-- Miles off the coast of California, a Customs and Border Protection aircraft armed with high-powered surveillance cameras locked in on a tiny object glimmering in the horizon. Suspicious, authorities zoomed in closer and observed a triangular submarine-like vessel operating almost completely underwater to avoid observation and radar.
The Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast was dispatched to intercept the suspected smuggling boat.
Sessions credited this rise to the availability, purity and low price of illicit drugs.
Including today's offload, more than 455,034 pounds of cocaine, worth over $6.1 billion, has been intercepted by the Coast Guard in Fiscal Year 2017, which topped the 2016 record of 443,000 pounds.
Nearly 600 suspected smugglers were apprehended by the Coast Guard and turned over to federal authorities for prosecution in the U.S. during the year. That's up from 465 suspects in 2016 and 373 in fiscal year 2015.
Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft said Wednesday that while the Coast Guard is "getting better" at intercepting these drug boats, there is also increase in cultivation and production, particularly in Colombia.
Most of the cocaine consumed here in the United States originates in Colombia, according to the Coast Guard.
"Last year, we had 60,000 fatalities due to drug usage [in the U.S.] and that number will only go up next year," said Zukunft while making the case for the need for a bigger Coast Guard.
On board the suspected smuggler’s vessel, more than 3 tons of cocaine — millions of dollars' worth — is found, allegedly bound for the U.S.