DEA Congressional Testimony

Statement of:
John S. Comer
Assistant Special Agent in Charge
Phoenix Field Division
Drug Enforcement Administration

Regarding:
“Pushing the Border Back: the Role Intelligence Plays in Protecting the Border”

Before the:
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

August 17, 2006
Sierra Vista, Arizona

INTRODUCTION

Chairman Hoekstra, Ranking Member Harman, and distinguished Member of the Committee, on behalf of the DEA Administrator, Karen P. Tandy, and the Phoenix Field Division Special Agent in Charge, Timothy J. Landrum, I appreciate your invitation to testify today regarding the role of intelligence in DEA’s efforts to combat drug trafficking along the Southwest Border. I also want to take this opportunity to express the Administration's support for comprehensive immigration reform that provides for increased border security, establishes a robust interior enforcement program, creates a temporary worker program, and addresses the problem of the estimated 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

OVERVIEW

The Southwest Border (SWB) of the United States is the principal arrival zone for most illicit drugs smuggled into the United States, as well as the predominant staging area for the drugs’ subsequent distribution throughout the country. According to El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) drug seizure data, most of the cocaine, foreign source marijuana and methamphetamine, and Mexican-source heroin available in the United States are smuggled into the country across the SWB from Mexico. The SWB is particularly vulnerable to drug smuggling because of the enormous volume of people and goods legitimately crossing the border between the two countries every day. Moreover, large sections of the nearly 2,000 mile land border between Mexico and the United States are both vast and remote, and this provides additional smuggling opportunities for Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). Once at the border, Mexican traffickers use every method imaginable to smuggle drugs into this country including aircraft, backpackers, couriers, horses and mules, maritime vessels, rail, tunnels, and vehicles.

In response, the DEA, in cooperation with its federal, state, local and foreign counterparts, is attacking these organizations at all levels. The disruption and dismantlement of these organizations, the denial of proceeds, and the seizure of assets significantly impacts the DTOs ability to exercise influence and to further destabilize the region. Key to DEA’s operations and success is collection and sharing of intelligence, which is made possible and enhanced through the El Paso Intelligence Center, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Fusion Center, a section of DEA being a member of the Intelligence Community, and daily law enforcement interaction with DEA offices along the border. In short, guided by intelligence, DEA is working diligently on both sides of the border to stem the flow of illicit drugs.

DEA PRESENCE ALONG THE SOUTHWEST BORDER

Currently, 5 of DEA’s 21 domestic field divisions have responsibility for the Southwest Border and 3 offices in Mexico along the Southwest Border. DEA’s Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico offices are located directly on the Southwest Border. The Monterrey, Mexico Resident Office, although not physically located on the SWB, has responsibility for the border states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, and Coahuila. The U.S. Government is working closely with the Government of Mexico (GOM) to increase communications and information sharing through establishment of new DEA offices on the Mexico side of the border. As the threat has increased along the border, DEA has responded by increasing its manpower in the area. At this time, DEA is authorized 62 Special Agents, 19 Intelligence Research Specialists, and 2 Diversion Investigators to work full-time in Mexico. DEA is authorized 1,214 Special Agent positions to work in domestic offices with responsibilities for the SWB, representing approximately 23 percent of DEA’s total authorized Special Agent positions.

THE SCOPE OF DRUG TRAFFICKING ON THE SOUTHWEST BORDER

Cocaine - Mexico continues to be the principal transit route for cocaine destined for the United States and continues to far outpace cocaine transported through the Caribbean. According to the Interagency Assessment of Cocaine Movement (IACM), an estimated 90 percent of the cocaine departing South America for the United States transited through the Mexico/Central America Corridor in CY 2005, with only 9 percent of the United States-bound flow estimated to have moved through the Caribbean Corridor. Maritime conveyances, primarily go-fast and fishing vessels, continue to be the most popular platforms to move cocaine from South America through the Mexico/Central America Corridor. Traffickers also use aircraft to smuggle cocaine into Mexico as evidenced by the 5.6 metric tons of cocaine seized from a DC-9 jet aircraft in Campeche, Mexico on April 10, 2006, that departed from Venezuela. After cocaine arrives in Mexico it is transported—primarily overland—to the SWB. As the loads move north they are broken into smaller amounts before being smuggled into the United States. In 2005, the GOM reported seizing 21 metric tons of cocaine, which was 4 metric tons less than the previous year. In addition, approximately 22.3 metric tons of cocaine were seized on the United States side of the SWB in 2005.

