Nightly News | May 19, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Los Angeles): They announced a major indicted today in Tucson , Arizona , accusing a powerful Mexican drug cartel of using local people in the community to smuggle tons of marijuana using methods more like a professional military operation than a band of drug runners, and our cameras are there to capture the story. Our exclusive report here tonight from NBC 's Mark Potter .
MARK POTTER reporting: In a massive show of force, nearly 200 agents and tribal police began an arrest sweep in southern Arizona . Forty-six people are accused of working for a Mexican drug cartel that allegedly smuggles hundreds of tons of marijuana to through Native American land. The Tohono O'Odham Reservation sits along the Mexican border near Tucson , Arizona . It's the size of Connecticut , but is sparsely populated. For most of the remote 75-mile long border there, this fence is all that separates Mexico from the United States .
Mr. TODD SCOTT (US Drug Enforcement Administration): Typically a smuggler, smuggling group will move dope through this desert in either a vehicle or in a human smuggling train.
POTTER: Authorities say Mexican traffickers increasingly use Tohono O'Odham land now to enter the US, forced to do so by law enforcement crackdowns elsewhere. Agents say on most of the mountaintops in this area within the United States , from the border to Phoenix , Mexico 's Sina Loa drug cartel hides its surveillance teams in caves...
Unidentified Man: More pieces of communications equipment.
POTTER: ...to spy on American law enforcement below.
Mr. SCOTT: We estimate at any given time there's about two or 300 scouts working in these positions.
POTTER: And this is one of those mountaintop caves called spider holes, where the Mexican drug scouts will hunker down day and night. This one's so fresh, they left behind some shoes and their sleeping gear. In smaller caves the scouts store water, food, tarps and equipment.
Man: Up here, you've got a base plate for a radio.
POTTER: The Mexican spotters use encrypted radios to direct heavily camouflaged vehicles loaded with marijuana and other drugs across the Arizona desert.
Mr. TODD SMITH (DEA Agent): It's almost like a military operation where they're, you know, hand off to hand off, to person to person.
POTTER: High above the desert, they are the eyes and ears of a powerful and dangerous Mexican drug smuggling cartel operating deep inside the United States . Mark Potter , NBC News , near Tucson , Arizona .