"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." - Lord Acton
If we were to try to identify the most corrupt of the U.S. government agencies, we would be hard pressed to find any more vile and destructive than the Drug Enforcement Agency led by Director Michele Leonhart, a holdover from the Bush administration renominated by President Obama in a gesture of goodwill to the Republicans and his homage to Abraham Lincoln's tradition of bipartisanship.
Now, Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, brings us news that the Drug Enforcement Agency has been operating as a front for the National Security Agency to spy on foreign governments, corporations and individuals in Latin America - in fact, the DEA and NSA are operating as a "two-way street." In The Hill we learn the sordid details Another US spying problem in Latin America: The DEA.
But now, thanks to additional leaked documents described by Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras in The Intercept, we find there is another U.S. agency working with the NSA that poses similar threats: the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). According to the documents, there is a “two-way information sharing relationship” between the DEA and NSA: it’s not just the NSA helping the DEA catch drug traffickers, but also the DEA helping NSA with its non-drug-related spying programs.
From the Intercept: “DEA is actually one of the biggest spy operations there is,” says Finn Selander, a former DEA special agent …“Our mandate is not just drugs. We collect intelligence.” ... Selander added that “countries let us in because they don’t view us, really, as a spy organization.”
This is potentially an even bigger breach of diplomatic trust than the NSA spying that Rousseff denounced at the U.N. Governments allow the DEA access to military, police and intelligence resources – sometimes including phone-tapping -- as part of a collaborative effort with the United States to fight organized crime. They do not expect that by doing so they are unwittingly assisting the NSA and the enormous U.S. intelligence apparatus with unauthorized spying for political or commercial purposes.
Our U.S. relationships with Brazil were already in rough waters after documents leaked by Edward Snowden inidicated Brazil was one of the top targets of NSA spying including the personal phone calls of President Rousseff and the computer systems of Petrobras - Brazils national oil company. President Obama apologized on our behalf and we promised we would not do this anymore.
Are we learning now this may be a promise our President can not keep? Are the spying and surveillance habits of our vast intelligence system even known, and knowable by our political leaders?
Last year, among the documents released by Snowden, and published in the New York Times, was an inconspicuous memo that received little attention, but I noticed it because I'm obsessed with the idea that the DEA has become so corrupt the only solution is to abolish it, and spread any legitimate functions it has among the 15 other federal law enforcement agencies.
The memo was from an NSA operative to a DEA investigator. The NSA operative had obtained information about a non-terrorist drug dealer spotted by the NSA in this massive illegal terrorist data mining operation, that we've been assured is only used for to identify terrorists.
Consider for a moment this plot of our prison population which has increased almost 10 fold since Richard Nixon launched the diabolical war on American drug users. 2.2 million American are not in prisons - the largest number of any country in the world, and the largest fraction of population of any country in the world. This is an example of the power of the DEA corrupting the soul of America.
The NSA operative was sending the intelligence to the DEA operative because he knew the DEA was investigating this same target. The memo mentioned that of course, none of this intelligence could be used in court, or revealed, and the DEA would have to develop and use its "own sources." This is clearly an illegal use of the massive illegal database.
A few weeks later on one of the Sunday talk shows one of the Republican intelligence apologists (but it could have just as easily have been one of the Democratic intelligence apologists) grandstanded, saying that despite all of the "millions of pages" of Snowden releases, not one example of an illegal damage to civil rights has been shown. What?
I waited for the others to jump up and shoot down this obviously bogus statement, but no one did, and the advocates concerned about intelligence abuses changed the subject appearing to lose the point.
Even in this example, I'll be the first to admit, our temptation as normal people is to say "what do we care about this drug dealer," we might even think. "good for the NSA and DEA, if they can get more efficient at putting away criminals." But, this example here, illustrates, in a trivial way, the broader, harder to understand definition of "corruption," which in this case includes "dysfunction" - the system has become more complicated, than our finite human minds, in our normal daily operations, in a democracy can effectively manage.
In this "trivial" example the effective and ongoing, and self-correcting operation of our democracy has become 'corrupted," and is now imperiled by the evolution of unbalanced systemic powers not anticipated by our founding father and mothers. No conspicuous damage is done to anything we care about - except that our top law enforcement officials, at the highest level, with this incredibly powerful new intelligence power, learn that violating the law, our constitution, and deceiving the press, Congressional oversight committees, and even the President of the United States is not only OK, but a trivial day to day thing that can be done for a matter so trivial as to bring in a minor drug dealer!
It is mentioned once as a minor detail in a newspaper article, and no one on the Congressional oversight committees, NSA, DEA, White House, Judicial branch, or media mentions it again, to my knowledge. In fact, several officials from these groups repeatedly and falsely claim that no evidence of inappropriate use of the data has been found in the data dumps.
