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Run Silent, Run Drugs: The Cocaine Sub Fleet

December 20, 2007 3:57 PM

Runsilentrun_mn Drug traffickers are using a fleet of as many as 20 mini subs to move huge quantities of cocaine through the Caribbean, federal law enforcement and Coast Guard officials tell ABC News.

The cocaine vessels are often harder to detect than Russian submarines because of the way they skim the surface, officials say.

"The Russian submarine has a certain signal you can listen to underwater," said Coast Guard Adm. Joseph L. Nimmich, director of Joint Interagency Task Force South, based in Key West, Fla.

Photos: Drug Cartels' Secret Weapon

The cocaine vessels give "very little signal," said the admiral, whose officers are testing a captured sub in order to adjust Coast Guard sensors.

In a report to be aired on "World News With Charles Gibson," officials showed off the recently captured vessel, a semi-submersible that carried 9,000 pounds of pure cocaine.

"They started out with four to five tons. The new ones are estimated to carry between 12 to 15 tons of narcotics," Adm. Nimmich said.

The vessels are able to travel up to 2,000 miles and evade U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships patrolling the waters between Colombia and the U.S. and Mexico.

U.S. officials say the cocaine trafficking groups actually assemble the vessels in the jungles of Colombia and then truck them to remote ports to be launched.

The vessels carry a crew of only two or three and often are purposefully sunk if detected by patrol boats, officials say.

The use of the subs comes as U.S. officials say cocaine prices have risen an estimated 45 percent in the last 10 months, a sustained trend that suggests supply is being affected.

"Never happened before in, I think, 30 years of looking at the drug problem in the United States," said White House drug czar John Walters.

"If we reduce the quality and raise the price, this product, like every other product, is susceptible to a declining market," Walters says.

Critics say there have been other "blips" in cocaine prices before and that those have proven to be only temporary.

"The price of cocaine today, even after this blip, is about 40 percent of what it was in the 1980s," said Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that promotes alternatives to the war on drugs.

"The drug czar is grasping for straws. Cocaine seems to be just as widely available on the streets as it ever was," said Nadelmann.

Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

December 20, 2007 | Permalink | User Comments (69)

User Comments

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I think the drug czar meant to say, "If we reduce the QUANTITY and raise the price," but if they are in the business of tampering with street drugs to reduce the quality, well then, I won't be surprised. It's the US Govt we're talking about.

Posted by: Paula | Dec 20, 2007 4:21:28 PM

In the late 1970's, a cocaine smuggler went to the Senate and told them that cocaine was the "latin american atom bomb". Any reaction besides ensuring that cocaine and the crack and meth addicts it spawned would flourish? Ask Ollie North and John Hull about the COSTA RICAN air strip whereby the drugs and weapons passed in the night...drugs back to the USA and weapons to LA Nicaragua...

Posted by: daddyblue | Dec 20, 2007 4:22:30 PM

Man, I gonna have to start steppin on it.

Posted by: jackal | Dec 20, 2007 4:46:28 PM

... Subs that are harder to find then ones build by other world superpowers in a fleet that is growing as the supply is needed. I could say I saw this comming, but what I really want to ask is why didn't the American government?

How long will it be now till the subs can defend themselves and how long till they get into other hands?

If the subs are a resut of the war on drugs that was started in the 80's what do we have to look forward to in the war on terror?

Posted by: canadian_stix | Dec 20, 2007 4:48:44 PM

this shows how poor a job our government is doing in protecting our borders. might as well legalize it. how many billions of dollars have been wasted on this effort,

Posted by: 43beenthere43 | Dec 20, 2007 4:56:07 PM

Just more proof that the drug war can't be won!

Posted by: Thomas Lawhead | Dec 20, 2007 5:56:51 PM

I actually saw one of these in Miami while sitting on my balcony one night.

Posted by: Ben. | Dec 20, 2007 6:17:09 PM

The "War on Drugs" is an utter embarrassing failure that our wasteful government continues to dump money into. What they really need to do is legalize most, if not all, of these substances, then control and tax the he|| out of them. Use the money for education and social security funding. The current view on drugs is simply uneducated and wrong in every way. Illegal drugs are the single largest contributing factor to crime in this country. Legalize drugs, let the worthless addicts off themselves, let the social users have their fun, reduce crime dramatically, and reap the rewards from the tax money. It's really not that tough to figure out. Our government is such a joke sometimes.

Posted by: Tom G | Dec 20, 2007 6:36:19 PM

First off, if subs (and planes) do not respond to international hailing frequencies in these waters, blow what ever it is to pieces. Second, why would we legalize cocaine when everybody has been after the tobacco companies for putting addicting nicotine in their cigarettes? Are you saying that cocaine is not addicting?

Posted by: Bill | Dec 20, 2007 6:39:28 PM

There is a very simple solution to this our current Attack Sub fleet which we use to chase the Soviet/Russia "Boomers" all over the world are a great weapon to use - any sub entering our territorial waters that would fail to answer a hail can be subject to immediate hostile fire. Foriegn Navies subs are easily identified by their noise signature; these home made subs can just as easily be identified. I'll bet if we sink a couple of them they might think twice about trying to use them; of course the tree huggers - Dems will be up in arms because we will have drugged the surronding aquatic life.

