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Narco-Terrorism

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the nice compliment. The truth is when Steve Casteel and I started in this business, there's an expression—there used to be an ad, "This ain't your father's Oldsmobile"—this is not your father's Oldsmobile anymore. I've been doing this for 30 years. I have been doing it as long as anyone in here, including the panel. And I spent a considerable portion of my life trying to figure out how to deal with the drug problem, international drug trafficking. And this has morphed into a very different arena now. And we have not yet adjusted, in my view—it's not a criticism. It's an observation. We have not fully adjusted to the changes that have taken place. Nor in a sense is it reasonable to expect we would have fully adjusted by now.

As without going through, which I was going to do, I would ask unanimous consent my entire statement be placed in the record, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. HATCH: Without objection.

SEN. BIDEN: I would just speak to parts of it, without cataloguing, as you did very well, the recent arrests, including 16 Afghans and Pakistani nationals arrested in New York on drug charges. And their drug ring was linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

We know what's going on now. Since September 11th we have been focused on counterterrorism, and rightly so. But we have got to see and respond to the big picture here, and it's going to take a while to get this right. I want to be realistic about homeland security. And if we take our eye off the ball we are going to find ourselves with a problem.

We have to make sure our security priorities don't undermine our existing law enforcement efforts, which they are doing right now unintentionally. They must go hand in hand. And I've been worried for some time that the increased focus that we have on homeland security has lost sight of what's really happening on our streets and in drug trafficking in particular.

If you look at the anti-drug initiatives that are part of the war on terrorism, and understand that, then I think we come up with a slightly different matrix than we now have. The administration's record here is somewhat mixed in my view. It's doing a pretty good job on Colombia. It's doing a horrible job—and I want to make it clear—a horrible job in Afghanistan. And at home here it has purportedly proposed slashing—well, not—it's repeatedly—I said purportedly—it's repeatedly proposed slashing or eliminating law enforcement programs with track records that reduce crime. The FBI has been forced to ship hundreds of agents away from counternarcotics work, which they are involved in, forcing the DEA to do more without the sufficient money in my view to do their job. Moreover, the administration has left a top anti-narcotics position at the State Department vacant since September, yet to even nominate a replacement. We have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time here. We can't separate fighting terrorism from fighting drug trafficking, given the considerable increasing linkage between the two.

Let me just mention two areas that I've already mentioned, but expanded slightly. Afghanistan. The connection between the war lords, drugs and terror is clear as a bell. Some of us, a lot of us here, have talked about it. I have written reports about it. We have gone to the area and visited it. We even passed a billion dollar aid package here for Karzai last year for security, not one penny of which has been spent. There has been no extension of the security force beyond Kabul. The national security advisor has said to me personally, and I indicated generally, that we have stability in Afghanistan—quote, "the war lords are in charge." When I indicated that in Herat you had a guy named Ismael Khan, a war lord running the show, she said, "Yep, there's stability." There's stability, all right, everything's back in business—everybody is back in business.

When I was there a year ago December, and spent time—and January—with Karzai, the opium production was way down. We all said, sitting here, you all said, We are not going to let this erupt again. We are not going to let this happen again. This is not going to become the single largest opium producer in the world. In a short two years it is once again the single largest opium producer in the world. And the fact of the matter is you can't stop opium production when the war lords control the regions, and when in fact we don't expand security beyond Kabul.

Last year Afghanistan produced 3,400 tons of opium. That's ore than 18 times the amount produced during the last year the Taliban was in charge. The value of the harvest to growers and traffickers was $2.5 billion—more than double the entire amount of foreign aid given to Afghanistan by all nations, all nations in the world, in the year 2002. It was a power vacuum created by war lords and drug traffickers that enabled Taliban and al Qaeda to Afghanistan into an international "swamp," as the president called it, the first time. And now we are back in the same situation again.

In December, President Bush signed the Afghan Freedom Support Act, which authorized $1 billion to expand international peacekeeping outside of Kabul to the rest of the country, and to date the president has not asked for one dime of that money to be spent. I sincerely urge the president and plead with him to seek to expand that force and to spend some of that money.

