Investigations of Major Drug Trafficking Organizations

GGD-84-36: Published: Mar 5, 1984. Publicly Released: Mar 21, 1984.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) efforts to immobilize major drug traffickers and their organizations.

GAO stated that, because scarce federal resources must be directed primarily toward the elimination of criminal organizations responsible for supplying drugs, persons at the highest levels of trafficking enterprises must be detected and immobilized. GAO found that DEA has adopted various techniques for focusing its investigative efforts at the highest echelons of drug trafficking organizations, including a code classification system which categorizes violators. GAO found that federal law enforcement efforts aimed at immobilizing major drug traffickers and their organizations have improved. Since 1979, total arrests of major traffickers have increased 13 percent and, during 1981 and 1982, a total of 81 indictments of major traffickers were secured. However, drug abuse levels remain unacceptably high, and national trends indicate that the availability of major illegal drugs will be abundant for the next few years. To further improve its attack on drug trafficking, DEA is increasing the use of techniques proven most successful in investigations of major violators. DEA plans to make more use of electronic surveillance, the analysis of financial data, and intelligence units. However, GAO has found that the DEA criteria for classifying major violators are too broad. As a result, traffickers within the highest category are not necessarily the heads of criminal organizations.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The June 1984 DEA Agent Manual contains modifications to the categories of Class I violators. The revisions do not specifically provide a separate category for persons managing continuing criminal enterprises. To determine which Class I cases are directed at these leaders, a case review would be needed. The violator classification categories would not identify these cases.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Administrator of DEA to revise the drug violator classification system to provide a separate category for persons managing continuing criminal enterprises. The criterion for classifying drug violators in this category should be persons managing criminal enterprises involving at least five suspects, the minimum number needed for a continuing criminal enterprise indictment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice


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