In the War on Drugs, the Drug Enforcement Administration has created a special program designed to operate with optimal self-sufficiency and adherence to information security protocols. The Sensitive Investigative Unit was established almost two decades ago to conduct field operations and investigations within foreign theaters of operation where local members of the government or law enforcement may be corrupt and provide information to narcotics organizations.
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The DEA currently employs almost a thousand SIU personnel on 26 teams in 10 foreign countries. Most of these SIU teams are deployed to regions like Southeast Asia and South America, where narcotics organizations have a strong and powerful presence. In the past 18 years, SIU teams have been responsible for major drug busts and arrests including Armando Villareal, Diego Sanchez, and Monzer Al Kassar.
SIU teams primarily act in two arenas. They may conduct missions without cooperation from local authorities or they may institute strict vetting procedures to ensure that local collaborators are trustworthy. These security procedures have helped ensure the efficacy of international investigations and the safety of DEA personnel working abroad.
DEA Sensitive Investigative Unit Job Description
SIU team jobs require members to master the following skills:
- Operate encryption programs and technology to transmit information
- Use strict communication protocols in questionable settings
- Evaluate potential collaborators and train them
- Conduct clandestine investigations and missions abroad
- Investigate the backgrounds of local translators
- Maintain constant awareness when traveling or entering unsafe environments
How to Become a DEA Sensitive Investigative Unit Member
The first step in joining a SIU team is to join the DEA as a special agent, intelligence officer or administrator. The application process for an agent includes a rigorous physical evaluation and training program that is not usually included in the other administrative and intelligence positions. All candidates will undergo an intensive background investigation, polygraph exam and medical evaluation.
Upon hiring, new employees will complete a training program appropriate to their job title. After serving with the organization, employees may request assignment to a SIU unit. If accepted, new members must complete a five week SIU Basic Training course at DEA Training Academy. This course will include topics on
- Technical training
- First aid
- Wire intercept
- Computer training
- Raid planning
The purpose of Basic Training is to provide the skills to conduct investigations and operations in foreign environments where information security is at risk. SIU members should be able to maintain information security even when collaborating closely with possibly compromised local organizations or personnel.
DEA Sensitive Investigative Unit Salary
DEA Sensitive Investigative Units are composed of a variety of law enforcement, tactical, intelligence and administrative personnel. The special agents and diversion investigators on these teams may have pay ratings from GS-7 up to GS-13, while the intelligence personnel may be rated GS-9 up to GS-13. Administrators may receive salaries commensurate with a GS-5 pay grade or higher. In 2012, the salaries for these pay grades were: