Early on in the story brainstorming sessions, we knew we wanted to include federal law enforcement agency involvement in the storyline. Based on my research so far, it looks like we have a bevy of options regarding which US federal agencies we could pick from to represent that angle. At this point, it’s only necessary to define that there’s a legitimate need within the storyline to have a US federal agency involved, that it’s realistic or believable that US agents could be working with the police of another country, and to begin outlining the plot points and character interactions related to this. I’ve now got that level of representation built up on the story structuring board:
Is US Fed involvement realistic?
Absolutely. In the real world, Caribbean countries are often approached by, or working with, federal law enforcement agencies. These include the DEA, the FBI, the US Coast Guard, and others, plus relevant intra-agency efforts such as the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF). The reasons for US federal agency involvement in other countries are varied but, for purposes of this story, we will most likely focus primarily on US involvement in matters related to the drug trade, terrorism, money laundering, or extradition of criminals wanted by the US.
Which US federal agency should we select?
The most obvious agency for this angle of the story would be the DEA. But there certainly are other options. For example, within the FBI, there is a division called the INL, short for Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Its responsibilities include reducing the entry of illegal drugs into the United States and minimizing the impact of international crime on the United States and its citizens — either of which could be useful to our storyline. Furthermore, although we are planning to be generic as much as possible in the story to widen its relevance — referring to it as more of a Caribbean country than a specific one — the reality is that we are likely shooting the majority of it in the country of Trinidad & Tobago, where the INL is in fact presently involved in an INL Counternarcotics and Law Enforcement Program.
One appealing use of the INL in the story is the fact that they provide technical assistance and training to help certain countries implement enforcement standards. If, as we imply in the story, there are high-ranking politicians taking bribes from drug traffickers, it is reasonable to assume that they might work against efforts for the US to get involved in supporting local officers with, for example, surveillance technology that would increase their effectiveness. I could see this creating some gripping conflicts in the story between certain primary characters.
But getting back to the DEA option…
The DEA is certainly full of opportunities for effective story involvement too. For example, they often perform bilateral investigations in which DEA special agents assist their foreign counterparts by developing sources of information and interviewing witnesses. The DEA also participates in international forums that promote international law enforcement cooperation. One way for us to introduce DEA involvement in the story could in fact be at at one of the annual International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) events that bring together upper-level drug law enforcement officials worldwide to share drug-related intelligence and develop operational strategies that can be used against international drug traffickers.
The DEA is also highly involved in offerring its drug intelligence gathering abilities to support host countries’ investigations. From these efforts in particular, another useful story angle arises through the DEA’s Joint Information Coordination Centers program, which provides computer hardware and software and training in same to country nationals overseas (primarily in Central and South America and the Caribbean, interestingly enough). Some of the US agency involvement ideas that we cooked up in brainstorming sessions over six months ago involved this very scenario. It’s nice to learn that we wouldnt have to fabricate such operations, since they really exist. Though, for the story, we’d still likely be fabricating a storyline in which certain government elements of this Caribbean nation refuse to cooperate or make such involvement difficult.
The FBI certainly remains a legitimate option
For decades, the FBI has stationed agents and other personnel overseas to help protect Americans back home by building relationships with principal law enforcement, intelligence, and services around the globe. They have what’s called Legal Attaché offices—known as Legats—around the globe. Each office is established through mutual agreement with the host country and is situated in the U.S. embassy or consulate in that nation.
And, let’s not forget the aforementioned Caribbean Corridor Strike Force
Their reason for existing is to investigate South American-based drug trafficking organizations that are using the Caribbean as a drug transshipment point for US-bound drugs. The CCSF would provide me the greatest flexibility for invoking US federal crime prevention involvement in the story since the strike force involves several US agencies, not to mention the potential inter-agency rivalries we could employ as necessary to further the difficulties our protagonist must face to achieve success.
How the Feds story thread can boost the drama
The agencies have rules — some shared, and some unique to each agency — governing the limits of their jurisdiction in foreign affairs. DEA agents, for example, are prohibited from active involvement in arrests of suspects in host countries and from participating in unilateral enforcement actions without the approval of officials from the host government. My devious mind reads this and sees such rules as a goldmine of potential conflict and dramatic escalation of events in the storyline, prompted by frustrated attempts to seek inter-organization cooperation, and the temptations of acting without approval if waiting for approval will lose them an opportunity to apprehend a criminal, or some such thing as that.
Is this fun, or what!? 🙂 Anyway, back to the sandbox …