Posts Tagged ‘DEA’
Friday, January 21st, 2011

Democrats are challenging House conservatives who are calling for deep federal budget cuts to imagine what the reductions would do to parts of the Justice Department.

Rolling back federal discretionary spending to 2006 levels would mean firing 4,000 FBI agents, 1,500 Drug Enforcement Administration agents and 5,700 correctional officers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, according to Democratic estimates reported by the Washington Post.

Members of a group of House conservatives called the Republican Study Committee on Thursday said Republicans must keep their campaign pledge to immediately cut at least $100 billion from non-defense spending, which would return spending to 2008 levels. They also are demanding additional cuts to 2006 levels.

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Assistant Secretary John Morton of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Attorney General Eric Holder, Assistant Director Kevin L. Perkins of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division and Acting Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Michele M. Leonhart at a news conference Thursday (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

Federal authorities arrested 429 individuals in 16 states on Wednesday as part of “Project Deliverance,” an operation to combat the transportation infrastructure of Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the U.S..

A photo provided by DEA shows drugs hidden in a vehicle dashboard (DEA photo).

More than 3,000 agents were involved in the operation on Wednesday, during which the government seized $5.8 million, 2,951 pounds of marijuana, 112 kilograms of cocaine, 17 pounds of methamphetamine, 141 weapons and 85 vehicles, according to the Justice Department.

The latest sweep brings the total number of arrests for the operation to 2,200 individuals, said the Justice Department. It comes just a few weeks after Mexico President Felipe Calderon visited the United States.

A Drug Enforcement Administration official said that the alleged traffickers arrested on Wednesday were not aligned with any particular cartel group, but would work for whoever had the money to hire them.

Attorney General Eric Holder held a news conference at the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Department building on Thursday with acting DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart, Assistant Director Kevin L. Perkins of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division and Assistant Secretary John Morton of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Leonhart called the cooperation with Mexican law enforcement “extraordinary.” She said DEA and its partners had inflicted a series of blows that will impact the ability of Mexican drug cartels to function.

Holder said targeting the transportation networks used by the cartels was a very effective method.

“Our aim was to target not just cartel operations, but the networks of individuals across the United States the cartels tap to distribute drugs in our country and smuggle cash and guns out of it,” Holder said in prepared remarks.

“This operation has struck a significant blow against the cartels, but make no mistake:  we know that as successful as this operation was, it was just one battle in what is an ongoing war,” Holder said.

A DOJ spokeswoman said she could not say how many of the traffickers were U.S. citizens and how many were in the country illegally.

ICE Not Changing Operations Due to Arizona Immigration Law

ICE Assistant Secretary Morton told reporters that the Arizona immigration law, which the Justice Department may challenge in court, does not change the agency’s enforcement in the state. But Morton said he disagreed with states taking on the issue of illegal immigration on their own.

“I don’t think that a patchwork of 50 different immigration laws is the right solution,” Morton said. “The federal government is the primary enforcer of immigration laws. As the Attorney General has noted, the Justice Department is reviewing the law, and we’re waiting to see what the Attorney General and his team decide. In the meantime, we’re not going to approach enforcement in Arizona any differently in Arizona than we do anywhere else, which is on the merits and with the resources we have and with the priorities we have as a department and as an administration.”

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

The Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration will play a big part in the Obama administration’s plan to reduce the impact of illegal drugs on the America, according to a draft copy of the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

According to a draft version of the plan obtained by Newsweek, the Justice Department will head up several initiatives aimed at addressing drug trafficking on the Mexican border, combating doctor shopping and working with international partners to stop drugs from entering the U.S. (The link to the PDF of the draft version of the plan was pulled from Newsweek’s website, but a copy is embedded below.)

Under the plan, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration will assist states with addressing doctor shopping — where patients seek prescriptions from several different doctors — and shutting down pill mills, which dispense prescriptions with little medical oversight. The agencies also are charged with cracking down on several rogue pain clinics in Houston, Los Angeles and Southern Florida.

According to the plan, DOJ, FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have produced a large volume of information about Mexican-based drug-trafficking organizations, but the information resides in different databases. Under the plan, the Justice Department will work with other agencies to make sure information from federal databases is accessible to state and local law enforcement officers who work on drug trafficking issues along the border.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s plan calls for the full implementation of the Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, issued in June 2009, which was produced by the Office of the Deputy Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security. The plan calls for increased coordination with local and state agencies, intensified efforts to stop the flow of weapons and money from the U.S. to Mexico and close collaboration with the Mexican government.

