This editorial first appeared in The Washington Times on January 29, 2019. Louis J. Freeh is a Former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director and currently heads Freeh Group International.
The Rising Threat of Dangerous Drugs
Over a year ago, my team and I conducted a comprehensive assessment of our nation’s vulnerability to counterfeit prescription and dangerous drugs crossing our borders. We found the threat to be unprecedented in magnitude and worsening, as synthetic opioids like fentanyl are not only being smuggled in through Canada and Mexico, but also through the international postal system.
Since that report was issued, the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has verified this concern through testimony from the Department of Homeland Security, which notes that drug cartels are targeting the American marketplace.
The cost of inaction regarding these warnings was verified recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s annual report on drug overdose deaths found that fatalities tied to fentanyl increased by 45 percent in 2017 alone. We have more people dying in this country from drug overdoses than from gun violence or car accidents and much of this alarming phenomenon is tied to international criminal enterprises preying upon our security vulnerabilities.
My concern is not only that policymakers aren’t taking the necessary steps to address this crisis, such as ensuring sufficient resources and improving technology for the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to better target suspect shipments coming through the mail and our ports, but that Washington may be on the verge of actually worsening this problem through prescription drug importation initiatives.
In both the executive and legislative branches of government, we’re seeing a distressing level of discussion about opening up our secure prescription drug system to medicines imported from other countries. The Department of Health and Human Services has established a working group to consider ways in which foreign drug importation might be implemented; and though it is rumored to be limited, even limited importation is a danger to an already overburdened system. It does not get better on Capitol Hill, where multiple bills to allow importation have resurfaced.
This is an extremely dangerous idea that requires a blind eye to a fundamental truth. For drug importation to be a reality, law enforcement entities must be able to protect against those who would see this policy as a promising new avenue to bring illegal and counterfeit drugs into the United States. And, despite what some might have you believe, that capability will never exist based on the magnitude of the law enforcement challenge created by drug importation initiatives.