1997 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

U.S.-Mexican Cooperations
on Counter-Narcotics Efforts
Statement of
Thomas J. Kneir, Deputy Assistant Director
Organized Crime / Drug Investigations Branch
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Before the
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and
the Senate Liaison Committee, Subcommittee on
Western Hemisphere and Peace Corps Affairs

Washington, D. C.
October 29, 1997

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee and caucus, good afternoon. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to present the FBI's views regarding U.S.-Mexican cooperations on counter-narcotics efforts. I am Thomas J. Kneir, FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Organized Crime and Drug Matters.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations are among the most significant crime threats facing the United States today. In addition to importing the majority of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and a growing portion of the heroin entering the United States, these criminal enterprises are responsible for a variety of violent crimes, the corruption of public officials, and alien smuggling. The activities of Mexican drug trafficking organizations effect a myriad of crime problems in virtually every region of the U.S.

The unilateral efforts of United States law enforcement agencies do not effectively address the crime problems stemming from Mexican drug trafficking organizations. In order to be effective, we must address this organized criminal threat in partnership with the government of Mexico and Mexican law enforcement. I am pleased to report that we have made much progress in this area and we have many reasons to be optimistic about future U.S. and Mexican cooperative efforts. However, I must also state that a number of obstacles remain and there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that we still face challenges toward achieving the level of cooperation needed to successfully address the crime threat attributed to Mexican drug criminal enterprises.

First, I would like to highlight some of the major advances that the government of Mexico has made in addressing the pervasive crime problems generated by drug cartels. In the past year, the government of Mexico promoted constitutional amendments and laws against organized crime and money laundering, as well as, enacted legislative authority to conduct legal wiretaps in Mexico. The restructuring of the Attorney General's office, known as the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR), is progressing and the Mexican government is promoting greater coordination between federal, state and municipal law enforcement organizations.

One example that highlights the increased cooperation that the FBI has experienced with law enforcement agencies in Mexico as illustrated by an investigation in our San Diego office. "Operation Logan Sweep," was initiated in February, 1996, and targeted the criminal activities of a violent San Diego gang known as the Logan Street Gang. During the course of this investigation, it was determined that the Arellano Felix Organization was using members of the Logan Street Gang to distribute cocaine and marijuana and act as "enforcers" in the furtherance of their drug trafficking organization. This investigation resulted in the indictment of numerous gang members to include Ramon Arrellano Felix the most violent brother. Due to his extreme violent nature and it's impact on the American public, Ramon Arellano Felix was announced as an FBI Top Ten fugitive.

The significance of the case is that it was accomplished by a joint federal, state and local task force with the assistance of Mexican law enforcement. The cooperation of Mexican law enforcement proved to be invaluable to this investigation, in that they assisted the identification and subsequent relocation of several critical cooperating witnesses.

The government of Mexico has also acted swiftly in the apprehension of criminals who have a nexus to U.S. investigations. For example, in July 1997, Hector Salinas-Guerra, a local San Antonio businessman who was a key witness in a DEA case, was kidnaped from his business in Mcallen, Texas, near the Mexican border. Witnesses stated that at least three armed individuals dressed as Mexican police officers entered the business and took Mr. Salinas out at gunpoint. Three days later, Salinas' body was found in Mexico. The seven defendants that Mr. Salinas was to testify against were acquitted and released. In August 1997 a criminal complaint was filed charging four individuals with kidnaping violating Title 18 U.S. Code, Section 1201. Two of these individuals have been identified, located and arrested with the assistance of Mexican authorities, while the others remain at large. Efforts on the part of Mexican law enforcement in this matter has been conducive in bringing these individuals to justice and is another positive example of the cooperation that the FBI enjoys with our Mexican law enforcement counterparts.

The assistance of Mexican law enforcement was also instrumental in the recent 18.8 million dollar armored car robbery investigation in Jacksonville, Florida. At the request of the U.S., the Mexican authorities executed a search warrant in a suburb of Mexico city believed to be the hideout of the subject, Philip Noel Johnson, a vault guard for the Loomis-Fargo Corporation. Johnson fled to Mexico after committing the robbery and kidnaping an employee of the company. The search recovered a money order receipt for a mini-storage garage located in North Carolina. Based on this information, a subsequent search warrant was executed at the mini-storage garage and 18.7 million dollars was recovered. Johnson was later arrested while attempting to enter the U.S. through the southwest border.

