- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday committed the Justice Department to a renewed war on drugs, saying federal prosecutors and investigators plan to specifically target international narcotics smugglers whose profits are used to finance terrorism.
In a speech to agents and employees at the Drug Enforcement Administration's headquarters in Arlington, Mr. Ashcroft said the department's $19.2 billion drug-control strategy is aimed at reducing the flow of illegal drugs by 10 percent over the next two years and, eventually, by 25 percent in 2007.
The attorney general said there is "an undeniable link" between acts of terrorism and illicit drugs, noting that narcotics trafficking mainly cocaine forms an important part of the financial infrastructure of terror networks.
Mr. Ashcroft said that of the 28 terrorist groups identified last year by the State Department, a dozen use drug smuggling as their primary source of revenue. He said Americans spend about $64 billion annually on illegal drugs.
One of those terrorist organizations surfaced this week as one of the first targets in Mr. Ashcroft's renewed war on drugs when a federal grand jury in Washington indicted leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia for conspiring to send tons of cocaine into the United States.
The sealed indictment, handed up March 7 but unsealed Monday, was the first to name members of the Marxist rebel organization known by its Spanish initials FARC. The indictment charged three FARC leaders, Tomas Molina Caracas, Carlos Bolas and Oscar El Negro, and four others, including three Brazilian nationals, with drug smuggling and conspiracy.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has said FARC is among several terrorist organizations that annually receive illicit-drug profits to finance their activities. The agency said that the Colombia-based group gets about $300 million from drug sales annually, and that another Colombia organization, the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), relies on the illegal drug trade for up to 70 percent of its income.
FARC and the AUC, along with the National Liberation Army, all are designated as terrorist groups by the State Department, which said in a recent report that they "control much of Colombia's narcotics production and distribution, reaping enormous profits."
U.S. aid to Colombian President Andres Pastrana's anti-drug program, known as "Plan Colombia," has been limited to counterdrug measures. In recent months, however, the Bush administration has been considering a Colombian request to redirect some of its assistance to combat insurgency movements.
According to the ONDCP, the now-ousted Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which provided safe haven to terrorist Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, used revenues from opium and heroin to stay in power. The agency said that in 2000, Afghanistan was responsible for more than 70 percent of the world's opium trade, resulting in significant income to the Taliban.
The ONDCP recently reported that the growing link between terrorists and the drug trade had contributed to an increased threat to the United States.
The agency said drug and terrorist organizations were taking advantage of the global economy to expand the scope, scale and reach of their activities and, as a result, their ability to harm American citizens and to damage U.S. interests was dramatically expanding.


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