|The EFFECTIVE NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL STRATEGY 1999|
GOAL NUMBER TWO: REDUCE THE HARM CAUSED BY THE "WAR ON DRUGS"
OBJECTIVE: REDUCE GOVERNMENT AND LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRUPTION
Rationale:Drug-related corruption has plagued federal, state and local law enforcement in many ways. While the United States draws attention to corruption outside our borders,148 we do not focus enough attention on corruption at home. Across the United States, our local communities have felt the burden of law enforcement officials involved in drug corruption scandals. Consider these examples culled from recent news articles:
This is just a sampling of cases reported in cities and small towns across the United States. The Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice reports federal convictions of public officials have gone from 44 in 1970157 to 1,067 by 1988.158 Drug offenses are the driving force behind this increase. Corruption is not limited to state and local officials. It has also involved federal officials from many agencies.159 In some cases, such as the CIA-Contra-Crack controversy, government complicity in drug trafficking became de facto official policy. In 1982, during the early days of the Contra war, William Casey (irector of the CIA) and William French Smith (Ronald Reagan's Attorney General) drafted a Memorandum of Understanding whereby the CIA would not have to report allegations of drug trafficking involving its agents, assets and non-staff employees but would have to report allegations of assault, homicide, kidnapping, bribery, wiretapping, visa violations, perjury, etc.160 By its own admission, the CIA simply ignored or overlooked reports of drug trafficking by the Contras and their supporters.161 As the Washington Post reported, Nearly a decade after the end of the Nicaraguan war and after years of suspicions and scattered evidence of contra involvement in drug trafficking the CIA report discloses for the first time that the agency did little or nothing to respond to hundreds of drug allegations about contra officials, their contractors and individual supporters contained in nearly 1,000 cables sent from the field to the agency's Langley headquarters.162 According to The New York Times, internal government reports indicate that corruption is a prevalent and incessant problem. A memorandum from the El Paso Intelligence Center to top drug officials in Washington, warns of 'increased and constant receipt' of reports from informants, government employees and ordinary citizens about 'the use of corrupt and compromised U.S. customs and immigration inspectors' to insure that drug shipments cross the border.163 Other documents indicate that scores of these reports have been passed on to drug agency administrators or federal prosecutors over the last few years.164
Recommendation: Recognizing the inherent corruption in drug enforcement, it is critical to establish checks and balances to oversee drug enforcement activities and to establish strict hiring standards for drug enforcement officials.
When a substance is prohibited it creates tremendous, untraceable profits, and when these large sums of money are involved, corruption of officials should be expected. In 1926, in the midst of alcohol prohibition, one out of every 12 prohibition agents had been dismissed for such offenses as bribery, extortion, conspiracy and submission of false reports. Between 1920 and 1928, 1,300 officials were removed for improper activities.165 During the Johnson Administration the Justice Department noted evidence of significant corruption in the Bureau of Narcotics including illegal selling and buying of drugs, perjury, tampering with evidence and even murder.166 These scandals were one reason why the federal drug enforcement was reorganized and the DEA created. Within a year of their creation the DEA was under investigation and the number two man in the agency was forced to resign due to his association with gamblers, felons and drug dealers.167
It is impossible to know the extent of corruption among public officials. Many of the corruption-related crimes merely involve looking the other way at the border or taking a portion of cash seized from alleged drug dealers, but other corruption cases involve working closely with violent drug traffickers. According to the Government Accounting Office (GAO), on average, half of all police officers convicted as a result of FBI-led corruption cases between 1993 and 1997 were convicted for drug-related offenses.168 Although uncomfortable, it is crucial to accept the fact that the drug war has created corruption. Once the problem is acknowledged, the next step is to realistically accept the difficulties in solving it. There is vast wealth in the drug market, and corruption will be inherent in drug enforcement as long as we rely on criminalization as our primary method of control. Law enforcement agencies must hire slowly and carefully, because corruption has consistently followed rapid expansions of police forces. Agencies need to put in place a series of checks and balances so that no individual official makes critical decisions or handles investigations without close supervision. Finally, the activities of police officials must be closely supervised by citizen review boards or some other mechanism that includes citizen participation.
While widespread corruption does not necessarily translate into a high percentage of corrupt law enforcement officials, it does suggest that corruption exists at some levels in every agency. Wherever there are drugs, there is an opportunity for corruption; as a result, no law enforcement official should be above suspicion, as corruption has been documented at the lowest and highest levels.
148  While corruption has been reported in many countries, the country
that has received most of the attention on this issue recently has been Mexico.
In March, 1998 the former anti-drug czar of Mexico, General Jesus Gutierrez
Rebollo, was sentenced to almost 14 years in prison. His arrest came in early
1997 (just after he had been briefed by the DEA on drug control issues and just
after U.S. drug czar, General Barry McCaffrey, praised his leadership) when he
was accused of protecting a Mexican drug lord. Five Mexican generals have been
jailed since the beginning of 1997 on drug corruption charges. Michael
Christie, "Mexico's Former Anti-Drug Czar Sentenced to Prison," Reuters, March