William G. Bozin
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Executive Office of the President
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control
and the House Committee on Transportation
Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
September 12, 1996
I want to thank the Committees for the opportunity to testify today on the topic of drug interdiction. It is an honor to represent General Barry McCaffrey, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). He could not participate in this hearing due to a previous commitment to speak at the International Asian Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Criminal Enterprise Conference in Honolulu, as well as to speak out against Proposition 215, the "Medical Marijuana Initiative" that appears on the California ballot this November. This initiative is, in ONDCP’s viewpoint, an undisguised legalization ploy that undermines our drug prevention efforts. Mr. Chairman, on behalf of General McCaffrey, I want to acknowledge your personal leadership, and the leadership of both the House Subcommittee and the Senate Caucus, and to underscore the Director’s satisfaction in being able to support your antidrug efforts. Indeed, the Office of National Drug Control Policy appreciates the support of all the members of the committees of the 1996 National Drug Control Strategy and our collective efforts to reduce drug abuse and its consequences in America.
Interdiction: an integral part of the drug control strategy
It is important to note at the outset that interdiction is an important component of our integrated, systems approach to drug control, as set forth in the 1996 National Drug Control Strategy. It is a vital complement to our efforts to motivate our youth to reject illegal drugs and substance abuse, to increase the safety of America’s citizens by substantially reducing drug-related crime and violence, and to reduce the health, welfare, and crime costs resulting from illegal drugs. In fact, two of the strategy’s five goals focus on interdiction.
GOAL 4: Shield America’s air, land, and sea frontiers from the drug threat.
GOAL 5: Break foreign and domestic drug sources of supply.
Interdiction: From the source to the streets
Discussions about drug interdiction sometimes focus excessively on activities in the so-called transit zone. Just as interdiction is only one component of a multifaceted strategy, activities in the transit zone are just one part of a multifaceted interdiction effort that begins in the source countries, targets drug trafficking organizations around the world wherever their routes take them, concentrates on our borders and ports of entries, and then continues within our own nation to attack those who produce or distribute drugs here. Interdiction efforts must be viewed in this context. We can't focus merely on one aspect of our interdiction or in any one area without examining the totality of our across-the-board efforts.
Presidential review of cocaine interdiction efforts
After he took office in 1993, President Clinton directed a review of our international drug control efforts within the Western Hemisphere. The result of that review, completed in November 1993, was what is sometimes referred to as the "source nation" strategy. It is a three-pronged effort. First, it seeks to create and strengthen host nation institutions to give them the wherewithal to fight narco-traffickers with their own forces and resources. Second, it targets the leadership of the powerful drug cartels. And third, it calls for a gradual shift of emphasis in interdiction from the transit zone to the source nations in the Andean Ridge. The presidential directive that followed this review is much broader of course, but those three points are its core. This was the right policy decision at the time and it remains an effective strategy today.
Our interdiction efforts are paying off
I would like to briefly review some of the results of our interdiction efforts.
Drug cartel leaders have been effectively targeted.
In the past year, the top seven leaders of the Cali cartel have been arrested in Colombia. Six remain incarcerated; one was killed by Colombian police resisting arrest after he escaped from prison. Jose Castrillon Henao, a major Panamanian cocaine trafficker, was arrested this summer and awaits trial in Panama.
These arrests were the result of exhaustive, cooperative investigations conducted by multiple U.S. and international agencies. Drug trafficking organizations are feeling the effects of the loss of this leadership. These successes also underscore that our international counterdrug programs represent an across-the-spectrum attack on drug trafficking operations. We are not only going after the leadership of these organizations, but we are hitting them where it hurts -- attacking their profits. We are going after narco kingpins in the source countries, in the transit zone, and here at home.
International drug trafficking organizations are being broken up in the U.S.
A recent multi-agency case that was headed by the DEA and the FBI along with the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, and included 52 state and local police departments called Operation Zorro II, clearly illustrated the direct relationship of the international drug cartels in our violent domestic crime problem. In May of this year, the eight month investigation culminated in 156 arrests, the seizure of almost 56,000 kilograms of cocaine, and over $17 million. Zorro II was the first long-term investigation undertaken as part of the Southwest Border Initiative, a complex law enforcement response to the problems of drug trafficking along the U.S.-Mexican border.
The Peru/Colombia airbridge is being disrupted.
Despite funding below that requested, we have, over the past year, begun to see the initial signs of success with our source nation strategy. That strategy, of course, cannot be fully effective without the cooperation and commitment of host nations. In Peru, we have seen a commitment to interdiction which resulted in the destruction of over 20 narco-trafficking aircraft in the past two years, many with intelligence or tracking assistance from the U. S.
