A Tradition of Excellence

1970 - 1975

pharmacy photograph

1970: BNDD's Compliance Investigators frequently found that pharmacy violators of narcotics and drug laws also lacked professional responsibility in other areas. The unsavory sanitary conditions of the storage room pictured here were found during a BNDD pharmacy investigation in Louisiana.

Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act (1970)

In response to America's growing drug problem, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. It replaced more than 50 pieces of drug legislation, went into effect on May 1, 1971, and was enforced by the BNDD, the DEA's predecessor agency. This law, along with its implementing regulations, established a single system of control for both narcotic and psychotropic drugs for the first time in U.S. history.

It also established five schedules that classify controlled substances according to how dangerous they are, their potential for abuse and addiction, and whether they possess legitimate medical value. Twenty-eight years later, the CSA, though amended on several occasions, remained the legal framework from which the DEA derived its authority.

The New York Task Force

photograph In February 1972, the New York Joint Task Force seized $967,000 during a Bronx arrest. New York City Police Captain Robert Howe (left) and BNDD agent Theodore L. Vernier are shown counting the money.

In 1970, the first narcotics task force was established in New York under the auspices of the BNDD to maximize the impact of cooperating federal, state, and local law enforcement elements working on complex drug investigations. Bruce Jensen, former chief of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, described it "not as a monument...but a foundation firm enough to withstand the test of time." At the time, heroin was a significant problem, and law enforcement officials were seeking ways to reduce availability and identify and prosecute those responsible for heroin trafficking. Federal, state, and municipal law enforcement organizations put aside rivalries and agreed to collaborate within the framework of the New York Joint Task Force. The task force program also became an essential part of the DEA's operations and reflected the belief that success is only possible through cooperative investigative efforts. The BNDD, the New York State Police, and the New York City Police Department contributed personnel to work with Department of Justice lawyers and support staff.

photograph In April 1973, New York City Police and federal agents arrested 69 drug traffickers who were believed to be capable of distributing 100 kilograms of cocaine a week.

In response to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970, the BNDD published manuals explaining this important legislation to pharmacists, researchers, and practitioners. Another manual was created to outline the security requirements established by the CSA. In addition, the BNDD's Drug Abuse Prevention Division issued many informative publications to provide facts about the dangers of drugs.

The rationale behind the Task Force was that each representative brought different and valuable perspectives and experiences to the table and that close collaboration among the membership could result in cross-training and the sharing of expertise. Since then, the Task Force expanded from the original 43 members. In 1971 it increased to 172 members, and by 1998 it had 261 law enforcement personnel assigned.

The Diversion Control Program (1971)

photograph of Myles Ambrose

Myles Ambrose
Director, ODALE 1972 - 1973

On January 28, 1972, President Nixon created the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE), within the Department of Justice by Executive Order 11641. The Office was headed by Myles Ambrose, who had served as U.S. Commissioner of Customs at the Treasury Department from 1969 until 1972. As Director of ODALE, Mr. Ambrose served as Special Assistant Attorney General and as Special Consultant to the President. ODALE was established for an 18-month period as an experimental approach to the problem of drug abuse in America. During that time, ODALE conducted intensive operations throughout the country, then evaluated their impact on heroin trafficking at the middle and lower distribution levels. ODALE's objective was "to bring substantial federal resources to bear on the street-level heroin pusher."

Organizationally, the office drew heavily upon the expertise of existing federal law enforcement agencies to coordinate and focus resources and manpower. ODALE programs involved close, full-time working relationships among participating federal, state, and local officers who, while reporting administratively to their respective agencies, took direction from ODALE.

ODALE provided common office space for the personnel assigned to it, and all salaries and other costs were borne by the parent organization on a nonreimbursable basis. Justice Department entities involved included the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Marshals Service, the Tax Division, and offices of the U.S. Attorneys in the cities where the heroin problem was concentrated. Treasury Department entities included the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Customs, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. In addition, non-law enforcement federal agencies contributing personnel and other assistance included the Atomic Energy Commission, the U.S. Air Force, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Interstate Commerce Commission.

By 1972, ODALE headquarters had 79 authorized positions and nine regional offices. It targeted street-level drug dealers through special grand juries and pooled intelligence data for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Regional offices were based in Los Angeles, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, New York City, and Philadelphia. ODALE task forces operated in 38 target cities through investigation-prosecution teams and special grand juries which considered indictments.

