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Tag: Michele Leonhart

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


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.

DEA Has Chance to ‘Change Culture Within Its Walls’ with New Leader

By The Daily Iowan
Editorial Board

The DEA chief, Michele Leonhart, is stepping down amid heated congressional hearings into her agency’s scandals involving sex parties and compromised information leaked to Colombian drug lords. An internal report documented that prostitutes, sex parties, and undercover apartments were paid for by government money from 2001 to 2005 in Colombia.

Although Leonhart did not publicly cite the intense scrutiny from public officials in the hearings and in the media as the reason for her departure, it’s fair to assume that it played a huge role. She has served the DEA for 35 years and has been chief since her nomination by President Obama in 2010, but much of her tenure has been regarded by many in the White House as facilitating an agency with no regards for rules or consequences.

When it came time to punish 10 DEA agents accused of the aforementioned misconduct in Colombia, only seven had been issued suspensions, all consisting of fewer than two weeks. But nobody was fired. Agents accused of having sex with prostitutes in Colombia only face what is seen by many as a glorified slap-on-the-wrist in the form of a few days vacation.

Why Leonhart did not fire any agents she attributes to the lack of power that a DEA chief actually has to effectively remove workers. The extraordinary job security through civil-service protections make it incredibly difficult to fire appointed agents. But it is not definitively clear if she had had the ability to do so would have fired those affiliated with the scandal, and that is the real problem.

When a culture exists in an agency where there is no incentive to be ethical and professional, no consequences for wrongdoings, it becomes a place that breeds egregious behavior such as the acts committed in Colombia. It’s a “don’t ask for permission, only ask for forgiveness” way of thinking that has permeated through the lifeblood of the DEA and it will not end until new leadership is in place and more power is granted to Leonhart’s replacement to expunge agents in extreme cases such as this.

The American people deserve a new DEA, chief who will change the culture within its walls.

To read more click here. 

DEA Chief Resigns Following ‘Sex Parties’ Investigation, Lax Discipline

Michele Leonhart

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

DEA Director Michele Leonhart, who has come under sharp criticism over agents’ misconduct, has announced her retirement.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Leonhart, who served as the agency’s top administrator since 2010, told him of her plans Tuesday, The USA Today reports. 

She was the first women to serve as director.

“She has devoted her life and her professional career to the defense of our nation and the protection of our citizens, and for that, I am deeply grateful,” Holder said in written statement.

Leonhart’s last day is expected to be in mid-May,

Lawmakers became outraged this month after learning that DEA agents participated in sex parties in Columbia and received lax discipline.

“Most of the sex parties occurred in government-leased quarters where agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices and other government issued equipment were present … potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail or coercion,” a report on the parties said.

Calling Leonhart’s retirement decision “appropriate,” the leadership of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a joint statement.

“With the opportunity now for fresh leadership, we are hopeful that the DEA can restore itself to an agency of distinction and excellence,” panel Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland said.

Other Stories of Interest

 

House Members Declare ‘No Confidence’ in DEA Administrator Leonhart

Michele Leonhart

Michele Leonhart

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers leveled harsh claims against DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart on Wednesday, saying they had no confidence in her ability to lead the agency.

The sharp words come a day after lawmakers learned that DEA agents received lax punishment for attending “sex parties” in Columbia, the Huffington Post reports. 

“After over a decade of serving in top leadership positions at DEA, Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive ‘good old boy’ culture that exists throughout the agency,” read the statement from 22 members of the Oversight Committee, including Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

“From her testimony, it is clear that she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position,” the statement continues. “Ms. Leonhart has lost the confidence of this Committee to initiate the necessary reforms to restore the reputation of a vital agency.”

DEA critics were happy to chime in.

“There’s simply no excuse for the outrageous behavior of the DEA’s so-called leadership,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of the reform group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a Maryland police veteran, in a statement. “Leonhart just helps us add to the list of reasons of why we need to rethink our entire approach to drug policy.”

 Other Stories of Interest


Authorities Caputure Vincente Carillo Fuentes, Head of the Juarez Drug Cartel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The suspected leader of the Juarez drug cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, was captured in the northern Mexican city of Torreon, Mexican officials announced Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

The wire service reported that Carrillo Fuentes, 51, is believed to have headed the cartel founded by his late brother, Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart issued a statement following the arrest:

“The Drug Enforcement Administration congratulates the Government of Mexico on the arrest of Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes, one of history’s most notorious drug traffickers. Carrillo-Fuentes was the leader of the Juarez Cartel and facilitated murder and violence in Mexico while fueling addiction in the United States and across the world. Once again, our valiant partners in Mexico who pursue these dangerous criminals should be lauded for their efforts.”

To read more click here.

 

DEA Cracks Down on Painkillers by Making it More Difficult to Get Them at Pharmacy

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA is cracking down on narcotic painkiller abuse by restricting how patients can receive the medication, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The DEA plans to reclassify hydrocodone combination drugs like Vicodin, a move that will require people to receive a new prescription for painkillers every 90 days. Currently, painkiller users can get prescriptions for 18- days, with up to five refills.

Patients also must present a prescription for the pills and can no longer rely on having the drugs phone-in by doctors.

The change takes effect in 45 days.

“Today’s action recognizes that these products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available,” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

DEA Leadership Blasted In Report On Student Left In Cell For Days

Michele Leonhart

By Ryan Reilly
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — The leadership of the Drug Enforcement Administration comes under fire in a report issued by the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General on the near-death of a college student left in a holding cell for five days. The review finds that DEA leadership “violated Department of Justice and DEA policy” and delayed a proper investigation into the incident by not reporting it to the inspector general’s office immediately.

While a summary of the IG report on Daniel Chong’s hellish ordeal while in the custody of the DEA had previously been released, a redacted version of the full report was just released to The Huffington Post in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The report indicates that DEA Deputy Administrator Thomas Harrigan planned to discuss the situation with Administrator Michele Leonhart in the days after the incident. DEA leadership subsequently made a decision to have a review conducted by a district attorney instead of immediately reporting the incident to the Justice Department inspector general’s office as it should have.

“DEA management’s decision to conduct a management review instead of ensuring that the matter was promptly referred to the OIG was troubling,” the report stated

To read full story click here.