Progress has also been made in the area of training. To date approximately 95 Mexican federal agents and prosecutors of their newly formed Organized Crime Unit have completed the FBI/DEA investigative analysis course, a four-week long training seminar held at the Xerox Training Center near Washington, DC. These individuals were fully vetted prior to receiving the training, which is designed to enhance their investigative and technical skills, familiarize them with Mexico's new organized crime law, and solidify their working relationship with their U.S. counterparts. Indications are that this venture has been mutually beneficial for the U.S law enforcement and Mexico. Within the past year, a total of over 700 Mexican law enforcement officers have received training from or sponsored by the FBI, including specialized schools given in Mexico, elsewhere and at Quantico through the FBI National Academy.

Other examples of visible increases in cooperation include several recent requests from the government of Mexico for the assistance of FBI Evidence Response Teams to process crime scenes and provide guidance in forensic science. On one such occasion, members of an FBI Evidence Response Team were deployed to process the crime scene in the April 1997, murder of two Mexican PGR agents in Mexico City. In June 1997, we also deployed an Evidence Response Team at the request of the government of Mexico to identify the body of drug kingpin Amado Carillo Fuentes, who died during plastic surgery.

The FBI Legal Attache in Mexico considers the level of liaison and cooperation with Mexican law enforcement to be at an all time high. It is the most cooperation and the best attitude he has ever seen. This assessment applies not only to the Presidential staff and the Mexican Federal Judicial Police but also to Mexican state and local law enforcement agencies.

Although there have been many positive developments in U.S. law enforcement's working relationship with our Mexican counterparts, public and law enforcement corruption in Mexico remains a serious problem. This is a problem that is openly acknowledged at the highest levels of Mexico's government. The highly publicized dismissal and arrest of Mexico's top anti-drug official, General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, this past February, graphically illustrates the problem. Gutierrez is alleged to have been closely associated with the Amado Carrillo Fuentes drug trafficking organization and provided them with protection in exchange for money and other bribes.

The government of Mexico is taking steps to address the corruption problem. In April 1997, Mexican government abolished the National Institute to Combat Drugs (INCD). The INCD was their main federal anti-drug agency and was roughly equivalent to the DEA in the United States. A number of former INCD agents have been transferred to the Attorney General's new Organized Crime Unit. Members of the newly formed Organized Crime Unit are polygraphed to ensure that they are not working for drug traffickers.

It is important to note that corruption exists on both sides of the border. Mexican drug trafficking organizations engage in concerted efforts to corrupt and recruit public and law enforcement officials not only in Mexico but in the United States as well. Recognizing this, the FBI initiated its Southwest Border Public Corruption Initiative in 1991 to prevent and eliminate corruption among U.S. federal, state and local law enforcement along the southwest border.

The FBI's southwest border public corruption initiative has had an impact on law enforcement corruption along the southwest border. Since 1991, a total of sixteen federal, one government official, and seventeen state and local law enforcement officials have been convicted through FBI investigations.

Another important aspect of U.S. - Mexican law enforcement cooperation which has still not come to fruition is the implementation of bilateral task forces located in the border cities of Tijuana, Juarez and Monterrey. Once staffed with fully vetted Mexican personnel, it was envisioned that these bilateral task forces would conduct investigations based on timely intelligence from other law enforcement entities to include FBI and DEA field offices located along the southwest border. These task forces would also collect and disseminate criminal intelligence.

However, these task forces are not fully functional at this time as they are being restaffed with vetted Mexican officers. Further, the Mexican government has promised to adequately fund the task forces.

In conclusion, there have been some significant successes and noteworthy progress in U.S. - Mexican cooperation on counter-narcotics efforts. However, many challenges remain and the concerted, joint efforts and resources of both the U.S. and Mexican governments are needed to address these challenges.

Mr. Chairman, at this time I would be happy to answer any questions