THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY GENERAL BARRY MCCAFFREY DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY The Briefing Room
1:09 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I wanted to start today -- tomorrow is an important day in terms of the President's overall drug control strategy. General McCaffrey, tomorrow, is convening a national conference on high intensity drug trafficking areas -- HIDTA -- over at Fort McNair for two days of discussions. I thought it would be useful for you to hear more about that, hear how it fits into some of our overall efforts, and just get an update on our drug control strategy and its implementation.
And, as always, it's a complete pleasure to welcome to the White House General Barry McCaffrey, who is director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. General, welcome.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Thank you, Mike. Let me take, if I may, a couple minutes and draw your attention to a conference we have great expectations on. We're having three organizational efforts this summer. The first already happened in El Paso -- we brought together about 300 people from the four border states; local, state and federal officials -- law enforcement prosecutors, primarily. And we talked about -- not just the '97 budget, but the Southwest Border initiatives, which have been going on for a couple years, on how we will better organize ourselves to work in cooperation and harmony with the Mexicans to bring some sort of control over drug smuggling.
That one went -- has already happened, it went on to report to the Mexican authorities across the border on the day following the conference to try and leave an open book assumption to what we're doing.
The second major conference starts tomorrow. It's two days. We'll bring in a couple of hundred people on what we term "high intensity drug trafficking areas." It's in the law, 1988 law that asks the director ONDCP to designate areas in the country which act as transmission points for drugs for the rest of the United States. There are seven such HIDTAs, there have been an additional three empowerment HIDTAs designated. It's a $103 million program, and it's one that after a few months of looking at it I would suggest shows promise of being a major assistance to all of us.
I've been to most of them now, one at a time. I wanted to go out and gain some initial impression. Now I'm bringing in the leadership of those state and local and federal cooperative task forces and spend one complete day walking through the problems and the opportunities. I think there is enormous congressional interest in this as a device. I'm being asked to discuss with several other parts of the country whether or not they might also be designated as high intensity drug trafficking areas.
Now, two of the things that will come up tomorrow, among others, are the nature of the new drug threats. When I say, "new drug threats," primarily I'm talking two of them: Heroin -- not that it's new; it's hundreds of years old. But heroin, which has made a major resurgence and has now become the drug, principal drug of menace in several parts of the country -- Los Angeles, Baltimore and Seattle, in particular. So heroin, even though we say we've got about 600,000 addicts --d this number is extremely soft -- we're seeing now a new type of heroin addict, and it's young, white, male, employed. And it's just a new threat and we're going to have to discuss it and how we're going to move on it. And as you know, we have got some big problems because there are new sources of heroin, both Colombia, Mexico and, of course, the perennial principal supplier to the U.S., which is Burma. So we're going to have to talk about heroin.
Second thing we're going to talk about is methamphetamines. Tom Constantine, the DEA Director, called in the nation's law enforcement officers and he listened, and then we put together what we termed a methamphetamine strategy. Now we've got to do something about turning it into meaningful programs.
Methamphetamines, depending on where you are, it doesn't exist as a drug of menace, or it's become the principal menace of all. It's odd how it's hop-scotched across the country. It's not in New York City. It's not in Miami. It's not in Washington, D.C. But methamphetamines is the number one drug of threat in Arizona, the number one drug of threat in Southern California. It's showing up in places like rural Iowa, where it's being manufactured with high school level chemistry.
So we're persuaded that we have got to get a handle on both those new threats. And I put out a message, a response to the President's directive of mid-June, saying by mid- to late July I needed the various departments of government to come back in and talk about heroin, in particular, and what are you doing about it.
That's what we're going to do tomorrow. Some of the people we're going to have in to listen to their views are, number one, Howard Safir, the police commissioner up in New York City. And the reason is he and others said -- Miami, in particular, but also Los Angeles, which just completed Zorro II, are underscoring the fact that law enforcement is not helpless in the face of the drug threat. New York City has made simply astounding progress in confronting directly the problems of lawlessness engendered by drug sales and by drug use. So we asked him to come in and talk to us.
We've also got the Attorney General of Puerto Rico going to come in and talk about -- that's our newest HIDTA -- Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, a major gateway of drugs in the United States. We say 20 percent of the drugs coming in the United States come in through the Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands area. So Mr. Pierloisi is going to talk to us.
We're also going to have Tom Constantine, the DEA Director, as one of our speakers. We will -- I've got to talk money. That's the heart and soul of all these programs. We're going to have a session on the budget and where it might go in a five-year budget plan. We're going to have our new Treasury guy, Ray Kelly, Under Secretary for Enforcement, come in and talk also.
