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Bureau of the Month:

On the front lines:
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

By Sherman Hinson

The author is a narcotics specialist in INL.



On the bridge. Standing on the “new” Mostar Bridge spanning the Drina River in Bosnia is INL’s Robert Gifford.

nce, diplomacy was simpler. Diplomats and foreign ministries dealt with war and peace. Asking help from another government to enforce criminal law was the exception, as when the United States asked Bolivia to extradite Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid a century ago. Crime was a country’s internal affair. Diplomats did other things.
That world has changed utterly. Butch and Sundance are to modern transnational criminals what the local telephone operator is to the Internet. The immediate personal danger Americans face at home from illegal drugs and other crimes that originate abroad is what INL is about.

Drugs in foreign policy

For decades, State played a central role in treaties and organizations dealing with traffic in illegal drugs. A Bureau of International Narcotics Matters (INM), however, was created only in 1978. INM (changed to INL in 1995) has an unusual, dual function as a policy shop and as an assistance agency.
INL promotes measures in our foreign relations to prevent the production of illicit drugs and their smuggling to the United States and advises the secretary and other bureaus on drug control. In concert with domestic drug law enforcement and regulatory agencies, INL represents America in international bodies dealing with drugs. It prepares the annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report on global drug production, traffic and abuse, and manages the drug control certification process required by a 1986 law.

Eradicating. Engaged in Thailand opium eradication program are Peter Loverde, left, NAS field project coordinator, and Dennis Droney, American consul, Chiang Mai.




Inspecting. INL’s John Brennan inspects an illegal poppy field in Burma.

Drug control assistance
Since 1978, INL has also conducted the International Narcotics Control part of the foreign assistance program, providing training, technical and material support to institutions of other countries responsible for programs against illegal drug production, traffic or abuse.

In poppy fields. Visiting legal poppy fields in Tasmania are INL’s Kimberlee Fordyce, far left, along with U.S. and host-government scientists.

With $195 million for drug control (and an additional $20 million for criminal justice programs) in FY 1997, INL has activities in 85 countries. Most are small and limited. For example, INL funds DEA, Customs, Coast Guard or other agencies to train foreign officials to inspect aircraft, vessels, vehicles, cargo or passengers, to serve as drug investigators or as drug abuse treatment specialists. Each U.S. mission has a coordinator for narcotics affairs (usually the DCM in major drug source or transit countries) who oversees INL assistance and coordinates U.S. drug law enforcement, diplomatic or other drug-related activities.
In a few major source or transit countries, multimillion-dollar INL projects assist governments in preventing drug production, traffic and abuse. Separate narcotics affairs sections (NAS) responsible for such larger projects exist today in the Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Laos, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Thailand and Venezuela. (INL positions also exist in Miami for the Caribbean, at USEU Brussels and for law enforcement/drug control programs in Bosnia, Russia and, starting this summer, South Africa.)
The smallest NAS may consist of one narcotics control specialist or generalist assigned to an INL slot and a few host-country nationals handling a few hundred thousand dollars annually. In the primary cocaine source countries-Peru, Bolivia and Colombia-NAS directors supervise dozens of employees-FSOs, contractors, DOD aviators working for INL, and local nationals, managing millions annually.
Once thought of as basically a police program, the INL mandate was broadened by Presidential Decision Directive 14 of November 1993 to include what formerly was military and economic/security assistance for drug control. INL assists not only police, but also prosecutors and courts, military elements with drug control missions, rural development programs to reduce cultivation of illicit drug crops and drug education programs. NASs work in close cooperation with DEA, AID, DOD and other agencies to support the national drug control strategies of those governments.
Many countries also receive assistance from State’s only aviation unit, 46 helicopters and 18 fixed-wing aircraft owned and supported by INL. Most of the helicopters are operated by local authorities in Bolivia and Peru.

On tour. Senior adviser Jim Dandridge, left, accompanies Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth on an overflight of coca fields in the Upper Huallaga Valley of Peru in October 1995. The INL helicopter in the background is operated by Peruvian police.

Fixed-wing aircraft include Ayres TurboThrush “crop dusters” which spray herbicides on illicit drug crops, most recently in Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and Guatemala. An INL regional aviation support office at Patrick AFB, Fla., supervises a corporate contractor that provides logistics support, some maintenance personnel and pilots for spray aircraft.

In processing. INL staff from the Office of Criminal Justice help process illegal Chinese aliens on Wake Island in August 1995.

International crime
In 1993-94, INL’s traditional focus on drugs was broadened to include “thugs”: money launderers, traffickers in stolen vehicles, arms or other contraband, alien smugglers, and other forms of transnational crime. INL’s name was changed in early 1995 to reflect this broader scope.
INL now manages Support for East European Democracy (SEED) and Freedom Support Act (FSA) programs to help states in Central Europe and the former Soviet Union develop criminal justice institutions appropriate to democratic societies. INL worked with the FBI to establish the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Budapest and is now organizing support for an institutional review of criminal law in South Africa. INL represents State in the Financial Action Task Force established by the G-7 and promotes treaties on stolen vehicle recovery in this hemisphere. INL seeks to combat transnational crime by increasing awareness of the problem in the global community and by assisting institutions of other nations in combating it.
Other INL activities new in the nineties are major police institutional development or rehabilitation projects in direct support of peacekeeping activities in Haiti and Bosnia. INL delivers advice, training and technical assistance to create or restore public order institutions eroded by domestic violence or related problems.

In the valley. Crews aboard INL-owned helicopters inspect a clandestine airstrip in the Upper Huallaga Valley of Peru.

State and law enforcement?
In his address to the 50th anniversary session of the U.N. General Assembly, President Clinton called the need for governments to protect their citizens against transnational crime a major challenge for the post-Cold War world. Crime transcends boundaries, and criminals ignore them with increasing ease, just as Al Capone or the Barkers learned to use automobiles across state lines decades ago.
Drug production and traffic and other transnational crime are as complex and threatening as war and peace. The important difference is, as the U.S. National Drug Control Strategy states, that “Wars are expected to end.” Attempting to control these transnational threats and protect Americans from their consequences is a new aspect of the old profession of diplomacy. Most Americans see traditional issues of foreign policy as remote from their lives. Drug abuse and associated forms of crime strike individual citizens where they live.
INL essentially is about government doing its best to shield its people from harm.

Assisting. INL training officer Alice Adams, far right, with U.S. Customs training team in Tajikistan in February 1997.

the End