Department of Justice Seal

Opening Remarks* of
Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson
OCDETF 20th Anniversary Drug Summit
July 30, 2002 - 9:45am
The Grand Hyatt Hotel
Washington, DC

     It is a real privilege to be here on this, the 20th Anniversary of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces. It truly was the opportunity to be a part of the OCDETF renaissance that lured me from private practice back into Government service.

     There is a reason the Attorney General called upon OCDETF to sharpen its attack against major drug trafficking organizations and their money laundering operations. Because, it is through OCDETF and through YOU that we have the greatest chance of reducing the supply of drugs in this country and of breaking the vicious cycle of drugs and violence that threatens our nation.

     In a very real way - it is YOU who hold the hopes and dreams of America. The hope of all Americans that they will not pay the terrible price of drug trafficking through the sacrificed lives and futures of their children, families and communities.

     The President has set ambitious goals to reduce drug use in America by 25% over the next 5 years. Only a multi-faceted drug strategy with prevention, treatment, and enforcement can get us there. But, it is OCDETF that this Administration is counting on for a major portion of the enforcement piece of its strategy.

     As such, OCDETF shoulders a great responsibility and duty to our country. To accomplish the President's goals, men and women on the front lines of enforcement must be expected to strive for the extraordinary. This means that those coordinated, multi-district cases that span the nation and the globe must become the rule - not the exception. you must reach out to all intelligence systems and to your interagency OCDETF partners to find the other targets across this country who are linked to your piece of the drug market. Simply put, If you are investigating cocaine or heroin - no matter where you are -- you ARE connected to other traffickers and to the systems that deliver their poison to our door steps. If you have a local drug distribution cell in rural America, elsewhere in America there is a transportation group that delivered those drugs, and another group that smuggled, stored and moved the drugs throughout America, and still another group that returned the drug profits to the international supplier. You must make these connections and prosecute every piece of the drug enterprise.

     You must also pursue illicit money systems with the same vigor as you have chased the drugs. After all, the traffickers are in this for the money. And if they aren't stripped of that money we will never end the constant recycling of these drug networks.

     You must leave no drug cell with the financial capability to begin anew. For those of you who don't have financial experience, you must find it in another OCDETF partner or you must develop it. No single agency will ever have all the money, agents or expertise required to take out all levels of the major drug supply enterprises. But it is precisely that point that has become OCDETF's strength -- forging into one great force the special talents that each of the 9 agencies brings to the table.

     And you can be stronger still if you take a page from our history and literally come together in key cities across the country -- agents, prosecutors and analysts, working day by day, side by side as one task force.

     I realize there are some who have expressed concern that the OCDETF emphasis on nationwide drug investigations fails to address the law enforcement needs of local communities. But that could not be further from the truth. Every local community, plagued by drugs, is invariably supplied by a neighboring community, state or region. And, in most cases, the drugs are brought into the United States from a foreign nation.

     With a firm commitment to the goal of making connections to those suppliers, and with the dedicated effort of those of you in this room, the local communities will continue to be the very seeds of the OCDETF program.

     But, where street level drug cases do not develop into OCDETF investigations, U.S. Attorneys and law enforcement must turn to those alternative resources designated to support investigations of violent offenders.

     By using ALL available resources - such as the $800 million that the Justice Department grants annually to local law enforcement - we will ensure that the needs of our communities and those of our nation are met.

     As I said before, OCDETF is not the answer to all of our drug problems in the United States. You are not in this fight alone. The American people also have a firm place on this battlefield. It is to them I would say, you cannot just look to police and schools to solve the drug problem. The American people must be an active part of the solution. look within yourselves. You must push to de-glamorize drug use in our society -- in the movies and in the choices of athletic and entertainment heroes. You must make personal - and moral - choices to reject and denounce drugs. You must work within your neighborhoods, and with your community leaders and legislators to make sure the youth of today are not the addicts or drug salesmen of tomorrow. It is only through the power of grass roots America that illegal drug consumption will become the same anathema to Americans as drinking-and-driving has become.

     I call upon each of you in this room to bring your experience and leadership to the table throughout this week. Use this extraordinary assemblage to discuss and work through the challenges and rewards that the OCDETF program holds for this country, so that everyone takes home the same message and means to carry out our important mission.

     It is a rare event that brings together such a distinguished assemblage within one room, with one goal. Within this room, are the policy and decision makers with the power to transform words into actions. Present today are more than 2/3's [68] of the Presidentially appointed US Attorneys, the Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Criminal Division, the new Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Directors, Commissioner and leadership of 9 law enforcement agencies and the very backbone of OCDETF -- the Washington Agency Representatives, Regional Coordinators, their Executive Assistants and the Lead Task Force Attorneys from across this country. With us, too, are those extraordinary men and women, who are present because they have distinguished themselves among the best and brightest of law enforcement and prosecutors in this country's fight to drain the lifeblood from drug trafficking organizations.

     This entire administration - from the President and White House Drug Czar John Walters, to our Agency Heads -- has demonstrated its support and commitment to you and the goals of OCDETF. The Attorney General has sent a clear and consistent message about what we all must do. And I can assure you that he will continue to do so. You have the tools. The days of OCDETF serving as a passive funding mechanism are over. We need to manage the OCDETF program in the field as it was originally designed.

     "Washington" can set the tone and priorities, but it is you who must pick up the mantle and carry it forward. It is in the field where the rubber meets the road and where the battle must be fought and won. I look now for your leadership and commitment to do great things.

     Theodore Roosevelt once said that "aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords". Your battle against the drug networks and their crippling impact on America is the right fight. And, the President, the Attorney General, and I salute each and every one of you.

*NOTE: Mr. Thompson frequently speaks from notes and may depart from the speech as prepared. However, he stands behind the speech as presented in written format.