U. S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT
April 3, 1972
DRIVE TO CURB HARD DRUGS
GETS A NO. 1 PRIORITY
A message to criminals and narcotics addicts from the President: Trafficking in dangerous drugs will not be tolerated in the United States.
New and powerful forces, led by the Federal Government, are being thrown into the fight against the narcotics traffic. Their orders are to stamp it out.
President Nixon, declaring that the drug traffic "strikes at the fabric of American life," has made the antidrug campaign the No. 1 priority for his law enforcement agencies.
There is to be a changed approach to the problem, directed not only at those who deal in illicit drugs but offering help to their victims, the growing number of addicts.
The battle will be fought both at home and abroad, in foreign countries where most of the hard drugs destined for the American market are processed.
In all areas of the antidrug drive, President Nixon has assumed direct responsibility for the results.
The agenda. As the battle begins:
* Agents of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs are starting to move onto the streets of 33 target cities to go after pushers. Teams of federal lawyers are ready to follow up arrests with swift prosecution in the courts. Details of this program are given in an interview with Special Assistant Attorney General Myles J. Ambrose, which begins on page 38.
* President Nixon signed into law on March 21 a comprehensive package of drug treatment, rehabilitation and prevention programs. They will be funded with 1 billion dollars over the next three years. In charge over all is a new Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, which will consolidate the efforts of 13 other Government agencies.
* An eminent commission recommended that the use of marijuana be discouraged as a matter of national policy, and called on schools, churches and parents to help. At the same time, the commission proposed that marij! uana, one of the "soft" drugs, be legalized for purely personal use.
Legislation to implement the commission's recommendations will go to Congress soon, although Mr. Nixon is on record against legalizing marijuana. Highlights of the commission's report are given on page 37.
* Another commission, sponsored by the American Bar Association, has called for a pilot program to test a last-resort measure---prescribing heroin legally to addicts who do not respond to cures. Such a program is operating in Britain, where some authorities say it has served to hold the crime rate down, eliminate a black market in drugs and keep the addict population at a minimum.
* President Nixon met with Prime Minister Nihat Erim of Turkey in Washington on March 21 to discuss international co-operation in the war against narcotics trafficking.
Mr. Nixon said he had the Prime Minister's assurance that the Turkish Government "is totally committed to stopping all growing of the opium poppy and also totally committed to stopping smuggling through Turkey in any way that will add to the drug problem in the United States of America."
To compensate Turkish farmers for the loss of their poppy crop and to help them switch to other crops, the U.S. Government is putting up 35 million dollars.
Addiction: up and up. Why all this furor over drugs? Because, authorities say, the problem is growing by leaps and bounds in the United States. In 1960, there were only about 55,000 heroin addicts in the U. S., according to official estimates. Two years ago, the figure had grown to 300,000. Now it is estimated to be at least half a million.
More than 8 million Americans are said to be smoking marijuana. Hundreds of thousands are consuming drugs of other types.
To dramatize the federal blitz against narcotics, President Nixon on March 20 flew to New York---believed to be the home of nearly half of all addicts, and the base of operations for most suppliers. There the President conferred with New York's Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and inspected one of the nine regional units the justice Department is establishing in the Government's stepped-up enforcement program.
"For those who traffic in drugs," the President said, "those who make hundreds of thousands of do! llars . . . and thereby destroy the lives of young people throughout this country, there should be no sympathy whatever, and no limit insofar as the criminal penalties are concerned."
Mr. Nixon called , drug trafficking "the most reprehensible of all crimes . . . worse than a crime like murder."
Community action. Congress, in passing the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act of 1972, is giving local communities a chance to join in the re-
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habilitation program. Community mental-health centers treating addicts will become eligible under the law for grants totaling 60 million dollars over the next three years. States carrying out antidrug programs will be authorized grants rising from 15 million dollars this year to 45 million in 1975.
The Act also provides for expanded drug treatment by the Public Health Service and in veterans' and military hospitals.
The war on narcotics undoubtedly will be long and expensive, but already it appears to be producing results. In the first four days of the blitz, President Nixon reported, police found that the price of heroin went up in New York and Washington, D. C., while the quality of the drug declined.
"EVILS" OF MARIJUANA
MORE FANTASY THAN FACT?
