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From the Wayback Machine… George Webb’s “No More Informants” blogsite

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Will Trump’s Wall Stop The Drug Business?

If Donald Trump should win the nomination, and he goes on to beat Hillary Clinton, he will get one surprise for certain as he begins getting briefings from the US Mexican Border.  He already has stated that drugs are pouring in by truck, plane, boat, and on foot, so he won’t have that rude awakening his first days on the job.  But he may be surprised to the extent that law enforcement is just not looking or looking the other way. Lots of honest ICE and Border Patrol do make interceptions of ground drug traffic, and the agents on the ground say this is where the drugs are coming in mostly, by land.  

As I have stated before, you only need a few CIA pilots to fill the skies with heroin, but bulk of the drug traffic is certainly by truck and on foot. CIA planes tend to show up on NASA and FAA radar with tail numbers that get photographed all too frequently. The Wall, when it is finally finished, will certainly slow this ground drug traffic down.

Here I make the case for drastically simplifying the tangle of agencies we have at the border right now.  This will simplify the chain of command, improve enforcement, dramatically reduce cost, and lower the chance for corruption and misuse of enforcement resources. So to understand the issue of the current tangle better, I present some background here first.

Drugs like heroin, meth, and cocaine are worth 10,000 more by weight than alcohol. Even so, the illegal alcohol trade in Prohibition managed to build a huge distribution network with payoffs to police departments and judges in every city in the United States.  The Federal Department that was created to chase the tax on that alcohol revenue, or “revenuers” as they were called, quickly became complacent, happier to take bribes for the most part rather than bust hooch barrels.  Their speedboats were used more for taking their girlfriends for weekend rides than chasing smugglers at 4AM in the morning on a cold Lake Erie. This agency became our modern ATF, and its need for existence probably ended with Prohibition.

Since then, the DEA was also created in the early 70’s to stop drugs for the same reason the ATF was created in the 20’s to stop alcohol.  Again, agents grow complacent over time, shying away from shootouts with drug cartel gang members.  They preferred to use informants to take most of the risk in the US selling drugs, now mostly to first time users, and then making arrests.  Many great DEA agents still put in a great days work today, but the high speed boats and now helicopters are still used mainly to take girlfriends for rides instead of chasing bad guys at 4AM in the morning  All of us know now that most of the inmates in Federal prison are from the results of War on Drugs laws, mostly from marijuana possession.

With the advent of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, we combined another layer to dealing with Immigration and Customs (ICE) and the Border Patrol in addition to the TSA.  These functions used to be carried out by the Coast Guard since the beginning of the US, again to collect tax revenue.  With each new agency we add, each with their high powered boats and helicopters, we add more complacency, more rides for girlfriends, and more potential for corruption.

If this was not enough of a tangle already, add to this the Secret Service which tracks money laundering in the banking system.  Each agency has their own set of agents, and great amounts of time are spent coordinating joint task forces and training to get anything done. I could list many other agencies like the IRS and the US Parks Service that have armed agents, but I will stop here for simplicity.  The CIA, once chartered for only foreign intelligence operations, began US domestic operations against Vietnam protestors in the late sixties. They also have the temptation to ship drugs from places like Vietnam to US military bases they have access to.

Most Americans are most familiar with the FBI, and we have a very favorable impression of what they do, and the quality of people they recruit. The FBI actually duplicates all the services provided by the agencies above, based on the principle of unity of command, and I agree completely with this need.  When numerous agencies, however are doing exactly the same thing at the border, there is a tendency to just let the FBI, Border Patrol, and the Coast Guard, the original agencies, to do the job, allowing even more time for giving girlfriends or wives rides on the speedboats or helicopters.  And there is more temptation for corruption.

The single most important first step for Trump to take for his Wall strategy to work is to return to the law enforcement arrangement we had before the Department of Homeland Security.  There is too much danger that a collection of agencies this large will be used to target innocent people that are on watchlists for God only knows what reason with the extra time they have on their hands.  ATF and DEA agents should be folded into the FBI after internal review.  The Secret Service should be cut back to just protecting the President and other protectees.

After untangling the mess we have now, Trump has a shot at actually making his border plan work.

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