DEA Congressional Testimony
November 13, 2001


Statement of
Asa Hutchinson
Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration

Before the

House Committee on Government Reform
Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy
and Human Resources

Subcommittee on Government Efficiency,
Financial Management and Intergovernmental Affairs

Subcommittee on National Security,
Veterans Affairs and International Relations

 

Executive Summary

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Asa Hutchinson
DEA Administrator

 

 

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Attorney General
John Ashcroft

 

 

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Heroin

 

 

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Special Operations
Division

 

 

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The effective coordination and sharing of law enforcement intelligence among international, federal, state, and local agencies are paramount to successful counterdrug operations. Today’s drug trafficking organizations work seamlessly from the cultivation fields and drug labs to the dealer on the street. The challenge for law enforcement is to develop systems and relationships that foster information sharing and cooperative efforts that go beyond borders and jurisdictional lines.

NDPIX logoThe Drug Enforcement Administration, from its inception, has been a leader in the intelligence arena. Information sharing and cooperative efforts between DEA and other law enforcement agencies are two major tenets of DEA’s mission. DEA fulfills this part of its mission in three main areas: (1) cooperative endeavors in the form of the Special Operations Division (SOD), Task Forces, HIDTAs, JIATFs, and other programs designed to bring together agents and officers of a wide range of government entities; (2) through intelligence operations, in particular the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), DEA manages a number of information sharing programs that give law enforcement agencies access to database information. DEA operates NDPIX and NADDIS, both offering law enforcement agencies various types of data on investigations and targets. Information sharing through EPIC includes the National Clan Lab Database and SENTRY, among 33 proprietary and 6 commercial databases; (3) finally, through a wide variety of training programs, DEA provides information to law enforcement entities on how to gather and harness a wide variety of intelligence. For instance, programs like Operation Pipeline and Jetway teach state and local officers how to effectively interdict drug traffickers in the act of transporting illegal narcotics.

DEA also works at the executive level on intelligence sharing initiatives with both federal and international counterparts. Through bi-lateral drug intelligence working groups, the Joint Information Coordinating Centers (JICC), and HIDTAs, among others, DEA is working diligently and within legal constraints to develop the relationships necessary, both domestically and abroad, to address the issue of intelligence sharing. The efforts have led to sharing agreements and the development of sharing programs that enable DEA and its counterparts to effectively combat drug trafficking from the cultivation fields to the streets.

The future holds great promise for intelligence sharing and cooperative efforts among drug law enforcement entities. However, much work remains to be done and with ever tightening resources the support of the Congress is paramount for ensuring that intelligence sharing remains a top priority for law enforcement. The General Counterdrug Intelligence Plan (GCIP) mandates a number of programs and initiatives that, while promising, remain unfunded. DEA can and will develop expanded intelligence sharing programs to enable law enforcement to more effectively fight illegal narcotics.

Good Morning Chairman Horn, Chairman Shays, Chairman Souder, Ranking Member Cummings, Ranking Member Kucinich, Ranking Member Schakowsky, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today for the purpose of discussing the Drug Enforcement Administration’s programs to coordinate and share law enforcement intelligence with federal, state, and local law enforcement jurisdictions, as well as the role of the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) in gathering and sharing intelligence and law enforcement information. Before I address this very important and timely issue, I would first like to preface my remarks by thanking the Subcommittees for their unwavering support of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and overall support of drug law enforcement.

Over the past 40 years, DEA and its predecessor agencies have recognized the vital importance of intelligence and information sharing across the spectrum of law enforcement agencies. As Attorney General Ashcroft recently remarked regarding the war on terrorism, “Information sharing and cooperation are critical to our strategic mission.” His words apply across the board to all law enforcement endeavors. Two of DEA’s primary responsibilities are the management of a national drug intelligence program in cooperation with federal, state, local, and foreign officials to collect, analyze, and disseminate tactical, strategic and operational drug intelligence information; and fostering coordination and cooperation with federal, state and local law enforcement officials on mutual drug enforcement efforts and enhancement of such efforts through exploitation of potential interstate and international investigations beyond local or limited federal jurisdictions and resources.

