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President Bush Appoints Drug Warriors To High Administration Positions

New DEA Administrator Nominated: Karen Tandy Expected To Be Confirmed In Spite Of Opposition

The Bush administration nominated Karen Tandy, an Assistant US Attorney and longtime DOJ employee, was nominated to be Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Her confirmation hearing was held in late June 2003. As reported in The Nation online ( "A New Hardliner At The DEA") in a column by Jason Vest dated July 14, 2003, "Already approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee after an all but unnoticed, if not farcical, confirmation hearing late last month, the Administration evidently hopes Tandy's nomination will next clear the full Senate with as little attention or debate as possible. Lost in the shuffle has been any meaningful examination of dubious policy initiatives and prosecutions Tandy has been involved in over the past twenty years. According to drug-reform activists, the nomination of Tandy--a career Justice Department prosecutor and administrator whose most recent assignments have included busting mail-order bong sellers and those involved in Oregon and California's state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs--is a clear signal from the Administration that it will give no quarter on any aspect of marijuana policy. This view is also echoed by veteran defense attorneys who have tangled with Tandy; they marvel at the lack of scrutiny her nomination has received, both in the press and on Capitol Hill."

Vest notes that at least a couple of senators have expressed some concern over Tandy because of the medical marijuana issue. One of them -- Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) -- has gone on record opposing the nomination. "So far, only Senator Richard Durbin has gone on record as opposed to Tandy's nomination; in response to his written queries, not only did Tandy demonstrate ignorance of key policy studies but she 'didn't back off an inch,' as Durbin put it, from the view that the DEA should proceed apace with medical marijuana raids. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein has also expressed misgivings about Tandy, observing that the nominee 'doesn't seem amenable to listening' to concerns about federal law enforcement and state-sanctioned medical marijuana."

Some of the written queries posed by Sen. Durbin to the nominee were reprinted in a column by Bill Berkowitz on the website, "Tandy Won't Be Dandy For Medical Marijuana," posted July 16, 2003. Berkowitz reports:
"Here are a few of Karen Tandy:s responses to questions submitted by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), as compiled by the Marijuana Policy Project:
"On marijuana's medicinal benefits:
"'The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, has been accepted as having medicinal value when processed into Marinol. Marijuana itself, however, has not been shown to have medicinal benefits; accordingly, I have no basis for believing that marijuana, and specifically smoking marijuana, has any such benefits.'
"On two authoritative government reports re marijuana's medical benefits:*
"*These are the 1999 Institute of Medicine report "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," commissioned by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the 1988 ruling of the DEA's chief administrative law judge, Francis L. Young, both of which conclude that marijuana has medicinal benefits and should be made available to patients who can benefit from it.
"'I am not personally familiar with the sources you cite discussing the putative 'medicinal benefits of marijuana.''
"On enforcing federal laws against state-approved medical marijuana providers:
"'DEA's priorities should reflect the need to encourage adherance [sic] to the law. ... [I]t is not improper for the government to prosecute individuals who make a point of disobeying the law, and encouraging others to disobey it, even if the disobedience is said to be for reasons of conscience.'
"On DEA raids on state-approved medical marijuana patients and providers:
"'If I am confirmed as Administrator of the DEA, it will be my duty to see to the uniform enforcement of federal law. I do not believe it would be consistent with that duty for me to support a moratorium on enforcement of this law, or any law, in selected areas of the country.'"

The Marijuana Policy Project created a website to mobilize opposition to the nomination,

DEA Chief Hutchinson Steps Down; Career Drug Enforcer John B. Brown III Expected To Be Named As Replacement

DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson was confirmed to a new position in the Homeland Security Agency in Jan. 2003. The The Associated Press News Service reported on Jan. 23, 2003 ( "Panel OKs Hutchinson For Security Post") that "The Senate on Thursday confirmed Asa Hutchinson as undersecretary of the new Homeland Security Department, where his responsibilities will range from border control to aviation security. Hutchinson is currently head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. His voice-vote approval came hours after he was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee, a day after the Senate approved former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to head the department and a day before the agency formally comes into being."

According to AP, "Hutchinson, 52, will be in charge of border and transportation security, overseeing such agencies as the Customs Service, the Transportation Security Administration and the federal law enforcement training center."

The Washington Times reported on Nov. 27, 2002 ( "DEA's Boss Says Homeland His Calling") that Hutchinson's likely replacement will be John B. Brown III, a career drug enforcement agent. A brief bio of Brown was available at, last accessed Dec. 2, 2002.

Walters Nomination Approved By Full Senate On Voice Vote

Note: The full Senate on the evening of Dec. 5 confirmed President Bush's choice as 'drug czar.' The Senate Judiciary Committee had voted 14-5 to send the nomination of John Walters as ONDCP chief to the floor. Voting against the Walters nomination in committee were:
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-DE
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-IL
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-MA
For a full listing of Judiciary Committee members, including their email addresses, check the Senate Judiciary Committee website.

