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Drug Trafficking Vessel Interdiction Act of 2008

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Location: Washington, DC


DRUG TRAFFICKING VESSEL INTERDICTION ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - September 27, 2008)

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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Texas again for his efforts on this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, as we stand here today, dangerous drug traffickers are surreptitiously moving tons of cocaine across our oceans and into America. Cocaine traffickers operate with stealth and are virtually undetectable thanks to their use of self-propelled submersible and semi- submersible vessels or SPSS.

These submarine-like vessels have unusual construction. They are typically less than 100 feet long with most of their bulk under water. They can carry up to five crew and as much as 12 metric tons of cocaine from the north coast of South America to the southeastern United States without refueling.

The U.S. Coast Guard has successfully apprehended two SPSS vessels in just the last few weeks. One carried seven tons of cocaine with a street value of $187 million. The second vessel seized was carrying 295 bales of cocaine.

However, under current law, it is not illegal to operate one of these vessels. Therefore, in order to successfully prosecute these criminals, the Coast Guard must obtain evidence of drug trafficking or other illicit conduct--a dangerous proposition on the high seas.

Coast Guard teams must physically board the SPSS, often in the dead of night, while it is travelling at up to ten knots. The teams must then risk their lives to apprehend the traffickers and seize the drugs aboard the SPSS.

And the drug traffickers know the law. They know that the Coast Guard must obtain evidence of drugs so they will often scuttle the vessel and jump overboard--turning a criminal apprehension into a rescue mission.

This legislation removes this dangerous hurdle. By prohibiting the possession of SPSS vessels without nationality, we protect the safety of these Coast Guard teams while ensuring swift prosecution of the cocaine traffickers.

I wish to commend my colleagues, Mr. LUNGREN and Mr. POE, for championing this important issue.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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