DEA Chief On New Plan To Combat Drugs And Violent Crime
Aired February 08, 2022 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNE MILGRAM, ADMINISTRATOR, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION: It's in the world. And so we have an ability to sort of, use resources across the country and across the world. When we did that, we identified a little over 70 locations that we found were hotspots, we then looked at what we could target as phase one, the places that are seeing the most devastating problems and communities, overdose deaths, and drug- related violence.
And as you know, those are linked, they're intertwined and so we stepped back to look at this and to go into those communities. And what the men and women of DEA have done is they have mapped the threats, meaning, it's not enough just to understand that there are 34 places across the country that are really suffering right now, we need to understand what criminal drug networks are operating there, what they're doing.
And so we've done that, and we've identified the locations in those cities, the criminal drug networks, and also the drugs that are being -- that are being sold and that are killing people.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Why haven't existing strategies been working to tackle this problem already?
MILGRAM: So this problem, starting in 2015, every single year, the United States has seen exponential increases in fentanyl, which is, the most deadly drug, 64,000 of those 100,000 deaths. The overdose deaths are attributable to fentanyl. So the problem has gotten worse. And what we've seen is that there's a number -- there are a number of things that are happening.
COVID, of course, is one of them and I think we can ignore that. The other piece is that fentanyl is now in all 50 states. It's lacing every other drug whether that's methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, every other drug, and it's also being sold in new forms, like fake prescription pills so people think they're buying a Xanax or an Adderall or oxycodone. And they're getting fentanyl and they're dying at record rates.
BOLDUAN: On the strategy, on this operation new approach, how long do you give this before, you know, this is working, or it's not, and we need to readjust?
MILGRAM: So we know that we have targeted networks that are engaged in violence, we didn't check that until after we had sort of done this threat work. But so we now know today that the vast majority are already engaged in gun violence, a majority are selling fentanyl or meth and of that majority selling fentanyl and meth, almost every single one of them is involved in gun violence today, or in gun sales, gun trafficking.
So we already know that we've identified a lot of the correct networks. Now, the operations will take place across the country in partnership with the state and locals. And again, if we get new information or new data, we find out it's not working or we see overdoses or violence increasing, we'll have to pivot and look at what's happening. But I feel a lot of confidence now, based in many ways on the work I did in Camden, New Jersey, that you start up front, you identify and understand the threats then you do the enforcement operations to target those networks.
BOLDUAN: You've called fentanyl one of the most deadly substances on the planet and we talk about what it is doing, how it is getting here, and why it is such a problem. There are two places, China and Mexico. In China, the chemicals for these poisons come from China.
MILGRAM: That's right.
BOLDUAN: Why isn't China stopping?
MILGRAM: So that's the right question to ask. And China needs to do more, there is no question. Right now, China has a largely unregulated chemical industry and those chemicals are being shipped on a daily basis to Mexico and to other countries in Latin America, where they're being brought to Mexico. So, the first question is exactly the right question. We know this is happening, China knows it's happening and it has to be stopped.
And it's a critical point because as I said if those chemicals can't get to Mexico, the criminal drug cartels in Mexico won't be able to make fentanyl and meth. And so it is a critical upstream part of our work.
BOLDUAN: How important is the southern border then to cutting off the supply chain?
MILGRAM: The criminal drug cartels have their whole model is relentless expansion. What they want are more consumers, they want more people buying their drugs. And what we've seen is that methamphetamine used to be on the West Coast of the United States, they've expanded it to the East. Fentanyl and opioids used to only be on the East Coast, they've expanded it to the west. It is -- it is -- they will stop at nothing, in my view, to make money, and making money means getting more customers. And fentanyl is so addictive that if they can get fentanyl into someone's body, knowingly or unknowingly because we think in many instances, people do not know --
MILGRAM: -- They're not seeking fentanyl, they're purchasing cocaine or they think they're purchasing Xanax and then they're becoming addicted to fentanyl.
BOLDUAN: And that's where social media comes in. You can't talk about this without talking about social media from TikTok to Snapchat, just the access that drug dealers now have in places that they never would have had before. Are you -- are they -- are you getting what you need from them? Are you sitting down with them?
MILGRAM: My position on social media is this. The social media companies. They know exactly what the drug traffickers are doing. They know exactly what is happening. They track every single piece of data, every single, you know, direct message, everything that happens on their sites, they know. When it came to child exploitation, they put an end to that on their sites.
MILGRAM: They could do the exact same thing here if they choose to do so and we have not seen them willing to take those steps to really look at their platforms to really say OK, we cannot allow this to happen. We simply have not seen them do that yet.
BOLDUAN: Look, because these stories are heartbreaking. That one child, 13 years old, seventh-grader out of Hartford, Connecticut last month died from a fentanyl overdose.
BOLDUAN: He was at school when he collapsed. When they looked, there were 100 bags of fentanyl in this boy's bedroom. I'm -- setting aside policy for a second, how does it feel as the head of the DEA to hear these stories over and over again, happening to just young kids in America?
MILGRAM: My first reaction when I get those calls is, you know, how do we make sure that that life is not -- is not in vain, that someone's -- that someone who's an overdose that we prevent the next person from overdosing and dying? And so we immediately go into sort of DEA investigation mode, how do we support the state and locals. But beneath all of that is just this incredible sadness and pain that there's not a day that goes by where I don't talk to a parent, a child, a loved one, a friend of someone who's been lost during what is just a devastating milestone of 100,000 American deaths.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BOLDUAN: Many thanks to the DEA Administrator Anne Milgram for that, who also made the point to me off-camera that she believes that many families, parents, all of us underestimate just how deadly and dangerous fentanyl really is and can reach all of us even unknowingly. Thanks for that. Coming up still for us, this just into CNN, the White House has begun reaching out to potential Supreme Court nominees. Details are in a live report next.