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Last Updated:3/14/02
Statement of Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information, March 13, 2002

Mike DeWine



Prepared statement of U.S. Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information hearing, "NarcoTerror: The Worldwide Connection Between Drugs and Terrorism":

Good morning. I appreciate you all taking the time to come here and discuss the undeniable link that exists between acts of terror and illegal drugs. While most of us have long recognized this close connection, recent events have made this link more relevant in the daily lives of all Americans. In the past six months, more and more people have come to the same simple conclusion: Terrorists and drug traffickers are linked in a mutually-beneficial relationship by money, tactics, geography and politics.

I believe it is somewhat ironic that this issue has come into focus largely due to the relationship between the Taliban regime, which provided safe haven to Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network, and the opium and heroin trade in Central Asia. According to some estimates, the Taliban made as much as $50 million a year in revenue from the drug trade, and we know that Afghanistan supplies more than 70 percent of the world's heroin.

However, many (if not most) people in the United States paid relatively little attention to Afghan heroin because it only constitutes about 5 percent of the U.S. supply. Little notice was given to the fact that opium cultivation increased dramatically when the Taliban came to power, rising from 52 percent of the world's total in 1996 to a high of 79 percent in 1999 -- 4,581 metric tons, according to the United Nations. The fact of the matter is that the Taliban was extremely dependent on opium sales. Tragically, it took the events of September 11th to focus large scale international attention on the nexus between drugs and terrorism.

And so, we must do everything possible to prevent illegal drug income from being used to finance regional instability or international terrorism. This is true whether we are talking about the Taliban in Afghanistan or the FARC in Colombia. If we fail to sever the ties between the drug money and terrorism, then we risk losing fragile democracies around the world -- and right here in our own backyard in countries like Haiti and Colombia.

The reality is that democracy is being threatened in the Andean Region, in large measure, because money generated by narcotics production and trafficking funds well-armed terrorist groups. Nearly 90 percent of the cocaine and the majority of the heroin arriving in the United States comes from Colombia, mostly originating in southern Colombia where government control is weakest. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) receives about $300 million a year from drug sales (six times the annual amount reaped by the Taliban). The right-wing paramilitary United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) relies on the illegal drug trade for 40 to 70 percent of its income. And, Peru's Shining Path is more dependent on drug money than ever before.

In October, the State Department designated 28 organizations in the world as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Twelve of those 28 listed organizations have been identified as having links with drug trafficking, and four of these twelve reside in the Andean Region.

These groups routinely carry out political assassinations, murder innocent civilians, trade drugs for weapons, and torture and murder judges and law enforcement officials.

In recent months, the FARC also has increased attacks in urban areas and against electricity towers, water supplies, and other critical infrastructure. These groups present a clear threat to regional security and, in fact, threaten our own national security. They rely on drug profits to do so. Whether they actively cultivate and traffic the drugs or "tax" those who do, the financial windfall that the narcotics industry guarantees is an adequate alternative to state sponsorship. Yet, ironically enough, the fact that these groups wear two hats -- the insurgent hat and the drug hat -- actually affords them some degree of protection under our current policy. We need to revisit this policy and ask ourselves if it really makes sense.

The blurring of the lines between the international drug trade, terrorism, and organized crime poses new challenges to the United States. Organized crime groups often run the trafficking organizations, while the terrorists and insurgent groups often control the territory where the drugs are cultivated and transported. Both groups use profits from the drug trade to finance their organizations and operations.

The magnitude of these profits almost guarantees financial independence from a state sponsor and allows these groups to operate with impunity. Any restraint that could have been imposed by a state sponsor is non-existent, and "traditional" diplomatic and military measures are inapplicable in the absence of a state sponsor.

This is more than just a drug problem, a health problem, or a law enforcement problem. It is a national security issue. And so, our response needs to go beyond drug eradication to include intelligence collection, diplomatic efforts, law enforcement activities, and military action. For example, while I continue to support Plan Colombia and the Andean Regional Initiative, we must go beyond eradication and increase our efforts to pursue the people and the organizations who enable the narco-traffickers to operate.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing what you all have to say this morning.


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