Ask Lisa Ling Your Questions

Starting at 8P et, during the premiere of Explorer: Narco State, Lisa Ling is with us online answering your questions. Post your question now on the blog.

NOTE: The live blog with Lisa Ling is now over. Read viewer questions and Lisa’s responses below!

BORDER WARS PREMIERES JANUARY 10 9P et/pt. Border Wars follows the agents that protect the 2,000 mile long U.S./Mexico border against smuggling, terrorism, and illegal immigration.

Earlier I asked Lisa a few questions about filming Explorer: Narco State and what she thought about the situation.

Was there ever a time when you were scared for your safety during production of the show?
Lisa: Anytime you work on an assignment with active law enforcement officers investigating crimes there is risk.  There was one incident in Phoenix when a kidnapping suspect ran at me, but fortunately he was taken down by the police officer who was with me.

What took you by surprise? What shocked you?
Lisa: That the drug war has spread to the U.S. I was also shocked by the gruesomeness of it all. The lack of regard for human life is tragic.

Question: In your opinion, how do you think the citizens of Phoenix are reacting to the increase in the drug trade?
Lisa: The kidnappings do not affect average citizens who are not involved, but no one likes that the city has been affected.

Do you see any changes in US policy to improve the situation in Arizona?
Lisa: No changes as yet.  Hopefully, this show will open the eyes of those in Washington.

Were there any individuals (a smuggler or regular citizen) that stood out to you or that you could sympathize with?
Lisa: I sympathize with the family members of kidnapping victims, they are innocent people who never asked for this.

What would you do if you lived in Phoenix / Juarez?
Lisa: If I lived in phoenix I would campaign for more support for law enforcement.  If I were in Juarez, I would move if I could.

Do you think the situation will get worse before it gets better?
Lisa: Worse… until consumption is stemmed.  But since we’re not even discussing consumption, I would say that we’re a long way away.

What were your thoughts on the day to day routine? Was there anything they were doing that you didn’t agree with, or anything that you would have done differently?
Lisa: We need to focus on consumption.

What was the most interesting thing that you had access to?
Lisa: We were lucky to have been allowed to embed with the hike team, they do extraordinary work.

And now the viewer questions start coming in… Please continue to refresh your browser as Lisa answers as many questions as she can.

Viewer Question: Would you be willing to go back to Juarez in the future?
Lisa: Yes, I would go to Juarez.  I have hope that things will get better one day.

Viewer Question:
Have you embedded yourself with a law enforcement agency before? If so, how was Phoenix’s police department different/similar?
Lisa: Yes, I have embedded before.  The HIKE team is first rate, they solve so many of their investigations.

Viewer Question: How long were you with the Phoenix police?
Lisa: I made several trips throughout the course of a month.

Viewer Question: What can the average citizen do to help prevent this increasing problem of drug-related kidnappings in the U.S.?
Lisa: Work on stemming consumption.  It’s the only way.

Viewer Question:
When the Natgeo team was in Mexico did they get a feel as to how the population felt about drug or at least Cannabis Legalization to help eliminate the violence? (Since this is a parallel situation to Americas Alcohol prohibition it may have similar effects.)
Lisa: We at least should start opening up the dialogue.  Our drug wars on multiple continents doesn’t seem to be working.

Viewer Question: Please tell me how to verify your statement that the guns involved in this tragic documentary are coming from the United States. I’m not a nut but I want to verify what I hear because this is such a volatile topic in my community.
Lisa: The majority of weapons seized from drug traffickers by Mexican authorities indicate they are from the U.S.

Viewer Question: How can a citizen of Phoenix (and elsewhere) prevent falling victim to a drug-related kidnapping?
Lisa: The kidnappings in phoenix are targeted; almost all of the victims are involved somehow. Ordinary citizens should not be afraid, Phoenix is otherwise a very safe city.

Viewer Question: Are there other cities that have this kidnapping issue? Or is it mostly Phoenix?
Lisa: Some border towns in the U.S are having problems, but Phoenix has been dealt the severest blow as far as targeted kidnappings are concerned.

Viewer Question: During the filming of “Narco State,” did you train and/or carry a weapon due to the possible dangers?
Lisa: No, never.

