- - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The government announced Tuesday that Michele Leonhart, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, will soon be leaving, and only the potheads of America have reason to grieve. She has had an uncomfortable ride, bucking the Obama administration by relaxing enforcement of federal narcotics law in states where marijuana has become legal in state law. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington no longer prohibit marijuana under certain circumstances. Neither does the District of Columbia.

But it’s sex, not pot, that brought her to grief, specifically the reckless behavior of certain DEA agents on her watch. She had to answer questions from Congress last week about certain agents’ “sex parties” in Colombia, with prostitutes furnished by local drug cartels. Some parties preceded her watch, dating from 2001. Sex, apparently, is a great persuader. (Who knew?) “This new internal report describes not one or two isolated incidents,” says Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat, “but literally dozens of parties with prostitutes.”

A report, filed by the Justice Department inspector general, says it found that “the ‘sex parties’ occurred in government-leased quarters where agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices, and other government-issued equipment were present [and] created potential security risks for the DEA and for the agents who participated in the parties, potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion.” She suffered a vote of “no confidence” from the House Oversight and Government Reforms Committee.

A plagued tenure has dogged Ms. Leonhart for a long time. A year ago, after the DEA seized seeds bound for a Kentucky hemp research program that had been approved by Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, called the incident “an outrage.” The Kentucky state Agriculture Department sued the DEA.

Since her watch began in 2008, the Justice Department’s inspector general has investigated the DEA’s involvement in the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the use of NSA data to spy on Americans, the use of ineffective confidential informants and the hiring of one informant with a history of telling lies. She testified to Congress against a bipartisan drug sentencing reform that was supported by the Obama administration.

But it was the DEA’s version of bunga bunga in Colombia that was the final straw. “This has been a very difficult week for DEA, with members of Congress and the media asking tough questions and sharing our outrage about the disgraceful conduct of a few individuals several years ago,” Ms. Leonhart, with remarkable chutzpah, told DEA employees in an email dispatched last week. “This employee misconduct has upset me for many reasons, but especially because it calls into question the incredible reputation DEA has built over more than 40 years.” Ms. Leonhart offered the usual bureaucratic blah-blah.

The new revelations make the decision to replace her an easy one. “There’s simply no excuse for the outrageous behavior of the DEA’s so-called leadership,” says Neill Franklin, a Maryland police veteran and the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a reform group. “[Ms.]Leonhart just helps us add to the list of reasons of why we need to rethink our entire approach to drug policy.” The current mess is nothing to celebrate.

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