Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

The mission of the DEA is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those criminal organizations and principal members of Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) based in the United States or foreign nations involved in the cultivation, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances, as well as, the money laundering of illicit finances derived from drug trafficking.

To achieve this mission, DEA has nearly ten percent of its Special Agent and Intelligence Analyst work force permanently assigned overseas at 89 DEA foreign offices located in 68 countries. DEA’s foreign offices act as conduits of actionable and strategic information, intelligence, and evidence to law enforcement and prosecutorial components in the United States and vice versa. In this manner, DEA is able to identify, target, and dismantle the entire global spectrum of the DTO. DEA’s foreign offices are tasked with four principle missions:

  • Conduct bilateral and multilateral investigations with host law enforcement partners;
  • Coordinate counternarcotic intelligence gathering with host governments;
  • Implement training programs for host country police and prosecutor agencies;
  • Support the advancement and development of host country drug law enforcement institutions;

The emphasis placed on each objective is determined by the host nation’s unique conditions and circumstances as it relates to their drug trafficking threat, infrastructure and law enforcement capabilities. DEA works side by side with host nation counterparts to develop relevant training, promote intelligence sharing, conduct bilateral investigations, and support joint counter-drug operations. The vast majority of DEA’s foreign efforts and resources are dedicated to conducting international drug and drug money laundering investigations. In addition to that mandate, in 2015 DEA dedicated considerable effort in the fields of training, multinational law enforcement collaboration, and forensic science as detailed herein.

International Training: In 2015, DEA’s Training Division conducted formal bilateral and multilateral seminars for over 5,800 participants from 96 countries. DEA has been conducting international counter-narcotics training since its creation in 1973. DEA is recognized as the world pioneer in international training and serves as the model for a variety of international law enforcement training efforts. The specific courses and curricula offered by DEA have evolved over the years in response to experiences, changes in law enforcement emphasis, current international narcotics trafficking situations, new technologies, and specific requests of the host governments. All DEA international training programs have as a major objective the building of regional working relationships between countries.

International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) - Strengthening International Relations: IDEC was established by DEA in 1983 with the objective of creating a multilateral forum for the international police and prosecutor community to strengthen international relations and counternarcotics cooperation, share drug-related intelligence and to develop operational strategies that can be used to combat transnational, organized criminal organizations involved in the illicit drug trade. What began with less than a dozen countries in 1983 has grown to well over 100 member and observer IDEC countries, and several affiliate police observer organizations. The conference is co-sponsored each year by the United States and hosted by one of the international participating IDEC member nations. Over the years, IDEC has emerged from a liaison and policy forum to an operational and strategic planning platform. Critical and sensitive issues in international drug enforcement, international money laundering, and narco-terrorism are deliberated upon, and investigative targets and operational objectives are prioritized, selected, and agreed upon by member nations. The 32nd annual IDEC was held in June 2015 in Cartagena, Colombia co-hosted by the Colombian National Police. The IDEC was attended by 107 countries, including more than 380 official delegates, the most delegates in attendance than any previous IDEC. In addition to the General Assembly various geographical regional and multi-regional working groups were held to identify collective targets, agree upon multilateral counter-drug enforcement and interdictions operations and assess the progress and evaluate the intelligence on existing and emerging targets. For the first-time the IDEC co-sponsor, the Colombian National Police integrated a concurrent demand reduction training program held throughout the week to accredited local and international schools in Cartagena, Colombia. The 33rd annual IDEC will be held in 2016 in Lima, Peru hosted by the Government of Peru and the Peruvian National Police.

The Special Testing and Research Laboratory’s Programs: The Heroin and Cocaine Signature Programs (HSP/CSP) at the DEA’s Special Testing and Research Laboratory (STRL) are intelligence gathering, science-based initiatives which determine the geographic origins of heroin and cocaine exhibits. In addition, the laboratory maintains a Methamphetamine Profiling Program (MPP) that determines the synthetic routes and precursors employed in producing methamphetamine. The classification schemes for these programs were developed using authentic exhibits collected from drug source countries world-wide, as well as drug processing laboratories within those countries. By collaborating with the partner nations, numerous such “authentics” are submitted annually to the laboratory from the DEA foreign offices. Currently, the laboratory classifies several thousand U.S. seized and foreign seized drug exhibits every year. The CSP recently announced the ability to determine the sub-regional geographic origin of seized cocaine, meaning that cocaine can be traced back to known illicit growing regions in South America to include sixteen regions in Colombia, two regions in Peru, and one region in Bolivia. The HSP recently announced a new classification for heroin produced in Mexico with South American heroin processing methodology. The Signature and Profiling Programs provide the counterdrug intelligence community with science-based heroin and cocaine source data and intelligence information regarding methamphetamine synthesis. The HSP, CSP, and the MPP are viewed as crucial tools to investigate and support strategic intelligence regarding illicit production, trafficking, and availability of these three high profile drugs within the United States and foreign countries. Over the past several years the laboratory has established a robust Emerging Trends Program to analyze new (or novel) psychoactive substances for enforcement and intelligence purposes. This group has identified over 350 new synthetic cannabinoids, substituted cathinones, and powerful hallucinogenic compounds that have come into the drug market.