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Public Statements

Panel I Of A Hearing Of The Senate Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs Committee


Location: Washington, DC

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SEN. LIEBERMAN: Good morning, and welcome to this hearing.

This morning we're going to focus in on the ruthless drug violence in Mexico, the implications of this violence for the homeland security of the United States, and, most important, what our government is doing and should be doing about both.

This is the first of two hearings the committee has planned on this problem for now. The second hearing will take place on April 20th in Phoenix, Arizona.

Today we're privileged to have as witnesses top officials from the three federal agencies here in Washington that are at the center of our nation's response to this crisis. This is their first congressional appearance since yesterday, when they released the administration's new initiative to contain and respond to Mexican drug violence. And I thank Secretary Napolitano, Assistant Secretary Steinberg and Deputy Attorney General Ogden for being with us this morning.

The facts of this matter are now pretty well documented and appalling. More than 6,000 Mexicans have been killed in drug-related violence in the past year. Most of the dead appear to be associated in some way with the drug trade, but not all of them. Ten percent of the fatalities are actually government officials and police. The police chief of Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, was forced to resign when drug cartels threatened to kill one of his officers every 48 hours unless he stepped down. The mayor of Juarez actually lives in El Paso temporarily with his family and commutes to work every day for reasons of safety.

The United States Justice Department said in December that the Mexican drug cartels are, quote, "the biggest organized crime threat in the United States," end quote, and are present in 230 American cities.

This morning Secretary Napolitano will tell us in her testimony that Mexican drug cartel violence is, quote, "a homeland security issue in which all Americans have a stake." The danger here is clear and present. It threatens to get worse. It also follows some puzzling and unpredictable patterns. For instance, El Paso has been ranked as the third-safest city in America. But Juarez, literally a stone's throw away, is the epicenter of the carnage, with more than 1,500 murders last year.

Drug-related crime has increased in several American border jurisdictions and beyond. Phoenix now ranks first in America and second in the world in kidnappings with more than 700 kidnappings in the last two years. Most of the kidnappers and their victims are drug smugglers, but innocent victims are always at risk of being caught in the crossfire, and in fact have been caught in the crossfire.

The Mexican drug cartels are engaging in brutal and inhumane tactics, the kinds that we on this committee and the secretary and the American people have come to expect from terrorists. And that's exactly what they've become, attacking police stations and other government facilities, kidnapping and killing family members or associates, innocent associates, of people involved in the drug trade, posting the names of officials and law enforcers marked for execution, then kidnapping or killing many of those officials and informers, and in a gruesome mirror image of what we've seen from terrorism, decapitating their targets.

The drug cartels tunnel beneath border fences and use their blood money to corrupt officials, mostly in Mexico, but sometimes here in the United States. They are high-tech criminals and killers, using satellite phones, encrypted radios and Internet voice technology to shield their communications from the law. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Mexican drug cartels, as I mentioned, are operating in 230 American cities, from Appalachia to Alaska.

The bottom line is this. We must do everything within our power to help the Mexican government disable the cartels and prevent them from exporting their drugs and destruction any further to America. Our neighbor to the south, our good neighbor to the south, Mexico, is a strong country with a courageous national administration. President Felipe Calderon has taken on the cartels. And the Obama administration is clearly intent on supporting him. Secretary of State Clinton is in Mexico City today. Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder will be there next week. And President Obama will travel to Mexico in mid-April.

In yesterday's announcement, the administration directed the redeployment of Department of Justice and Homeland Security resources to the border to strengthen the prevention and investigation of drug, gun and bulk cash smuggling and to increase southbound vehicle inspections.

Over the last two years, Congress has also appropriated $700 million for Mexico under the Merida Initiative to better train and equip Mexican law enforcement, military and border personnel, to root out corruption and help reform the Mexican judicial system. I look forward to asking Deputy Secretary Steinberg about what the hopes of the State Department are now for the Merida Initiative as we go forward.

I would say that the Obama administration's response yesterday to the Southwest border violence represents a significant step forward. But I don't think it's enough. In a letter that I, in my capacity as chairman of this committee, sent to the Budget Committee of the Senate regarding the budget for the Department of Homeland Security, I recommended an increase of $250 million in fiscal year 2010 to hire an additional 1,600 Customs and Border Protection officers at the ports of entry and exit.

I also requested $50 million for Customs and Border Protection to establish and enhance fusion centers along our Southwest borders, and $50 million more for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire more agents to work on gun investigations and also for fusion centers; and finally, an additional $35 million more for the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center at the Department of Homeland Security.

I think there are also legislative steps that we can take to strengthen this fight. If Congress, for instance, closed the gun show loophole that allows purchasers to circumvent background checks that occur at drug stores -- excuse me, at gun stores -- our government's work would be a lot easier and more effective.

