The drug industry’s triumph over the DEA – with the help of Congress

❝ In the midst of the worst drug epidemic in American history, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to keep addictive opioids off U.S. streets was derailed — that according to Joe Rannazzisi, one of the most important whistleblowers ever interviewed by 60 Minutes. Rannazzisi ran the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, the division that regulates and investigates the pharmaceutical industry. Now in a joint investigation by 60 Minutes and The Washington Post, Rannazzisi tells the inside story of how, he says, the opioid crisis was allowed to spread — aided by Congress, lobbyists, and a drug distribution industry that shipped, almost unchecked, hundreds of millions of pills to rogue pharmacies and pain clinics providing the rocket fuel for a crisis that, over the last two decades, has claimed 200,000 lives…

❝ JOE RANNAZZISI: This is an industry that allowed millions and millions of drugs to go into bad pharmacies and doctors’ offices, that distributed them out to people who had no legitimate need for those drugs.

BILL WHITAKER: Who are these distributors?

JOE RANNAZZISI: The three largest distributors are Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. They control probably 85 or 90 percent of the drugs going downstream.

RTFA. All of it. If you’re cynical as I am about our Congress-critters and how most of them are bought-and-sold, none of this will be a surprise.

Still, read the article. You will be better equipped to lambaste your friendly neighborhood politicians about their incompetence in the face of this epidemic.

Trump chooses El Chapo to run the Drug Enforcement Agency

❝ Just days after picking Betsy DeVos to run the Department of Education, President-elect Donald Trump has tapped another wealthy outsider by naming Joaquín Guzmán, known as “El Chapo,” to head the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In an official statement, Trump said that El Chapo’s “tremendous success in the private sector” showed that he has what it takes to “shake things up” at the D.E.A…

❝ When asked why Trump had readily offered a job to El Chapo while still mulling the fate of another former adversary, Mitt Romney, Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway said, “El Chapo might not have voted for Mr. Trump, but that’s because he’s Mexican and in jail, and Mitt Romney is neither.”

❝ The appointment of the former drug kingpin is far from a done deal, however, as associates of El Chapo report that he is “concerned” that being a member of the Trump Administration would be bad for his brand.

Read all of this short piece by Andy Borowitz. I’m surprised Trump hasn’t tried to take out a contract on him for any of the satirical pieces Borowitz has produced for the NEW YORKER – about Trump and scumbags like him.

Obama said he’d let science – not ideology – dictate policy — [except for the so-called War on Drugs]

On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Agency formally refused to reconsider its classification of marijuana, which is officially regulated as a dangerous substance with no medical value, alongside drugs like heroin and LSD. Despite a growing body of scientific evidence and changes in public opinion, the federal government has refused to budge on a 46-year-old stance borne out of the War on Drugs.

According to the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 61 percent of Americans support legalization. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws reports that eight out of ten Americans support medical marijuana legalization…

As public opinion moves in favor of legalizing pot, the DEA is clinging to the past — with little scientific evidence to back up their position.

Research has shown that pot has a multitude of medical benefits. And by reaffirming its position, the government has set back patients who relied on it for treatment for years.

Thursday’s announcement means pot will remain a Schedule I drug, defined as having “no medical value and a high potential for abuse.” That means the federal government believes marijuana is just as harmful as heroin and less harmful than cocaine. It also bars scientists from receiving federal funding and forces them to jump through hoops to conduct their research. Insurance companies are banned from covering marijuana treatment, so patients have to rely on the black market for treatment.

As of 2013, 78 percent of physicians in the world support the use of medical marijuana. In May, Ohio became the 25th U.S. state to legalize it. Even Congressional Republicans who have long opposed pot legalization recently vocalized support for more medical marijuana research.

And Republicans are more afraid of science than they are of democracy, non-white voters and women. More or less.

If Obama persists in saying he prefers science over ideology, how about opting for backbone over election year-opportunism.

Secret Service agent bound for prison for stealing what he was investigating


Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock

A former U.S. Secret Service agent pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with the theft of $820,000 in bitcoins in the Silk Road website probe.

Shaun Bridges, 32, a forensic analyst involved in the federal investigation which shut down the drug marketplace website, was the second agent caught stealing digital cash. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice charges during a San Francisco federal court hearing Monday.

During the probe, Bridges used his access authority to move 20,000 bitcoins to an account he controlled. The majority of transactions on the Silk Road website were made using bitcoins, a payment method not involving any government-backed currency.

The website was shut down in 2013. Its operator, Ross Ulbrecht, received life imprisonment in May for operating the site, and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent Carl Force pleaded guilty in July to three charges in connection with the theft of more than $700,000 in bitcoins…

Bridges is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

I would sentence the dude, tomorrow. He’s already pleaded guilty as charged. Are we supposed to let someone from law enforcement disappear into the judicial fog and maybe be allowed a kinder, gentler sentence?

The Honduran meltdown – Made in America


Risk on!

In May 2005, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick appeared at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington to rally support for CAFTA, a free trade agreement between the US, the Central American countries, and the Dominican Republic.

