September 27, 2021

News

News Network

Remarks by Attorney General William P. Barr at a Press Conference Announcing the Results of Operation Crystal Shield

15 min read

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you, Cheri. Good morning everyone and thank you all for coming today.

I am here to discuss, this morning, a serious challenge facing law enforcement throughout the country and the DEA’s operation that has been mounted to meet that challenge, and to discuss some of the preliminary results. It relates to drug trafficking, methamphetamine, and the associated violent crime.

I’ve always said that the first duty of government is to protect the public safety and that is obviously the department’s top priority. State and local law enforcement has the primary responsibility — they’re really at the front line of protecting the public’s peace and safety – but the federal government has joined forces with state and local law enforcement to fight violent crime. Since the 1990’s, we have leaned forward — the federal government has leaned forward — and used our tools that we have, especially that in the areas of gun violence, organized crime, including gangs and drugs, and drug trafficking, to go after violent criminals, in conjunction with our state and local partners, who work with us on joint task forces in various cities and rural areas. Over the last three years, I am happy to say that violent crime in this country has been steadily going down, largely because of the efforts of our joint taskforces.

This year, however, while that pattern still holds in much of the country, we have started to see an uptake in crime in many areas, and many of our large cities especially. This became very pronounced in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the subsequent demonization of police and the “defund the police” movement. Our response has been, the Department of Justice’s response, has been Operation Legend, where we have taken substantial additional federal resources — over a thousand agents and tens of millions of dollars — to augment our task forces in nine targeted cities. I was in Chicago yesterday to announce the early results of project Legend, which we are very pleased with. The cities have come in on a very staggered basis, but just in the last — since we started it on July 22nd – we’ve had 2,500 arrests and crime has dropped markedly in all of the legend cities.

But today I want to talk about another serious challenge to public safety, one that is closely associated with violence, and that is the surging of trafficking in methamphetamine. Now we’ve all heard about the opioid crisis and that certainly has been, and remains, a crisis for our country. We’ve heard about all of the overdoses. Now, for the first three years of this administration, we had been able to, initially, flatten the curve, and then even reduce opioid overdoses, and most of this has come by substantial progress in the abuse of prescription drugs, lawful prescription drugs. But unfortunately, this year, and this is perhaps associated with COVID in some way, we’ve seen an increase in opioid overdoses. Some of this has been fueled, if not most of it, by a shift to synthetic opioids, principally fentanyl, which is a very deadly drug. Nevertheless, and that remains a challenge for us to go after that fentanyl, which, many of you may know, the precursors largely come from China, go into Mexico, and Mexico manufactures it and sends it – the cartels – send it up into the United States.

But, when I took office in February of 2019, I quickly saw that, while the opioid crisis was in fact something we had to tackle hard, in many parts of the country, the primary danger was methamphetamine. Some states have a very low opioid problem and a very high methamphetamine problem and we started trying to deal more aggressively with the growing problem of methamphetamine. Meth is a very dangerous and deadly drug that ravages the body. I think we’ve all seen the before-and-after shots: teeth fall out; scabs on the face that the addicted person picks at; they look like walking zombies. It destroys the health of the addicted person and it severely alters the mind. It is destroying the ability of people to control their impulses. It propels anger, rage, and aggression. It leads, frequently, to violence. Study after study show that it closely correlates to violence and is involved in a lot of domestic violence, as well as homicides. Unlike opioids, we don’t have something to counteract it, therapeutically. There is no Narcan for methamphetamine.

Now the violence arises in two principal ways. One is the users themselves, frequently out of control, attacking police. We’ve had unfortunate instance here in Arizona — a police officer killed by someone on methamphetamine. It also arises from the groups that are involved in its’ distribution in the United States. Frequently the lowest level of distribution are the street gangs in major cities. Now, previously, methamphetamine was largely made in the United States. It was cooked domestically, on a small scale. Now it is manufactured on an industrial scale by the two major cartels in Mexico: Sinoloa and CJNG. It comes across the border via a distribution network where it goes initially to multiple large cities in the United States, fewer than 12, and from there, it’s broken down and distributed throughout the country. It’s now moved into states and areas and communities where we haven’t seen it before. So, it’s largely becoming, and has become really, a national problem, and it’s devastating communities. The Mexican meth is very pure and potent compared to the previous production from the United States, and it’s extremely cheap, which has allowed it to take hold.

Now, in addition to violence, we are seeing an increase in meth overdoses. In 2018, there were approximately 12,000 overdoses with psychostimulants, like methamphetamine. In 2019, it went up to 16,000, a 25 percent increase, and we are likely to see a significant increase this year. Arizona has seen a 17 percent increase in methamphetamine overdoses, with over 2,000 deaths in 2019.

