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Intelligence Topics at DEA: El Paso Intelligence Center | National Drug Pointer Index

Since its establishment in 1973, the DEA, in coordination with other federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement organizations has been responsible for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of drug-related intelligence. The role of intelligence in drug law enforcement is critical. The DEA Intelligence Program helps initiate new investigations of major drug organizations, strengthens ongoing ones and subsequent prosecutions, develops information that leads to seizures and arrests, and provides policy makers with drug trend information upon which programmatic decisions can be based. The specific functions of the DEA's intelligence mission are:

  • Collect and produce intelligence in support of the Administrator and other federal, state, and local agencies;
  • Establish and maintain close working relationships with all agencies that produce or use narcotics intelligence;
  • Increase the efficiency in the reporting, analysis, storage, retrieval, and exchange of such information; and, undertake a continuing review of the narcotics intelligence effort to identify and correct deficiencies.

The DEA's Intelligence Program has grown significantly since its inception. From only a handful of Intelligence Analysts (I/A) in the domestic offices and Headquarters in 1973, the total number of I/As worldwide is now over 680. DEA's Intelligence Program consists of several entities that are staffed by both I/As and Special Agents: Intelligence Groups/Functions in the domestic field divisions, district, resident and foreign offices, the El Paso Intelligence Center, and the Intelligence Division at DEA Headquarters. Program responsibility for the DEA's intelligence mission rests with the DEA Assistant Administrator for Intelligence.

The DEA divides drug intelligence into three broad categories: tactical, investigative, and strategic.

  • Tactical intelligence is evaluated information on which immediate enforcement action--arrests, seizures, and interdictions--can be based.
  • Investigative intelligence provides analytical support to investigations and prosecutions to dismantle criminal organizations and gain resources.
  • Strategic intelligence focuses on the current picture of drug trafficking from cultivation to distribution that can be used for management decision making, resource deployment, and policy planning.

Legislation and Presidential directives and orders have expanded the role of the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense in the anti-drug effort. DEA interaction with both components occurs on a daily basis in the foreign field and at headquarters. At the strategic intelligence level, the Intelligence Division participates in a wide range of interagency assessment and targeting groups that incorporate drug intelligence from the anti-drug community in order to provide policy-makers with all source drug trend and trafficking reporting.

With analytical support from the Intelligence Program, DEA has disrupted major trafficking organizations or put them entirely out of business. The DEA Intelligence Division also cooperates a great deal with state and local law enforcement and will soon provide intelligence training for state, local, federal, and foreign agencies. This training will be held at the Justice Training Center in Quantico, Virginia, and will address the full spectrum of drug intelligence training needs. The best practices and theories of all partners in working the drug issue will be solicited and incorporated into the training. Academic programs, the exchange of federal, state, and local drug experience, and the sharing of and exposure to new ideas will result in more effective application of drugs intelligence resources at all levels.

El Paso Intelligence Center (Back to Top)

[EPIC photo] In 1974, the Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted a report entitled A Secure Border: An Analysis of Issues Affecting the U.S. Department of Justice to the Office of Management and Budget. The report proposed the establishment of a regional intelligence center to collect and disseminate information relating to drug, alien, and weapon smuggling in support of field enforcement entities throughout the Southwest border region. In response to the report, the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) was created and was initially staffed by representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs Service, and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Agencies currently represented at EPIC include the Drug Enforcement Administration; Department of Homeland Security; Customs & Border Protection; Immigration & Customs Enforcement; U.S. Coast Guard; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; Department of Transportation; Internal Revenue Service; U.S. Department of the Interior; National Geospatial–Intelligence Agency; U.S. Department of Defense/IC; Joint Task Force–North; Joint Interagency Task Force–South; Texas Department of Public Safety; Texas Air National Guard; National Guard Counter Narcotics Bureau; Department of State; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Union Pacific Railroad Police; Kansas City Southern Railroad Police; El Paso Police Department; and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

Initially, EPIC, as the facility became known, focused on the United States-Mexico border with an emphasis on Mexico's heroin traffickers and illegal alien smugglers. With the increased use of aircraft, seagoing vessels, and global networks to facilitate drug trafficking, EPIC's focus broadened and became international in scope. So not only does EPIC serve Federal agencies, all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Canada, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, but also supports law enforcement efforts conducted by foreign counterparts throughout the world, and currently has Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with Canada, Australia, and The Netherlands. In response to increased multiagency needs, EPIC developed into a fully coordinated, tactical intelligence center supported by databases and resources from member agencies.

In 2001, immediately after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC, the multiagency environment of EPIC was called upon to support investigations to find those responsible. EPIC’s mission evolved from its experience in supporting interdiction efforts and investigations regarding drug trafficking, alien and weapon smuggling, and other criminal activities, by adding counterterrorism to its efforts.

EPIC’s vision is to continue to provide timely and expeditious support to Federal, State, local, tribal, and international law enforcement agencies and to remain the premier tactical operational intelligence center in the nation.

National Drug Pointer Index (Back to Top)


photo]For many years, state, local, and Federal law enforcement entities sought a drug pointer system that would allow them to determine if other law enforcement organizations were investigating the same drug target. The DEA was designated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in 1992 to take the lead in developing such a system to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies investigating drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and to enhance officer safety by preventing duplicate investigations. Recognizing that the development of this system would require a truly cooperative effort, the DEA drew from the experience of state and local agencies to make certain that not only were their concerns addressed, but that they had unrestricted input and involvement in the pointer systems’ development. Representatives from 19 states and 24 law enforcement organizations formed a Project Steering Committee and six working groups that developed the conceptual blueprint for the National Drug Pointer Index (NDPIX).

NDPIX became operational across the United States in October 1997. The National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS)—a familiar, fast, and effective network that reaches into almost every police entity in the United States—is the backbone for the NDPIX. Participating agencies are required to submit active case targeting information to NDPIX in order to receive pointer information from the NDPIX. The greater the number of data elements entered, the greater the likelihood of identifying possible matches. Designed to be a true pointer system rather than an intelligence system, NDPIX serves as a "switchboard" that provides a vehicle for timely notification of common investigative targets. The actual case information is shared only when collaborative contact is made between the officers/agents who have been linked by their common NDPIX target.

The web version of NDPIX (WebNDPIX) became fully operational in September 2008 with these features:

  • NDPIX will remain unchanged for non-DEA participants and remains a viable NVPS participant system option for other federal, state, local, and tribal LEAs.
  • WebNDPIX modifies the methodology of data input; message trafficking; transmission of collaboration documentation; and management/regulatory oversight for DEA NDPIX users.
  • Automatically adds new records to NDPIX (w/connectivity to NVPS) from CAST and NADDIS (202)
  • Allows for the exclusion of targets at the discretion of field management
  • Transmits new records, hits, partial and pending records, pending purges, records deletions and extensions, directly to field investigative and supervisory personnel
  • Enables investigators and field supervisory personnel document collaboration based on hits directly from a Firebird email hyperlink in the WebNDPIX log

Law enforcement and emergency response personnel face challenges daily when responding to public safety incidents. Rapid and informed decisions are critical to preserving life and property. NLETS recognizes the importance of getting information to the right people as quickly as possible. NLETS is an action-oriented organization that offers states progressive solutions to meeting their information and communication needs.

NDPIX Mission Statement

  • NDPIX provides participating State, Local, and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies with an automated response capability to determine if a current drug investigative target is under active investigation by any other participating agency.

DEA’s Role

  • Responsible for the administrative, security, and program management oversight of the National Drug Pointer Index, an information sharing system for Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies on active drug investigative targets.


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