In 1998, Mr. Ambrose was with Arter and Hadden, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

In the 1969 U.S. Senate hearings on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), witnesses estimated that 50 percent of the amphetamine being produced annually during the 1960s had found its way into the illicit drug traffic. Following the passage of the CSA in 1970, it was imperative that the U.S. Government establish mechanisms to ensure that this growing diversion of legal drugs into the illicit market be addressed. In 1970, over two billion dosage units of amphetamine and methamphetamine were legally manufactured, equalling more than 10 dosage units for every man, woman, and child in the United States. Compounding the already serious problem of diverted drugs was the fact that many drug manufacturers were producing excessive amounts of pharmaceuticals.

Thus, the controls mandated by the CSA encompassed scheduling, manufacturing, distributing, prescribing, importing, exporting, and other related activities. They also provided the BNDD with the legal tools needed to deal with the diversion problem as it existed at that time. Prior to the CSA, investigations involving the diversion of legitimate pharmaceuticals were conducted solely by special agents as part of their enforcement activities. However, shortly after implementation of the CSA, BNDD management recognized that the investigation of diversion cases differed significantly from investigation of traditional narcotics cases.

In late 1971, the Compliance Program, later renamed the Diversion Control Program, was created to provide a specialized work force that could focus exclusively on the diversion issue and take full advantage of the controls and penalties established by the CSA.

This work force developed an indepth knowledge of the legitimate pharmaceutical industry and the investigative techniques needed to make cases that were essential to investigate legitimate organizations and professionals engaged in drug diversion. The program was placed under the BNDD's Office of Enforcement and staffed by compliance investigators, later called diversion investigators.

The first major challenge these investigators faced was the extraordinary amount of amphetamines and barbiturates being diverted at the manufacturer and distributor levels. The year the CSA went into effect, over 2,000 provisional registrations were issued to manufacturers and distributors who had been operating under the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 and the Drug Abuse Control Amendments. In order to stem the diversion problem, it was necessary to enlist the support of manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and pharmacists for regular inspections of records and premises. It was also necessary to establish a system of registration to ensure that law enforcement investigators had access to the records and physical plants maintained by those responsible for the manufacture and distribution of drugs.

The first inspections of registrants revealed instances where drug handlers were operating out of basements and garages with little or no security and were unable to account for the receipt or distribution of the drugs they handled. In order to ensure that the diversion of dangerous drugs did not continue, it was critical that meaningful punitive measures could be taken against the minority of registrants responsible for the diversion of drugs into the illegal market. Offenders were given the option of either surrendering their controlled substances registration or instituting strict controls necessary to prevent diversion in their offices and organizations. Establishments and individuals who continued to violate the law were subject to criminal, civil, or administrative actions.

As the program developed, it became clear that the diversion of drugs was not simply a domestic issue. It became essential that controls on international supplies of legal drugs also be established. In the early 1970s, there were several examples of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. drug manufacturers becoming the main suppliers of illicit drugs, such as amphetamine, to the black market in the United States. Through revocation of drug manufacturers' export licenses, the BNDD, and then the DEA, were able to successfully reduce the influx of illegal licit drugs into the United States.

The French Connection (1971-1972)


February 14, 1973: A 20-kilo heroin seizure in Paris, France. Pictured left to right are Special Agent Pierre A. Charette, Special Agent Kevin Finnerty, and French anti-drug counterparts.

Illegal heroin labs were first discovered near Marseilles, France, in 1937. These labs were run by the legendary Corsican gang leader Paul Carbone. For years, the French underworld had been involved in the manufacturing and trafficking of illegal heroin abroad, primarily in the United States. It was this heroin network that eventually became known as the French Connection.

Historically, the raw material for most of the heroin consumed in the United States came from Turkey. Turkish farmers were licensed to grow opium poppies for sale to legal drug companies, but many sold their excess to the underworld market, where it was manufactured into heroin and transported to the United States. It was refined in Corsican laboratories in Marseilles, one of the busiest ports in the western Mediterranean. Marseilles served as a perfect shipping point for all types of illegal goods, including the excess opium that Turkish farmers cultivated for profit.

