DEA Congressional Testimony
December 5, 2001

Statement of
Asa Hutchinson
Drug Enforcement Administration
The House Government Reform Committee
Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy
and Human Resources
December 5, 2001

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"The connection between drugs and terrorism is undeniable."
Asa Hutchinson

Chairman Souder, Ranking Member Cummings, and distinguished members:

photo - U.S. CongressIt is my pleasure to appear before the Subcommittee to discuss the long term implications of newly imposed homeland security requirements on the operational capacity of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the leadership and foresight that you demonstrate today by providing a forum for this important matter.

As a single mission law enforcement component of the Department of Justice, the DEA has emerged as the world’s premier drug law enforcement agency. In addition to our domestic presence, the DEA maintains over 400 personnel in 56 countries worldwide to support global investigations and drug intelligence activities. Over the years, the DEA’s extensive state, local and international training initiatives have created an extensive network of goodwill with our domestic and foreign police counterparts. This policy of interagency teamwork, which is the bedrock of our longstanding tradition of cooperation, is implemented each day by DEA employees investigating terrorist-related drug trafficking organizations across the globe.

Opium Production in Metric Tons in the Year 2000: Southwest Asia = 3,667, Southeast Asia = 1,316, South America = 66, Mexico = 24

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DEA offices in 56 countries


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Osama Bin Laden


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Attorney General Ashcroft has directed that prompt action be taken to enhance the sharing and analysis of information, as well as interagency coordination of our collective operational efforts.


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Sky Marshal Program

EPIC logo

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U.S. Customs Service

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U.S. Coast Guard

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U.S. Border Patrol

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Federal Bureau of Investigation

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Department of Justice


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Governor Ridge

We have often seen that, in the absence of intervention, the drug trade and the terror network will feed off of each other, creating a larger menace than either threat would present by itself. The current situation in Afghanistan clearly demonstrates the connection between drugs and terrorism. The Taliban, which controlled opium production and directly taxed the drug trade, opened its doors to Osama Bin Laden and the al-Q’aida organization. Under the guise of religion, a repressive drug regime formed a marriage of convenience with a vicious terrorist network, and together they exploited the security of their remote sanctuary, elaborate money movement system, and brutal code of conduct to plan and execute the horrific acts of violence of September 11, 2001. Our courageous military has already done much to bring justice to those who would otherwise bring us more harm. Still, there is more that we in the DEA can do to prevent drug syndicates from fueling global terrorism.

In addressing the nation’s heightened public security concerns, Attorney General Ashcroft has made clear that “the central thrust of our campaign against terror must be proactive prevention and disruption, and not primarily reactive investigation and prosecution.” Through the issuance of this statement, he has directed that prompt action be taken to enhance the sharing and analysis of information, as well as interagency coordination of our collective operational efforts. The DEA, in response, is poised to carry out this mandate to the fullest extent possible.

DEA’s Response to The War on Terrorism

Since the inception of the recent national crisis, the DEA has answered the nation’s call to duty by mobilizing the following resources against the threat of terrorism:

  • Federal Sky Marshal Program: The DEA has contributed a total of 126 Special Agents representing three percent of the agency’s investigative personnel to the Federal Sky Marshal Program. These volunteers, who are deployed on 60 day temporary duty assignments, are drawn from a cross-section of the DEA’s domestic divisions to minimize any adverse impact on our daily drug enforcement operations.

  • El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC): In support of the FBI investigation of the September 11th attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, EPIC has been providing intelligence and analytical support to the FBI’s Operation PENTBOMB, the Department of Defense’s Operation NOBLE EAGLE, and the USCG’s Operation COASTWATCH. To date, in support of these operations and in direct support to the FBI and other member agency investigations, EPIC personnel have expended over 9,000 man-hours, processed over 64,000 queries and generated over 1,200 cables. As a result of this surge effort, EPIC has been able to provide in excess of 10,000 leads or pieces of supplemental information to investigators.

  • Debriefing of DEA Human Intelligence Sources: In addition to providing the FBI with intelligence analytical support, the DEA routinely queries human drug intelligence sources, especially those overseas, for any potential leads or intelligence that may impact upon national security or terrorism investigations.

  • Anti-Terrorism Task Forces: In each federal judicial district, the DEA has designated one agent as a point of contact to the Attorney General’s Anti-Terrorism Task Force, which is coordinated by the district’s respective Office of the United States Attorney.

Assessing Counterdrug Resources

While the prevention of additional acts of terror must continue to receive our highest levels of attention, professional accountability requires that we take stock of the resources that are available to us, and candidly assess our ability to perform the federal law enforcement functions handled by our respective agencies before September 11th. In the case of the DEA, it is not our new contributions to homeland security that will test our mettle. Indeed, much of the intelligence sharing and interagency cooperation called for by the Department of Justice has long been established practice within the DEA.

As you are aware, the DEA is not an interdiction agency. Our strategic objective is to dismantle or disrupt the command and control elements of sophisticated international drug trafficking organizations. Consequently, we rely on designated agencies to execute the interdiction portion of our investigations, and to effect seizures of other seemingly unrelated drug shipments. The documentary evidence acquired and cooperating defendants interviewed as a result of these seizures frequently result in valuable intelligence and investigative leads that result in additional seizures, and enhance existing cases and future prosecutions.

Since September 11th, the U.S. Coast Guard has diverted a portion of its maritime assets to perform essential port security duties. The U.S. Customs Service, with an equally crucial role in border control, recently announced that terrorism has replaced drug smuggling as the agency’s top priority. Historically, the DEA has reaped substantial intelligence by conducting post-seizure conspiracy investigations as follow-up to drug seizures effected by the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Border Patrol.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), while not an interdiction agency, is currently engaged in the most comprehensive terrorism investigations ever conducted in the country’s history. As they will undoubtedly face a plethora of national security challenges in the arena of counter-terrorism, the extent of the FBI’s participation in future large scale drug investigations is unclear. What is clear, however, is that a comprehensive review is needed and is underway to eliminate any duplication of effort so that maximum resources can be devoted to public security.

To the best extent possible, DEA has attempted to integrate homeland security duties into our existing law enforcement functions, so that enhanced public safety is a dividend of more diligent and well-informed counterdrug efforts. Accordingly, DEA airport and railway interdiction units are on high alert and cognizant of the likelihood of encountering members of terrorist cells as they transit the country. Clearly, law enforcement’s presence makes a difference in the safety and quality of our citizens’ lives. Regardless of the manner in which drug traffickers choose to re-group in response to our new counter-terrorism initiatives, our single mission drug agents must and will continue to provide adequate anti-drug coverage.

Planning for the Future

Because the DEA, by necessity, operates in an environment of interagency cooperation, any long term planning to ensure adequate resources must entail parallel planning in other affected agencies. Operating under a series of Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s) with numerous law enforcement agencies, the DEA will carefully consider ways to adjust our existing organizational structures and arrangements to address issues that may arise as other agencies shift their organizational duties and responsibilities.


In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the DEA fully supports Attorney General Ashcroft and Governor Ridge in their efforts to restructure our federal law enforcement assets in a manner that best serves public security. As we move decisively to coordinate our counter-terrorism efforts, we must take appropriate actions to make certain that the momentum of our counterdrug initiatives is not adversely affected.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee today. I will be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

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