Department of Justice Seal
Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
OCDETF Leadership Conference
Washington, D.C.
July 20, 2004 - 9:00 am

Thank you for that introduction, Jim [Comey].

President Ronald Reagan once said the fight against illegal drugs is a "war of individual battles, a crusade with many heroes."

You are fighting those individual battles. You are proving yourselves to be those heroes. You are the doers. And your lives are changing America for the better.

Two decades ago, President Reagan saw the desperate need for united government action to stop the flow of drugs. The result of this vision was the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Program (OCDETF).

The idea was simple: Use every level of law enforcement-from local cops and state prosecutors to federal agents and analysts-to stop the smuggling of illegal narcotics into America.

The creation of OCDETF signaled a new era of full-scale coordination and cooperation within the drug enforcement community. For two decades you have strengthened the bonds of teamwork, the sharing of information, the ties of trust. The results are impressive.

I am deeply gratified to be here. The OCDETF Program has never been stronger, and your work reflects America's highest ideals-ideals of sacrifice and duty-as well as dedication to liberty and the rule of law.

Few challenges to those in public service are more consequential than the fight against drugs. This nation was built on a fundamental belief: that every life is precious and every person is endowed with rights deserving of protection by the rule of law. We are fighting for a culture of life: a nation of equality that believes in protecting every human being-especially our children.

You know what is at stake. The men and women in this room understand and have seen firsthand the carnage left in the wake of drug use and drug trafficking.

The trade and use of drugs bring decay, devastation, and death. Drugs drive and sustain a culture of death-a culture that condemns dreams to the shadows and leads users down a path of self-destruction. Drugs enslave entire communities-targeting the young and robbing them of their futures.

Families are ripped apart. Education is lost. Innocent children and naïve adults become objects of personal profit and nothing more-prey to be captured, controlled, and tossed aside.

Two years ago, it was my privilege to announce our comprehensive strategy to reduce the supply of illegal drugs to this country-a strategy built around the proven capabilities and revitalized spirit of OCDETF.

Our strategy was predicated on the idea that the supply of narcotics could be stopped and drug use reduced if the justice community acted systematically to disrupt and dismantle the organizations most responsible for the nation's illegal drug supply.

In the two years since that announcement, we have made tremendous progress.

For the first time ever, we established a unified target list that identifies the "most wanted" of the drug trade-the major international manufacturers, smugglers, distributors, and money launderers who pose the greatest threat to the United States. On September 27, 2002, OCDETF produced the first "Consolidated Priority Organization Target List"-the CPOT List.

From there we directed our energies to attacking the upper echelons and top leadership of these drug organizations. Our efforts-your sweat, toil, and sacrifice-have led to a consistent stream of successes against the world's most powerful drug interests.

In 2003, law enforcement, working through OCDETF, dismantled eight of the international organizations on the CPOT List and disrupted severely the activities of another seven.

Among those organizations dismantled:

The spirit of cooperative law enforcement that OCDETF engenders has produced measurable and consistent progress in the fight against illegal drugs. Working together, and with our foreign, state and local counterparts, OCDETF participants have struck hard against the largest and most powerful drug organizations in the world:

And just last month, in Operation Busted Manatee, we targeted the cocaine-smuggling organization of Elias Cobos-Munoz. This CPOT shipped multi-ton quantities of cocaine through the Caribbean corridor into the United States, generating more than $145 million in drug profits. The 29-month investigation culminated with the arrest of Cobos-Munoz and 50 members of his organization. Your efforts led to the seizure of more than seven tons of cocaine in this operation.

Although final numbers will not be out until later this summer, early signs indicate that our CPOT strategy is working. The "Interagency Assessment of Cocaine Movement" published by ONDCP in May 2004, concluded that the flow of cocaine from South America actually dropped in 2003.

This Administration's balanced strategy is attacking the drug problem at every level: with prevention, treatment and enforcement. Without your work, however, we could not hope to curb the supply side of the equation.

The President has set ambitious goals for reducing drug use in this country-5 percent in the first two years of his Administration and 25 percent over five years. As of today, we have not only met our goal, we have exceeded it.

