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U.S. Department of State

Bureau of the Month:

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
More Than Narcotics

By Julie Shinnick
The author is the bureau's public affairs officer.


Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Wendy Chamberlin.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Wendy Chamberlin, left, reviews civilian police program in Kosovo with Steve Hargrove, Dennis Coster, Brooke Darby and Yvonne Thayer.
Photo courtesy Brooke Darby

The work of the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, or INL, affects you, your family and your community daily. Consider the following facts from the International Crime Control Strategy issued by the White House in May 1998:

  • Illegal narcotics cost our society $110 billion annually, nearly five times the President's annual budget for international affairs.
  • International criminals defraud Americans out of tens of billions of dollars annually, particularly targeting the retirement savings of our senior citizens.
  • Americans pay higher automobile insurance rates each year because a billion dollars' worth of stolen cars are smuggled across our borders and resold in other countries.
  • "Snake heads" smuggle illegal Chinese workers into the United States under brutal conditions and force them to become criminals, prostitutes and slaves to work off their debt--as much as $30,000 to $40,000--10 times the average annual income in China.

This is a small sample of the kinds of problems that affect nearly every American community and with which INL grapples daily.

Americans are at greater risk from criminal acts committed abroad than ever in history thanks to innovations in technology and the globalization of world markets--advances that not only benefit Americans but favor international criminals as well as they expand their operations worldwide. Drugs and crime also threaten the political and economic stability of many countries important to the United States.

INL's mandate is to extend America's first line of defense through diplomatic initiatives and international programs that strengthen the commitment and abilities of foreign governments to deter these kinds of illegal activities.

Created in 1978 to contain the growing international drug problem, INL--then called the Bureau for International Narcotics Matters--has been leading U.S. efforts on international narcotics control with a wide range of programs designed to stop the flow of drugs and disable the criminal organizations responsible. This involves providing technical support and training to foreign governments on how to locate and eradicate drug crops, interdict drug production and trafficking activities and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.

To complement the reduction efforts, coca and opium farmers are offered economic incentives and alternative crops or employment instead of growing illegal drug crops. And INL supports demand reduction efforts overseas as the consumption of illicit drugs has skyrocketed around the world. Countries that once considered themselves immune to drug addiction have discovered that consumption is no longer just a U.S. problem. By making these countries aware of their own drug abuse problems, they are more likely to support and cooperate with the entire range of narcotics control initiatives.

Each U.S. Mission has a coordinator for narcotics affairs, usually the deputy chief of mission, who oversees INL assistance and coordinates U.S. law enforcement, diplomatic and other drug-related activities at post. In a number of countries, a separate Narcotics Affairs Section exists where the resource level is high or the country requires special attention. INL's Florida-based Air Division helps governments worldwide develop their own counternarcotics aviation programs.

Former Ambassador to Laos.

Former Ambassador to Laos Wendy Chamberlin and Assistant Secretary Rand Beers visit alternative development project in Houapanh Province.

INL has made important progress on the narcotics front. Last year the bureau's international drug control programs helped keep a potential 135 metric tons of cocaine worth over $23 billion in illicit retail sales from U.S. streets. This past decade, despite increases in Colombia, overall cocaine production in South America has declined to historically low levels thanks to successful coca reduction programs in Peru and Bolivia.

The two major drug cartels based in Colombia were destroyed in the 1990s, with the death or imprisonment of such fearsome kingpins as Pablo Escobar, Jose Santacruz Londono, some of the Ochoa brothers and the Rodriguez-Orejuela brothers.

This past October Attorney General Janet Reno announced the arrests of up to 31 major drug traffickers in a joint Colombian-U.S. law enforcement operation called Operation Millennium. The arrests included Fabio Ochoa, a former leader of the powerful Medellin drug cartel, and Alejandro Bernal Madrigal, a kingpin with close ties to the Tijuana and Juarez cartels in Mexico. This trafficking network was suspected of being able to supply as much as 30 metric tons of cocaine in a month.

To put this into perspective, one metric ton of cocaine is enough to keep several thousand addicts supplied for at least a year. At roughly $100 per gram, the average street price, each metric ton is worth approximately $100 million on the streets of the United States.