A commission appointed by Congress recommended on March 22 that marijuana be legalized for private, personal use.
The commission also proposes that laws be changed to permit casual distribution of small amounts of the drug when little or no money changes hands.
In a 179-page report, summarizing a year's study, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse states that the "evils" of marijuana, as perceived by the American public, are based "much more on fantasy than on proven fact."
The commission is headed by Raymond P. Shafer, former Governor of Pennsylvania, and includes four members of Congress, four doctors and four other eminent Americans.
It sent its controversial recommendations both to President Nixon and to the Congress.
Society, the commission said, should continue to discourage the use of marijuana, and law-enforcement agencies should continue to crack down on production of the drug and all commercial trafficking in it.
"Too harsh a tool." Regarding private, as opposed to public, use of "pot," however, the commission said this:
"We believe that the criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate.
"The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior."
Two members of the commission, Representative Tim Lee Carter (Rep.), of Kentucky, and Representative Paul G. Rogers (Dem.), of Florida, dissented from the legalization recommendations to the extent of feeling that there should be a civil fine for possession of any amount of marijuana in private or in public under any circumstance.
Under Present federal statutes, anyone found possessing marijuana or distributing it even in small amounts is subject to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail for the first offense.
The commission pointed out that the present illegal status of possession has not discouraged an estimated 24 million people from trying marijuana or an estimated 8.3 million from continuing to use it.
Since young, white, middle-class groups began to take up "pot" smoking in the mid-1960s, and especially since the use of marijuana spread to highschool and college populations, State arrests for possession have risen about 1,000 per cent.
The commission said it wanted to "demythologize" the controversy surrounding marijuana. Toward that end, it reached these conclusions:
Addiction. "Cannabis does not lead to physical dependency. No tortuous withdrawal syndrome follows the sudden cessation of chronic, heavy use of marijuana."
Crime. "Marijuana is not generally viewed by participants in the criminal justice community as a major contributing influence in the commission of delinquent or criminal acts."
Auto driving. "Recent research has not yet proven that marijuana use significantly impairs driving ability or performance."
Health. "Looking only at the effects on the individual, there is little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis.... The risk of harm lies instead in the heavy, long-term use of the drug, particularly of the most potent preparations."
Marijuana is the third-most-popular drug in the U. S. at present, the commission said, outranked only by alcohol and tobacco. Nevertheless, the members of the commission tended to regard marijuana use as a fad, stating, "We are inclined to believe that the present interest in marijuana is transient and will diminish in time of its own accord once the major symbolic aspects of use are de-emphasized leaving among our population only relatively small coterie of users."
WHO USES "POT":
A survey sponsored by The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse indicated that about 24 million Americans have tried marijuana at least once, and about 8.3 million are current users. Among those who have tried "pot"---
|Youths (age 12-17)||Adults (18 and over)|
|Have used marijuana|
|but no longer use it||45%||41%|
|Use it once a month or less||15%||9%|
|Use it 2-3 times a month||10%||8%|
|Use it once a week||9%||4%|
|Use it several times a week||4%||5%|
|Use it once a day||1%||1%|
|Use it more than once a day||4%||2%|
|No answer in survey||12%||30%|
MARIJUANA ARRESTS ROSE TENFOLD IN FIVE YEARS
[chart not shown]
(from 18,815 in 1965 to 188,682 in 1970)
Most arrests were for possession of marijuana. The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse proposes to make possession of "grass" for personal use legal.
Interview on drive against pushers, next page.
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DRUG ABUSE NOW EPIDEMIC
What's Being Done About It
Interview With Myles J. Ambrose,
Special Assistant Attorney General
|Sidebar: Miles J. Ambrose, 45, was fighting drug smugglers as Commissioner of Customs before shifting to the Justice Department in January. Father of six children, he was born in New York, practiced law before entering Government service.|
Now ordered: a nationwide crackdown on heroin peddlers, big and small. How will it work? Who will run it? Myles Ambrose, head of the Justice Department's Office for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement, came to the conference room of "U. S. News & World Report" to answer questions about plans to control the drug menace.
Q Mr. Ambrose, is this country in the midst of an epidemic of hard-drug usage?
Q What is the extent of this epidemic?
A I think we ought to confine the answer to heroin users, because heroin is the principal drug of abuse that we are concerned about.