Posted by: Gene | Dec 20, 2007 7:20:38 PM

thats cool sub and good idea LOL

Posted by: bill | Dec 20, 2007 7:20:39 PM

The war on drugs is waste of TRILLIONS of tax dollars and prison space. Furthermore, it isn't the right of the govt. to say what you can or can't put in your own body.

Posted by: Jenny | Dec 20, 2007 8:06:25 PM

Great while we are looking for drug subs, and Soviet Sub can sneak in and attack us. Cocaine should not be legal, it is simply way to addictive. However, we could focus on cocaine, heroin and meth, if they stop wasting time and money on the way on marijuana. Tax the marijuana and use it to eradicate the hard drug dealers in the USA and build jails with it as well. Publicize special hard labor drug trafficking jails, with long sentences to discourage the casual dealers. You can't stop them all, but you can right size the war on drugs by focusing on the worse kinds.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 20, 2007 8:11:22 PM

"Legalize drugs, let the worthless addicts off themselves, let the social users have their fun, reduce crime dramatically, and reap the rewards from the tax money. It's really not that tough to figure out."
You fail to factor in the increase in health care from all of the new addicts.

Posted by: Sam | Dec 20, 2007 8:23:23 PM

Actual Gene you can sink as many as you want they will keep sending more because there is demand and lots of dollars to be had. You forgot the part of the speech where you tell every one that this administration knows what it is doing! Legalize it -tax it and get us out of our Debit.

Posted by: sean | Dec 20, 2007 9:00:11 PM

If drugs were legalized, then they'd by worthless!

Posted by: steve | Dec 20, 2007 9:01:43 PM


Thomas Lawhead,

What you likely saw in Miami was the Sea Dolphin II, a private pleasure sub owned and operated out of Fort Lauderdale. It's about 40 feet long, powered by twin diesel motors, and can carry 12 passengers.

Posted by: Helm Navigator | Dec 20, 2007 9:02:11 PM

Price is down because demand is down. It's not the hip drug it was in the '80's. And those for legalization, you're nuts. Overdosing on Cocaine is very real and deadly.

Posted by: Cory Baily | Dec 20, 2007 9:14:53 PM

This is BALONEY. If you want to fix a problem, you have to deal with the cause. The cause of the drug problem is that DEMAND from drug users is fuelling the supply, therefore if you remove the demand, then nobody will bother supplying a nonexistent market. Make it completely unpalatable for drug users to take cocaine, heroin and all the other illegal drugs, the operative word being ILLEGAL. The police should have the power to test every person they suspect of illegal drug use and if they return a positive result, they should be arrested, charged with a crime and then tossed into a holding pen for at least one month and go cold turkey in very uncomfortable circumstances. Those that are caught selling drugs, well, throw the book at them. 20 years in jail minimum would be good. Make it so horrendous to have anything to do with drugs, that those Colombians would have no market to sell their filth to and they would eventually be driven out of business by sheer lack of demand. Legalising drug use is the stupid way. Severe deterrence is the ONLY way.

Posted by: Ziggy | Dec 21, 2007 3:27:13 AM

I'm in my early 50's and have NEVER known a time when any (so-called)
'illegal drug' was even remotely difficult to obtain! Like any item in demand in this 'Ferengi_family_values' society, the ONLY qestions are economic:
How much?
How Often?
Where/to whom does 'it' get dropped off to??, etc!
The U.S. government does an equally wonderful 'National Security' job, protecting U.S. citizens, (& jobs!), from 'illegal economic' &/or,
'patholgic' refugees! We should be thankfuul these 'cocaine subs' aren't
'Trident-Equipped F.B.M.S.'s!

Posted by: Wm. Lasten Sr. | Dec 21, 2007 8:35:23 AM

We've spent 30 years and $500 BILLION on our absurd "war on drugs." What do we have to show for it? Absolutely nothing. It's a war that simply cannot be won. Our jails are full and drugs are just as plentiful today as they were in 1970. It's long past time for us to decriminalize drugs and spend the money we waste on prohibition on treatment and education. The government's own think-tank experts (Rand) have told them this is the most effective approach.

Posted by: Bill | Dec 21, 2007 8:49:10 AM

While we are fighting the war on drugs we should also stamp out the evils of strong drink.
Well we already tried that and it did not work out.
The government is not the ansewr to most troubles in society.
The goverment will become the problem when it is given to much leash.
Like the previous poster said, drugs should be available to those who are of legal age.
Then let nature take it course.

Posted by: sam | Dec 21, 2007 9:40:13 AM

Private submarines are the big thing among the elite rich.
for a mere 80 million, you can have a 200+ submarine yacht capable of atlantic crossings, much of it underwater. THis is probably chump change to the cartels.

Posted by: Superman | Dec 21, 2007 11:15:15 AM

What they need to do is make dealing drugs a death offense (public hanging)with swift trials and swift retribution. As one who was involved in the drug culture years ago, I've seen how drugs, including pot, destroy lives. When all drug dealers, including the young punk, liberal High School and college students, face a rope instead of some comfortable prison, that will curtail availability of drugs.

Posted by: Dave | Dec 21, 2007 11:37:57 AM

Of course theres drug runs, they are going on all around us. Yet the government is doing nothing to stop it.


Posted by: benny jackson | Dec 21, 2007 1:21:18 PM

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