In addition, the Colombian Air Force has forced down and/or destroyed on the ground approximately 25 trafficker aircraft. Colombian law enforcement agencies have also seized almost sixty suspected narco-trafficking aircraft.
Throughout the region in the past 12 months we have increased our support to host nation interdiction efforts with two U.S. Southern Command-coordinated interagency operations -- Green Clover and Laser Strike. On any particular day there are about 20 U.S. Coast Guard, Customs, and DOD aircraft involved in source country counterdrug operations. Approximately 300 additional military personnel are deployed in South America supporting Operation Laser Strike. These military personnel staff Ground Based Radar sites in remote Andean locations, fly detection and monitoring aircraft, and provide operational and intelligence support to our allies participating in this regional operation.
The results of this multinational, cooperative effort have been stunning. The so-called "airbridge" between Peru and Colombia saw a greater than 50 percent reduction of flights as aircraft were intercepted and, in some cases, shot down. Approximately 50 narco-trafficking aircraft operating along the Peru/Colombia airbridge have been forced down and seized, or shot down. The cost of shipment has increased fivefold as pilots demand more money as their personal risk increased dramatically. Movement was reduced so drastically that there was a glut of coca base on the market and the price of the product being shipped fell by 50 percent overall and by as much as 80 percent in some areas.
U.S.-backed Colombian interdiction and eradication efforts are succeeding.
In Colombia this summer, in conjunction with operation Laser Strike, the Colombian Army and National Police began aggressive operations in the coca and opium growing and production regions aimed at reducing cultivation, processing, and the introduction of precursor chemicals to the areas. Initial Colombian reports indicated over 150 cocaine labs destroyed and the almost total disruption of the supply of precursor chemicals to the region. Press reporting also indicated the exodus of many out of work cocaine laborers from cocaine producing regions and other signs of significant disruptions in the cocaine economy of Colombia. The most significant indication that the cocaine industry in Colombia has been hurt is the large scale protests of cocaine workers in the affected parts of Colombia. In some areas, as many as 20,000 protestors have been reported in the streets. Unfortunately, these efforts have also generated violent responses from narco-guerrillas. In the past two weeks, rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have conducted sophisticated and deadly assaults on military bases, police units, and infrastructure in the Guaviare Province in response to the eradication campaign.
Eradication efforts of Colombian National Police (CNP) are also encouraging. Last year, the CNP successfully eradicated almost 9,000 hectares. These operations show the great courage and commitment of the CNP. The pilots of crop dusting aircraft are frequently subjected to anti-aircraft fire by narco-guerrillas as they conduct eradication operations. A number of their spray aircraft have been damaged and destroyed by ground fire. Unfortunately, eradication figures for the first six months of this year lag behind last year due to mounting security concerns.
The Colombian Armed Forces and National Police have clearly demonstrated their commitment to protecting their nation and its democratic institutions from the corrupting influence of narco-traffickers. We have been consistently impressed by this commitment and by the honesty of the Colombian Armed Forces, the National Police, and its commander General Serrano. These organizations deserve our continued support.
Conducting smarter interdiction operations.
In the transit zone, we continue to operate against well-funded, well-equipped, and increasingly sophisticated adversaries. Over the years we have maintained a robust capability in the transit zone through the cooperative efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs Service, the DEA, the Department of Defense, and allied nations. We conduct focused operations that are based on what we refer to as "cued" intelligence. That is, we develop collaborative intelligence on drug smuggling activities. This alerts us to probable drug movements and enables us to target specific ships, aircraft, and containers.
Consequently, drug traffickers have shifted routes and become more sophisticated.
Following our successes in the 1980s in the Western Caribbean, traffickers changed their modes of operations. They used to be able to fly twin-engine civil aviation aircraft from Colombia to small islands in the Bahamas and then air drop drugs into either Florida or our coastal waters for subsequent pick-up by fast boats. Their success was predicated on the "big sky" or "big ocean" theory and on our inadequate detection and monitoring capabilities. In response to this challenge, we developed extensive detection and monitoring capabilities to sort legitimate air and maritime traffic from illicit drug traffic. As our interdiction organizations and strategies became more effective, drug traffickers changed their routes and modes of transportation in response.
We have, as a result of the combined efforts of the Coast Guard, Customs, DEA, DOD, and cooperating governments in Central American and the Caribbean, essentially sealed the Western Caribbean approach to aircraft and now face a new and perhaps even more complex problem. Cocaine traffickers are challenging our interdiction agencies by approaching the United States indirectly through the Eastern Caribbean, the Mexico land route, and the eastern Pacific, or by hiding their drugs in commercial cargo shipments.