In his remarks, Zoellick played up the notion that, for Central America and the DR, the agreement would “strengthen democracy through economic growth and open societies based on the rule of law”, while also entailing various perks for the gringos; a T-shirt reading “Made in Honduras”, he enthused, would likely contain over 60 percent US content.

The deputy secretary and future president of the World Bank went as far as to assert that, “In many ways, CAFTA is the logical culmination of 20 years of democratic and social progress in Central America, nurtured and encouraged by the United States.”

Never mind that, 20-some years ago, the United States was nurturing things like Battalion 3-16, described by the Baltimore Sun as a “CIA-trained military unit that terrorised Honduras for much of the 1980s”…

To be sure, much of Honduras’ contemporary plight – while perhaps appearing on the surface, like Zoellick’s T-shirt, to be a domestic creation – is in fact Made in USA.

Encouraged by then-US ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte, the Battalion 3-16 death squad was responsible for the disappearance of almost 200 suspected Honduran leftists and the torture and kidnapping of many more.

The aim of right-wing terror, of course, was to prevent a Honduran crossover to the communist dark side a la neighbouring Nicaragua – against whose transgressions Honduras had the honour of acting as de facto US military base and staging ground for the Nicaraguan “contra” war.

Aside from the Honduran army and similarly reactionary forces, other Hondurans benefited from the arrangement, as well. Among them was Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, the country’s most famed drug lord and owner of the contra supply airline SETCO, dubbed the “CIA airline”.

It’s this sort of arrangement that makes a mockery of continuing US drug war rhetoric, which excuses the militarisation of the hemisphere and allows the US Drug Enforcement Administration to transcend borders at will, while US borders are increasingly fortified…

Maria Luisa Borjas, the former chief of internal affairs for the Honduran police force, herself confirmed to me during a conversation in 2009, that approximately 3,000 young people had been murdered by the state during the presidency of Ricardo Maduro (2002-06).

Inspired by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Maduro acted as the ringleader for Honduras’ very own zero tolerance regime, which was characterised, Borjas said, by a criminalisation of youth and a liberal application of the term “gang member” to validate extrajudicial killings…

This could have been predicted from the get-go by anyone who paid scant attention to NAFTA, the 1994 free trade accord that lowered wages in Mexico, raised unemployment, and forced two million Mexican farmers to abandon their land thanks to US export subsidies.

The post-coup era has seen soaring homicide rates, with much of the violence committed by state security forces enjoying near-total impunity…

The US, for its part, did its best to legitimise the 2009 coup while pretending not to. After hemming and hawing for months about whether or not a coup perpetrated by the military qualified as a military coup and thus necessitated punitive financial measures, the US recognised the outcome of illegitimate Honduran elections held in November 2009 by the coup-installed regime. And poof, Honduras was restored to the realm of democracy.

Democracy is a word Americans lap up like a hungry cat with a bowl of cream. The calories may not be healthy calories. Long range we may all die of coronary artery disease – or its political equivalent.

Meanwhile, the World Bank-types brag that “Made in Honduras” equals 60% of the profits coming to US Corporations. I’m not sure how that is supposed to benefit the people of Honduras.

I wonder how much money the DEA stole, this week?

joseph rivers

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and two other members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee want to know more about why federal narcotics agents seized $16,000 from a 22-year-old African-American man in April when the Amtrak train he was taking to Los Angeles stopped in Albuquerque.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents made the seizure after they had talked to Joseph Rivers about where he was going. He was not charged with a crime, but the money was seized because agents said they believed, based on their conversation with Rivers, that it was somehow linked to narcotics trafficking…

Lujan Grisham and fellow Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee and John Conyers Jr., the ranking minority member, asked the DEA in a letter this week for more information about the stop and to answer their concerns that it might have involved racial profiling.

“These stops appear to involve individuals who have not committed any crime,” Lujan Grisham said in a telephone interview. “Many of these people don’t have the resources to fight a forfeiture action.”

The letter cited the Journal‘s story on the so-called “cold consent” search of Rivers, who was still on the train after it stopped at the station in Downtown Albuquerque…

Rivers said he was carrying $16,000 in cash he saved and relatives gave him to fulfill his lifelong dream of making a music video when he was approached by a DEA agent who was asking passengers where they were going and why.

The agent asked to search Rivers’ bags, he complied and the agent found the cash in a bank envelope.

“I even allowed him to call my mother, a military veteran and (hospital) coordinator) to corroborate my story,” Rivers told Gutierrez Krueger. “Even with all this, the officers decided to take my money because he stated that he believed that the money was involved in some type of narcotic activity.”

Rivers was not arrested or charged with any crime. But his money was seized under civil forfeiture laws in an administrative process that can last years.

Rivers said he was the only passenger singled out for a search by DEA agents and the only African-American on his portion of the train…

DEA agents have denied they racially profile people, arguing that they use other indicators such as people buying expensive one-way tickets in cash at the last minute…

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, it is the money or property that is considered the guilty party. The person carrying the money doesn’t have to be charged with a crime.