There's an unusual additional problem that we, I think, will want to legislate on. Cash earned from American drug sales, which are the life blood of these Mexican drug cartels, is increasingly being smuggled back to Mexico in stored value cards. A single card can hold thousands of dollars. It's far less conspicuous, of course, than bundled cash and does not have to be, as a matter of law, declared at the border.

Unfortunately, these cards are not considered legal monetary instruments, and border officials therefore have little authority to police them. That needs to be changed by a new law if we're going to make it harder for the cartels to launder their illicit profits.

In sum, President Felipe Calderon's gutsy leadership in the fight against the drug cartels has provided the United States with an unprecedented opportunity to collaborate with him and the Mexican government to defeat the drug cartels that threaten the people of both of our countries. In our interest and theirs, we must together seize this opportunity.

Senator McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing. And I look forward to this committee coming to Phoenix, Arizona on April the 20th so we can get a lot of first- hand testimony as to the enormity and the significance of this challenge to our states and our communities all over the Southwest, as well as all across America.

I want to thank our head of Homeland Security, the former governor of the state of Arizona, who has a very in-depth knowledge on this issue. She has been heavily involved in it as governor of our state.

And I appreciate the fact that you would come today and share not only your background, but also your plans as to how we can address this issue in the future. And it is a compelling issue.

Many Americans believe that the escalating violence in Mexico is remote. It is not. According to a Justice Department report in December, Mexican cartels and their affiliates, quote, "maintain drug distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors in 230 cities across the United States."

The city of Phoenix is now the kidnapping capital of the United States, second only to Mexico City for the most kidnappings of any city in the world. Just last month, 755 criminals living in the United States who are allegedly tied to a major Mexican drug trafficking organization were arrested.

Few border cities have experienced the level of fear that the citizens of Nogales, Arizona have felt from the rising violence of Mexican drug cartels. The city of Nogales straddles the border of Sonora, Mexico and the state of Arizona. Its residents have seen several gun battles break out in broad daylight between Mexican police and the drug cartels.

In August, just one block away from the U.S. consulate, three men wearing ski masks emerged from a car with AK-47 assault weapons and opened fire, killing several men. On October 10th, 10 men were killed during a deadly shootout and chase between heavily armed members of drug cartels and Mexican law enforcement as they sped through the city streets just a couple of miles from the border during the early- morning hours, while many Mexicans and Americans were commuting to work.

The intelligence bureau commander for the Arizona Department of Public Safety said, and I quote, "It was such a heavy fire fight that Mexican police were actually calling for reinforcements and asking for ammunition from the American side."

This increasing violence led the State Department to issue an alert advising Americans traveling to Mexico to use caution because, quote, "large fire fights have taken place in many towns and cities across Mexico." During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area. Criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles in border areas, a sad state of affairs and a dramatic change from just a short time ago.

The United States obviously must do all it can to assist President Calderon in his efforts against these violent drug cartels. The prosperity and success of Mexico is essential to the prosperity and success of our own country. We share a border. Our economies are intertwined, and we're major trading partners with each other.

I commend the administration for its announcement yesterday that there would be additional more personnel deployed to the Southwest border, increased intelligence capability and better coordination with state, local and Mexican law enforcement authorities. But I am convinced we must do much more. Instead we have reduced the funding to the Mexican government for training and assistance promised as part of the Merida Initiative.

And, of course, we in the United States -- perhaps our dirty little secret is that between $10 (billion) and $16 billion are spent by Americans to pay for these illegal drugs, creating a demand -- creating a demand. I look forward to Governor -- Secretary Napolitano's comments about that side of this equation as to how possibly we can reinvigorate our efforts to try to cut down on what is clearly drawing these drugs to the United States and a major factor in this terrible violence that's taking place.

I think it's time for the U.S. to show its support for our neighbor to the south and support the Mexican people and the Calderon administration.

Mr. Chairman, could I just make a couple of points? One, obviously we are creating the demand. And it's, as I've mentioned, between $11 (billion) and $16 billion-a-year business. President Calderon is under real assault. Some high-ranking members of his administration and law enforcement officials all over Mexico have been assassinated, showing that corruption penetrates to literally the highest levels of government, a problem that he is wrestling with. But the reason why we're having this showdown is that President Calderon is not averting his vision from this issue and is willing to take it on.

Finally, I'd like to point out -- and I'm sure that Secretary Napolitano will agree with me -- this is an existential threat to the government of Mexico. And if the Mexican government fails and is taken over by the drug cartels, or large parts of Mexico is taken over, it not only has profound consequences for Mexico, but it certainly has the most profound consequences for the United States of America. This is a serious issue.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having this hearing.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Senator McCain.

