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America's Drug Habit Funds Terrorism

'Target America' Exhibit Touches Down In Chicago

NBC5.com September 11, 2006

NBC5 is partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the museum of science and industry for a special series.

The museum is hosting the DEA's traveling exhibit called "Target America," which aims to bring new insight to the damage drugs can cause.

It features the many fronts of the drug battle, from explosive meth labs to finding drugs online. Inside the museum, shards of the Twin Towers sit as a reminder of what the DEA said is the price of America's drug habit.

One thing agents say is clear: American drug money is buying weapons and funding wars.

The DEA said that money may fund operations like the WTC bombing of 2001.

Meth labs in Mexico, marijuana fields in Somalia and cocaine trade in Colombia share more than American customers.

Drugs have become the cash cow for terrorist organizations. Half of the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations have drug ties.

The DEA has spent decades tracking organizations like Colombia's Farc. The drug lords net $300 million a year and that money trail leads back to America.

"The Farc traded cocaine for a stinger missle," said Karen Tandy, of the DEA. "Gaeda was trading heroin for a stinger missile. Both of those transactions occurred in the United States."

When terrorists strike, money-laundering experts track the attack.

"With the Madrid train bombings, the way the terrorists got the explosives to blow up the train was by trading hashish for explosives," said Tandy. "It cost $50,000 worth of hashish, and you saw what happened in the train bombings."

Forensic accounts comb through everything from Taliban tax receipts to money confiscated inside secret compartments.

"We're talking about wire transfers on offshore accounts, underground banking systems, bulk currency movement, other concealed stuff not used above -- ask if you need more," said a DEA accountant. "It's a paper chase in a lot of instances."

Chicago's banking industry has been used for buying chemicals to make meth that flowed straight through Chicago to the Middle East.