The convenience of the port at Marseilles and the frequent arrival of ships from opium-producing countries made it easy to smuggle the morphine base to Marseilles from the Far East or the Near East. The French underground would then ship large quantities of heroin from Marseilles to Manhattan, New York.

The first significant post-World War II seizure was made in New York on February 5, 1947, when seven pounds of heroin were seized from a Corsican seaman disembarking from a vessel that had just arrived from France.

It soon became clear that the French underground was increasing not only its participation in the illegal trade of opium, but also its expertise and efficiency in heroin trafficking. On March 17, 1947, 28 pounds of heroin were found on the French liner, St. Tropez. On January 7, 1949, more than 50 pounds of opium and heroin were seized on the French ship, Batista.

The first major French Connection case occurred in 1960. In June, an informant told a drug agent in Lebanon that Mauricio Rosal, the Guatemalan Ambassador to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, was smuggling morphine base from Beirut, Lebanon, to Marseilles. Narcotics agents had been seizing about 200 pounds of heroin in a typical year, but intelligence showed that the Corsican traffickers were smuggling in 200 pounds every other week. Rosal alone, in one year, had used his diplomatic status to bring in about 440 pounds.

The FBN's 1960 annual report estimated that from 2,600 to 5,000 pounds of heroin were coming into the United States annually from France. The French traffickers continued to exploit the demand for their illegal product, and by 1969, they were supplying the United States with 80 to 90 percent of the heroin consumed by addicts. The heroin they supplied was approximately 85 percent pure.

Because of this increasing volume, heroin became readily available throughout the United States. In an effort to limit the source, U.S. officials went to Turkey to negotiate the phasing out of opium production. Initially, the Turkish Government agreed to limit their opium production starting with the 1968 crop.

Following five subsequent years of concessions, combined with international cooperation, the Turkish government finally agreed in 1971 to a complete ban on the growing of Turkish opium, effective June 30, 1972. During these protracted negotiations, law enforcement personnel went into action. One of the major roundups began on January 4, 1972, when BNDD agents and French authorities seized 110 pounds of heroin at the Paris airport. Subsequently, traffickers Jean-Baptiste Croce and Joseph Mari were arrested in Marseilles.

photograph of 210 pound of heroin From a 1973 French Connection seizure in France, (pictured above) are 210 pounds of heroin worth $38 million .

In February 1972, French traffickers offered a U.S.Army Sergeant $96,000 to smuggle 240 pounds of heroin into the United States. He informed his superior who in turn notified the BNDD. As a result of this investigation, five men in New York and two in Paris were arrested with 264 pounds of heroin, which had a street value of $50 million. In a 14-month period, starting in February 1972, six major illicit heroin laboratories were seized and dismantled in the suburbs of Marseilles by

French national narcotics police in collaboration with U.S. drug agents. On February 29, 1972, French authorities seized the shrimp boat, Caprice de Temps, as it put to sea near Marseilles heading towards Miami. It was carrying 415 kilos of heroin. Drug arrests in France skyrocketed from 57 in 1970 to 3,016 in 1972. The French Connection investigation demonstrated that international trafficking networks were best disabled by the combined efforts of drug enforcement agencies from multiple countries. In this case, agents from the United States, Canada, Italy, and France had worked together to achieve success.

Creation of the DEA (July 1, 1973)

In 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Executive Order which created the DEA.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon declared "an all-out global war on the drug menace" and sent Reorganization Plan No. 2 to Congress. "Right now," he pointed out, "the federal government is fighting the war on drug abuse under a distinct handicap, for its efforts are those of a loosely confederated alliance facing a resourceful, elusive, worldwide enemy. Certainly, the cold-blooded underworld networks that funnel narcotics from suppliers all over the world are no respecters of the bureaucratic dividing lines that now complicate our anti-drug efforts."

In the spring and summer of 1973, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate heard months of testimony on President Nixon's Reorganization Plan Number 2, which proposed the creation of a single federal agency to consolidate and coordinate the government's drug control activities.

At that time, the BNDD, within the Department of Justice, was responsible for enforcing the federal drug laws. However, the U.S. Customs Service and several other Justice entities (ODALE and the Office of National Narcotics Intelligence) were also responsible for various aspects of federal drug law enforcement. Of great concern to the Administration and the Congress were the growing availability of drugs in most areas of the United States, the lack of coordination and the perceived lack of cooperation between the U.S. Customs Service and the BNDD, and the need for better intelligence collection on drug trafficking organizations.

