DEA Congressional Testimony
March 07, 2000

Statement by:

Donnie R. Marshall
Acting Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration
United States Department of Justice

Before the:

Senate Committe on Appropriations, Subcommittee for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary and Related Agencies


March 7, 2000

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 FY 2001 budget request of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Before providing the committee with an overview of our agency operations and summary of our FY 2001 budget request, I would like to take this time to express my sincere gratitude for the ongoing support of this Subcommittee and entire U.S. Senate. Without your support, DEA could not continue to effectively meet the growing challenges posed by increasingly sophisticated and dangerous international drug trafficking organizations which operate with impunity throughout the global community. Your ongoing efforts work to send a message to these traffickers that their assault on the citizens of this nation will not be taken lightly and that we will continue to fight to ensure that our streets remain safe for generations to come.

Mission and Approach

The mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is to enforce the Controlled Substances laws and regulations of the United States and to bring to the criminal and civil justice system those organizations involved in the growing, manufacturing and/or distribution of controlled substances destined for the United States. The DEA also recommends and supports non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on both domestic and international markets. To accomplish this mission, DEA works with international, federal, and state and local law enforcement partners to target and immobilize the organizations of major drug traffickers operating at all levels of the drug trade.

Because DEA is the only single-mission federal agency dedicated to drug law enforcement, the agency has, over the years, developed the ability to direct resources and manpower to identify, target and dismantle drug organizations headquartered overseas and within the United States. DEA's strategy to successfully accomplish these goals is straightforward, requiring that the agency's resources and manpower be focused on all three levels of the drug trade: the international, national/regional and local levels. Each of these categories represents a critical aspect of the drug continuum which affects communities across the nation.

The 9,000 dedicated men and women of the DEA are committed to improving the quality of life of the citizens of the United States. The agency directs and supports investigations against the highest levels of the international drug trade, their surrogates operating within the United States, and those traffickers whose violence and criminal activities destabilize towns and cities across the country. These investigations are intelligence-driven and frequently involve the cooperative efforts of numerous other law enforcement organizations.

DEA's strategy to successfully impact drug trafficking at all levels of operation is flexible and reflects the constantly-changing nature of the drug trade. In concert with the Department of Justice and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), DEA has crafted an innovative and effective program to keep pace with developments and shifts in the drug trafficking spectrum and bring both national and international drug traffickers to justice.

Drug Trafficking Threat to the United States

The heads of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations impacting the United States today are based in Mexico and Colombia. Believing they are safe from the U.S. justice system, they tightly control their operations by directing a large number of surrogates who carry out orders on U.S. soil. These operatives are responsible for the vast majority of the cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana trafficking taking place in U.S. communities. Surrogates answering to drug lords based in Mexico also produce methamphetamine, both in that nation and in the U.S., particularly in California. These producers and traffickers are responsible for over 75 percent of the methamphetamine that is available in U.S. communities today.

Traffickers based in Mexico pose a significant threat to the United States because of their power, influence, and dominant status in the drug trade. Where at one time traffickers from Colombia controlled the vast majority of cocaine trafficking, traffickers from Mexico today are responsible for transporting cocaine into and throughout U.S. markets. The heads of organizations based in Colombia rely almost entirely on traffickers from Mexico to transport and distribute cocaine while they direct operations from the safety of their headquarters in Cali or Bogota. In one recent case entitled Operation Millennium, the director of a powerful Colombian organization wrongly believed that by distancing himself from his organization's U.S. operations, he would make himself immune from indictment.

The major organizations based in Mexico---the Arellano-Felix organization, the Amezcua Contreras brothers, the Amado Carillo Fuentes group and the Caro Quintero organization---all have a demonstrable negative impact on the United States. The leaders of these groups are routinely indicted in U.S. judicial districts for drug trafficking offenses committed on U.S. soil.

In recent years, these traffickers have become more prominent in the drug trafficking trade within the U.S. They are responsible for manufacturing methamphetamine in Mexico and California and trafficking it to cities such as Des Moines, Boise, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City. Major organizations based in Colombia and Mexico also rely on surrogates from Mexico to move multi-ton quantities of cocaine across the United States, including locations on the East Coast.

While traffickers from Mexico have a direct impact on drug trafficking trends in the United States, it is important to note that many major traffickers are still operating from Colombia where the cocaine and heroin trade are centered. The large-scale production of Colombian heroin has created major U.S. markets for this high quality product. In 1998, the latest year for which we have statistics, South American heroin comprised 62 percent of the heroin seized by federal authorities and analyzed by DEA's Special Testing and Research Laboratory. Cocaine production has also increased dramatically since 1994, and it is possible that Colombian cocaine yield may be as much as three times that of previous estimates.