Heroin - The United States Government (USG) estimates that less than 2 percent of the world’s heroin supply is produced in Mexico. Although not a significant quantity of heroin compared to other regions of the world, nearly all Mexico-produced heroin is destined for markets in the United States. Mexico had an estimated 3,300 hectares of opium poppy under cultivation in 2005, which could have produced 17 metric tons of export quality black tar heroin (at an average purity of 49 percent). The GOM has one of the largest and most effective opium eradication programs in the world. Mexican produced black tar and brown heroin continue to dominate United States markets west of the Mississippi River and also continue to make inroads into the Midwest and South. An increasing concern in Mexico is the transshipment of Colombian heroin through Mexico on its way to the United States. In 2005, approximately 215 kilograms of heroin were seized on the United States side of the SWB.

Of great concern to DEA is the recent wave of overdose deaths associated with fentanyl, a synthetic opiate 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. The overdose deaths have occurred in United States cities such as Camden, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. Licit fentanyl is used as an anesthetic for outpatient operative procedures and is used in pain management. However, indications are that the recent outbreak of overdoses and overdose fatalities are due to clandestinely manufactured fentanyl. On May 21, 2006, Mexican authorities executed a search warrant at a business in Toluca, Mexico and seized what is believed to have been an illicit fentanyl laboratory. Five individuals associated with the laboratory were arrested.

Marijuana - Mexican DTOs dominate the transportation and wholesale distribution of the majority of foreign-produced marijuana available in the United States. Mexico’s net cannabis cultivation in 2005 was estimated at 5,600 hectares, a 3 percent decrease from the 5,800 hectares estimated in 2004. The 2005 crop had the potential to produce 10,100 metric tons of marijuana for the United States and Mexican markets. The majority of this marijuana is available for the United States market, as Mexico only consumes an estimated 100 to 500 metric tons of marijuana annually. In 2005, the GOM reported eradicating approximately 30,843 hectares of cannabis. Most of this eradication effort was manually conducted by the Mexican military, with the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PGR) also using helicopters to spray herbicides on the cannabis. Despite robust efforts by the GOM to eradicate cannabis, the relatively low-cost, easy processing, and high-profit margin associated with the drug ensure its place as a stable source of revenue for Mexican DTOs. It is estimated that Mexican DTOs earn more from marijuana trafficking than from any other illicit substance. In 2005, over 972 metric tons of marijuana were seized along the SWB. This seizure total is more than 40 times greater than the combined seizures of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine at the SWB.

Methamphetamine - Methamphetamine found in the United States originates from two principal sources: small toxic labs (STLs) and “super labs.” Most methamphetamine is produced by Mexico-based and California-based Mexican DTOs. These DTOs control “super labs” (a laboratory capable of producing 10 pounds or more of methamphetamine within a production cycle) and produce the majority of methamphetamine available throughout the United States. Current drug and lab seizure data suggests that roughly 80 percent of the methamphetamine used in the United States comes from larger labs, which are increasingly found in Mexico.

The second source for methamphetamine used in this country comes from small toxic labs (STLs). These STLs produce relatively small amounts of methamphetamine and are generally not affiliated with major trafficking organizations. Initially found only in most Western States, over the past 10 years there has been an eastward expansion of STLs across the United States. A number of factors have served as catalysts for the spread, including the presence of “recipes” easily accessible over the Internet, ingredients needed to produce methamphetamine which were available in many over-the-counter cold medications and common household products found at retail stores, coupled with the relatively simple process involved to manufacture methamphetamine.

Bilateral enforcement efforts with Canada and precursor chemical regulatory changes have reduced the amount of methamphetamine precursor chemicals entering the United States through Canada. Additionally, domestic State legislative actions and new federal laws, such as the Combat Meth Epidemic Act of 2005, have reduced the availability of essential methamphetamine precursor chemicals, such as pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Consequently, large methamphetamine production labs have shifted from the United States to Mexico, and the DEA expects to see a decrease in the number of STLs seized in the United States this year.

This shift in the supply of methamphetamine from Mexico can be seen in the increase in the seizures of methamphetamine along the SWB, which have increased by over 100 percent since 2001, when 1170 kilograms of methamphetamine were confiscated. In 2005, a record 2,679 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized along the SWB. In addition, methamphetamine seizures have also been rising in Mexico as the number and production capacity of laboratories in that nation have been increasing. In 2001, only 396 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized in Mexico compared with a record 865 kilograms seized there in 2005. This represents a 118 percent increase in 4 years.