In Colombia the record is a little bit better. The effort has been consistent. The problem is in a sense even more intractable than it is in Afghanistan. And all of us here have been a number of times to Colombia. We have witnessed the operations. We've met with the Colombians. We understand the FARC and ELN and the AUC and how they have gone from being facilitators to wholly-owned subsidiaries now. They are doing the job, and doing it very well. According to recent estimates, 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States, five percent of the heroin used on the East Coast comes from Colombia. And, boy, it's pure as you all know. I remember when you and I got here, Mr. Casteel, when you started, we were worried about brown heroin—brown heroin from Mexico. God, give me back brown heroin—six percent purity. I can go on Hiromingo (ph) Avenue in Philadelphia and pick it up at 90 percent purity. We can now smoke it. You can now get young girls who are 13 years old, who would no more put a needle in their arm than fly—you can get them to smoke cocaine just like the crack epidemic started.

The United States has remained engaged in Colombia, and it's a very difficult problem. And I credit the administration for its efforts there. But the point I want to make is this: You all are in an almost—how can I say it? -- almost impossible situation. As we put together these pieces for homeland security and dealing with international terror, we have had to move a lot of pieces, and there's bound to be some dislocation in the movement. But what concerns me is with a 40 percent reduction in funding for law enforcement locally in this next year's proposed budget, with moving 578 Strike Force and narcotic related FBI agents out of that area, without significantly increasing for DEA a commensurate number of people, without putting security forces in Afghanistan, which is a very different way—in place and ability to eradicate crops there than it is in the Amazon—we are missing real opportunities here, and creating problems that were pointed out by the chairman.

I'll end by suggesting that you will be able to have all the terror, all the sophisticated terror operations from al Qaeda on fully funded, with money left over for vacations, by the profit for narcotics and international narcotics trade now being controlled by terrorist organizations. So to suggest that we can deal with terror and not deal equally as, with as much emphasis, effort and resources, on international drug trafficking, I think is a glaring, glaring mistake. And Afghanistan is to me the most significant case in point. And I might add I am fully aware of what you all tell me, that 80 percent of the heroin that goes, the opium produced—by the way, they're moving the labs back from Pakistan now into Afghanistan, because it's, you know, it's a secure area. There's nobody to crack down—nobody to crack down in most of these areas. At least in Pakistan they're worried a little bit about the government—a little bit about the government. So you know things are really doing well when they're moving the labs back from Pakistan across the border into Afghanistan. Eighty percent of it goes to Europe, I understand. Drugs are like oil, they are fungible. And that means it increases our problem commensurate with the fact that all the heroin supply for Europe is coming out of Afghanistan now.

I hope you all are willing to accept more money. I hope you all are going to be honest enough to tell us what your shortfall is. I hope you're going to be willing to tell us, and not give us the malarkey you can do more with less, because you know you can't, and you haven't. So I hope we have some candor here, because this is a big, big deal. I yield the floor.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to focus on three areas, just to sort of give you a heads up here. One is what our targeting priorities are. Two is what knowledge in detail we have about the impact of actual funds in the hands of terrorist organizations. And, three, the allocation of our resources domestically, the federal budget—how we allocate those resources, and whether we could do it better.

Now, I like all of you and the chairman, have spent a great deal of time dealing with the Andes, and Colombia in particular. But I want to make a point here. The very existence of that democracy is at stake in whether or not it becomes a narco-state or whether or not it is able to gain control. And that's consequential to us, short-term, long-term. But it is not nearly as consequential to us as whether or not al Qaeda has an extra 200 million bucks to spend. And none of you have talked about priorities h ere. We talk about terror like all terrorists are created equal. All terrorists are not an equal threat to us. Nobody from the AUC is attacking directly the United States of America, the paramilitaries in Colombia. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars aiding and assisting the Colombian government to deal with the AUC. We have trained their military. We have trained them explicitly to try to deal with the internal problems of the Colombian military. But if you ask the American people whether or not if we took all the money we are spending in Colombia, and if we spent it all we could cut off all funding for terror, all narcotics funding to al Qaeda, the American people in a heart beat would say, Stop it all for everything else—take care of al Qaeda.

