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Bolivia VP Says DEA Can't Return

Despite diplomatic relations being restored with Bolivia yesterday, Vice President Vice President Alvaro Garcia said today the DEA is still unwelcome there.

[Garcia]says the Drug Enforcement Administration "was a mechanism of political blackmail" and is not welcome back.

The DEA was expelled from Bolivia in 2008 by by President Evo Morales.

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Who's Watching the DEA?

The New York Times reports on one of my favorite topics, the increased militarization and globalization and intelligence-gathering powers of our new world cops, the DEA.

From shootouts in Honduras to raids in Guatemala, Colombia, Afghanistan and Africa, to monitoring prescription use here at home, the DEA is smack in the middle (pun intended) at a cost of billions a year. Our new global holy warriors. But who's watching the DEA? Congress? It just keeps feeding them money. [More...]

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$9 Million Informant Payment Explained

Carlos Sagustume, the Guatemalan ex-soldier and drug dealer who became a DEA informant, has been paid $9 million for his work by the U.S. Government.

The Associated Press explains the payments, $7 million of which came from the State Department's Narcotic Rewards program.

Sagustume, who was the prime informant in the Viktor Bout case, also reeled in Monzer al Kassar, whose 30 year sentence was upheld by the Second Circuit in September. Viktor Bout's lawyer questioned Sagustume about his role in the case. The New Yorker had this long and fascinating article on the elaborate sting and DEA's Special Operations Division (SOD.)

Sagustume said he has only been paid $250,000 so far for Viktor Bout, but he's hoping for more, likely in my view for a cut of any forfeiture proceeds. [More...]

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The DEA and Mexican Drug Cartels: The "Snitch and Carry On" Tactic

The New York Times has a fairly uninformative article in which it refers to the DEA "infiltrating" Mexican drug cartels and using some of them as informants. It mentions the current case involving the Iranian accused of an assassination plot against the Saudi Ambassador and the Chicago federal case of Jesús Vicente Zambada-Niebla, son of Sinaloa co-leader Ismael Zambada-Niebla.

The Zambada-Niebla case is far more interesting. The gist is that Vicente says he was part of an immunity deal that encompassed not only Mexican lawyer/fugitive/indicted defendant Humberto Loya-Castro (Loya), who is an advisor to Chapo Guzman and Ismael Zambada-Niebla, and a participant in Sinaloa activity, but that all of them also had permission to carry on the cartel's drug trafficking activity. He also alleges that the DEA provided the same immunity from capture and prosecution, and permission to carry on Sinaloa business to Chapo Guzman and Ismael Zambada-Niebla, the two leaders of Sinaloa. [More...]

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Russia Promises Continued Support for Viktor Bout and Yaroshenko

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today promised Russia will continue to support the legal efforts of Viktor Bout and pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, both of whom were ensnared in U.S. DEA stings abroad and brought to the U.S. for prosecution. Bout is on trial now in New York for terror related charges arising from an alleged arms trafficking deal. Yaroshenko was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in an African drug sting, and is appealing.

Our citizens may be certain that our country will not leave them in an unjust situation…These cases have attracted wide publicity,” Lavrov said in a radio interview.

“We are actively supporting both [Bout and Yaroshenko], as well as other Russian citizens who find themselves in similar situations…This support includes hiring experienced lawyers if necessary,” the minister said.

Lavrov also blasted the U.S. for the way it handled the cases: [More...]

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DEA Global Holy Warriors Take On Iran

I've been writing for two years about the ever-increasing power given to the DEA and its involvement in sting after sting with no connection to drugs coming to the U.S. From the DEA's Excellent African Adventures to the case of Russian pilot Yuri Yaroshenko to Viktor Bout. (Two of the defendants in the Yaroshenko case were acquitted and sent home to Africa.)

