When our Fox News team accompanied DEA and Customs and Border Protection agents on patrols along the border, they described "routine ambushes and shootouts" that occur when heavily armed cartel members are moving narcotics north. The most recent report by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement predicts increasing violence as the Mexican cartels engage in "ruthless targeting of rivals." The Justice Department describes Mexican drug cartels as the "largest threat to both citizens and law enforcement agencies."
The Obama administration seems to be of two minds about what needs to be done about the problem. To its credit, it has continued to fund and even expand the Bush administration's Merida Initiative, aimed at improving Mexico's internal police and security services with $1.6 billion in training and equipment. Unfortunately, Obama administration officials also speak routinely about "reforming U.S. drug laws," suggesting that having "user amounts" of illicit narcotics would no longer be a criminal offense. How that would reduce the demand for drugs in America is hard to fathom.
There are other challenges the administration has failed to address, as well. Everyone involved -- from the Andean basin to the streets of Chicago -- knows that the flow of drugs north won't stop until the flow of money south is interdicted. Arizona's attorney general, Terry Goddard, recently won a major settlement with Western Union about illicit financial transactions. The departments of Justice and Treasury lauded the outcome of this contentious matter because Western Union has agreed to turn over money transfer data on suspicious transactions.
Arrests and prosecutions from this information are likely. Equally certain is that the cartels will look for new ways to move money. According to those engaged in this fight, cartel bosses always are looking for new ways to move drugs and money. Unfortunately, our ability to detect cash transfers through European banking institutions suffered a crippling setback last month, when the European Commission shut down U.S. law enforcement and intelligence access to data from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which was so important in the aftermath of 9/11.
If the Obama administration is serious about stopping the violence threatening Americans from our southern border, it needs to initiate some urgent diplomacy to reinstitute our access to SWIFT data -- and stop talking about "legalization."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.