As of 1960, the Bureau of Narcotics estimated that we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 55,000 heroin addicts. The statistics were gathered through police sources for the most part. The theory was that most addicts would come to the attention of local police authorities at one time or another. I think the estimates were reasonably accurate.
Then we had the tremendous explosion of drug abuse of the 1960s, commencing around 1962-63.
Q How many heroin addicts are there now?
A The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, through Director John E. Ingersoll, said that they estimate now the figure to be 560,000 addicts. This is due to some new samples that they have taken, some new methods of compilation. In my judgment, this figure is only a reasonably educated guess. But it's probably the closest one we've had to the truth so far.
Q Are you saying there has been a tenfold increase in the last 10 years?
A That's about right. The rate of growth of heroin use in the United States was the largest in its history during that period. If this rate of growth were continued through the decades of the '70s and '80s and '90s, we would have a nation with many millions of heroin addicts.
Q How do you define an addict---someone who has to have one or more "fixes" every day?
A That's right. An addict is a person who has to use a dosage of heroin in order not to have a physiological withdrawal. There are people who do have a week-end habit, as it were, and there is no physiological withdrawal if they stop using the drug. But they are a very, very small percentage.
Q How many of these addicts are located in New York City?
A I don't know, but we estimate that roughly half of them, or maybe more, are in the New York area.
Q Are addicts almost always found in large, metropolitan centers?
A Yes. While there has been a spread of drug addiction from the urban core areas to the suburbs during the '60s---is one of the things that brought the problem into so much focus---the hard fact is that the largest percentage of addicts are people from urban-ghetto communities. There is evidence that the problem has spread out into the suburbs.
Q What is the nature of that evidence?
A Deaths from heroin addiction. Youngsters using heroin and coming to the attention of either the police or medical authorities in certain areas. Ten or 15 years ago you never heard of heroin's being used, for example, in Scarsdale [a New York suburb] or in Chevy Chase (a Washington suburb]. But, unfortunately, it's not unknown today.
Q How about the rural areas of the country, and the small towns,
A Very little evidence of heroin abuse.
Q Do you have ! any breakdown of addicts by racial characteristics?
A No. In the 1950s there were some studies which showed that an overwhelming percentage of addicts were black, or Latin American, and so on. There's still no question that a very substantial percentage of the victims---probably more than half---are black.
Q How about age of addicts?
A Eighteen to 25 seems to be the principal area, as indicated by sampling in the District of Columbia where the most accurate measurements have been made in the last two or three years.
Q Do addicts outgrow the habit, or do they die?
A Both, but for some reason or another, when addicts get past age 40 or 45, most appear to lose their interest in the drug and kind of outgrow it. That was the case when we were talking about 50,000 to 60,000 addicts in the United States.
What the circumstances are now, when we are talking about half a million to a million addicts, is another question. I don't know the answer.
Q Who are more likely to become addicts----boys or girls?
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Q Besides heroin, what other hard drugs represent an addiction problem leaving out the sleeping pills and pep pills?
A There has been a tremendous increase in cocaine use in the United States in the last five or six years. Cocaine is not an addicting drug. It's a habit-forming drug. It's a hard drug with tremendous deteriorating possibilities on a human being, but it is not an addicting drug in the same sense that heroin is. The difference is that you don't have withdrawal from cocaine. Years ago, cocaine was the drug of the rich. They used it for kicks, since it is a stimulating drug as opposed to heroin, which is depressing. But it's got tremendous currency among people of Latin-American origin now, more than anything else.
Q Are there estimates on the number of cocaine users?
A No. Obviously, there is a tremendous amount of it. What you find now in the United States is a considerable mixture of usage of cocaine and heroin and marijuana a! nd hashish and amphetamines and barbiturates and LSD. You get people who experiment with many drugs.
Q Mr. Ambrose, how many other people besides the heroin addicts are at least on the fringes of drug addiction?
A We have had certainly a considerable number of people exposed to the drug culture through the use of cannabis---as marijuana or hashish. Hashish usage seems to be growing tremendously, just in the last four or five years. A few years ago we did not even keep statistics on hashish seizures. Now they are huge. I recall seeing estimates that 20 million Americans have claimed they have used marijuana at one time, and I suspect that there may even be more. And that doesn't mean that a person who uses marijuana has necessarily used other forms of drugs. But among that 20 million, you'll find a considerable number who probably have.
