Drug Enforcement Agency

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a component of the Department of Justice, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service among others. It is headed by a Director who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The current DEA Director, Mr. Asa Hutchinson, was appointed by President George Bush on August 8, 2001. DEA currently has more than 4,600 Special Agents, 680 Intelligence Analysts, and 4,100 support personnel including chemists, diversion investigators and administrative staff. The enacted budget for the DEA for 2002 is approximately 1.8 billion USD.

The DEA was created in July 1973 by President Nixon to consolidate and coordinate the U.S. government’s drug control activities. Of great concern to President Nixon and Congress were the growing availability of drugs in the United States, the lack of cooperation between various law enforcement agencies in the counter drug arena, and the need for better intelligence on international and domestic drug trafficking organizations. Forerunners to the DEA were the Bureau of Internal Revenue (1915-1927), Bureau of Prohibition (1927-1930), Bureau of Narcotics (1930-1968), and Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (1968-1973).

DEA is a single-mission agency, which represents a unified U.S. Federal Government response to the growing problems of drug abuse, drug-related crime, and drug-financed terrorism. The mission of the DEA is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the U.S. and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the U.S., or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the U.S.; and to recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.

In carrying out its mission as the agency for enforcing the controlled substances laws and regulations of the U.S., the DEA’s primary responsibilities include:

  • Investigation and preparation for prosecution of major violators of controlled substance laws operating at interstate and international levels.
  • Investigation and preparation for prosecution of criminals and drug gangs who perpetrate violence in our communities and terrorize citizens through fear and intimidation.
  • Management of a national drug intelligence program in cooperation with federal, state, local, and foreign officials to collect, analyze, and disseminate strategic and operational drug information.
  • Seizure and forfeiture of assets derived from, traceable to, or intended to be used for illicit drug trafficking.
  • Enforcement of the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act as they pertain to the manufacture, distribution, and dispensing of legally produced controlled substances.
  • Coordination and cooperation with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials on mutual drug enforcement efforts and enhancement of such efforts through the exploitation of potential interstate and international investigation beyond local or limited federal jurisdictions and resources.
  • Coordination and cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies and with foreign governments, in programs designed to reduce the availability of illicit abuse-type drugs on the U.S. market through non-enforcement methods such as crop eradication, crop substitution, and training of foreign officials.
  • Responsibility, under the policy guidance of the Secretary of State and Ambassador, for all programs associated with drug law enforcement counterparts in foreign countries.
  • Liaison with the United Nations, Interpol, and other organizations on matters relating to international drug control programs.

Cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies is essential to the DEA mission because the trafficking syndicates responsible for the drug trade inside the U.S. do not operate solely within its borders. Such cooperation was initiated in 1949 by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, one of the DEA’s predecessor agencies. At that time, two agents were sent to Turkey, which was the world’s main producer of morphine base, and to France, where the morphine was converted into heroin and shipped to the U.S. The number of agents working on international cases gradually increased, and by the 1960s and 1970s, federal law enforcement agents were conducting major international operations. International efforts at that time focused on reducing marijuana trafficking along the border with Mexico and on curbing heroin trafficking by members of the French underworld, a case that became known as the “French Connection.” In 1973, the year the DEA was created, the number of agents stationed in foreign countries increased.

By the early 1990s, drug syndicates possessed greater financial and technological resources than ever before, and as a result, had a greater ability to operate on a global scale. Drug syndicates began to search for new markets and expand operations in Eastern Europe, Russia, and other Former Soviet Republics. International cooperation among law enforcement agencies became even more crucial to effective drug enforcement. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001, DEA has enhanced cooperation with its foreign counterparts to target narco terrorist organizations and destroy their financial networks which fund terrorist acts around the world.

To support international investigations, the DEA is operating in 58 countries in 2002. DEA agents participate in five different law enforcement functions while working abroad:

Bilateral Investigations: DEA agents assist their foreign counterparts by developing sources of information and interviewing witnesses. Agents work undercover and assist in surveillance efforts on cases that involve drug traffic affecting the U.S. They provide information about drug traffickers to their counterparts and pursue investigative leads by checking hotel, airport, shipping, and passport records. In addition, when host country authorities need to know the origin of seized illicit drugs, DEA agents ship these drugs to the U.S. for laboratory analysis. The DEA also seeks U.S. indictments against major foreign international drug traffickers who have committed crimes against American citizens. In a number of cases, international drug trafficking syndicates were severely crippled when the DEA had kingpins indicted in the U.S. for violating U.S. laws and then extradited.

Foreign Liaison: The DEA actively participates in several international forums to promote international law enforcement cooperation. One forum is the annual International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) that brings together upper-level drug law enforcement officials from North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Far East to share drug related intelligence and develop operational strategies that can be used against international drug traffickers.

Institution Building: The DEA tries to help host countries fight the criminals in their midst by working with the people who have the integrity and the courage to pass strong anti-drug laws and build strong law enforcement institutions. For example, DEA’s successful operations in concert with the Colombian National Police (CNP) is an outgrowth of its long-term, persistent strategy to develop strong working relationships with reliable, honest governmental institutions. The DEA has excellent working relationships with law enforcement in many countries, and these partnerships have resulted in tremendous successes across the globe.

Intelligence gathering: The DEA, respected for its drug intelligence gathering abilities, supports its foreign counterparts’ investigations by providing information, such as who controls the drug trade; how drugs are distributed; how the profits are being laundered; and how the entire worldwide drug system operates at the source level, transportation level, wholesale level, and retail level.

International Training: The agency conducts training for host country agencies at the DEA training facilities in Quantico, Virginia, and on-site in the host countries as well.

DEA Moscow office opened in 1996 due to enhanced cooperation between Russian and DEA counterdrug agents. DEA Moscow office personnel work hand in hand with Russian counterdrug agents, specifically those in the Ministry of Interior’s Drug Control Department, the Customs Committee, and the Federal Security Service. DEA Supervisory Special Agent and Country Attaché Christopher C. Ogilvie heads the DEA Moscow Office.

To learn more about DEA link to: www.dea.gov.