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Key Congressional Committee Has “No Confidence” In DEA Head Leonhart


michele leonhart dea marijuanaBy Phillip Smith

Fed up with DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart over a long litany of scandals in the drug-fighting agency she heads, 22 members of the House Oversight and Government Reforms Committee issued a statement saying they had “no confidence” in her leadership.

“After over a decade of serving in top leadership positions at DEA, Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive ‘good old boy’ culture that exists throughout the agency,” the statement said. “From her testimony, it is clear that she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position. Ms. Leonhart has lost the confidence of this Committee to initiate the necessary reforms to restore the reputation of a vital agency.”

The statement came in the immediate wake of a committee hearing yesterday over a Justice Department Office of the Inspector General report on sexual misconduct by department employees that found DEA agents in Colombia had been partying with prostitutes, with the tab being picked up by US taxpayers—or sometimes by drug cartels.

At the hearing, Leonhart was excoriated by members over her failure to adequately discipline the agents involved—the most serious punishments were short-term suspensions—and her insistence that agency personnel rules tied her hands.

But committee members were having none of it.

“Do you think you’re the right person for this job?” asked Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the top Democrat on the committee.

“You’re protecting people who solicited prostitutes, who had 15 to 20 sex parties,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass). “This is a very serious issue and you’ve done nothing…I actually feel your system is protecting these people.”

If the representatives’ frustration was palpable, it was because they have been down this path of scandal too many times before with Leonhart at the helm. Here’s just a selection of the controversies surrounding the agency since she took over in 2008, or which involve her own long history with the agency:

  • The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General currently has six open investigations into numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the use of NSA data to both spy on virtually all Americans and to systematically fabricate evidence, and controversial uses of confidential informants.
  • Leonhart herself has been at the center of several scandals, including the House of Death scandal in which the DEA may have turned a blind eye to torture and murder, and the Andrew Chambers scandal, in which the DEA rehired a confidential informant with a history of lying.
  • DEA conflicts with Obama administration policy. Last year, Leonhart publicly rebuked President Obama for admitting that marijuana is as safe as alcohol, told members of Congress that the DEA will continue to go after marijuana even in states where it is legal despite DOJ guidance stating otherwise, and spoke out against bipartisan drug sentencing reform in Congress that the Obama administration is supporting.
  • Last May, The DEA created a political firestorm this week when it seized seeds bound for a Kentucky hemp research program that was approved by Congress. Then Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the incident ”an outrage” and the Kentucky Agriculture Department sued the DEA.
  • The DEA’s refusal to acknowledge science. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart has on several occasions ignored science and overruled the DEA’s own administrative law judges on medical issues relating to marijuana.

Drug reformers, who have long criticized Leonhart’s last-century attitudes and approach to drug policy, were calling for her head.

“This ought to be the final nail in the Leonhart coffin,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “I cannot see how President Obama and AG Holder allow her to continue in her role. It’s hard to think of a more incompetent and out of touch federal official than the current DEA chief. Her time is up. Leonhart has clashed with Republicans, Democrats, the White House, and civil society leaders. She reflects an outdated approach to the drug war that President Obama claims he wants to leave behind.”

“There’s simply no excuse for the outrageous behavior of the DEA’s so-called leadership,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret’d.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition(LEAP), a criminal justice group working to end the drug war. “Leonhart just helps us add to the list of reasons of why we need to rethink our entire approach to drug policy.”

Will the scorching rebuke from Congress be enough to force Leonhart out the door or to convince her superiors to give her a nudge? Time will tell, but it appears her days are numbered.

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Johnny Green


  1. Legalization will never be in the vocabulary of an agency whose purpose is the prohibition of drugs through force. They can never wise up. We can – by ending the drug war (by ending the DEA).

  2. I think the majority of Americans have no confidence in the Dea, and see that this drug war is an abject failure.if we could start with legalization of Marijuana we could get to the ultimate goal of legalizing all drugs, and getting rid of the thugs that are the dea. hopefully, in few years when the majority continues to build for legalization, these meatheads will wise up.

  3. Lifetime professional cops usually can’t deal in anything but black and white. Something is either a “drug” and therefore “bad” or it isn’t. In Michelle’s mind, marijuana and heroin are interchangeable, so they are both “bad.” She couldn’t say marijuana has absolutely nothing to do with opiates and the use and effects of these substances are completely different. That would be too subtle.

  4. The DEA has been corrupt for years it didn’t start with Leonhardt but it does need to end with her. The DEA has to much power and no-one but government to watch them. This is why they get away with all of their corruption and complete disregard for human life. Legalization is the beginning of limiting their power.

  5. We’ve gotta get a president in office who will at least make marijuana federally legal, so the increasing amount of states who will be getting some forms of legalization; (I believe), will not have to worry about these thug agents raiding their dispensaries or homes.if we ever at least get marijuana legal we can work on the ultimate goal (to me and an increasing amount of others), of getting all drugs legalized and using the tax revenue for more productive measures .I know it’ll take time, but the ultimate goal is to abolish drug prohibition and abolish the failure that is the dea.

  6. Here’s an idea:get rid of the Dea; yeh i said it.I think all drugs should be legalized and taxed.if the government is worried about all these Dea agents losing their jobs, use them in a different capacity like to fight terrorism.i’m sick of all these resources being wasted on this unwinnable war. It’s bad enough your locking up non- violent people for posession, your making the cartels more violent, and your stopping almost none of the drugs coming in.give it up, look at the tax revenue already made from marijuana, it’s a no brainer.

  7. Is it me or does Mr. Sabet look like Ms. Leonhart in drag.
    Just thinking, inquiring minds want to know. But than again , my
    golden rule is “Don’t believe anything I think”.

    But you must admit that there is an uncanny resemblance. The eyes
    and that shit eating smile is a give away. Also that Ms. Leonhart needs a shave

    Leonhart Sabate

  8. When you can get 22 members of any House Committee to agree on anything, it must be pretty serious. I hope her replacement is sane.

  9. this is the same lady who couldn’t say heroin is a worse drug than marijuana in front a senate committee

  10. The majority of Americans say they want marijuana legalized. That should be the same percentage for people having no confidence in the DEA. Just as in fighting a cartel, you can get the cartels leader, “Cutting off the head of the snake”, but the problem remains because the money is still there. So is the case with the DEA. You might have no confidence in Leonhart, but the DEA still has billions of reasons to keep doing the same old shit no matter who runs it. It’s a flawed agency with a purpose for war – especially on marijuana.

  11. The DEA spent 2 years investigating small time drug dealers in my town. The people they busted couldn’t even afford to post bail or hire lawyers. Why do we need federal drug cops investigating Americans?
    If they can’t stop the cartels from coming here, they have no justification for their existence.

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