CHARLOTTE – EPIC stands for the “El Paso Intelligence Center”, it provides 24/7 tactical intelligence to law enforcement around the world through watch operations, analytical support, and access to a variety of state and federal databases.
It is led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, it is also the nerve center for intelligence efforts on the Southwest border—and home base for the FBI’s Southwest Intelligence Group (SWIG). It provides key intelligence information for law enforcement agencies around the country, including here in Charlotte, N.C., which is a key distribution center for illegal drugs. The reason why Charlotte is a center hub is for obvious reasons – it has a good transportation system with major interstate freeways running through it, says one Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer, involved in combating drug traffickers in the city. For reasons of security, we have with held his name from publication.
FIGHTING THE DRUG CARTELS!
“EPIC is a valuable asset in the fight against the cartels,” said Kevin Perkins, assistant director of our Criminal Investigative Division.That’s because the timely collection and sharing of intelligence is critical to stemming the flow of illegal drugs across the border into the United States. EPIC’s multi-agency approach ensures that federal, state, and local law enforcement have access to real-time intelligence.
In all about 300 agents, analysts, computer experts, translators, administrators, and support staff from 15 federal agencies work around the clock at EPIC to piece together raw intelligence from a variety of law enforcement databases into actionable intelligence that could lead to arrests, seizures, and the disruption of drug trafficking.
The FBI maintains a staff of about a dozen agents and analysts at EPIC who contribute investigative and analytic resources.
They also manage the SWIG, which provides additional intelligence to our key Southwest offices.
According to the FBI website, EPIC and the SWIG provide the Bureau with a continually updated intelligence snapshot along the entire Southwest border.
This is crucial because the border is the principal arrival zone for most of the illicit drugs smuggled into the country, as well as the main staging area for the subsequent distribution of drugs throughout the United States.
On the local level, law enforcement such as the Charlotte- Mecklenburg Police Department get some limited access to that information which helps in the fight on drugs in the city and throughout the county. The CMPD won’t really confirm that however.
“It’s something you don’t hear much about here in Charlotte”, says Lynn Harper, a investigative journalist working for a alternative news publication source that tracks US intelligence activities and the war on drugs. “What happens in Mexico, along the border can effect what goes on here in Charlotte. We can sometimes connect the dots and see a cause –effect relationship between what they produce in the EPIC to local drug busts in North Carolina, more specifically Charlotte”, she said.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON EPIC –
“EPIC”, some say is “one of the Primer Intelligence operations center in the US”, says Ron Smith of Charlotte.
“EPIC is one of those shadowy government intelligence gathering assets that doesn’t get a lot of publicity and doesn’t want any either”, says Nathan Howard of Charlotte. “We have been collecting information on it for a long time now”, he said. Howard provides me a briefing paper, about the size of a telephone book, with almost everything written about the Epic in the last 10 years.
The Department of Justice website explains the origins of EPIC, this way he says:
“In 1974, the Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted a report entitled A Secure Border: An Analysis of Issues Affecting the U.S. Department of Justice to the Office of Management and Budget. The report provided recommendations on how to improve drug- and border-enforcement operations along the Southwest border. One of the recommendations proposed the establishment of a regional intelligence center to collect and disseminate information relating to drug, alien, and weapon smuggling in support of field enforcement entities throughout the region. In response to that study, the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) was created and was initially staffed by representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs Service, and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
“Agencies currently represented at EPIC include the Drug Enforcement Administration; Department of Homeland Security; Customs & Border Protection; Immigration & Customs Enforcement; U.S. Coast Guard; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Marshals Service; National Drug Intelligence Center; Internal Revenue Service; U.S. Department of the Interior; National Geospatial–Intelligence Agency; U.S. Department of Defense; Joint Task Force–North; Joint Interagency Task Force–South; Texas Department of Public Safety; Texas Air National Guard; and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.”
Initially, EPIC, as the facility became known, focused on the United States-Mexico border with an emphasis on Mexico’s heroin traffickers and illegal alien smugglers. With the increased use of aircraft, seagoing vessels, and global networks to facilitate drug trafficking, EPIC’s focus broadened and became international in scope. So not only does EPIC serve Federal agencies, all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Canada, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, but also supports law enforcement efforts conducted by foreign counterparts throughout the world, and currently has Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with Canada, Australia, and The Netherlands. In response to increased multiagency needs, EPIC later developed into a fully coordinated, tactical intelligence center supported by databases and resources from member agencies.
In 2001, immediately after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC, the multiagency environment of EPIC was called upon to support investigations to find those responsible. EPIC’s mission evolved from its experience in supporting interdiction efforts and investigations regarding drug trafficking, alien and weapon smuggling, and other criminal activities, by adding counterterrorism to its efforts.
EPIC’s vision is to continue to provide timely and expeditious support to Federal, State, local, tribal, and international law enforcement agencies and to remain the premier tactical operational intelligence center in the nation.”
“Along with information we gather, we can get an idea about what the DEA is up to” Howard explains. “I can tell you they do some important work for the country.” He said.