As positive evidence of this, DEA works diligently to maintain strong relationships with all law enforcement agencies - local, state, federal, and international - through intelligence and information sharing programs and training programs and a whole host of others that I will discuss in detail. Sharing intelligence with other law enforcement agencies is a vital responsibility of DEA. Only with that sharing can we effectively combat illegal narcotics.

International drug organizations are well coordinated from the production laboratories to the dealer on the street. Trafficking organizations do not recognize borders or where one jurisdiction ends and another begins. Communications and drugs flow easily from one part of these organizations to another. The drug law enforcement community faces these challenges every day. Efforts to meet these challenges can be hampered by an inability of agencies to share information in a timely and efficient manner. Intelligence on what the drug organizations are doing is the key to dismantling these organizations. Law enforcement must deploy just as well coordinated enforcement and intelligence efforts to meet the challenges presented by the trafficking organizations.

DEA has a number of initiatives in place to share information with our law enforcement partners. DEA works in cooperation with our international partners in the drug production countries. We work with these partners and other federal agencies to interdict drugs along the smuggling and distribution routes. We work with other law enforcement officers in this country, including local beat cops and State Task Force officers.

As an illustration of information sharing, consider the following scenario, if you will. A state trooper in Maryland makes a routine traffic stop on I-95. During the brief encounter, the trooper is suspicious of answers to various questions, but the suspicion alone does not warrant further action. The driver is given a citation for speeding and released. Without effective information sharing, that is the end of the story.

Now consider the same facts, but as part of the trooper’s computer check of the vehicle, the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) is contacted to run a computer database search on the driver’s name. Within minutes the trooper is alerted to the driver’s prior conviction in California for trafficking and the fact that the vehicle entered the United States just two days earlier at a border crossing with Mexico in Texas. The driver, however, tells the trooper he has been travelling cross-country from Chicago, with no mention of Mexico. Based on this inconsistency and other factors, the trooper brings in a K-9 unit and discovers a significant quantity of heroin in a secret compartment in the vehicle.

Two weeks later, federal law enforcement agents in California working on a major drug operation access information about the arrest and seizure in Maryland. The information, again made available through EPIC, provides agents valuable intelligence that assists the agents in bringing down a major heroin smuggling operation.

This one hypothetical example illustrates how overall success in efforts to combat illegal drugs depends in large part on the effectiveness of state and local law enforcement. There are some 17,000 federal, regional, state, local, and tribal law enforcement entities in the United States. With so many law enforcement personnel there must be an extremely high level of coordination and cooperation to make sure that information gathered by the local constable in Indiana is accessible by the Coast Guard officer boarding a suspicious vessel in the Chesapeake Bay. Coordination of drug law enforcement through information sharing not only will improve operational effectiveness, but it will reduce jurisdictional and funding competitiveness.

Allow me to review with you some of the key programs DEA – and EPIC – have in place to effectively share law enforcement intelligence with our partners, overseas and right here in the United States.

As I indicated previously, cooperative efforts between DEA and state and local agencies are vital to our success in combating illegal drugs. Towards that end, DEA has over one hundred Task Force groups and over 1,400 task force officers nationwide. DEA Supervisory Special Agents, alongside supervisory level officers from state and locals, manage these groups where state and local law enforcement officers are assigned on a permanent basis. The Task Force groups facilitate information sharing both formally and informally through the interaction of task force officers and DEA agents and the ability of task force officers to access DEA’s Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Information System [NADDIS] for database checks.