The judges in the Southern District of New York have continuously defeated claims of manufactured jurisdiction, allowing the cases to proceed. The crimes are instigated by the DEA, don't come to fruition, and yet we (the taxpayers) end up funding their missions and then paying to incarcerate those snagged for the 20 plus year sentences they ultimately receive.

The newest Iran case is no different. The DEA is now a global police force, with offices in 83 countries and a budget in the billions. They are global holy warriors. [More..]

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Aspen Sheriff Says War on Drugs is a Failure

In the continuing saga of the DEA vs. Aspen, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo says he did nothing out of the ordinary by stopping by a 65th birthday party for a long-time Aspen resident who had a pending drug charge. The party was at a local hotel. He stayed 15 minutes and didn't even have a drink. In the wake of criticism of his decision to attend the party, and whether it was a mistake, he said yesterday:

“Well, it’s hard for me to say anything else but ‘of course’ now, looking back. But in the day-to-day life of the way I’ve been for the last 30 years in Aspen, it just seems like another thing that I do. It just seems like another type of [a] day in the life of an Aspenite, and maybe even the Pitkin County sheriff. At least for the last 40 years.”

After reiterating that the majority of the Aspen community is opposed to undercover drug operations, and that they pose a safety risk, he addresses the war on drugs: [More...]

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Aspen Officials Blast DEA Over Unannounced Arrests

The Pitkin County Commissioners in Aspen met a few weeks ago and condemned the DEA's recent bust of a group of retirement-age drug suspects. More here.

Yesterday they wrote the DEA a letter, lambasting the agency for not telling local law enforcement what they were up to. The Commissioners urge the DEA to "“reconsider the directive you've given to your field agents and employees that places innocent people at risk.”

The letter has more details of the meeting between DEA and local law enforcement after the most recent bust.

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The DEA's Global Holy War

Still one of my favorite music videos of all time. And as true today as it was in 1984.

You see it in the headlines, you hear it every day
They say they're gonna stop it, but it doesn't go away
They move it through Miami and sell it in LA
They hide it up in Telluride, I mean it's here to stay
It's propping up the governments in Columbia and Peru
You ask any D.A., man, they'll say there's nothing we can do
From the office of the president right down to me and you
...It's a losing proposition, but one you can't refuse
It's the politics of contraband, it's the smugglers' blues

Time for a new approach? Hardly, according to testimony this week at a Senate Caucus hearing by DEA Assistant Administrator and Chief of Operations Thomas M. Harrigan, on the DEA's five year plan for combating the cartels and drugs in Central America and Mexico. [More...]

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How Did David Headley Outwit the DEA?

When the Chicago terror case against Daood Gilani, aka David Coleman Headley and Tawawwur Hussein Rana first came to light, the most striking fact was that Headley had two prior heroin convictions and bargained his way out of heavy time for both by cooperating for the DEA. After 13 years of on and off again cooperation, he wasn't a newbie at the cooperation game, and he was well known to his handlers. Yet the DEA dropped the ball on Headley big time. And no heads have rolled.

In 1988 Gilani/Headley was busted at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, when a customs officer asked to check his belongings. Finding 2 kilos of heroin inside, he called for a D.E.A. agent stationed nearby and who arrived at the scene? Derek Maltz. Maltz, who has since been promoted to head of DEA Special Operations, is 48 now. (He still crows after every big bust, but he's been focused more on Mexico and South America lately, it seems. Here's a You Tube video of him a few months ago, pleased as punch with his new perps. Or read this description of one of his many talks.

He's been with the agency 25 years (his father also spent his career in drug enforcement). He would have been 25 when he was stationed in Frakfurt and made Headley's bust. Within two days (probably on the flight home) Headley agreed to cooperate. Two days later, he was back home at his apartment in Philly, all wired up for his first snare. [More...]

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Jury Acquits Two of Four Defendants in DEA African Adventures Trial

Bump and Update: The jury convicted two defendants, including Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, and acquitted two defendants. Giants owner John Mara was one of the jurors.

