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Drug Abuse, Drug Trafficking, & Organized Crime

President's Commission on Organized Crime, 1986


Chapter VIII Summary of Recommendations

Based on its findings and the extended analysis, found elsewhere in the report, (primarily in Chapters VI and VII), the Commission makes the following recommendations:

General Recommendations

1. The ultimate goal of the Nation's drug policy is the effective suppression of drug abuse in the United States. While efforts to reduce the supply of drugs in this country, such as interdiction and source country crop controls, indirectly advance this goal, efforts to reduce the demand for drugs can make a more direct contribution. For this reason, the Nation's drug policy must emphasize more strongly efforts to reduce the demand for drugs.

2. Because drug trafficking and abuse are the most serious organized crime problems in America today, they must be addressed at the highest levels of government. Therefore, the National Drug Enforcement Policy Board (Board), under the direction of the Attorney General, is and should continue to be responsible for this country's drug policy. The mandate of the Board should be interpreted, or expanded if necessary, to require the Board to coordinate carefully efforts to reduce both drug demand and supply to achieve this ultimate goal. The Board should evaluate all programs undertaken pursuant to the national drug strategy in terms of their contribution to this goal. In recognition of the scope of the problem of international drug trafficking and the extended national effort needed to combat it, the Attorney General, as Chairman of the National Drug Enforcement Policy Board, should depart from the current formulation of a National Strategy on an annual basis, directing instead the formulation of a long range national offensive against drug supply and demand, including long term funding proposals. Such a program should include an appropriate role for State and local agencies as a complement to Federal efforts. State and local police agencies should be trained and equipped to perform such a role.

3. The rigorous pursuit of the Nation's drug policy, as proposed in this report, will not undermine its organized crime policy. Indeed, the goals of the two policies substantially overlap and therefore both can and must be implemented simultaneously and aggressively.

4. The cost of this Nation's anti-drug efforts can be subsidized to a great extent by the seizure and forfeiture of drug traffickers' assets. That portion of the Federal government's asset forfeiture fund derived from drug cases should be devoted exclusively to anti-drug programs. Such a funding mechanism should be made permanent through law, and the current ceiling of $10 million should be eliminated. In the annual Congressional appropriations process, these funds should be allocated to participating agencies according to Congressional findings, just as if the funds were appropriated.

5. Because of the international dimensions of drug trafficking, the United Nations, in performance of its leadership role in the international community, should sponsor the drafting and promotion of a model International Controlled Substances Act, identifying each and every drug which is trafficked to the detriment of any single member nation. This model act should be accompanied by a Model Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition Treaty, embodying the recognition that international drug trafficking is a matter of profound international concern. In the spirit of international cooperation, the Attorney General, as Chairman of the National Drug Enforcement Policy Board, should direct the creation of bilateral working groups, modeled on the present Italian-American Working Group.


1. Within the overall structure of the National Drug Enforcement Policy Board (the Board), the Vice President's role as leader and coordinator of interdiction efforts should be recognized, maintained, and strengthened.

2. A proper and realistic goal of our interdiction efforts should be the maintenance of persistent pressure on drug traffickers, both as a deterrent and as a symbol of national determination. Operational and policy decisions should reflect that measure of su cess and specifically reject any less realistic or effective goal.

3. Both Congress and the Board should carefully evaluate the technical capabilities and equipment of drug smugglers. To the extent that law enforcement agencies' capabilities and equipment are inferior to those of drug traffickers, immediate steps should be taken to rectify the situation.

4. All Federal agencies having any responsibility for the regulation of air, sea, or land travel into or out of the United States should review their policies and practices and ensure that no purpose other than the promotion of public safety is given priority over the effort to combat drug trafficking. To this end, the proposed "Customs Enforcement Act of 1985" should be enacted promptly.

5. The Policy Board should carefully examine the regulatory practices of the Federal Aviation Administration, particularly in the field of aircraft modification, to determine whether possibilities exist for more aggressive anti-smuggling efforts. In addition, the Policy Board should carefully monitor the design of the Federal Aviation Administration's approach radar system to ensure that interdiction capabilities and opportunities are maximized.

6. Diplomatic initiatives should be pursued immediately to facilitate Customs pursuit of suspected airborne drug traffickers into Mexican air space. Such efforts should be given the highest priority in our bilateral relations with Mexico, including the Western Hemisphere discussions agreed upon between the Presidents of the United States and Mexico on January 3, 1986.

