Evidence of failed drug war mounts
The House Subcommittee on Crime held the first Congressional oversight hearing on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in a decade. At this hearing, on July 29, the General Accounting Office released the results of their audit which was a comprehensive review of the DEA.
GAO determined that the DEA's strategic goals, objectives
and enhanced programs and initiatives in the 1990's were consistent
with the Office of National Drug Control Strategy, but that the
DEA had not developed measurable performance targets for its
Eric E. Sterling, President of The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and counsel to the House Subcommittee on Crime from 1981 to 1989 responsible for DEA oversight, among other issues, said in a prepared statement to the House Subcommittee, "DEA is not being held accountable. Since the House and Senate Judiciary Committees (the congressional committees with oversight responsibility) haven't held DEA oversight hearings in a decade, the DEA's non-performance has been ignored, even though its budget increased by 82.5% between 1990 and 1999."
The report showed federal funding had increased dramatically
in the 1990's, but "demand for and supply of illegal drugs
have persisted at very high levels." The report also admitted
that the consumption of illegal drugs in the United States has
remained stable since 1990.
The DEA is now required to report not simply the number of arrests, but the result of those arrests. However, GAO warned that drug arrest data meant nothing by and of itself. Requiring arrest data with pertinent information could result in arrests for arrest's sake and good investigative police work would be compromised.
"DEA claims to be fighting the highest level traffickers, but the evidence of Federal drug enforcement efforts are seen in who goes to prison, overwhelmingly low-level offenders," said Sterling. "Last year, two-thirds of Federal drug prisoners didn't meet the very low quantity thresholds required to be sentenced to a ten-year mandatory minimum. Only 41 defendants, out of over 20,266 prosecuted for drug offenses, were sentenced under the Federal drug kingpin statute. More than ten times that number were sentenced for simple possession that's the population of the entire Federal prison system, with an annual cost of more than $80,000,000."
The DEA agreed with GAO's principle finding that it had not included measurable performance targets for disrupting or dismantling drug trafficking organizations in its fiscal years 1999 and 2000 performance plans. The GAO report continued, "However, [DEA] disagreed with our draft conclusion that 'In the absence of such targets, little can be said about DEA's effectiveness in achieving its strategic goals."
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US General Accounting Office