Museum Exhibit on Drugs and Terrorism
I-beams and personal effects from the World Trade Center, chunks of limestone from the Pentagon, opium poppies from Afghanistan, crack cocaine vials: these were just a few of the items loaded, ever-so-carefully, onto one 50-foot, 18-wheeler at the DEA Museum in Arlington, Virginia, in early September, and shipped 1400 miles to Dallas, Texas. Thus began a national touring exhibit of Target America: Traffickers, Terrorists, and You, a production of the DEA museum that highlights the link between drug sales in the United States and the funding of terrorism around the world.
The traveling exhibit opened at the Science Center in Dallas on September 23rd. Speakers at the opening included former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani and DEA Administrator Karen Tandy. Ms. Tandy described the connection between drugs and terrorism in a few words: "Drug money is the slush fund of mass murder."
Drug money "buys power to destabilize countries," she told the audience of more than 300 leaders from the political, law enforcement, and corporate worlds in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. "It's a marriage of convenience. Drug traffickers benefit from the paramilitary skills, access to weapons, and the links to other clandestine groups that terrorists provide. Terrorists, for their part, gain an enormous revenue stream and an expertise in money laundering that's essential to hiding their assets."
DEA Museum Director Sean Fearns said that the exhibit, which originally opened at the DEA headquarters museum a year after the attacks of September 11, 2001, had attracted over 12,000 visitors in its first year. "The exhibit communicates a powerful message," he said. "The money Americans hand over to street dealers is funding the very kind of terrorist acts that took the lives of over three thousand Americans two years ago. Many people have seen the exhibit at our headquarters, but there are many others who might appreciate the chance to see it closer to where they live."
The 1500-square-foot touring exhibit will be at The Science Place in Dallas until March 21, 2004, before traveling to other cities, including New York, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and cities on the West Coast. The first leg of the touring exhibit was funded in part by the Texas Ford Dealers Association through a contribution to the Association of Former Federal Narcotics Agents DEA Museum Foundation and also by an anonymous contribution of $80,000.