FBI Ends Drug War Role to Concentrate on Terror War 5/31/02

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As part of a major internal restructuring of the FBI in the face of mounting criticism of its failures to prevent Al-Qaeda operatives from attacking the US on September 11, FBI Director Robert Mueller announced Wednesday that the Bureau will shift some 480 agents from criminal investigations, including more than 400 who were assigned to drug trafficking cases. The DEA has vowed to step up to the plate, but has yet to announce plans for an expansion or redeployment of its 4,600 special agents.

Mueller told a press conference at FBI headquarters that the Bureau would now make counterterrorism its top priority. "We have to be proactive," said Mueller. "We have to develop the capability to anticipate attacks. We have to develop the capability of looking around corners. And that is the change."

The 11,500 member Bureau will increase its terrorism prevention program from 1,000 agents to 3,000. The new orientation toward terrorism prevention marks a significant shift for the mammoth internal security agency. In its seven decades of existence, the FBI has concentrated on investigating crimes, not preventing them. In addition to its counterintelligence mandate, the FBI had concentrated on interstate violent crime, white collar crime, and, more recently, drug trafficking offenses.

But the FBI didn't go far enough for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley told the Washington Times that the Bureau should completely drop other traditional criminal investigations. "The FBI needs to let go of these areas and recognize we've got a Drug Enforcement Administration, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a Coast Guard, a Customs Service, Secret Service, a Border Patrol and others at the federal level, along with state and local law enforcement nationwide, to handle these kinds of criminal investigations, arrests and prosecutions," he said. "The FBI has to concentrate on terrorism to get the job done."

The DEA said it was prepared to fill the drug enforcement gap. "The DEA stands ready to accept this new challenge that comes from the FBI reorganization," said agency administrator Asa Hutchinson in a prepared statement. "The DEA is the only single mission agency in this country dedicated to fighting drugs. We know how to fight drugs, do it very well, and are recognized worldwide for our expertise and results. This is a new opportunity for the courageous men and women of the DEA to do even more for our country," added Hutchinson.

Hutchinson did not say whether the DEA would seek additional agents to cover the shortfall left by the FBI's departure from drug enforcement, but he hinted that "additional resources" may be necessary and that the agency will be working with the Justice Department, Congress, and the Bush administration to discuss funding increases. "These are issues we will discuss to ensure the DEA has all the necessary tools to continue doing our job well," said Hutchinson. The DEA is currently budgeted at $1.8 billion dollars. Its agents were responsible for 30,000 drug arrests last year.

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Issue #239, 5/31/02 Editorial: Skating on the Edge of Propriety | New DRCNet/StopTheDrugWar.org Merchandise Out -- Discounted Purchase Available | DEA Forges Alliance With Women Legislators Group to Wage War on Club Drugs, Terror | DEA Raids Another California Medical Marijuana Dispensary Even as Advocates Gear Up for Day of Action Next Friday | FBI Ends Drug War Role to Concentrate on Terror War | Western Australia to Cite, Not Arrest, Marijuana Users Under State Government Plan | National Drug Intelligence Center Gives Partial Response to DRCNet FOIA Request on "Drug Menace" Web Sites | Report Charges Taft Administration Subverts Election in Ohio, Allies with PDFA and CADCA in Effort to Defeat Initiative | Newsbrief: Seven Up Pulls "Prison Rape" Commercial Under Threat of Boycott | Newsbrief: Feds Use RICO Against Virginia Oxycontin Doctor | Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Rules Religious Marijuana Use on Federal Lands Okay | Newsbrief: Cannabis Cafe Vows to Open in England, Another in Scotland | Newsbrief: Tennessee Town Pays for Drug Raid Killing | Newsbrief: Oakland Rogue Cops Go on Trial | Newsbrief: Will Foster Arrested on Minor Parole Violation in California, May Face Return to Oklahoma Prison | Newsbrief: Swaziland Row Over Rasta Royals | Newsbrief: Marijuana Advocate Sues Over Hawaii Aerial Eradication Program | Newsbrief: Ed Thompson Does Weedstock, Says Legalize It | Newsbrief: British Magazine "The New Statesman" Calls for Drug Legalization | Newsbrief: Weird Scenes Inside the Pretoria Ford Plant | The Reformer's Calendar
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