DHS Greatly Inflates Number of Transnational Criminal Organizations It Dismantles
The U.S. government has long assessed that Mexican drug cartels are the greatest criminal threat to the country and earlier this year federal sources in counterterrorism, intelligence and drug enforcement confirmed in a congressional hearing that the illicit operations have seized unprecedented control of the southwest border. They are officially known as Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) and the Biden administration’s reckless open border policies are facilitating their business model, which includes operating in cities throughout the nation with the help of U.S.-based street gangs that have overrun American communities with drugs.
To address the crisis President Trump issued an executive order in 2017 to dismantle TCOs and prevent international trafficking by, not only strengthening the enforcement of federal law, but also ensuring that Homeland Security agencies devote sufficient resources to identifying, interdicting and disrupting TCOs. “These organizations derive revenue through widespread illegal conduct, including acts of violence and abuse that exhibit a wanton disregard for human life,” Trump’s order states. “They, for example, have been known to commit brutal murders, rapes, and other barbaric acts.” In the document the former president also directs federal agencies to share information and coordinate with each other to identify, interdict and destroy TCOs. This includes improvements in the collection, reporting and sharing of relevant data as well as quarterly reports detailing convictions in the U.S. relating to TCOs and their subsidiaries.
All these years later the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has no clue how many TCOs it has dismantled and, even worse, the agency created after 9/11 to safeguard the country inflates the figures markedly. During a recent five-year period Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), DHS’s principal investigative arm responsible for disrupting terrorist and transnational threats, failed to accurately measure and publicly report its progress dismantling TCOs, according to a report issued this month by the DHS Inspector General. The watchdog reviewed a sample of 422 Significant Case Reports (SCR) and determined that 253 (60%) did not describe an entity that aligned with HSI’s definition of a TCO. “From FY 2017 through FY 2022, HSI did not accurately publicly report its progress against its established performance measure of disrupting or dismantling TCOs,” investigators write in the report. “Instead, the results that HSI publicly reported included cases that did not involve entities meeting its definition of a TCO.” Specifically, many of the approved case reports identified in the probe as not TCO-related involved one individual committing a crime in the United States and not crossing any international borders. “HSI included 171 of these non–TCO-related SCRs in its public reporting of TCO disruptions and dismantlement’s,” the IG found.
HSI created the SCR process over a decade ago to identify its most important cases and measure its success in disrupting criminal organizations such as TCOs as well as to justify more congressional funding. The DHS IG found that the embellished stats occurred because the agency relied on data in the case reports which conveniently failed to distinguish between TCO-related and non-TCO-related probes. Nevertheless, the agency repeatedly reported them as successful TCO disrupting investigations. As a result, the report states that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Congress and the public do not know how many TCOs HSI succeeded in dismantling or interrupting during the period examined. The DHS watchdog reveals that “to be considered significant, the investigation must involve a high-threat TCO engaged in criminal activity related to child exploitation; travel or finance (both drug-related and non– drug-related); illicit trade; counterterrorism; worksite enforcement; gangs; or national security.”
Nine Mexican TCOs have the greatest drug trafficking impact on the U.S. according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Among them are the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels, Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacána, Los Rojos and Guerreros Unidos. The TCOs maintain drug distribution cells in cities across the U.S. that report to leaders in Mexico and dominate the nation’s drug market. In a Homeland Threat Assessment DHS identifies Mexican cartels as the greatest threat to the U.S. because of their ability to control territory and co-opt parts of government, particularly at a state and local level. “They represent an acute and devastating threat to public health and safety in the Homeland and a significant threat to U.S. national security interests,” the DHS writes in the document. Just this week the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned several Sinaloa Cartel affiliates and fugitives.