Navy Adding Muscle to Drug War 

Navy Adding Muscle to Drug War 
Posted by FoM on March 28, 2000 at 09:48:22 PT
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
Source: Los Angeles Times
Crime: High-tech gear and firepower are increasingly being put to sea to help the Coast Guard stop the flow of narcotics from Latin America.  Under gray skies and light rain, the guided missile cruiser Valley Forge, built to do hull-to-hull combat with the Soviet navy, set sail Monday for six months in hostile waters. 
   The Valley Forge will not be on the prowl for the Soviets or the armed forces of Third World nations considered by the United States as potential adversaries.   Rather, its quarry will be one of the most elusive on the high seas: the "go-fast" boats of drug smuggling cartels in the eastern Pacific and the Caribbean.   "I have a message for the go-fast boats: We're watching and we're going to get you," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Van Durick, executive officer of the 567-foot Valley Forge.   The sleek rogue boats, powered by up to four 250-horsepower engines, can skim the waves at up to 70 mph and, by slipping through the "zone defense" of the U.S. anti-drug effort, are thought to be responsible for a ton or more of drugs entering the United States each day.   Until recently the go-fasts were helped both by superior speed and a U.S. Coast Guard policy that all but prohibited the use of preemptive firepower.   But now, the Coast Guard has changed policy and, along with the Navy, is putting more manpower, horsepower and firepower into stopping the clandestine flow of drugs from manufacturers to consumers.   With a budget boost provided last year by Congress, the Coast Guard has added souped-up helicopters called Enforcers and inflatable chase boats with more speed than older models. Coast Guard sharpshooters now have authority to fire warning shots and, if needed, to use state-of-the-art nonlethal weapons to punch holes in the go-fasts and disable their engines.   Coast Guard personnel have also learned "fast-roping" techniques from the Marine Corps in how to board a hostile ship by rappelling from a hovering helicopter.   "In the past, it could be very frustrating when the go-fasts would just outrun us or refuse to stop," said a Coast Guard petty officer, part of a seven-man team deploying with the Valley Forge. "Now we've got a considerably more aggressive posture. This is real law enforcement."   The Coast Guard has established elite, well-armed squads in Miami, Portsmouth, Va., and San Diego trained in the difficult and dangerous job of chasing, disabling and boarding go-fast boats and other drug-laden craft. On some missions, the squads use the Coast Guard's own cutters; other times, they are assigned to Navy ships such as the Valley Forge.   Announced late last year, the Coast Guard's policy change marks the first time since the 1920s--when the Coast Guard was battling rum runners--that the service has used firepower to disable smuggling vessels at sea.   The new policy has meant added coverage from Baja California to Ecuador. In the past, the Caribbean was the main area of concern, with the eastern Pacific being left virtually uncovered by U.S. seaborne forces for weeks.   The two regions are now given nearly equal priority, and a continuous presence is being provided in the eastern Pacific, where many shipments of drugs are dropped off in Mexico or Central America to be trucked into the United States.   Although it is open to debate whether the nation's drug problems can ever be eradicated by focusing on supply rather than trying to reduce demand, there seems no question that the new Navy-Coast Guard effort is productive.   In all of fiscal 1999, the Coast Guard seized 19 1/2 tons of cocaine and other drugs from smugglers in the eastern Pacific. In the first six months of fiscal 2000, the figure is 24 tons and rising.   The White House Office on Drug Policy estimates that more than 400 missions are attempted each year by go-fast boats operating out of ports in Latin America, particularly Colombia.   The Coast Guard says it probably catches fewer than 15% of the go-fast boats, but it aims to increase that figure significantly.   Under U.S. law and several treaties, the Coast Guard has sole authority to board and search vessels thought to be engaged in drug running in international waters. The Navy provides a platform to find and pursue the go-fasts with the Coast Guard doing the actual boarding.   For some patrols, the Coast Guard uses its own cutters, like the San Diego-based Hamilton and the Oregon-based Steadfast that, together, stopped a go-fast boat 40 miles off Acapulco shortly before Christmas and seized 2 1/2 tons of cocaine.   