Reports of superlabs in Mexico were validated on January 5, 2006, when over 800 pounds of methamphetamine were seized from a warehouse in Guadalajara, Jalisco, by the Guadalajara Police Department. Also seized at the warehouse were methamphetamine precursors including eleven 70-kilogram barrels of ephedrine, eighteen 55-gallon barrels of hydriotic acid, as well as three 22-liter flasks and other laboratory equipment.

In response to this threat, the DEA has taken a comprehensive approach, which includes enforcement, domestic and international precursor chemical control, and the identification and cleanup of the large number of small toxic laboratories. As methamphetamine trafficking patterns have changed, so has DEA. The DEA has readjusted enforcement elements in response to the decline in domestic clandestine labs, both super and small toxic. The efforts of the Mobile Enforcement Teams (METs) and Clan Lab Groups have been refocused to attack methamphetamine supplied by Mexican poly-drug trafficking organizations. In addition, we are targeting precursor chemical controls and increasing our focus on the Mexican organizations that conduct the vast majority of the methamphetamine trade.

In May of this year, the DEA and the GOM agreed to establish specialized methamphetamine enforcement teams on both sides of the border. In Mexico, these teams are focused on investigating and targeting the most wanted Mexican methamphetamine trafficking organizations, while DEA efforts on the U.S. side will focus on the methamphetamine traffickers and organizations transporting and distributing finished product. Other aspects of this U.S./Mexico partnership include intelligence sharing between DEA and Mexico’s Center for Analysis and Information Planning (CENAPI); jointly targeting a “Most Wanted List” of chemical and methamphetamine traffickers; donating eight DEA trucks used in clandestine laboratory enforcement operations to the GOM; designating a DEA Clandestine Laboratory Coordinator for Mexico; through funding provided by the Department of State – International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), both DEA and INL are providing training to 1,000 Mexican police officers on a variety of enforcement and regulatory issues; and jointly exchanging personnel from DEA’s Office of Diversion Control and Mexico’s chemical regulatory agency, COFEPRIS.

Tunnels - Tunnels are also used by Mexican DTOs to smuggle significant amounts of drugs into the United States, although they are not used nearly as frequently as land crossings. According to Joint Task Force North/EPIC data, as of August 7, 2006, 50 tunnels have been discovered along the Southwest Border since 1990, including 25 at the border with Arizona and 25 at the California border.

Acting on intelligence from a confidential source (CS), in January 2006, a joint investigation between DEA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Mexican Policia Federal Preventia culminated in the discovery of a narcotics smuggling tunnel. The tunnel spanned the United States/Mexican border just east of the Otay Mesa, California Port of Entry and resulted in the seizure of approximately two tons of marijuana. The discovery of the tunnel followed an extensive investigation resulting from DEA and ICE CS information. The tunnel, approximately 86 feet deep and nearly three-quarters of a mile long, originated inside a small warehouse in Otay Mesa, Mexico, and exited inside a vacant warehouse in San Diego, California.

Law enforcement has worked together to confront this underground threat. Operation Alliance Joint Task Force houses three enforcement groups from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and eight groups from the Department of Homeland Security/ICE. Five of the ICE groups respond to drug seizures at the Ports of Entry (POEs) in San Diego County, and the other three are investigative/case support groups that work in conjunction with the three DEA groups on trafficking organizations.

Other agencies that have agents/officers assigned to Operation Alliance Joint Task Force include CBP, San Diego Police Department, Chula Vista Police Department, and the National City Police Department. One of the DEA groups and one of the ICE investigative support groups have the responsibility of reviewing and following up on the receipt of all tunnel-related information. From those two groups, two ICE agents, two CBP agents, and one DEA agent have been selected to make up the ad-hoc/informal team which has been named the “Tunnel Task Force.”

Financial Investigations - DEA investigations have revealed that much of the money generated by Mexican DTOs from sales of all types of drugs is transported in bulk shipments back across the border. Mexican DTOs take advantage of the high volume of legitimate trade and traffic crossing the United States/Mexico border to smuggle drugs into the United States and bulk currency back into Mexico. In addition, a sophisticated financial sector combined with widespread corruption within Mexican society and insufficient regulatory and criminal enforcement makes disguising and moving drug proceeds within Mexico a relatively safe and simple task.

