Thank you, Attorney General Landry, for the opportunity to address the National Association of Attorneys General today.
Beyond America’s shores, transnational menaces undermine security, the rule of law, and economic opportunity in countries around the globe – contributing to migration and displacement, and to instability, corruption and weak governance that create fertile ground for extremists and criminals alike. This is not in anyone’s interest.
At the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs – INL – we have two major tools to bring to the table in the larger federal effort to tackle pressing criminal, drug, and law enforcement-challenges emanating from abroad – diplomacy and foreign assistance. Our ultimate objective in applying these tools is advancing the safety of Americans and America.
We do this in the long-term by building strong criminal justice institutions overseas and fostering the kind of effective and durable governance needed for countries to successfully partner with us and, eventually, to stand on their own.
In the short to medium term, our work helps to create partners that are more effective for you, and for federal law enforcement, in the fight against transnational crime.
We could talk about many things in INL’s world, but I am going to start here:
We are all painfully aware of the devastating impact of the opioids crisis in our country. To put it into perspective: at the peak of the ‘70s heroin crisis and the late ‘80s/early ‘90s crack cocaine crisis, we were losing approximately 3,000 to 4,000 Americans in a year to overdose deaths. In 2017, there were over 70,000 fatal drug overdoses, with two thirds of those linked to opioids, particularly fentanyl.
As you heard from President Trump, most of the opioids are coming from China — which is why the President has personally pressed his Chinese counterpart to work with us to stem this deadly tide. President Xi has made the commitment – now we are engaged in the effort to hold his government to it.
With fentanyl from China mixed into the drug supply, criminals have not only significantly increased profits, but also potency.
In addition, unlike drugs derived from plant-based crops, synthetic drugs can be produced anywhere. So, we can reasonably expect a proliferation of synthetic drug production in the world – making our diplomatic efforts to gather international will more critical than ever.
Next week, I will lead the U.S. delegation –a broad federal team — to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna where we will be working to secure more international controls of deadly synthetics, shaping the future of international drug policy, and gathering partners to help us narrow the space in which drug traffickers operate globally.
Today’s drug crisis, turbocharged by globalization and new technology, is not like the threats of old. Increasingly, synthetics are being sold on the dark net and paid for with anonymizing crypto currencies. They are dropped in the mail or consignment shipped into the small towns of America. It is a perniciously accessible and diffuse supply chain. This dynamic threat means that we need to work in innovative ways with like-minded partners across the globe.
INL has developed a five-year synthetic drugs strategy to guide the work of the Department of State, to put our diplomatic and foreign assistance tools to work to help sever every link of the illicit synthetic drug supply chain.
The strategy focusses on strengthening the capacity of our partner nations to detect, interdict, and share information on drug threats, building partners’ ability to target online sales and resultant financial flows; and developing and enhancing partnerships with governments, industry, and international organizations. This effort complements the Administration’s priorities – and significant investment — here at home focused on amping up law enforcement and tackling prevention, treatment and recovery.
The opioid strategy is part of INL’s focus on disrupting and dismantling transnational criminal organizations,TCOs, which threaten the American people not only through drug crime, but also through trafficking in humans, wildlife, and weapons. The United Nations estimates TCOs generate $2 trillion a year in profits –an unthinkable amount of money going into the hands of criminals.
And, while the focus has rightly been on fentanyl and its many analogues coming from China, TCOs have not left behind the old ways. They continue to funnel heroin, cocaine, meth, and other illicit drugs through Mexico into the United States, with the attendant dire consequences.
INL, through its part of the Merida Initiative, continues to work with Mexico to disrupt these TCOs by not only going after the production and trafficking of drugs, but also the long-term effort to strengthen their criminal justice system and fight corruption. Similarly, we are working in Central America and countries like Colombia to tackle illicit drug flows and the crime that comes with them.
The TCO business model relies on corruption and on the ability to launder the proceeds of their illicit activities. In response, INL’s foreign assistance programs help establish vetted units overseas, strengthen internal oversight, and build ethics into training curricula.
INL programs give foreign partners tools they need to help stem the tide of dirty money, whether by advising on effective anti-money laundering laws, building capacity on asset forfeiture, or providing software to conduct financial forensics. INL works to prevent corrupt actors and their immediate family members from traveling to the United States through our visa sanctions programs. INL is also the source of the funding for the U.S. Narcotics Rewards Program, a tool to help law enforcement bring criminal actors to justice.
Finally, INL leads the U.S. government in funding cybercrime training and technical assistance for foreign law enforcement to improve their capacity to work with our law enforcement community.
INL’s success depends on the ability to call upon our U.S. – partners – including you and your teams – to help us train, mentor, and guide our foreign counterparts. This wisdom is indispensable.
NAAG – and its member Offices of the Attorneys General – have been indispensable partners for INL.
In 2018 here are a few things the INL-NAAG partnership enabled:
The Maryland and New York AG’s offices training prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges analyzing forensic reports in Armenia;
The Wisconsin AG’s office training on public relations and transparency for judges and prosecutors in Macedonia, and
The Massachusetts AG’s office training prosecutors on domestic violence in Vietnam.
In addition, the Training and Research Institute for NAAG did a needs assessment and developed curriculum on basic techniques for Honduran prosecutors – many of whom had not received international training in over 10 years.
Attorneys from the Connecticut and South Dakota AG Offices conducted workshops in Ethiopia with over 25 African Union officials and member state representatives on legislative reform that gave African Union policymakers hands on experience with drafting complex pieces of legislation – because the institution building work we support around the world must be rooted in sound laws.
We also worked through NAAG for the DC Attorney General’s Office to host a Tunisian delegation to talk about alternatives to incarceration (ATI) that paved the way for an effort to institutionalize ATI programs throughout the country. Tunisia, as you will recall, was the starting point for Arab Spring. In the aftermath of that tumultuous and hopeful moment, Tunisians needed our help to map a path forward to advancing democracy – one in which they are working to close ranks against terrorism and instability by rebuilding the institutions of justice and governance. You are our partners in this consequential effort.
INL has also worked closely with the Conference of Western Attorneys General since 2011. To date, those efforts have reached over 20,000 members of Mexico’s legal community through 139 attorney general exchanges, as well as a variety of hands-on trainings on the accusatorial criminal justice system.
Your generosity in lending us your time and your staff helps us achieve our common goal: keeping our country and citizens safe and secure.
You heard the President speak not just about his admiration for the U.S. law enforcement community, but also about the fundamental need for partnership among state, local and federal law enforcement. In INL, we live this every day.
We want to work with you. Partners like you and the NAAG enable INL to take a holistic approaching to fighting the opioids crisis and other transnational crime.
We work with prosecutors, police, FBI, DEA, and other governmental agencies to safeguard our communities.
I want to thank each of you again for your commitment to fighting the threats we face today and I look forward to continuing this successful relationship with you.