Reasons to Create the DEA:

According to the final report from the Senate Committee on Government Operations issued on October 16, 1973, the benefits anticipated from the creation of the DEA included:

1. Putting an end to the interagency rivalries that have undermined federal drug law enforcement, especially the rivalry between the BNDD and the U.S. Customs Service;

2. Giving the FBI its first significant role in drug enforcement by requiring that the DEA draw on the FBI's expertise in combatting organized crime's role in the trafficking of illicit drugs;

3. Providing a focal point for coordinating federal drug enforcement efforts with those of state and local authorities, as well as with foreign police forces;

4. Placing a single Administrator in charge of federal drug law enforcement in order to make the new DEA more accountable than its component parts had ever been, thereby safeguarding against corruption and enforcement abuses;

5. Consolidating drug enforcement operations in the DEA and establishing the Narcotics Division in Justice to maximize coordination between federal investigation and prosecution efforts and eliminate rivalries within each sphere; and

6. Establishing the DEA as a superagency to provide the momentum needed to coordinate all federal efforts related to drug enforcement outside the Justice Department, especially the gathering of intelligence on international narcotics smuggling.

Early Developments in the DEA

photograph of John R. Bartels, Jr. On September 12, 1973, the White House selected John R. Bartels, Jr., a native of Brooklyn, New York, a former federal prosecutor, and Deputy Director of the ODALE, to be the DEA's first Administrator. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 4, 1973. Prior to his employment with the ODALE and the DEA, Mr. Bartels had been an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York, from 1964-1968. From 1969-1971, he was an Adjunct Professor, Rutgers University School of Law. From 1972-1973, Mr. Bartels was the Chief of the Organized Crime Strike-Force, U.S. Department of Justice, Newark, New Jersey; Counsel to Governor Nelson Rockefeller; and Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division. He was later a delegate for the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 1974. He currently resides in White Plains, New York.

When John R. Bartels, Jr., was confirmed as the DEA's first Administrator on October 4, 1973, he had two goals for the new agency: (1) to integrate narcotics agents and U.S. Customs agents into one effective force; and (2) to restore public confidence in narcotics law enforcement. From the very beginning, Mr. Bartels was faced with the unenviable task of unifying the efforts of several drug law enforcement entities. One of the most serious obstacles arose from conflicting philosophies of various agencies, particularly the BNDD and the U.S. Customs Service. To ease the process, U.S. Customs agents were placed in top positions throughout the DEA. For example, Fred Rody, Regional Director in Miami, became the DEA's Deputy Administrator in December 1979; John Lund was appointed as Deputy Assistant Administrator; and John Fallon named as Regional Director in New York. Administrator Bartels issued specific instructions to federal narcotics agents: "This Statement of Policy outlines the measures taken by the Drug Enforcement Administration to prevent incidents which might infringe on individual rights or jeopardize the successful prosecution of a case. The guidelines require clear-cut lines of command and control in enforcement situations and stress that operations must be carried out in a manner that is legally correct, morally sound, with full respect for the civil rights, human dignity of persons involved, and the sanctity of the home." The guidelines also restricted vehicular arrests and prohibited participation in raids by non-law enforcement personnel.

Creation of the DEA Intelligence Program (1973)

Intelligence had long been recognized as an essential element in the success of any investigative or law enforcement agency. Accurate and up-to-date information was required to assess the operations and vulnerabilities of criminal networks, to interdict drugs in a systematic way, to forecast new methods of trafficking, to evaluate the impact of previous activities, and to establish long-range drug strategies and policies. Included in the DEA mission was a mandate for drug intelligence. The DEA's Office of Intelligence came into being on July 1, 1973, upon implementation of Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 2. The Code of Federal Regulations charged the Administrator of the DEA with:

The development and maintenance of a National Narcotics Intelligence system in cooperation with federal, state, and local officials, and the provision of narcotics intelligence to any federal, state, or local official that the Administrator determines has a legitimate official need to have access to such intelligence.

To support this mission, specific functions were identified as follows:

• Collect and produce intelligence to support the Administrator and other federal, state, and local agencies;

• Establish/maintain close working relationships with all agencies that produce or use drug intelligence;

• Increase the efficiency in the reporting, analysis, storage, retrieval, and exchange of such information; and

• Undertake a continuing review of the narcotics intelligence effort to identify and correct deficiencies.