Bulk currency shipments continue to be the most prevalent method used by Mexican drug traffickers to move trafficking proceeds. In 2005, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) estimated that between $6 billion and $22 billion were returned annually to DTOs in Mexico. The extent of the problem is reflected in the Department of Treasury/Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s April 2006 unprecedented advisory to United States financial institutions regarding conducting business with Mexican casas de cambio. The advisory was issued so that United States financial institutions could better guard against an increasingly prevalent money laundering threat involving the smuggling of bulk United States currency into Mexico.

In an effort to address this problem, DEA’s Money Trail Initiative (MTI) formerly known as the Bulk Currency Initiative began in October 2004. The MTI is a Special Operations Division-supported multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency, OCDETF initiative targeting various DTOs that attempt to avoid law enforcement detection by smuggling multi-million dollar amounts of U.S. currency within and out of the United States to further their criminal enterprises. The MTI has identified new bulk currency smuggling techniques and demonstrated a tangible impact. As of July 10, 2006, the MTI resulted in the arrest of 418 defendants and the seizure of $65.4 million in U.S. currency, $14.5 million in assets, 59.6 metric tons of marijuana, 9.7 metric tons of cocaine, 126.7 kilograms of methamphetamine, 9 kilograms of heroin, 249 vehicles, and 77 weapons.

MEXICO-BASED DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATIONS

Drug syndicates operating today are far more sophisticated and dangerous than any of the other organized criminal groups in America's law enforcement history. These new criminals operate globally by establishing transnational networks to conduct illicit enterprises simultaneously in many countries. DEA focuses on the DTOs and their facilitators at every juncture of their operation—from cultivation and production of drugs, passage through transit zones, to distribution on the streets of America's communities. Our investigations and strategies seek to disrupt and dismantle these organizations by identifying and attacking vulnerabilities in their methods of operation.

DEA’s investigative and intelligence reporting indicates that Mexican DTOs pose the greatest criminal threat along the SWB. These organizations are the dominant transporters of illicit drugs across the SWB and are responsible for the majority of drug transportation and distribution within the United States. In addition, “gatekeepers,” who are located at geographically specific border entry points, manage the flow of drugs, aliens, and other contraband at their locations. Gatekeepers generally operate at the behest of a Mexican drug cartel and enforce the will of the cartel through bribery, intimidation, extortion, beatings, and murder. The Mexican trafficking organizations are also chiefly responsible for a sharp increase in deadly violence in the cities and towns on the Mexican side of the border. Mexican DTOs have become so powerful that they now control most of the primary drug distribution centers in the United States including the markets of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, and many smaller cities throughout the country. DEA investigations also reflect that Mexican DTOs have expanded operations to the east coast and are even smuggling drugs to Florida, an area traditionally dominated by Colombian DTOs.

A large number of DEA investigations are tied to DTOs based out of Mexico and Central America. Eighteen (18) of the 46 organizations on the FY 2006 Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) list (39 percent) are based in Mexico and Central America. At the close of the third quarter of FY 2006, DEA had 341 active Priority Target Organization (PTO) investigations linked to these 18 CPOTs, of which 28 were foreign Priority Target investigations.

Currently, the most powerful DTOs in Mexico are led by Ignacio Coronel-Villarreal, Joaquin Guzman-Loera, Arturo Beltran-Leyva, Juan Jose Esparragosa-Moreno and Ismael Zamada-Garcia. These leaders comprise the Federation (also known as the Alliance), a confederation of DTOs founded upon long-standing relationships among several of Mexico’s major drug kingpins.

Two other major DTOs also operate out of Mexico: the Arellano-Felix organization (also known as the Tijuana Cartel) and the Gulf Cartel. Although the Arellano-Felix organization and the Gulf Cartel have been weakened under the Fox Administration, they remain formidable organizations and continue to control the strategic border states of Baja California and Tamaulipas. Capitalizing on disruptions to the Arellano-Felix and Gulf Cartels, the Federation continues to wage a violent campaign of elimination against these rival cartels to gain control of these important transit corridors.