Senator McCain joined the committee this year. He has been instrumental in urging me and Senator Collins to move forward with these hearings today and in Phoenix on April 20th. And I appreciate what you said just now, Senator McCain.

I want to indicate for the record that Senator Collins, almost always here, had a conflict with another hearing that happens to be on Alzheimer's treatments and cures, and she's the co-chair of the Senate caucus on that disease. So she wanted to extend her regrets to you, Madame Secretary, and to the other witnesses, and obviously will be with us as we go through this investigation.

I want to welcome you today. I thank you for appearing here this morning. Thank you for all the experience first-hand that you bring to this challenge as part of your new responsibilities. And I would invite your testimony now.


Thank you, Chairman Lieberman, Senator McCain, for the opportunity to testify and to inform you what we are doing now in response to the drug war that is going on in Mexico that does have, as Senator McCain said, profound effects on the American homeland.

We have seen the violence in Mexico spike. We've seen it spike because of the efforts of the Calderon government to take on these cartels, and we've seen it spike because we are increasingly trying to shut down the avenues by which the drug trade can move drugs into the Untied States, and therefore the cartels are fighting each other for turf and for precedence.

We are seeing some increases in cartel-related crime in the United States. As has been mentioned, kidnappings in Phoenix, for example, are related to the drug cartels. And as the Department of Justice has itself noted, the cartels are now distributing drugs in at least 230 American cities. So the effort to minimize this issue as a, quote, "border issue," or to suggest that the American people as a whole do not have a stake in this, would be misleading.

There's always been, I must say based on my own experience, a certain amount of violence and crime associated with drug and human trafficking along the border. And I say that as the former U.S. attorney for Arizona, attorney general of Arizona and governor of Arizona, a border state. But what we are seeing now is of a level and kind very different than what we have seen in the past. The 6,000 homicides already noted in the northern states of Mexico is a huge number, but the fact that over 550 of them were assassinations of law enforcement and public official personnel is itself chilling. And that indicates itself the seriousness with which this battle must be waged.

Let me turn to what we're doing at the Department of Homeland Security. First, we know that the weaponry used in this war in Mexico comes primarily, although not exclusively, through the United States. Just a few weeks ago, March 7 through 13, we seized 997 firearms going into Mexico. That was accompanied by $4.5 million in cash and 45 criminal arrests.

But we need to strengthen that. So we are doubling our border enforcement security teams -- these are called BEST teams. These are teams that are combining DOJ with DHS and state and local officials. They also involve Mexican law enforcement officials. To date, they have literally made thousands of arrests, seized tons of drugs, hundreds of weapons and millions in cash. We will double our commitment to those teams along the Southwest border and increase the number of teams. For example, New Mexico has not had a BEST team, it will now have a BEST team.

We will triple the number of Homeland Security intelligence analysts along the border because we need to get away from the serendipity of a lucky search. We need to make sure, increase the yield from searches, and you do that by having better intelligence. We are tripling the number of analysts there.

We are increasing by 50 percent the ICE attache personnel in Mexico City. These personnel are primarily working with Treasury officials there and in the United States to combat the money laundering that is going on. We call it Operation Firewall, but this is an area where I think we can achieve even more success than we have to stop that flow of cash into Mexico, into these drug cartels.

We will double the number of violent criminal alien sections along the border. These are designed to prosecute recidivist violent aliens that we find. Many of them are working for the cartels.

We will quadruple the number of border liaison officers. These are officers who work to coordinate between American law enforcement personnel and Mexican law enforcement personnel to share information and intelligence.

We will increase the technology and resources employed at the border, particularly by moving significant biometric identification equipment down to the border so that we can trace the fingerprints of anyone who is picked up and make sure that they are run through ICE databases and the other databases we have before anyone would ever be released.

Previous to this initiative, we had done virtually no screening of southbound rail traffic, so we don't really know what was being transmitted into -- or transported into Mexico by rail. There are eight rail lines that go into Mexico. We are now screening those rail lines.

We will move nine Z backscatter mobile X-ray units to the border. That is to help identify anomalies in passenger vehicles. For example, on southbound cars, what the backscatter can do is identify does this car weigh more than it should even loaded with passengers, and if it does, could we refer it over to a secondary inspection to see if that weight is attributable either to loads of cash or arms going into the cartels.

We're deploying 100 more border patrol agents to the port of entries. Also to help with southbound inspections we're moving 12 teams of cross-trained canines to the ports of entry going south. These are cross-trained because they're trained to detect both money and guns. We are moving three mobile response teams of 25 agents each. These are mobile response teams of border patrol agents that are designed to be mobile, to go where issues are occurring and to provide immediate response. We're moving three more of those teams right down to the border, and we are moving more license plate readers to the ports of entry.