Q Do you have an estimate of the money that the heroin traffic in the U. S. represents?
A I could suppl! y you some figures on this. Some authorities say that it costs $30 to $40 a day on an average, and that an addict has to steal $150 to $200 in goods per day to support his habit. These are estimates, of course.
Q What is the Federal Government doing about the over-all problem of heroin and other hard-drug addiction?
A The President has personally mounted a very substantial campaign involving all facets of federal activity directed toward doing something about this problem.
To start off, we've made diplomatic approaches to the various countries where opium is grown. We've made arrangements to increase the efforts of the French Government to suppress transformation of morphine-base material into heroin. There's been an agreement with Turkey, whereby Turkey will stop growing opium next year---and that's the largest single source of opium and its derivative, heroin, for the United States.
We've had a recent series of meetings with the heads of the European countries' customs services on the transit routes used by drug smugglers, trying to get them to increase their efforts to stop drugs at their posts on their borders.
The French have obviously increased their efforts, and I think the magnificent seizures of illegal drugs in the last two or three weeks by the French Customs Service indicate this.
Q What is the U. S. itself doing?
A Besides our diplomatic effort, we have our border interdiction programs.
When I became Commissioner of Customs in 1969 we had 8,900 employees, which is the same number we had, I'm fond of saying, when Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States. We had 330 investigative agents.
Now Customs has 13,000 employees, and will have 14,000 by the end of, this year. They have more than 1,000 criminal investigators---special agents---who are working, a great deal of them, on drugs. They've got airplanes and boats and modern equipment---things which they never bad before.
The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, which has the primary responsibility for handling the enforcement and investigative aspects of drug traffic, has increased its offices, and they now have roughly 50 overseas to work with foreign governments. They have three times as many agents, or more, than the I bad two or three years ago.
Some other statistics are interesting. For example, for drug treatment and rehabilitation, the Federal Government spent 28 million dollars in fiscal year 1969. In fiscal year '73 they are going to spend 230 million. Drug research and, training is up from 17 million to 135 million, and law enforcement up from 34 million to 229 million. So in three years, federal drug programs have gone from 79 million dollars to 594 million dollars a year.
Q Yet, the drug problem keeps increasing
A No, I really wouldn't put it that way. What I say is that we've had many years of neglect in trying to cope with this problem. We are just now getting the resources needed.
Q Considerable publicity was given all through 1971 to the main effort to stop the inflow of imported hard drugs. Was much accomplished?
A You never succeed entirely. But the increased effectiveness of our customs operation has been tremendous.
Q What percentage of drug smuggling would you say you are stopping?
A Oh, I never play that game, because there's just no way of measuring that in any way that makes sense.
Obviously, we know what we seize. We know, roughly, what it would take to supply a heroin-addiction population of, say, half a million people. So you know you seize, say, 10 per cent of that supply. But there is no way of measuring how much heroin gets past you, other than the fact that obviously an awful lot got past. There's just no question about that.
Q Are you planning additional steps now?
A Yes. As the Attorney General said, when the President announced our new program, it is necessary to extend the
* * * U. S. News & World Report * * * Page 40
federal presence further and to cope with the drug problem on a local basis, and that is what we are going to do.
None of the things we have done before are being stopped. We are still going ahead with those programs, and I think they are increasingly effective.
Q Why do you say that? Has there been anything like a heroin famine anywhere?
A There have been some recent indications of shortages in December, for example, in New York. That was attributed somewhat to the dock strike. But there have been a number of very significant drug seizures lately. We have also had some recent indications of price rises and a drop in the purity of heroin in the local traffic.
I think that if we get a couple more of these seizures now we may be seeing some panics, as it were. Of course, we're interested in having something like that happen, because one of the basic reasons for our interdiction effort is to put the addict in the position of having to seek an alternative to heroin, principally methadone, which is the basis of our short-term, interim-treatment program.
So my office and responsibilities have to interact very closely with Dr. Jerome Jaffe, Director of the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention. If we create shortages of heroin---should we drive addicts into this---methadone or other facilities m! ust be available. This is one of the key things.
Q What is the new drug program you mentioned?
A It is a plan for working very closely with local police in attempting to get at pushers of drugs, who are either addicts or nonaddict pushers on the streets, below the level of wholesalers.