No judge, no hearing, nothing evidentiary required other than the “feelings” of a DEA copper. About as criminal as any extortion on the street.

Keep on rocking in the Free World.

DEA sex parties go back to 2001


Anything else you think I should ignore – besides the NSA?

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee called…for the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration to step down amid allegations that DEA agents attended sex parties with prostitutes while stationed overseas.

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said DEA chief Michele Leonhart has allowed problems at the agency to fester for more than a decade…

If Leonhart does not step down, President Barack Obama should fire her, Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz made the comments after a 3½-hour hearing Tuesday that focused on the sex party allegations, which date back to 2001. Leonhart has led the DEA since 2007 and was sole deputy administrator for three years before that.

An internal report said government money was used to pay prostitutes at a farewell party for a high-ranking DEA official in Colombia.

DEA agents also rented undercover apartments in Colombia and used them for parties with prostitutes, the DEA said in an internal report…

The Justice Department report recounts allegations that DEA agents attended sex parties with prostitutes, funded by local drug cartels, in a foreign county. The report does not identify the country where the alleged sex parties occurred, but the DEA report released Tuesday identified it as Colombia.

The report came after a separate 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia involving the Secret Service drew attention to questionable behavior by law enforcement officers while stationed overseas. Those allegations prompted Congress to order a review of other agencies’ practices. DEA agents who were accused of misconduct in the wake of that scandal were recalled from Colombia and put on limited duty.

Ten DEA agents were accused of wrongdoing; seven were issued suspensions ranging from one to 10 days…

My only suggestion – in addition to endorsing the firing of the DEA Chief who did nothing – is to bring the former DEA head(s) back to Congress for questioning about the how and why of starting this criminal behavior. Then, sue them for the return of their paychecks.

Somehow – in 2001 – it became clear to agents of a number of police operating for the United States outside our borders that accepting gifts and prostitutes from drug gangs was acceptable. That’s not an easy decision even under Emperor Nero or Reichsführer Cheney, I imagine.

DEA has been paying an Amtrak snitch for passenger lists for almost 20 years

The Drug Enforcement Administration paid an Amtrak employee for passenger lists instead of working with Amtrak police, an inspector general’s report said.

The employee, a secretary who chose to retire after her relationship with the DEA was uncovered, reportedly received $854,460 over almost two decades. The DEA payments began in 1995.

The quarterly report done by the Amtrak inspector general said that Amtrak police would have received the same amount in forfeited assets if the DEA had instead worked with the national rail passenger agency.

The information was discovered by a congressional staffer going through the quarterly report, which was dated June 30…

The chief pimps for Washington’s War on Drugs are so worried about transparency they have relied on paid snitches on government payrolls rather than their peers in law enforcement.

One more example of the secret police mentality built-in to our government. This example has been going on for almost 20 years. And you think crap like the Patriot Act is the beginning of a police state in America? Cripes!

The DEA threatens doctors supporting medical marijuana

The US Drug Enforcement Administration is intimidating physicians in Massachusetts to get them to give up jobs at medical marijuana dispensaries, The Boston Globe reports.

The DEA allegedly went to physicians’ homes and offices and offered them a choice: either they stop helping medical marijuana dispensaries, or the DEA will take away federal licenses that are necessary to prescribe certain medications. Since doctors’ livelihoods can depend on their ability to prescribe drugs, the threats forced some of them to resign from their medical marijuana jobs…

The DEA, in a statement to Vox, confirmed the policies are part of the agency’s protocol, but it refused to comment on the specific allegations in Massachusetts.

Although marijuana is voter-approved and legal for medical purposes in Massachusetts, it remains illegal under federal laws and regulations. The DEA classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 substance, which puts the drug in a stricter classification than cocaine and meth.

The contradiction between federal and state laws speaks to why so many supporters of marijuana legalization want clearer rules on the books. Just two weeks ago, the US House of Representatives voted to protect medical marijuana patients from federal interference. A few weeks before the House vote, the DEA decided to increase how much marijuana it makes available for medical research.

At this point, the two-steps-forward-one-step-backward approach has become all too familiar for supporters of recreational and medical marijuana legalization. As public opinion shifts in favor of marijuana legalization, it’s taking the federal government — and agencies that rely on strict drug laws to stay afloat — a bit more time to catch up…

Several states have already legalized medical marijuana, although the drug remains illegal for all purposes at the federal level. Maryland in 2014 became the 21st state to legalize medical marijuana, and New York and Florida may follow soon.

Every level of our government is not only characterized by hypocrisy; but, the deliberate rejection of either modern inquiry or policies based on sound science. Marijuana is almost impossible to research – good, bad or indifferent – because of laws that were absurd in the first place.

Though citizens and individual states are miles ahead of the morality-crockpot legislators and law enforcers in Washington, DC – that only seems to supercharge bureaucrats who fear diminished budgets more than the good news that their services are no longer needed.