The U.S. government is working with the Colombian government to extradite these criminals to the United States to face trial.

Another counterdrug operation in the region at the same time involved 15 countries. Operation Columbus, coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Agency with local counternarcotics units, netted nearly 1,000 kilos of cocaine by destroying drug laboratories and interdicting truckloads of narcotics.

Assistant Secretary Rand Beers.

Assistant Secretary Rand Beers with Hmong students in an INL-funded school in Laos.
Photo courtesy Al Matano

Regional cooperation is key in these kinds of law enforcement operations. For instance, "ship-rider agreements" negotiated by the State Department allow U.S. law enforcement ships and planes to apprehend drug smugglers in the waters and airspace of other countries or to board foreign ships with flag state permission. These operations also underscore the devastating potential of international cooperation in combating drug trafficking and sending a message to international criminals that they have nowhere to run or hide.

But narcotics are not the only major criminal enterprise that threatens the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens. When the Cold War drew to a close, a new generation of global crime issues emerged: official corruption; cyber-crime and its threat to the nation's critical infrastructure; trafficking in humans, firearms and stolen cars; intellectual property theft, money laundering and other financial crimes.

To confront these additional threats to our national security, the State Department expanded INL's mandate in 1994 to include programs that combat international crime and support our law enforcement interests overseas. The President announced in May 1998 the first U.S. International Crime Control Strategy, developed by INL and other concerned U.S. government law enforcement agencies as a roadmap for a coordinated, effective, long-term attack on international crime.

Diplomacy is one way to achieve this goal by working in multilateral and bilateral forums to define global norms for effective criminal laws and by actively encouraging foreign governments to enact and enforce laws based on these norms.

For example, INL led the negotiations for an Inter-American Convention that applies U.S. laws and regulations on the use of firearms apply throughout this hemisphere and improves the ability of authorities to track illegal firearms transactions. INL is leading efforts to promote these norms globally, with particular focus on Africa as more guns find their way into Africa's tragic civil conflicts.

One of INL's most valuable anti-crime assets is the bureau's training program. Even when criminal laws are in place, many governments lack the capacity to enforce these laws. INL provides essential law enforcement training to police officers, judges, investigators, prosecutors, court reporters and customs and border officials. The training teaches authorities how to prevent, investigate and prosecute these crimes in their countries.

This training, totaling more than $30 million and involving 696 courses in more than 95 countries, is funded and managed by INL and carried out by over 20 U.S. government agencies, including the FBI, DEA, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs. Full-time liaison officers assigned from these agencies, assist INL in coordinating these programs, establishing, in the process, valuable working-level relationships with their foreign counterparts.

INL--working with INS, State's Bureau of Consular Affairs and other concerned agencies--is training a worldwide network of immigration and border officials to stop alien smuggling at its source. With the help of these foreign officials, U.S. investigators have crippled major alien smuggling rings stretching from China to Guatemala, Mexico and other countries. INL also plays a role in the interdiction of aliens at sea, securing their swift repatriation to their home countries while preventing them from reaching the United States.

INL also cooperates with the FBI, DEA, Customs and other federal agencies to fund and supervise International Law Enforcement Academies in Budapest (established in 1995) and Bangkok (1998). These regional centers train thousands of senior law enforcement officers from around the world on the best practices and techniques for conducting criminal investigations. Plans are in process to establish ILEAs in southern Africa and the Western Hemisphere.

And in peacekeeping situations, INL helps build and train local police forces capable of restoring law and order. This decade INL has deployed U.S. police officers and related specialists to serve in UN civilian police missions and bilateral programs in Haiti, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and East Timor, among other places.

In addition to training, INL pursues negotiations with foreign governments to support the needs of U.S. law enforcement where it operates abroad. These include mechanisms for exchanging information on bank accounts, mutual assistance in criminal investigations, return of stolen vehicles and extradition of fugitives.

INL's mission today tackles the vast range of crimes that originate in foreign countries and affect Americans here and abroad. Through diplomatic efforts and INL training and technical assistance programs, the Department of State will continue to carry out the President's International Crime Control Strategy as the 21st century begins.