Violence - Incidents of violence and murder, much of which is drug-related, have remained at elevated levels in Mexico for almost two years, as the major Mexican DTOs in that country continue to vie for control of the lucrative drug smuggling corridors that lead to the United States. The year 2005 represented one of the most violent years on record in Mexico in regard to drug-related murders. For example, murders more than doubled in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas—from 65 murders in 2004 to at least 177 murders, including 19 active and former Municipal and Ministerial police officers, in 2005. During the first six months of 2006, there have been at least 1,003 deaths attributed to organized crime activity in Mexico. At this pace, drug-related murders in Mexico are set to far out pace the record 1,543 murders committed in 2005. Border cities such as Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, and Tijuana continue to experience much of the violence but cities in the southern states of Guerrero, Michoacán, and Sinaloa have experienced an increase in violence as the drug-war has spread to other regions of the country. So far this year there have been two unusual violence trends that have proliferated throughout Mexico: the decapitation of victims and the use of fragmentation grenades to attack police stations.

An interagency task force, known as the Border Enforcement Security Taskforce (BEST), is responding to the violence along the border. This task force initiative consists of personnel from ICE; DEA; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); CBP; Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; United States Marshals Service; United States Attorneys Office; Laredo Police Department; Texas Department of Public Safety; and the Mexican Policia Federal Preventiva. BEST is an ICE-led surge initiative designed to increase the flow of information between the participating agencies regarding violent criminal organizations and gangs operating in and around the Laredo area on both sides of the border. The taskforce targets vicious drug and human smuggling organizations that provide the fuel for violence in that area.

Los Zetas - One of the major security concerns along the border has been the rise of paramilitary style enforcement wings of the Cartels. The best known of these paramilitary-style groups is “Los Zetas” which was established in 1998 by Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, the leader of the Gulf Cartel, as his security branch. Originally trained by the Mexican military as a rapid response force to fight Mexican DTOs, Los Zetas defected to work for the Gulf Cartel. This force was initially assembled to kidnap and kill rival drug traffickers. More recently they have been responsible for numerous executions throughout Mexico, primarily in the border state of Tamaulipas, in efforts to protect their territory from rival cartels. Along with their enforcement duties, the Zetas are also responsible for the safe passage of Gulf Cartel drugs moving through the Mexican states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas into the United States. The Zetas also charge other DTOs a ‘piso’ or tax to move drugs through “plazas” that they control including the cities of Camargo, Matamoros, Miguel Aleman, Nuevo Laredo, Piedras Negras and Reynosa.

BEYOND BORDER INTERDICTIONS

One of DEA’s strategies is to incapacitate major international DTOs by disrupting and dismantling supporting organizations which provide transportation services for the command and control structure. DEA has initiated several extremely successful operations to attack the vulnerabilities of the transportation services of these organizations. These programs also disrupt the supply of drugs to the United States in resulting multi-ton seizures through targeted operations. DEA’s human intelligence program is at the core of these and other programs focused on SWB drug trafficking.

To fulfill its mission, it is essential that DEA have state-of-the-art technical equipment and interagency support to target communications at all levels of the drug trade. The new breed of international drug trafficker recognizes the necessity for state-of-the-art technology to ensure that profits, products, and communications are secure. Major DTOs, operating at the border and around the world, can track drug shipments on an hourly basis and maintain detailed databases on personnel, equipment, transportation, and logistical support. DEA must ensure that its abilities in specialized areas of intelligence gathering, critical to supporting the attack of DTOs, are unrivaled.

Southwest Border Initiative - DEA participates in the Southwest Border Initiative (SWBI), a cooperative effort by federal law enforcement agencies to combat the threat posed by Mexico-based trafficking groups operating along the southwest border. The SWBI attacks organizations by targeting the communication systems of their command and control centers. DEA works with the FBI, ICE, and U.S. Attorneys offices around the country to conduct court authorized electronic intercepts that identify all levels of Mexico-based DTOs.

Human Intelligence - The use of CSs has long been the backbone of DEA’s enforcement and intelligence programs. CSs gather information from sources not available to law enforcement officials; they can make observations in places where strangers would be immediately suspect; they can conduct undercover negotiations with cautious suspects; and they can gain firsthand, timely intelligence. CSs have proven to be the best sources of information regarding trafficking activities associated with the Southwest Border. Through several ongoing initiatives, DEA has intensified its efforts to rigorously recruit and utilize CSs along the Southwest Border.

While much of the work we do with CSs is understandably sensitive, I would like to note that CSs have proven to be the best sources of information regarding the existence and identification of tunnels. The sharing of CS information between the DEA Hermosillo Resident Office, DEA Nogales Resident Office, ICE and CBP Nogales, Arizona has resulted in the detection of several tunnels along the Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona border.

