Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Old US Drug Threat Tries on a New Color Black Cocaine, Which Is Designed to Elude Detection, Is Newest Concernin Drug Fight

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Old US Drug Threat Tries on a New Color Black Cocaine, Which Is Designed to Elude Detection, Is Newest Concernin Drug Fight

Article excerpt

White, White Horse, White Lady: Those are just a handful of cocaine's street names. But the white powder could soon be changing its color, and in doing so, create a new and more devious threat on America's illicit drug front.

Recently unclassified intelligence reports contend the drug cartels have now developed a new form of so-called black cocaine, which is designed to evade detection. While it apparently hasn't hit the streets in this country yet, its potential has raised alarms in the top echelons of the nation's antidrug offices because it marks a whole new technique to avoid detection: masking the drugs.

"This new black cocaine frustrates detection by drug dogs, and does not react when subjected to chemical reagents," retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the US drug control policy director, told a Senate subcommittee this week. Fooling the dogs Traffickers mix the cocaine with iron dust and charcoal to fool the dogs and frustrate the chemical tests. Experts say that when the so-called black cocaine reaches its destination, acetone or another chemical can be used to separate out the cocaine. Few agents on the front line of the interdiction war in the US have even heard of black cocaine. "That's because we can't detect it," one joked. But he followed that up with the concern voiced by Mr. McCaffrey and other high- level drug experts: that this and other "high tech" innovations give traffickers an extra edge and could complicate the already-imposing task of stemming the flow of cocaine into the United States. "The traffickers are constantly coming up with new wrinkles in smuggling and new ways to avoid detection and techniques to evade the law," says Jonathan Winer, one of the State Department's top drug experts. "Law enforcement needs to be constantly updating its countermeasures. And we are." While overall drug production is increasing worldwide, potential cocaine production has actually dropped by 27 percent in the past three years, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. …

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