In recent years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has needed protection from itself, with several agents charged with corruption and the agency engulfed by scandal. This week came more upheaval as Attorney General William Barr installed the DEA’s fourth acting administrator in five years. He is Tim Shea, the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., who recently oversaw the controversial effort to dismiss charges against ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn. Barr had been looking to provide a soft landing spot for Shea. He found an easy target in Uttam Dhillon, who drew mounting criticism in his less than two, tumultuous years as the nation’s top U.S. anti-narcotics official, the Associated Press reports.
Many field agents complained that Dhillon, a former Los Angeles federal prosecutor, was more of a bureaucrat than a leader, lacked experience and the full authority to implement meaningful reforms. “If you’re not from the agency, it takes a while to figure out how we work, where we work and what our issues are,” said Jack Riley, a former DEA deputy administrator. Since 2015, at least a dozen DEA agents have been charged on counts ranging from wire fraud and bribery to selling firearms to drug traffickers. Eight of those agents have been convicted, while four are awaiting trial. Dillon “came in very, very unprepared,” Riley said, and leaves an agency that’s “been a little bit of a dysfunctional place for a while.” The latest doubts emerged after a botched military raid May 3 by a ragtag contingent of U.S.-trained volunteer fighters seeking to arrest Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. Maduro’s government blamed two alleged DEA informants for providing logistical support to the mercenaries, although there’s no evidence the U.S. government played any role in the operation.