7. The Policy Board should thoroughly evaluate expanded use of Coast Guard aviation capabilities in drug interdiction.

8. Congress should give careful consideration to user fees as a means of supplementing the Coast Guard's budget. Fees should go directly to the Coast Guard's budget rather than the general Treasury.

9. Both the Policy Board and the Department of Defense should continue to examine Navy assistance to Coast Guard interdiction operations, with a view to expanding such assistance whenever and wherever possible. Such expansion should be facilitated by adoption of the broader military view of national security advocated in this report.

10. Monies from the proposed permanent asset forfeiture fund should be made available to the Customs Service for the acquisition of necessary equipment, including but not limited to the type of fast patrol boats recently deployed in Operation Blue Lightning.

11. Joint Federal-State-local interdiction operations, such as Operation Blue Lightning, should be refined and used wherever feasible and desirable.


1. The Policy Board should take all necessary steps to ensure that data concerning all aspects of both drug supply and demand are adequately collected, analyzed, correlated and disseminated.

2. The Federal electronic surveillance statute should be examined and amended to reflect existing technology. Existing State laws should be similarly studied and changed where necessary. Those States still without a statute permitting court-ordered electronic surveillance should immediately enact one, consistent with current technology.

3. The "Mansfield Amendment" to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2291 (c)(l)) should be repealed in its entirety. The concerns addressed by that legislation should be incorporated in agency guidelines which provide necessary flexibility while embodying the limits of permissible U.S. agency conduct.

4. Data relating to assets forfeited to Federal, State and local jurisdictions should be collected, analyzed, and disseminated by the all source intelligence center discussed elsewhere in this report.

5. Because of the importance of information about individuals in drug treatment programs, the Federal government should again require the States to participate in the Client Oriented Data Acquisition Process.

6. Both the Household Survey on Drug Abuse and the High School Senior Survey should over sample populations thought to be heavy drug users. In addition, because questions about the nature of drug transactions, e.g., the price paid and purity and quantity of the drug purchased, could provide important information for policy makers and enforcement officials, such questions should be added to the Household and High School Senior Surveys.

Combined Intelligence and Interdiction

1. The Policy Board should take immediate steps to ensure that the law enforcement and intelligence communities are thoroughly familiar with each other's needs and capabilities.

2. Every agency involved in the interdict ion of drug shipments or the apprehension of drug traffickers should have ready access to all necessary intelligence gathered in source and transshipment countries. To the extent that this requires expansion or modification of existing practices, the Policy Board should ensure that such change is pursued immediately. In particular, the critical nature of real-time intelligence to effective Customs operations at the border must be recognized, and the Policy Board should take all necessary steps to ensure that, under current Federal organization, such information from all sources is being provided.

3. To the extent that the intelligence community under the current Federal structure needs direction from the highest levels of government concerning aggressive anti-drug actions, including operations against the infrastructure of foreign drug-trafficking organizations, such direction should be provided immediately.

4. The "all-source intelligence and operations center," now being considered by the National Drug Enforcement Policy Board, should be pursued aggressively and expeditiously. It should combine in a physically secure facility the functions now being performed by EPIC and NNBIS, retaining the current Vice Presidential direction and regional structure of the latter for interdiction functions. Ft. Bliss, Texas, and similar locations should be considered as possible sites for the center. Its design, giving due consideration to the protection of civil liberties, should provide specific roles for all pertinent Department of Defense components and for all members of the intelligence community, to the fullest extent Permitted by Executive Order 12333, The design should also incorporate specific foreign intelligence-gathering functions for other U.S. Agencies, in order to maximize the acquisition of both strategic and tactical data. Each Participating agency should be required to present to the Policy Board its specific operational guidelines for providing time-sensitive data to the center. The center should also Include a uniform national system for gathering and analyzing drug related data on various categories of information, including arrests, seizures, convictions, sentences, forfeitures, emergency room admissions, and deaths. A similar system of compiling and analyzing financial data gathered by all members of the intelligence community, as well as that contained in all financial records now required by law to be kept by any Federal agency, should also be included as an Integral component of the center. Both data bases should be compiled and maintained in a fashion that provides reliable, constant, and uniform tracking, retrieval, and compilation for the purpose of charting trends and profiles, as well as support for specific operations whenever Possible. Access to all data compiled should be available to appropriate State and local agencies, in addition to Federal components, subject to Procedures necessary to ensure the integrity of the information-sharing process.

5. Joint enforcement and intelligence operations by source and transshipment countries should be encouraged, and careful, resourceful analysis should be given to identify means of U.S. funding of such operations. Consistent with other recommendations in this report, participation in such operations by American components should be promoted.

