WASHINGTON: After working 28 years as a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the last 10 as the Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division, a Virginia based Operational Coordination Center with participation from over 30 agencies, I learned many disturbing aspects of global drug trafficking. Including the severe consequences of drug addiction and the killing synthetic drugs funding terrorism.
The losing battle against drugs
Too often I hear stories about the sudden deaths of young children with bright futures. Over the years, I have listened to many parents crying out load after finding loved ones dead in their bedrooms after overdosing. I also witnessed the drug education shrinking budgets in America and the lack of serious attention from leaders in Washington on this topic.
How can we ignore the crisis of drug addiction, death, and destruction of families? To make matters worse, we have a national health epidemic that connects to national security matters impacting all Americans.
Drug trafficking is a money business
Drug traffickers are in the business to make money while terrorists need money to operate and achieve their objectives.
As President Obama and other national leaders have stated,
“…terrorists are increasingly turning to crime and criminal networks for funding”.
The threat of terrorists and drug traffickers forming a strong alliance is real and emerging quickly as a result of the worldwide demand for drugs and the exorbitant profits made from the business. As state sponsorship of terrorism declines, terrorism fueled by drug trafficking is on the rise. More than ever, this ongoing and expanding crisis needs the proactive attention of government.
Sadly it takes the death of a celebrity, like Prince, or an affluent child from influential family to grab the attention of the folks who are responsible for dealing with this serious problem.
Music legend Prince died after taking what he thought was Vicodin but was actually a counterfeit painkiller that was laced with fentanyl, a Minnesota prosecutor said Thursday in announcing that he would not be filing criminal charges in Prince’s death.
“In all likelihood, Prince had no idea he was taking a counterfeit pill that could kill him,” Carver County Attorney Mark Metz said at a news conference in Chaska. “Others around Prince also likely did not know that the pills were counterfeit containing fentanyl.”
2010-2014 saw a 248% increase in heroin deaths
According to National Center for Health Statistics, there has been a 248% increase in heroin deaths from 2010-2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 28,000 people died in 2014 from opioid painkillers and heroin, and according to DEA more than 46,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses in 2013. Isn’t this alarming enough for Congress and others to get serious about this problem?
Many Parents, teachers and educators have never heard of Spice or K2. They think K2 is a brand name for skiing gear and Spice is a seasoning for meals. The manufacturers and distributors of these dangerous synthetic drugs want non-users to believe its incense or nice smelling potpourri.
The creative marketing scheme designed to protect the distributors from prosecution even mark the exotic designed packages, Scooby Snax, King Cobra, Kush Apple, Kong, Magic Dragon and as “not for human consumption”. Meanwhile, parents around the country are finding this synthetic cannabis and the paraphernalia in the bedrooms of their beautiful children as they lay either unconscious, dead or in the middle of a psychotic episode.
The perception of the public is marijuana is safe so how bad can synthetic marijuana be?
This is an emerging trend garnering the attention of the national media organizations. But, sadly, the public still doesn’t realize that this non-hemp plant substance, dried, sprayed with chemicals, is made in laboratories in China. And that it is actually a poisonous substance. A poison destroying so many lives and families.
There is no quality control in the labs and the organizations behind the distribution are making tremendous amounts of money. Because the laws are behind and the legal system in America is slow to respond, the traffickers are taking complete advantage and making lots of money.
A disturbing trend that I saw growing as the Director of the Special Operations Division, was that synthetic pot was generating tons of profits. Unfortunately, the proceeds from this business are being sent from the U.S. to countries in the Middle East.
The fight against synthetic drugs
After Project Synergy and a major case in Alabama as part of Operation Red Tide, the question as to why millions of dollars were being sent to Yemen from convenience stores, gas stations and smoke shops selling synthetic drugs on the streets of America, was asked.
During multiple interviews, reporters always asked,
“..do we have the smoking gun to support that the millions funneled to Yemen were supporting terrorists”.
Unfortunately, there is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that these funds are going to terrorists and it remains an unanswered question due to limited intelligence. However, as an investigator for almost 30 years, it’s very hard to justify or accept that these large sums of money are not getting into the hands of violent jihadist organizations.
If you look at all the evidence and facts relating to Yemen and that the base of operations for AQAP, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is in that country, it’s certainly not a stretch to think that the people running these U.S. businesses are assisting the AQAP and other groups who need cash to operate. They need funds for training, recruiting, weapons, bribery, explosives, travel and logistics. AQAP is a Sunni extremist group that has conducted numerous high profile attacks targeting the west.
There was plenty of suspicious activity developed in the money movements as U.S. banks and law enforcement agencies examined the flows of cash to Yemen.
Keeping America Safe
Since U.S. officials have overwhelming responsibilities in keeping America safe, it’s very difficult to get anyone excited to investigate this emerging problem without the “smoking gun” to support that these monies are supporting the agenda of terrorists. In my opinion this phenomenon is actually a “two for one special” for the terrorists. They can destroy families and kill children in the U.S. by selling synthetic drugs. At the same time they can make tons of money in the process to support their cause.
This is nothing new to the DEA. High level Afghani heroin traffickers say that selling heroin to customers in the west is part of global jihad. They can kill and make money at the same time. This is a win-win scenario for the enemy as the U.S. officials continue to debate the topic and disagree on what’s actually happening.
It’s clearly more important for the government’s resources to prioritize the investigative efforts on the most pressing threats like when there is an active subject looking to kill innocent people on the streets of America. It’s not possible with limited resources to investigate every aspect of terrorism.
But shutting down, criminal activities like selling synthetic drugs in the U.S., will disrupt funding of the terrorist’s activities.
The larger issue in America’s Drug Problem
The most important aspect of this article is to understand is the larger issues with the drug problem in America. Yes. It’s very sad that young people are ruining their lives, or horrifically, dying. It is horrible for parents and families to experience the impacts of drug addiction.
It’s government’s responsibility to educate citizens of the country on the realities of global drug trafficking. The public and policy makers must understand the economics behind terrorism since that’s a critical component of addressing the threat.
According to the United Nations World Drug Report, the global drug trade generates approximately $400 billion on an annual basis. It would be very naïve to think, that radical jihadists in Yemen wouldn’t be benefiting directly from the synthetic drug sales in America when millions and millions are funneled from their U.S. based illicit activities.
Lead Image: This image is a work of a U.S. military or Department of Defense employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain in the United States. - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USMC-100201-M-3762C-001.jpg