Additionally, DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which administers juvenile mentoring grants, will conduct a new mentoring training initiative for the children of incarcerated parents, specifically aimed at those with drug and alcohol problems. The plan also calls on the Office of Justice Programs to promote diversion strategies, which send drug offenders to alternative programs for substance abuse treatment.

The draft version of the plan, obtained by Newsweek, is embedded below.

National Drug Strategy v2

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Drug trafficking map (National Drug Threat Assessment).

It’s easier than ever to score heroin, meth, marijuana and ecstasy, but the availability of cocaine in the U.S. is on a decline, according to the 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment released last week.

Produced by the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center, the report indicates that the government is facing an uphill battle in the war on drugs. It anticipates that in 2010, most drugs will be more widely available than they were in 2009.

But the availability of at least one drug — cocaine — is diminishing. Since 2006, every national indicator — including seizure, price, purity and workplace drug tests — has indicated a decline in availability. The federal government seized half as much cocaine in 2009 than it did in 2008 — less than 20,000 kilograms last year, compared with more than 40,000 kilograms in 2008.

Marijuana is still widely available, in part because of rising production in Mexico. (Main Justice previously reported that the total amount of marijuana seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration nearly doubled from 2008 to 2009.) According to the report, the increase is partly because the military in Mexico has focused on anti-violence measures instead of crop eradication. Meanwhile, in the U.S., eradication efforts nearly doubled from 2004 through 2008.

Among the other conclusions in the report:

  • The government expects drug traffickers may turn to the virtual world — where establishing the actual identity of players is challenging for both financial institutions and law enforcement — to launder money.
  • The tactics drug traffickers use are adapting, with smugglers using both tunnels and “low-flying small or ultralight aircraft” to smuggle marijuana across the border.  At the same time, the use of commercial airlines to smuggle drugs has been on the decline.
  • Asian drug trafficking organizations were to blame for the resurgence in availability of ecstasy, but Mexican drug traffickers continued to represent the single greatest threat.
  • Imprisoning drug users affects the entire criminal justice system, and substance abuse within the prison system is widespread.
  • Criminal gang structures have strengthened and stabilized the drug supply in local markets, making it more difficult for police to disrupt.

The report concludes that the availability of most drugs will likely increase in 2010, primarily because of increased production south of the border.

A PDF version of the report is embedded below.


Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder met Tuesday with René Préval, the president of Haiti, during his first trip to the United States following the devastating earthquake that struck the Caribbean country in January.

The primary focus of the meeting was to discuss drug trafficking, though the Attorney General also took the opportunity to express his sympathies for the recent tragedy in Haiti, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.

Haiti is one of the main shipping points in the Caribbean for Colombian cocaine traffic, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration fact sheet on drug trafficking.

Préval also met with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on Tuesday, and said it would be a “mistake” to rebuild Port-au-Prince as it was before the earthquake. Préval instead urged a post-quake effort to develop Haiti’s provinces, according to a report by the Voice of America.

President Obama will meet with Préval on Wednesday.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Haitian President René Préval on Tuesday (DOJ).

Monday, March 1st, 2010

The total amount of marijuana seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration nearly doubled from 1,539 metric tons in fiscal 2008 to 2,980 metric tons in last year.

The numbers were disclosed as part of the DEA’s budget request for fiscal 2011.

A chart shows the flow of drugs into the United States (DEA).

A spokesman for the DEA declined to elaborate on the reason for such a dramatic rise in seizures of marijuana.

“Several factors play into this number and in any given year the amount of drugs seized by DEA can fluctuate,” said spokesman David Ausiello.

Aaron Houston, the director of government relations of the Marijuana Policy Project, a lobbying group that advocates the legalization of marijuana, said he suspected the increase was a result of drug seizures from cartels.

Despite Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that targeting individual users of cannabis for medical purposes was no longer a priority, the DEA budget request spoke dismissively of the benefits of medical marijuana, even placing the word patients in quotation marks.

“DEA does not investigate or target individual ‘patients’ who use cannabis, but instead the drug trafficking organizations involved in marijuana trafficking,” the request stated.

