[House Hearing, 112 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIME, TERRORISM,
AND HOMELAND SECURITY
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH CONGRESS
JUNE 20, 2012
Serial No. 112-156
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
Available via the World Wide Web: http://judiciary.house.gov
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
74-642 WASHINGTON : 2013
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
http://bookstore.gpo.gov. For more information, contact the GPO Customer Contact Center, U.S. Government Printing Office. Phone 202�09512�091800, or 866�09512�091800 (toll-free). E-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
LAMAR SMITH, Texas, Chairman
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
Wisconsin HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina JERROLD NADLER, New York
ELTON GALLEGLY, California ROBERT C. ``BOBBY'' SCOTT,
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia Virginia
DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio ZOE LOFGREN, California
DARRELL E. ISSA, California SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MIKE PENCE, Indiana MAXINE WATERS, California
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia STEVE COHEN, Tennessee
STEVE KING, Iowa HENRY C. ``HANK'' JOHNSON, Jr.,
TRENT FRANKS, Arizona Georgia
LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas PEDRO R. PIERLUISI, Puerto Rico
JIM JORDAN, Ohio MIKE QUIGLEY, Illinois
TED POE, Texas JUDY CHU, California
JASON CHAFFETZ, Utah TED DEUTCH, Florida
TIM GRIFFIN, Arkansas LINDA T. SANCHEZ, California
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania JARED POLIS, Colorado
TREY GOWDY, South Carolina
DENNIS ROSS, Florida
SANDY ADAMS, Florida
BEN QUAYLE, Arizona
MARK AMODEI, Nevada
Richard Hertling, Staff Director and Chief Counsel
Perry Apelbaum, Minority Staff Director and Chief Counsel
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin, Chairman
LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas, Vice-Chairman
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia ROBERT C. ``BOBBY'' SCOTT,
DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California Virginia
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia STEVE COHEN, Tennessee
TED POE, Texas HENRY C. ``HANK'' JOHNSON, Jr.,
JASON CHAFFETZ, Utah Georgia
TIM GRIFFIN, Arkansas PEDRO R. PIERLUISI, Puerto Rico
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania JUDY CHU, California
TREY GOWDY, South Carolina TED DEUTCH, Florida
SANDY ADAMS, Florida SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MARK AMODEI, Nevada MIKE QUIGLEY, Illinois
JARED POLIS, Colorado
Caroline Lynch, Chief Counsel
Bobby Vassar, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
JUNE 20, 2012
The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., a Representative in
Congress from the State of Wisconsin, and Chairman,
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security........ 1
The Honorable Robert C. ``Bobby'' Scott, a Representative in
Congress from the State of Virginia, and Ranking Member,
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security........ 3
The Honorable John Conyers, Jr., a Representative in Congress
from the State of Michigan, and Ranking Member, Committee on
the Judiciary.................................................. 4
The Honorable Michele M. Leonhart, Administrator, Drug
Enforcement Administration, United States Department of Justice
Oral Testimony................................................. 6
Prepared Statement............................................. 9
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
Questions for the Record: 35
Submitted by the Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., a
Representative in Congress from the State of Wisconsin, and
Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland
Submitted by the Honorable Robert C. ``Bobby'' Scott, a
Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia, and
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and
Homeland Security.......................................... 37
Submitted by the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., a
Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan, and
Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary................. 38
Submitted by the Honorable Steve Cohen, a Representative in
Congress from the State of Tennessee, and Member,
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.... 43
Honorable Judy Chu, a Representative in Congress from the
State of California, and Member, Subcommittee on Crime,
Terrorism, and Homeland Security........................... 45
Prepared Statement of the National Community Pharmacists
DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2012
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism,
and Homeland Security,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a.m., in room
2141, Rayburn Office Building, the Honorable F. James
Sensenbrenner, Jr., (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Sensenbrenner, Marino, Adams,
Goodlatte, Gohmert, Conyers, Scott, Pierluisi, Polis, Chu,
Jackson Lee, and Cohen.