For longer missions, Navy ships like the Valley Forge have something that smaller Coast Guard cutters do not: the best electronic gear that the Silicon Valley can produce to detect, classify and track hundreds of moving targets simultaneously at a distance that is classified top-secret.   Although it is exceedingly rare that go-fast boats are armed, the Valley Forge has deck-mounted guns that could easily destroy any boat that attempted to fire on U.S. forces.   "The Navy's role is to intimidate the drug lords," said crew member Vaughn Hampton. "A show of force can be very persuasive."   Of all the ships that the Navy deploys for drug interdiction, guided missile cruisers are the largest and most technologically advanced. At any given time, the Navy has five to seven ships dedicated to drug interdiction from bases on both coasts and the Caribbean.   Like most San Diego-based ships, the Valley Forge's normal area of responsibility is the Persian Gulf; it served in Operation Desert Storm.   For this deployment, the Valley Forge, with 385 officers and enlisted men, will patrol 24 hours a day for small blips on the horizon that could prove to be boats loaded with cocaine, marijuana and other illicit substances.   The ship will patrol a sector of the eastern Pacific from Baja California to South America and cross into the Caribbean via the Panama Canal for further drug duty.   Experience has shown that July 4 is a favorite day for smugglers--possibly because many U.S. ships are in port for the holiday. This year, the Valley Forge will be at sea and on duty.   If there is any sense that duty as a waterborne drug cop is a comedown after facing down the Soviets for years and then helping battle Saddam Hussein, it was not apparent Monday among crew members and their loved ones as the ship left San Diego Bay.   "I hate to see him go," said a teary Erika Vatsaas, 19, whose boyfriend, Joseph Urban, is a communications electrician aboard the Valley Forge. "But at least he's going for a good reason: to stop drugs. I just hope those drug lords don't shoot at him." San Diego:Published: Tuesday, March 28, 2000 Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times Related Articles:Coast Guard Nets Record Narcotics Seizures Guard Fires at Drug Boats
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Comment #4 posted by naturalife on March 29, 2000 at 07:44:24 PT:
big bad wolf wannabe
 be brute all you want. that not gonna stop at all. we got cash for them. we demand drugs to come to amerika. us users or industrail porpose are gonna demand,win or lose we will keep on top of it so why waste our taxmoney. do you like seeing blood? blood was flowing during alcohol prohibition and now we dont. so why continue? oh yes petro oil business it all you(anti drug politition ) care about. not the earth.not the children. 
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Comment #3 posted by dddd on March 28, 2000 at 22:56:40 PT
"Drug lords"
The quote at the end of this article;"But at least he's going for a good reason: to stopdrugs. I just hope those drug lords don't shoot at him.",is a perfect example of one of the only "victories",in the "War on Drugs". That victory,is the successful brainwashing of the masses made possible by paying the media,with our taxes,to further the party line.....dddd 
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Comment #2 posted by r.EARING on March 28, 2000 at 13:57:27 PT:
In the navy, you can shoot up boats for weedin the navy,protecting corporate greedin the navy,killing latinos just for seedsin the navy ,in the navy 
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Comment #1 posted by observer on March 28, 2000 at 13:25:32 PT
Since the 1920s: Say `PROHIBITION'
> Announced late last year, the Coast Guard's policy change marks the first time since the 1920s--when the Coast Guard was battling rum runners--that the service has used firepower to disable smuggling vessels at sea. Another similarity of the failed policy of Drug Prohibition to the failed policy of Prohibition of Alcohol. Note how that a) this detail was buried in the story (it could have led as a headline, but that would undermine drug prohibition by reminding readers of the similarities), and b) the word "prohibition" is studiously avoided: drug warriors know that they can't use that word. Reminds listeners that drug prohibition, also, is a bankrupted and totalitarian ideology that had no place in a free country.
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