Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Why the DEA intentionally lets drugs into communities

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The DEA has its oddities (e.g., having marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug), but this one is surprising. Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

Last week, the acting director of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration was asked whether his agents ever intentionally allow drug shipments into communities in the interest of making a bigger bust later on.

Chuck Rosenberg’s answer: “I’ll have to check and get back to you on that.”

Rosenberg was addressing the House Judiciary Committee at a hearing on oversight of the DEA and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. During that hearing, Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric L. Richmond asked about the practice. Here’s the full exchange:

RICHMOND: This committee held many hearings, and was furious about the Fast and Furious program. At least from my knowledge of DEA and other drug agencies, oftentimes part of a bigger sting is letting transactions and other things go through. Now, it’s a very specific question. In DEA’s past, present, future, any times do you let drugs hit communities to get the bigger fish?

ROSENBERG: We’re not supposed to know, sir.

RICHMOND: Okay. Are you aware of any instances where it may happen?

ROSENBERG: I’ll have to check and get back to you on that.

Rosenberg’s demurral isn’t entirely surprising, given the framing. “Fast and Furious” was the name of an ATF operation that allowed illegal gun sales to proceed to track their buyers and sellers. Roughly 1,400 of the guns were lost, two of which turned up at the scene of a Border Patrol agent’s murder in 2010.

But it’s notable that Rosenberg didn’t deny his agency conducts similarly structured operations and likely wasn’t being entirely forthcoming, as there is considerable evidence that DEA does allow drugs to enter communities in the hopes of bringing down major players in drug dealing and distribution.

In 2015, the DOJ’s Inspector General criticized the DEA for how it tracked and approved the illegal activity of its sources: “These inadequate DEA policies and procedures related to OIA greatly increase the risk to the DEA, the U.S. government, and the public from the involvement of DEA confidential sources in OIA.”

Federal law allows informants, like those employed by the DEA, to engage in “otherwise illegal activity” as part of an investigation. Those activities include “trafficking in what would be considered as large quantities of controlled substances” — 450 kilos of cocaine, for instance, or more than 90,000 kilos of marijuana.

“DEA undercover agents or DEA confidential sources of information commonly pose as buyers or sellers of controlled substances,” explained DEA spokesman Russell Baer in an email. Those informants are permitted to engage in all manner of illegal activities, even the large-scale trafficking of drugs.

Baer added that “as a general rule, DEA does not sell drugs. This type of activity is not a normal investigative technique, and is not commonplace.” Moreover, any illegal activity undertaken by confidential sources must be approved by supervising agents, Baer said.

But we don’t know how often such large-scale trafficking might happen under DEA supervision because the agency doesn’t release this information. Outside experts say that DEA-approved drug sales are “routine.”

“In my experience dealing with hundreds of drug war prisoners this behavior is embedded in DEA practices,” said Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group.

Papa knows better than others: Down on his luck in the Bronx in the 1980s, he agreed to deliver an envelope containing cocaine on behalf of a friend for $500. The friend was actually an informant cooperating with the DEA to get out of his own drug troubles.

Papa was busted and given a sentence of 15 years to life under New York state’s harsh drug laws. “Something like this is routine,” he said.

The DEA maintains its confidential sources “provide invaluable contributions and assistance in furtherance of DEA investigations against major domestic and transnational criminal organizations.” But the use of confidential sources in drug investigations has come under fire in recent years, particularly after several high-profile deathsof young people who critics say were coerced into becoming informants after being arrested for low-level offenses involving marijuana and other drugs.

Aside from direct involvement in drug deals, law enforcement officials may also allow drugs to flow into communities because they’re interested in seizing the cash proceeds from the sale of those drugs. Investigations have revealed that drug task force authorities working the nation’s highways often focus on the routes where cash from drug transactions travels, rather than the routes the drugs themselves flow through.

That’s been the case, for instance, in Oklahoma, according to an ACLU report. “We are deliberately letting the drugs get to their final destination, get sold, get used, and in some cases letting someone die of an overdose,” said Brady Henderson of the Oklahoma ACLU last year.

Critics say there’s a simple reason for this: When police seize drugs, those drugs get destroyed. But if they seize cash, they often get to keep it under highly permissive state and federal asset forfeiture laws. This can create an incentive for law enforcement to look the other way when drugs flow into cities to grab the cash from those transactions on its way back out. . .

Continue reading.

Drugs have had a serious and corrupting effect on law enforcement at every level, a problem made worse by the police code of silence, which protects criminal cops.

It would be interesting to know the number of overdose deaths following drug shipments expedited by the DEA. I’m sure the DEA will go to any lengths to keep that information from becoming known to the public. (To be fair, the DEA has a very low opinion of those who use drugs; they seem to view drug users as scum, barely human, and so having a drug user overdose probably doesn’t strike them as that big a deal. Some probably view it as a positive)

UPDATE: A revealing look at what law enforcement in the US is becoming: “Secret A.T.F. Account Paid for $21,000 Nascar Suite and Las Vegas Trip,” by Matt Apuzzo in the NY Times. It begins:

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used a secret, off-the-books bank account to rent a $21,000 suite at a Nascar race, take a trip to Las Vegas and donate money to the school of one of the agents’ children, according to records and interviews.

Agents also used the account to finance undercover operations around the country, despite laws prohibiting government officials from using private money to supplement their budgets, according to current and former government officials and others familiar with the account.

The revelations highlight the lax oversight at the A.T.F. that allowed agents and informants to spend millions while avoiding the normal accounting process. The Justice Department’s inspector general, who is investigating the secret account, criticized the A.T.F. recently for mismanagement and said the agency did not know how many informants it had or how much they were paid.

The New York Times revealed the existence of the bank account in February, prompting an investigation by the House oversight committee. The Justice Department, which oversees the A.T.F., has denied any wrongdoing, and the department has refused to say whether the bureau continues to operate such secret accounts, which the government called “management accounts.”

The A.T.F. has also refused to say who authorized the account, which was created by agents based in Bristol, Va., who were investigating tobacco smuggling. One government official said the bureau regarded the account as a hybrid of government funds and private money, a combination that is not authorized under federal law. Ryan Kaye, an A.T.F. supervisor, is quoted in public court documents as saying the agents received “verbal directives” from unidentified officials at headquarters to open the account.

The arrangement dates back at least to 2011, court records show. Records show that a pair of A.T.F. informants who ran a tobacco warehouse in Bristol,

Written by LeisureGuy

11 April 2017 at 2:50 pm

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