Drugs, Terrorism and the Homeland
Over the past few years I've written a number of posts about domestic agencies' involvement in the War on Terror. This one, based on an announcement from Janet Napolitano that Homeland security was tripling the number of agents being sent to Afghanistan was one.
This was another:
A couple of bad helicopter crashes in Afghanistan today make this one of the worst single days of the war there. I was interested to hear that DEA agents were among those killed because their involvement was controversial for a number of reasons, not the least of which was this:
In interviews with McClatchy, more than a dozen DEA agents describe a badly managed system in which some pilots have been sent to Afghanistan under duress or as punishment for bucking their superiors.
Such complaints, so far mostly arising from the DEA's Aviation Division, could complicate the Obama administration's efforts to send dozens of additional DEA agents to Afghanistan as part of a civilian and military personnel "surge" that aims to stabilize the country.
Veteran DEA pilot Daniel Offield has alleged in an employment discrimination complaint he was told if he refuses to go to Afghanistan in July he'll be demoted. The Stockton, Calif., agent asked for a reprieve because he was in the process of adopting two special needs children and offered to serve his required temporary duty in other countries.
Another agent, David Beavers, told McClatchy that he was ordered in July 2007 to prepare to go to Afghanistan in two weeks while he was on bereavement leave after his mother-in-law died. To avoid going, the Orlando, Fla., pilot decided to retire early.
Both men have flown for the DEA in Latin American countries wracked by drug violence, but they say service in a combat zone should be treated as voluntary because they're not military personnel.
"You could say that the war on drugs is dangerous," said Beavers, a DEA pilot for more than 20 years. "But it's not quite like Afghanistan, where you can get your legs blown off by an (improvised explosive device)."
One wonders if these DEA agents who were killed today were among those who were "drafted" into Afghanistan.
It seems that our two abstract, endless Orwellian wars --- the War on Drugs and the War on Terror --- have officially merged. And the complications stemming from that decision are going to be immense. What are we fighting for again?
As the Obama administration ramps up the Drug Enforcement Administration's presence in Afghanistan, some special-agent pilots contend that they're being illegally forced to go to a combat zone, while others who've volunteered say they're not being properly equipped.
I was surprised at the time to learn that the DEA was in Afghanistan since we had the US military there and one would assume they could handle the job. But they are. In fact, they are in all the hot spots around the world under the guise of "narco-terrorism."
U.S. authorities are stepping up counter-narcotics operations in West Africa, a key route for Latin American cocaine bound for Europe and allegedly a major source of funds for al-Qaida groups spreading their tentacles across the continent.
When I wrote about that before I was told that this was just about the DEA stopping shipments of cocaine to Europe and so there was no reason to worry my little head about it. I wondered why the US would feel responsible for Europe's cocaine problem. The truth is that aside from our megalomaniacal desire to control absolutely everything, we aren't responsible for Europe's cocaine problem. What we are doing is using the DEA to "fight terrorism" in Africa.
Indictments unsealed in April against senior officers in the armed forces of Guinea-Bissau, the former Portuguese colony that's at the center of the narcotics route from South America to North Africa, marked a sharp escalation in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's offensive.
Among them was Rear Adm. Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, former commander of the tiny state's navy and a suspect drug-smuggling kingpin.
He was arrested April 2 by U.S. agents and local police in international waters off the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic Ocean 650 miles west of Guinea-Bissau, which Western authorities consider to be the world's only true narco-state.
Bubo Na Tchuto has been a DEA target since 2010, when he and Guinea-Bissau's air force chief of staff, Gen. Ibraima Papa Camara, were identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as narcotics kingpins in the notoriously unstable country.
They were accused of working with the Latin American cartels moving large shipments of cocaine bound for Europe through West Africa.
The drugs are mostly carried in aircraft, usually cargoes of around 1.5 tons, on 1,600-mile flights across the Atlantic to Africa's western shoulder, landing on remote airstrips dotted around Guinea-Bissau.
A senior DEA official recently commented "people at the highest levels of the military are involved. ...
The DEA operations have raised the stakes against the drug smugglers and the Islamist militants further north in the Sahara region who provide the routes and protection for the narcotics that eventually are shipped across the Mediterranean to France, Spain and Italy.
The DEA's push consists largely of undercover sting operations, often with agents posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- as in the capture of Bubo Na Tchuto -- or as Lebanese paramilitaries.
There have been at least six major West African sting operations since December 2009, U.S. officials said.
Why do I bring this up? Well, because many people seemed to believe that the DEA use of NSA surveillance must be rare because the DEA is a domestic agency and the NSA is allegedly only tracking foreigners (with the occasional American caught up in that dragnet by accident.) The above reminders just show that "narco-terrorism" brought the DEA under the same NSA umbrella years ago so it's entirely possible that the domestic drug trade and foreign terrorist threat have been conflated for some time. In any case, one can see how easy it would be to conflate them.
Once the War on Drugs started to be filed under the heading of The Global War on Terror it became almost inevitable that Americans would come under suspicion. It's very easy to imagine the big kahunas of these agencies rationalizing using the collected metadata to chase suspected American drug runners on the basis of a couple of degrees of separation between them and money launderers who are suspected of financing Al Qaeda. It's one big daisy chain.