Mistakes were made, Says DEA Chief Hutchinson - But no
one made them
and The November Coalition have reported on several occasions
the strange odyssey of Andrew Chambers, a St. Louis native who
went from being the Drug Enforcement Administration's star informant
to one of its biggest embarrassments. Over a 16-year career,
Chambers received more than $2 million in DEA funds - his reward
for helping to arrest more than 400 people in 31 different cities.
He also committed perjury on the witness stand dozens of times,
lying about his arrest and conviction record, his tax payments
and his level of educational achievement. According to a DEA
internal investigation obtained by the St. Louis Post, some DEA
agents and supervisors knew of Chambers' mendacious ways, but
failed to reign him in.
Now, DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson has announced that no DEA
employees will be disciplined for letting Chambers get away with
serial perjury. In an interview September 28, he told the St.
Louis Post that no agents would be punished because it was "a
failure of policy versus a failure of personnel." Hutchinson
also pleaded that the 9,000-strong agency had been duped by the
crafty Chambers. "Chambers abused his position with us,
and we didn't have the systems in place to keep the checks and
balances on that," he excused.
According to the agency's own records, however, it did have the
ability to have high-level headquarters officials wage a two-year
court battle to keep Chambers' criminal record, and his repeated
lying about it on the stand, secret.
Hutchinson told the Post that the agency had made reforms in
the wake of the Supersnitch scandal: The agency has now set up
a central registry to track snitches who testify in more than
one place, said Hutchinson, and all agents have been ordered
to turn over complete records on their informants to both prosecutors
and defense attorneys.
Hutchinson also defended the use of informants, saying they were
"crucial" not only to the war on drugs, but now to
the war on terrorism. "You've got to use informants, otherwise
you can't get the job done," he said.
A DEA press spokesman in Washington confirmed Hutchinson's announcement
to the Post. "A thorough investigation has been completed,
and there are no findings that require disciplinary action,"
he told DRCNet.
Dean Steward is not satisfied with the results. He is the Los
Angeles public defender who broke the scandal by pursuing a three-year
battle with the DEA and the Justice Department. "I'm stunned
that so much government wrongdoing meant so little to the government,"
he told the Post. "Had this been a major corporation, heads
would roll," he added.
In the wake of 911
Federal agencies expand and relax rules
about the use of unsavory informants
The AP quoted Vice President Cheney on September
16th, "If you're only going to work with officially approved,
certified good guys, you are not going to find out what the bad
guys are doing, You have to have on payroll some very unsavory
characters. This is a mean, nasty, dangerous, dirty, business.
We have to operate in that arena."
By October 25th, the CIA had relaxed its rules; field officers
may recruit informants with violent or criminal backgrounds without
prior approval from headquarters.