Just last week for example, more than a ton of cocaine with an estimated street value of $100 million was seized in the port of Houston. More than 1,000 cocaine bricks weighing 2˝ pounds each, had been crammed into steel rollers used to press pulp into paper. This industrial machinery was delivered by a Colombian freighter for transfer to another vessel headed for Tampico, Mexico. This cocaine probably would have been smuggled eventually into the United States via land routes from Mexico.
The challenge along the Southwest Border
Drug trafficking is now a major problem along the length of our 1,933 mile-long Southwest border. DEA estimates suggest that up to 70 percent of the cocaine entering the U.S., 50 percent of the marijuana available in the U.S., and 5 percent of the heroin sold in the U.S. comes across the Southwest border. These drugs are moving by all modes of conveyance across the border for eventual distribution throughout the United States. Smugglers are using the cover provided by increasing legitimate cross-border commerce and traffic. The Southwest border is the busiest border in the world. In 1995, 2.8 million trucks, 84 million cars, and 232 million people crossed it through 38 separate points of entry.
Responding to the challenge.
We have made progress over the past several years in response to this challenge. We undertook a series of initiatives that are already making an observable difference in controlling the border and deserve to be further developed:
Mexico’s partnership and commitment.
We recognize that neither the U.S. nor Mexico can respond to this challenge by itself. When we fail to work cooperatively, the traffickers use the border and sovereignty issues to their advantage. We can and are working together for our mutual interests, which are broad and growing.
Mexico is our third largest trading partner after Canada and Japan: $107 billion in two-way trade in 1995. The rate of growth in our trade is swifter than that with Canada or Japan. Trade with China, which receives more public attention, totaled only $57 billion in 1995 --half the total of our trade with Mexico. Our Southwest border states are principal beneficiaries of the increasing cross-border trade. About half of our exports to Mexico pass through or originate in Arizona, California, New Mexico, or Texas. Mexico is also the second-largest economy in Latin American, after Brazil. It is also a major destination for U.S. Foreign Direct Investment.
President Zedillo has an obvious commitment to political, legal, and institutional reform, and is dedicated to fighting drug trafficking which he has identified as the principal threat to Mexico’s national security. Under President Zedillo, Mexican drug seizures have increased notably, with marijuana seizures up 40 percent over 1994 and opium-related seizures up 41 percent. Cocaine, methamphetamine and precursor chemical seizures also rose significantly. Finally, legislation to address money-laundering is being enacted.
Mexico is also cooperating with the United States in the area of deportations and extraditions. In 1995, five fugitives were handed over to U.S. justice. To date this year, that number is up to ten. In the past 18 months, Mexican authorities have also arrested major drug kingpins, among hem Hector Luiz Palma, Humberto Garcia Abrego, Carlos Resendiz, Raul Valladares, Bernardo Araujo, and Pedro Lupercio Serratos. These arrests speak loudly of the Mexican Government’s resolve to fight criminal international drug trafficking organizations. Mexico has also participated in multinational counterdrug operations with Central American countries that have resulted in multi-ton seizures of cocaine.
Worker level binational task forces along the border have already realized counterdrug successes, and binational enforcement teamwork has significant growth potential.
Any unilateral actions that undermine Mexican counterdrug efforts will aggravate the drug trafficking problem along the Southwest border. ONDCP recognizes that developing effective cooperative drug law enforcement programs is a 10-year challenge for the United States and Mexico. We must build on the base of cooperation we are establishing with President Zedillo’s Administration, a partnership that is underscored by the formation in April of the U.S. - Mexico High-Level Contact Group on Drug Control.
Reinforcing our efforts.
We are consistently working to achieve better organization, better intelligence, and better technology. In the near-term, we have sought additional personnel. Increases requested for FY97, if approved, would add:
ONDCP’s plan of action.
Since General McCaffrey’s confirmation by the Senate on March 1, ONDCP has focused on the Southwest border problem. In early July, we hosted a Southwest Border Counterdrug Conference in El Paso, Texas. Secretary Rubin, Attorney General Reno and Director McCaffrey, along with concerned agency and bureau chiefs, listened to the frank views of more than 300 Federal, State and local enforcement officials. Those officials sent a clear message: while recent increases in resources and innovative practices have made a difference, we have not turned the tide. The four most significant Mexican drug trafficking organizations have developed complex criminal networks. With increasing boldness, more arms and greater violence, drug traffickers challenge the rule of law on both sides of the border.
