Homeland Security

CBP leverages tech, data sharing to fight illegal opioids

Shutterstock ID: 745206598 by Scotyard 

Immigration and customs agency officials told lawmakers that funding for new drug detection technology in U.S. ports could help stem a rising tide of illicit opioid smuggling.

Although the House Appropriations hearing focused on immigration enforcement priorities, Customs and Border Protection's commissioner also provided a snapshot of the agency's tech-heavy battle against a tide of deadly opioids entering at the nation's ports.

Recent legislation gave $9 million for the Department of Homeland Security to develop two kinds of technology that can detect potent, but small, shipments of the deadly opioid fentanyl.

The president signed the bipartisan Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act in January. The White House called it out in an April 12 blog post.

"It's a robust effort" to fight the drug, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) during the April 12 House Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee hearing.

The additional money for more sensitive analysis and non-intrusive detection technology would be a big help for agents at ports of entry, where most of the drug enters the U.S.

The new detection tech, according to McAleenan, will provide more accurate and immediate identification of the drug found in containers, while the non-intrusive detection gear would allow more focus on smaller vehicles where shipments of the drug are increasingly common.

Additionally, CBP is ramping up a partnership with China's customs organizations to share more shipping data, he said. China has been a big source of the illicit drug that is being shipped through postal services. Data sharing on shipment tracking, according to McAleenan, has resulted in a 65 percent increase in the last year in the number of intercepted packages of fentanyl.

Additionally, a top official with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations said his organization wants to modify its existing Human Exploitation Rescue Operative  Child-Rescue Corps to allow participants a broader role.  The HERO Child-Rescue Corps program currently trains is wounded, injured and ill Special Operations Forces in computer forensics and law enforcement skills to help federal agents fight against online child sexual exploitation.

ICE HSI Executive Associate Director Derek Benner said he wants to expand the corps to "cyber investigators" or cyber analysts with an official career path that could help fight black market online sales of fentanyl.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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