The Special Operations Division (SOD) is a comprehensive enforcement operation designed specifically to coordinate multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional and multi-national Title III investigations against the command and control elements of major drug trafficking organizations operating domestically and abroad. The investigative resources of SOD support a variety of multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement investigations associated with the Southwest Border, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

In addition, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), in which DEA participates at the Federal level, combine resources of many agencies under one roof to provide a comprehensive approach against criminal organizations. Participating state and local agencies receive information from Federal agencies that are involved in the individual OCDETF’s investigations.

DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Teams (MET) are traveling teams that deploy to a specific area at the request of the law enforcement officials of that area. These teams have a significant effect on the community in which they are deployed by using the information already known to local law enforcement and building additional intelligence to bring about more narcotics arrests, drug seizures, and asset forfeitures. DEA could not have the effect we have without the assistance and information from local law enforcement.

As part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, under the general oversight of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, DEA has taken a leading roll in the Investigative Support Centers (ISC). In the 3 years since their inception, the ISCs have already proven themselves to be a primary venue of drug information and intelligence sharing.

As a leader in drug intelligence, DEA has invested a significant amount of time, funding and personnel to enhance HIDTA ISC intelligence sharing successes. In personnel alone, DEA has provided 14 supervisory intelligence analyst positions and people and put them into the most critical HIDTA ISCs. DEA plans to invest even more intelligence analyst support in the ISCs as today’s extraordinary demands permit.

Through DEA as its parent agency, EPIC plays a role in supporting the ISC mission by serving as the hub for ISC intelligence coordination. The EPIC HIDTA Coordination Unit serves as the focal point for an increased support to the HIDTAs and their state and local law enforcement components. EPIC effectively serves as a clearinghouse for the ISCs, gathering state and local law enforcement drug intelligence requirements and providing drug intelligence and information back to the ISCs. EPIC also centrally receives and shares drug movement-related information developed by the ISCs and ensures that checks with the EPIC Watch Program and all the relevant databases are a standard part of ISC operational protocols.

Joint Inter-Agency Task Forces (JIATF), one in Alameda, California and the other in Key West, Florida, are focused efforts to coordinate drug interdiction operations in transit and arrival zones. Participating agencies include law enforcement, military, and Coast Guard elements. DEA has assigned four positions to JIATF East and one position to JIATF West to serve in leadership, as well as liaison, capacities. DEA’s presence greatly enhances the flow of information between DEA and the JIATF and facilitates drug interdiction operations.

In addition to these organizational arrangements – Task Forces, SOD, HIDTA ISCs, JIATFs and the like, DEA shares information with our partners in a number of other ways. DEA publishes a number of intelligence reports that cover a wide variety of issues such as new trends in drugs of choice, trafficking routes, and country-specific drug assessments. These publications are available on the internet and upon request. DEA makes every effort to publicize the availability of these materials through a variety of channels.

The DEA Website itself is a useful source of strategic intelligence and other relevant information on the most significant drug trafficking organizations that threaten the United States. The Website also provides information and photographs of DEA fugitives.

Another of DEA’s useful information sharing programs is the National Drug Pointer Index (NDPIX), a deconfliction system for participating federal, state/local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) on active drug investigative targets. NDPIX points law enforcement officers to other officers in jurisdictions throughout the country who may have the same target. For example, a Task Force officer in Baltimore conducting an investigation into a local trafficking organization can find out if any other law enforcement agencies are targeting members of the same organization. NDPIX encourages cooperative investigation efforts by allowing officers in different jurisdictions easy access to contact information to coordinate ongoing investigative efforts. To date, there are 30 states that have access to the NDPIX, with 564 law enforcement agencies having signed participation agreements. It is anticipated that within two years all law enforcement agencies in 50 states will have the capability to participate in the system.

Another component of the cross-jurisdictional information and resource sharing that DEA encourages is the Regional Information Sharing System (RISS) Program. DEA is a participant in this program, managed by the Department of Justice. RISS is composed of six regional centers that share intelligence and coordinate efforts against criminal networks that operate in many locations across jurisdictional lines. Typical targets of RISS activities are drug trafficking, violent crime and gang activity, and organized criminal activities. Each of the centers, however, selects its target crimes and determines the range of services provided to member agencies.

