Enforcement agencies boost cooperation on drug investigations

Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement leaders signed an interagency agreement on Thursday to increase the number of ICE agents authorized to conduct drug-related investigations and to improve intelligence and information sharing between the two agencies.

Under the agreement, the Homeland Security assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be able to select an unlimited number of ICE agents to investigate drug-trafficking cases, whether those agents are operating at the border or not, as long as the cases are tied to cross-border smuggling. In the past, DEA has limited such authorization to ICE agents stationed at the U.S. borders.

In addition, ICE agents for the first time will fully participate in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Fusion Center. The center allows participating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including DEA and the FBI, to share information and analytical resources to enhance their overall investigative capacity.

DEA has principal responsibility for enforcing narcotics laws embodied in Title 21 of the U.S. Code. The agency cross-designates ICE agents to enforce those laws. Currently, DEA has cross-designated nearly 1,500 ICE agents to investigate drug crimes, but that number will expand under the agreement.

The arrangement will allow federal agents to "conduct more sweeping operations and connect the dots" linking drug crimes with smuggling organizations, said Michele Leonhart, acting DEA administrator. "I would say the biggest change is ICE joining the fusion center and agreeing to share information," she said.

The new setup will not affect DEA's relationships with other agencies such as the Border Patrol, which operates under a long-standing agreement to turn seized drugs over to DEA, something that has sometimes aggravated ICE officials. (ICE and the Border Patrol are part of the Homeland Security Department, while DEA is part of the Justice Department.)

But Leonhart said DEA is reviewing its existing agreements with other agencies, including the Border Patrol, and those relationships could change.

Turf battles have hampered drug enforcement efforts at the border for years. In March, the Government Accountability Office issued a report highly critical of both DEA and ICE. Jurisdictional disputes between the agencies and their failure to coordinate operations and share information have hampered drug investigations, jeopardized agents' lives in some cases, and even hurt relationships with foreign partners, GAO reported.

Escalating violence along the Southwest border spawned by Mexican drug cartel activity has given the issue greater urgency. This spring, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder began meeting regularly to improve coordination between their departments.

"Giving ICE agents the authority to investigate drug-trafficking cases, enhancing information sharing capabilities between ICE and the DEA, and ensuring full participation in intelligence centers will strengthen our efforts to combat international narcotics smuggling, streamline operations and bring better intelligence to our front line personnel," Holder and Napolitano said in a joint statement.

The interagency agreement signals "a new era of cooperation between ICE and DEA," said John Morton, ICE assistant secretary. At his confirmation hearing in March, Morton said one of his top priorities was resolving long-standing problems between ICE and DEA.

The agreement goes into effect immediately and will be reviewed in one year.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.