2001 Conference: Remarks of Asa Hutchinson

Remarks of Asa Hutchinson Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration International Association of Chiefs of Police Toronto, Canada October 29, 2001 (As Delivered) Good morning. Thank you Chief Bruce Glasscock. Premiere Harris, Minister McAuley, friends in Canada—what loyal partners: 84% support our effort in Afghanistan. Twenty-five years ago, I was city prosecutor for Bentonville, Arkansas. It was then that I worked with John Black, the Chief of Police. Let me assure you, I understand the key role the chiefs of police play in law enforcement. I also know how important the IACP is when it comes to leadership on crime problems. Whether from the perspective of a city prosecutor, U.S. Attorney, Member of Congress, or most recently as head of the DEA, I have always understood that without the courageous work of state and local law enforcement, the enormous challenge we face could never be successfully accomplished. Thank you for your leadership and tireless service. On September 11, America was attacked not by traditional weapons of war, but by tools of transportation converted into unthinkable weapons of mass destruction. In those hours, we saw the means to accomplish evil change, but the response for the United States and the civilized world is the same. It is the same as it was with Hitler’s attack on humanity and the same as it was during Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror in Columbia—a response that demands justice for the evil doer and security for those who cherish freedom and peace. How is this relevant to this meeting of the IACP? No one understands the sacrifice required to achieve justice and security more than those in law enforcement. The events of 9/11 give us challenges and opportunities. The first great opportunity comes from the fact that a time of crises in a nation brings forth a time of moral clarity for its people. The fuzziness disappears and the important things of life are brought into clearer focus. It is not the Hollywood star, but it is the police officer and the fireman that set the moral compass of our nation. It is in this climate that we have an opportunity to lead our nation away from illegal drug dependency. In World War II, drug use dropped to its lowest level in history. After September 11, drugs are not only seen as illegal and harmful, but also as revenue for violent criminal organizations. It is clear that bin Laden’s terrorism is protected by a regime funded by opium trafficking. But there’s more to it than just money. Terrorists use the drugs themselves as a weapon of destruction against the West. They know that drug use will lead to a weakening of our society through addiction and crime. They know, little by little, drug abuse eats away at our core values. America is the beacon of democracy to the world. And the essence of our democracy is that freedom is maintained through individual participation, individual sacrifice, and common values. The drug culture erodes and ultimately destroys everything that is necessary for democracy to work. The fact is not lost on the terrorists. That is why the DEA is committed to supporting the counter-terrorism effort led by the FBI by shutting down drugs as a source of funding. But we won’t—and can’t—do it alone. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, the need for cooperation to fight a highly coordinated conspiracy has become more pressing. The more we fight international criminal organizations, the more we all realize that one country, one agency, cannot solve the problem alone. That is our second opportunity. In fighting the drug problem, cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies will bring us success. The team effort will make a difference. I learned that a long time ago. While U.S. Attorney in the 1980s, we started the LECC. We learned that teamwork is better than turf battles and cooperation is better than competition when it comes to law enforcement. We emphasize that cooperation at DEA. Not long after coming to DEA, I had the pleasure of announcing the successful conclusion of Operation Green Clover. It was an Ecstasy investigation where we targeted the Ecstasy source of supply in the Denver, Colorado, area. The traffickers put a green clover as their logo on each pill, presumably to appeal to younger users. Unfortunately, one 16-year old Boulder girl, Brittney Chambers, died after taking a Green Clover Ecstasy pill. We were ultimately able to trace the pills that killed Brittney back to the head of one of these drug-trafficking organizations. During several recorded conversations, a defendant in a joking tone referred to the Ecstasy as “death pills” and acknowledged they led to Brittney’s death. These are the kind of people who deal drugs. A key to the case was the fact that state and local task forces dedicated whole teams for months to the investigation. That cooperative effort was critical and led to the dismantling of three organizations. Together, we arrested over 60 criminals. We’re continuing to work with our counterparts overseas to target the source of the drug. The third great opportunity before us is the new tools that Congress has given to law enforcement. From roving wiretaps to the breaking down of barriers in sharing intelligence, we have been given greater power to pursue criminals. To use these tools effectively, the DEA will invest in greater technology to backup our state and local counterparts on the front line. We will also work hard to make sure you have intelligence information in your hands as quickly as technology will allow. As President Bush has said: this will be a long struggle. In fact, terrorism is not new. Almost 50 years ago, a Puerto Rican terrorist organization burst into the gallery of the House of Representatives and opened fire. Five members of Congress were wounded. The fact of terrorism is not new—but the scope of it is. More people were killed in 2 hours on 9/11 than in the previous 200 years by terrorism in the U.S. The necessity of a long-term commitment presents a RESOURCE challenge. That is the challenge we face—that of resources. With the counter-terrorism responsibility facing many agencies—there is a temptation to set aside our counternarcotics efforts. We cannot do that. I am grateful to the leadership of the IACP to make sure this does not happen. Please be assured that the DEA intends to step up to the plate and do more:
  • new clarity in our values
  • new tools for our work
  • opportunity for greater cooperation
To conclude, Teddy Roosevelt, prior to becoming President, served as Commissioner of the NYPD. He said "the person who counts is the one who spends himself in a worthy cause." We are engaged in a worthy cause and the DEA is pleased to be partners with you in devoting ourselves to fighting and winning a war on two fronts: drugs and terrorism.