In Arizona, we have recently established a Special Field Intelligence Program, known as Operation REALITY CHECK. Established by the Phoenix Field Division earlier this year, the objective of the operation is to collect intelligence and positively identify Mexican DTOs operating on both sides of the Sonora, Mexico/Arizona, United States border and within the state of Arizona. This operation is dependent on the development and utilization of CSs as a significant intelligence asset. Our goals are to:

  • Identify the major CPOTs and DTOs using the Arizona POEs and other available Arizona corridors to transport their illegal narcotics into the United States, to include organizational structure; organizational leaders; transporters; sources of supply; distributors; methods and routes of transport; concealment methods; and money laundering methods.

  • Develop intelligence regarding methamphetamine trafficking organizations to include methods of operation, clandestine production in Mexico, locations of super-labs; stash locations on both the Mexico side and Arizona side; smuggling routes and methods; pseudoephedrine sources and trafficking.

  • Identify the most significant methamphetamine smuggling and trafficking organizations operating in Arizona with direct ties to Mexico-based sources of supply; and to identify and develop potential methamphetamine CPOTs and Regional Priority Organization Targets (RPOTs).

This operation encompasses the entire border area along the state of Arizona and the state of Sonora, Mexico. It focuses on the border areas to identify those organizations that are operating primarily to stash the illegal narcotics along the border and the parts of those organizations responsible for moving the drugs to stash locations in Arizona before distribution to other cities throughout the United States

Defense-In-Depth – DEA is an agency with global reach, having 86 offices in 62 countries. The effective execution of our operational strategy is dependent on our ability to work cooperatively with local governments to allow appropriate law enforcement action not only in the United States, but against smuggling organizations wherever they are operating. DEA has worked closely with Mexican authorities to develop a solid bilateral relationship. The capstone of DEA’s collaborative efforts is fully realized with the nearly 200 Federal Investigations Agency (AFI) officers working cooperatively with DEA Special Agents in Mexico as part of the Sensitive Investigative Unit (SIU) program. These SIU members are vetted, trained, equipped, and guided by DEA. An additional 110 AFI and other Mexican federal law enforcement personnel are being added to the SIU to conduct methamphetamine investigations. They will be fully vetted and trained by December 2006.

SIU operational success stories are common, but carry special significance because in every case, the host nation has exercised a capability that the DEA has helped them to build. While we give them the capability to address what is for them a domestic problem, it actually extends all the way to the streets of the United States. In each case, the SIUs have tackled complex multinational narcotics investigations that resulted in the disruption of trafficking organizations far from our shores. SIU units are organized based on their investigative responsibilities, which include high level investigations of major DTOs, chemical investigations, and money laundering.

But an effective defense-in-depth approach must extend beyond Mexico. Through a defense-in-depth approach, DEA is able to combat drug smuggling at the border by targeting major trafficking organizations and their illegal drugs before they actually reach the border. DEA’s Drug Flow Prevention Initiative involves multiple agencies in multiple countries targeting major DTOs (i.e., CPOTS). This initiative is designed to disrupt the flow of drugs, money, and chemicals between the source zones and the United States. The strategy DEA employs is to attack the organizations’ vulnerabilities in their supply, transportation systems, and financial infrastructures. The program supports the Department of Justice’s Strategic Goal of preventing terrorism and promoting the nation’s security and enforcing federal laws and representing the rights and interests of the American people.

The first two initiatives under this strategy were “Operation All Inclusive 1-2005 and 2006-1. All Inclusive 1-2005 concentrated law enforcement efforts in the Central America corridor in an attempt to interdict bulk drug shipments before they reached Mexico, where the drugs are normally broken down into smaller quantities for shipment over the border. Using available intelligence and knowledge gained from Operation All Inclusive 1-2005, DEA and the inter-agency community scheduled the next iteration of this operation for March and April of 2006. Using the combined abilities of the Special Operations Division, the EPIC, the Intelligence Community, and several ongoing DEA intelligence collection programs, Operation All Inclusive 2006-1 utilized pre-operational as well as operational intelligence to identify targets of interest and their vulnerabilities, in order to cause a sustained disruption to the flow of drugs ultimately destined for the United States. Seizure statistics for All Inclusive 2006 -1 include 43.77 metric tons of cocaine, 83.6 kilograms of heroin, $4,079,894.00 in U.S. currency, 19.65 metric tons of marijuana, 92.6 metric tons of precursor chemicals, and 131 arrests.

