Since the War on Drugs began in earnest under Nixon and Reagan, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has ruined millions of lives for nonviolent, victimless behavior. The DEA’s drug crusade is not limited to the homeland either, as it also has sole responsibility for pursing international drug investigations.
After 9/11, among the many travesties of the Patriot Act was a little-known section that gave the DEA powerful new abilities, under the guise of “narco-terrorism.” The agency says that these new pursuits are promoting national security, and it uses the purported success to lobby Congress for more funding.
However, according to ProPublica, these narco-terrorism cases are merely staging threats, not stopping them. Many targets of the DEA have no actual involvement in terrorist groups and are the hapless victims of entrapment.
A federal court recently showed the reality of this when it threw out a conviction because the DEA relied on a known “fabricator.” This Afghan informant, identified during trial only as Qari, formed almost the entire basis of the DEA’s case against alleged narco-terrorist Haji Bagcho.
In a 24-page ruling, issued last Friday, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle vacated the narco-terrorism count against Bagcho, saying “the government violated the defendant’s right to due process by failing to turn over favorable impeachment evidence.” She wrote, “Evidence that the DEA’s Kabul office was told that Qari had been deemed a liar by another government agency, yet it still elected to use him as a witness would serve to undermine the reliability of the government’s investigation and its sources.”
Qari was paid $45,000 by the DEA for acting as a confidential informant while the usual income in Afghanistan was less than $600. A previous court had already designated Qari a “fabricator and/or information peddler,” and that other agency mentioned in Huvelle’s ruling had deemed his information “unrealistic and sensational.”
Only a month ago, ProPublica and the New Yorker “examined some 37 narco-terrorism cases highlighted by the DEA and found that a disturbing number of them also unraveled. In most of the cases, the only evidence of a link between drugs and terrorism entered into evidence was provided by the DEA, which used paid informants to lure targets into staged narco-terrorism conspiracies.”
The case of Harouna Touré and Idriss Abdelrahman provides another example. The DEA launched an elaborate scheme to entrap the two smugglers in a narco-terrorism plot, involving fabricated tales of thousands of FARC fighters ready to collaborate against the U.S. This was the first narco-terrorism case brought against al Qaida, and DEA was hoping to make a big show.
As the Malians’ case proceeded, however, its ﬂaws became apparent. The defendants emerged as more hapless than hardened, childhood friends who believed that the DEA’s informants were going to make them rich. “They were lying to us. And we were lying to them,” Touré told me from prison. Judge Barbara Jones, who oversaw the ﬁnal phases of the case, said, “There was no actual involvement by the defendants or the undercovers … in the activities of either al-Qaida or the FARC.” Another judge saw as many problems with the statute as with the merits of the case. “Congress has passed a law that attempts to bind the world,” he said to me.
These sting operations, better known as entrapment, are a favorite tool of law enforcement—from local police departments to the FBI to the DEA in Afghanistan. Besides being a waste of taxpayer money, they are a morally reprehensible way for the state to carry out its dirty drug war. Even judges are not buying it anymore.
Justin Gardner writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com