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A Response to the DEA web site

DEALogo DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
Briefing Book

Aviation Operations

DEA Statement Response
The DEA Office of Aviation Operations leads the air war in the fight against illegal drugs. This means employing aircraft in a variety of roles to support domestic and foreign operations against drug traffickers. As drug trafficking increased nationwide, it was evident that drug traffickers had no boundaries. DEA recognized the need to have mobility on land, air and sea. Our border is wide open and there is no realistic hope that any effort will be able to adequately seal it against the influx of high-profit drugs.  While the DEA's effort gives agents the opportunity to fly around a lot, it has no significant effect on the flow of drugs into this country, and never will.
Since its inception in 1971 under DEA's predecessor agency, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Office of Aviation Operations has grown from a single aircraft to a fleet of 90 planes. The Office's mission is to provide aviation support to operational and intelligence elements within DEA; detect, locate, identify and assess illicit narcotic related trafficking activities in the United States and foreign countries; and assist other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies involved in the deterrence of illicit narcotics related activities. NBC Dateline once did a segment to test how effective the DEA's effort was.  They found they were able to fly back and forth across the border very easily, using the simplest of evasion techniques. 
The Aviation Operations Center is headquartered on a 12.3 acre site adjacent to Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas. Today, 103 Special Agent/Pilots are based in various offices throughout the United States, Central and South America. DEA pilots are experienced criminal investigators as well as highly qualified aviators. Another of the bright ideas behind this effort were the radar balloons which once lined the US-Mexico border.  The narcotics forces spent more than $100 million on a series of blimps which were flown on tethers at the border.  Radar equipment on the blimps was supposed to detect low-flying drug planes.
The Office of Aviation Operations provides support in surveillance, photographic missions and intelligence gathering, undercover investigations, over-water search and surveillance, and rapid deployment of personnel and equipment. There were a lot of reasons the blimps didn't work.  The simplest of them was that drug runners in small planes would simply buy an ordinary car radar detector.  Then they could simply fly along the border until the light on the radar detector went off.  At that point, they knew they were not being "painted" with radar, and would quickly fly across the border.

Or, they could just wait until the first sign of rainy weather, because the balloons had to be taken down to protect them from damage.

The US Government eventually abandoned this silly idea, but the DEA continues to pursue such follies.



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