All defendants except Yaroshenko acknowledged participation in cocaine transactions involving South America and Africa. They denied they were part of a conspiracy to have some of the drugs sent to the U.S. No cocaine was actually shipped anywhere, and the only connection to the U.S. was that the DEA informant in the sting operation told the others he planned to have his portion of the cocaine flown from Ghana to New York. I assume the two who were acquitted were Nathanial French and Mawuko Kudufia, whose alleged roles were to assist in the planned offload of the cocaine in Liberia after it arrived from South America. (Update: Those were the two who were acquitted, the U.S. Attorney's press release on the verdict is here.)

All four were flown from Africa to New York to stand trial in June, 2010, and have been detained since then. At least two will get to go home now. [More...]

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DEA to Open Office in Nairobi

The DEA will be continuing its Most Excellent African Adventures plan in 2011 and beyond.

Next up: It will open an office in Nairobi, Kenya. Why? Because, like with Liberia and Ghana, it wants to stop drugs from going from South America to Africa and then Europe. From the State Departments 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report:

The principal U.S. counternarcotics objective in Kenya is to interdict the flow of narcotics to the United States. A related objective is to limit the corrosive effects of narcotics-related corruption in law enforcement, the judiciary, and political institutions. ....In support of this effort, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is in the process of opening a country office in Nairobi. Personnel from the DEA Pretoria Country Office offered support to the Government of Kenya in counter-narcotics over the course of FY 2010.

For information about all our drug enforcement efforts around the world, the full report is here. How much is this costing us? The State Department's 2011 international drug control budget runs 221 pages and is available here. Total: $2,136 million. [More...]

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Trial Starts Monday in "DEA African Adventures" Case

I've been writing for over a year about what I call the DEA's African Vacations. Shorter version: DEA agents go to Africa, set up an elaborate sting, whereby cocaine from South America is flown to Ghana or elsewhere in Africa, so that it can be transported to Europe, its final destination. Even though the cocaine isn't headed to the U.S., the feds in the U.S. indict the participants, have them arrested/kidnapped in Africa and fly them to the U.S. to stand trial on charges ranging from conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit narco-terrorism, to conspiracy to distribute or import drugs.

If the Government is successful in the prosecutions, we will bear not only the cost of the overseas investigation, the cost of prosecution (and in many cases, the cost of defending those charged), and the cost of pre-trial detention, but also the cost of incarceration of those convicted for the next 10 or 20 years. [More...]

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DEA Bans Chemicals in "Fake Marijuana" Products

The D.E.A. exercised its emergency rule making authority today and banned five chemicals used in smokable herbal products it calls fake marijuana. Included are the chemicals in Spice, K-2, Blaze and Red X Dawn.

Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States. This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety.

The ban will be in effect for a year. The DEA says:

They are designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances are reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

The text of the rule, as appears in the Federal Register, is here. [More...]

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Obama's Drug Control Budget

Here's the White House statement outlining funds in the budget for the War on Drugs. Is there more prevention, alternative incarceration and re-entry funding? Yes. And we appreciate it.

But, it's still top-heavy on enforcement. While it says the DEA gets $24.8 million less this year, it points out that last year's amount included supplemental funding for the Southwest Border. So it probably isn't a decrease at all. And those African vacations keep on coming. Today the feds indicted 7 in Liberia and Romania as part of a reverse sting by DEA agents. (DEA agents posed as drug sellers.)

The men allegedly "agreed to receive and store multi-ton shipments of Taliban-owned heroin" and "sell multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine to the Taliban," while the two Americans -- identified as Alwar Pouryan and Oded Orbach -- allegedly agreed to sell the missiles, the statement said.

The U.S. Attorney's press release is here. Once again, it sounds like the drugs weren't intended for the U.S., but needing jurisdiction, the DEA talked the men into sending some here, with the promise of huge profits. Why are we flying these men from Liberia and Romania to New York to prosecute them? The cost of the prosecution, defense and their incarceration if convicted will be huge. [More...]

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