Directors of these agencies caught in blatant lies to Congressional oversight committees are not fired, or prosecuted but still serving as directors! Congressman do not demand prosecution or even resignations. In systems thinking this is an example of the "Eroding Goals" archetype which generate's the behavioral pattern called "drift to low performance."
Which in this case is occurring to our Constitutional traditions and form or government that all of these people have taken their highest oath to protect and serve, and here we see clear evidence that they are not.
This ladies and gentleman is a level of corruption that will not blink at breaking the laws and committing the same lies to Congress to violate the civil rights of a future Nelson Mandela who this time may be an and Islamic Occupy Wall Street protester, or a journalist who may be about to expose illegal practices of the NSA.
This is just a little tip of an iceberg illustrating a part of the "creeping corruption," an over-extensive, intelligence-police enforcement-military system that has grown in power vastly out of proportion to the oversight power of the legislative oversight branch, or even the executive branch, which it is part of.
In this regard "corruption" has a broader systemic meaning," - in this case the erosion of the "rule of law" - as it is replaced by an ethos of "might makes right" and "the ends justifies the means." Before long we have FBI agents spying on Congressmen for J. Edgar Hoover so he has leverage to pass his budets, or the CIA classifying Nelson Mandela as a terrorists so anyone sending him supportive letters, or money can be arrested, as really happened 50 years ago.
Not even to image if we had another Richard Nixon (Chris Christie). A few days ago, someone wrote a post, or an article about how the Boston Regional Intelligence office (BRIC had classified non-violence protesters, and occupy participants as "potential terrorists" so they could have agents infiltrate their groups.
Rousseff summed it all up rather succinctly in a blunt speech at the United Nations last September, denouncing “a situation of grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties; of invasion and capture of confidential information concerning corporate activities, and especially of disrespect to national sovereignty.”
Much has been written about how much America's war on drugs have corrupted the military, police, and systems of justice of Mexico and Latin American countries with vast flows of money establishing networks of illegal cartels more powerful than any government who buy off judges, generals, police forces, presidents etc. What we hear less of of is how deeply this corruption has affected the United States, but it has, and has affected us more deeply than we realize.
Imagine the absurdity of a few dozen Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee Members and their staff "keeping tabs on" a $1.2 trillion dollar military industrial-intelligence police enforcement system" with "triple super secret classification." Or, the President, in the White House with a few dozen of his own cabinet secretaries and staff. The would need PhD.s in computer science and mathematics just to understand some of this issues.
And, we now know from Dick Cheneny and Judith Miller that much of the information they are reading in secret reports is totally falsified and manufactured to manipulated their thought processes, yet these couple of dozen "Intelligence Oversight" guardians wish us to "trust their good word" that all is well and they have our best interest well guarded - NOT! They have already repeated proven their failure. The system is broken and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is a liar or an idiot. Or, perhaps both.
We need a major Blue Ribbon Review. Congressional hearing will not be adequate as their failure to act already on the available evidence is sufficient proof of their inadequacy for the task.
So, I don't know how to take on this whole vast system. But, it seems as if we can start with a symbolic gesture by focusing on one part of it we know without doubt is a bad apple, that should not be there. The whole DEA should be shut done in my opinion, but starting with demanding the resignation of Michele Leonhard is as tangible a sybolic action as I can figure. (See my last dozen archives articles on DEA Director Michele Leonhart.)
Thanks to Notreadytobenice for this link to the petition at www.change.org
Petitioning President Barack Obama - Fire Anti-Marijuana DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart!
And, even though it may seem to be a non-sequitar relative to the larger issues, for no other reason than it sends a tangible immediate vote of "no-confidence" to Michele Leonhart, the DEO, and the DOJ war on American drug users, which is a first step in the direction of goodness on this other bigger issues, please join us in asking your Senators to protect medical marijuana from federal interference the way the U.S. House has done banning the DEA from using taxpayer money to interfere with medical marijuana laws.
If you could imagine how much shitting of bricks this House vote caused in the DEA you'd join us in supporting these calls even if you oppose the measures just for the fun of imagining these authoritarian martinets get a good spanking. Come on, you know you'd love to see this. We could all use the "is it wrong that I'm smiling joke again."
Please use this site provided by the Drug Policy Alliance to send a message to your state Senators and your House Representative asking for them to: End the Federal Assault on Medical Marijuana
The U.S. House passed an amendment banning the Drug Enforcement Administration from using our taxpayer money to interfere in states with medical marijuana laws! Now it goes to the Senate. Ask your Senators to protect medical marijuana from federal interference.