Q Exactly what is it you are doing? Are you setting up a special new federal narcotics police corps?
A No, not as such. The program is designed to remove from the streets as many pushers as we can, in order to disrupt the flow of heroin to addicts at the consumer level.
That is important for this reason: People become heroin addicts because laying sociological compulsions aside---heroin is available, and they know a heroin addict. And an addict tries to get another person to become an addict. It is the most contagious disease there is.
If you can disrupt the availability of heroin at this level, that makes it difficult for people to come into addiction. We're trying to stop people who are being exposed to heroin addiction from getting themselves involved in it.
Q How are you going to do that?
A We are restructuring some of the activities of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to bring agents back into the so-called street-level operation, which they have not been concentrating on.
We will have assigned to these regional areas---principally the target cities we have announced---teams of lawyers who will have the right to go before grand juries, and take drug peddlers before the grand juries.
And we will have customs agents and Internal Revenue Service agents detailed to this. More importantly, working as part of these teams will be local and State police, who will be financed under Law Enforcement Assistance Administration grants. Working as part of these joint teams, they will develop intelligence and information about peddlers.
We will then, either through the use of the grand jury or through normal investigative means, attempt to arrest those people or develop intelligence about their sources of su! pply, or both.
Now, we are going to use in this program the greatest weapon which was given to us by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, and that's the weapon of immunity. We will give immunity to noncriminal types, for the most part, who are addicted peddlers, in order to determine their sources of supply.
So we're now going to work, as somebody characterized it, like a sandwich: We're going to be working from the top toward the middle and from the bottom toward the middle, and try to get at the sources of supply and disrupt them.
Q Can you use wiretapping?
A We can use wiretapping. I think it would probably be more appropriate if the normal agencies and the normal activities used taps where necessary---legal taps that is, of course---and then furnished us with the intelligence, rather than our putting in our own taps.
Q Haven't you been able previously to take drug peddlers before a grand jury?
A Yes, but there has been no program for doing that. The United States Attorney's offices, for example, are required to handle all the legal work of the Government, which includes civil lawsuits and everything else under the sun, and there has been no program where they have been aiming at this level of drug trafficker. This program is specifically designed to restore a federal presence in a specific area where there has been virtually none.
Q In each of the target cities, are you going to send in a team of federal lawyers and investigators?
A That's right. We are setting up nine regions, each with a regional director and at least one team.
Q Who will be on the teams?
A Agents from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Bureau of Customs, the Internal Revenue Service where necessary for tax purposes to develop intelligence, plus local and State police who will be put into this program and financed out of LEAA funds.
Q How about the FBI?
A No, the FBI will not have any agents assigned to this program. That is, they won't be detailed for this purpose; they will furnish intelligence and background support.
Q Each city has a team?
A No, not a full-time team. It may well be that one target city will be hit on an infrequent or sporadic basis, while in other cities obviously with huge populations involved in drugs there will be resident teams.
CO-OPERATION WITH LOCAL POLICE---
Q Suppose I'm a city cop in the District of Columbia. Can I be a part of the Washington, D. C., team?
A We will go to the city of Washington, D. C., and say, "We want x number of police officers assigned," and work it through that way.
Q Will those police officers then report to your D.C. team?
A That's right. They will be detailed to work directly under the regional director or team leaders.
Q What if a police chief in some city foists off on you three or four crooked cops?
A I hope it doesn't happen, but if it does, we'll lock them up if we get evidence of that---and that would go for anyone connected with the program.
Q Has there been evidence in the past that drug-abuse enforcement has been handicapped by corrupt police, because there's so much money.
A I have some difficulty answering that question. I have
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been somewhat taken to task for my statement when this program was announced that police corruption was a factor---one of many factors. I think I prefer to leave it at that, because I have been inundated with letters and calls concerning this.
Obviously, the vast percentage of policemen are honest and decent people. I don't think it behooves us to say that this program is in operation because of poor or corrupt police. It is not.
I think it's only fair to say that we have had some corruption in the federal establishment. We have had federal agents who have been corrupt.
Q How will your teams relate to the organized-crime task forces that former
Attorney General Mitchell has described? Will you be a unit of that setup?