The DEA divided drug intelligence into three broad categories: tactical, operational, and strategic. Tactical intelligence provides immediate support to investigative efforts by identifying traffickers and movement of drugs. Operational intelligence provides analytical support to investigations and structuring organizations. Strategic intelligence focuses on developing a comprehensive and current picture of the entire system by which drugs are cultivated, produced, transported, smuggled, and distributed around the world. These definitions remain valid in 1998.

photograph of George M. Belk George M. Belk, Assistant Administrator for Intelligence, July 1973-July 31, 1975

To build upon its drug intelligence mandate in 1973, the DEA's Intelligence Program consisted of two major elements: the Office of Intelligence at Headquarters and the Regional Intelligence Units (RIU) in domestic and foreign field offices. The structure of the Office of Intelligence was divided into five entities: International and Domestic Divisions, Strategic Intelligence Staff, Special Operations and Field Support Staff, and the Intelligence Systems Staff. Its structure paralleled that of the Office of Enforcement.

The RIUs had four objectives: (1) Provide a continuing flow of actionable intelligence to enhance the tactical effectiveness of regional enforcement efforts; (2) Support management planning of the overall regional enforcement program; (3) Contribute to interregional and strategic collection programs of the Office of Intelligence; and (4) Facilitate exchange of intelligence information with state and local law enforcement domestically and with host-country enforcement abroad. These objectives remain a part of the DEA's Intelligence Program in 1998.

Initially, the Intelligence Program was staffed by DEA special agents, with very few professional intelligence analysts (I/As). In DEA's first I/A class in 1974, there were only eleven I/As. However, during the last 25 years, the Intelligence Program has grown significantly. From only a few I/As in the field and Headquarters in 1973, the cadre of I/As now numbers 608. In its FY99 budget, the DEA will receive 84 additional I/A positions, bringing the total to 692. Almost all of the new I/A positions have been placed in the field, mostly in district and resident offices. The objective is to have one I/A for every field enforcement group.

Graduation of the First DEA Special Agents

The first DEA Special Agent Basic Training Class (BA-1) graduated on November 16, 1973. Reverend James W. McMurtie, Principal of Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia, gave the Invocation honoring the 40 men and women of BA-1, and DEA Administrator Bartels gave the welcome and introductions. The Training Division chief was Paul F. Malherek, and the class counselors were Calvin C. Campbell of the Miami Regional Office, Allen L. Johnson of the New Orleans Regional Office, and Henry S. Lincoln of the San Diego District Office.

The Collapse of the DEA Miami Office Building (1974)

photograph Rescue workers took injured victims from the Miami building.

The DEA was still a new agency when tragedy struck the Miami Field Division. On August 5, 1974, at 10:24 a.m., the roof of the Miami office came crashing down, killing seven and trapping others in a pile of twisted steel and concrete. Between 125 and 150 people worked in the building. Those who died included: Special Agent Nicholas Fragos; Mary Keehan, Secretary to the Acting Regional Director; Special Agent Charles Mann; Anna Y. Mounger, Secretary; Anna Pope, Fiscal Assistant; Martha D. Skeels, Supervisory Clerk-Typist; and Mary P. Sullivan, Clerk-Typist. Although the people who were in the building thought it was an explosion or an earthquake, officials initially theorized that the dozens of cars in the parking facility on the roof were too heavy for the six-inch-thick slab of concrete supporting them. Later, it was found that the resurfaced parking lot, coupled with salt in the sand, had eroded and weakened the supporting steel structure of the building. The section that collapsed contained a processing room and a laboratory. The building was erected in 1925, and in 1968 had undergone a full engineering inspection, at which time it was cleared to house DEA offices.

