DEA is caught in the chicken coop in Bogotá corruption case

Semana magazine, a popular weekly magazine in Colombia, has a very interesting letter to the editor in its latest issue, published Jan. 22.

The letter was penned by Garrison K Courtney, spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in reaction to a story Semana published a week earlier, on the heels of an exclusive report by Narco News.

The Narco News story, published Jan. 9, was based on a leaked memo drafted by Department of Justice attorney Thomas M. Kent. Semana’s later story, published Jan. 15, was based on the same memo, which is available on Narco News’ Web site. In the memo, written in December 2004, Kent alleges that DEA agents in Bogotá, Colombia, assisted narco-traffickers, engaged in money laundering, and conspired to murder informants.

Kent’s memo also alleges that investigations into the alleged corruption carried out by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) were derailed and whitewashed by officials within those watchdog agencies.

(OIG has oversight over DEA’s OPR -- which is essentially the agency’s Internal Affairs unit -- and the right of first refusal when it comes to investigating corruption cases within DEA.)

First, the text of Courtney’s letter to Semana, then the English translation:

De la DEA

En relación con el artículo de portada en la edición #1.237, las acusaciones hechas en el memorando de Kent relacionadas con la Administración para Control de Drogas (DEA) se revisaron en 2004, cuando la DEA recibió notificación de presunta mala conducta, y se volvieron a revisar tras la publicación de las mismas infundadas acusaciones en el 'Narco News Bulletin'. Estas investigaciones fueron realizadas con la mayor imparcialidad, independencia y profesionalismo por la Oficina de Responsabilidad Profesional de la DEA, nuestros investigadores internos  y la Oficina del Inspector General del Departamento de Justicia. En ningún momento durante esas revisiones se halló evidencia alguna que sustentara las acusaciones. La DEA le exige a nuestro personal guardar las más altas normas éticas y considera como su prioridad principal el desempeño ético de sus deberes. La DEA toma seriamente cualquier acusación de mala conducta, abuso de poder o acción penal y continúa garantizando que la administración de justicia sea imparcial y justa, así como manteniendo la integridad y la reputación de nuestro distinguido personal.

Garrison K. Courtney, Asuntos Públicos, DEA
Washington, Estados Unidos


With regard to the cover story in Issue #1.237, the accusations made in Kent's memorandum about the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were reviewed in 2004, when the DEA received notification of alleged misconduct, and were reviewed again with the publication of the same unfounded accusations in the Narco News Bulletin. These investigations were carried out with the highest degree of impartiality, independence and professionalism by the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility, our internal investigators, and the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice. At no time during these reviews was any evidence found that sustained the accusations. The DEA demands that our personnel maintain the highest ethical standards, and considers the ethical performance of duty as its top priority. The DEA takes seriously any accusation of misconduct, abuse of power, or criminal activity, and continues to assure that the administration of justice be fair and maintain the integrity and reputation of our distinguished personnel.

Garrison K. Courtney, Public Affairs, DEA
Washington, USA

Now, here is the press statement issued by Garrison on Jan. 13, four days after Narco News’ published the first story anywhere on the Kent memo:

DEA Press Statement

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) holds our workforce to the highest ethical standards and regards the ethical performance of duty as our first priority. DEA takes very seriously any allegations of misconduct, abuse of position, or criminal action. The allegations that are reported in the Narco News Bulletin are extremely serious. DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the allegations that have been made. DEA will continue to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice and uphold the integrity and reputation of our outstanding workforce.

Garrison K. Courtney, DEA Public Affairs

So, once again, let’s add this up.

Courtney issued a press statement nine days ago indicating that DEA’s OPR “is investigating the allegations that have been made” in the Narco News story based on the Kent memo. He now has written a letter to Semana in Colombia, a letter we can only assume was prepared at least a couple days in advance of Semana’s latest issue, that indicates ”the accusations made in Kent's memorandum about the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were reviewed in 2004, when the DEA received notification of alleged misconduct [after Kent wrote his memo], and were reviewed again with the publication of the same unfounded accusations in the Narco News Bulletin.”

That means, in the wake of the Narco News story, the DEA, in fewer than nine days, has “reviewed” the charges of corruption -- and the alleged cover-up by OPR and OIG in investigating that corruption -- and already determined that the allegations are “unfounded.”

What is even stranger about this claim is that Sandalio Gonzalez, the former head of DEA’s Miami field division, where the Bogotá-related DEA corruption charges first surfaced, is already on the record indicating that the key whistleblowers involved in the Kent-memo corruption allegations have not been re-interviewed by OPR or OIG since Kent wrote his memo in December 2004.

That means both so-called “reviews” that Courtney contends were carried out – the one after Kent’s 2004 memo was written and the one after Narco News published its story this month -- occurred without OIG or OPR talking to key witnesses in the investigations.

It also means that we are to believe that one of the very same agencies accused of whitewashing the initial investigation into the corruption outlined in the Kent memo (DEA’s OPR) undertook these subsequent reviews “with the highest degree of impartiality, independence and professionalism.”

From what I can see, the fox that has supposedly been sent back into the chicken coop to count the chickens now has a few feathers sticking out of its snout.

Stay tuned….

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