Sessions cracks down on MS-13, drug cartels with new task force

Since before he even took office, President Donald Trump has been outspoken in his opposition to the criminal cartels and street gangs that are heavily involved in the illicit trafficking of drugs, people and weapons across U.S. borders.

Early on in his administration, Trump impressed upon Attorney General Jeff Sessions the importance of effectively countering the criminal activity of such groups. Sessions has now announced the formation of a special task force that will be focused on disrupting and prosecuting transnational organized crime.

“Off our streets for good”

A media release from the Department of Justice announced the creation of the Transnational Organized Crime Task Force, which is to be staffed with experienced career prosecutors.

“The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump sent me an executive order to dismantle transnational criminal organizations—the gangs and cartels who flood our streets with drugs and violence,” said Sessions. “We embrace that order and we carry it out every single day.”

“Today, to increase our effectiveness, I am putting in place new leadership to drive our transnational organized crime efforts and forming a Transnational Organized Crime Task Force of experienced prosecutors that will coordinate and optimize the Department’s efforts to take each of these groups off of our streets for good,” the attorney general added.

Five targets, including MS-13

While there are innumerable criminal cartels and street gangs that could be considered “transnational organized crime” groups, the DOJ release listed off five specific groups that the new task force will focus on.

Those groups include MS-13, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Clan del Golfo, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, all of whom have been deemed a threat to the “safety and prosperity” of America and its allies.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who will lead the new task force, said Monday of those criminal organizations, “They sow violence and sell poisonous drugs. They bribe public officials and fuel corruption. They terrorize law-abiding citizens. And they are increasingly smart about how they commit their crimes. They use the financial system and modern technology – cell phones, social media, encryption, and other tools – in support of their illicit activities.”

90-day deadline

The task force has been organized into various subcommittees that will be focused on one particular group from that list, with each subcommittee led by a career prosecutor that has previous experience in dealing with the particular group they’ve been assigned.

Leading the subcommittee on MS-13 is Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham, who has been involved in the “arrests of hundreds of MS-13 members” during his time in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
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Each subcommittee has a 90-day deadline to come up with recommendations on how best to confront and disrupt the illicit operations of their particular target, whether that be through the prosecution of leaders and members, diplomacy with host nations or via other lawful means.

The new task force will also work hand-in-hand with existing task forces and teams dealing with related issues, such as the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team, not to mention the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI and the DOJ’s own Criminal Division, among others.

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