El Paso Intelligence Center (1974)

photograph The El Paso Intelligence Center, El Paso, Texas

In 1973, with increasing drug activity along the Southwest Border, the BNDD found that information on drugs was being collected by the DEA, Customs, BNDD, FBI, and FAA, but was not being coordinated. The DEA and the INS were also collecting information on the smuggling of aliens and guns. In 1974, the Department of Justice submitted a report from that BNDD study entitled, "A Secure Border: An Analysis of Issues Affecting the U.S. Department of Justice" to the Office of Management and Budget that provided recommendations to improve drug and border enforcement operations along the Southwest Border. One of the recommendations proposed the establishment of a regional intelligence center to collect and disseminate information relating to drug, illegal alien, and weapons smuggling to support field enforcement agencies throughout the country. As a result, in 1974, the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) was established to provide tactical intelligence to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies on a national scale. Staffed by representatives of the DEA and the INS, EPIC has since expanded into a national drug intelligence center supporting U.S. law enforcement entities that focus on worldwide drug smuggling.

Drug Abuse Warning Network (1974)

In 1974, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) was designed and developed by the scientific staff of the DEA's Office of Science and Technology. DAWN was created to assist the federal government in identifying and evaluating the scope and extent of drug abuse in the United States. It was jointly funded with the National Institute of Drug Abuse. DAWN incorporated data from various sources of intelligence within the DEA and from such outside sources as federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the pharmaceutical industry, and scientific literature. Over 1,300 different facilities supply data to the program.

Beginning in the early 1970s, DAWN collected information on patients seeking hospital emergency treatment related to their use of an illegal drug or the nonmedical use of a legal drug. Data were collected by trained reporters (nurses and other hospital personnel) who reviewed medical charts. They monitored notations by the hospital personnel who treated the patients that drug use was the reason for the emergency visit.

Hospitals participating in DAWN are nonfederal, shortstay general hospitals that feature a 24hour emergency department. Since 1988, the DAWN data was collected from a representative sample of these hospitals located throughout the United States, including 21 specific metropolitan areas. The data from this sample were used to generate estimates of the total number of emergency department drug episodes and drug mentions in all such hospitals.

Narcotic Addict Treatment Act (1974)

Public Law 93281:

The Narcotic Addict Treatment Act was passed in 1974 and amended the Controlled Substances Act to provide for the separate registration of doctors and other practitioners who used narcotic drugs in the treatment of addicts. It also provided physicians who were treating narcotic addiction with specific guidelines and medications. This act eliminated the indiscriminate prescription of narcotics to addicts and reduced the diversion of pharmaceutical narcotics.


In 1971, the BNDD launched its aviation program with one special agent/pilot, one airplane, and a budget of $58,000. The concept of an Air Wing was the brainchild of Marion Joseph, an experienced former United States Air Force pilot and a veteran special agent stationed in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the years, Special Agent Joseph had seen how the police used aircraft for surveillance, search and rescue, and the recapturing of fugitives. His analysis led him to conclude that a single plane "could do the work of five agents and five vehicles on the ground."

As drug trafficking increased nationwide, it became evident that it had no boundaries and that law enforcement needed aviation capabilities. Although Special Agent Joseph convinced his superiors of the merits of his idea, no funding was available. Management told Agent Joseph that if he could find an airplane, they would further consider the Air Wing concept. At this point, Special Agent Joseph approached the United States Air Force, and under the Bailment Property Transfer Program that allows the military to assist other government entities, he secured one airplane—a Vietnam war surplus Cessna Skymaster.

The benefit of air support to drug law enforcement operations became immediately apparent, and the request for airplanes grew rapidly. By 1973, when the DEA was formally established, the Air Wing already had 41 special agent pilots operating 24 aircraft in several major cities across the United States. Most of these aircraft were fixed-wing, single-engine, piston airplanes that were primarily used for domestic surveillance.


The National Training Institute, the DEA's first training program, was located at DEA headquarters, 1405 "Eye" Street in Washington, D.C. At that time, training was divided into three major divisions: special agent training, police training, and international training.

Training was carried out in a three-story bank building adjacent to DEA headquarters that had been converted for training purposes. The building had a gymnasium located on the first floor, lockers and showers in the basement, and a 5-point firing range on the second floor. Special agent trainees were housed in hotels within walking distance of DEA headquarters.

In the absence of the realistic "Hogan's Alley," a life-sized, simulated neighborhood of today, training practicals were conducted on public streets. The DEA had leased a 20-acre farm near Dulles Airport in rural Virginia, as well as a house in Oxen Hill, Maryland, to practice raids and field exercises. Basic Agent training lasted 10 weeks, and the Training Institute supported three classes, with 53 students per class, in session at all times. Graduations occurred every three weeks. Coordinators were from the headquarters staff, and counselors were brought in from the field for temporary training duty. In addition to training basic agents, the DEA also offered training programs for compliance investigators, intelligence analysts, chemists, supervisors, mid-level managers, executives, technical personnel, state and local police officers, and international law enforcement personnel.


