The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics. Its eavesdropping operation must fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against political enemies, say diplomatic cables reported by the New York Times. Cables from the cache obtained by WikiLeaks show drug agents balancing diplomacy and law enforcement in places where it can be hard to tell the politicians from the traffickers, and where drug rings are mini-states whose wealth and violence permit them to run roughshod over struggling governments.
Among incidents reported: In Panama, an urgent BlackBerry message from the president to the U.S. ambassador demanded that DEA go after his political enemies: “I need help with tapping phones.” In Sierra Leone, a major cocaine-trafficking prosecution was almost upended by the attorney general's attempt to solicit $2.5 million in bribes. In Guinea, the biggest narcotics kingpin turned out to be the president's son, and diplomats discovered that before the police destroyed a huge narcotics seizure, the drugs had been replaced by flour. Leaders of Mexico's beleaguered military issued private pleas for closer collaboration with DEA, confessing that they had little faith in their own country's police forces. Cables from Myanmar, the target of strict U.S. sanctions, describe DEA informants' reporting both on how the military junta enriches itself with drug money and on the political activities of the junta's opponents.