Now that we have refocused our mission, OCDETF investigations are again on the rise, and we are taking drugs off the streets. For new cases started since 2003, we have already seized more than 75 tons of cocaine, 3.8 tons of heroin, 1,700 pounds of methamphetamine, and 160 tons of marijuana.

To continue this success, we must continue to use every law enforcement tactic and prosecutorial tool we can. We must pursue and prosecute firearms violations, illegal alien re-entry, racketeering, public corruption, tax evasion, fraud, and any other criminal violation if it will assist us in disrupting and dismantling-permanently and completely-these criminal enterprises.

As part of our strategy, we have also improved our use of financial investigations to follow the money trail and break up drug-supply organizations and their distribution networks. In fact, you have proven it is not always necessary to bring drug charges in order to put major traffickers and their organizations out of business.

Money laundering, tax, and currency violations can be pursued successfully, even when drug charges cannot. Such charges are particularly potent against the facilitators who never actually touch the drugs.

Following the money trail can also reveal details about the criminal organization itself-its hierarchy, top leadership, and associations with other organizations. Sometimes it is the financial investigation that leads us to the drug trafficker and our priority targets.

Initial leads for new priority targets are welcomed from all our law enforcement partners. Evidence from the Secret Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has helped hone and guide our best operations. Whether you are an agent or officer, marshal or attorney, Coast Guardsman or local sheriff, OCDETF succeeds because it draws together the finest ideas and tactics the law enforcement community has to offer in order to anticipate, outthink, and adapt to the rapidly evolving world of illegal narcotics traffickers.

Over the last 20 years, such cooperation has proven that drug traffickers are particularly vulnerable to asset forfeiture. We know that drug suppliers require a steady stream of cash, aircraft, vessels, vehicles, and stash houses. That's why asset seizures and forfeitures are so effective in stripping drug rings of their profits and the access to the capital that allows them to expand operations.

On both these fronts-seizure and forfeiture-you are winning the individual battles and making a difference for America. For instance:

Our strategy, and your teamwork and dedication, are having a real impact across this nation.

For example, in Operation White Rabbit, we dismantled the world's leading LSD-manufacturing organization, headed by William Pickard. Since White Rabbit, LSD availability in this country has plummeted-with reports indicating a decline of 95% nationwide.

According to the Monitoring the Future survey released in 2003, LSD use by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders has declined as well, dropping nearly two-thirds between 2001 and 2003.

We have seen pseudoephedrine seizures drop and the number of superlabs decline by 41 percent after Operations Mountain Express and Northern Star. We have seen ecstasy prices rise in the wake of Operation Candy Box. These are clear indicators that our strategy and your work is saving lives and making America a safer nation.

You also are setting higher standards of accountability. It was once believed that we could not measure our results, but OCDETF has proven its commitment to monitoring performance and using its resources strategically to achieve results. And funding now follows results. So we must-and we will-stay committed to accountability, measuring performance, and achieving results.

The past 20 years of OCDETF's hard-won successes provide us with inspiration and lessons for the next 20 years. We know what works-communication, coordination, and cooperation.

We also know that intelligence-driven law enforcement stops crime and saves lives.

That is why we must continue to improve our intelligence gathering and analysis. Our commitment to intelligence-driven law enforcement has led to the creation of the OCDETF Fusion Center. The potential for this Center is tremendous.

The Fusion Center will bring together in one place all of the investigative data of the OCDETF agencies, as well as data from NDIC and FinCen. This unprecedented step forward will allow us-for the first time-to analyze simultaneously drug investigative data as well as financial data. Such a synthesis will help give us a more complete picture of how these drug traffickers really operate and evolve-from operations in the coca field and at the border to the street dealer and the facilitators at the bank.

Your work has made this nation stronger. You have proven that free people are not the slaves of circumstance. We are masters of our destiny. We are not the slaves of drug addiction or the powerless victims in the face of dealers in death.

Instead, you have shown again and again that free men and free women can unite, they can stand up, and they can fight-for the future of every child and the well being of every adult. You have proven yourselves defenders of liberty and protectors of the rule of law-honorable alike in what you give, and what you preserve.

God bless you, and God bless America.