Politicians Use Concern Over Terror To Advance Other Goals
Political Opportunism Abounds: Elected Officials Use Terrorism Excuse To Increase Drug War Funding
Tightened Borders Having An Impact: Baltimore Reports Higher Narcotic Prices, More Violence And Drug-Related Crime
The war on terror has had an impact on the supply of drugs
reaching the US, at least in some places. The Baltimore Sun
reported on Nov. 7, 2001 (
"City Police To Redeploy Officers") that
"Several homicides and shootings in the last month are
apparently tied to higher wholesale narcotic prices and poorer
quality on the streets, both of which have caused
'friction' between drug gangs, police officials
said." The Sun continues:
Tightened security at the US border has definitely led to increased seizures of drugs, according to all reports. For example, as the Eugene Register-Guard reported on Nov. 6, 2001 ( "Drug Smugglers Returning To Borders"), "Customs Service seizures of marijuana between Sept. 24 and Oct. 25 are up anywhere from 58 percent along the South Texas border to 394 percent in Arizona. Altogether, more than 32,000 pounds were confiscated in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. In Southern California, where the records are kept differently, an 11 percent increase in marijuana seizures was recorded in the first 25 days of October. Nearly 31,500 pounds were seized. The situation is similar at the U.S.-Canadian border, though the seizures are in far smaller quantities than at the Southwest border, said Dean Boyd, a customs spokesman in Washington."
Since Sept. 11 Drug Smuggling Into US Has Gone Down ... Or Up ... Or Both ...
The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that drug trafficking through the Caribbean increased dramatically in the month following the Sept. 11 events. As the Baltimore Sun reported on Oct. 18, 2001 ( "Caribbean Drug Traffic Up 25%, US Says"), "Illegal drug trafficking in the Caribbean is up 25 percent, probably because traffickers see an opportunity with U.S. law enforcement focused on terrorism, Drug Enforcement Administrator Asa Hutchinson said yesterday. Hutchinson could not say whether the rise would translate into more drugs coming into the United States. But he said that like other law enforcement agencies, DEA has been stretched thin since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "
Hutchinson made his comments in a pitch for additional funding for the drug war. As the Sun reported, "'We've got to have the funds to replenish any assets that are taken away from the Caribbean,' Hutchinson said. Without more money, he said, it is doubtful the United States will meet its 2002 goal of intercepting 18 percent of illegal narcotics headed for U.S. shores. Last year, federal agents seized approximately 11 percent of drugs. Hutchinson's remarks about funding relate mainly to the Coast Guard, the agency primarily responsible for drug enforcement along the coast. The Coast Guard has estimated that as much as 75 percent of its assets - personnel and boats - have been pulled away from drug interdiction for anti-terrorist patrols."
Not all drug warriors are reading from that same script. The Florida Ledger reported on Oct. 19, 2001 ( "After Attacks, Drug Smuggling Tougher") that "In tightening security to counter terrorism, Florida is putting the squeeze on drug smugglers. The state's drug czar, Jim McDonough, on Thursday assured a gathering of Polk County business, civic and law enforcement leaders that the rising price of drugs like cocaine was evidence of a withering drug trade." The Ledger reports that "Beefed-up security at airports, seaports and border crossings has reduced the flow of hard drugs, such as cocaine, which now costs an average $26,000 per kilo, up from $18,000 to $19,000 before Sept. 11, McDonough said. There's more going on than a show of uniforms and guns, he said. Maritime trade laws that once were lax are now being enforced, and there is closer scrutiny of unidentified aircraft over Florida. 'It's getting tougher and tougher to get the drugs in,' said McDonough, a retired Army colonel and former strategic planner at the Office of National Drug Control Policy in Washington."
Thus reality may lie somewhere between. It is certainly true that drug seizures have increased since Sept. 11, at least according to the US Customs Service. As the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported on Oct. 18, 2001 ( "Drug Seizures Rise At Border"), "Stepped-up enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border including Calexico's port of entry immediately following the terror attacks of Sept. 11 had cut heavily into the drug trade. But more than a month after the attacks, the border drug business is again on the rise as impatient smugglers have begun to move their supply." According to the Desert Sun, "The numbers show that drug seizures from late September through Saturday were nearly double that of the total in the two weeks following the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. From Sept. 30 to Oct. 13, U.S. Customs agents made 105 drug seizures compared to 63 from Sept. 9 to Sept. 22, said customs officials." The impact of these seizures has been minimal, however. "'We have heard about what's happening at the border but it really has not changed anything around here,' said Palm Springs Narcotics Task Force Agent Greg Jackson. 'I don't think any narcotic agents have seen a drop in the amount or price of drugs that are on the streets.'
As some officials concentrate on the details of the US war on terrorism, others are using the opportunity to advance another agenda: heightening the Drug War. For example, according to the Newark, NJ Star-Ledger on Oct. 2, 2001 ( "US Senator Tells Irvington That Cartels Are Decimating The Town"), Senator John Corzine (D-NJ), argued that "'The war on drugs should be fought just like terrorism,' Corzine said, noting that drugs have disproportionately affected communities like Irvington. The senator said the war on drugs has been a failure. But now is the time to use the resolve created as a reaction to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center to fight drugs in the United States, he said. That means the government should use similar tactics in ferreting out terrorists -- infiltration and intelligence gathering -- to ferret out drugs."
In a similar vein, Rep. Robert Portman seems to be trying to label drug users as un-American. As the Cincinnatti Post reported on Sept. 28, 2001 ( "Patriots Don't Use Heroin"), "With that in mind, government leaders are trying to tap into the patriotic fervor sweeping the country and convince Americans that illegal drug use is not only dangerous behavior. It's un-American. 'By stopping these drug traffickers, we are stopping the flow of cash used to fuel these terrorist cells,' said Ohio Congressman Rob Portman, the Terrace Park Republican." The congressman is " one of three co-chairmen of an anti-drug task force appointed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The 48-member panel will meet regularly and advise the speaker on issues such as reducing the demand for illegal drugs and stemming their flow into the United States."
Common Sense for Drug Policy, in a recent installment of its public service advertising campaign, takes on these issues and asks the question, "Is the funding of terrorist groups an unintended consequence of drug prohibition?" For additional information on the links between prohibition and narcofunded terrorism, read "Drug War and Terrorism: Lessons To Be Learned" and also "Drugs and Terrorism."
In early October 2001, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime
held a hearings on links between terrorism and drug trafficking,
at least trafficking that can be attributed to or linked with
the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. Prepared statements by one
member of the Committee and two executive branch officials is
available as PDF files through the following links:
This is a public service advertisement from Common Sense in Fall of 2001 dealing with the question of prohibition's funding of terrorism, "Is The Funding Of Terrorism Another Unintended Consequence Of Drug Prohibition?" .
Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Frontiers) has a great deal of information on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and Central AsiaBack to top