In addition to what we are doing at the federal level, we understand that state and local law enforcement in the border area is heavily affected by the increase in violence and the associated crime committed by these cartels and their members. We are therefore revising Operation Stonegarden grant funding to increase the types of missions that those monies can be used for to pay for additional law enforcement personnel, overtime and travel and lodging expenses for deployment of local law enforcement to the border cities. We anticipate an additional $59 million will be accessible to border law enforcement by expanding the guidance for those Stonegarden funds.

In addition, we are reaching out to our local border communities. I've sent some individuals down there now to personally stay in touch so we know on a real-time basis what is happening. And I myself am scheduling bimonthly conference calls with border chiefs of police and sheriffs.

These actions so far are designed to be budget-neutral. What I have done is identify other activities that are less urgent fund balances to be able to move these resources where I think they are needed most. We may need some minor reprogramming, Mr. Chair, but I believe that staff members are already apprised of that or are being apprised of that. But for the time being, we anticipate all of these actions by the Department to be within the budget that we have been given by the Congress.

Senator McCain asked about demand. This is a supply issue. It is indeed also a demand issue. I would be delighted to work with the new drug czar if he is confirmed. But I was also pleased to see that there was almost $70 million included in the stimulus bill for drug courts at the state and local level. Those have been very helpful in identifying nonviolent drug offenders and getting them into treatment as opposed to the prison system. And that does help on the demand side. But undoubtedly there is much more we ought to be doing as a country where these illegal narcotics are concerned.

We are working very closely with the Department of --

SEN. MCCAIN: Could you just a couple of words about the programs in Arizona?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes. We have -- in Maricopa County and in Pima County, the two urban counties of Arizona, there is a very extensive drug court program. And it works exactly as I just described. It's used primarily for first-time, nonviolent offenders. They tend to be younger and they do tend to -- with their one experience with the criminal justice system, they do have an incentive not to experience it again. And they receive basically very, very intensive follow-up through the court system, the drug court system, to keep them out of the prison system.

SEN. MCCAIN: And it's been successful.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: It has been successful. Yes, sir.

With that, Mr. Chair, I'll conclude my remarks. And again, thank you for holding this hearing, the hearing that you're going to have on the 20th of April, and for the committee's interest in this very important issue.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks very much, Madam Secretary.

We'll do seven-minute rounds to start out with.

As you know, there are some people who've suggested that while the Mexican drug cartels have obviously been involved and caused a wave of terrible violence in Mexico that -- some of us here, including people in public office and the media are kind of overstating the impact of that on the United States.

Am I correct, from your statement, in reaching the conclusion that as secretary of Homeland Security, you believe that Mexican drug cartel violence is a real threat to the homeland security of the United States?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: I agree, and it takes several forms.

It does take the form of some increased violence now in the United States. It also takes the form of a threat that spillover violence of a significant nature will occur.

And I believe, as secretary of Homeland Security, one of the duties I have is to identify threats and try to prevent those threats from actualizing in the homeland.

And thirdly, these cartels have fingertips that reach throughout the United States, and they are responsible for a large amount of so- called street crime in our neighborhoods, on our streets, in our communities. And that, in and of itself, lends to a feeling of insecurity in different areas of the United States.

So for all of those reasons, Homeland Security needs to be involved.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: You mentioned the danger of a spillover of the violence. Obviously, some has occurred already, but more broadly.

The previous administration left a contingency place in plan (sic) -- plan in place -- I gather, should violence begin to spill over.

I know that you have said that you are currently reviewing this plan and that you were concerned that it did not include state and local law enforcement as much as it should have.

I wonder if you could indicate to us where you are in the review of the plan and when you hope to have it ready.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes, Senator.

We have -- I have deployed a -- we actually have a position, assistant secretary for state and local law enforcement. I believe that's the correct title. It may be a little bit different, but of that nature.

I deployed him to go to the border to personally sit down with police chiefs, sheriffs and so forth, and to review the plan, give us their input.

I would anticipate that we would incorporate that and have a working document that we would be using with the next several weeks.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. Let me ask this question.

How do -- how did you determine -- do you try to state, or will you try to state in the document what the trigger is here, what the threshold is? In other words, when you as secretary decide that the spillover of the violence has reached a point where you want to implement contingency plans in the interest of the homeland security of the U.S.?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: I don't believe, Mr. Chairman, that it will be expressed numerically. That's too difficult to ascertain.


SEC. NAPOLITANO: But I think it will be expressed in terms of what are the factors that would lead me as the secretary to determine that that plan needs to be deployed.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. Good enough. We look forward to that plan as it comes along.

