Thursday, February 02, 2023

Coast Guard Drug Bust, Gulf of Oman

by Douglas V. Gibbs
Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host

The news is buzzing over the story that appeared a couple days ago in which the US Coast Guard seized $33 million of hashish and meth in the Gulf of Oman from a fishing vessel being used to smuggle the drugs. This is not the first bust during the first month of 2023. Earlier that month the U.S. Navy seized more than 2,000 AK-47s.

The breakdown of the seizure:
  • More than 8,800 pounds of hashish
  • About 1,128 pounds of methamphetamine
  • The Coast Guard vessel that made the bust was the Coast Guard cutter Emlen Tunnell.
As a part of a combined task force the Coast Guard ship was patrolling waters in the Gulf of Oman when the bust was made. The Combined Task Force 150 is currently in the area for the purpose of disrupting criminal and terrorist activities in the area.

"This is just the beginning of our work in delivering maritime security operations in the region to stop illicit activities and drug smuggling," UK Royal Navy Capt. James Byron, the CTF 150 commander, said in a statement. "This comes as a result of a valued partnership between CTF 150 and all partner nations in Combined Maritime Forces."

In 2021 the operations of the Combined Task Force 150 led to a seizure of about $1 billion worth of drugs, including hashish, heroin, opium, and amphetamines.

The U.S. Coast Guard operated in the Gulf of Oman in 2022 performing similar tasks, participating in a drug bust on Aug. 30, 2022. In October the Coast Guard cutter Glen Harris seized about $48 million worth of hashish and meth from drug smugglers.

Aside from drugs, patrols led by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have also interdicted smugglers trying to sneak weapons through the Gulf of Oman. More than 2,000 assault rifles have been confiscated by the U.S. Navy from Iranian smugglers. In January of 2023 the U.S. Navy seized 2,116 AK-47s from a vessel crewed by Yemeni nationals in the Gulf of Oman.

A student from one of my Constitution Classes in Southern California asked me if the Coast Guard had any jurisdiction to be involved in those raids.

Good question.

First, let's go over the Constitutional Authority of the federal government to be involved with such maritime operations.

Article I, Section 8 grants to Congress the authority to make legislation defining the punishment of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas.

As Commander in Chief as per Article II, Section 2, the President has the authority to deploy the military to carry out that duty.

Article III, Section 2 gives the federal courts the authority to hear maritime law cases, and attaint the offenders upon conviction.

So, the drug bust itself is supported by various granted constitutional authorities. However, in seas outside those that fall under American jurisdiction, only the Navy would be the authorized maritime military entity to carry out the "drug bust".

According to 33 US Code Chapter 3 the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard covers all navigable waters of the U.S. landward...

... and the U.S. Coastline up to 200 miles from the shore of the U.S. coastline.

While the United States has the constitutional authority to operate has they have in the Gulf of Oman, and make the seizures they have made, and indict and convict the parties involved in a court of law, the presence of the U.S. Coast Guard in all of that seems to be not in line with the actual wording of the law in regards to their jurisdiction. The argument regarding the Coast Guard's various operations in other parts of the world falls under the fact that the Coast Guard is considered a branch of the United States Military. As such, the Commander in Chief may deploy them wherever he wishes, goes the argument. I am not convinced that the deployment of the Coast Guard to foreign waters was what was intended when the first administration established the Coast Guard (operating under many names, including Revenue-Marine) in 1790 (one year after the Constitution went into operation), through the Tariff Act authorizing the construction of ten vessels, referred to as "cutters," to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. The creation of the service had been lobbied by Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury. Once Congress finally provided for the "cutters" in the Tariff Act, George Washington signed the bill into law. Until the U.S. Navy was reestablished in 1798, the cutters served as America's only maritime military service.

In 1915 the U.S. Life-Saving Service was officially renamed the Coast Guard, and became recognized as an official branch of the United States Military. In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration transferred the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard, putting it in charge of maritime navigation. In 1946, Congress permanently transferred the Commerce Department's Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation to the Coast Guard, putting merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety in its control. In 1967 the Coast Guard was transferred to the federal Department of Transportation. In 2003 the Coast Guard was again transferred, this time to the Department of Homeland Security, where it currently serves. The service's current position under Homeland Security also provides those who wish to use the Coast Guard internationally the "excuse" to do so, despite its jurisdiction officially being to the contrary.

Added note: From the establishment point of view Coast Guard jurisdiction is not limited in a state of emergency. Therefore, they are operating as if emergency powers are in play (not that such a condition would change constitutional authorities).

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

USCG sailors were used as boat operators for landing craft in WWII.
A USCG cutter was stationed at the Basra Oil Terminal during the Gulf War.