My dad, who just died, used to say, If everything is equally important to you, nothing is important to you. The reason I wrote the drug czar law in the first place was we didn't prioritize. We didn't prioritize. Now, my question to you is this: From each of your different perspectives, how are you charged? What is your number one priority? What terror organization—not generically—and, if it is generic, then I think we have a serious problem. What is the bulk of your focus? Some of us are beating the living devil out of, with good reason, the Saudis, for not having cut off quickly enough, directly enough, and profoundly enough—not having changed their banking system, not having used their authority to get their billionaire cousins to stop funding indirectly and directly al Qaeda and their madrassas. What good does that do? We are risking, with good reason, a relationship that has profound consequences for us, including whether these lights go on or not, and how much it costs to turn them on. And in fact the amount of money that al Qaeda may be getting through Afghanistan alone may make up for all the lost revenue. I don't know—may.

So my question to you is, starting with the State Department, and my first question to you, Ms. McCarthy, is: Why don't you have a boss? I'm not being facetious. What's the reason? What's the inside skinny? Why have we not had this as a priority? Why don't you have somebody running the show there? That's my first question.

SEN. BIDEN: It's kind of an unfair question to ask you, actually. I --

SEN. BIDEN: I should withdraw the question. There's no way she'd know. It's above your pay grade, and mine maybe as well. But it is—it is a reflection, in my view, of the lack of it being a priority.

Number two, what is—do you have a priority list internally as to where the focus should be in this nexus between terrorist organizations and drug trafficking. The State Department first.

SEN. BIDEN: I want to make it clear, we urge you to do that, so it's not like—I'm not being critical—we, the Congress and the administration in the past, past administrations and this one, have had that as a focus. But I just want to make a point. Eighty-one percent of all your effort, money and funding has nothing to do with the organizations that create the greatest immediate threat to the citizens of the United States of America here and abroad—nothing, zero, nothing to do with it.

Now, let me ask the question of each of you. DEA

SEN. BIDEN: Is that group connected in any way—this is about terror, this hearing in particular, not just drugs generically, terror—was that group connected in any way with al Qaeda, the Taliban, or any other terrorist organization as we define it here? You could argue that every international drug cartel is at terrorist organization, but as we define it—just—when we hold these hearings, our folks back—at least my folks back home, what they mean by terror is people who load planes up and crash them into buildings. What they mean is people are getting money to go out and buy uranium—excuse me—go out and buy highly enriched uranium to try to build a bomb. They mean people who are going to go out and build a dirty bomb. They mean people who are going to go purchase botulism. They people who are going to go out and do those bad things that Governor Ridge talks about all the time and we worry a great deal about.

So, let's get it real straight what I'm asking about here, and what the focus of this hearing is, at least for this senator, is what is the connection between these trafficking organizations you're interdicting, and you're doing a good job of interdicting them, and the organizations that are the ones that are going to use weapons of mass destruction and/or catastrophic actions to cause significant numbers of deaths in the United States and Americans abroad.

That's what this is about. Now, please tell me whether or not the interdiction you had on the Turkish border, the movement of laboratories near Turkey, which I mentioned in my opening statement, whether or not that has any direct relationship between the funding of terrorist organizations who are seeking to create significant numbers of American deaths as a consequence of their actions.