ONDCP shares your commitment to shielding our frontiers, protecting our citizens, and blocking drug smuggling. We have formulated a plan of action that will produce a comprehensive Southwest Border Strategy by July, 1997. This strategy will stress a unified effort with decentralized execution and will:
The challenge of cocaine smuggling in the Caribbean
DEA estimates that 20 percent of the cocaine entering the United States comes through Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a natural point of entry because of its central location amidst major lines of communication in the Caribbean and the absence of customs inspections of what is, for all practical purposes, domestic cargo traffic between the island and the continental United States (CONUS). As a result of this increased drug trafficking activity in Puerto Rico, approximately seven tons of cocaine are smuggled each month into Puerto Rico, 80 percent of it destined for CONUS. Colombian drug traffickers find willing accomplices in the 200,000-300,000 illegal Dominican aliens residing in Puerto Rico. These traffickers charge only 20 percent of the cocaine they smuggle in payment, compared to the 50 percent often demanded by Mexican traffickers.
The consequences of this drug trafficking have been devastating to Puerto Rico. Cocaine sold in Puerto Rico is cheaper than anywhere else in the United States. Violent gangs control almost 1,000 drug distribution points throughout the island and victimize more than 300 public housing areas. The mean age of gang members is 14 - 17 years. Puerto Rico has a higher per capita murder rate than any other state or territory in the United States. Money laundering is big business there. Officially declared transactions by Dominican couriers in Puerto Rico in 1993 totaled $1.2 billion -- 17 percent of the Dominican GNP. The recently established Puerto Rico - U.S. Virgin Islands HIDTA is helping Governor Pedro Rosselló and his administration face up to these complex problems.
Responding to the challenge.
In response to the threat posed by international drug trafficking in the Caribbean region, the Puerto Rico - U.S. Virgin Islands HIDTA formed 10 task forces and a supporting intelligence coordination center. This effort involves 26 agencies and over 600 federal, state and local personnel, who work to combat drug trafficking and related crimes (e.g. money laundering). The goal is to significantly affect drug trafficking and transshipment.
Although this HIDTA effort was only recently initiated -- it has only eight months of operation -- several initial successes indicate that this interdiction effort will make a measurable impact on drug trafficking in the region. During FY96, this HIDTA reported that HIDTA participants arrested 417 individuals; confiscated 14,500 kg of cocaine, 11 kg of heroin, and 13,598 lb of marijuana; and seized $8 million in assets and currency.
This year, Customs began Operation Gateway, which is designed to close the U.S. back door to illicit drug smuggling. Operation Gateway provides a multi-disciplinary approach that encompasses all facets of interdiction, including: expanded marine and air enforcement, heightened cargo examinations, and expanded small vessel searches. In support of Operation Gateway, law enforcement agencies are deploying enhanced technology, additional inspection and investigation support, and resources necessary to meet the expanded threat.
We are working closely with our Caribbean allies through a number of venues to obtain their support and cooperation as we develop coalitions of democracies to combat this menace.
RADM John Shkor, Director of JIATF-East recently hosted an orientation program for interdiction and law enforcement operating agencies of our Caribbean allies. General McCaffrey took the opportunity to address the participants and was enthusiastic to see 32 nations and territories from the Caribbean area represented. All recognized the need to work together to form coalitions of democracies to deny narco-traffickers safe havens in the Caribbean. Other topics included cooperative multi-national interdiction operations involving U.S. and host nations military and law enforcement forces and the exchange of counternarcotics operational intelligence information.
Both JIATF-East and the Coast Guard conduct multinational counterdrug operations in the Caribbean. We currently have bilateral law enforcement agreements in place with nineteen countries in or bordering the Caribbean. Negotiations are underway with an additional six as well as working to expand those agreements already in place.
These regional initiatives, joint operations, and counterdrug agreements act as substantial force multipliers for interdiction forces operating in the transit zone, serve to deny traffickers traditional "safe havens" and strengthen the democratic institutions of our allies in the region.
The three JIATF’s were created as a result of Presidential Decision Directive 14 and the subsequent review of the Nation’s command and control and intelligence centers involved in counternarcotics operations. The National Interdiction Command and Control Plan (NICCP), signed by the Director of ONDCP, established the three JIATF’s and the Domestic Air Interdiction Coordination Center (DAICC). By building on the expertise and lessons learned from the myriad of pre-1994 counterdrug command and control centers, JIATF’s were established as national task forces. This structure recognizes the force multiplier effect that is realized from truly multi-agency organizations. The result is a substantially streamlined interdiction command and control structure that is more effective and efficient.