Viewer Question: I’ve heard Cartels target minors many times to be used as storefronts/distributors since the laws are less strict on them. Is this consistent with what you experienced down there?
Lisa: Minors are targeted for many reasons. Many don’t have records yet and provide an inconspicuous front for drug operations.

Viewer Question: Do you think a fence or wall would help this situation at all? Something has to be done about this! No more Mr Nice Guy, U.S.!
Lisa: We can build a 200 foot wall and drugs will still get here as long as we maintain our insatiable appetite for drugs.

Viewer Question: Also is it true that many unwilling participants are forced into cartel service through Plata o Plomo (silver or lead) tactics used by the cartels?
Lisa: Cartels are downright unscrupulous and will do anything to get their product to the U.S.

Viewer Question:
Lisa, how much cooperation is there between the US and Mexican governments? How would you characterize the relationship between the two countries when it comes to the issue of drug trafficking?
Lisa: The U.S. partially funds Mexico’s war. Corruption is rampant in Mexico.

Viewer Question: What happens if the ransoms are not paid for drug-related kidnapping victims?
Lisa: The victim can be killed.

Viewer Question: You say consumption, I am a certified substance abuse counselor in Hawaii, With the recession on now, why do our politicians cut money from existing treatment programs?
Lisa: It makes no sense at all. As you know, providing treatment would cost a fraction of what it costs to fight these wars.

Viewer Question: So, I see earlier you made a comment about consumption needing to be stemmed to stop this all out drug war. What about legalized drug use in the USA ? Do you think that would stop the flow of illegal drugs for $$$ ?
Lisa: I can’t offer an opinion about that, but I do think the dialogue needs to be opened up. What we’re doing now is not working.

Viewer Question: Thanks for taking time to answer our questions. Does law enforcement you have spoken with have any “benchmarks” that they are trying to attain in order to let the American people know when they are making headway on this issue?
Lisa: Well the hike team is very successful at solving their investigations. But in terms of benchmarks, I don’t know if they exist. Drugs are flowing into the U.S. as heavily as ever.

Viewer Question: What do our law enforcement officials do with all of the seized narcotics? Who oversees this process to ensure it is all accounted for and destroyed (hopefully)?
Lisa: It is meticulously warehoused and then destroyed.

Viewer Question: Lisa, I think the correct approach to stem consumption is a three pronged approach. Law enforcement, Substance Abuse treatment and lastly education of our children. How can you stress this more?
Lisa: I think we need to open the discussion about allocating monies toward stemming consumption and treatment over continuing to militarize the problem.

Viewer Question: Guns recovered by Mexican authorities – have the serial numbers been traced to the source of origin? And, of the guns captured, are serial numbers available? Millions of these guns were guns that were originally sold to the Mexican military (the Mexican government) and sold on the black market. Why did you not mention this in the special. You make it sound like American dealers are at fault when the large majority of guns used are black market guns bought & sold within Mexico.
Lisa: We can account for the weapons sold to the military. Somehow the ones that are seized from the narco traffickers made it to them in the first place.


  1. BonnieBonaccorsi
    January 9, 2010, 5:19 pm

    Lisa, Your channel has featured some great documentaries on the illegal drugs and the effect their production, illegal trade, and use has had on people and this country. What I am not seeing is a documentary on the legal prescription opioids that are now creating more addiction and causing more deaths than all of the legal drugs combined. An in-depth investigation of Purdue Pharmaceuticals – maker of OxyContin – would reveal just how this company successfully "sold" the medical community on it’s "value and safety", with devastating consequences to a mostly uneducated general population. "Pain Management w/opioids" has been its’ marketing ploy since 1996, when it first introduced Oxy. It has reaped billions of dollars each year – profiting from the opiate addiction epidemic it has created. Why are we not hearing about this on national TV? Who’s "interests" are being protected here – the drug company’s profits, or the health of our people and society?

  2. BonnieBonaccorsi
    January 9, 2010, 5:30 pm

    Proofreading not my strongest attribute – "…..causing more deaths than all of the ILLEGAL drugs combined", of course.

    Bonnie Bonaccorsi