None of the major drug traffickers headquartered overseas could operate without the assistance of national and regional drug trafficking organizations which are responsible for trafficking huge quantities of drugs into U.S. communities. These organizations are comprised of a network of operatives who transport, store and distribute drugs throughout the United States and whose activities are directed by drug lords based in foreign countries. In many cases, national and regional drug trafficking organizations are comprised of numerous cells whose directors are responsible for specific tasks such as communications, financial matters and/or logistics. These cell heads are sent to the United States for a period of time to carry out the business mandates of the top drug lords and are given specific tasks to accomplish. The national and regional drug syndicates have infiltrated many states and communities, bringing with them the crime and violence once limited to major urban areas. A survey of recent DEA investigations revealed that over 400 investigations stemming from Operations Reciprocity and Limelight involved drug traffickers from foreign countries who had set up operations in various cities across the United States.

Local violent drug trafficking organizations also operate across the United States and are responsible for eroding the quality of life in many American communities. Previously centered in major urban areas, violent drug trafficking groups are now part of the landscape in smaller cities and rural areas. Fueled in large part by methamphetamine production and trafficking, violent drug trafficking organizations are now affecting the crime rates in smaller cities such as Spokane, Washington, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. While these local, violent groups appear to be unrelated to the large international drug trafficking organizations headquartered overseas, it is important to note that all of the cocaine and heroin that is trafficked by these groups is produced overseas and transported to the United States for eventual distribution on the local level.

Drug Abuse in America - The Changing Demographics

Although drug abuse among young people increased significantly over the past decade, recent statistics indicate that this trend may be stabilizing. Even with this positive trend, there continues to be sobering news brought to our attention daily regarding the state of drug use in smaller cities and rural areas, fueled by the proliferation of methamphetamine production and trafficking, and the increased availability of cheap, high-purity heroin from Colombia.

Although there has been a decrease in violent crime in major cities due to vigorous law enforcement efforts, similar reductions in the violent crime rates of smaller cities, suburban and rural areas have not been realized. In fact, many smaller cities are now confronting the same problems that larger urban areas faced a decade ago. 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%). Between 1997 and 1998, violent crime rates actually increased in a number of mid-sized communities.

A recent reported released by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), indicates that eighth graders living in rural America are 79 percent more likely than their urban counterparts to use amphetamines, including methamphetamine. They are also 75 percent more likely to use crack cocaine, 52 percent more likely to use cocaine and 26 percent more likely to smoke marijuana than young people in major urban locations.

The report also states that according to recent surveys, it is as easy for young people in rural areas and small cities to obtain drugs as it is for their urban counterparts. Additionally, from 1990 to 1998, smaller cities experienced significantly more drug violations than larger cities; for instance, cities with populations of 25,000 to 50,000 people had three times as many drug violations as larger cities. In cities with fewer than 10,000 residents, the level of drug violations was six times higher than that found in larger cities.

The media has reported the tragic results of increased drug use in cities like Plano, Texas, Orlando, Florida, and Elkton, Maryland. Smaller cities are generally unable to meet the demands for social services and treatment placed on them when a methamphetamine or heroin epidemic hits. Additionally, law enforcement agencies are often unprepared to address the full range of issues associated with methamphetamine lab cleanups and investigations.

In the end, all three facets of the drug trafficking trade ---the international, national/regional and local levels---are interrelated and interdependent. As these different echelons of the drug trade in each of these levels work together, it is essential that our nation's the law enforcement response address all three of these levels simultaneously.

DEA's Strategy

In order to meet the enormous challenges posed by internationally-based narcotics traffickers and their surrogates within the United States, DEA has developed an effective five-year strategic plan which makes use of the agency's unique skills and limited resources to achieve the maximum impact against international, national/regional and local drug traffickers through the use of intelligence-driven investigations.

DEA's strategy takes into account the current drug trafficking situation affecting the United States and identifies the characteristics and vulnerabilities of all three levels of the drug trade, responding to each of these levels simultaneously:

International Targets: This category is comprised of trafficking organizations based in foreign countries that are the primary source of supply for their surrogates within the U.S. Through DEA's International Operations program and the efforts of the agency's Special Operations Division (SOD) and numerous field divisions throughout the country, DEA effectively targets these organizations and their members.

