In Which a Civil Libertarian Praises the DEA


Well, sort of. There's a fascinating fight unfolding between the DEA, the European Union, and several state law enforcement agencies over sodium thiopental, the drug used by many states in their lethal injection regimen. The European Union issued a declaration against the death penalty 2008, calling for its worldwide abolition.

Since the declaration, countries like the U.K. and Germany have either prohibited or put up regulaory barriers  to prevent pharmaceutical companies from exporting the drug to the U.S. for use in state executions. Hospira, the only U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, recently stopped making the drug after Italy nixed the company's plans to open a manufacturing plant there.

All of which means states are running in short supply of the drug. And there are executions to be . . . er . . . executed. So many U.S. states are doing what the rest of us do when government policy makes it difficult to get the drugs we want legally: They're buying the stuff on the black market.

Enter the DEA:

U.S. authorities seized Georgia's supply of a drug used in executions on Tuesday because of concerns about how it was imported, a move praised by death penalty opponents.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents took control of the state's sodium thiopental, a sedative that attorneys for several death row inmates have said was improperly obtained.

"We commend the DEA for forcing the Department of Corrections to stop using black market execution drugs," said Sara Totonchi, executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta.

Authorities offered few details about the motive for the seizure except to say there were questions about how the state had obtained the drug.

"DEA became aware of this situation today," Special Agent Chuvalo J. Truesdell said. "We took control of the controlled substances, and it's now a regulatory matter."

He declined further comment because of the ongoing investigation.

No word if the DEA sent the SWAT team. But I do look forward to the feds' attempt to seize the entire Georgia Department of Corrections under federal asset forfeiture law.