DEA to Extend Its Most Excellent African Adventures

The New York Times reports the Drug Enforcement Administration will be expanding operations in West Africa, in continued efforts to stop cocaine from going from South America to Africa to Europe.

“We see Africa as the new frontier in terms of counterterrorism and counternarcotics issues,” said Jeffrey P. Breeden, the chief of the D.E.A.’s Europe, Asia and Africa section. “It’s a place that we need to get ahead of — we’re already behind the curve in some ways, and we need to catch up.”

In 2009, the U.S. drug war budget for Africa was $7.5 million. For 2010 and 2011, it was $50 million. Now, for 2013, it seems to be at least $60 million.

At the State Department, Asst. Secy. William Brownfield has been pushing hard for support for the DEA's African adventures, including new initiatives like the five year West African Citizen Security Initiative (WACSI). There's also the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI). [More...]

How much is the U.S. paying for war on drugs? The total 2013 drug control budget: $26 billion. Over $9.4 billion is for domestic enforcement and $2 billion for international enforcement. (Highlights here.)

Here's the 2012 State Department's Bureau of International National Narcotics Strategy Report. Here is the 2013 Inter Agency Drug Budget. And the FY 2013 International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) budget.

Here is the 2013 DEA Budget Justification: $2.4 billion, with its 10,000 employees, 4,249 special agents, and 85 foreign offices in 65 countries. The portion for international enforcement is $408 million.

The DEA doesn't claim the cocaine from its Africa stings is coming to the U.S. Rather, it says:

Even if these drugs do not reach the U.S., the proceeds from these drugs sustain the drug trafficking and terrorist organizations, fuel the next round of drug production, and further corrupt
and destabilize emerging economies and democracies.

The New York Times, link above, today reports:

Even more ominous, according to American officials, was a case in which a militant group called Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb offered three of its operatives to help ship tons of cocaine through North Africa into Europe — all to raise money to finance terrorist attacks. The case ended this past March with conviction and sentencing in federal court in New York.

Well, that's the Oumar Issa case.
The DEA gave the Africans $25,000., sent two informants and who knows how many agents to Africa, to pretend they were going to ship cocaine to Ghana, which the Africans believed they would transport to Spain. The drugs were all make-believe. There were no drugs. There was no FARC involvement. There was no al-Qaida or AQIM involvement. The Africans never even showed the truck they claimed to have purchased with the DEA's money, just a cell phone photo of a truck and a key.

Oumar Issa pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists. His guidelines were 292 to 365 months’ imprisonment, but the statutory maximum was 15 years. The Government asked for 15 years. The Probation Department recommended 60 months. The judge sentenced him to 57 months, even though he applied the terrorism enhancement. Why? According to Probation:

“[t]he defendant impressed upon the undersigned as being more concerned with making money, which CS-1 clearly indicated was the main goal of the offense, than targeting United States interests. In essence, while Issa was convicted of a terrorism-related charge, his conduct appears more analogous to a defendant convicted in a narcotics-trafficking case.”

The Government, in asking for 15 years, had argued:

While it is true, as defense counsel points out, that Issa is not alleged to have been a FARC member or an ideological sympathizer, it is undisputed that Issa agreed to transport a large quantity of narcotics to assist the FARC, knowing full well that the FARC espoused an anti-American agenda and was engaged in terrorist activities.

So the Government got very little from Issa for its efforts. And we got stuck with a big bill for the operation and costs of housing them here for a few years and paying for their prosecution and defense. Issa will be released and sent back to Africa on Feb. 5, 2014, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

In April, 2012, the other two defendants in the Oumar Issa case pleaded guilty to the same offense -- providing material support to terrorists. They plead after the court denied their motion to dismiss attacking jurisdiction, which aptly described the facts:

The alleged plot involved smuggling drugs for a Colombian organization from South America to Africa to Spain. Not a word of English was spoken at any meeting. All the meetings took place in Ghana. None of the participants had ever even been to the United States. The instrumentalities of the plot were European and African – a Mercedes truck, a Malian passport, payment in Euros that were seized. Not a single word was spoken about attacking American targets or bringing drugs to the U.S. market. If Mr. Abdelrahman were guilty of everything the government alleges, at most he should have reasonably anticipated being brought to court in Ghana, Mali or perhaps even Spain or Colombia. There is no way that he could ever have guessed that behind CS-1 and CS-2’s mask of deception lay the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and a chartered jet waiting to whisk him off to New York City. Application of U.S. law in these circumstances is arbitrary and fundamentally unfair.