A No. We're not Using their organizational approach, really. They are going into a given city and taking details of agents from each of the federal services and working on specific targeted individuals who are involved in organized crime, not necessarily in narcotics.
Some of these major criminals may have been involved at one time or another in narcotics, and some of them may still be. But our teams will be working on the lower levels of the narcotics traffic for the purpose of getting rid of those people, and for getting information about the people above them.
We will have procedures whereby all of our activities are co-ordinated through the
criminal division of the Department of justice, which has supervision over the strike
Q Who will go after the kingpins behind these rackets?
A The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the regular law enforcement agencies. BNDD has still got regular ongoing programs involving major traffickers and the individuals who are involved in it, We hope that this program will assist them. That is one of the purposes of this program.
Q Can you tell us how many men and how much money will be involved in these
regional drug-enforcement teams?
A I can tell you in a very rough way. We have assigned two teams to each region---two teams of federal lawyers, basically.
There will be about five lawyers on a team, plus 10 to 15 investigators. Each team is
to be headed by an assistant United States attorney from somewhere in that area. These
teams will be supplemented by local prosecutive teams where necessary.
Q On a permanent basis?
A At least for the duration of this program. One of the things we're trying to do is to develop new techniques and new methods of attacking the drug-abuse problem. So we're going to be innovative. We may not do the same thing in Phoenix that we do in New York.
Now, of course, the New York region has got six teams assigned to it, and they'll have a much greater number of agents.
We're going to develop different techniques. For example, in a Southern State, we have
managed to arrange to have a former prosecutor from that area, who is a very excellent
prosecutor, re-employed by the local sheriffs office, as an adviser on narcotics
enforcement. He will receive a grant from the LEAA, and he will assist us in our program.
So this is going to bring the sheriffs office into this effort.
Q Are any of your teams actually at work now?
A The program is under way right now. We have identified about 2,700 peddlers we're working on now. We don't have the legal teams in full operation, except in New York where we have some in operation. But we do have the investigative teams in operation in the major cities.
Q What do you do to a peddler when you get hold of him and he is identified as a
man who has actually pushed bard drugs? What happens to him?
A If we have sufficient evidence, we present it to the grand jury for indictment. If not, we will bring him before the grand jury, at any rate, to identify him. We will then decide whether he's worth different types of approaches: surveillance, undercover approach for the purpose of purchasing evidence, or giving him immunity from prosecution if he helps us. Some addict peddlers may well be worth granting immunity to, for the purpose of discovering who their source is.
Q What kind of sentence can you give these peddlers?
A That's up to the judges.
Q What is the maximum?
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A For a simple first offense, it is 15 years. This is doubled or tripled for second offenders or sales to minors, and major traffickers can be put away for life without hope of parole.
Q Is that under State or federal law?
A That's under federal law. State penalties vary widely. We're going to prosecute a good number of these cases in the federal courts, I hope, but in some areas the State courts will also be involved. For example, in New York City we intend to work very closely with the new citywide narcotics prosecutive effort.
Q Has your program developed far enough for you to talk in terms of the over-all numbers of investigators and lawyers?
A Yes, I can talk roughly---150 lawyers is what we're considering, basically, and about 250, maybe 350 federal investigators. And we're considering in the neighborhood of 1,000 local and State police---we may have more. These are only ball-park estimates at this point, except for the federal lawyers.
Q Are you running into much criticism, such as that from New York Police Commissioner Pat Murphy, who was quoted As feeling that this federal effort against local pushers is wasteful duplication?
A He didn't say that. He said, "It just won't work," and he said, "We've tried it before and it failed." I think that was his statement.
The fact of the matter, of course, is that he has, never tried anything like this before. There is a significant difference between what we're doing and having cops I make an arrest just because someone's alleged to be a peddler without any real evidence. In New York City, the State Commission of Investigation disclosed that the statistics were rather overwhelming on the failure of prosecutive efforts after arrests by police officers. We do not intend to duplicate that. They never had a co-ordinated legal investigative program such as this.
Q What is the state of your relations with New York City? If the police commissioner is taking a skeptical view, to put it that way, is that going to affect you in any way?
A No, no. Pat Murphy and I are friends of many years standing. We have already made arrangements with the New York City police department for the number of men they are detailing to this program, out of the joint federal task force in New York City.
