Last week, Chuck Rosenberg, acting director of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, was asked by a House Judiciary Committee member whether his agents ever intentionally allow drug shipments into communities in the interest of making a bigger bust later on. He said, “I’ll have to check and get back to you on that,” the Washington Post reports.
There is considerable evidence that DEA does allow drugs to enter communities in the hopes of bringing down major players in drug dealing and distribution. In 2015, the Justice Department’s Inspector General criticized the agency for how it tracked and approved the illegal activity of its sources. Federal law allows informants to engage in “otherwise illegal activity” as part of an investigation. Those activities include “trafficking in what would be considered as large quantities of controlled substances” — 450 kilos of cocaine, for instance, or more than 90,000 kilos of marijuana. We don’t know how often such large-scale trafficking might happen under DEA supervision because the agency doesn’t release this information. Outside experts say that DEA-approved drug sales are “routine.” Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group, says, “In my experience dealing with hundreds of drug war prisoners this behavior is embedded in DEA practices.”