Head shot of U.S.-Mexico Center expert Gary Hale

Gary J. Hale

Nonresident Fellow in Drug Policy and Mexico Studies


Gary J. Hale is the nonresident fellow in drug policy and Mexico studies at the Baker Institute. From 2000 to 2010, he held the position of chief of intelligence in the Houston Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from which he retired in July 2010. Hale joined the DEA in 1979 while serving as a task force agent and narcotics officer detached from the Laredo Police Department. From 1979 to 1987, he held posts with the agency in New Orleans, El Paso and Boston. He was the embassy intelligence coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, from 1987 to 1990, during which he spearheaded the arrest of Roberto Suarez-Gomez, Bolivia’s “King of Cocaine.” In 1989, he led DEA operations in Panama during Operations Blue Spoon and Just Cause, which led to the arrest of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. From 1990 to 1997, Hale had various assignments in Washington, D.C., including serving as chief of the Heroin Investigations Support Unit, chief of the Dangerous Drugs Intelligence Unit and liaison to the National Security Agency. During this period, he also served a tour of duty at the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, and participated in the hunt for Medellín Cartel leader Pablo Escobar. From 1997 to 1998, Hale was assigned as the DEA intelligence chief at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. In 1990, Hale received the DEA Administrator’s Award, the agency’s highest recognition, for work that led to the seizure of hundreds of general aviation aircraft involved in cocaine transport throughout Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. In 1995, he was recognized by Attorney General Janet Reno as a “Hispanic hero serving America.” 

Hale is a decorated veteran with six years of service in the U.S. Army Security Agency during Vietnam War. He has a bachelor of science in computer science and a master’s in law and judicial policy (LLM). Hale is an alumnus of the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Leadership.

Contact at gary.hale@rice.edu or 832-865-7659.