Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Methamphetamine Press Conference
August 18, 2005-1:10 pm
Thank you, Director Walters. I am pleased to join you and Secretary Leavitt to talk about this important issue on behalf of President Bush.
I believe it bears repeating that meth is a unique and deadly threat to our Nation. It is highly addictive. It is easy and cheap to produce. And as many in this room know it destroys lives far beyond those of just the addicts and the users.
In one tragic case from Oklahoma, the parents of a five-year-old girl and an 11-month-old infant boy were “tweaking” on meth. By the time their binge had worn off, the mother and father were out cold.
At some point during the time the parents were passed out, their infant, who had been left in a walker, caught a wheel in the heating grate in the home. Their five-year-old daughter heard the screams of the baby trapped above the furnace grate. The mother, who slept only a few feet away from the infant, would not wake up. Several hours later the mother woke to find her 11-month-old son had died of severe burns. When investigators got there, the five-year-old daughter was so traumatized by the screams she could not talk.
For those of us in law enforcement and in public service, such tragedies are why we are here today.
We are here to save lives.
Make no mistake: Meth requires pressure at every stage, and it demands the concerted effort of every level of government to stop it.
At the Department of Justice, our goal is simple, direct, and proven: Communicate, cooperate, and coordinate with our state and local law enforcement partners to tackle every aspect of this challenging problem.
To build on our already strong record of cooperation and support of state and local law enforcement, I have directed the United States Attorney’s Offices to make the prosecution of the meth cooks and distributors—especially those who are repeat offenders—a high priority. This means U.S. Attorneys will be going into federal court, seeking stiff sentences for major players in the meth trade.
During the last ten years, our U.S. Attorneys have more than quadrupled the number of meth cases filed and defendants charged. With today’s directive, we will continue to apply pressure.
In addition, I have directed our federal law enforcement agencies to target major organizations and large-scale providers.
For some time now, the Drug Enforcement Administration has been working hard to fight the use and the spread of meth.
The DEA commits more than $145 million per year to combat meth. Earlier this year, Administrator Karen Tandy declared meth a top priority for the DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Teams.
These teams are now allocating expertise and resources to areas and regions hit hard by the challenge and high costs of prosecuting meth producers and distributors.
In addition, the DEA also has Clandestine Lab Enforcement Teams, which help detect and clean up meth labs.
One important function of the federal government is to act as a conduit for best practices as well as a source for the latest intelligence about criminal trends around the country.
I am pleased to announce today that the Justice Department will be providing additional specialized training to police officers and sheriff’s deputies on how to best respond to meth.
In the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years, we more than tripled the number of meth-training courses offered nationwide.
Since 1998, DEA has provided clandestine-lab awareness and certification training to thousands of state and local officers. And in the past year, DEA expanded clandestine-lab training to Mexican police officers and prosecutors.
Such training is critical.
Over the last three years, law enforcement has seized, on average, 45 small toxic meth labs or dumpsites each day across America.
Such training teaches state and local law enforcement how to detect new meth production, track distribution networks, and dismantle and clean up toxic sites.
We understand that the cause of justice is only as strong as our partnerships within the law enforcement community.
I am also pleased to announce today that the DEA will be expanding the Clandestine Lab Container Program nationwide. We have learned from successful pilot projects that this program significantly reduces the cost of lab cleanup, law enforcement overtime, and hazardous-material removal—costs that are often extremely burdensome for state and local law-enforcement budgets.
Cleaning up the physical toxins from meth production is just the beginning, however.
As many of you know, meth’s destructive impact is rarely limited to just the disintegration and decline of the user.
Meth carries huge collateral costs for our Nation.
As Secretary Leavitt will discuss momentarily, thousands of young children have been cast adrift by parents and guardians involved in meth production. Once users fall into the grip of this drug, parents become abusers—exposing children to a toxic environment and often neglecting even the most basic needs of their children. Of all the devastation left in the wake of meth use, this carries the greatest price tag of all.
Through the National Drug Endangered Children Training Program, the Department of Justice is helping states and communities expand the effectiveness of their outreach efforts to protect and give hope to children orphaned by the arrest and incarceration of parents involved in meth.
Finally, I want to thank all the men and women of law enforcement as well as our Nation’s state, federal, and local prosecutors for all their work—particularly here in Tennessee.
Our job is not done, but by bringing our collective expertise and experience to bear on this challenging problem we are making progress.
Together, I know we can save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans and build a society where citizens turn to hope and opportunity, not drugs, on the way to a brighter future for all.