On June 15, 2012, the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) officially closed their facility in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, also on that date, their official website began offering the following message: “This website is no longer maintained and may contain dated information.”
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush announced plans to create the NDIC in order to “consolidate and coordinate all relevant drug intelligence information gathered by law enforcement agencies and analyze it to produce a more complete picture of drug trafficking organizations.”
“The mission of NDIC is to provide strategic drug-related intelligence, document and media exploitation support, and training assistance to the drug control, public health, law enforcement, and intelligence communities of the United States in order to reduce the adverse effects of drug trafficking, drug abuse, and other drug-related criminal activity,” the website stated.
The NDIC was opened in 1993 and employed roughly 350 researchers and support staff who analyzed data and produced incredibly detailed reports on the nation’s drug and gang problems.
Those reports, such as the annual National Drug Threat Assessments, were seen by many as an invaluable resource to law enforcement agencies at every level of government and, in recent years, often provided a very sobering look at the growing influence of the Mexican drug cartels across this country.
Then, something strange happened.
In 2011, the annual report stated that the number of U.S. cities in which Mexican drug cartels were distributing illegal drugs through street gangs had been reduced by no less than 1,500 cities.
In 2010, the National Drug Threat Assessment stated that drugs were being sold on behalf of the cartels in “more than 2,500 cities.”
The 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment claimed that the cartels were now only operating only in “a thousand U.S. cities.”
So, if the report was to be believed, in only one year’s time the Obama administration managed to eradicate all of the cartel operatives and street-level dealers from 1,500 cities, resulting in a 60 percent reduction?
Where were the press releases?
Why didn’t the Obama campaign talk about this rather astounding feat every day?
Why wouldn’t our then-beleaguered Attorney General Eric Holder brag about this monumental achievement?
Or, was this utterly improbable claim just as absurd as it sounds?
The 2010 report: Drug Trafficking by Criminal Gangs
“The influence of Hispanic and African American street gangs is expanding as these gangs gain greater control over drug distribution in rural and suburban areas and acquire drugs directly from DTOs in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.
“In 2009, mid-level and retail drug distribution in the United States was dominated by more than 900,000 criminally active gang members representing approximately 20,000 domestic street gangs in more than 2,500 cities.”
The 2011 report: Transnational Criminal Organizations
“Mexican-based TCOs were operating in more than a thousand U.S. cities during 2009 and 2010, spanning all nine OCDETF (Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces) regions.”
How were cartel smugglers and street dealers completely eliminated from 1,500 U.S. cities without anyone noticing?
Of course, the drug cartels are more powerful than ever and by at least one estimate, have achieved operational control in more than 70 percent of Mexico.
In January, 2012, Edgardo Buscaglia, a professor at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México in Mexico City, told El Universal that through corruption of local officials, criminal gangs were in control of 71.5 percent of Mexico’s cities and towns.
“They are operating notoriously in front of the noses of the police, the politicians, and the authorities of all stripes, and for this there has to be some type of tolerance from the state and it can be at a political or a police level. This is telling us that this type of co-opting is on the rise and now we are seeing greater competence between criminal groups to place themselves in these municipal jurisdictions and this competition generates violence.”
Buscaglia has served as an adviser to both the World Bank and the United Nations.
As evidence of the cartels’ ever-creeping influence into this country, U.S. law enforcement has been reporting more and more violent encounters with cartel operatives, as was the case in November 2011, when Los Zetas gunmen attacked Harris County deputies in a shootout.
So, perhaps, not the best time to close a resource as valuable as the NDIC.
In July 2012, the government watchdog group known as Judicial Watch also questioned the motives behind the Obama administration’s decision to close the NDIC.
“It’s a senseless move, which is why it was done very quietly. The only real way to discover that the Justice Department’s 19-year-old National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) has been closed is by trying to visit its website. It simply says that on June 15, 2012, the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) closed. The public is redirected to another website with ‘historical materials, an archived version of the NDIC.’
“The move is baffling considering the agency’s crucial mission. Consider this; just a few years ago an NDIC task force uncovered that Mexican drug cartels are buying arms from radical Islamic terrorists and that they team up to distribute narcotics in Europe and the Middle East. The NDIC report that revealed this identifies terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, the Palestine Liberation Front and the Palestine Liberation Organization as Arab associates of Mexican drug-trafficking cartels. All are officially designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. Department of State.
“The case involves dozens of members of the Barrio Azteca gang charged with operating a massive drug-trafficking and money-laundering enterprise. A handful of members have been convicted and sentenced in Texas while others still face trial for racketeering, murder, drug offenses, money laundering and obstruction of justice. The gang makes money importing heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico, according to federal prosecutors who clearly relied on the now-defunct NDIC to build their case.”
At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, could this be a classic case of “shooting the messenger,” or perhaps even manipulating the message?
In 2011, the Tribune-Democrat columnist Pedro Vega also expressed his confusion over the move.
“If we allow NDIC to close, we should be prepared as a nation to tolerate a greater organized, though less understood threat, otherwise defined by DEA’s bureaucratic imperative to justify its continued existence, absent the independent ‘reality check’ provided by the NDIC during the past 17 years.”
That preceding statement is not mere speculation, it is a simple fact.
It is also a fact that the Mexican drug cartels present a clear and present danger to this country and as is the case with any enemy, intelligence is not only key to understanding your enemy but also to defeating him.
Given the growing threat posed by the cartels and increased drug trafficking throughout the U.S., why would the Obama administration even consider losing a resource as valuable as the NDIC?
[Feature Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]