Just Call Them "DEA"--It Doesn't Matter What the Initials Stand For


Just as Kentucky Fried Chicken became "KFC" to hide their connection to fried foods (and likely the state of Kentucky and the yardbird of chicken to boot), best not remember what the "D" in "DEA" stands for as you contemplate some new wikirevelations summed up in the New York Times:

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies, according to secret diplomatic cables.

Some specifics:

¶In Panama, an urgent BlackBerry message from the president to the American ambassador demanded that the D.E.A. go after his political enemies: "I need help with tapping phones."

¶In Sierra Leone, a major cocaine-trafficking prosecution was almost upended by the attorney general's attempt to solicit $2.5 million in bribes.

¶In Guinea, the country's biggest narcotics kingpin turned out to be the president's son, and diplomats discovered that before the police destroyed a huge narcotics seizure, the drugs had been replaced by flour.

¶Leaders of Mexico's beleaguered military issued private pleas for closer collaboration with the drug agency, confessing that they had little faith in their own country's police forces.

¶Cables from Myanmar, the target of strict United States sanctions, describe the drug agency informants' reporting both on how the military junta enriches itself with drug money and on the political activities of the junta's opponents….

The D.E.A. now has 87 offices in 63 countries and close partnerships with governments that keep the Central Intelligence Agency at arm's length…..

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.

It goes on to detail stories of how local government's pressure--without apparent success--the DEA to help them with various non-narcotic tasks. But in at least one instance, in Paraguay:

according to the cables, the United States acquiesced, agreeing to allow the authorities there to use D.E.A. wiretaps for antikidnapping investigations, as long as they were approved by Paraguay's Supreme Court.

"We have carefully navigated this very sensitive and politically sticky situation," one cable said. "It appears that we have no other viable choice."

The rest of the article discusses the DEA's growing move into anti-terrorism work because of the use of drug money by terror groups (though the DEA apparently speculates beyond the evidence about such links), and the shams (such as a faked illegal drug burn in Guinea) that arise from the links between drug traffickers and governments.

As the New York Times does not note, and certainly the DEA doesn't, all of these corrupt shenanigans and enormous profits for the criminally minded could be eliminated not through further and deeper DEA action, but by killing it and its mandate by ending the international war on (certain disapproved) drugs.