What is the role that technology has in the fight against illegal drug smuggling?What is the role that technology has in the fight against illegal drug smuggling?
As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, technology is likely to play an even greater role in the "war on drugs" than is presently the case. Previous answers have already mentioned a number of specific examples of the use of technology in the attempt to prevent importation of illegal drugs into the United States.
It is easy to imagine how drone aircraft might be used in such efforts even more than is already the case. Drones have been highly effective in the war against specific terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it is easy to imagine how they might be used to patrol the borders, spot smugglers at sea, disable boats, etc., etc.
"Nano" technology is also likely to be increasingly used. I've read recently about flying cameras the size of bees that are almost indistinguishable (at a distance) from insects. (These are not examples of "nanotechnology in the precise sense of the word, but they are moving in that direction.)
It would not surprise me if someone, somewhere, is working on some kind of pesticide designed to kill opium plants without harming humans, animals, soil, water, or other crops. In short, technology is likely to be increasingly employed to fight drugs and drug smuggling, although smugglers and users can be expected to employ counter-measures as well.
See links below.
I had to pare the question down a bit. It was asking multiple question and also made a faulty link between illegal immigration and drug smuggling, implying that the two are connected. I think that this is an entirely different question that can be reposted.
Technology plays both a proactive and reactive role in the challenge against illegal drug smuggling. The idea of a proactive setting can be apparent in that technology can be vital in the sharing of information between nations and law enforcement agencies. Technology can play a role in the release of information about drug traffickers, as well as monitoring patterns of criminal behavior. Using means of technological communication with increased speed and delivery of information means that knowledge and intelligence can be shared immediately. In a reactive manner, technology can be used to protect border interests and stop individuals illegally smuggling drugs. The use of body scan technology at checkpoints can assist here. Recently, the Office of Naval Research has developed new software that can help in fighting illegal drug smuggling. This software program helps with "surveillance and reconnaissance." Such technology tools will help with the fight against illegal drug smuggling.
Once the Cold War was over and the CIA and NSA had less to do, the federal government ordered the retasking of agency assets to the "War on Drugs". This meant that massive eavesdropping, satellite and computer programs, hardware and personnel were made available to combat drug trafficking.
One of the ways in which several cartels have been taken down is through sophisticated satellite eavesdropping techniques and supercomputer filtering programs that can identify the voice patterns of cartel leaders. Pablo Escobar, infamous head of the Medellin Cartel in the early 1990s was hunted down and killed by Colombian police using that technology feed from the US. The Tijuana and Juarez Cartels were pitted against each other when law enforcement in the US gathered intel on each organization and fed it to the other cartel.
It has had little visible results in the amount of drug users or drugs in the US, mind you, but it has made life for the traffickers and their minions much more difficult.
Some examples of Technological Advances in the fight against illegal drug smuggling are as follows:
1. Advanced interdiction techniques used by the U.S. Coast guard, specifically the application of satellite surveillance and GPS tracking. Also, Coast Guard helicopters have autopilots with automated search grid capability.
2. Improved drug testing for samples of contraband, suspects under the influence, and urine drug screening of applicants for employment.
3. Cell phone monitoring for wire taps or location tracking of drug smugglers.
From video and audio surveillance to satellite imaging, drug smugglers have it a lot tougher than in the past. Cargo can be tracked electronically from its origins to its intended destination, leaving exporters to come up with their own sophisticated way of neutralizing the effects. However, drug smuggling is still a trillion dollar business worldwide, so even the best technology will never completely stifle the efforts of smuggling.
Yes, there are obvious limits to the way in which technology can help the war against drugs, but let us also be aware of the way that it has helped. Although it clearly has not stopped drugs completely, it is certainly much harder to smuggle drugs in traditional ways. Of course, the problem with this is that drug smugglers are forced to resort to other more secretive methods that are more difficult to detect.
I don't think that technology can ever play a decisive role in this "war". We have had all kinds of technology being put to work against drug smuggling for decades and have not managed to slow the flow of drugs in any meaningful way. I would argue, instead, that the only way that we will ever make a serious dent in the problem is by reducing the demand for the illegal drugs.
One role that technology plays is the attempt to get the better of illegal drugs is related to the United States Coast Guard. Ironically, the Coast Guard does not only patrol around our coast. They sail even into South American waters. One reason they do so is to employ technology to detect illegal drug shipments and to deter transport of illegal drugs.