The hearing by Senate Judiciary Committee on the John Walters Nomination was held on Wednesday, October 10, 2001 at 11am. As reported by Reuters wire service on Oct. 10, 2001 ( "Bush's Choice As 'Drug Czar' Receives Heavy Fire"), "John Walters, President Bush's nominee to head the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, came under Democratic fire on Thursday at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, both Democrats, openly challenged Walter's drug-fighting philosophy." According to Reuters, "Leahy said he does not know how many senators share his concerns about Walters, but wants the nominee to answer a number of questions in writing before his panel votes on whether to send the nomination to the Senate for confirmation. ... 'I do not doubt that John Walters has thought seriously about our nation's drug problems, but I do doubt the conclusions that he has reached and forcefully expressed on issues ranging from drug treatment to interdiction to sentencing issues,' Leahy said."

Statements from the two leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee are available by clicking the following links:
Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Statement of Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT)

Lawmakers outside the Senate have expressed their opposition to the Walters nomination. As the Reuters report notes, "Last week, about two dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives urged the Senate to reject the Walters' nomination. In a letter to senators, they wrote: 'At a time that policy-makers at all levels of government are seeking to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system, John Walters denies that such disparities even exist. John Walters has a long record in opposition to important reforms that could significantly reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system,'"

For more information, check out the Senate Judiciary Committee website.

John P. Walters Officially Named As Bush Choice For Director Of US Drug Policy Office

On May 10, 2001, President Bush announced his choice for Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the "Drug Czar"). As had been rumored since mid-April, the president selected John P. Walters, a longtime assistant to the first Drug Czar, William Bennett.

The choice has been roundly criticized in the media, as well as by his most recent predecessor, retired General Barry McCaffrey. As the Houston Chronicle reported on April 24, 2001, "'I think he's focused too much on interdiction. I hope he educates himself carefully on prevention and treatment as an essential part of this strategy,' McCaffrey said of Walters on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday. McCaffrey also criticized Walters for opposing an expensive series of media advertisements paid by the drug control policy office as an anti-drug effort." ( "Former William Bennett Aide Will Be Drug Czar, Sources Say," by Michael Hedges, Houston Chronicle, April 24, 2001)

The writer and researcher Michael Massing wrote a tremendous piece for the Washington Post on the appointment ( "A Look At The Drug War's Future: The Wrong Man And The Wrong Direction," May 6, 2001). In it, Massing wrote "Now the president has indicated his choice: John P. Walters. And he seems to be exactly the wrong man for the job. That's because, if Walters's background is any guide, he will put prosecution before prevention, tougher laws before treatment." Massing goes on to point out that:
"Back in Washington, Walters helped fashion the Andean Strategy, a five-year, $2 billion program to provide the region's officials the military and economic assistance they needed to fight the drug trade. The Andean plan -- Walters's chief legacy at ONDCP -- brought about a major escalation in the U.S. military's involvement in the drug war. It marked the start of the Peruvian air force's shoot-down policy that resulted in last month's attack on an American missionary plane. And it was a forerunner of Plan Colombia, Washington's $1.3 billion program to fight cocaine production there. Overall, in the decade since Walters's handiwork was adopted, the United States has spent many billions of dollars trying to stem the flow of drugs into this country.
"It hasn't worked. Today, according to recent government studies, cocaine is cheaper and more plentiful here than ever before. So is heroin. Marijuana is peddled in shopping malls, schoolyards and urban parks across America, and methamphetamine has become a fixture in rural and working-class communities in the western United States. By now, even many drug war hawks have begun to acknowledge the futility of our effort to keep drugs out of the country and to recognize that the true root of our problem is demand."

Unfortunately, as Massing points out, Mr. Walters is not one of those. He writes, "Since leaving ONDCP, Walters has directed both the New Citizenship Project and the Philanthropy Roundtable and appeared before Congress more than a dozen times to talk about drug policy. Reading his statements, I was struck by their partisan and hawkish tone. At a hearing in July 1996, for instance, he attacked the Clinton administration for attempting to provide more treatment for hard-core users. This 'ineffectual policy," he declared, was 'the latest manifestation of the liberals' commitment to a 'therapeutic state' in which the government serves as the agent of personal rehabilitation.' Walters also expressed unbending support for tough penalties for drug offenses and dismissed the idea that there are too many low-level drug offenders in prisons. An 'all-too-common myth,' he called it." Mr. Walters seems to continue to hold these views, as this op-ed published under his byline in the Weekly Standard on March 6, 2001, "Drug Wars," indicates.

