Operation Intercept

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Operation Intercept was an anti-drug measure announced by President Nixon on at 2:30pm on Sunday, September 21, 1969, resulting in a near shutdown of border crossings between Mexico and the United States. The initiative was intended to reduce the entry of Mexican marijuana into the United States at a time that was considered to be the prime harvest season.[1] It was implemented by Myles Ambrose, who served as the Commissioner of Customs in the Nixon administration.[2]

The policy was instituted as a surprise move, although President Nixon had given Mexican President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz some advance warning when they met on September 8, 1969 to dedicate the Lake Amistad Dam International Crossing. The effort involved increased surveillance of the border from both air and sea, but the major part of the policy was the individual inspection, mandated to last three minutes, of every vehicle crossing into the United States from Mexico.[3] Because of complaints from cross-border travelers, and from Mexican President Diaz Ordaz, the searching of vehicles was reduced after 10 days and completely abandoned after about 20 days.[4]

The Nixon Administration believed that it had largely achieved its goal of encouraging the Mexican government to begin an effort to stem domestic drug production.[5]

In the early part of 1970, the Jefferson Airplane released a single entitled ‘Mexico’ c/w ‘Have You Seen the Saucers’. ‘Mexico’ was not played on some radio stations at the time because the lyrics referred to Operation Intercept, but this song became a classic on many of the so-called underground radio stations.[6]


  1. ^ The 1969 marijuana shortage and "Operation Intercept," The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs.
  2. ^ Schudel, Matt (June 12, 2014). "Myles J. Ambrose, who sought to curb illegal drug trade, helped set up the DEA". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2016. In 1969, Mr. Ambrose launched Operation Intercept, a controversial program in which federal agents searched cars for drugs as they entered the United States at the Mexican border. 
  3. ^ Lawrence A. Gooberman, Operation Intercept: The Multiple Consequences of Social Policy.
  4. ^ Operation Intercept, Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol, and Addictive Behavior.
  5. ^ Kate Doyle, Operation Intercept: The Perils of Unilateralism, National Security Archive at George Washington University, with copies of 18 previously classified documents.
  6. ^ Bill Thompson Sleeve Notes to Jefferson Airplane’s album ‘Early Flight’ Feb 1974 Grunt APL1-0437

See also[edit]