Illicit Drugs and the Terrorist Threat: Causal Links and Implications for Domestic Drug Control Policy [April 5, 2004]   [open pdf - 108KB]

The international traffic in illicit drugs contributes to terrorist risk through at least five mechanisms: supplying cash, creating chaos and instability, supporting corruption, providing "cover" and sustaining common infrastructures for illicit activity, and competing for law enforcement and intelligence attention. Of these, cash and chaos are likely to be the two most important. Different drugs, different trafficking routes, and different organizations have different relationships to terrorist threats. Therefore it might be possible to improve domestic security by targeting drug law enforcement on those drugs, routes, and organizations with the strongest known or potential links to terror. However, doing so would require new analytic capacities and decision-making strategies for all the agencies involved in drug law enforcement and there is no assurance that the policies that best implement the mission of protecting Americans from drug abuse will also perform best in protecting the country from terrorism. Any terrorist threats exacerbated by the illicit drug markets might be reduced by shrinking the markets themselves, both in physical volume and financial revenue. Reducing demand for illicit drugs can also shrink the markets. The total number of users is much less important in determining drug volumes and revenues than the behavior of a relatively small number of chronic, high-dose drug-takers. Acting to reduce the population of hard-core user-offenders, through treatment, drug courts, or testing-and-sanctions programs, may offer a better prospect for reducing the size of the drug markets, thus potentially reducing the contribution of drug trafficking to the terrorist threat.

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CRS Report for Congress, RL32334
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