Houston applauded the Obama administration for its decision to stop raiding medical marijuana facilities in states that allow the practice. But said Houston, “on the rest of their drug policy, they’re on Bush administration auto-pilot.”

The DEA request said that there has been no Food and Drug Administration research that shows the benefits of medical marijuana. But the DEA has blocked such research from taking place, according to Houston. Just a few days before Obama was sworn into office, Houston said, the DEA refused to grant approval for a University of Massachusetts Amherst study into medical marijuana.

“It’s pretty cynical for DEA to claim on the one hand that we have to wait for the science to come in, and with the other hand literally block that research from happening,” said Houston.

The DEA’s full budget request is available on the Justice Department’s Web site.

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Three Drug Enforcement Administration officials were killed when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan Monday, USA Today reported.

The DEA agents died with ten soldiers and one civilian in a firefight that broke out as the American soldiers were leaving a raid on poppy fields in the Western part of Afghanistan, The Times of London reported. In addition to the 10 deaths, 14 Afghan service members, 11 U.S. service members and one U.S. civilian were injured in the crash, USA Today reported.

Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement Monday about the deaths of the DEA agents. “While the circumstances of this crash are still being investigated, I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of these heroic agents,” Holder said.

According to the Times of London, the helicopter was shot down among heavy fire during an extraction mission to retrieve soldiers engaged in a midnight raid on the compound of a prominent Afghan drug suggler.

The DEA has been working in Afghanistan to combat the country’s booming opium trade, which funds the fundamentalist Taliban. In 2007,  its Special Operations Division was given an almost $9 million boost funding boost to fight the opium trade in the country’s southern and western provinces, ABC News reported.

Afghanistan is the source of 90 percent of the world’s heroin, and much of the farms producing the poppies needed for heroin production are believed to be under control of the Taliban or Al Qaeda, ABC News reported.

The opium trade in Afghanistan is currently based in five provinces in the south, bordering Pakistan, and two provinces in the west, bordering Iran.

The DEA declined to comment on the specifics of the crash.

In addition to the helicopter crash that killed the DEA agents, two American helicopters collided on Monday in southern Afghanistan, killing four. Monday was the deadliest day for American troops in Afghanistan in four years, USA Today said.

The New York Times reported that the U.S. military was “98 percent sure that insurgent activity was not involved.”

UPDATE: The names of the DEA agents were released early Tuesday morning. Tickle the Wire posted a DEA news release identifying the agents killed:

“Special Agent Forrest N. Leamon. SA Leamon became a Special Agent in 2002. He served at the Washington Field Division and in the El Paso Field Division until 2007, when he joined the FAST team in Afghanistan. He lived in Woodbridge, VA and was 37 years old. He is survived by his wife and their unborn child.”

“Special Agent Chad L. Michael. SA Michael graduated from basic training in March 2004. He began his career with DEA in the Miami Field Division, and left there to join the FAST team in Afghanistan in August of this year. He lived in Quantico, VA and was 30 years old.”

“Special Agent Michael E. Weston. SA Weston has been a Special Agent with DEA since 2003. He was assigned to the Richmond, Virginia District Office until joining the Kabul Country Office in August of this year. He lived in Washington, DC and was 37 years old. He is survived by his wife.”

In a statement posted on the DEA Web site, Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart said the DEA’s “extremely tight family” was devastated by the loss of the agents. “No expressions of grief can adequately convey the depth of the collective sorrow that we feel for their loved ones,” Leonhart said.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

The Los Angeles Times reports that federal authorities have arrested nearly 1,200 people suspected of ties to a deadly Mexican drug trafficking cartel, known as La Familia Michoacana, in a series of raids throughout the United States.

The Times, citing law enforcement officials, says at least 300 people were arrested on Wednesday and Thursday in California, Georgia, Texas and other locations where the syndicate has set up bases. One knowledgeable person described the sweep, called “Project Coronado,” as the largest single strike in the United States against the Mexican cartels.

The arrests stem from a multi-agency investigation that is nearly three-and-a-half years old. Hundreds of agents and analysts from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI worked on the probe with prosecutors and other DOJ officials, according to the Times.

Attorney General Eric Holder and the directors of the ATF, DEA and FBI are scheduled to announce the results of the operation this morning.

UPDATED (1:55 p.m.)

