related issues for each of DEA's core business systems.
Presently, the Special Agents in Charge (SAC) are required to annually develop a SAC Outlook and a Field Management Plan (FMP). The Outlook is a description of the drug threat facing the division. The FMP is a contract between the SAC and the Deputy Administrator and Chief of Operations. It describes the priorities set by the SAC to counter the division's unique drug threats and delineates the methods for accomplishing the agency's missions and priorities. The FMPs are used as part of the DEA inspections process. Inspectors assess the division's adherence to the plan and its accomplishment of stated initiatives. With the assistance of the contractor, specific performance measures will be included in the FMP and each SAC will be required to provided a status on accomplishment of the target. Inspections will continue to review and assess each division's/SAC's accomplishment of the performance targets.
The agency senior executives and key managers are held accountable for achieving results through the inspections and performance appraisal processes. Inspections are conducted of each field division as well as each Headquarters entity. As a part of the inspection, the entity-division or office-is reviewed and assessed to determine if it is successfully achieving the objectives and priorities established by the Administrator. Success or failure of the manager in achieving stated goals and objectives is included in the performance discussed in the midyear performance review. If problems/failures are not corrected, they are documented in the manager's annual performance appraisal. As stated previously, once performance measure have been incorporated into the field management plans, managers will be held accountable for specific targets and result-based achievements.
The allocation of discretionary resources is one area in which performance information is used to manage the agency. As a part of the annual staffing review process, and in assessing requests for enhancements, inspections reports, field management plans, and other pertinent information are used as a basis for allocating positions and resources. DEA uses this data to ensure that additional funding and personnel are placed in areas where managers are most efficiently and effectively using their resources as well as where the drug threat is most acute.
V. Future Challenges
The Drug Enforcement Administration is a vigorous and innovative agency that has adapted to the changing drug trafficking environment over the past twenty-five years. We have grown significantly, due in large part to the generous support of the U.S. Congress, and we have worked hard to keep pace with the growing complexity and power of internationally-based drug trafficking syndicates who adversely affect our nation.
I believe that unless the power and influence of the international drug trafficking groups is checked, our nation will continue to suffer the consequences of increased drug availability, criminal activity and drug abuse. Drug traffickers are taking advantage of rapidly advancing technology, including encryption which is used to disguise the content of conversations, to thwart law enforcement attempts to interfere with their operations, and ultimately bring them to justice. In some ways, the traffickers have established an electronic sanctuary where they are free to plan and plot the ruination of American families and communities.
The presence of the trafficking organizations' surrogates---many of whom are illegal aliens---in communities which were once untouched by violent crime rampant drug trafficking will continue to be problematic, and DEA is committed to identifying and targeting these organizations operating on U.S. soil. We are concerned by the spread of methamphetamine and heroin into communities unaccustomed to battling foreign-based drug trafficking organizations that are wreaking havoc in their jurisdictions.
During the coming years, it will be critical for DEA to maintain our growth and look after our infrastructure needs, including rapidly changing technology. As international organized criminal groups grow stronger, and as they diversify into various new products, methods and strategies, DEA will continue to meet the challenges posed by these powerful international and domestic organizations. Our primary strength is our workforce which has grown to over 9,000 individuals who bring myriad talents to the tasks they carry out. During the next five years, DEA's intelligence capabilities will increase dramatically as we refine our methods and products, keeping pace with the ever-changing drug trade here and abroad.