Governor Gary Johnson Debates DEA Chief Asa Hutchinson

As reported in the Albuquerque Journal on Sept. 11, 2001 ("Johnson, DEA Talk Dope"), "Two baby boomer guys, children of the 1960s, got together in Albuquerque on Monday to talk about drugs. But Gary Johnson, New Mexico's governor, and Asa Hutchinson, administrator of the nation's Drug Enforcement Administration - both trim Republicans with blue suits and conservative haircuts - could not have been farther apart on the direction the country's drug policies should take. In an hourlong national radio debate, Johnson, a 48-year-old former pot smoker, hammered home the message that has become his crusade: Marijuana is not as harmful as alcohol and government resources are wasted in arresting and jailing pot smokers who otherwise do not break the law."

The debate between Governor Johnson and DEA Administrator Hutchinson has been posted online by The Justice Talking Show. To listen to streaming audio of the debate, as well as check out some of their other resources, Click Here.

A partial transcript of the debate as broadcast on NPR is available by clicking here.

DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson Outlines Views On PBS NewsHour

The Bush administration's new DEA Administrator, Asa Hutchinson, appeared on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS August 27, 2001. Click here for a transcript of the show .

Cong. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) Confirmed As Administrator of US Drug Enforcement Administration

The nomination of Congressman Asa Hutchinson, Republican of Arkansas, as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration was confirmed by the full Senate on Wednesday, August 1. The Associated Press reported ( "Senate Confirms New DEA Chief") that "At his confirmation hearing, Hutchinson told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the battle against drug use was 'a noble purpose worthy of a great crusade.'" The voice vote was 98-1 in favor.

The AP reported that "The lone dissenting vote came from Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., who said he disagreed with Hutchinson's support of 'the escalation of the drug war in Colombia.' 'He also evidenced no understanding of the effect on our criminal justice and our penal system of draconian fixed sentencing for possession of small amount of drugs,' Dayton continued. 'And he rejected outright the possibility of decriminalization of marijuana for strictly medicinal purposes.' Not voting was Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz."

Rep. Hutchinson had been endorsed by the Judiciary Committee ranking members. According to the AP story, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, top Republican on the committee, said "'I have every confidence he will do a terrific job.'" And Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said "'I have a great deal of respect of him. Every time I dealt with him, he was absolutely truthful with me. He never broke his word to me, he never broke a commitment to me.'"

Congressman Hutchinson's confirmation hearing was held before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 17, 2001. A transcript of the hearing is available, in two parts:
Part 1
Part 2
Also, here are some examples of the media coverage of the hearing: "Drug Agency Nominee Talks Tough Enforcement," USA Today, July 18, 2001; and "DEA Pick Hedges On Medical Marijuana," Chicago Tribune, July 18, 2001.

In early July, Congressman Asa Hutchinson spoke to a group in his home state of Arkansas, laying out his ideas for drug enforcement and drug policy. According to the article, "Rep. Hutchinson Shares His Notion Of Anti-Drug Crusade," from the July 8, 2001 edition of the Little Rock Democrat-Gazette, Rep. Hutchinson reiterated his opposition to drug legalization, and stated his support for the concept of drug courts.

On May 9, 2001, the administration announced its intent to nominate Rep. Asa Hutchinson, Republican of Arkansas, to the position of Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, replacing Acting Administrator Donnie Marshall. A copy of the Congressman's press statement on his pending nomination can be accessed by clicking here. You can also access a transcript of the White House press briefing at which the announcement was discussed by clicking here. According to Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, "The President wants to have somebody at the DEA, as well as also in the Office of the Drug Czar, across the United States government who is committed to fighting the war on drugs."

Congressman Hutchinson has a long record in legislative involvement in the drug war. There are a number of speeches, news releases, and weekly columns available at Congressman Hutchinson's website, including these speeches from the Congressional Record:
09/27/00: Methamphetamine Provisions of the Children's Health Act
07/20/00: Expansion of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs)
03/29/00: Fighting the Drug War in Colombia
05/12/98: Sense of the House with Respect to Winning the War on Drugs
10/22/97: The War on Drugs
03/06/97: America Must Reenergize Itself In Fighting The War Against Illegal Drugs

Attorney General Ashcroft Says He Wants To "Escalate The War On Drugs"

In early 2001 Attorney General John Ashcroft laid out his plans for the Justice Department under the Bush Administration. The Washington Post reports that AG Ashcroft recently outlined his top priorities to senior staffers at the Justice Department. "Violence, Teen Drug Use Are Ashcroft Priorities"(. According to the Post, "reducing gun violence, opposing teen drug use and battling discrimination against women and minorities in housing and voting will be his key early goals."

In an appearance on CNN's Larry King Live, AG Ashcroft said "Well, I want to escalate the war on drugs. I want to renew it. I want to refresh it, relaunch it if you will." (see also the Associated Press story about the King show appearance, "John Ashcroft Outlines Top Goals").

Click here for more on the controversy over former Senator Ashcroft's nomination as Attorney General.

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Updated: Thursday, 09-Jul-2009 17:55:28 PDT   ~   Accessed: 49789 times


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