I thought that yesterday's announcement, which you've documented again today, of what the administration intends to do, was significant. It is particularly a significant redeployment of investigators and agents to the border to focus on interdicting the cartels' drug, gun, and bulk cash smuggling.

But I will tell you that I am concerned that transferring these resources from other parts of the country is not sustainable in the long term, and probably doesn't allow you to do everything we want to equip you to do on the border without increasing the overall resources available to the Department.

And that's why I made the recommendations I did to the Budget Committee and why I intend to fight for more resources for the Department, particularly for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Do you want to give a reaction to that? Are you -- let me ask, I'm sure if we gave you the money, you'd be happy to take it and use it well. But let me ask it this way:

Are you considering modifying your fiscal year 2010 budget request to enable you to continue the presence of all these additional personnel -- 350, it looks to be, from yesterday's announcement -- at the border, without compromising your mission elsewhere in the country?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Mr. Chairman, I believe that, as the FY '10 numbers are still being finalized, right now my belief is that I can sustain what I have described to you through FY '10.

But we will -- obviously, budgets and threat environments are always changing. And so we will obviously keep you apprised of that situation.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. So we may have a friendly disagreement. I may try to get you more resources than you're asking for, but I'd rather -- (laughter). Which is unusual.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, I don't have Peter Orszag sitting next to me --


SEC. NAPOLITANO: -- but I can feel his presence behind me.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: But you and I have a longstanding separate relationship.


SEN. LIEBERMAN: And we can build on that.

Seriously, I think you're going to need more resources to get this job done, and also -- (inaudible) -- this is a kind of war. And part of this is deterrence.

And the increase of personnel at the border and the kind of sophisticated equipment you've talked about, and intelligence resources, are going to be critical to making life miserable for the drug cartels.

And when life is miserable for them, it's obviously better for us.

Just a quick question. I think I saw in the media that you're seeing Governor Perry of Texas today. You know that he's asked, as I believe the governor of Arizona has, for some deployment of National Guard to the southwest border.

What's your current position on that?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Mr. Chair, I will actually be in Texas tomorrow, and I will be spending some time with Governor Perry. And I want to --

He basically said, I want 1,000 National Guard; was a fairly -- but without specificity. And so I want to talk with him specifically about why 1,000; what's -- is that a magic number, and how was it derived and where would they go, what would their mission be.

And the issue of National Guard performing some capacity to support civilian law enforcement at the border is still under consideration by the administration.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. Thank you. Time's up.

Senator McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

So you are undecided about the issue of National Guard troops to the border and, if so, in what capacity. Is that correct?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: It's still -- Senator, it's still under consideration, yes.

SEN. MCCAIN: The -- you mentioned that you are redeploying forces to the border from other areas. What -- where are they coming from?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: We can give you detail on that. There are literally a few from here, a few from there, a few from here. We have not redeployed from the northern border; I think that's important to say.

We've delayed purchases of equipment to help support the movement of agents. We've also delayed some other initiatives in order to fund this, and then we're using unexpended fund balances from FY '06 and '08.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I'd appreciate it if you'd, for the record, give us where are the areas where you're taking these resources from. I understand the decision. We'd be interested where they're moved to.

Today's Wall Street Journal, on March 25th, says "U.S. to send more agents to curb border violence." Then it says, quote, "However, competing agencies have refused to work together on the task forces that the administration's bolstering to target the drugs, guns and cash that are fueling fighting among Mexico's drug lords, according to agency officials.

"And adding to the problem, the agencies are operating under rules that are up to three decades old, said former senior agency officials and members of Congress involved in the oversight."

And then it goes on to say that the problem of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives are refusing to allow some of its agents to participate in several of the special task force groups established by the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate border efforts to crack down on guns and drug proceeds headed to Mexico, said Bureau and Homeland Security officials.

Bureau agents work on these task forces in Texas. Regional leaders have refused to join the same effort in Arizona, officials from both agencies acknowledged.

Do you have a response to that Wall Street Journal statement and, obviously, comments from officials in both the Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Homeland Security?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes, Senator. I read that article from unnamed officials, and I'm glad that the deputy attorney general is here, but --

He and I and the attorney general are united in this effort, and we understand that it requires the Department of Justice and its agents and employees, and the Department of Homeland Security and its agents and employees, to work together to maximize the deployment of resources at the border.

And when it comes to our attention that there is some competition or non-cooperation going on, we're going to repair that.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, is it true that your agents that work on task forces in Texas have refused to join the same effort in Arizona? Is that true or not true?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: I don't know the answer to that question, and I'm going to find out. But if it is true, it's going to be fixed.

SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you. I'd be interested in, again, for the record, you would supply a response to that. I think it's an important question.

