Corruption

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The Afghanistan Debacle

On Saturday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime released its estimate of the 2006 Afghan opium crop, and the numbers are astoundingly bad. According to the UNODCO, this year's crop is 60% larger than last year's and will yield an all-time record 6,100 tons of opium. Afghan opium will account for a whopping 92% of global illicit opium production. This report, which must come as a punch in the gut to the US and NATO, strongly suggests that the US/NATO/Karzai strategy of attempting to uproot the opium crop and the opium economy--which is Afghanistan's primary economic motor--is not only failing, it is backfiring. Opium production has now spread to 28 of the country's 34 provinces, and in the restive south, opium profits are helping fuel a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgency. It is a situation eerily reminiscent of Peru in the 1980s. Maoist insurgents of the Shining Path were making inroads among Peruvian coca producers, who were being hounded by the Peruvian government at the behest of the United States. Some Peruvian generals got smart and decided to lay off the peasants, ignoring their coca cultivation in a bid to win hearts and minds. The US government got mightily pissed, but in the end, the strategy worked. The Shining Path was not able to bring the coca growers into its insurgency and eventually faded away. There is a lesson here for NATO and American war planners. You can have your war on terror or you can have your war on drugs, but it doesn't seem that you can successfully have both. It's awfully difficult to win hearts and minds when you're burning down farmers' fields and destroying their livelihoods.
Location: 
Afghanistan

Karen Tandy Retaliates Against DEA Whistle-blower

This ugly story provides a frightening example of the sordid relationships our government maintains when conducting international narcotics investigations.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Sandalio “Sandy” Gonzalez was shown the door after submitting a memo implicating a U.S. Government informant in several murders in Mexico.

From WFAA-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX:

Gonzalez began in early 2004 to question the U.S. government's role in allowing an informant to commit possible crimes, even murder. Twelve bodies had been uncovered in a small duplex in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico - a short drive from Gonzalez’s El Paso office. Gonzalez, however, became shocked when he began to review government reports, including a report saying a paid U.S. informant supervised and participated in at least one murder at the cartel-operated house.

I guess even a high-ranking DEA agent has to draw the line somewhere. But Gonzalez’s superiors in Washington, D.C. didn’t appreciate his principled stand:

Troubled by what he found, Gonzalez ultimately wrote a memo to his ICE counterpart in El Paso, and sent a copy to the Justice Department. That was the beginning of the end of his career. “It was a classic case of shooting the messenger,” Gonzalez said. Gonzalez got a bad job review from DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, his boss. And felt pressure to retire early.

A more detailed account available at The Narcosphere, is quite a read. Still, this mess has largely escaped the headlines, surely to the satisfaction of Karen Tandy and her colleagues.

It’s no secret that our government frequently hires criminals to do its dirty work in the drug war, but condoning murder is a questionable sacrifice even by the drug war’s flimsy moral standards.

Seeing Karen Tandy take a stand against whistle-blowing at DEA is alarming given her agency’s vulnerability to internal corruption. It makes you wonder what else these guys are up to when they’re not busy interfering with the democratic process.

Location: 
United States

Opium Cultivation Rose 60% in Afghanistan This Year, All-Time Record, UN Says

Location: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/09/02/asia/AS_GEN_Afghan_Drugs.php

State of Siege: Drug-Related Violence and Corruption in Mexico

Location: 
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
Washington Office on Latin America
URL: 
http://www.wola.org/publications/mexico_state_of_siege_06.06.pdf

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another week, another set of bad apples. We see so many bad apples, we're beginning to wonder if there isn't something wrong with the barrel. In any case, this week we have an encore performance by an Alabama judge with a serious bad habit, some Chicago cops copping pleas for robbing drug dealers, a pair of US air marshals being sentenced for acting as drug couriers, and a small-town Texas police chief looking for work after there were too many questions about where some drug money went. Let's get to it:

In Carollton, Alabama, speed-freaking Pickens County District Judge Ira Colvin is in trouble again. Regular readers will recall that Judge Colvin was arrested just two weeks ago on meth and meth precursor charges in neighboring Lowndes County, Mississippi. He was arrested again Saturday morning on Alabama meth possession charges based on the discovery of meth in his office at the Pickens County Judicial Center on August 15. His office was searched at the orders of Circuit Court Judge James Moore the day after his Mississippi arrest. According to the Tuscaloosa News, Pickens County officials said they had been investigating Colvin's alleged drug use since May. He has been suspended as a judge, and is out on bond on both the Mississippi and Alabama charges. In a late, but not unexpected, twist to the story, Colvin resigned Wednesday.

