The Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi has this story about federal and local law enforcers investigating convenience store owners, many of Middle Eastern descent, for possible ties to terrorist orgranizations in the years after 9/11.
The unimaginatively named “Convenience Store Initiative” uncovered no terrorist links in Northern Mississippi. But it morphed into a meth task force, apparently.
Federal authorities and agents of the state’s Bureau of Narcotics and Drug Enforcement Administration have arrested more than 65 people for allegedly selling excessive amounts of pseudoephedrine, an ingredient of meth, among other criminal acts. More than 60 people have been charged since 2006, according to the newspaper.
U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee, in Oxford, Miss., told the Clarion-Ledger the government was “looking to see any links to terrorism, but what we found was criminal conduct.”
People involved in the initiative told the Clarion-Ledger that proceeds from the drug sales were diverted overseas and possibly into the coffers of terrorist organizations. But they also acknowledged the money may have gone to relatives.
The newspaper reported that of the more than 100 people listed as under investigation by federal authorities, “nearly every name appears to be Islamic.” The article said most targets were “from the Middle East, Yemen, India or the like.” But it quoted Marshall Fisher, director of the state bureau, denying that authorities targeted any ethnic group.
“We target drug dealers,” Fisher told the paper. “We don’t care if they’re green Martians.”
Greenlee denied people were targeted for their ethnic background. ”Did we look at it from an improper purpose? No,” he said.
So, how did they collar these drug dealers?
Asked how they determined operators knew they were breaking the law, Fisher replied they relied on undercover officers or informants to talk about purchasing more than a minimum amount — 9 grams over a 30-day period.
“We would target them and go and see if undercover informants could buy,” he said.
The informants and undercover agents tried to make bulk buys of the ingredients for meth in 279 stores. Operators at eight stores agreed to illegal bulk sales, Fisher said.
Maybe it isn’t much of a meth task force, either.