SEN. BIDEN: Let me give you a specific example. And I don't want to get any of your agents in trouble. For 30 years, as I've traveled countries, as you probably know, I find your agents and I sit with them. This has been a passion of mine for my entire career. Sitting in Bagram—at Bagram Air Force Base, dealing with your agents—you know, most people don't know—that one of the things—there are no stove pipes there any more, and so you have a DEA agent sitting next to an FBI agent, sitting next to a CIA agent, sitting next to a Defense Intelligence Agency personnel, sitting next to the commander of special operations, all around a big table. Your guys are telling me exactly what was going to happen. They laid it out. Unless we establish security in the provinces, the mayor of Kabul can't do a damn thing. There is nothing Karzai can do to follow up his edicts—zero. forces there, no longer pursuing with the same—well, officially no longer pursuing the Taliban and al Qaeda in the same way we did before, but not out in the countryside. We have 200 forces out in the countryside in these—what were we going to call them, what are these places called that we're, instead of expanding—come on, somebody on the staff, there's a name for it, a great little acronym, these forces that were going to go out for reconstruction in the countryside. So, you go out to build a dam, and we're going to provide X number of military to go with, you know, the agency building a new sewer system or whatever. It has a name, and I'm amazed my staff can't—doesn't know it. I'm amazed I don't know it. But having said that is, we've got 200 folks out in the field in uniform.

Now, your guys told me, "Hey, Joe, you think we're going to be able to stop poppy production on a grand scale if we're not out in the field, if we cannot secure the region?" Karzai sends out an edit, what happens? Ismael Kahn goes, "Yeah, okay." The mayor had something to say—I don't know what it was. The Pashtun, which he is part of, say "Eh." The Tajiks have nothing—he's no authority, no authority.

And what bugs me about your collective testimony, and not any of you individually, is everybody knows that's for sure one of the revenue streams for the Taliban, particularly in the Pashtun area, and in turn the al Qaeda, although we don't know for certain—none of you know enough to tell me. The intelligence community doesn't know enough to tell me. We don't know what we don't know.

And so my frustration, as you can tell, is not with any one of you. It's our allocation of resources and the prioritization.

Mr. Clarke, you gave me—and you've been here for five weeks, and you've done a great job and you're going to do a wonderful job. You did a hell of a job in Miami. You've got your hands full, man, with this new outfit. It has sprawling jurisdiction, but you never once mentioned, not once, the only thing that concerns Americans right now—any terrorist organization that is likely to send in the phone call taking credit for a bus stop in Buffalo, a building in Wilmington, Delaware, a tower in Chicago, a discotheque in San Francisco, or anything else.

I'm not picking on you. I really am not. But I'm trying to point out—we don't have our act together yet. We do not have our act together yet. And it is worrisome. And so, what at some point, and maybe ask the full chairman of the committee at some point, we should have a classified hearing from—with the intelligence agencies and you included—to tell us what you actually know about the following the dollar, from the time the farmer plants the poppy in Afghanistan or anywhere else, to the moment that a bank account is opened in a cell that is an al Qaeda cell in Riyadh, or Islamabad, or in New York City, and to the extent that we can follow the dollar, if we can. That's the part we don't know.

The chairman is back, and I'll come back with a second round. Well, I guess I won't come back. I'll just state that I really think we are mis-allocating our resources here. And I do not think that we have sufficient information, and it's understandable, about the direct link between the actual production and the actual processing of, in this case heroin but it could be other drugs as well, and the bank account of al Qaeda.

SEN. BIDEN: Yeah, and unfortunately you don't have the ability to do it yet. Maybe we're going to, you know, we're going to have a little epiphany here—not you all—and we're going to see the light and figure out that there is no way—it's a little bit like saying that, you know, we're going to stop—well, anyway, I'm taking too long. But, it's something I want to—we want to work with you on, but it's—we really have to get to the directors of each of your departments to be able to --

SEN. BIDEN: Oh, I'm absolutely confident of that. That's why I'm so happy we didn't let you merge -- (laughter) -- and, which you all wanted to do, and I was able to help stop.

Let me ask one last question, Mr. Chairman—I won't ask any more. Steve, eradication—isn't the circumstance in Afghanistan lend itself geographically, the topography, to the ability to eradicate more easily than it did even in Mexico in the '70s and clearly in Colombia? And as an adjunct to that, the Taliban did a pretty good job. They shut the sucker down. They shut it down. And—and so it's kind of interesting that they could shut it down. We're not looking for a pure democracy in Afghanistan. We're really not following Karzai with, you know, the American Civil Liberties Union behind them. It seems to me that we should be able to be mildly more effective in Afghanistan than we have been, or am I missing something here?

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