DOJ is responding with a two-prong approach. The ultimate solution, or the core solution, to methamphetamine and most of our drug problems, ultimately lies in Mexico. Almost all the illicit drugs come up from Mexico and are controlled by these two dominant cartels, which are really states within a state. They act with impunity, or have acted with impunity. And until we can deal decisively with the situation in Mexico, we’re not going to see an end to the drug problem. Progress has been made with Mexico. We had some very promising discussions with the new AMLO Administration down there, President AMLO. I made two trips down there in December and January of 2019, 2020. And although we had not gotten any extraditions of drug kingpins and drug cartels members under that new administration, after those visits, we’ve had over 60 extraditions. And we have also continued to work jointly with the Mexicans to apprehend additional cartel leaders for extradition to the United States. And we’ve also started increasing our coordinated operations against the cartels and had a fairly robust plan to work with the Mexicans destroying meth labs. Unfortunately, COVID has intervened and has tempered a lot of the progress that we had been making — reduced our momentum. But we are confident as COVID abates, we are going to get back on track with Mexico and have a much stronger operation down there.

But I said we had two prongs. While we are not taking our eye off the ball in Mexico, in February of 2019, DEA launched Crystal Shield, which is an operation to target the transportation and distribution network here in the United States. Like a lot of our other law enforcement activities, it was effected adversely by COVID and a number of constraints were imposed on these practical restraints. Nonetheless, the operation has been yielding very impressive results, which we expect to accelerate in the months ahead.

I’ll just add parenthetically, that one of the things that has effected law enforcement across the board, but we are certainly seeing it in a very pronounced way in our efforts against drug cartels, is the increasing use of encryption on communication. The use of apps like WhatsApp and Signal and others, which are increasingly used by criminal groups, especially the cartels. Whereas, in the past, communications intelligence were central to investigations, we are now finding that largely cutoff by the use of this encryption. We’ve had to develop — and the DEA has been developing — best possible response to that to keep up our strong law enforcement effort against the cartels.

With Crystal Shield, nationwide so far, there have been 1,800 arrests, 28,500 pounds of meth seized, that’s the equivalent of 65 million doses, and $43 million seized. Here in Arizona, there have been 3,900 pounds of methamphetamine seized, which is 8.8 million doses. Now, it’s important to understand that the results of Crystal Shield are over and above, and augment, what I call the “baseline enforcement effort” that’s directed against methamphetamine by the DEA. So, for example, in 2019, the overall effort against methamphetamine by the DEA had resulted in 100,000 pounds of methamphetamine seized and 11,000 defendants charged. What’s different about Crystal Shield is that it is over and above that, and is also targeting, specifically, the large hubs — city hubs — that are the core of the distribution in the United States. It’s designed to seize it and dismantle the organizations that are involved in its’ distribution before it gets into packages and is distributed.

So in sum, the trafficking of methamphetamine poses a major danger to our communities and the federal government is determined to disrupt, dismantle, and destroy the violent drug trafficking organizations that place profits over human lives. We are fortunate to work alongside, here is Arizona and elsewhere, state and local partners that share our commitment to this important mission. Together, we are going to continue to work to enforce the law and make our communities safer for all.

Thank you.