They were scheduled for sentencing last Thursday and Friday, but the docket doesn't yet reflect their sentences.

The DEA went on to other African sting adventures, like the one involving Russian pilot Konstantin Yuri Yaroshenko and his three codefendants. The DEA kidnapped arrested them in Africa and then brought them to New York for trial. None of the four pleaded guilty, they all went to trial. Two were acquitted and sent home to Africa. Yaroshenko and his co-defendant Chigbo Umeh weren't so fortunate. They'll be serving prison sentences here (which we will pay for) until 2027 and 2036, respectively.

Yet another African sting involved Ali Sesay and Gibrillah Kamara and a third defendant. In this one, the DEA worked with Liberian officials to get the Africans to agree to transport cocaine from South America across Africa so it could be shipped to Holland. The DEA used one of the same informants they used in the Yaroshenko case. The informant told Kamara he wanted to be paid his share of the profits in cocaine, and that he was going to send that cocaine to the U.S. No drugs ever materialized. Nonetheless, the three were charged with conspiring to import hundreds of kilos of cocaine into the U.S., arrested and flown here to stand trial.

Sesay cooperated and got time served and was sent back to Africa. The Government decided to dismiss all charges against the second co-defendant,Jalloh, who also returned to Africa. Kamara ended up pleaded guilty to conspiring to import 200 kilos of cocaine into the U.S., got 20 years and is appealing. (The Government had asked for 292 to 365 months.)

Kamara was a refugee from the war-torn Sierre Leone. He apparently didn't deny that in the past, unrelated to the case he was now charged in, he had arranged for some cocaine to be shipped from South America to Africa which was then sent on to Holland. His lawyer wrote in his sentencing memorandum:

Mr. Kamara’s experience epitomizes the appalling barbarity that civilians endured during that time. He was present when rebels invaded his family home and he witnessed the repeated rape of his wife, his mother, and his 11, 12, and 13 year old sisters. Mr. Kamara’s wife died during the repeated, violent, viciousness assaults, literally raped to death. She and Mr. Kamara had three young children at the time. Mr. Kamara and some of his family were taken hostage by the rebels, escaping only with the intervention of ECOMOG.

....Prior to his extradition on the instant matter, Gibril Kamara had never been to the United States. Before he was solicited by the confidential informant, Mr. Kamara had never been involved in sending, helping send, or even discussing sending narcotics to this country. Mr. Kamara met and spoke of cocaine distribution with the informant, but in the months of discussions and hours of conversation, Mr. Kamara never sought to send or suggested sending cocaine the United States.

Mr. Kamara referred to the distribution of cocaine in West Africa and Holland but never in relation to the U.S. For several years, officials in Liberia, specifically Fumba Sirleaf, the stepsonof the president and the the head of the Liberian national security force, have been paid a great deal of money by the DEA for their assistance in investigating West African drug trafficking. In 2009, they began to target Gibril Kamara. A highly paid DEA informant was introduced to Mr. Kamara through the Liberian officials and Mr. Kamara’s co-defendant Ali Sesay.

More earlier posts on these cases here, here and here and here.

How much of our money is the DEA spending on its most excellent African adventures? And how much are we spending to fly these sting targets from Africa to the U.S., hold them for a year or more in pre-trial detention, fund their defense, try them, incarcerate them for decades (at a cost of $25,000 a year each), and then fly them back when they are deported after their sentences? Considering unless the DEA demands otherwise, the (illusory) drugs are going from South America to Africa to Europe, why is it even the DEA's business to intervene? Or to steer non-U.S. criminal activity into the U.S.?

The DEA: Our new Global Holy Warriors. Is there any DEA mission anywhere in the world Congress will balk at funding? Apparently not.