I think Commissioner Murphy made the statement you have brought up at a hearing before the Drug Commission in New York, and before he had an opportunity to be fully briefed on what our program was. I anticipate no difficulties at all. In fact, I'm certain we will receive full co-operation.
Q Can you tell us anything about the innovative methods you plan?
A No, I cannot, because some of them are in development now, and some of them we don't even know about yet. We want to experiment a little bit, and we want to come up with some ideas and things that could be done.
We've worked narcotic cases in the past on very straightforward methods, and there may be some different approaches that we should be utilizing.
Q How effective is the promise of immunity in getting witnesses to tell you about operations higher up?
A I don't think I can give you any real significant answers on that yet, We know in some key cases it has been very useful to us. And even if it doesn't work---if the man after being given immunity does, not choose to co-operate with the Government or give us the information---he can then be incarcerated, and that's removing a peddler from the street.
Q Do you think legalization of marijuana, by making available an alternative substance for kicks, might reduce the use of heroin?
A No, not at all, because marijuana obviously has been that available, and it wouldn't make any difference whether it was legal or not. There has been so much of it available, and it certainly hasn't had an effect on decreasing, in my judgment, the number of people who experiment with heroin.
Q Do you think marijuana should be legalized?
A No. I don't see any reason why we should have another drug on the market at this point. I think the jury is still out on all of the ramifications of its use, and I have always felt that sporadic use by mature people may not be physically detrimental.
The problem with marijuana, in my judgment, is not physiological although, again, we don't know all the ramifications of that yet. But psychologically it's a question of people in their formative years using marijuana frequently in that period when they are learning bow to make mature and rational judgments. And if they are utilizing marijuana as a cop-out, they don't really develop the ability to do this. I think this is the most significant danger.
I don't really care what any of these so-called geniuses tell us about it, nobody can convince me---there is no evidence to convince anybody yet--- that utilization of marijuana by young people in that period of time is not a significant danger.
Q What about people pushing or selling marijuana---will you be going after them?
A No. Our program is directed at heroin trafficking alone. It may, of course, involve cocaine and other hard drugs where they are all being sold by the peddlers. We're not going to walk away from significant violation of the marijuana law, but we are not going to waste our time and effort---or sidetrack it, I should say---on marijuana cases.
We are working on heroin. After all, it's heroin which kills. Marijuana hasn't killed anybody, to my knowledge, yet. But heroin abuse killed almost as many Americans in the United States last year in New York City alone as died last year in the whole Vietnam war. Approximately 1,400 Americans died in Vietnam last year, and about 1,100 died in New York City from heroin overdoses, or heroin-related deaths. The vast majority are due to overdoses, and most of those are people between the ages of 15 to 22.
Q What does heroin cost the average user?
A Five dollars a cap. That is the typical fix, which has been cut to about 3 to 5 per cent of purity. It used to be $2 a cap, but it's now about $5. It depends on the number of grains involved, on the purity, and on how far it has moved through the supply route.
"PRESSURE" FROM NATION'S MAYORS---
Q What do mayors think of your drive against pushers?
A We've bad a lot of pressure on this, I'll tell you that. Nearly every mayor in the United States seems to want his city to be a target city. Some mayors don't, but most of them do.
Q Why would a mayor want his city to be a target city?
A I think there's nothing that scares people more than this issue of drugs, and they want help.
Q Why is there such pervasive fear about a problem that statistically seems so small
A Because it's growing so much. Years ago it was an
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occasional jazz musician who used marijuana. Now there's not a person sitting at this table who doesn't know kids who use marijuana, I'm sure. There are probably not many people who don't know somebody who has experimented with marijuana, or at least have heard of cases in their own neighborhoods.
I have personally seen instances recently which shocked me, and nobody ever heard of this 10 or 15 years ago. This is what's scaring parents especially.
Q Is it true that alcohol usage has gone through this same process of wider and wider use, is being more widely accepted, and becoming a vastly greater problem as a result?
A I really do not know the answer to that. I do not know whether alcohol is becoming more of a problem because there's more acceptance of drinking.
The real problem is that heroin addicts steal, rob and commit every other kind of crime, so we have this terrible problem of crime in the cities, much of which is related to heroin addiction.
Q How soon will you know whether your new program is succeeding? Would you hope to have results in a year's time?
