Wikileaks Cables Reveal DEA's Increasing Global Reach

The New York Times examines the Wikileaks cables and the DEA. What it finds: the D.E.A. has been expanding its global reach. It now has 87 offices in 63 countries. One of the things foreign governments love about the agency: its wiretapping capability.

The DEA has emerged from the shadow of the FBI and become much more than a drug agency. Its intelligence capabilities are in great demand, world-wide, but not always for the right reasons. This detailed article on the leaked Wikileaks cables concerning the DEA and war on drugs begins with Central and South America, where some governments want access to its technologies to go after political opponents. [More...]

Because of the ubiquity of the drug scourge, today’s D.E.A. has access to foreign governments, including those, like Nicaragua’s and Venezuela’s, that have strained diplomatic relations with the United States. Many are eager to take advantage of the agency’s drug detection and wiretapping technologies.

In some countries, the collaboration appears to work well, with the drug agency providing intelligence that has helped bring down traffickers, and even entire cartels. But the victories can come at a high price, according to the cables, which describe scores of D.E.A. informants and a handful of agents who have been killed in Mexico and Afghanistan.

Some countries that won't deal with the CIA are welcoming the DEA. Others are not.

In Venezuela, the local intelligence service turned the tables on the D.E.A., infiltrating its operations, sabotaging equipment and hiring a computer hacker to intercept American Embassy e-mails, the cables report.

The DEA has refused some requests:

When American diplomats refused to give Paraguay access to the drug agency’s wiretapping system [to go after the the EPP or Paraguayan People’s Army], Interior Minister Rafael Filizzola threatened to shut it down, saying: “Counternarcotics are important, but won’t topple our government. The EPP could.”

The D.E.A. faced even more intense pressure last year from Panama, whose right-leaning president, Ricardo Martinelli, demanded that the agency allow him to use its wiretapping program — known as Matador — to spy on leftist political enemies he believed were plotting to kill him.

The DEA has been fixated on "narco-terrorism" for years. In Afghanistan, it has embedded agents in military units.

In 2007 alone, the D.E.A. opened new bureaus in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as well as in three Mexican cities.

It has also moved into arms-trafficking. For example,

Monzer al-Kassar, a Syrian arrested in Spain, and Viktor Bout, a Russian arrested in Thailand,...were charged with agreeing to illegal arms sales to informants posing as weapons buyers for Colombian rebels. Notably, neither man was charged with violating narcotics laws.

Another example provided by the Times is what I like to call the DEA's African vacation. The DEA used a 2006 naroc-terrorism law to charge the suspects, even though there was no independent corroboration for their self-claimed connection to al Qaeda:

Experts on the desert regions of North Africa, long a route for smuggling between Africa and Europe, are divided about whether Al Qaeda operatives play a significant role in the drug trade, and some skeptics note that adding “terrorism” to any case can draw additional investigative resources and impress a jury.

It also refers to the DEA's Mali and Sierre Leone operations discussed here. And Guinea, Nigeria and Liberia. In Guinea, where the President's son is the head of the drug cartel, the Government stages a faux-bonfire in the pretense of destroying drugs:

In a colorfully written cable — with chapters titled “Excuses, Excuses, Excuses” and “Theatrical Production” — diplomats described attending what was billed as a drug bonfire that had been staged by the Guinean government to demonstrate its commitment to combating the drug trade.

Senior Guinean officials, including the country’s drug czar, the chief of police and the justice minister, watched as officers set fire to what the government claimed was about 350 pounds of marijuana and 860 pounds of cocaine, valued at $6.5 million.

In reality, American diplomats wrote, the whole incineration was a sham. Informants had previously told the embassy that Guinean authorities replaced the cocaine with manioc flour, proving, the diplomats wrote, “that narco-corruption has contaminated” the government of Guinea “at the highest levels.”

From crime-fighting to intelligence-gathering to techno-giant, is the DEA destined to be the most powerful U.S. agency? Is there any DEA mission anywhere in the world Congress will balk at funding? So long as members of Congress continue to believe that support for the war on drugs is a pathway to re-election, even when the war strays far afield, probably not.

< Christmas Afternoon Open Thread | Sunday Afternoon Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Variation on a Familiar Theme (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by The Maven on Sun Dec 26, 2010 at 11:31:38 AM EST
    It appears that the DEA has adopted the standard operating motif of the Bush and Obama administrations:  "We're fighting the drug dealers/cartels over there so that we don't have to fight them in our neighborhoods (but we'll keep fighting here all the same, anyway)."

    I wonder how long it will be before a majority of the DEA's budget is completely classified in the manner of the CIA/NSA/DIA ones -- that is, if we haven't already reached that point without knowing about it.

    More and more, we're creating a secret, unaccountable government nominally designed to "protect" us that due to its covert nature is freed from the restraints of public oversight and of traditional checks and balances.  "Trust us," we're told, "this is for your own benefit," without their ever having to describe what benefit, exactly, we're supposed to gain from all this.

    Thankfully (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Dadler on Sun Dec 26, 2010 at 12:50:01 PM EST
    If I want to encourage my membership to exhibit better posture at crucial moments, the DEA cannot pull my homegrown Horny Goat Weed and bonsai Yohimbe. Unless my nosy neighbor drops a roll of dimes on me. But I have plenty of dirt on him to fight back with, I love the internet. Police state. Police street. My personal mini-drone is coming in the mail tomorrow. I can't wait to get it up in the air and see what HE'S growing.  

    Seriously, it is true madness at the highest levels that believes this a productive enterprise. It is merely a self-perpetuating beast at this point, a mocktopus whose arms have grown too long to do anything but strangle and make a sham of our claims to be spreading freedom.  Sh*t spreads just a well.

    Way past time to end the "Drug War" (5.00 / 0) (#5)
    by bnoehl on Sun Dec 26, 2010 at 01:00:03 PM EST
    You would think a 1000 pounds of manioc flour could help feed quite a few people in Guinea. Better a fake drug burn then feed the poor. Jesus would be so proud. And should I guess that the President's son is still free and running his drug cartel, probably with DEA or CIA assistance now. And for anyone who says "if people quit using drugs there'd be no drug cartels", try and bring back alcohol prohibition and let me know how far you get with that program.

    Pat Robertson now favors (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by observed on Sun Dec 26, 2010 at 01:26:43 PM EST
    legalizing marijuana. I always thought Jesus would smoke pot.

    I guess that answers the question, (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Sun Dec 26, 2010 at 01:34:26 PM EST

    Render unto Caesar (none / 0) (#8)
    by CoralGables on Sun Dec 26, 2010 at 02:25:40 PM EST
    the things which are Caesar's, and unto me the things that are potted plants?

    "Grass" in the Bible: (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Sun Dec 26, 2010 at 02:31:56 PM EST
    It does seem... (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Sun Dec 26, 2010 at 09:46:52 AM EST
    the DEA has become lead detective on the world cop beat.

    I'd be so bold to say the prohibition/narco-corruption combo has contaminated the world...and for what purpose?  Oh yeah, the usual...money and power.

    Informative post & link...gracias.

    PR for NYT readers (none / 0) (#3)
    by Yes2Truth on Sun Dec 26, 2010 at 11:47:45 AM EST

    Was the article actually written by the DEA, or just
    approved by them?  Sounds to me like a sales pitch for a bigger DEA budget...and I'm sure it will be very effective.  After all, those courageous folks not only compete in the marketplace for narcotics
    trafficking, they also help in the fight against foreign governments/politicians who aren't team players.