Staff present: (Majority) Caroline Lynch, Subcommittee
Chief Counsel; Bart Forsyth, Counsel; Tony Angeli, Counsel;
Arthur Radford Baker, Counsel; (Minority) Bobby Vassar,
Subcommittee Chief Counsel; Joe Graupensberger, Counsel; and
Veronica Eligan, Professional Staff Member.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The Subcommittee will come to order. I
would like to welcome Administrator Leonhart and thank her for
testifying before the Subcommittee this morning. We all
appreciate the DEA's efforts and great strides it has made to
combat the increasingly dangerous drug trade. The
Administrator's testimony comes at a timely moment as the war
on drugs approaches a potential crossroads. On July 1, Mexico
will elect a new president. By all accounts, Enrique Pena
Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, is leading the
The PRI Government has governed Mexico for 71 years, until
2000. While in power, the PRI minimized violence by turning a
blind eye to the cartels. The current president, Felipe
Calderon, has changed that strategy and aggressively confronted
As mentioned in your testimony, the key to the DEA's
success along the Southwest border is our relationship with the
Government of Mexico. You have characterized that relationship
as at an all-time high, but are worried that our relationship
could be at a high-water mark, with the impending change in the
office of president.
Mr. Nieto does not emphasize stopping drug shipments or
capturing kingpins. He recently told the ``New York Times''
that while Mexico would continue to work with the United
States, it, quote, Should not subordinate to the strategies of
other countries. He further emphasized that his priority would
be reduction in violence, not a dismantling of criminal
By all accounts, this sounds like a reversion to the pre-
policies of old. We, of course, have no vote in the upcoming
Mexican election, and our only hope for the outcome is that it
is free and fair, but we do have a deep-seated interest in
minimizing drug trafficking and organized crime south of the
border. I believe that these goals are also in Mexico's long-
term interest, and I urge you to press this truth with the
incoming Mexican president and his administration, regardless
of who it is.
I would also like to raise a few troubling incidents within
the DEA. The DEA has long been a model in the law enforcement
community, but today this Subcommittee will need answers about
a few recent incidents that are both troubling and
unacceptable. If not addressed swiftly and effectively, I fear
these events will become a stain on the DEA's reputation, and
ultimately undermine its law enforcement mission.
The Secret Service has been the focal point of the
Cartagena prostitution scandal, but I understand that at least
three DEA agents also hired prostitutes during the preparation
for the President's visit to Columbia. I further understand
that this was not an isolated event for the DEA. The Secret
Service has moved quickly to address the scandal and has
already removed 8 of the 12 employees who have been implicated
in this incident from their jobs. Another is in the process of
losing his security clearance. To my knowledge, the DEA has not
taken similar action.
Similarly, while the ATF was a major factor in Fast and
Furious, the DEA was also involved. Tony Coulson, the DEA's
agent in charge of Southern Arizona during Fast and Furious,
said that many DEA field agents knew that ATF was walking guns
to Mexico, but supervisors told the agents to back off when
they objected. Mr. Coulson was among the first senior public
officials to admit knowing about this botched operation. He
claims he raised objections to then DEA Chief Elizabeth
Kempshall, and was told it was taken care of.
After attending a meeting with the ATF agent in charge,
Bill Newell, Coulson said he knew Fast and Furious was not some
sort of benign pie-in-the-sky publicity stunt. Guns were
actually getting in the hands of criminals, closed quotes. As
with the Columbian prostitution incidents, I am not aware of
any investigation or discipline from within the DEA.
Most recently, this last April, a DEA office in San Diego
literally forgot about a 23-year-old in a holding cell. DEA
agents arrested Daniel Chong during a raid on a party in the
San Diego area, where there were illegal drugs. After
questioning him, the agents apparently told Mr. Chong that he
would not be charged before they placed him back into a holding
cell. The agents then forgot he was there. Mr. Chong remained
locked in the holding cell for 5 days without access to food,
water, or a toilet. He said he heard voices and yelled for
help, but no one heard him. After 48 hours, he started
hallucinating and to survive he drank his own urine. At some
point during this neglect, he broke his glasses and attempted
to kill himself.