The JIATF’s plan, conduct, and direct interagency detection and monitoring, and sorting operations of air and maritime smuggling activities until hand-off to appropriate U.S. or other nation law enforcement authorities for apprehension, seizure, and prosecution.
Interdiction forces available to JIATF-East for operations in the Caribbean include DOD, Customs, and Coast Guard aircraft and ships. Primary air surveillance support comes from the two U.S. based Relocatable Over the Horizon Radars (ROTHR). This sophisticated and very capable aircraft detection and monitoring system is supplemented by fixed base radars at key locations, TAGOS radar ships and deployable Air Force and Customs airborne radar systems.
Since its establishment in October, 1994 JIATF-East has contributed to the seizure, jettison, or aborting of nearly 120 metric tons of cocaine and 90 metric tons of marijuana. Most notable was the seizure of over eleven metric tons of cocaine aboard the F/V Nataly I in July of 1995. Most recently was the seizure of approximately 2,200 kilos aboard the F/V Oyster. Both these, and many other similar busts, are the result of the effective cooperative efforts of U.S. and allied nations intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies.
Southern Florida continues to be vulnerable
Despite, the successful disruption of the air bridge that used to bring cocaine from Colombia to the Southeastern United States in the last decade, South Florida continues to be a key site for drugs coming into the U.S. and for money moving out. On August 1st, 6,043 pounds of cocaine were found in a shipment of coffee beans in the Port of Miami. On the 5th, another 2,896 pounds were found on a ship on the Miami River. On August 28th, 2,080 pounds of cocaine were found in a mobile home on a roadside in Miramar. At the Miami Airport, couriers are smuggling heroin by ingesting condoms containing several pounds of the drug. Each courier carries heroin with a wholesale value of up to $300,000. Arrests of couriers this year are already 60 percent higher than last year’s total. Clearly, traffickers have not quit their assault on Miami, they have just changed their tactics and the volumes and types of drugs being smuggled.
Responding to the challenge.
Established in 1990, the Miami HIDTA applies intelligence, unique capabilities and jurisdictions of the full range of Federal, State, and local agencies to bear against the drug problem in Southern Florida. In FY96, Miami HIDTA interagency coordinated law enforcement operations resulted in 72 money laundering and narcotics organizations dismantled and 145 disrupted, and over $118 M in cash and assets were seized.
We need your partnership and support
Our comprehensive interdiction efforts are effective; interdiction clearly works. In the past four years, U.S. agencies have seized 460 metric tons of cocaine. These seizures are expensive to the traffickers; our successes hurt them. The sobering news is that only about a third of the cocaine in the pipe-line is seized before entering the U.S. We also face other emerging challenges. Global production potential of heroin, for example, reached a record high last year of 450 metric tons. The U.S. demand for heroin is currently about 10 tons, less than two percent of the global production potential.
Our strategy is sound.
This underscores the need to implement the 1996 National Drug Control Strategy with its balanced approach to the supply and demand aspects of the problem. This strategy faces up to these challenges. The 1997 Federal counterdrug budget increases our interdiction resources by 7.3 percent. It also increases our international programs by 25.4 percent. These increases provide for meaningful reinforcement of our agencies and bureaus serving on the Southwestern border and will strengthen our already effective efforts in South America and in the Caribbean.
We should be optimistic.
ONDCP is optimistic about our interdiction posture. The Federal effort is better organized. Federal, State and local enforcement cooperation has never been better. Our agents and officials have been learning by doing. The Government of Mexico wants to work with us on this problem, and we are in the process of building the healthiest, most mutually beneficial relationship we have ever had. As a nation, we are finally paying adequate attention to the problems created by the illegal drug trade along our Southwest border.
We should also be realistic.
We should also be realistic about the magnitude of the challenge of shielding our air, land, and sea frontiers from the drug threat. Drug traffickers will probe any weakness along our 5,525 mile-long borders with Canada or our 1,933 mile-long border with Mexico. They will seek to introduce drugs over our 88,633-miles of shore lines. They will consider using our 13,228 airports and hiding couriers among the more than 60 million air passengers that enter the U.S. each year. They will attempt to hide drugs in the more than 400 million tons of imports that enter the U.S. through our 50 busiest seaports each year -- the cocaine they traffic represents less than one millionth of that volume. They will also seek to use the nine million containers that enter the U.S. to hide their drugs.
International interdiction programs are a complex, but essential component of our counterdrug strategy. We are focused on interdiction through the spectrum of drug trafficking -- at the source, in the transit zone and at the border. This Administration remains committed to maintaining our comprehensive efforts to interdict drugs, reduce their availability and ultimately, their usage by our citizens.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.