On the issue of funding, The Washington Post today, U.S. stepping up response to Mexican drug violence. It goes on to say that some experts said the tools deployed represent a tiny first step toward what is needed. Retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, the nation's drug czar during the Clinton administration, said that, quote, "Adding a handful of platoon-sized units," unquote, will not check the problem, and that the amount committed is minuscule compared with the 2.5 billion (dollars) the U.S. military spends in Afghanistan each month and the $12 billion going to Iraq. Quote, "It's commendable they're paying attention," McCaffrey said, but, quote, "where's our sense of priorities?" Do you have a response to General McCaffrey's comments?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, on the one hand, I would disagree. It's interesting. Senator Lieberman, his comments began with the fact that there have been decreasing violent crime stats in the U.S., so why are we doing this? And that's one press attack. And then the other one is, well, we're not doing enough. Here's what we have done. What we have done is analyzed what is going on, including the efforts of state and local law enforcement along the border, and what is happening in Mexico. We've done an analysis of what the Department of Homeland Security can contribute to that that would have the most effect, both in manpower and technology. And then we've added in or worked with the Department of Justice in terms of what they will contribute to the effort. And then, of course, there's the Merida Initiative that you're going to be hearing about later.

Our goal is to obviously address this in the most serious way possible. If we need to scale up, that will be something that we will bring to you. If we can scale back over time, obviously, that is something as well. But for this time and (train ?), these are the actions that immediately will be undertaken to make sure that the threat of spillover violence is contained and that we are assisting President Calderon in his efforts.

SEN. MCCAIN: Besides the drug courts that you mentioned in Maricopa County and Pima County in Arizona, what other programs have you observed in your time as U.S. attorney and attorney general and governor that have been successful in trying to address the demand side of this issue?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Senator, I would like to be able to respond at greater length about that to you and think about it. I will tell you that, in general, the characteristics of a successful drug-prevention strategy require an education side, a public-media side and then an immediate intervention and treatment side. It's really a three-legged stool, and if you only fund one leg or two legs you don't really get the effect on drug-demand reduction.

I will also share with you that in certain drugs, for example methamphetamine, I'm not sure that we yet have a good, once someone is addicted, a good treatment regime. But I would be pleased to supply you with a list specifically of certain programs around the United States that I think have been more effective than others.

SEN. MCCAIN: Are you generally in agreement with my comment that this struggle that Calderon and the Mexican government is engaged in with the drug cartels is an existential threat to the very fabric of the government of Mexico? Do you agree with that statement?


SEN. MCCAIN: I thank you. Thank you very much for being here today. And look forward to chatting with you and ask you after your trip down to Mexico. Thanks for your good work.


SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Senator McCain.

Senator Graham, good morning.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

Madame Secretary, is there any laws that need to be changed to combat this threat in the United States that you can think of in terms of guns, money, wire transfers?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: You know, Senator Lieberman mentioned the issue of the service cards that are being used in lieu of cash. That may be something to be looked at. The initiative that we are embarked on, however, Senator, does not require any change of laws.

SEN. GRAHAM: Is it fair to say you're comfortable with the laws that we have in place to deal with the problems in Mexico?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: I'm comfortable the laws we have in place are the laws we are going to enforce and will allow us to take on the initiatives that I described to the committee.