National/Regional Targets: These organizations operate domestically throughout the United States and are responsible for distributing drugs from international and domestic sources to U.S. communities. In many cases, these groups report directly to major drug lords overseas. They also operate on a national or regional basis, supplying several markets. The vast majority of DEA's cases fall into this category and investigations against members of these organizations are generated and supported by every DEA office in the United States.

Local Initiatives: Criminal organizations operating at the local level generally deal in smaller quantities of drugs and are responsible for providing these drugs to users within the United States. Through local enforcement initiatives such as the Mobile Enforcement Team (MET) program, DEA works with state and local counterparts to identify and immobilize these organizations and to arrest the most violent members of these groups.

Using this strategy, DEA has successfully targeted significant traffickers and organizations in each of these categories. Over the past several years, major cases tied to each of these categories have resulted in the arrest of thousands of major violators.


Operation Millennium - Less than one month after the successful conclusion of Operation Impunity, an operation aimed at the highest level of the drug trade operating within the U.S., an important international law enforcement operation made headlines. Operation Millennium, a one-year operation designed to dismantle a Colombian-based transportation consortium believed to be responsible for supplying between 20 and 30 tons of cocaine per month to the United States and Europe, resulted in the arrest of more than 30 drug traffickers and money launderers, including alleged high-profile trafficker Alejandro Bernal Madrigal, and Fabio Ochoa. The operation also resulted in the seizure of over 13,000 kilograms of cocaine. Critical to the success of the operation was the unprecedented level of cooperation between DEA, the Colombian National Police, the Fiscal General of the Republic of Columbia, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, and the Justice Department's Criminal Division.

Operation Juno - Initiated after the seizure of approximately 386 kilograms of liquid cocaine concealed in a shipment of frozen fish destined for the United States, Operation Juno, which began in September 1996 and concluded in August 1999, was unique in that for the first time in drug enforcement history, the U.S. government set up an undercover brokerage firm to aid in intercepting drug dollars destined for the Colombian black market. Operation Juno resulted in over 40 arrests, the seizure of $10.0 million and warrants against 59 bank accounts at 34 U.S. banks and 282 accounts at 52 foreign banks. Monies in these targeted accounts were believed to total another $16.0 million. The investigation also resulted in the seizure of 3,601 kilograms of cocaine and 106 grams of hashish oil.

Operation Columbus - Concluding in October 1999, Operation Columbus was a multi-national, regional enforcement effort involving Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama, and the island nations of the Caribbean. This operation focused on air, land and maritime interdiction, eradication and clandestine airstrip denial. The final arrest and seizure statistics for Operation Columbus were unprecedented for this region, resulting in more than 1,290 arrests, as well as the seizure of 900 kilograms of cocaine and nine kilograms of heroin. Over 38 weapons, 26 vehicles, 27 vessels, three laboratories and one aircraft were also seized. In addition, 1,097 metric tons of marijuana were eradicated. In the end, Operation Columbus struck a solid blow against the operations of Caribbean-based drug trafficking groups.


Operation Impunity - This two-year international investigation concluded in September 1999 and resulted in the arrest of 109 individuals, including three major drug trafficking cell heads, linked to the Mexican-based Amado Carillo Fuentes organization. The operation was coordinated by DEA's Special Operations Division (SOD) which headed a combined investigative center involving the DEA, U.S. Customs Service, FBI, and IRS. Besides substantially hindering the trafficking organization's ability to move cocaine and other drugs into, and around, the United States, Operation Impunity succeeded in seizing $19.0 million in U.S. currency, another $7.0 million in assets and well over 12,434 kilograms of cocaine and 4,800 pounds of marijuana.

Operation Heartland - Beginning in October 1997, this investigation targeted the Martin Chavez Organization, a multi-pound methamphetamine and marijuana importation and distribution operation that was responsible for transporting marijuana and methamphetamine from Mexico into the United States via the Juarez/El Paso, Texas, corridor to the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma area. Over the next several years the scope of this investigation spread to include DEA offices in Fresno (California), El Paso (Texas), Dallas (Texas) and Des Moines (Iowa). Information obtained as a result of the investigation resulted in the seizure of 47 pounds of methamphetamine, 525 pounds of precursor chemicals, 1,378 pounds of marijuana, $47,500 in U.S. currency and the arrest of 22 individuals. Additional indictments were anticipated, including one for Chavez - currently a fugitive.