News Network

  • Former Owner of Aquarium Business Sentenced to Prison for Illicit Trafficking of Protected Reef Creatures
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that a Puerto Rico man was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for felony violations of the Lacey Act that involved the trafficking and false labeling of protected reef creatures as part of an effort to subvert Puerto Rican laws designed to protect coral reef organisms.
    [Read More…]
  • Four Executives and Company Charged with Price Fixing in Ongoing Investigation into Broiler Chicken Industry
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Denver, Colorado, returned an indictment yesterday charging Koch Foods, headquartered in Park Ridge, Illinois, for participating in a nationwide conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products.
    [Read More…]
  • Remarks By Assistant Attorney General For National Security John C. Demers On Announcement of Charges Against Russian Military Intelligence Officers
    In Crime News
    Good afternoon.  Today, we announce criminal charges against a conspiracy of Russian military intelligence officers who stand accused of conducting the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.
    [Read More…]
  • Afghanistan Virtual Ministerial and Remarks by Secretary Blinken
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Colorado Springs Agrees to Improve Stormwater Management in Settlement with the United States
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado, to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act with respect to the City’s storm sewer system.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Launches Global Action Against NetWalker Ransomware
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today announced a coordinated international law enforcement action to disrupt a sophisticated form of ransomware known as NetWalker.
    [Read More…]
  • Financial Audit: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Funds’ 2020 and 2019 Financial Statements
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO found (1) the financial statements of the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) and of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) Resolution Fund (FRF) as of and for the years ended December 31, 2020, and 2019, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) although internal controls could be improved, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting relevant to the DIF and to the FRF as of December 31, 2020; and (3) with respect to the DIF and to the FRF, no reportable instances of noncompliance for 2020 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. In commenting on a draft of this report, FDIC stated that it was pleased to receive unmodified opinions on the DIF's and the FRF's financial statements. In regard to the significant deficiency in internal control over contract payment review processes, FDIC stated that it began taking steps to address this issue and will work to enhance control activities and expand monitoring capabilities in this area. Further, FDIC stated that it recognizes the essential role a strong internal control program plays in an agency achieving its mission. FDIC added that its commitment to sound financial management has been and will remain a top priority. Section 17 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, as amended, requires GAO to audit the financial statements of the DIF and of the FRF annually. In addition, the Government Corporation Control Act requires that FDIC annually prepare and submit audited financial statements to Congress and authorizes GAO to audit the statements. This report responds to these requirements. For more information, contact James R. Dalkin at (202) 512-3133 or dalkinj@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Travel of Special Representative for the DPRK Sung Kim to Seoul
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with UN Special Coordinator Wennesland
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Weapon Systems Cybersecurity: Guidance Would Help DOD Programs Better Communicate Requirements to Contractors
    In U.S GAO News
    Since GAO's 2018 report, the Department of Defense (DOD) has taken action to make its network of high-tech weapon systems less vulnerable to cyberattacks. DOD and military service officials highlighted areas of progress, including increased access to expertise, enhanced cyber testing, and additional guidance. For example, GAO found that selected acquisition programs have conducted, or planned to conduct, more cybersecurity testing during development than past acquisition programs. It is important that DOD sustain its efforts as it works to improve weapon systems cybersecurity. Contracting for cybersecurity requirements is key. DOD guidance states that these requirements should be treated like other types of system requirements and, more simply, “if it is not in the contract, do not expect to get it.” Specifically, cybersecurity requirements should be defined in acquisition program contracts, and criteria should be established for accepting or rejecting the work and for how the government will verify that requirements have been met. However, GAO found examples of program contracts omitting cybersecurity requirements, acceptance criteria, or verification processes. For example, GAO found that contracts for three of the five programs did not include any cybersecurity requirements when they were awarded. A senior DOD official said standardizing cybersecurity requirements is difficult and the department needs to better communicate cybersecurity requirements and systems engineering to the users that will decide whether or not a cybersecurity risk is acceptable. Incorporating Cybersecurity in Contracts DOD and the military services have developed a range of policy and guidance documents to improve weapon systems cybersecurity, but the guidance usually does not specifically address how acquisition programs should include cybersecurity requirements, acceptance criteria, and verification processes in contracts. Among the four military services GAO reviewed, only the Air Force has issued service-wide guidance that details how acquisition programs should define cybersecurity requirements and incorporate those requirements in contracts. The other services could benefit from a similar approach in developing their own guidance that helps ensure that DOD appropriately addresses cybersecurity requirements in contracts. DOD's network of sophisticated, expensive weapon systems must work when needed, without being incapacitated by cyberattacks. However, GAO reported in 2018 that DOD was routinely finding cyber vulnerabilities late in its development process. A Senate report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's implementation of cybersecurity for weapon systems in development. GAO's report addresses (1) the extent to which DOD has made progress in implementing cybersecurity for weapon systems during development, and (2) the extent to which DOD and the military services have developed guidance for incorporating weapon systems cybersecurity requirements into contracts. GAO reviewed DOD and service guidance and policies related to cybersecurity for weapon systems in development, interviewed DOD and program officials, and reviewed supporting documentation for five acquisition programs. GAO also interviewed defense contractors about their experiences with weapon systems cybersecurity. GAO is recommending that the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps provide guidance on how programs should incorporate tailored cybersecurity requirements into contracts. DOD concurred with two recommendations, and stated that the third—to the Marine Corps—should be merged with the one to the Navy. DOD's response aligns with the intent of the recommendation. For more information, contact W. William Russell at (202) 512-4841 or russellw@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Defense attorney convicted
