In what many have called a blatant abuse of power that strips Americans of their fundamental constitutional rights, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other agencies to spy on American citizens in the name of the War on Drugs. Moreover, according to an exclusive Reuters investigation, DEA agents are actively creating fake investigative trails to disguise where the information originated, a scheme that prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and others are arguing has robbed defendants of their right to a fair trial. Hundreds or thousands of cases could be affected.
“The DEA increasingly qualifies as a rogue agency – one that Congress needs to immediately investigate,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This latest scandal may well be just the tip of the iceberg.”
The scandal, which comes in the wake of revelations that the federal government’s is collecting sensitive information on hundreds of millions of innocent Americans, is just one crisis of credibility the DEA faces. Other DEA scandals include:
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- Last week the DEA settled a $4.1 million lawsuit with Daniel Chong, a University of California San Diego student who was left unattended and unfed in a holding cell for five days.
- Members of Congress and human rights groups continue to call on the DEA to answer questions about the DEA-assisted drug war operation last year in Honduras that led to the massacre of four indigenous civilians.
- In 2011 as part of the Department of Justice’s “Fast and Furious” scandal it was revealed that DEA agents had smuggled or laundered millions of dollars in drug profits for Mexican drug cartels as part of an on-going sting operation that appears to have been perilously close to facilitating crime instead of preventing it.
- Defense attorneys in Arizona are claiming government misconduct because the DEA has rehired Andrew Chambers, a government informant who was terminated by the Justice Department years ago amid accusations of serial perjury.
- The DEA continues to be criticized by local, state, and federal elected officials for interference in state efforts to provide medical marijuana to cancer, HIV/AIDS, MS and other patients.
- DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, who has direct ties to the Andrew Chambers scandal and other scandals (most notably the “House of Death” scandal in which a DEA informant helped murder at least a dozen people in Juarez, Mexico), has on several occasions ignored science and over-ruled the DEA’s own administrative law judges to advance an ideological agenda.
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s creation of the DEA. Critics of the War on Drugs note that over the last 40 years Congress has rarely held hearings on the DEA, its actions, and its efficacy. Three presidential administrations have conducted reviews of whether it would be more efficient and better for public safety to merge the DEA with the FBI (Carter, Reagan, and Clinton) but Congress has never seriously explored the issue.
“It’s remarkable how little scrutiny the DEA faces from Congress or other federal overseers,,” said Nadelmann. “With an annual budget of over $2 billion as well as significant discretionary powers, DEA certainly merits a top-to-bottom review of its operations, expenditures and discretionary actions.”