Mario Ibarra Sanchez Investigation - The Mario Ibarra Sanchez Organization was in charge of transporting and distributing large quantities of methamphetamine, amphetamine, heroin and cocaine for trafficking organizations operating in both Mexico and the United States. On November 11, 1998, DEA conducted an investigation, in conjunction with several state and local law enforcement agencies, that resulted in the issuance of nine federal search warrants and 10 federal arrest warrants against members of the Sanchez organization . Those arrested included the cell leader and a significant methamphetamine laboratory operator based in Mexico. The investigation ultimately resulted in the seizure of 65.5 pounds of methamphetamine, 30.4 pounds of black tar heroin, 106.3 pounds of amphetamine, 154.0 pounds of cocaine and $156,600 in U.S. currency.

Omaha, Nebraska RET Deployment - In September 1999, the Des Moines Regional Enforcement Team (RET) deployed to Omaha, Nebraska, to assist in a methamphetamine investigation. A court-authorized wire intercept was initiated on two cellular telephones utilized by the targeted organization. As a result of these efforts, the Omaha District Office, along with the Des Moines RET, identified individuals in Juarez, Mexico; El Paso, Texas; and Los Angeles, California, who were directly linked with the transshipment of cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine to Omaha, Nebraska, for distribution purposes. On October 20, 1999, a Federal Grand Jury in Omaha, Nebraska, indicted 19 individuals, 17 of whom were arrested. This indictment included the arrest of the primary targets, along with others, effectively dismantling the targeted organization in Omaha. Additionally, this investigation resulted in the seizure of six kilograms of cocaine; one pound of methamphetamine; 200 pounds of marijuana; and, $22,000 in U.S. currency. Evidence gathered during the intercept of telephones utilized by the targeted organization continues to be exploited for use in investigations in California, Texas, Nebraska, and Mexico.

Operation Trinity - In October 1997, DEA, FBI, Customs, and DOJ initiated Special Enforcement Operation Trinity, a joint strategy designed to target the primary domestic trafficking organizations that are controlled by criminal leaders in Colombia, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. The primary phase of Operation Trinity concluded on September 25, 1998; no new investigations were accepted after July 1998. At this time 220 cases were still active. Preliminary figures for all Operation Trinity investigations include over 1,260 arrests, with drug seizures totaling 12.8 metric tons of cocaine, 63,370 lbs. of marijuana, 3,178 lbs. of methamphetamine, 127 lbs. of heroin, 108 lbs. amphetamine, and over 137,600 pseudoephedrine tablets. Asset seizures from the case total over $59.2 million in U.S. currency, $1.2 million in assets, and 132 vehicles.

Operation META - Operation META, which concluded in December 1997, targeted a major U.S. methamphetamine-trafficking organization that was supplied by the Amezcua-Contrera group from Mexico. This investigation combined the efforts of DEA, FBI, other federal agencies, and state and local agencies from 17 U.S. cities in nine different states. 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. Operation META seizures were especially important because they alerted the law enforcement community to the growing methamphetamine problem in the United States.

Southern Frontier - In recent years, DEA has undertaken several successful operations in support of the agency's Southern Frontier Initiative. Operation Zorro II, Operation Reciprocity and Operation Limelight, each of which relied extensively on numerous court-ordered wiretaps that were coordinated and monitored by area law enforcement, collectively resulted in the arrest of 156 individuals and the seizure of over 22,000 kilograms of illegal drugs and over $35.0 million.


Mobile Enforcement Team Program - As a response to the overwhelming problem of drug related violent crime which has plagued communities and neighborhoods across the United States, DEA's Mobile Enforcement Team (MET) program was created in early 1995 as a means of dismantling drug organizations by securing the conviction and incarceration of those individuals dealing drugs and causing violence in these communities. Recent examples of MET program successes include the following:

  • Phoenix, Arizona - From July 1998 until March 1999 the Phoenix Field Division MET worked closely with the Northern Arizona Street Crimes Task Force in targeting the Colimas and Costillo drug-trafficking organizations. The Colimas organization was responsible for supplying street-level dealers with multiple-pound quantities of methamphetamine. The Costillo organization, a polydrug trafficking group, had a reputation for extreme violence; some of its members had criminal histories, which included armed robberies, home invasions, assault, sex crimes, and child abuse. Using confidential sources, the MET was able to successfully infiltrate these two organizations and severely disrupt their operations. The nine month deployment, resulted in the seizure of seven operational and three dismantled methamphetamine labs, 44 grams of heroin, 22 pounds of marijuana, 500 dosage units of LSD, 40 weapons, 18 motor vehicles, and $16,292 in U.S. currency. In addition, The MET secured 86 arrests, including the arrests of two primary targets: Jose Francisco Colimas and Ricardo "Duke" Castillo.

