I recently testified before the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade. Below is an excerpt from my testimony.
The nexus between drugs and terrorism is growing at a rate far faster than most policy makers in Washington, D.C. choose to admit, and far fewer will even talk about. In many ways this is not an entirely new threat; executives of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have testified before Congress on many occasions over the past thirty-five years on the important role that drugs play in funding terrorist organizations and insurgencies around the world.
Prior to the 9/11 attacks on our Nation, experts usually found themselves talking about the terrorist organizations based in the Western Hemisphere when evaluating the drugs/terror nexus, with an occasional mention of insurgent groups such as the Burma (now Myanmar) based, 10,000 man Shan United Army led by the notorious heroin trafficker Khun Sa, who dominated the sourcing of heroin to the U.S. for the better part of a decade in the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, after 9/11 the number of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) designated by our Nation that are involved in one or more aspects of the global drug trade began to increase dramatically.
Today the Western Hemisphere’s “usual suspects,” the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN), the remnants of the United Self Defense Forces (AUC) in Colombia, and the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) of Peru, all designated as FTOs by the U.S., European Union and many other countries, are certainly involved in the drug trade, but the FTOs involved in the global drug trade now include groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to name just a few.
The DEA has conservatively linked at least half of our Nation’s designated FTOs to being involved in one or more aspects of the global drug trade, but I believe that number to be far greater, especially when considering that there are so many ways to make hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in the industry. Generating contraband revenue from involvement in the industry can include the taxing of farmers, taxing the movement of drugs and precursor chemicals across borders, taxing finished drugs, providing security to traditional cartels at clandestine laboratories, cache sites and airstrips, the manufacture of drugs, the transportation of drugs, and the distribution of drugs.
I believe the DEA finds itself in much the same situation as its predecessor agency, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), found itself during the 1950s when the FBN’s Director, Harry Anslinger, was working hard to alert Congress, the Department of Justice and the Nation on the pervasiveness of Italian organized crime in the United States, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) J. Edgar Hoover was vehemently denying its existence. Many in our government, at all levels, simply do not understand the looming threat posed by the confluence of drugs and terror; therefore, they continue to ignore it.
Read the full testimony.