Money laundering conference.

Senior adviser Rob Boone, left, attends a money laundering conference in Buenos Aires with Treasury's Mark Outlaw.
Photo courtesy Rob Boone.

Corruption: The New Old Issue

By Sherman Hinson
The author is a senior adviser in INL.

Corruption is as old as history. Moses taught the people of Israel, "Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous." Corruption is as new as this morning's newspaper, in far countries and our communities.

Until recently, corruption has been an unspeakable word in foreign affairs. James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, said his general counsel admonished him when he first arrived that "corruption" was identified with politics, and his board would object if he addressed it. With the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1978, the U.S. government has sought international agreement to outlaw business bribery of foreign government officials. Even when the Organization for Economic Coordination and Development completed its Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions in 1997, officials of many countries treated "corruption" as not to be spoken of further.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the relentless progress of globalization, this perception that corruption is "acceptable" has withered. In the 1990s, business sees bribery less as a tolerable local business practice than as an impediment to profitability. Economic development agencies recognize corruption as an important deterrent to investment and a drag on growth.

The President's International Crime Control Strategy, announced in May 1998, identified the special significance of corruption among justice and security officials. These officials uphold the rule of law for governments, establishing the framework for business and society to operate. When the President asked Vice President Gore to organize an international conference on this issue, he turned to INL.

Corruption had never been a separate policy issue, but Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Crime Jonathan Winer, who chairs the Sub-Group on Diplomatic Initiatives of the NSC's interagency Special Coordinating Group on Transnational Crime, took the lead. INL's Office of Planning, Policy and Coordination worked with the Department of Justice and Office of Government Ethics to develop working documents on principles and effective practices to promote integrity among officials. Posts in 80 countries delivered invitations and briefed foreign officials. Geographic bureaus brought in dozens of officers from embassies in Washington, D.C. to prepare. Functional bureaus contributed their experience in commercial, development, legal and other aspects of corruption.

Secretary Albright opened the first Global Forum on Fighting Corruption: Safeguarding Integrity Among Justice and Security Officials last February at Main State. The Vice President chaired many sessions with 500 participants from 90 countries, more than 50 of ministerial or higher rank, assessing corruption and its cures. The three-day conference included a unique panel of lay and clerical leaders from the Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faiths, who shared recognition that public corruption is incompatible with fundamental ethical values that are common to all of these world religions.

INL coordinated a first-ever U.S. International Strategy Against Corruption, consolidating anticorruption efforts of many federal agencies. The final report includes a CD-ROM appendix with hundreds of pages of background information from conference participants.

Corruption has now become a recognized priority element of the international policy agenda. The G-8 Koln Summit welcomed the Vice President's conference. The UN is addressing official corruption in the convention it is negotiating on transnational organized crime. The World Trade Organization is seeking agreement to promote transparency in government procurement. Organizations and groups in the Americas, Europe and Eurasia, Africa and elsewhere are confronting corruption in their regions.

Corruption is also an integral element of the INL mission. Four officers work full-time on anticorruption policy, diplomatic activities and programs. A new global anticorruption project in the international crime control assistance program is funded at just under $.5 million in FY 1999. These funds are promoting innovative anti-corruption efforts in several countries and include a $210,000 grant to support World Bank anticorruption diagnostic surveys in Mali, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria and the Philippines. The INL-chaired Sub-Group on Diplomatic Initiatives meets monthly or more frequently to promote exchange of information and coordination among U.S. law enforcement, commercial, development and foreign policy agencies.

Last February, the Netherlands offered to host a follow-up Second Global Forum on Fighting Corruption to be held in The Hague May 28-31, 2001. INL, the interagency sub-group and the Office of the Vice President are cooperating closely with the Dutch to make this event a success.

If a single word, other than "corruption" itself, dominated the Vice President's conference in February, that word was "unthinkable." Domestic politics in virtually all countries has changed with almost unprecedented suddenness and extent and visible intensity to address and resolve issues of public and other corruption that has become virtually universal. INL will continue to offer policy, diplomatic, interagency coordination and leadership to advance this important international agenda.