6. The Department of State should stress to Chiefs of Mission at principal reporting posts and to all other cognizant Departmental personnel the high priority attached to a coordinated narcotics intelligence and interdiction strategy.

7. All necessary steps should be taken to ensure that Consular officers can and do deny U.S. entry visas to individuals suspected of drug trafficking. Subject to the informing agency's safeguards of reliability, information provided by any agency of the United States, without further corroboration, should be sufficient to require such denial under the pertinent statute, 8 U.S.C. Section 1182 (a)(23). The Policy Board should promptly establish guidelines for similar information-sharing on a government-wide basis.

8. Both Congress and the Executive Branch should closely examine the operations and cost effectiveness of drug-related intelligence-gathering abroad. When and where justified by such an examination, resources available for such operations should be expanded. Particular attention should be paid to the critical need for adequate foreign intelligence by the Customs Service in performing its border interdiction function.

9. Coast Guard officers should be thoroughly integrated into the Defense Attache system.

10. The definition of "national security" now employed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff as their starting point in mission determination is:

A collective term encompassing both national defense and foreign relations of the United States. Specifically, the condition provided by:

a. a military or defense advantage over any foreign national or group of nations, or

b. a favorable foreign relations position, or

c. a defense posture capable of successfully resisting hostile or destructive action from within or without, overt or covert.

The Joint Chiefs should be instructed by the highest levels of government, through a National Security Decision Directive or by other appropriate means, that "hostile or destructive action from within or without, overt or covert," as used in this definition, shall include the airborne, amphibious, and overland invasion of this country by drug smugglers. This policy is already followed by the intelligence community, pursuant to Executive Order 12333. All Department of Defense and component operational decisions concerning interdiction of drug smugglers should be made accordingly.

11. For the purposes of intelligence-gathering mission planning, the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be given direction from the highest levels of government that the Defense Department's definition of "foreign hostile action" is to be brought into accord with the view expressed in Executive Order 12333, as described in the preceding recommendation.

12. Consistent with the foregoing definitions of "national security" and "foreign hostile action," Department of Defense policies and practices, such as existing interpretations of the Economy Act, 31 U.S.C. Section 1535, and exemptions to the Posse Comitatus Act, 10 U.S.C. Section 371 et al., should be thoroughly re-examined. Unit planning and deployment should be adjusted accordingly.

13. The Posse Comitatus Act, IS U.S.C. Section 1385, and its 1981 exemptions, now found at 10 U.S.C. Section 371 et seq, should be consolidated in Title 18. The consolidated statute should include a statement of purpose reflecting the view of national security advocated here and promoting an accordingly expansive interpretation of the statutory language, subject to such limitations as are necessary to protect civil liberties.

14. The Policy Board, in accordance with Executive Orders 12333 and 12472, and with applicable National Security Decision Directives, if any, should coordinate with appropriate agencies and departments to ensure that a secure and interoperable, interagency communications capability is available for drug-related intelligence collection and dissemination in support of interdiction and other anti-drug activities. The resources and expertise of the National Security Agency should be fully exploited to this end, and operational and communications security should be given a high priority in the training and operating procedures of all pertinent agencies.

Domestic Investigations and Prosecutions

1. Domestic drug law enforcement efforts directed at high-level trafficking groups should be supplemented by and integrated with enforcement efforts directed at lower-level trafficking groups and street-level drug activity. Unless the necessary supplementation and integration occur, the enforcement effort at all levels will be undermined.

2. Although the enforcement efforts of Federal and State and local law enforcement agencies cannot and should not be completely independent, these agencies nevertheless have primary areas of responsibility. The Federal law enforcement agencies should concentrate their efforts on infiltrating and disrupting high-level organized crime and other large trafficking organizations. State and local law enforcement agencies on the other hand should focus their resources on street-level drug activity and on smaller and geographically-restricted trafficking organizations.

3. Although Federal, State and local agencies have primary areas of responsibility, the drug problem is a national one that requires extensive and genuine coordination and cooperation among all agencies. Those in charge of the agencies involved in domestic drug law enforcement must constantly instill In their agents the need for such coordination and cooperation, especially with respect to the exchange of drug intelligence. Joint operations, such as Operation Pressure Point, the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Program, have fostered this required spirit of cooperation and coordination, and they should be undertaken whenever appropriate, provided that they do not interfere with an agency's primary mission.

