#221 Resources Finally Shifting Away From Drug War

Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001
Subject: #221 Resources Finally Shifting Away From Drug War

Resources Finally Shifting Away From Drug War


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #221 Thursday October 11, 2001

In the wake of terror attacks in the United States, it would have made
sense to immediately divert all resources supporting the failed policy
of drug prohibition elsewhere. Sadly, that hasn’t happened yet. But,
some government agencies are finally acknowledging the obvious, as the
New York Times reports this week.

US Customs Agents have shifted their main focus away from drugs and
toward preventing terror. We should all be grateful for that, but
there are plenty of other government resources that are still being
wasted on the drug war that could be used much more wisely elsewhere.
And, the body of evidence suggesting that drug prohibition itself is
beneficial to terrorists continues to grow ( see http://www.narcoterror.org
for more details ).

Please write a letter to the NY Times to say that people are capable
of protecting themselves from drugs – what we really need is
protection from the drug war and other real threats around the world.

( Letter, Phone, fax etc.)

Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent
letter list (sentlte@mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by
E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer@mapinc.org Your letter will then
be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts
and be motivated to follow suit.

To subscribe to the Sent LTE mailing list see http://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm
and/or http://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm#form

This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is one very effective way of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.

Contact Info:

Source: New York Times (NY)
Contact: letters@nytimes.com



Pubdate: Wed, 10 Oct 2001
Source: New York Times (NY)
Section: National
Copyright: 2001 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/298
Author: Robert Pear and Philip Shenon
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?203 (Terrorism)


WASHINGTON — The new head of the United States Customs Service said
today that terrorism has replaced drug smuggling as the agency’s top
priority, and that he has redeployed hundreds of agents to provide
round-the-clock inspections at the Canadian border to prevent
terrorists from entering the country.

Robert C. Bonner, who was sworn in as customs commissioner just two
weeks ago, said he had begun receiving daily intelligence briefings on
terrorist threats as part of his agency’s shifting mission.

As a result of the redeployments along the Canadian border, a
preferred entryway for terrorists in the past, Mr. Bonner said the
agency has had to cut the number of inspectors dedicated to special
units that search for illegal drugs and for exports of high-technology
products. The alert has been raised along the border with Mexico too,
but the Customs Service had already increased its presence there in
recent years.

“Terrorism is our highest priority, bar none,” said Mr. Bonner, a
former federal judge who has also served as the head of the Drug
Enforcement Administration. “Ninety-eight percent of my attention as
commissioner of customs has been devoted to that one issue.”

The terrorist attacks have brought about sharp changes at several
other federal agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Public Health
Service and the Internal Revenue Service.

But apart from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, few agencies have
so prominent a front-line role to play as the Customs Service, which
is responsible for guarding the borders and blocking the entry of
terrorists and their tools.

The service is given credit for thwarting a major terrorist attack on
the eve of the millennium celebration in December 1999, when a customs
inspector in Washington State found a trunkload of explosives in the
car of an Algerian who later acknowledged having trained at terrorist
camps in Afghanistan run by Osama bin Laden.

The attacks on Sept. 11 also physically hammered the Customs Service,
since the north tower of the World Trade Center fell onto the
eight-story building, 6 World Trade Center, that housed its New York
office. That building was destroyed, and 760 workers were displaced.

In an interview today, Mr. Bonner acknowledged that the agency’s
traditional role in preventing the smuggling of drugs and other
contraband would be affected by the new focus on terrorism.

“We are robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said, noting that inspectors
had been working 12 to 16 hours a day since Sept. 11. “We are
stretched thin.”

Since the attacks, the service has spent $5.5 million a week on
overtime for inspectors, almost three times its usual outlay.

Mr. Bonner said that small customs posts along the northern border,
which have gone unstaffed at night and on some holidays, are now being
manned every day around the clock by at least two inspectors.

Customs agents, he said, are being told to be especially vigilant for
any “implements of terrorism,” like chemical, biological or nuclear
materials that could be used as weapons. Many agents are being ordered
to wear pocket-sized radiation detectors — miniature Geiger counters
— as they carry out their inspections at airports and borders.

