WASHINGTON –Senator Chuck Grassley yesterday introduced with Senators Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein S. 3351, the Drug Trafficking Interdiction Assistance Act of 2008. The legislation would make it a felony offense to operate a self-propelled semi-submersible watercraft in international waters without claiming nationality, a method that drug traffickers have increasingly used to evade detection by law enforcement. The Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the United States Coast Guard support these legislative changes. Grassley currently serves as the Co-Chair of the International Narcotics Control Caucus.
“Drug traffickers are willing to stop at nothing to get their contraband across our borders. It’s our duty to make sure the law stays ahead of these ruthless and cunning criminals,” Grassley said. “This legislation will enhance the ability of federal enforcement agencies to prosecute these bold traffickers and help put a halt to the international flow of illegal drugs.”
Self-propelled semi-submersible watercraft are small vessels that can carry up to 12 metric tons of illicit cargo 3,500 miles. Drug traffickers have increasingly utilized semi-submersible and submersible watercraft to transport their drugs into the United States because there is a smaller risk of detection than traditional methods. From October 2007 to February 2008, law enforcement agencies recorded 27 semi-submersible vessels, delivering 111 metric tons of cocaine.
A significant portion of a semi-submersible vessel can travel below the water, making it difficult for the Coast Guard to find these drug traffickers en route to their destinations. When the Coast Guard detects such watercraft, traffickers can sink their vessels with its illicit cargo, which significantly inhibits the ability of prosecutors to prove the amount of drugs or other illicit materials that were on board.
Letters of support for the legislative changes from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of National Drug Control Policy can be found below.
Letter from U.S. Coast Guard
Letter from DOJ, DHS and ONDCP