Terrorism - DEA does not specifically target terrorists or terrorist organizations, with the exception of those terrorist organizations, such as the FARC and AUC in Colombia that also traffic drugs. It is DEA's mission to investigate and prosecute drug traffickers and DTOs. However, some of the individuals and/or organizations targeted by the DEA have been found to also be involved in terrorist activities. Due to DEA's global presence and our strong relationship with local law enforcement through the DEA Task Force Program, it is only natural, that in the course of drug investigations and intelligence collection, DEA would develop intelligence and information concerning terrorist organizations.

We are acutely aware that international terrorist organizations could use well established smuggling routes along the SWB to smuggle dangerous individuals or weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) into the United States. We remain vigilant but believe that the major DTOs in Mexico would not knowingly facilitate the movement of terrorists or WMDs into the United States. To do so would bring significantly greater scrutiny upon their organizations than currently exists. However, the potential that Mexican DTOs or independent drug traffickers could sell their services, wittingly or unwittingly, to terrorist organizations to assist the movement of terrorists or WMDs into the United States is certainly a possibility.

Recognizing this potential threat, several years ago DEA mandated that all sources of information be questioned regarding their knowledge of terrorist activities. The sources are asked about terrorist activities on the first debriefing, their last debriefing and every debriefing in-between. Standardized, in-depth questions regarding terrorism have been promulgated to the field to assist in full and comprehensive debriefings in the area in case the source has knowledge of terrorist activities.

In addition, DEA has established a Terrorism Unit at the Special Operation Division responsible for coordinating all terrorism related information received from all DEA entities. Mechanisms are in place upon receipt of any type of terrorist or threat information, to ensure this intelligence is immediately passed to the Intelligence Community and/or the appropriate investigative agency.

Fugitive Apprehension - Operation United Eagles is a strategy aimed at aggressively pursuing, locating, apprehending, and/if applicable, extraditing key associates of CPOTs operating or living within the United States or Mexico. In August 2003, the DEA Mexico/Central America Division and the Mexican government collectively targeted six CPOTs operating in Mexico and coordinated a strategic plan against these organizations. A fugitive apprehension team was created and currently consists of 50 members of the AFI, who are trained by DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the FBI.

Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force – The OCDETF program was initiated in 1982 to combine federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts into a comprehensive attack against organized crime and drug traffickers. Aspects of the program have served as models for every major law enforcement initiative in recent years, such as the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, Weed and Seed, and the Anti-Violence Initiative. OCDETF's ability to foster collaboration among federal, state, and local law enforcement and its ability to effectively use prosecutors at the early stages on investigations, has been the driving force behind OCDETF's long term success.

INTELLIGENCE SHARING OVERVIEW

As a single mission agency, DEA has amassed unrivaled experience and has served as the nation’s leading drug law enforcement agency. During the aggressive federal law enforcement investigation following the September 11th terrorist attacks, the depth and value of DEA’s human intelligence program was acknowledged by both the federal law enforcement community and the Intelligence Community. With a section of DEA being a member of the Intelligence Community, its leading role in the OCDETF Fusion Center, its Special Operations Division and EPIC, and its State and Local Task Force Program, DEA is well positioned to share both its information and its insights on drug trafficking and its role as a national security threat. The ability to fuse DEA information with new and enhanced programs aimed at securing the border is critical.

El Paso Intelligence Center - One of DEA’s oldest and most important intelligence sharing initiatives that focuses on the SWB is EPIC. More than 30 years ago, EPIC was formed as a joint endeavor between DEA and the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, with the former U.S. Customs Service soon joining in the effort.

Initially, EPIC focused on the United States-Mexico border and its primary interest was drug movement and immigration violations. Today, EPIC continues to concentrate primarily on drug movement and immigration violations. Because these criminal activities are seldom limited to one geographic area, EPIC's focus has broadened to include all of the United States and the Western Hemisphere where drug and alien movements are directed toward the United States.

The following agencies are currently represented at EPIC: DEA, ICE, U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, ATF, the Internal Revenue Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Texas National Guard. Information sharing agreements with other federal law enforcement agencies, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and each of the 50 states ensure that EPIC support is available to those who need it. A telephone call, fax, or teletype from any of these agencies provides the requestor real-time information from different federal databases, plus EPIC's own internal database.

