Leave the Drugs, Take the Money

So we’re selling guns to Mexican drug cartels. What’s the next step? Laundering their money, apparently:

Undercover American narcotics agents have laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds as part of Washington’s expanding role in Mexico’s fight against drug cartels, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials.

The agents, primarily with the Drug Enforcement Administration, have handled shipments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal cash across borders, those officials said, to identify how criminal organizations move their money, where they keep their assets and, most important, who their leaders are.

The officials said that while the D.E.A. conducted such operations in other countries, it began doing so in Mexico only in the past few years. The high-risk activities raise delicate questions about the agency’s effectiveness in bringing down drug kingpins, underscore diplomatic concerns about Mexican sovereignty, and blur the line between surveillance and facilitating crime. As it launders drug money, the agency often allows cartels to continue their operations over months or even years before making seizures or arrests.

As with Fast and Furious, the excuse is that they were trying to figure out how the cartels do business. Indeed, we have operations like this going on in many countries. But where are the results? The open war in Mexico gets worse and worse, the bodies pile up, the government gets more corrupt. If we’re not breaking the cartels, we’re just … laundering money.

Now. Compare and contrast:

Stationed in Deming, N.M., [Border Patrol agent Bryan] Gonzalez was in his green-and-white Border Patrol vehicle just a few feet from the international boundary when he pulled up next to a fellow agent to chat about the frustrations of the job. If marijuana were legalized, Mr. Gonzalez acknowledges saying, the drug-related violence across the border in Mexico would cease. He then brought up an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that favors ending the war on drugs.

Those remarks, along with others expressing sympathy for illegal immigrants from Mexico, were passed along to the Border Patrol headquarters in Washington. After an investigation, a termination letter arrived that said Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.”

Gonzalez is not alone. There are a number of agents and cops who have been fired for joining LEAP, expressing support for medical marijuana or questioning tactics like … oh, let’s think of something crazy like, say, providing guns and money to cartels. Popehat has a good take on it, arguing that the Border Patrol has crossed the line to deeming any dissent against our numerous “wars on whatever”, even in a private conversation, as unpatriotic.

I would go further. I think the Drug Warriors are scared. For four decades, we’ve danced to their tune. But now, half of American favor legalizing pot and 16 states have legalized it for medical use. Two of the Republican presidential candidates have openly called for ending the War on Drugs. And even hardened warriors like Gingrich are calling for treatment instead of prison.

But think about what’s at stake. Prosecutors, cops and federal agents have built their careers on this war. An entire prison industry has swelled to house those arrested in it. At our encouragement, Mexico is six years into what amounts to a civil war. There are thousands out there who wonder what they’re going to do without the War on Drugs.

And so, dissenters must be fired, legal clinics must be threatened and raided, research must be quashed and tactics must get more extreme. Because the one thing we can’t do is acknowledge that we’re wrong.

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  1. Seattle Outcast

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the current crop of federal law enforcement officials grew up watching Miami Vice.

    Seriously, they appear to be ripping off plot lines from old TV shows.

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