Supersnitch Scandal:

Mistakes were made, Says DEA Chief Hutchinson - But no one made them

DRCNet 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.