DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson will be leaving the never-ending drug war next month to help prosecute the never-ending "war on terror." He has been nominated to be Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security in the mammoth new Homeland Security Department, and appears to be a shoo-in for the job. He is expected to leave the DEA and prepare to take over that position in January 2003. The new department will not begin operations until March.
"I have a wonderful job and I love it, but I am responding to the call of the president," Hutchinson told the Washington Times. "The president is putting together a new team, and I am honored he thought I could bring something to it." The new job will be "an enormous challenge," he added. Hutchinson will be tasked with developing a plan to secure the country's borders, territorial waters, ports and terminals to prevent the entry of "terrorists" and "instruments of terrorism." To do so, he will be given authority over the inspection, immigration and enforcement functions of the Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service and other federal agencies.
The Washington Times reported that DEA Deputy Administrator John Bert Brown III, in line to take over as interim DEA head, also has the inside track to permanently replace Hutchinson. According to official biographies, Brown is a career drug warrior. After three years as a Brockport, NY, police officer, he joined the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (the DEA's predecessor agency) in 1972. From 1984 to 1988, Brown served at the DEA Resident Offices in Mexico. He also served as DEA Miami Group Supervisor in the Florida Joint Task Force, Group Supervisor of the Caribbean Enforcement Group and Inspector and Senior Inspector in the DEA Office of Professional Responsibility for the Southeast Office.
In 1995, he was assigned to DEA headquarters serving as the agency's Deciding Official for Disciplinary matters. Two years later, he was named director of the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center, and in 1999, Brown became Special Agent in Charge of the DEA's Dallas office. From there, he moved back to Washington as DEA Deputy Administrator. One of Brown's few claims to fame is having served as a consultant for the movie "Traffic," but his career trajectory suggests that he doesn't know the meaning of the phrase, popularized in the movie, "thinking outside the box."
But then, neither did his soon-to-be-departed boss, Asa Hutchinson. Coming to the DEA as a former federal prosecutor and three-term Republican congressman from Arkansas, Hutchinson presided over the DEA's newest wars, against club drugs and methamphetamine, led the cheering section for heightening US military involvement in Colombia, and worked to expand the number of localities qualifying for federal drug war pork under the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area designation. Hutchinson also talked up prevention and drug treatment, but given his overweening emphasis on law enforcement and the mindset of the professional drug warrior, Hutchinson's vision of prevention and treatment must be viewed not as a substitute for more arrests, but as a means of extending the totalitarian reach of the drug war to ever larger numbers of the population.