It goes without saying that this incident is extremely
unacceptable, and I look forward to hearing what steps the DEA
is taking to address each of the incidents discussed, and to
ensure that nothing similar happens in the future. I hope that
these events are anomalies in the DEA's record and not an
indication of things to come.
And I now yield to the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Scott.
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to join
you in convening this oversight hearing on our Nation's Drug
Enforcement Agency, and I want to thank Director Leonhart for
years of dedicated service and for appearing before us today.
I am also mindful that there are thousands of dedicated DEA
employees who enforce our drug laws and directives every day,
many of whom are putting their lives on the line to do so.
Therefore, I consider it our responsibility in supporting and
directing their efforts to ensure that their dedication and
sacrifices are put to the most effective as well as productive
The DEA is involved in drug enforcement activities all over
the world; however, it is not clear that all of these
activities are as effective or important as others in stopping
or reducing the scourge of drug abuse. In general, there are
supply-side strategies and demand-side strategies to reduce
drug abuse. Research indicates the demand reduction through
prevention, education, and treatment is much more effective
than supply reduction through interdiction and law enforcement
One study showed that the cost of reducing cocaine
consumption in the United States by 1 percent, reducing cocaine
consumption in the United States by 1 percent, the cost is $783
million for source country control, $366 million for general
interdiction activities, about $250 million for domestic law
enforcement, or only $34 million for treatment of heavy users.
Thus, the least costly supply control, that is domestic law
enforcement, costs over 7 times as much as treatment to achieve
the same consumption reduction.
Another study showed that drug treatment saved an average
of $7 in later prison and medical costs for every dollar spent
on treatment. But, one of the big problems we have in this
country with illegal drugs, as well as with illegal
prescriptive drugs, is that there is a huge demand. The history
on the war on drugs shows us that when there is a demand for
the product suppliers will provide a way to provide it, no
matter what the cost. History also shows that no matter how
many tons of drugs we interdict or capture, it represents only
a small fraction of drugs being trafficked. Therefore, while
the evidence suggests that our efforts to reduce drug abuse
have intensified in this country, the street price for some of
the most dangerous drugs has actually gone down, while the
quality has gone up, and drug use has increased or stayed the
same during that time.
Other evidence suggests that the massive drug enforcement
effort in this country is the result of legions of users and
street-level dealers being imprisoned for long periods of time,
with huge strains in State and local budgets, with no
discernible impact on the drug trade. Still other evidence
suggests that while drug use in all major abuse categories
among White Americans is as high or higher than drug use among
Black and Hispanic Americans, a vast majority of those
imprisoned for drug law violations are Black and Hispanic.
For example, drug use data indicates that some 60 percent
of crack cocaine users are White, while 94 percent of those
imprisoned for crack are Black. Black Americans make up about
12 percent of the population, but almost 50 percent of those
incarcerated for illegal drugs. Moreover, drug penalties are so
draconian that many are serving life sentences or the
equivalent in years, even for first-time offenders, and
mandatory minimum sentencing is a major contributing factor to
When we consider the unfairness of so much of the burden of
drug abuse being heaped upon African-Americans, the harshness
of drug sentences, and the life consequences for drug
conviction, such as loss of voting rights and subjection to
employment discrimination, drastically lower employment
prospects, we can see why Michelle Alexander considers the war
on drugs to have ushered in a new era of Jim Crow, as she
outlined in her book, ``The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration.''
And we consider the effectiveness and the much higher cost of
punitive supply reduction strategies compared to many times
more effective and much cheaper demand reduction strategies,
such as treatment, it is not hard to wonder whether there is a
motive beyond drug abuse reduction in our strategy choices.
Recently, I saw a news article of young drug offenders in
their twenties, in Virginia, two of whom got sentences of 50
and 35 years, respectively. No one seemed concerned about the
average cost at $30,000 a year that this represented, $2.5
million, to warehouse the drug abusers. And I was left to
wonder whether or not that $2.5 million, some of that should
have been spent on Boys and Girls Clubs, where they were
cutting spending in that same area.
So, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to hearing the Director's
views on public policy implications of our agency's operations
with respect to these grave concerns.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Thank you. The Chairman Emeritus, the
gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers, for an opening statement.