Over the years, the combination of technology and law enforcement have solved some of the biggest criminal cases in the world. However, by 1998, the DEA's technology ranked among the most sophisticated. That was not always the case. During the DEA's formative years, technical investigative equipment was limited both in supply and technical capabilities. In 1971, the entire budget for investigative technology was less than $1 million. This budget was used to buy radio and investigative equipment and to fund the teletype system.

Video Surveillance was rare because of the size and expense of camera equipment. Cameras were tube type, required special lighting, and could not be concealed. Early video tape recorders were extremely expensive and were reel-to-reel or the very early version of cassettes called U-Matic.

Pen Registers, or dialed number recorders, were more advanced than the older versions, which actually punched holes in a tape, similar to an old ticker tape, in response to the pulses from a rotary dialed phone. Pen registers were also limited because federal law at the time required the same degree of probable cause as was required for a Title III Wire Intercept.

Title IIIs were conducted with reel-to-reel tape recorders. However, the DEA did not conduct many Title IIIs because they were labor intensive, and the agency seldom had sufficient personnel to work the intercepts.

In 1973, body-worn recorders used by agents during investigations had advanced from large belt packs to smaller versions. However, reliability was always a concern. These old belt types, called KELsets, consisted of a transmitter and a belt of batteries worn by the undercover agent. Unfortunately, the belt was not easily concealable, and the batteries would occasionally overheat and burn the backs of the agents.

When the BNDD was formed it did not have a radio system, but in 1971, the agency began installing a nationwide UHF radio system for operations. (The DEA's radio system was installed in 1973.) When an early facsimile machine was installed in 1972, it took six minutes to transmit one page, and pages often had to be re-sent due to communication failures. No paging equipment was available because dedicated frequencies had to be used for each pager. Only doctors and a few select individuals could obtain pagers.

Although cellular phones did not exist, there was a mobile telephone service. However, only the DEA Administrator had a mobile phone, and the service was slow and unreliable.


Creation of the Federal Drug Laboratory System


DEA forensic chemist Dr. Albert Tilson is shown analyzing an illegal drug.

One of the essential functions carried out by the DEA and its predecessor agencies was providing laboratory support. The success of cases made against major drug traffickers depended in part upon analysis of the drug evidence gathered during narcotics investigations. The DEA's laboratory system, one of the finest in the world, has roots in the DEA's predecessor agencies. Although the two predecessor agencies, BDAC and FBN, did not have laboratories under their direct supervision, lab support was available within their respective departments. Ultimately, the DEA's laboratory system began to take shape through the consolidation and transfer of several lab programs within the U.S. Government. The first laboratory personnel transferred to the BNDD came from the Food and Drug Administration`s (FDA) Division of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Microanalytical Group in Washington, D.C. They were primarily responsible for performing the ballistics analyses of tablets and capsules, identifying newly-encountered compounds found in drug traffic, and conducting methods development. According to the agreement with the FDA, the new agency would take control of one of the FDA labs. In August 1968, six chemists formed what eventually became the Special Testing and Research Laboratory. The first of the five regional DEA laboratories was the Chicago Regional Laboratory that opened in December 1968. The New York, Washington, Dallas, and San Francisco Regional Laboratories were formed in April 1969. The original chemist work force for these laboratories came from several field laboratories run by government agencies. The professional staffing of the six laboratories consisted of 36 "bench" chemists doing physical lab research, supplemented by five supervisory chemists. In 1970, the first full year of operation, the laboratories analyzed almost 20,000 drug exhibits. During the next two years, the laboratories' work load increased by 46 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

The analysis of seized drugs performed by DEA forensic chemists provides evidence that is often essential for the successful prosecution and conviction of drug traffickers.

To meet the increased work load demand, staffing more than doubled to 94 by 1972 (including laboratory and BNDD headquarters management personnel.) In 1971, both the Washington and Dallas Regional Laboratories moved to larger facilities, and in January 1972, the BNDD opened its sixth regional laboratory in Miami. After the DEA was created, a seventh field laboratory was opened in San Diego in August 1974.


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