    In Justice News
    A 48-year-old resident [Read More…]
  • Follow Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich in Real Time As It Orbits Earth
    In Space
    With NASA’s Eyes [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Veterans Affairs
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 33 priority recommendations for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Since then, VA has implemented 13 of those recommendations by, among other things, taking actions to ensure that veterans receive evidence-based mental health treatment. In May 2021, GAO identified 8 additional priority recommendations for VA, bringing the total number to 28. These recommendations involve the following areas: response to the COVID-19 pandemic; veterans’ access to timely health care; the veterans community care program; human capital management; information technology; appeals reform for disability benefits; quality of care and patient safety; veteran suicide prevention; efficiency within the VA health care system; national policy documents; procurement policies and practices; and capital planning. Addressing the high priority recommendations identified above has the potential to significantly improve VA's operations, including those related to COVID-19. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202) 512-7114 or clowersa@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Rescues American Held Hostage in Nigeria 
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Canadian National Sentenced for Human Smuggling Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    A Canadian national was sentenced to 32 months in prison for conspiracy to bring undocumented immigrants to the United States for private financial gain in connection with his role in a scheme to smuggle undocumented immigrants from Sri Lanka through the Caribbean and into the United States.
    [Read More…]
  • Texas Rapper Charged in Narcotics and Prescription Opioid Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    Authorities have taken nine people into custody on charges involving the distribution of meth, cocaine and/or oxycodone and hydrocodone, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick for the Southern District of Texas.
    [Read More…]
  • Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq: U.S. Ministry Capacity Development Efforts Need an Overall Integrated Strategy to Guide Efforts and Manage Risk
    In U.S GAO News
    Iraq's ministries were decimated following years of neglect and centralized control under the former regime. Developing competent and loyal Iraqi ministries is critical to stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq. The President received $140 million in fiscal year 2007 funds and requested an additional $255 million in fiscal year 2008 to develop the capacity of the Iraq's ministries. This report assesses (1) the nature and extent of U.S. efforts to develop the capacity of the Iraqi ministries, (2) the key challenges to these efforts, and (3) the extent to which the U.S. government has an overall integrated strategy for these efforts. For this effort, GAO reviewed U.S. project contracts and reports and interviewed officials from the Departments of State (State), Defense (DOD), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Baghdad and Washington, D.C.Over the past 4 years, U.S. efforts to help build the capacity of the Iraqi national government have been characterized by (1) multiple U.S. agencies leading individual efforts, without overarching direction from a lead entity that integrates their efforts; and (2) shifting timeframes and priorities in response to deteriorating security and the reorganization of the U.S. mission in Iraq. First, no single agency is in charge of leading the U.S. ministry capacity development efforts, although State took steps to improve coordination in early 2007. State, DOD and USAID have led separate efforts at Iraqi ministries. About $169 million in funds were allocated in 2005 and 2006 for these efforts. As of mid-2007, State and USAID were providing 169 capacity development advisors to 10 key civilian ministries and DOD was providing 215 to the Ministries of Defense and Interior. Second, the focus of U.S. capacity development efforts has shifted from long-term institution-building projects, such as helping the Iraqi government develop its own capacity development strategy, to an immediate effort to help Iraqi ministries overcome their inability to spend their capital budgets and deliver essential services to the Iraqi people. U.S. ministry capacity efforts face four key challenges that pose a risk to their success and long-term sustainability. First, Iraqi ministries lack personnel with key skills, such as budgeting and procurement. Second, sectarian influence over ministry leadership and staff complicates efforts to build a professional and non-aligned civil service. Third, pervasive corruption in the Iraqi ministries impedes the effectiveness of U.S. efforts. Fourth, poor security limits U.S. advisors' access to their Iraqi counterparts, preventing ministry staff from attending planned training sessions and contributing to the exodus of skilled professionals to other countries. The U.S. government is beginning to develop an integrated strategy for U.S. capacity development efforts in Iraq, although agencies have been implementing separate programs since 2003. GAO's previous analyses of U.S. multiagency national strategies demonstrate that such a strategy should integrate the efforts of the involved agencies with the priorities of the Iraqi government, and include a clear purpose and scope; a delineation of U.S. roles, responsibilities, and coordination with other donors, including the United Nations; desired goals and objectives; performance measures; and a description of benefits and costs. Moreover, it should attempt to address and mitigate the risks associated with the four challenges identified above. U.S. ministry capacity efforts to date have included some but not all of these components. For example, agencies are working to clarify roles and responsibilities. However, U.S. efforts lack clear ties to Iraqi-identified priorities at all ministries, clear performance measures to determine results at civilian ministries, and information on how resources will be targeted to achieve the desired end-state.
    [Read More…]
  • Former Venezuelan National Treasurer and Her Spouse Charged in Connection with International Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme
    In Crime News
    A former Venezuelan National Treasurer and her spouse were charged in a superseding indictment filed Tuesday for their alleged participation in a previously indicted billion-dollar currency exchange and money laundering scheme. An alleged co-conspirator was previously charged in the original indictment.
    [Read More…]
  • Young soldiers admit to transporting undocumented citizens
    In Justice News
    Two military men [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.