Procedurally the offers acted properly... It was not an illegal search they had consent to search... and now a little background.
New Orleans International Airport receives direct flights from San Salvador, El Salvador, and San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Both San Salvador and San Pedro Sula serve as regional hubs, connecting passengers from all over Central and South America, including known drug source countries such as Columbia and Venezuela, to New Orleans.
The Port of New Orleans is a transportation hub and distribution center for licit and illicit commodities. It is the second busiest container port on the Gulf Coast and the fourth busiest port in the United States. Smuggling occurs not only within containerized cargo, but also in shipments of bulk cargo such as iron ore and produce. Much of the trade is with drug source and transit nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Drug traffickers use skilled welders in poor nations such as Haiti to modify cargo vessels so drugs can be stored within the structure of the ship. U.S. Customs Service (USCS) officials indicate that smuggling by crew members aboard cargo ships is also a significant problem. Louisiana, with 397 miles of Gulf Coastline, includes the Mississippi delta, gateway to the vast Mississippi River system.
The Port of New Orleans is a popular embarkation point and destination on the Caribbean cruise ship circuit providing an opportunity for American and foreign passengers to smuggle drugs. Some crew members on cruise ships that service ports in drug transit countries such as Jamaica and Mexico smuggle multikilogram shipments of cocaine. The USCS reports that drug distribution groups in the United States recruit couriers who work with drug traffickers and crew members to bring drugs into the United States.
The Gulf of Mexico is home to over 4,000 offshore natural gas drilling platforms that are sometimes used as rendezvous or dropoff points for smugglers. The natural gas industry is the impetus for between 5,000 and 9,000 helicopter flights a day shuttling employees and equipment between platforms and the mainland, providing a degree of anonymity to smugglers operating in the Gulf.
Traffickers exploit the many opportunities the Gulf of Mexico provides and continue to develop innovative ways to smuggle drugs via the Gulf Coast. Although seizure data does not confirm widespread air and maritime drug smuggling into Louisiana's Gulf Coast region, United States Coast Guard (USCG) and USCS intelligence officials, as well as many local law enforcement agencies in communities along the Gulf Coast, are confident it is occurring. The maritime and air drug smuggling threat in the Gulf of Mexico is underscored by the fact that the Louisiana Gulf Coast is closer to the port of Cartagena, Colombia, than it is to Boston, Massachusetts.
Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) use modern communication and navigation devices for countersurveillance and counterintelligence capabilities. Cellular telephones and global positioning systems (GPS) have revolutionized the way in which air and maritime smugglers conduct their activities, enabling them to make precision rendezvous. In the past, smugglers had to use high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) radios to communicate with their offloading or receiving teams and to use other means such as automobile headlights and fires to help pilots or captains pinpoint ground parties, which made them vulnerable to detection. DTO members study law enforcement operational patterns and routines such as USCG and USCS patrol schedules.
Louisiana's portions of interstate highways 10, 20, and 55 are important cogs in an elaborate interstate system being exploited by drug distributors moving drugs north from the Southwest Border area while at the same time sending the cash profits south. Houston and Dallas, both major drug distribution hubs, lie just to the west of Louisiana on highways 10 and 20, respectively. Law enforcement personnel in Louisiana point overwhelmingly to Houston and Dallas as the main source of cocaine in their areas. Louisiana's proximity to Texas and the Southwest Border provides distributors ready access via Louisiana's highways to lucrative markets in the southern and northeastern United States. To a lesser degree, Interstate 55, which originates in New Orleans and passes through St. Louis before ending in Chicago, allows distributors to move drugs to midwestern markets. Interstate highways 10 and 20 also connect Louisiana to major drug distribution hubs in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Miami, and Atlanta. Table 1 shows the distance between several Louisiana cities and some significant drug distribution cities
Table 1. Estimated Mileage Between Major Louisiana Cities and Selected Drug Distribution Cities
Distance in Miles
Monroe Shreveport Alexandria Lake Charles Baton Rouge New Orleans
Houston 334 235 239 143 269 352
Dallas 284 187 303 380 443 499
Brownsville 689 616 593 498 624 702
Los Angeles 1,721 1,634 1,740 1,689 1,815 1,914
Miami 1,025 1,123 1,057 1,047 921 862
Louisiana's popularity as a tourist, convention, and party destination contributes to drug abuse and distribution. Large numbers of recreation seekers travel to and from New Orleans providing relative anonymity to drug distributors as well as providing a lucrative market for drugs.