  • Brownwood, Texas - At the request of local police, DEA's Dallas Division MET deployed to Brownwood, Texas from October 1998 to March 1999 in an effort to combat narcotics-related violence problems within this community. The five month deployment resulted in 22 federal indictments and 19 state arrest warrants. The initial sweep resulted in 38 arrests (20 federal and 18 state). In response to the operation, the Brownwood District Attorney stated, "This DEA MET deployment was significant in getting important drug dealers off the street and making a major impact in the community. This is a perfect example of what happens when all parties cooperate and collaborate towards a common goal."

  • Warren, Ohio - At the request of the local police chief, DEA's Detroit Division MET deployed to Warren, Ohio, from January to May 1999 in an effort to target a significant increase of crack cocaine trafficking and related violence within this community. The primary deployment targets were members of a violent drug distribution organization operating in Warren. This five month deployment resulted in the arrest of 16 individuals (11 arrested on state charges that include mandatory sentences upon conviction); the execution of six search warrants; and, the seizure of 650 grams of crack cocaine. In addition, $8,100 in U.S. currency was seized, along with nine weapons including two semi-automated handguns with laser sights and seven rifles. In addition, the primary targets of this deployment were also arrested.

FY 2001 Budget Request

In an effort to support DEA's evolving drug strategy through both ongoing and developing agency operations, in FY 2001 we are requesting additional programmatic resources through three primary budget initiatives: our Domestic Drug Enforcement Initiative, Intelligence Initiative, and Infrastructure initiative.

Funding requested through DEA's Enforcement Initiative includes 18 positions (11 Special Agents) and $3.1 million for the agency's Special Operations Division. SOD-coordinated investigations enable DEA and its drug law enforcement counterparts to attack the command and control infrastructures of major drug trafficking organizations at their most vulnerable point - their lines of communication. In order for these organizations to operate effectively within the global community, extensive coordination and communication between all echelons of their operations is required. DEA's main weapon in thwarting the communications infrastructures of these organizations is the use of Title III wiretap investigations. As DEA addresses emerging drug threats, requests for Title IIIs and intelligence assistance are expected to increase dramatically. In order to meet these requests, DEA requires additional resources for SOD investigations along the Southwest Border and for SOD's Financial Investigations program. Enhancements requested for FY 2001 include nine positions (six Special Agents) and $1.671 million to coordinate additional multi-division Title III investigations along the Southwest border and nine positions (five Special Agents) and $1.429 million to establish a Money Laundering and Financial Investigations Section within SOD, providing DEA with national oversight and coordination on Title III money laundering investigations.

DEA requests a total of $1.5 million through the agency's Intelligence Initiative. Intelligence driven investigations represent the best means of quickly and efficiently targeting, investigating, and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations. Our Intelligence Initiative focuses exclusively on providing DEA's intelligence program with the tools necessary to address all facets of the agency's investigative requirements. Further development of DEA's drug intelligence and information sharing capabilities is vital to efforts to maximize federal, state, and local anti-drug assets. The resources requested through this initiative will provide DEA with additional support for drug intelligence operations through further development of DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center Information System (EIS). This system, which collects, distributes and analyzes reported data on worldwide drug trafficking trends and drug organization operations, is critical in the facilitation of information sharing with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Finally, DEA requests a total of 26 positions and $59.957 million through the agency's Infrastructure Initiative. DEA's dynamic enforcement and intelligence missions continue to place great demands on the agency's key operational support programs. As such, critical investments in technology for projects such as the agency's FIREBIRD office automation system and financial management system are essential to the successful performance of drug law enforcement. In FY 2001 DEA is requesting two positions and $55.908 million to fully support the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) and Technology Renewal requirements of the agency's FIREBIRD office automation system and 24 positions and $3.957 million to enhance the agency's financial and resource management oversight capacity. Without these additional resources, DEA will not be able to continue to effectively provide necessary support for the growing number of Special Agents, Intelligence Specialists and Task Force Officers working actively to identify, target and dismantle drug trafficking organizations around the globe.

This concludes my presentation of DEA's FY 2001 budget request. I would be happy at this time to take any questions the Committee Members may have regarding DEA operations, programs or requested budget enhancements.

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