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Archive for April, 2015

Resignation of DEA Administrator Offers Fresh Opportunity for Reform

Michele Leonhart

By Bill Piper
Huffington Post

Bill Piper is the director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. 

The resignation of the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele Leonhart, comes as no surprise to those of us working to reform the agency. The DEA is a bloated, wasteful, scandal-ridden bureaucracy charged with the impossible task of keeping humans from doing something they’ve been doing for thousands of years — altering their consciousness. As states legalize marijuana, reform sentencing, and treat drug use more as a health issue and less as a criminal justice issue, the DEA must change with the times. Leonhart’s departure is an opportunity to appoint someone who will overhaul the agency and support reform.

The DEA has existed for more than 40 years, but little attention has been given to the role the agency has played in fueling mass incarceration, racial disparities and other drug war problems. Congress has rarely scrutinized the agency, its actions or its budget, instead deferring to DEA Administrators on how best to deal with drug-related issues. The failure to exercise oversight over one of the most powerful enforcement agencies in the world has led to disaster, including questionable enforcement practices; numerous scandals and human rights abuses; and open defiance of statutory requirements requiring decisions be based on scientific evidence.

The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General currently has six openinvestigations into numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the use of NSA data to both spy on virtually all Americans and to systematically fabricate evidence, and controversial uses of confidential informants. Aseries of recent investigations by USA Today found that the DEA has been tracking billions of U.S. phone calls without suspicion of wrong-doing, an operation copied by the NSA and other agencies after 9/11. The DEA built the modern surveillance state.

Leonhart publicly rebuked President Obama for admitting that marijuana is as safe as alcohol, told members of Congress that the DEA will continue to go after marijuanaeven in states where it is legal despite DOJ guidance stating otherwise, and spoke out against bipartisan drug sentencing reform in Congress. Last May, the DEA created a political firestorm when it seized seeds bound for a Kentucky hemp research program that was approved by Congress. Then Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the incident “an outrage” and the agency was forced to back down.

The agency has a long history of disregarding science. It obstructed a formal request to reschedule marijuana for 16 years. After being forced by the courts to make a decision, the agency declared marijuana to have no medical value, despite massive evidence to the contrary. The agency’s own administrative law judge held two years of hearings and concluded marijuana in its natural form is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man” and should be made available for medical use. Similar hearings on MDMA, aka ecstasy, concluded it has important medical uses, but the DEA again overruled its administrative law judge.

President Obama should appoint someone who can turn the heavy $2-billion-a-year DEA ship in a new direction. There’s no law requiring the head of the DEA to have a background in policing or prosecution, and it’s worth thinking outside of the box when considering an appointment.

To read more click here. 

Other Stories of Interest


FBI Employee Killed Outside of His Home in Virginia; Suspect in Custody

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Authorities are investigating the fatal shooting of an FBI police officer outside his home in Stafford County, Virginia on Monday morning.

Details were still unclear this morning but the Washington Post reports that a Prince George County man was charged with first-degree murder soon after the shooting.

The officer’s identity has not yet been disclosed.

It wasn’t clear what motivated the shooting and whether the victim’s job was a factor.

FBI’s New Special Agent in Charge of Cincinnati Office is Angela Byers

Angela Byers

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The new head of the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office has a rare opportunity.

Angela Byers, who recently became the new agent in charge of the office, joined the bureau in 1986, just 14 years after the bureau began to allow women to become agents.

When J. Edgar Hoover was the director, he asked the bureau’s first female special agent to resign.

“I would think there were men who wanted this job,” Byers told WKRC Cincinnati. “Yes, there were and I’m sure a lot of men who haven’t worked for a woman in charge may be unsure what that means.”

Byers is the second woman to lead the Cincinnati office.

Byers said she likes her location.

“I lived in Washington D.C. everyone was so transient and I didn’t get warmth from the people like I do here,” said Byers.

Prosecutors: FBI Had Legal Right to Track New York Assemblyman by Cell Phone Tower

Assemblyman William Scarborough

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal prosecutors said FBI agents did not violate the law by tracking a New York assemblyman using cell phone tower data, The Times-Union reports.

Assemblyman William Scarborough had no reasonable expectation of privacy because he was using a cell tower, which prosecutors argued is essentially a business record.

The Queens Democrat was arrested in October on 11 federal charges related to fraudulent travel vouchers from 2009 to 2012.

Tracking his whereabouts was key to the investigation, prosecutors said.

“The defendant could not have a constitutionally cognizable privacy interest in business records that he did not make and has never seen or kept, and that contain information he has never known,” the motion reads.

Charles Lutz: Things Aren’t What They Seem When It Comes to the Forced Retirement of the DEA’s Michele Leonhart

Charles Lutz is a retired DEA Senior Executive. This column was written for ticklethewire.com

Michele Leonhart

By Charles Lutz

Things in Washington are seldom what they seem. The media has portrayed the forced retirement of DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart as the result of agents in Colombia holding parties with prostitutes paid for by Drug Cartels, and the lenient punishments they received. As outrageous as their conduct was, it’s not likely the cause of her untimely departure.