(This is not necessarily an example of corruption -- it's a tough call sometimes to decide if any given case of legal trouble involving law enforcers should make this column -- Judge Colvin presumably sits in judgment on others accused of drug use, so we decided to include it.)

In Chicago, two former Chicago police officers pleaded guilty this week to charges they robbed thousands of dollars worth of marijuana and cocaine from drug dealers, the Associated Press reported. Former officers Derek Haynes, a nine-year veteran, and Broderick Jones were part of a ring of five former Chicago police officers charged with stopping drug dealers and taking their drugs on the city's South Side. All five were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine; now Haynes and Jones two others who have already pleaded to those charges. They face between 15 and 40 years in prison.

In Houston, two US air marshals caught plotting to smuggle cocaine by using their positions to get around airport security were sentenced to prison Tuesday, Reuters reported. Shawn Nguyen, 38, and Burlie Sholar, 33, were arrested in February in an FBI sting after agreeing to carry 33 pounds of coke on a flight from Houston to Las Vegas. They were to earn $75,000 for their efforts. The pair went down after an informant told investigators Nguyen, a former US drug agent, was involved in trafficking. Nguyen got seven years, while Sholar got nine. They faced up to life in prison.

In Troy, Texas, Police Chief David Seward was fired at a Monday night city council meeting after being suspended July 11 because of an ongoing investigation into the handling of money seized after drugs were found in a vehicle during a traffic stop. According to KWTX-TV 10 in Waco, council members questioned how that money was spent. Seward admitted that some money was spent improperly, but argued he should not be terminated. The city council wasn’t buying, though. It voted unanimously to fire him.

US Officials Grapple With Worsening Narcotics Trade in Afghanistan

Location: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
URL: 
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/politics/15400252.htm

Afghan President Says Opium Production Threatens Nation

Location: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20060822-1000-afghan-drugs.html

Serbia in the Middle of Balkan Drug Route

Location: 
Belgrade
Publication/Source: 
Radio B92
URL: 
http://www.b92.net/eng/news/comments.php?nav_id=36341

Kabul Conference Tackles Rising Opium Farming

Location: 
Kabul
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Radio Free Europe
URL: 
http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?ID=16560

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We've got us a Southern trifecta this week, with missing evidence in Alabama, a rogue task force in Mississippi, and, of course, a drug-dealing prison guard in Louisiana. Let's get to it:

In Tuskegee, Alabama, agents with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation are sniffing around the Tuskegee Police Department to see what happened to drugs and money allegedly missing from the evidence safe. The cops were tight-lipped, but "sources close to the case" told WSFA-12 News $26,000 in cash and an unknown quantity of drugs seized from alleged drug dealers has gone missing. According to WSFA, at least four drug cases may be in jeopardy. The Alabama Bureau of Investigation told the station the investigation could take another month.

In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, at least 34 drug cases were dismissed last month because deputies with the Southeast Mississippi Narcotics Task Force planted evidence on suspects or otherwise planted evidence, the Hattiesburg American reported Tuesday. Those deputies have been charged with crimes and were expected to plead guilty this week to charges including assault, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy. According to Parrish and Jones County Sheriff Larry Dykes, while the task force has been shut down, the drug problem remains, so he is forming a drug enforcement division in his department.

In Columbia, Louisiana, a former Caldwell Correctional Center guard was arrested Tuesday on charges he sold marijuana to jail inmates, KATC-TV reported. Dennis Cartridge, 23, was charged with possession of marijuana, malfeasance in office, introducing contraband into a correctional facility, and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Cartridge, who had been a jail guard for only two months, is now sitting in a different jail trying to raise $15,000 to bond out.

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