So that's the approach, and hopefully we'll get some useful organizational insights. We've got some problems with the concept, and we're going to have to move it forward.
Any thoughts, questions?
Q What is the audience for this?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: The audience -- the primary target is the 10 HIDTAs -- seven distribution HIDTAs and three empowerment HIDTAs. And so it's local, state and federal officials. Sometimes they're well known people. In New York City, HIDTA, it's Howard Safir, the police commissioner; and Mary Jo White, the Federal Southern District Attorney.
But all of them have put together -- and, by the way, the general magnitude -- it's a $103 million program, it's sort of like $10 million per HIDTA for the seven major HIDTAs -- $9, $10 million in -- but they'll come in with representatives of all law enforcement prosecutor staffs that run these task forces.
Q Is all of the effort directed at the supply of drugs, or is any of it directed at the demand?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, the high intensity drug trafficking area as a concept in the law was aimed at the supply side of the equation. It was places like Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, where you have enormous influx -- and by the way, we're talking hundreds of tons, metric tons of drugs -- where they came through the HIDTA and then were distributed around the country. So that's the center of the concept.
Now, three of them are playing with the idea of adding demand functions to the programs they support. And I, personally, am supportive of that. So that's one of the things we're going to put on the table tomorrow. Puerto Rico, in particular, is looking at trying to monitor treatment effectiveness better. Most of the numbers we have in this area are really flaky. And so, can we use these HIDTAs and get a better handle on who is not only selling the drugs, but how effective are the programs if you use them.
But it's primarily supply side.
Q General, why shouldn't we look askance at yet another conference of officials talking to each other about the drug problem?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, I'd almost reverse the question. What I would suggest is, look, one of the reasons I'm in the job, besides being confirmable by the Senate, is because it was believed that I would not allow a time out on this effort against drugs. So, you know, it's sort of predictable -- if the Senate confirmed me to face up to the problem, I am clearly working in complete cooperation, bipartisan cooperation with the Hill. Speaker Gingrich, Denny Hastert, Bill Zeliff -- Bill Zeliff and I went to the governors' conference the day before yesterday and jointly did a two-and-a-half hour seminar with the governors.
So we will try and maintain this as a bipartisan approach to defend the American people. That's what I'm doing, for sure, in concert with Janet Reno and others.
Q You mentioned that Miami had some lessons to teach for effective law enforcement. Can you be a little more specific about what they did and who will be coming from Miami to this conference?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, Mr. Hughes, their executive director, is going to be one of our speakers. A lot of us are very proud of what Miami has accomplished. It took them seven years. There is no magic to what they did, but a lot of the concepts that are proliferating around the country started in Miami. The drug courts is an example. Janet Reno and others came up with the idea seven, eight years ago. There are now 89 federally funded drug courts around the United States.
And it suggests that you use a coercive element. You use the judge as a quarterback of a prosecution defense social services team. And out of this you can lower the rate of recidivism on drug abusers. And it seems to be working. I mean, we're really excited about it.
So Miami, we say, has cut drug abuse in half in seven years. And it's done it with a combination of local task forces and drug courts and the ASPIRA program, children at risk, and sanctuary schools and -- very encouraging. It's a good place to learn.
Q And what about New York? You mentioned New York as well as --
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: New York has got several interesting things. I asked Howard Safir and Mary Jo White to come up with their strategy. Part of the confusion on HIDTAs has been who's in charge. You know, you legitimately have 20 to 50 federal agencies that have some insight into the drug problem. What many of us believe, and Howard Safir and I are among them, is that the focus of the HIDTA has to be on local law enforcement authorities. So Howard Safir will be our speaker. And he and Mary Jo White, Federal District Attorney, have worked on a strategy and will try and move the notion to the federal agencies, horizontally integrating their activities with the local law enforcement. And New York is doing incredibly well.
Q Well, what has New York done that --
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: They dropped crime -- I don't have the hard numbers. Let me provide them. They've dropped crime every year for three years. They started community policing. They started communication with the citizens, more community involvement, watch groups, youth activities. They've used the concept of drug courts. They have dropped crime in general and drug-related crime enormously. I started out three or four years ago going to New York City and doing an undercover counter-narcotics patrol, midnight to 2:00 in the morning. I just did it again a few weeks ago.
Three years ago it was a nightmare. Now it's half a nightmare. I mean, it's absolutely changed. You can see it. It's still a disaster, but they're working on it. We want to listen to what their thinking is.
Q Yesterday Newt Gingrich said that the Republicans are going to make increasing drug use a major campaign issue this fall. Is that a fair charge?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I welcome the attention of both parties to the issue. It seems to me it can't do anything but help. We have, again, gotten enormous help from, you know, Senator Orrin Hatch and Denny Hastert, in particular, in the House. And they're working in harmony with Stenny Hoyer and Charlie Rangel and Senator Joe Biden and others.