4. The sophistication of high-level trafficking groups requires an equivalent Federal response. Because of the variety of investigative techniques used by participating Federal agencies and their unique ability to exploit such tools as electronic surveillance, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the Continuing Criminal Enterprise statutory provision (CCE), forfeiture, and currency transactions reports, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program is the Federal mechanism that is best equipped to respond to and disrupt high-level organized crime trafficking groups. Its operation should be supported strongly and its scope should be expanded wherever feasible and desirable.

5. Because the OCDETF Program has been operational for more than two years, the National Drug Enforcement Policy Board should consider whether a lead Task Force agency should be designated. As an alternative, the U.S. attorneys Involved should be given greater policy authority with respect to the participating agencies In order to improve still further the coordination that has been achieved by the consensus-based decision-making approach. If the latter approach is taken, the Board must take steps to ensure uniform policies and priorities are recognized by all United States Attorneys involved.

6. The heads of the agencies participating in the OCDETF Program must continually and unambiguously reiterate their total commitment to the success of the program. One simple way they can do so is to ensure that their agents involved in the Program are not affected adversely in any way with respect to career advancement by their participation therein.

7. The components of Federal domestic law enforcement other than the OCDE Task Forces should focus their resources on organized crime trafficking groups that do not qualify for OCDETF program treatment and on other large trafficking organizations, which may or may not be multi-jurisdictional.

8. To eliminate jurisdictional disputes between the Federal agencies involved in domestic law enforcement, to avoid duplication of investigative efforts, and to increase the safety of drug agents, the National Drug Enforcement Policy Board should establish a system whereby agencies would be required to file reports on whom they are investigating. If more than one agency is investigating the same individual, the agencies involved would be required to negotiate and to determine the best way for proceeding with the investigation, subject to uniform Policy Board guidelines. Such a reporting and control system should be incorporated into the "all source intelligence and operations center" recommended elsewhere in this report.

9. It is an appropriate time to consider whether the mission of the Customs Service with respect to drug trafficking should be expanded to include intelligence and law enforcement functions beyond the borders and ports of entry within this country, where appropriate, subject to the lead responsibility of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

10. DEA should determine which chemicals currently used to manufacture illicit drugs should be subject to reporting requirements or placed in a Schedule established by the Controlled Substances Act. This review should include a consideration of which drugs are most abused, which have the most serious consequences, which precursor chemicals are essential to the production process, and which chemicals could feasibly be regulated. In addition, DEA should identify the resources needed for the computerization, analysis, and follow-up of reports concerning chemicals selected for monitoring.

11. The research and development operations of Federal drug law enforcement agencies should work closely with their field agents to produce the equipment and tools necessary to defeat traffickers. The expertise of the Central Intelligence and National Security Agencies should be called upon to the fullest extent possible and proper in this regard.

12. Although the drug problem is a national one, its immediate effects are felt most at State and local levels. To respond effectively to the drug problem, State and local jurisdictions will have to increase expenditures for such critical resources as prison facilities, increased manpower, and sophisticated equipment.

13. States must provide their law enforcement agencies with certain tools available to their Federal counterparts. Those States, which do not already have such statutes, should consider enacting legislation patterned after the following Federal statutes: Bail Reform Act of 1984; the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act; statutory use and derivative use immunity for witnesses; statutory criminal and civil forfeiture provisions; the Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) statute; Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (electronic surveillance); and the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act. States should consider adopting statewide grand juries in order to improve their investigations of drug trafficking organizations, as well as eliminating accomplice corroboration statutes or rules.

Foreign Assistance

1. Because drug trafficking and production are threats of such magnitude to the stability of existing democracies, a primary goal of the United States and its allies should be to enhance the security of drug producing and transshipment regions.

2. As a part of its international responsibilities, the National Drug Enforcement Policy Board should participate in the President's annual decision whether to suspend aid to drug producing or transshipment countries. The Board should examine the drug control efforts made by each foreign nation and make a suitable recommendation to the President for his ultimate decision.

3. The willingness of a country to engage in and actively implement drug-related extradition and mutual assistance treaties should be a primary consideration in the ultimate U.S. policy decision regarding foreign assistance to that country.

4. The Departments of State and Defense should continue their programs of economic and security assistance with emphasis on assisting those foreign governments making concerted efforts to control their drug problems.

5. The United States should continue to help producer and trafficking nations develop prevention and education programs aimed at drug abuse within these countries.

Source Country Crop Control

1. In light of restrictions inherent in international crop control efforts, the Board should initiate a thorough cost/benefit analysis of the entire history of those efforts by the United States. If justified by such an analysis, the Department of State, through its Bureau of International Narcotics Matters (BINM), should initiate or intensify crop control and plant eradication programs selectively and judiciously in those countries where the political and economic climates make it probable that crop eradication programs will succeed.