SEN. GRAHAM: When it comes to budgeting and what you might need in the future and having to defer some purchases, do you think a supplemental request would be appropriate here?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Senator, right now we have, in light of the other demands on the budget, the economic exigencies, other situations, I've viewed it as my responsibility to find a way to pay for this with the money the Congress has appropriated.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, that gets us to a point. You know, we're spending money very quickly on some things that are very controversial. And there's a lot of pushback. I doubt that there would be a lot of pushback -- I can't think of anything more important right now, really. I mean, you're at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our neighbor to the south is under siege, the government is being threatened, its very existence in Mexico is being threatened. I can't think of a better use of the Congress's time and efforts to come together and come up with a game plan to deal with our consumption back here at home, to beef up resources to your agencies, the Department of Justice to really go after consumption at home, create a very robust national drug court system that deals with this head on. I can't think of a better use of our time and public dollars than to come up with a more robust presence on the border, whether it be military or other agencies involved. I don't think you should have to put off purchases. I think we're missing the boat here. I think this is an opportunity to get the Congress and the White House together and really go after this problem. So it's quite frankly not appropriate, in my opinion, to say that we've got budget problems when it comes to this. We've got a lot of conflict about the budget, but this is one area where I think most Americans would cheer if we spent some money wisely. What do you think about that?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Senator, I think that I agree with you about the seriousness of the situation. I agree with you that reducing drug demand in this country is something that would have a beneficial effect in all kinds of ways, not just in terms of federal dollars but state and local dollars that have to be spent because of the plague of drug abuse and drug usage in our communities. But for this day (train ?) on this initiative, I am not requesting a supplemental.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, you're the secretary of Homeland Security. And Senator McCain asked you, what programs have worked and what programs have promise? And you gave a very thoughtful answer, let me think about it. Well, I would encourage you not only to think about it but come back to us and say, help me fund it. When it comes to the idea of how to use the military, if you think there's a need for it, let's get all in. I guess my point is let's be all in. What I see happening is encouraging, but I don't think this country is all in in this fight. And I can't think of a more dire consequence to the United States really in many ways than to have Mexico just collapse. So I would urge you, when it comes to budget matters, programs that need funding, to be more aggressive, lean forward.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Senator, I appreciate that thought. I think I will have a better sense in a way after my meetings in Mexico next week. And I'd be happy to report back to the committee on what we've learned there. I believe this will be an ongoing issue. In other words, I do not believe what we announced yesterday, what I have informed the committee of today is the last word that's going to be said on this subject. This is going to be something that is going to require our efforts over time.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, if you need somebody to help you with Peter, I'll be glad to call him and say, Peter, there's a lot of bipartisan support for some spending here that would make some sense. Thank you very much. I know you understand these issues well having lived in Arizona. And just let's get all in and win this thing. Thank you very much.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you, Senator.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks very much, Senator Graham. And you've expressed I think what the feeling on the committee is and I would guess in the Senate, generally. I hope that we'll have the opportunity, I think we'll make an opportunity to introduce an amendment to the budget resolution to increase support to your department and perhaps to State and Justice as well for this fight. And if there's a a supplemental, we'll probably try to do the same just to make sure that you -- it's up to you to determine how to use that. But I don't want you to feel or to be under resourced in deterring this violence from coming over the border and in aiding our allies in Mexico in defeating it.

Senator Burris, thanks for being here. Good morning.

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D-IL): Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much.

And congratulations to you, Madame Secretary. You have had a stellar career (amongst all ?) of being an attorney general. And you're looking at two of us here, so we certainly appreciate your extended service to not only the very state of Arizona but to America.


SEN. BURRIS: And by way of statement, it's clear that solving the border violence will require local and federal agencies to coordinate their plans and their information. This violence is a terrible consequences of our continued fight against illegal drugs and those that promote them. Victory in this fight is a victory for our shared security benefits, not only on our borders but also throughout America, which I'm going to get to in a moment. However, we must realize that this problem is systemic and that we must utilize all the tactics that we have to review today in order to dismantle these criminal cartels effectively.

Creating a successful deterrent to the trafficking of illegal arms and drugs is fundamental, but in order to decrease crime, we must also disrupt the network that funds it.

I hope that we can support President Calderon's brave effort to secure our border and destroy the roots of this ever-growing problem before they do anymore damage.

Now, as I mentioned Madame Secretary, Operation Accelerator and Project Reckoning were both multinational victories. Can we replicate these successes to weaken other cartels? And how can we use the lessons we used from our earlier operations to make border enforcement more effective?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Senator, there are a combination of things that need to occur. It's really at several levels.

One is we cannot fight the cartels in the United States. In other words, they are based in Mexico. The leaders of the cartels are in Mexico. Their powerbase is in Mexico. That is why we want to be working with the Calderon government so closely in their efforts to dismantle these cartels which have grown ever more stronger over the last 10 or 15 years.

Secondly, we have to make our border presence more robust, not just in terms of northbound interdiction, but in terms of southbound interdiction -- particularly where arms and cash are involved.

And then thirdly, we have to do a better job at disrupting the drug distribution networks that find their way into our neighborhoods and communities. And that goes to the demand side in part that Senator McCain was talking about.

SEN. BURRIS: Now, that's what I also want to discuss.

If we deal with the demand side and we cut down on the demands to treatment and various -- what we call the three-legged stool where you have the education, the treatment and -- I don't know what the third leg is on that one --

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Senator, the media -- the public part of it where you have constant media messages.

SEN. BURRIS: Yeah, because if there is no demand there will be no supply. And this is where we always maintain some way we've got to get to our communities to deal with those individuals who are trafficking and those who -- I'm sorry -- those who are selling and those who are using.

And to cut down on the users, are we looking at any -- because you've got the drug czar or some other type of program. Are they part of the overall efforts with homeland security on our side to try to deal with the problem?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Senator, assuming that the nominee is confirmed -- and I personally don't know the timing on that -- but I'm going to actually be reaching out with ONDCP to make sure they are incorporated in our efforts.

SEN. BURRIS: Another question too in terms of now this jurisdictional situation where you've got all these agencies together. Are these agencies going to be able to function together with all these questions up in the air?