Mr. Conyers. Thank you, Chairman Sensenbrenner. My first
comment is to congratulate Ranking Member Bobby Scott on an
excellent opening statement that tracks much of what I have
been doing in preparing for this. I think the beginning of this
discussion on the part of the Subcommittee on Crime can be one
of the most important contributions that the House Judiciary
Committee can make on the subject of the American criminal
But, before I go any further, Chairman Sensenbrenner, I
noted 14 issues that you raised with our distinguished witness,
and I stopped counting after that. The question that I have,
sir, is: Are we going to have an additional hearing to give Ms.
Leonhart an opportunity to respond to each and every one of
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Conyers. With pleasure.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. That depends upon how responsive she is
to the issues that I have raised. I think we all would like to
get this wrapped up in one hearing, including Ms. Leonhart.
Mr. Conyers. Well, thank you, sir. It was my impression
that we could devote the rest of the next couple hours to a
discussion between you and her about what you raised in your
opening statement. So, I don't understand with a two, four,
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Would the gentleman yield again?
Mr. Conyers. Yes, sir.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The Chair knows from years and years
that the current Chair enforces the 5-minute rule on himself as
well as on everybody else.
Mr. Conyers. Well, that is what makes it more difficult. I
mean that is the problem that I am raising. With six Members
here, and probably more to come, under the 5-minute rule, there
is no way she can ever get to any kind of a cogent response to
the issues that were raised, some of which are very serious.
So, I leave that for us to discuss further, as we go on.
I am very interested in this subject, because I started off
my career on the Subcommittee on Crime when I first was able to
get on the House Judiciary Committee. And this subject about
drugs is extremely critical, and I am looking forward to a
discussion. I have no problem with holding another hearing or
as many hearings as necessary. We don't get any brownie points
for having one hearing and no more. The question is how deeply,
and thoroughly, and accurately do we go into these very
important social and criminal justice questions.
And so I would say to my colleagues and to our
distinguished witness that the cost of the war on drugs is more
than $1 trillion to date, astronomical, and yet, the same
proportion of drug usage, illegal drug usage, continues at the
same rate. And what I am looking for, in addition to the
distinguished witness giving us a review of what goes on at DEA
and what you are doing about it, is what kind of changes or
what kind of creative, even imaginative ideas can we come up
with to really do something about this? It seems to me that
there are policies that might actually reduce consumption that
may not have been tried yet, and I am hopeful that we can
Another issue that we may or may not get to today----
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. Conyers. Can I finish this sentence?
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Certainly. Without objection.
Mr. Conyers. It is important to figure out how we can
minimize this criminalization and punishment concept by
replacing it with health and treatment services. I mean if this
is only lock them up and throw away the key, it doesn't, I
don't think, shed much information, or light, or work in a
substantively important way that this hearing this morning
could bring to this subject.
And I thank the Chairman for the additional time.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Without objection, all Members' opening
statements will appear in the record.
Before introducing Ms. Leonhart, I am going to get into a
lock them up and throw away the key and decide not to charge
them situation during the questioning and answer, so maybe that
will address some of your concerns.
It is now my pleasure to introduce today's witness. Michele
Leonhart was unanimously confirmed as the Administrator of the
Drug Enforcement Administration in December. She had been
Acting Administrator since November of 2007, and served as the
DEA's Deputy Administrator since 2004. Prior to becoming DEA
Administrator and Deputy Administrator, she held several
positions within DEA's Senior Executive Service. She was the
special agent in charge of the DEA's Los Angeles field division
from 1998 through 2003. She previously held the position as
special agent in charge of the DEA San Francisco field division
in 1997 and 1998.
As a career DEA special agent, Ms. Leonhart held several
key positions as she moved through the ranks of the DEA. In
1995, she was promoted to the position of Assistant Special
Agent in charge of the LA field division. Between 1993 and
1995, she held management positions within DEA headquarters to
include Career Board Executive Secretary, Office of
Professional Responsibility Inspector, and Staff Coordinator in
the Operation Division. She has been more than 30 years in law
enforcement, beginning her career as a Baltimore City Police
Officer, after graduating from college in Minnesota, with a
bachelor of science in criminal justice in 1978.