Let me now turn to EPIC. The El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) was established in 1974 in response to a Department of Justice study that detailed drug and border enforcement strategies and programs and proposed the establishment of a Southwest Border intelligence service center to be staffed by representatives of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Customs Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. This original EPIC staff was later expanded to include the United States Coast Guard (USCG), the United States Customs Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Border Patrol, the National Security Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of the Interior.

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Today, EPIC serves as the principal national tactical intelligence center for drug law enforcement. The mission for EPIC, as defined by the EPIC’s Principal’s Accord and reaffirmed by the GCIP, is:

The El Paso Intelligence Center will support United States law enforcement and interdiction components through the timely analysis and dissemination of intelligence on illicit drug and alien movements, and criminal organizations responsible for these illegal activities, within the United States, on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, across the Caribbean, and from other points of origin within the Western Hemisphere en route to the United States.

At its core, EPIC manages a highly effective Watch Program, a 24 by 7 operation available to every Federal, state, and local law enforcement agency nationwide and manned by Special agents, investigative assistants and intelligence analysts to provide timely tactical intelligence to the field on an on-call basis. The real value of EPIC is centered in the Watch Program’s ability to bring together in one place, at any time, and virtually on demand, the databases of every one of its participating agencies. EPIC’s online query capability consists of 33 federal databases and six commercial databases. Further, EPIC also created its own internal database that, combined with the other agency databases, provides the single most responsive, direct conduit available for a tactical intelligence center in support of every law enforcement agency in the nation. Additionally, EPIC also has a mandate to develop a nationwide system to capture drug seizure data from the local, state, and federal levels.

EPIC has a 27-year proven track record of facilitating cooperative relationships among federal, state, and local law enforcement and of promoting greater state and local participation. EPIC manages three premier operations that demonstrate this: Operations JETWAY, PIPELINE, and CONVOY. Through EPIC-provided training and post seizure analytical support, JETWAY targets the movement of drugs and drug-related currency across the nation via public transportation (commercial aircraft, trains, and buses), while PIPELINE and CONVOY address similar targets on the nation’s highways. All three programs have been, and continue to be, extremely effective in terms of intelligence sharing and cost to benefit ratio.

EPIC Intelligence Sharing - NADDIS, Other Federal, LEIS III, SENTRY, FAA, CIS/NIIS, TECS, National Clandestine Lab, EPIC Internal Database, and NCIC.

EPIC is multidimensional in its approach to intelligence sharing. It has a research and analysis section and a tactical operations section to support foreign and domestic intelligence and operational needs in the field. Further, it has become a meeting place for many national level intelligence conferences including the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Director’s Conference, the Tactical Intelligence Conference, and DEA’s HIDTA Investigative Centers Supervisor’s Conference. In 2001, EPIC established and hosted the first meeting of the State and Local Intelligence Council, comprised of 16 state, county, and municipal law enforcement agency mid-level representatives from throughout the United States.

EPIC also has demonstrated its ability to be flexible and responsive in a crisis situation. Since the September 11 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 FBI and other member agency investigations, EPIC personnel have expended 9,128 man-hours, processed 64,064 queries and generated 1,207 cables. As a result of this surge effort, EPIC has been able to provide 10,292 leads or pieces of supplemental information to investigators.

EPIC continues to successfully maintain multiple databases in one place, for real-time access and “one stop shopping” in support of tactical law enforcement needs. This has only been possible because of the trust and spirit of cooperation that exists between the participating agencies, and their concerted effort to overcome parochial biases against intelligence sharing, and opening their databases for the mutual benefit of all law enforcement agencies at every level of enforcement. By striving for cooperative efforts among law enforcement, the agencies involved with EPIC make EPIC the premier tactical intelligence center in the nation.