In addition to these services, a number of EPIC programs are dedicated to post-seizure analysis and the establishment of links between recent enforcement actions and ongoing investigations. EPIC also coordinates training for state and local officers in the methods of highway drug and drug currency interdiction through its Operation Pipeline and Operation Convoy training programs. EPIC personnel coordinate and conduct training seminars throughout the United States, covering such topics as indicators of trafficking and concealment methods used by couriers.

EPIC is a national resource, and the many reasons for its creation in 1974 are still valid today. The vast number of intrusions across our Southwest Border relate to drugs, aliens, weapons, and money. Terrorist organizations may attempt to take advantage of these transnational criminal groups or methods to try to penetrate our borders. EPIC looks to its many partners who together can accomplish a complex mission through improved coordination and synergy.

The Tri Centers Collection Management System was instituted as a means to enhance cooperation and information sharing among border intelligence centers. EPIC, the Joint Task Force-North (JTF-N), and Border Patrol Field Intelligence Center (BORFIC) joined together in the Tri Centers Collection Initiative to develop a collections requirement management system to coordinate and manage intelligence requirements. In response to the needs of its customers, increased requirements from the intelligence and homeland security communities, and a recommendation developed by the Justice Intelligence Coordinating Committee, the system is taking advantage of DEA’s capabilities overseas with the information that can be collected by Department of Homeland Security entities along the Southwest border.

A recent example of EPIC’s contribution to the understanding of the threats posed by the trafficking of drugs, aliens and other contraband on the SWB is the Gatekeeper Assessment released in April 2006. This special report was produced for the purpose of developing a comprehensive understanding of drug movement through specific entry points along the United States-Mexico border. This initial assessment addresses the difficulties that geography and terrain pose to United States law enforcement on the border and the myriad of trafficking opportunities resulting from diverse and complex transportation infrastructures. This report also provides an in-depth analysis of those DTOs controlling strategic entryways into the United States from Mexico. The assessment was prepared by an interagency team of analysts assigned to EPIC and has been shared with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies as well as the Intelligence Community and the military. The report has been extremely well received and efforts are already underway to conduct the next report in this series.

In a continuing effort to stay abreast of changing trends, EPIC has developed the EPIC Open Connectivity Project which is utilizing a series of phases to include requirements analysis, planning, design, acquisition development and implementation of DEA’s System Development Life Cycle to convert the EPIC Information System to a web-based infrastructure. As this project progresses, EPIC will be able to provide secure Internet access to tactical intelligence information for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies with authorized access. Through the Open Connectivity Project, EPIC will provide direct and remote electronic access for its customers, which will include: (1) Immediate access to EPIC’s multiple source data repository; (2) Comprehensive query results; (3) Multiple formatted reports; (4) Automated analytical support; and (5) Automated wash list capabilities. This project will further augment EPIC’s mission to support United States law enforcement and interdiction components through the electronic dissemination of intelligence concerning illicit drug and alien movements, weapons trafficking, and criminal organizations who are responsible for these illegal activities.

Intelligence Community - DEA’s Office of National Security Intelligence recently became a member of the Intelligence Community, further enhancing DEA’s ability to share information with the Intelligence Community. While mostly the formalization of an existing, informal relationship, this move will help ensure that DEA is fully committed to doing everything it can to contribute to the protection of our nation from all manner of threats.

OCDETF Fusion Center – OCDETF’s Fusion Center provides OCDETF member agencies a complete intelligence picture of targeted DTOs and their financial infrastructure through enhanced technical capability and human analysis. DEA’s leadership role and participation in the Fusion Center enhances DEA’s capabilities to uncover links between drugs and terrorists by maintaining a relationship with the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force. Investigative leads developed by the Fusion Center, based on links between drug trafficking and/or money laundering organizations and terrorists or terrorist organizations, are disseminated to the appropriate elements of the FBI, the Departments of Homeland Security and Treasury, and the Intelligence Community.

CONCLUSION

The DEA is committed to working both harder and smarter in dealing with the threat of transnational drug crime that affects our borders. We recognize that coordination and cooperation are essential elements of the National Drug Control Strategy, and we are working tirelessly to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our operations. DEA works many of these initiatives in conjunction with the GOM. Under the Fox Administration, the DEA found some reliable partners within Mexico, and we have made significant headway, particularly in the areas of information sharing, precursor chemical control, and attacking the methamphetamine trade. We look forward to continuing this partnership with the newly elected Mexican Administration.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss this important issue. I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.