Homeland Security Department to Enter Drug War
By: Jim Kouri, CPP
Given the global context of the war on drugs — coupled with growing recognition since September 11, 2001 (9/11), of the nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism — the mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and efforts to forge effective interagency partnerships and coordination are increasingly important. This importance is leading to calls for more involvement in the drug war by the Department of Homeland Security and some of its directorates.
The US Congress recently asked the Government Accountability Office to examine, in the context of the post-9/11 environment, DEA’s priorities, interagency partnerships and coordination mechanisms, and its strategic plan and performance measures.
The GAO reviewed DEA policy, planning, and budget documents and visited seven of the DEA’s 21 domestic field offices and three of its seven regional offices abroad — sites selected to reflect diverse drug-trafficking threats, among other factors.
In addition, the GAO contacted other federal agencies — including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — and various state and local law enforcement and government agencies.
Since 9/11, while continuing its primary mission of enforcing U.S. controlled substances laws, the DEA has supported U.S. counterterrorism efforts by prioritizing narco-terrorism cases — drug-trafficking cases linked to terrorism– and by implementing other policies and actions, such as collecting terrorism related intelligence from confidential informants and foreign partners.
Also, the DEA is using a new enforcement authority to pursue and arrest narcoterrorists — even those who operate outside the United States. Because most of the nation’s illegal drug supply is distributed by Mexican drug organizations, DEA’s partnerships and coordination with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies that have border-related missions — ICE and CBP — are important.
However, an outdated interagency agreement, as well as long-standing disputes involving ICE’s drug enforcement role and DEA’s oversight of that role, have led to conflicts and the potential for duplication of investigative efforts.
Another interagency agreement, predating CBP’s formation under DHS, has led to operational inefficiencies, as reflected in the current process for handling illegal drugs seized at the nation’s borders. That is, drugs seized by CBP between ports of entry are to be referred to DEA, but drugs seized at ports of entry are to be referred to ICE. According to CBP, an updated agreement that specifies a standardized process would be more efficient and less confusing.
Further, in conducting the war on drugs, an important interagency coordination mechanism is the Special Operations Division, a DEA-led intelligence center that targets the command and control capabilities of major drug-trafficking organizations.
Another coordination mechanism is the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Fusion Center, which collects and analyzes drug-trafficking and related financial information and disseminates investigative leads. However, ICE is providing limited information to the Special Operations Division and is not participating in the OCDETF Fusion Center.
As a result, according to DEA, these coordination entities are not as effective as they could be. Resolution of these interagency issues necessitates involvement by both the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security, given that their respective departments’ component agencies have been unable to reach mutually acceptable agreements. Notably, because of links between drug trafficking and terrorism, DEA has established new partnerships with the Department of Defense (DOD), especially in Afghanistan, where they share intelligence and DOD provides airlift and other support for DEA operations.
The DEA’s strategic plan has not been updated since 2003; also, DEA’s annual performance plans do not provide results-focused measures for assessing the agency’s post-9/11 activities, such as counterterrorism efforts. A current and comprehensive strategic planning and performance measurement framework would help to ensure accountability by providing crucial information to DEA’s senior leadership for making management decisions and to the Congress and the administration for assessing program effectiveness. In February 2009, DOJ reported that it was reviewing DEA’s updated strategic plan.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s the former blog editor for the House Conservatives Fund’s weblog. Recently, the editors at Examiner.com appointed him as their Law Enforcement Examiner. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.
He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer for NewswithViews.com and PHXnews.com. He’s also a columnist for AmericanDailyReview.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He’s appeared as on-air commentator for over 300 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. If you wish to receive Kouri’s emailed law enforcement and intelligence reports, write to him at COPmagazine@aol.com. Simply write “Free Subscription” on the subject line.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.