The shift in focus has startled many longtime customs officers like
Harold H. Zagar, the chief customs inspector at Dulles International
Airport, in the Virginia suburbs of Washington.

“For 31 years,” he said, “I’ve been fighting the war on

Now, suddenly, drug trafficking is a distant, secondary priority. To
say the change is disorienting understates the case. “Whoa!” Mr. Zagar
said. “We’ve gone full circle.”

The Customs Service is the nation’s oldest law enforcement agency,
founded in 1789, and the change in its mission is a jolt to almost
every one of its 10,600 inspectors and criminal investigators.

Before Sept. 11, customs officials at Dulles and other airports had
developed sophisticated profiles of likely drug smugglers and searched
luggage for hidden narcotics. Now, Mr. Zagar said, inspectors are much
more interested in documents — blueprints, drawings, photographs,
flight manuals, chemical data — that might be carried by terrorists.

The need to set new profiles for terrorists could be controversial for
the service. In recent years, blacks sued the agency, saying they had
been singled out for interrogation and searches because of their race.
The agency promised not to engage in racial profiling.

Now, though, inspectors are scrambling to develop profiles of
travelers from the Middle East who might have links to terrorist
groups like Al Qaeda, Mr. bin Laden’s far-flung network. The agency
said the new “targeting criteria” would focus on passengers arriving
on certain flights from certain countries, especially from the Middle
East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Other agencies are also telling their employees to put aside regular
duties and focus on terrorist threats. The Agriculture Department is
directing its inspectors to prevent attacks on crops and livestock and
other types of “agroterrorism.”

The new administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Asa
Hutchinson, said he saw a “deadly, symbiotic relationship between the
illicit drug trade and international terrorism.” He estimated that
Afghanistan produces at least 70 percent of the world’s supply of
illicit opium, and he said that the Taliban leadership derive large
amounts of revenue from the traffic.

“The sanctuary enjoyed by bin Laden is based on the existence of the
Taliban’s support for the drug trade,” Mr. Hutchinson said in
Congressional testimony last week.

Bradley A. Buckles, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms, said that 500 of his 2,300 agents are working with the
F.B.I. to investigate the attacks on the World Trade Center and the

Similarly, the I.R.S. has ordered some of its criminal investigators
to work with other agencies to determine how terrorist groups are
financed. The I.R.S. is focusing on money laundering and possible
currency violations.



To the editor of the New York Times:

I was happy to read that US Customs agents are now finally shifting their
focus from drugs to terror (“The Borders: Customs Switches Priority from
Drugs to Terrorism,” Oct. 10). It’s a tragedy it didn’t happen years ago.

A look at the broader picture shows any resources going toward the
drug war would be better used elsewhere. We’ve been fighting a drug
war for decades and all we’ve got to show for it is official
corruption and overcrowded prisons. Thugs both here and abroad take
advantage of the immense profit opportunities in the black market for
illegal drugs to enhance their power and capabilities.

Even the riskier drugs don’t attack without warning. People who are
harmed by drugs almost always made the decision to take those drugs.
Everyone wants our country to be safer. Ending the drug war would be a
positive step in that direction.

Stephen Young

contact info


IMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone number
Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify
it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies
of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for
his/her work.


With a circulation of 1.2 million weekdays – 3 million readers (and
about 50% more for the Sunday edition), from all over the US outside
the NYC market area – and an audience of which 3/4ths have a college
degree, this newspaper is an important target for Letters to the Editor.

Our analysis of several published letters at http://www.mapinc.org/mapcgi/ltedex.pl?SOURCE=New+York+Times
indicates a strong preference for printing short letters. The average
published letter is only 113 words long, with a range from 45 to 143

The New York Times is one of the most widely read and influential
newspapers in the country A published letter of only 2 column inches
(about 80 words) printed in this paper has an equivalent advertising
as if you bought a $1,440 advertisement on behalf of reform and had it
published in the NY TImes.

Please note that the New York Times limits letters to 150


ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing

Letter Writers Resources: http://www.mapinc.org/resource/



TO UNSUBSCRIBE SEE http://www.drugsense.org/unsub.htm

Prepared by Stephen Young – http://www.maximizingharm.com
Focus Alert Specialist