(TFC)– Recently, The Fifth Column News tested it’s readership’s opinions of the DEA with a straw poll. It gave five options, covering a broad range of past and current grievances about the DEA. The results offer intriguing insights into main criticisms of the drug war’s champion agency.
The Drug Enforcement Administration often spearheads the plethora of police agencies specifically tackling narcotics. As the drug war wages, billions are set aside to fuel DEA’s operations. Today, its agents have operational roles in dozens of American and foreign locales. This including war zones like Afghanistan, and hostile territory in South America.
On the surface, many assume the DEA is just policing. Few Americans are aware of the political sway the agency has. In many ways, DEA is the final gatekeeper to American drug policy.
Researchers can’t even study certain substances without DEA approval. Even politicians normally first consult with DEA officials to decide what’s good drug policy. Their job description clearly isn’t just raiding drug houses. Sometimes, they’re training militia groups and death squads where even US troops rarely venture. Like many DEA endeavors, these operations sometimes go very, very south.
That’s why the results of TFC’s poll are so interesting. 112 voters participated, faced with several reasons for abolishing the DEA. Those ranged from the frequency of DEA scandals, to questioning its very necessity.
Interestingly, two options took up a combined percentage of nearly half the votes. Those being: scandals involving DEA agents and operations, and the agency’s influence over drug studies and research. Trailing right behind was another interesting option, funding which sustains DEA. Let’s break those down one at a time.
Law enforcement isn’t a stranger to scandals, investigations, misconduct, and judgement. Recent years have seen America erupt in protest following highly publicized police shootings. DEA scandals can sometimes be rather colorful, yet consistent.
One 2016 case involved DEA agent Chad Scott, linked to money theft and drug sales. Special Agent Scott was regarded as a gold standard operative and enjoyed a nickname he’d earned from cartels. “The White Devil.” “There’s got to be some sense”, said a lawyer prosecuting the case, “that you can only go so far.” The case against Scott and DEA-affiliated officers he worked with also included unethical recruitment of informants, planting drugs, and threatening a judge.
Special Agent Scott’s case isn’t unique in the DEA. Time and time again, agents are caught in one corner of the world or another conducting the exact same activity. Each time, the operatives are regarded as rogues who became too entrenched in the criminal underground they were tasked with investigating.
Other cases have seen DEA operations support armed groups ruling the black market. These groups go on to wreak havoc resulting in thousands of heinous deaths and abductions. DEA has also been accused of conducting illegal surveillance through various programs.
Trailing behind scandals and misconduct was the DEA’s sway over drug research. The climate change debate should show us how easily science can be politicized. Data is just data until it upsets a comfortable status quo for government leaders. Of all the compounds the US government has outlawed, cannabis and psychedelics are probably the most exiled.
Take the research of Dr. Rick Strassman who conducted the first human trials for DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine). Before research could start, however, Strassman went through countless hurdles with the DEA. The agency wouldn’t only approve the project, but provide the drugs and oversee all scientific processes and data. They could pull the plug at any time, for any reason. Strassman’s battle for approval lasted years before the study passed.
In another case, researchers rejoiced after DEA approved a study for smoked cannabis and PTSD. DEA’s influence means it’s perception of drugs, however accurate, steers policy. It’s this power that TFC’s readership who voted in the abolishment poll disapproved of most besides repeated abuses.
Readers also voted the amount of federal funding sustaining DEA as the third biggest reason for abolishment. It’s an interesting combination; misconduct, political and scientific sway, and the very life’s blood sustaining both issues. Over $2 billion goes to ensure the Drug Enforcement Administration’s continued survival.
In totality, TFC’s poll suggests–at least for its own readership–people are frustrated with the agency’s impunity. Whether its misconduct or DEA’s control over drug policy, the common theme is excessive influence. If these traits could be mitigated, then perhaps abolishing DEA entirely wouldn’t be necessary. For now, political and operational impunity, plus the billions fueling it, most irritates The Fifth Column’s base.