The information sharing programs discussed so far are primarily involved with domestic drug law enforcement. That is just one end of the continuum. DEA understands the importance of cooperative efforts with our international partners in the struggle against illegal drug trafficking. We have information sharing programs in place to support law enforcement over the whole range of international drug trafficking.

The first set of programs is the bilateral drug intelligence working groups. In the past two years, DEA’s Assistant Administrator for Intelligence initiated bilateral drug intelligence discussions with Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Australia’s Federal Police, the United Kindgom’s National Criminal Intelligence Service, National Crime Squad, Her Majesty’s Custom and Excise National Investigative Service, and Germany’s Bundeskriminalamt. Through these meetings we established executive-level drug intelligence working groups that are designed to foster the exchange of analysts and intelligence between the Drug Enforcement Administration and these leading drug law enforcement agencies of their respective countries.

The goals of the bilateral meetings, besides fostering closer relationships with these intelligence units, are to facilitate dialog on the latest intelligence practices and techniques in drug law enforcement analysis, to enhance training and professional development of analysts, and to provide a means for information exchange and recognition of best practices relative to technology, databases, and analytical tools. The bilateral participants have agreed to meet biannually to share, exchange, and discuss drug intelligence matters of mutual interest and to work toward a multilateral relationship among the attending participating countries.

In conjunction with these bilateral meetings, we have been successful in creating the International Intelligence Exchange Program (IIEP). The goal of the IIEP is to enhance the effectiveness of the bilateral concept by providing a forum to discuss and exchange intelligence information, ideas, and expertise. The IIEP provides a means of having mid-level management and journeyman intelligence analysts work side by side on topics of mutual interest.

DEA has already detailed four intelligence analysts, one to each of the respective bilateral countries, for 60-day assignments as part of the exchange program to help learn about each country’s intelligence program, their intelligence organization, and their analytical personnel, as well as to document their intelligence structure and operations. Representatives from each of the bilateral countries have also visited DEA for a similar familiarization program, including visits to DEA headquarters and various field offices. Future exchanges will foster continuing dialog and focus on specific intelligence projects or issues. Thus far the bilateral program has been extremely successful with exchanges and information sharing that is sure to be beneficial in the future.

DEA/EPIC also share valuable information with our foreign counterparts through the Joint Information Coordination Centers (JICC). JICCs are a joint DEA, EPIC, and Department of State effort responsible for the establishment and coordination of host country information-gathering centers. JICC is managed at EPIC and provides tactical drug intelligence to approximately 22 foreign country JICCs and DEA Country Attaches throughout Latin America.

Information sharing in the fullest sense of the term, is not limited to intelligence about specific targets or operations, but also includes programs to disseminate methods and information through training programs. DEA’s Office of Training brings substantive programs to a wide variety of international, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Prime examples of these training programs are Operations Jetway and Pipeline, which I have previously discussed. In addition DEA offers programs in the following areas.

Clan Lab Training – Clandestine Lab training is given to foreign, state, and local officers, as well as DEA personnel. This training concentrates on detection and dismantling of clandestine laboratories.

photo - Chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine are highly toxic and pose a contamination threat to the community and the environment.

Federal Law Enforcement Analytical Training (FLEAT) – The FLEAT training seminar is designed to offer the best analytical tools that DEA utilizes, and share those tools and techniques along with our drug specific expertise, with other law enforcement agencies. By sharing what DEA has found to be our most useful analytical weapons, we can assist our counterparts in enhancing their own intelligence capabilities.

The FLEAT concept originated from inquiries by several outside Federal law enforcement agencies, requesting to participate in DEA’s basic intelligence training program. Although FLEAT does not provide our complete ten-week basic course, it does contain key basic intelligence training curriculum blocks that are appropriate for intelligence analysts from any law enforcement agency. The course material is geared to enhance critical analytical skills abilities and to build awareness of the expertise and capabilities that each agency possesses. FLEAT requires interaction between participants and creates an opportunity for exchanging new ideas and intelligence concepts.

