Useful resource on ‘drug war’ militarization of border etc.

We demand effective policies to replace those of the Bush and Obama Administrations. Brad Will’s murder in broad daylight, his likely murderers identified by witnesses and in documentary evidence, should have resulted – if there were real law enforcement cooperation between the USG and the Mexican Government – in accountability by now. Until there is accountability for Brad Will’s murder and the murder of 28 other innocents in Oaxaca, we will recognize the fraud of such cooperation under the ‘drug war’.

Most of you probably already follow the excellent work of the TransBorder
Institute and its director David Shirk. If not, highly recommended, and
included here is the most recent note from David and a link to the
institute’s monthly report.

*ACTTing Out in Arizona –*

*Where the Drug War now has a “Unified Command”*

* *

· Arizona is “ground zero” in the reconfigured war on drugs.

· Numbers tell the story of the failed drug war and a misguided
combat against transnational crime.

· ACCT is a paper alliance created to demonstrate Obama’s border
security/transnational crime strategy.

· It’s all about marijuana and immigrants – the same old story of
border control, now called border security.

Arizona and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands are the “ground zero in the war on

That’s the assessment of the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC), the
state office that receives federal criminal-justice grants — and which then
redistributes these Department of Justice (DOJ) grants to Arizona’s
multiagency drug task forces and other counternarcotics programs.

Making the essentially same threat assessment about the border’s frontline
status in protecting the U.S. against the transnational threat of illegal
drug flows, the Obama administration launched its Southwest Border
Initiative in March 2009, calling it the “way ahead” in combating drug

As part of that 2009 initiative, which brought together the resources of the
Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ), DHS launched the
Arizona-based Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats (ACTT) in September
2009, describing it as an “innovative” and “unprecedented” multiagency
assault on crossborder drug trafficking.

*Old Drug War Numbers and Body Counts*

* *

ACTT does point to the large number of immigrant apprehensions and drug
seizures as evidence of its progress against transnational threats.

The Border Patrol and allied sheriff’s departments provide post-ACTT
operation reports of the numbers of illegal aliens arrests, marijuana
seized, weapons confiscated, and assets seized and forfeited.

Typically, ACTT boasts of the number of “illegal aliens” apprehended and
thousands of pounds of marijuana seized.

The title, for example, of a May 27, 2011 CBP release reads:

*“ACTT Operation Yields More than $4.4 million in Marijuana” *
* *
Followed by the subhead:
*“Intelligence-Driven Operations Continue to Yield Results”*
* *

The total results of this 60-day operation in Pinal and Pima Counties were:
“732 illegal aliens arrested, one U.S. citizen, 8,925 pounds of marijuana,
and 17 firearms.”

Another “intelligence-driven operation” by ACTT aimed to “counter
transnational criminal organizations in the Arizona corridor” called
Operation Trident Surge targeted TCO traffic on Forest Service and BLM lands
over three months. The headline of the May 27 CBP media release about this
ACTT operation read: “1,759 people arrested; 23,650 pounds of marijuana
seized.” There were no other reported results, and nothing about how any of
the arrests or marijuana seizures related to government intelligence about
transnational criminal organizations.

Marijuana seizures also headlined another ACTT operation in Pinal County,
which boasted “more than 5,900 pounds of marijuana seized.” The operation
also reported 55 illegal aliens apprehended, five U.S. citizens arrested,
$115,000 in illicit currency seized, four firearms confiscated, and five
stolen vehicles recovered. Typically, no other illegal substances except
marijuana were seized and there was no attempt to show how the operation
targeted transnational crime.

Media releases and internal Border Patrol summaries of ACTT arrests and
seizures echo the agency’s decades-long tradition of measuring border
control progress by way of immigrant arrests and drug seizures –
disconnected from such other measures as the illegal immigrant population,
drug consumption levels, and drug prices.

What has changed, though, is that DHS and the Border Patrol use the same
categories of statistics as part of an unconvincing attempt to demonstrate
progress in combating transnational organized crime and deterring
transnational threats.

*U.S. Military Gets in on the ACTT*

* *

Given that ACTT was created to combat transnational threats and protect
national security, it is not surprising that the Defense Department claims a
role in ACTT operations.

According to the U.S. Northern Command’s General Victor Renuart
At the request of DHS Assistant Secretary Alan Bersin, JTF-North [the El
Paso-based Joint Task Force Bravo] provided support to the Alliance to
Combat Transnational Threats…. JTF-North facilitated intelligence and
operational planning, and provided sensor capabilities during execution of
this intelligence-driven operation.

Through JTF-North’s missions and activities, USNORTHCOM continues to sustain
important relationships with Federal law enforcement agencies in securing
our nation’s borders against drug traffickers and their associated
activities. Robust collaboration exists today between JTF-North and
operational-level leaders in CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Drug
Enforcement Administration, and the FBI… [by way of USNorthCom’s]
Counternarcotics (CN) Programs. USNORTHCOM’s CN Program is an integral part
of the defense and security of our nation.

As part of ONDCP’s new border counternarcotics strategy, the “Intelligence
Community” and DOD are involved in formulating and coordinating “Common
Operating Pictures” and “Common Intelligence Pictures” with other federal
partners and local law enforcement agencies. This collaboration bringing
together the nation’s military and intelligence apparatuses with border law
enforcement agencies will adhere to the information-sharing restrictions
specified in the August 2010 Executive Order on Classified National Security
Information Programsfor state, local, tribal, and private sector entities.

*ACCT as Symbol *

If DHS could make a case that multiagency counternarcotics and other border
security operations like ACTT were indeed reducing the criminal activity of
the illegal drug trade, decreasing the rates of addiction to harmful drugs
such as meth, or helping to end the drug-related violence in Mexico, there
would be less skepticism about ACTT.

DHS and DOJ have a hard time describing what exactly ACTT is. That’s
because, more than anything else, it is more symbolic than real – and one
more tragic symbol of drug prohibition and its consequences.

*Tom Barry directs the TransBorder Project at the Center for International
Policy. Author of numerous books on Latin America and U.S. foreign policy,
Barry wrote Border Wars(MIT Press, 2011). He blogs at:*

*Also see related articles and policy reports:*

Escalating the Drug War in Arizona

Drug War Intensity: A Look at HIDTA

Alarming New Border Counternarcotics Strategy

Drug War Turns to Transnational Combat

Policy on the Edge: Failures of Border Security & New Directions for Border

* *

*Trans-Border Institute*

On behalf of the Trans-Border Institute (TBI) at the University of San
Diego, I’m pleased to send you our August 2011 news report from the
Justice in Mexico Project. Here are a few highlights:

• Weekly average of national ejecuciones up from 2010, Chihuahua’s
and Sinaloa’s rates decrease
• Over 50 killed in arson attack in Monterrey casino
• SESNSP suspends release of funds to nearly 80% of its
• PGR turbulent amidst purges by new leadership, mass-departure of
state prosecutors
• 14-year-old U.S. citizen sentenced to three years in Mexican prison
• Federal District performs first oral trials

As always, remember that our monthly reports, as well as our latest
drug violence maps, are available on our project website
( You can also view regular updates on rule
of law and security issues in Mexico on our blog and RSS feed at our
project website. You can now follow us on Twitter (@JusticeinMexico)
and Facebook (Justice in Mexico). Also, our database of crime
indicators can be accessed on the TBI website (
tbidata). Recent results from our joint project with the Mexico
Institute can be found at ( – David Shirk

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