Some figures from Thursday’s news conference:

  • More than 3,000 agents and officers across the United States participated in the two-day takedown, which Holder called “the largest ever undertaken against a Mexican drug cartel.”
  • Authorities seized $3.4 million, 729 pounds of methamphetamine, 62 kilograms of cocaine, 967 pounds of marijuana, 144 weapons and 109 vehicles.
  • Project Coronado has led to the arrest of 1,186 individuals.
  • Overall, authorities have seized $32.8 million, about 2,710 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,999 kilograms of cocaine, 29 pounds of heroin, 16,390 pounds of marijuana, 389 weapons and 269 vehicles.

Federal law enforcement officials said La Familia was the third-largest Mexican cartel but the fastest-growing, with strongholds in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and Dallas. Based western state of Michoacan, the cartel is among the most violent and entrenched. The group has been linked to hundreds of drug-related killings in Mexico.

In July, 12 federal agents were kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Michoacan. Their bodies were discovered on a road, with notes that read “La Familia, join its ranks or leave” and “let’s see if you try to arrest another one.”

Officials described La Familia as a breed apart from its rivals. The sydicate professes to be deeply religious, and its members are barred from using any of the drugs they distribute. The cartel, unlike the others, is heavily invested in the meth trade in United States, but it finances rehabilitation for meth addicts in Mexico, officials said.

The 300 people who were arrested Wednesday and Thursday ranged from alleged foot soldiers in the cartel to regional managers, officials said. Indictments were unsealed in more than a dozen states.

Authorities predicted the operation would have an immediate impact on the U.S. meth market.

Holder said cartel had been dealt a “significant blow” but pledged to keep chipping away it.

“We will not allow these cartels to operate unfettered in our country, and with the increases in cooperation between U.S. and Mexican authorities in recent years, we are taking the fight to our adversaries,” Holder said. “We will continue to stand strong with our partners in Mexico as we work to disrupt and dismantle cartel operations on both sides of the border.”

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
Robert Mueller

Robert Mueller

One of these things is not like the other: Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Robert Mueller.

According to Tickle The Wire, the FBI director loosened up a bit at the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting in Denver on Monday with a few jokes. He made a little fun of the Bureau big-foots who are always in turf battles with other federal and local agencies:

“A joint task force of federal, state, and local officers raids a house with their respective police dogs. The state and local dog sniffs out the suspects on the run. The DEA dog discovers a suitcase full of cocaine. The ATF dog uncovers a buried cache of AK-47s. Finally, the FBI agents release their dog, who pulls out a microphone and holds a press conference.”

He added: “Could I do the jobs you do with the same success? And the answer is no, for one simple reason: I could never bring myself to wear anything but a white shirt.”

He also used self-deprecation:

“Several weeks ago, I asked Ron if he knew any good jokes to warm up the crowd. He suggested self-deprecating humor. And I said, ‘Sounds great. What are my weak points?’”

Tickle the Wire has more.

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation John Pistole is being vetted to head the Drug Enforcement Administration, Tickle the Wire reports. The federal law enforcement blog said Pistole now appears to be the frontrunner.

John Pistole (FBI)

John Pistole (FBI)

The Bureau is the big-foot of law enforcement agencies, often muscling out agents from smaller agencies like the DEA on hot cases. Retired DEA agent William Coonce wrote in a recent Tickle the Wire column: “To consider a current FBI official is an insult to ever DEA agent either on duty or retired.” Still, Coonce conceded that agents widely consider the DEA’s best administrator ever to have been former FBI agent John “Jack” Lawn, who ran the agency from 1985 to 1990.

During the Clinton Administration, the Justice Department considered folding the DEA into the FBI, but the plan was abandoned. Both the DEA and FBI are agencies under the Justice Department.

Who else has been interviewed for the job? According to Tickle the Wire, Boyd M. Johnson III, an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York with experience prosecuting drug cases, made the cut. Johnson headed the public corruption unit that brought charges in the prostitution ring whose customers included then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York. New U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in the SDNY recently promoted Johnson to Deputy U.S. Attorney.

Other candidates who’ve gotten interviews are former San Diego U.S. Attorney Greg  A. Vega and Michele Leonhart, the DEA’s acting chief, Tickle the Wire reports. Read the Tickle the Wire story here.