Officially formed by president Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983, the NNBIS was directed by then vice president George Bush. It was supposed to coordinate the interdiction of drugs flowing into the United States through air and sea, working with the DEA and Department of Justice. In 1984, the head of the DEA, Frances Mullen Jr. stated that the NNBIS was a fraud and that it in fact coordinated the smuggling of heroin and cocaine into the US.

Ross Perot, working at that time on the President's Advisory Council on Foreign Intelligence, was given the task of investigating the status of POW/MIA soldiers of the Vietnam War. He spoke out against the drug trade managed by Bush, saying that it was preventing him from locating Vietnam prisoners of war.

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