< The Killer is Rarely Who He Seems | President Obama Arrives in Colorado to Meet with Shooting Victims >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    to the best of my (very) limited (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 09:31:43 PM EST
    knowledge, this is true of probably 90% of criminal activity:

    "[t]he defendant impressed upon the undersigned as being more concerned with making money,

    otherwise, they wouldn't bother. conversely, one could conceivably argue that, using "6 degrees of separation" theory, pretty much any crime ultimately goes to support terrorist activity, somehow.

    were i elected president, the first thing i'd do, before hanging up one dress shirt in my nifty, white house walk-in closet, would be to disband, by executive order, the DEA. their usefullness, as a method of reducing/eliminating drug trafficing, domestic or foreign, has proven a catastrophic failure, at the waste of billions of dollars, and who knows how many lives. shut it down, now, before it has one more moment to cause more damage.

    this will never be allowed, nor will the legalization of pot. too many hands are in the sweet financial pie, that is the "war on drugs" in this country.

    it also puts the lie (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by NYShooter on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 09:51:19 PM EST
    to those screaming for less government, and getting Big Government off our backs.....that is, except for pot, women's rights, education, and protecting the right for millionaires to have, in perpetuity, lower taxes. For those issues it's "full steam ahead."

    oh, and to answer your very sensible question (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by cpinva on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 07:48:41 AM EST

    Is there any DEA mission anywhere in the world Congress will balk at funding?

    no. the DEA could ask for funding to establish an outpost on mars, and the jellyfish in congress would fall all over themselves to grant it. that no human beings live on mars wouldn't at all be an issue. the DEA would simply explain that, though there are no humans on mars, and it lacks an environment sufficient to grow anything (earth origined, anyway), it could, somehow, in a tortured way, help terrorists.

    say the word "terrorist", or "terrorism" in congress, and they'll practically throw cash at you. or, if you're anal retentive, throw a suitcase neatly packed with cash at you. no one wants to be seen as "soft" on terrorists or terrorism. they'd sooner be seen as insane, it's easier to explain to a not very bright constituency.

    26 Billion Dollars... (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by kdog on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 09:53:02 AM EST
    equals 57.7 million $ 450.00 unemployment checks.

    equals ten grand a year in financial aid for 2.6 million students, or ten grand for drug/alcohol treatment for 2.6 million addicts.

    or a straight up 26 billion dollar investment in cleaner energy.

    Priorities...be cool if we had them straight.

    This is one of those things (none / 0) (#1)
    by Slayersrezo on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 08:52:59 PM EST
    That one feels helpless to stop or do much of anything about.

    If the powers that be really cared about people's opinions on the drug war, we'd at least have legalized pot and possibly one or two other mild drugs by now. We'd have some sort of treatment regime in place for your average cokehead junkie. There'd be more clean needle programs, probably funded by the federal government. And drug treatment would be a mandatorily covered by health insurers in all fifty states.

    Dream on. Instead, the've militarized the police, diminished many of the rights of search and seizure, funded programs such as the above, designed ever more snoopy and intrusive "interdiction" technologies, doubled-down on penalty sentences and jailtime, and even managed to export some of our policies overseas.

    The "drug war" and the "War on Terror" are now comingled as this post of Jeralyn's shows. Lord help us.

    Why, we're everywhere... (none / 0) (#3)
    by desertswine on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 09:48:36 PM EST
    About a dozen air bases have been established in Africa since 2007, according to a former senior U.S. commander involved in setting up the network. Most are small operations run out of secluded hangars at African military bases or civilian airports.

    Regardless of ones views on (none / 0) (#5)
    by lousy1 on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 07:09:42 AM EST
    decriminalizing drugs,

    why is the United States spending tax payer dollars in what they claim is a Brazilian, West African and European issue?

    Isn't Europe perfectly capable of setting its own priorities and using its own resources?


    to answer your very sensible (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 07:34:04 AM EST

    The DEA doesn't claim the cocaine from its Africa stings is coming to the U.S. Rather, it says:

    Even if these drugs do not reach the U.S., the proceeds from these drugs sustain the drug trafficking and terrorist organizations, fuel the next round of drug production, and further corrupt
     and destabilize emerging economies and democracies.

    this was also the first question that came to my mind as well. of course, by this "logic", we should have our law enforcement people in every little podunk, pseudo-state in the world because, well, gosh, it could ultimately (as i noted above) go to support "terrorists" somewhere, somehow, some way. just another excuse to expand the already bloated DEA fiefdom.


    I'm guessing that (none / 0) (#9)
    by sj on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 11:55:19 AM EST
    the real reason is that it gives us an excuse to have a presence in a place where we really have no business being.  The better to spy on you, my dear.

    But I'm not paranoid or anything.