Operation Southern Flow Interdicting "cash mules" with Hemisphere

In 2011 a Texas border narcotics task force used Hemisphere to gain leverage against suspected “cash mules” transporting drug proceeds south for Mexican cartels, intending to recruit them as confidential informants under an initiative called Operation Southern Flow.

Narcotics agents had been successful using conventional investigative methods to intercept and prosecute drug-runners trafficking their product into the U.S., because they were “actively looking for a customer...and cross their dope in small increments. Thus police and confidential informants can infiltrate these organizations and eventually affect an arrest, seizure and prosecution,“ according to a project narrative from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, lead agency for the operation.

They were having less success catching traffickers headed south with the money, because “...they are no longer seeking customers. They are attempting to get the money from point A to Point B as quick [sic] as they can,” making it much harder to identify and infiltrate the trafficking organizations.

Operation Southern Flow involved using Hemisphere as a shortcut along with other intelligence sources to analyze all of the evidence gathered at checkpoints, arrests, and interdiction stops (including “cellular telephone downloads, interviews, pocket trash etc,”). Agents at the McAllen Intelligence Center used this aggregate evidence to “develop target packages on the critical individuals so that the investigative unit of the Interdiction Initiative can attempt to develop these individuals as informants.”

Parallel construction is virtually built into this investigative approach, as the identity let alone the method of the informant’s recruitment is unlikely to ever be disclosed.

HIDTA and OCDETF, Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, initiatives are often massively collaborative. Operation Southern Flow was undertaken in partnership with Mexican authorities, and many US law enforcement agencies with personnel operating on both sides of the border.

"West Texas HlDTA Initiatives are collocated, comingled operations, with participating officers and agents sharing workspace, and reporting through a unified chain of command. This is the ultimate form of collaboration, resulting in highly coordinated investigations and intelligence gathering and dissemination." - Project Narrative
"HIDTA-funded technology and interconnectivity has also increased the collaboration between agencies and Initiatives, providing greater access to available equipment and information than any one agency, or even a combination of agencies, could provide."

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