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Ashcroft Says Terrorism-Drug Trafficking Link 'Shocking'

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2002 – Federal law enforcement officials have developed a "most wanted" list of terrorist organizations heavily involved in drug trafficking.

"America is beset by evil, be it the scourge of illegal drugs or the persistent threat of terror," and each American "holds the power and bears the responsibility of America's defense," Attorney General John Ashcroft said July 30 at the 20th anniversary conference of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Earlier this year, Ashcroft asked law enforcement officials for a list of the organizations responsible for the U.S. drug supply. What the list revealed, he said, "is shocking."

"Nearly one-third of the organizations on the State Department's list of foreign terrorists appear also on our list of targeted U.S. drug suppliers," Ashcroft said. The growing combination of drug trafficking and terrorism serves as an urgent call to action, he said.

In March, Ashcroft announced a strategy to reduce the availability of illegal drugs. It recognized that illegal drugs are a destructive force in people's lives and to the security of the nation. The strategy called for reorganizing, revitalizing and restoring the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Formed in 1982, the task force brought together federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target drug trafficking networks. Drug traffickers have become more organized and sophisticated over the years and are now increasingly involved in terrorist activity, Ashcroft said.

Under Ashcroft's strategy to reduce the supply of drugs, law enforcement officials are estimating the amount of illegal drugs available in the United States to use a benchmark for measuring progress. Task force officials in nine regions have developed plans to identify and target the most significant drug trafficking and money laundering organizations in their regions.

Ashcroft stressed the effort was not a paper exercise. "Now, these completed plans need to be monitored, evaluated for success, and retooled as needed," he said. Task force officials are also placing increasing emphasis on conducting financial investigations to remove the profits of drug organization through asset forfeiture.

"We have begun once again to target not only members of the organizations who smuggle, transport and distribute drugs, but also those individuals involved on the financial side financial backers, money launderers, and those who invested in the proceeds of illegal drug revenues."

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