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DHS Announces New Operations to Fight Fentanyl as CBP Year-to-Date Seizures Pass All of FY2022

CBP will lead Operation Artemis, supported by Homeland Security Investigations, to "target the fentanyl supply chain and interdict items required in the production of fentanyl."

The Department of Homeland Security today announced a follow-up effort to recent operations to interdict fentanyl as year-to-date seizures of the powerful drug passed the previous year’s total in new statistics released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

At the end of May, CBP and DHS partners announced that nearly 10,000 pounds of fentanyl had been seized over the course of two months as part of Operations Blue Lotus and Four Horsemen. The operations also netted 284 arrests.

In mid-March, the CBP and Homeland Security Investigations joint surge enforcement effort Operation Blue Lotus was launched to target fentanyl smuggling. That and Operation Four Horseman, a complementary CBP operation focusing on smuggling between ports of entry, pulled in about 5,000 pounds of fentanyl combined in just their first month.

“The next two Operations, ‘Artemis’ and ‘Rolling Wave,’ will consist of multidisciplined interagency jump teams at strategic locations with an enhanced focus on disrupting the supply chain used in the development and movement of fentanyl,” DHS said today.

CBP will lead Operation Artemis, supported by Homeland Security Investigations, to “leverage intelligence and investigative information derived from Operation Blue Lotus to target the fentanyl supply chain and interdict items required in the production of fentanyl.”

“Operation Rolling Wave will surge inbound inspections at Southwest Border checkpoints, covering every sector and leveraging predictive analysis and intelligence sharing,” DHS added. CBP also will run Operation Argus, a parallel intelligence and analysis operation, “to provide trade-focused analysis in support of Blue Lotus 2.0 and Artemis.”

CBP says that more than 90 percent of fentanyl is trafficked in vehicles through ports of entry. The agency said this week that fentanyl seizures have increased more than 400 percent since fiscal year 2019.

“CBP remained laser-focused on our national and economic security missions this month: managing increased passenger throughput at the start of a busy summer travel season and increasing seizures of dangerous drugs by 10 percent over April,” Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller said Tuesday.

As expected, fentanyl has become the first drug classification with fiscal year 2023 seizures to date surpassing the amount seized in all of fiscal year 2022. The current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

As of June 6, CBP had seized 19,821.28 pounds of fentanyl — in all of FY2022, 14,699.88 pounds of the synthetic opioid were seized by the agency.

Just 2 milligrams is considered a potentially lethal dose.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 150 people die each day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.

Seizures of other drugs — marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, khat, ketamine, ecstasy, LSD, and the “other drugs” category including opium and oxycodone — for FY2023 to date still trail their FY2022 totals.

“The intelligence and investigative work being conducted by DHS Agencies and with our federal partners to disrupt the fentanyl supply chain is unprecedented,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “These operations build on the success of Operations Blue Lotus and Four Horsemen, which from March through May prevented nearly 10,000 pounds of fentanyl from entering the United States and yielded invaluable insights into criminal networks. Cartels have been producing synthetic drugs for years, and the DHS workforce is unwavering in its dedication to stopping them. In the past two years, DHS seized more fentanyl than in the previous five years combined, and these operations are an example of how we are broadening that effort.”

HSI will continue surging resources to Ports of Entry, DHS said, and has “also deployed additional dedicated teams to every Special Agent in Charge (SAC) office throughout the country performing fentanyl investigation operations, including work to identify transnational criminal organization networks and to target dark web vendors.”

“HSI is also bolstering support for ongoing initiatives including Operations Hydra, which uses computer-based analytic tools to go after TCO chemical supplies; Pelican Bones, which includes a focus on financial tools used by criminal organizations; and Chain Breaker, which targets equipment needed to manufacture pills; as well as additional personnel deployed at express consignment facilities.”

Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tae Johnson said that the “incredible efforts and outcomes of Homeland Security Investigations special agents during Operation Blue Lotus was just the beginning of this ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic.”

“HSI is continuing this fight against transnational criminal organizations head-on, utilizing every investigative resource available, together with our partners to disrupt and dismantle these illicit narcotics supply chains,” Johnson said.

DHS said the department expects to release results from the new operations in the coming weeks.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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