The design of the program follows a seminar format, with each participant strongly encouraged to contribute and exchange methods, ideas, and techniques unique to his or her particular agency. The emphasis of FLEAT is to offer what DEA has found to be valuable intelligence tools and techniques, which increases each agency’s awareness of the capabilities and strengths within the law enforcement arena and how better to draw upon those assets.

To date, a total of 83 Federal, state, and local intelligence analysts have been trained at FLEAT. All classes are held at the DEA Justice Training Center and coordinated by the Intelligence Training Unit. The program is a huge success and, based on comments received from DEA field offices, has strengthened relationships between DEA and other law enforcement agencies. This is yet another example of DEA’s efforts to create information sharing relationships.

DEA’s International Training offers a one-week basic intelligence course coordinated and presented at DEA Justice Training Center at Quantico. The course, which to date has trained over 1,000 people, is designed to give our foreign counterparts a general outline of the basic concepts used in the field of intelligence. The course offers the students a methodology to use on how to best achieve positive results in their intelligence gathering and processing efforts. In the course, students are given instruction on the three types of law enforcement intelligence, the intelligence cycle and how to implement it, along with methods on how to generate a valuable, usable intelligence end product.

photo of DEA's Justice Training Center at Quantico
DEA’s Justice Training Center at Quantico

Beyond sharing information and training with other agencies, DEA shares some of our best personnel. DEA maintains Liaison Officers at other federal agencies, such as the Department of State, ONDCP, CIA, and the FBI, as well as plays host to many Liaison Officers from other agencies. DEA has working level employees permanently assigned to places such as EPIC and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), where interagency cooperation is essential to the centers’ missions. These individuals serve as a conduit for the free flow of information.

DEA has personnel assigned to NDIC on a permanent basis. These employees provide information and participate in writing the national drug threat assessments and strategic publications. NDIC has an employee assigned to DEA Headquarters who works in the Domestic Strategic Unit.

DEA has taken a strong leadership role in the Counterdrug Intelligence Executive Secretariat (CDX), the day-to-day coordinating staff set up by the GCIP. The CDX focuses on five discreet components and 73 action items that are critical to DEA as well as to information sharing with other law enforcement agencies:

  • National Centers
  • Foreign intelligence
  • Domestic intelligence
  • Information Technology
  • Training/career development

The chair of the Counterdrug Intelligence Coordinating Group (CDICG) is DEA’s Assistant Administrator for Intelligence, Steven Casteel. The CDICG provides guidance and leadership to the CDX. Furthermore, the current CDX Director is a DEA SES and we have provided four full-time positions to the CDX to respond to the recommendations in the GCIP.

All these information sharing programs demonstrate that the counter-drug interagency community looks to DEA for leadership in this areas. Because of this interest we believe it is important that DEA maintains a strong role. While current efforts regarding intelligence sharing enable law enforcement to work more effectively than ever before, much work remains. There are a number of sharing initiatives currently in the works, but because of limited resources have not been fully realized.

The GCIP mandated that the HIDTA ISCs, RISSs, and DEA develop a process to capture drug seizure data at the state and local levels and merge that data into the DEA managed Federal Drug Seizure System, so that drug seizures nationwide are reflected in a common database. We have not yet identified the funding to support this effort.

Finally, as per the GCIP, the System Policy Review Group (SPRG) was established on August 9, 2000. Co-chairs were elected from EPIC, the FBI, and the DCI/CMS. The SPRG’s main assignment is to develop an unclassified, but secure e-mail system to facilitate electronic connectivity among federal, state, and local drug law enforcement agencies. We have not identified funding for this initiative.

In conclusion, I would again like to thank all the members of the Subcommittees for your questions and interest in this important topic. If any members of the subcommittees have an interest, DEA would be eager to assist in arranging a visit to EPIC to meet some of the outstanding women and men who work there, and to observe some of the programs at work that I discussed this

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