So, so far, both groups on the Hill seem to have faced up to the fact this is a major threat to the American people. Bill Zeliff told me -- he assures me we're going to get the resources we need to face up to it if I can make an accurate case.
Q What's been the reaction of your counterparts in Colombia to the administration's decision to revoke President Samper's visa, and do you expect it will have any adverse effect on U.S.-Colombian cooperation in terms of drug interdiction?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, the decertification of Colombia, which was a very -- something we all agonized over and it happened right after I was sworn in, into this job, is going to be a tough one. You know, they are -- the armed forces, the police, the prosecutors, the judges, are still confronting an internal enemy that's just incredible -- 10,000 narco guerillas, assassination attempts. So we will continue to cooperate in a kind of drug arena. That is unaffected by decertification.
We're all extremely sad about the complicity from the evidence that was presented to the Colombian people -- the complicity of senior members of that government were drug cartels, and that's why the President took the action he did.
Q But you don't expect any adverse effect in terms of Colombia-U.S. cooperation?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I saw the Colombian Foreign Minister and Minister of Justice and I've reassured them that we will remain absolutely engaged and supportive of counter-drug efforts. But the time for rhetoric is gone. We want to see results.
Q Did you get the same assurances back from them, in terms of their interdiction?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: We're not interested in rewards. We want to see results. I've got the right words.
Q Do you have any specific leads why Seattle had so many, so much heroin problems, particularly Seattle?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Why who, sir?
Q Seattle, Washington.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Seattle? Sixty percent of the heroin comes from Burma. The second biggest producer is Afghanistan, a lot of it coming out of the Pacific Rim. Now, there's additional bad news. Opium production in the last 10 years has doubled. It has gone up by 100 percent. We're also seeing heroin production, significant amounts of it -- 65 tons now versus zero eight years ago in Colombia, and we've got tremendous attempts to increase heroin production, opium production in Mexico. So there's a lot more of it.
And the other thing is, in the last 10 years we stopped talking about it. You know, 86 percent of people over age 35 are afraid of heroin addiction. It's 50 percent for kids 17 and below. So the message has been diluted. We have a new generation on stage and they don't understand how ferociously addictive heroin, crack, methamphetamines -- we're going to have to get that message out to young people.
Q Was that exemplified by the death of this Smashing Pumpkin keyboard player? There was some publicity surrounding his death.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Yes.
Q It said that heroin use among musicians is on the rise again.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: There's a very bizarre effect on heroin which I'm not sure we adequately understand. The flirting with death is part of the allure of heroin, and so the names of heroin types are Homicide, for example, is one of them, and Body Bag. And the notion that you flirt with danger seems to have been part of the allure. And the music industry is paying a dreadful cost right now for that idea.
I'm wearing, again, a gold bracelet off the perfect girl, a young woman named Tish, who a year ago died as a college freshman. A great young woman who never smoked, used alcohol, illegal drugs, killed herself deader than a doornail in her first semester at college smoking -- smoking -- heroin and crack.
So the other thing is a lot of youngsters apparently don't understand that the method of using heroin is irrelevant. You will become addicted to it whether you inject it or smoke it or snort it. And so that's part of the problem, I think -- we haven't got that information out.
MR. MCCURRY: One last question.
Q General McCaffrey, I just want to follow up on the earlier question. You said you welcomed the attention that people like the Speaker of the House is giving you. In your view, can the Speaker of the House have it both ways in your arena, giving you the attention you want and at the same time criticizing the administration that you're a part of?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, look, I'm a public servant. Rob Portman has done a major job in advancing this whole drug issue. Bill Zeliff, the Speaker -- so I'm listening carefully to what congressional leadership from both parties is saying in the Senate and the House. And I'm going to respond to what they say. So far we've got, I think, a decent set of partnership. I might add, we lack adequate credibility on the drug issue on the Hill. And I'm going to try to gain that credibility by making a sensible case for the resources I'm asking them to provide. And I think if I do make that case, I'll get the resources.
Q Why do you lack the credibility, do you think?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: We have not provided, among other things -- Alan Leshner, the NIDA Director and I, he's just, I think, a brilliant man, have a notion that by the turn of the century we have to replace ideology with science. We need widely accepted scientific studies subject to peer group review, so we can talk about drug treatment, prevention, education and say with some credibility, this works and that doesn't.
And right now we tend to do it on anecdotal basis. And we've got to go in there and make a case for some very hard-nosed women and men in public life. I think that's part of our problem.
Okay, indeed. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mike.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you.
END 1:29 P.M. EDT