2. The Department of State should establish and present to the Policy Board a specific formula for triggering the cut-off of foreign aid provided for in the "Diplomacy Against Drugs" amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act.

3. Narcotics Assistance Unit positions must be recognized by the State Department as priority Foreign Service assignments. The State Department should establish a select group of professional Narcotics Officers to fill those positions, and should ensure that those positions are fully integrated into the career advancement structure within the Foreign Service.

4. BINM should expand the range of possibilities under consideration as alternatives to illicit drug cultivation for source country farmers and include such options as mining, petroleum production, and light industry, where feasible.

Reducing Demand for Drugs

1. A thorough review of the current budgetary allotments for anti-drug efforts, now contemplated by the National Drug Enforcement Policy Board, should be placed at the top of the agenda of the Board immediately. If that review indicates that greater Federal resources should be devoted to programs to reduce demand, the Board should pursue appropriate action without hesitation.

2. A portion of the Federal government's asset forfeiture fund, derived from drug cases, should be devoted to programs to reduce demand in whatever proportion is indicated by the review recommended above. Funding to reduce demand should include a responsible contribution to the States for their own programs in this area. However, any funding directed to the States should be made contingent upon their vigorous pursuit of such programs, and after a reasonable grace period, as determined by the Board or by Congress, funding should be denied to any State failing this requirement. Failure to enact State electronic surveillance measures and asset forfeiture provisions, with the proceeds thereof directed to anti-drug programs, should constitute per se failure.

3. The President should direct the heads of all Federal agencies to formulate immediately clear policy statements, with implementing guidelines, including suitable drug testing programs, expressing the utter unacceptability of drug abuse by Federal employees. State and local governments and leaders in the private sector should support unequivocally a similar policy that any and all use of drugs is unacceptable. Government contracts should not be awarded to companies that fail to implement drug programs, Including suitable drug testing. No Federal, State, or local government funds should go directly or indirectly to programs that counsel "responsible" drug use or condone illicit drug use in any way. Laws in certain States which "decriminalized" the possession of marijuana constitute a form of such condonation, and should be reconsidered.

4. States that have not already done so should enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale of drug paraphernalia.

5. The States should be required to report information about their prevention and treatment programs to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. With this information, and reports obtained from private programs, NIDA will be better able to identify the best prevention and treatment programs and to develop and disseminate standards and guidelines for such programs to the States. The States should, in turn, provide this information to all groups engaged in prevention, treatment, and related research.

6. Consistent with identified measures of success, State governments should establish credentialing standards for prevention and treatment programs. They should further require that all elementary, junior high, and high schools within the State Include drug abuse prevention programs in their curricula, designed in a manner consistent with such credentialing standards. State funding should be made available to assure the proper training of educators assigned to such programs.

7. Every employer, public and private, and public education institutions at all levels should have clearly-stated policies prohibiting drug use, possession of drugs, or being under the influence of drugs on their premises. The consequences of violating these prohibitions should be clearly explained.

8. Government and private sector employers who do not already require drug testing of job applicants and current employees should consider the appropriateness of such a testing program.

9. State and local law enforcement authorities should enforce more vigorously the laws prohibiting possession of drugs, and State legislatures should ensure that enforcement agencies have the necessary resources to do so. Such resources can be funded in large part, if not entirely, through effective asset forfeiture programs.

10. Uniform and rational sentencing for drug offenses is essential. Such a system should provide a sentence of probation and a fine for a first offense involving mere possession of drugs. The terms of probation should include a requirement to remain drug-free to be verified, if necessary, through periodic drug testing. A second offense for possession of drugs should result in a jail sentence or mandatory treatment or fines or all three.

11. The media and entertainment industries should carefully review their portrayals of drug use and its consequences and ensure their accuracy.

12. Health professionals should be thoroughly trained to identify and counsel drug abusers.

13. Relying on the task force approach which law enforcement officials have used successfully, parents, churches, schools, civic organizations and business associations should form community task forces to provide a unified front against drugs.


The recommendations made here have not been reached carelessly. They are the result of months of concerted research and analysis, documented in the body of the report. Although some recommendations reach to the most fundamental levels of government agency operation and community life, they have been presented only after consideration of every identifiable option.

The depth of concern expressed in this report is not the result of any preordained strategy. Rather, it reflects this Commission's recognition, based on objective evidence, that we are confronted with a national crisis. Every course of action, including a failure to act at all, has a natural consequence. The recommendations made here are those actions deemed most effective in promoting a national campaign against drugs at all levels of society.

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