Copyright (c) 1996 The American Law Enforcement Electronic Library



Since the Department of Health and Human Services released its report confirming what DEA agents have warned about for the past three years, that drug use was on the rise, the Clinton Administration has blamed everyone except itself for the problem. In speeches immediately after the report was released and throughout the Democratic Convention parents received the bulk of the blame. Today, in an interview with Fox TV's Tony Snow, General Barry McCaffrey chose another target. He blamed the media for rising drug use. General McCaffrey is correct. However, he is incorrect in assessing total responsibility to the media. In this report DEA Watch will try to help the President and his cabinet to sharpen their focus on the real culprits, Attorney General Janet Reno and DEA Administrator Thomas A. Constantine, whose bad decisions relating to media coverage all but killed the American public's awareness, cooperation and support of the drug war.

Let's go back a few years... Before Ms. Reno took office a very successful ride-a-long program was in effect across the nation. This highly visible program permitted federal law enforcement and investigation officers to invite media representatives to accompany them on cases. But because of a botched Secret Service ride-a-long incident Janet Reno forbade DEA agents to continue the program. This bad decision effectively shut down local stories of drug busts being dramatically revealed in a form understandable to the high risk, drug vulnerable, "Gen-X" TV viewer.

The ride-a-long program helped DEA under Administrator's Jack Lawn and Robert Bonner venture into heretofore unchartered waters. Growing public interest in the daily work of DEA agents encouraged not only greater media attention, Hollywood soon became interested. DEA cooperated with Hollywood producers in three major productions. Producer Michael Mann's two Drug War mini-series and Fox TV's weekly "DEA" series. In addition DEA worked with the BBC in the production of 6 highly-acclaimed drug special documentaries which displayed the international efforts made by DEA in the "Drug War." Administrator's Lawn and Bonner understood what General McCaffrey now trumpets - use of the media to get out the anti drug message. The use of the media is critical in keeping the public focused on the problem and constantly reminding young people why they should not start "casual" drug use. All the experts agree - if kids don't start using drugs in their teens, then statistically they are not likely to start in their early adult years. The slogan "drugs as a road to nowhere theme" must be a continuous drum beat. The decisions made by Reno and Administrator Constantine effectively silenced the drums, creating the current situation General McCaffrey accurately described as, "Generational forgetting, Generational repeating."

Shortly after Reno's decision to halt the ride-a-long program Administrator Constantine shut the DEA's media doors. Not long after Constantine's appointment Edward Heath, the Agent in Charge of the El Paso Intelligence Center gave an interview correctly identifying Mexico as a growing source of drugs coming into the United States. Either under instructions by the White House, which was currently pushing NAFTA and campaigning feverishly to portray Mexico as our drug-warrior cousins to the South, or under his own initiative to deflect White House criticism, Constantine ordered Heath to fly to Washington. Upon arrival Heath was informed that he was transferred (effective immediately) to Washington, D.C. Heath was assigned to a windowless room where he was expected to languish for the duration of his career. A senior and respected DEA manager, Heath did the only rational thing he could do - he quit. Heath's departure began the Constantine "brain drain" campaign to eliminate dozens of senior DEA managers and thousands of seasoned field agents. Concurrent with the sacking of Edward Heath, Thomas Constantine issued orders that all DEA press releases and interviews would henceforth originate from Washington. This order all but shut down DEA public information offices, most of which were manned by experienced agents, around the world. No longer could local reporters obtain stories to keep their public informed about or involved in the drug war. Former Administrator Jack Lawn saw the value of having experienced agents act as the local Public Information Officers. News reporters always respond better to "real agents" than "civilian spin masters." Lawn mandated that the DEA Field Offices have their PIO positions filled by non management GS-13 field agents. None could argue the results. The Daily press release book in DEA Headquarters was filled with "local" stories emanating from the field. All were drug-related stories that appeared in local papers with home subscriptions numbering from 1,000 to several million.

It should be noted that at this same time Constantine was reminded by the Clinton Administration that it was Administrator Bonner who effectively used the DEA's media narcs to call on their high level press contacts to aggressively defeat the Al Gore-Janet Reno plan to have the FBI take over DEA. This fact is documented in the new book, "Main Justice" by Washington Post reporter Jim McGee, and U.S. News and World Report, reporter Brian Duffy. Of course the by-product of the DEA media shutdown helps to protect the FBI in it's "stealth' take-over of DEA.

A new Fox News poll released today reveals that 63% of the American public think the Clinton Administration is not doing enough to stop drug use among the young. General Barry McCaffrey was partly correct in his statement to Congress last week that "We took our eye off the ball." It would be more correct to say, in view of Constantine's 'dumbing down' of DEA, that the White House canceled the ball game.

Constantine's media non-program remains evident in his own Headquarters. As of this writing the most recent DEA press release posted on the DEA's World Wide Web internet site is eight months old, dated January 12, 1996. And, sadly, all the street-wise DEA agents who oversaw the productions of the BBC documentaries, NBC back-to-back mini-series, and a weekly series on the "Gen-x" station of choice, Fox T.V. are all gone.

DEA Watch's message to General McCaffrey is: The press can't beat the "anti drug message" without cooperation from the drug warriors. It's time to re-activate the DEA "media narcs" who beat that drum every day of the week.