A I would hope to have some results before that. But the fact that we're out there, the fact that we're working, will give hope immediately to people who are the victims of drugs and drug-related crime.
After all, it's these urban communities which not only have the addicts but the largest number of victims of the addicts.
AVOIDING A "VIGILANTE SITUATION"
Q Someone has said there is evidence that the people themselves in slum areas are turning against the pushers. Is that true?
A That's right, and we hope to utilize that, and to develop it. One of the great reasons for our using the grand jury is that it involves the community itself. And it is the community that has these guys in front of them---the pushers.
We want to help the community to use established legal means before it gets to a vigilante situation. That has been, as you know, advocated by some leaders and some fairly responsible individuals in the black community, because they're so panic-stricken over the various aspects of this drug problem. They're demanding action immediately, regardless of whether it conforms to the law. So we're hoping that by using a program like this we can convince these people we can do something about drugs through normal legal means. If we can do that alone, it will be a tremendous accomplishment.
Q Do you have any ideas on who the bigwigs are behind all this importation of heroin?
A There are numerous conspiracies involved, and we have ideas on some of them, yes.
Q Are they part of the Mafia? Organized crime?
A There are some members of the so-called Mafia who have been involved in financing this, but it's not as it was in the 1950s when the illegal drug business was controlled by them. It's no longer that way. Other groups are involved. There are a considerable number of blacks and Cubans and all sorts of individuals involved. There's an awful lot of heroin available, just tremendous quantities.
Q Some diplomats apparently get in on the act---
A Unfortunately, too many so-called diplomats. Some of them aren't; they just have diplomatic passports and privileges.
Q Are these conspiracies, Mr. Ambrose, criminal conspiracies for gain?
Q Any sign of political conspiracy?
A No sign of political conspiracy.
MORE BACKING FOR U.S. CAMPAIGN AGAINST NARCOTICS
Other governments; are increasing their support for the American drive on drug traffic, according to State Department officials. They cite the March 21 announcement by President Nixon that the Prime Minister of Turkey had renewed an earlier commitment to stamp out cultivation of opium poppies, despite political risks for him in an election year. Turkey's poppy fields have yielded about 80 per cent of the heroin consumed in the U. S.
Under diplomatic agreements with other governments, U. S. narcotics agents are active in many countries of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the northern rim of Africa. These American agents, working hand-in-hand with local authorities, have scored on several fronts.
In a recent 30-day period---
* Operating in the Caribbean, U. S. agents lured a prime cocaine-smuggling suspect from his base in Colombia to the French island of Martinique, where French agents lying in wait arrested him after he accepted a $200,000 payment.
* In France, Americans helped local agents in the capture of a shrimp boat ready to leave Marseilles harbor for the U. S. with an estimated 183 million dollars worth of heroin.
* On the other side of the world, in Thailand, a co-ordinated campaign was said to have put three major heroin-smuggling rings out of business in less than a month. One involved a haul of heroin worth $350,000.
To push antidrug activities overseas, the U. S. Government is committing more and more money and skilled manpower---35 million dollars in the year ending June 30, and 50 million the following year.
In each of 57 American embassies around the globe, there is a narcotics control officer. The justice Department's Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs has 50 offices overseas, compared with 13 at the beginning of 1971. It has 73 agents in various countries abroad, and plans to have 186 by the end of this year. These agents do the "cloak and dagger" undercover work involved in breaking up smuggling rings and arresting the ringleaders and drug merchants.
The U. S. Customs Bureau gives this measure of how the campaign against drug traffic is going: In 1971, Customs seized 1,109 pounds of heroin at American ports of entry, compared with 346 pounds in 1970 and 210 pounds in 1969. Officials credit much of the increase in seizures to improved intelligence from abroad.
Why do proud countries such as France and Turkey permit American agents to act like policemen on their soil? One answer:
Among major nations, the U. S. has been hit hardest by drugs, and so has done more than others to develop methods for controlling narcotics. Now that drug addiction is becoming more of a problem in other countries, they find it to their advantage to accept American know-how---and to cooperate.
The campaign against drug traffic is even beginning to cut across the Iron Curtain,
particularly into Balkan countries which lie astride the major smuggling route from Turkey
into Western Europe. At recent international meetings, East European customs officials
have been talking seriously with their U. S. counterparts about ways to stop smuggling.