I mean, do you have turf problems appearing as you now try to pull Justice and Homeland Security and the other agencies together? Are you going to be able to work out your turf problems?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Well, Senator, following up again on an earlier question on a Wall Street Journal article today, I believe that the attorney general and I -- we have worked together for many years on issues. And our common goal is if some of those original turf issues are being played out in the field and they're interfering with our goal of strengthening the border and getting at these cartels, we're going to fix that.

SEN. BURRIS: I know that you and Attorney General Holder and you all have worked together, but it's getting it down through the ranks where the problem occurs. And with your experience in government, I'm sure you're familiar with how you can bring something down from the top, but getting it to be operating amongst the operators is not always easy.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Again, if there really is a situation that's developed, we will get it resolved.

Our goal is to -- and I believe the goal of the law enforcement agency in the field -- let me be very clear: I think law enforcement in the field understands the risks of these cartels and the danger that they pose and the strength that they have. So we'll work through some of those issues if they are indeed interfering with our ability to disrupt the cartel action in the United States.

SEN. BURRIS: And having been the governor of Arizona, the prosecutor and the attorney general right on that border, I'm pretty sure you have a pretty good insight into what is taking place. Is that not correct, Madame Secretary?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: I would like to believe I do. Yes, Senator.

SEN. BURRIS: Okay. Well, we're hoping you're in the right place at the right time to do the job for the American people and the Mexican people to do what we can.

But my position is, Madame Secretary, we have to do something about the demand at home. We've got to stop the users and the ability for individuals to acquire those drugs, start treating those people who are drug addicted rather than locking them up and putting them in prison, which is also raising our costs.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes, Senator.

SEN. BURRIS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Senator Burris.

I just have one more question -- if any of my colleagues have one more, they're welcome to ask as well.

I just wanted to ask you to speak a little bit more -- I'm going to ask the Department of Justice witness as well -- about what we can do -- what you can do to DHS to cut the flow of weapons from the U.S. to Mexico.

Obviously, in the normal course of things -- and you correct me if I'm wrong -- is that exit inspections don't happen very often. In other words, when people are leaving the U.S. there are random inspections, but not very rigorous. So one obvious thing to do is to have more rigorous inspections, at least at the southern border as people are leaving the country.

I just wanted to give you a moment to comment, Madame Secretary, on what specific actions, additionally, you're thinking of taking to crack down on the southern flow of illegal firearms. Do you need any additional legal authority to do that? And of course, it's one of the reasons why I know you've redeployed and why I think you should have more personnel to carry out that particular function.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Yes, Senator. A great deal of the actions I described earlier are designed to give us a southbound presence.

In other words, our history has been focusing on goods and people coming north. And what we're trying to do now is in addition to that, interrupt the flow of guns and cash south. That's why we are going to be inspecting our southbound lanes. That's why we're deploying technology down there that allows us to scan vehicles and to weigh vehicles.

One of the areas of the coordination with Mexican law enforcement that we will be discussing next week is given the number of lanes that go south in New Mexico from the United States, Mexico has customs as well. They can also do southbound inspections. So dividing up -- we'll do some, they'll do some others. That's where the coordination aspect comes in.

And then, as I suggested before, we need to get beyond getting lucky at a lane inspection. That's why we need more intelligence and intelligence gathering about what vehicles are likely to be carrying these guns and this cash. And so that's why more intelligence analysts are being used at the border and deployed there as well.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Senator McCain, do you have another question?

Let me just go back and forgive me -- Senator Burris, do you have one?

I'll just follow up quickly. How about a reaction to the concern that -- about sales at gun shows? In other words, the Brady Law creates a check on a person before they can buy a gun at a gun store -- a licensed gun store. At a gun show, obviously -- not obviously, but the fact is, they don't have to go through that minimal check about criminal record, for instance.

Would that help, do you think, to close the so-called gun show loophole?

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Anecdotally, a number of the weapons -- and we may have a better sense of that as we increase seizures. But anecdotally, a number have been purchased at gun shows.

The issue for me as the Homeland Security secretary, Senator, is that we need to act now. And as you know, that sort of a statute would take awhile to wind its way through.

So my view is I've got to play the hand of cards I have. And the hand of cards I have allows me to do southbound seizures; and the hand of cards I have allows me to increase intelligence gathering; and the hand of cards I have allows me to coordinate better with Mexican law enforcement. So that's what I'm going to do.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Good enough.

And I think the question of that law is obviously more in our court that yours.

To say the obvious, that you know well from all your experience, we didn't get to this point of crisis overnight and we're not going to get out of it overnight. But we certainly appreciate the steps you've taken. And we want to work with you in the time ahead to both strengthen and protect our allies to the south and to protect ourselves as well.

Thank you very much for being here.

SEC. NAPOLITANO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Senator.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

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