A Congressional Hearing plowed that ground last week, only to discover that the events in Colombia happened long before Michele Leonhart’s tenure as Administrator, and that when it did come to her attention she referred it to DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for investigation. But the OIG said they were too busy and sent it back to DEA to handle. So apparently in conjunction with the FBI, the DEA conducted an investigation and submitted the findings to their Board of Conduct and Deciding Officials to mete out punishments in conformance with Civil Service rules. Congressmen criticized the DEA Administrator for not firing the agents, and seemed astonished to learn that Congress had not given her that authority. Civil Service rules require the heads of agencies keep an arm’s length from the disciplinary process or risk reversal by the Merit System Protection Board. And punishments are based on a formula for disciplinary action across government for similar offenses. So the only charge left standing was that DEA and the FBI neither cooperated fully nor in a timely manner with the OIG while reviewing the investigation.

What has not been mentioned by the media in this context is that Michele Leonhart has been an outspoken critic of marijuana legalization. She even had the audacity to criticize the President at the National Sheriff’s Association convention last year for his comment to The New Yorker Magazine that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol (a statement that Mr. Obama retracted days later in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that received little media attention).

Many were surprised that Leonhart had lasted this long. But the media has failed to connect the dots between her stand on marijuana and her forced retirement.

There is no doubt in my mind that the President was determined to use this incident in Colombia as cover to get rid of who he sees as a troublemaker, perhaps encouraged by marijuana legalization campaign financier, and close Obama advisor, George Soros. When the primary charges vanished under the light of a public hearing, embarrassed Congressmen saved face by citing their lack of confidence in the DEA Administrator for her lack of cooperation with the OIG.

And an undeterred Obama cited this same internal squabble within the DOJ, an argument between the DEA and the FBI with the OIG, to single out the DEA Administrator for punishment. Funny thing is the FBI Director didn’t get so much as a reprimand.

Newly Minted Attorney General Loretta Lynch Weighs in On Baltimore, Condemns Violence

Loretta Lynch

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

On Monday, the same day that she was sworn in as the nation’s 83rd Attorney, Loretta Lynch had to deal with a heavy issue: Rioting in Baltimore.

Lynch issued a statement:

“I condemn the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers, destruction of property and a shattering of the peace in the city of Baltimore. Those who commit violent actions, ostensibly in protest of the death of Freddie Gray, do a disservice to his family, to his loved ones, and to legitimate peaceful protestors who are working to improve their community for all its residents.

“The Department of Justice stands ready to provide any assistance that might be helpful. The Civil Rights Division and the FBI have an ongoing, independent criminal civil rights investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Gray. We will continue our careful and deliberate examination of the facts in the coming days and weeks. The department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has also been fully engaged in a collaborative review of the Baltimore City Police Department. The department’s Community Relations Service has already been on the ground, and they are sending additional resources as they continue to work with all parties to reduce tensions and promote the safety of the community. And in the coming days, Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and Ronald Davis, Director of Community Oriented Policing Services, will be traveling to Baltimore to meet with faith and community leaders, as well as city officials.

“As our investigative process continues, I strongly urge every member of the Baltimore community to adhere to the principles of nonviolence. In the days ahead, I intend to work with leaders throughout Baltimore to ensure that we can protect the security and civil rights of all residents. And I will bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence.”

ICE Agent Fatally Shoots Detroit Man

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — A federal law enforcement agent shot and killed a man Monday on Detroit’s northwest side , WWJ reports.

WWJ reports that the agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was part of a joint federal task force that was serving an armed robbery warrant in the 9500 block of Evergreen near W. Chicago around 1 p.m.

WWJ reports that Detroit  Police Chief James Craig said the ICE agent, who  shot the man, about 20, was “responding to a threat.” He did not immediately elaborate. It was unclear if the man was armed.

WWJ’s Russ McNamara reported  that Craig was “trying to calm” neighbors at the scene who were demanding answers. Craig promised a thorough investigation.

“Let us do our job. We’ll do it as quick as we can. I don’t want this to be a two, three-month (investigation),” Craig said.

 

 

Loretta Lynch Sworn In; Becomes the Nation’s 83rd Attorney General

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Loretta E. Lynch, the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney, was sworn in Monday by Vice President Joe Biden as the new Attorney General.

Lynch, 55, the first African-American female to hold the post, faced some turbulent waters, and became a political football on Capitol Hill, as high-profile appointees often are. After a lot game playing, the Senate last week finally confirmed the nomination by President Obama. She is the nation’s 83rd attorney general.

In her speech at her confirmation, she said:

 I look out over all of you gathered here today, my overwhelming reaction is one of profound gratitude. I must, of course, thank the President for his faith in me in asking me to lead the department that I love to even greater heights.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for your presence and your comments here today, and for your steadfast support and wise counsel throughout the process. I also must thank Senators Schumer and Leahy for their support, over the years and now, and for making the floor of the U.S. Senate a welcoming place for me and my family. And of course, my wonderful family. As you can see, we’re quite a force multiplier!

Many of you have come to know my father through this process. He has been at every hearing and every vote. But he didn’t just start now. I remember looking up as a young Assistant U.S. Attorney starting my first trial and seeing him there – and he came to every one thereafter. He has encouraged me in all things, even when my choices were not the ones he would have made for me. In that, he has been the best of fathers. Without him, I would not be here today, being sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States, just one week after his 83rd birthday.

And my mother, who could not be here today but is never far from my thoughts or my heart. She grew up in a world where she was always told what she could not do or could not be, but always knew in her heart that she could soar. She did what would have seemed impossible in the small North Carolina town of her youth. She raised a daughter whom she always told, whatever the dream, whether lawyer, prosecutor or even Attorney General, “of course you can.”

I must also thank my wonderful husband, who has supported all of my choices and my dreams. I would not trade his love and support for all the riches in the world – because to me, they are all the riches in the world.