Without objection, Ms. Leonhart, your witness statement
will be entered into the record in its entirety.
I ask that you summarize your testimony in 5 minutes. And
you know all about the green, yellow, and red lights in front
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE MICHELE M. LEONHART, ADMINISTRATOR,
DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF
Ms. Leonhart. Thank you. Chairman Sensenbrenner, Ranking
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Could you please pull the microphone a
little bit closer to you.
Ms. Leonhart. Chairman Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member Scott,
and Members of the Subcommittee, it is my honor to appear
before you to discuss your oversight of the DEA and our role in
reducing crime, protecting the American public from drugs, and
increasing our Nation's security. Before highlighting DEA's
programs and recent accomplishments, I want to first thank you
for your continued support of our essential law enforcement
mission. Your partnership is especially appreciated in light of
the ever-changing challenges we face.
Today, a hallmark of our many drug trafficking
organizations is the increasingly global nature of their
operations. Traffickers are using the latest technology to
conduct their daily business from sophisticated communication
devices and services, to laundering money through electronic
value transfers, and they use innovative transportation
methods, moving drugs in everything from planes, to tunnels,
from wooden canoes, to fully submersible submarines, and we
cannot let up or we will never catch up.
DEA and our partners are successfully disrupting,
dismantling, and destroying major drug trafficking networks.
Our enforcement actions are reducing the availability of drugs
and the harm they cause, and our efforts are integral to our
Nation's comprehensive drug control strategy.
One of the highest priorities for DEA today is stopping the
diversion of prescription drugs and precursor chemicals from
legitimate use. Today, more people abuse prescription drugs
than those that abuse heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine,
combined. In response, the DEA has dedicated more agents to
investigate criminal prosecution of prescription drug diversion
than ever before, and our regulatory arm is dedicated to
ensuring compliance with the law for those who manufacture,
distribute, prescribe, or sell controlled substances.
We have also helped the public help us reduce the supply of
prescription drugs through our national prescription drug take-
back events, with assistance for more than 3,000 law
enforcement partners in all 50 States. Our four take-back days
have collected almost 800 tons of prescription medications that
would have languished in medicine cabinets, where they could
have been diverted. Soon, we will be implementing the Secure
and Responsible Drug Disposal Act, which you passed into law.
Through this law, DEA will be providing the Nation with a
permanent solution to the problem of proper prescription
DEA is also at the forefront of another emerging trend:
Synthetic Drugs. And I want to thank you for the Committee's
leadership in scheduling 26 substances used in products like K2
and Spice, which will help us control and prevent these
dangerous drugs from doing more damage. Unlike controlled
prescription drug diversion, which is principally a domestic
drug challenge, the majority of the organizations responsible
for other drug threats operate internationally. The most
immediate of these threats comes from Mexico-based criminal
organizations and drug cartels. They are responsible for the
vast majority of violence there, and increasingly in many
countries, including Central America.
In our operations there and elsewhere, DEA relies on our
close ties with our brave international partners, and these
relationships extend beyond on-the-ground operations and
involve training, and intelligence, and resource sharing. DEA
has close deep ties with Mexico relationships that will have an
impact in turning what is a threat to their national security
and rule of law into a law enforcement challenge. Indeed, our
cooperation with the government of Mexico is at an all-time
In addition to training, operational, and intelligence
bonds, DEA and the Department of Justice have a judicial
partnership with the government of Mexico that has resulted in
nearly 250 extraditions since 2010. And this includes high-
Ranking Members from all the Mexico-based cartels, such as Jose
Antonio Acosta Hernandez, who was sentenced to life in Federal
prison in April, after admitting his role in 1,500 murders
since 2008, including the triple homicide of a U.S. Consulate
employee and two Consulate workers' family members.
We share Mexico's responsibility and commitment to
confront, fight, and defeat these poly-drug trafficking
organizations, and take away the drugs, money, power, and
freedom of their leaders. DEA is also working with the
government of Afghanistan to counter the drug trafficking
threat there. For example, just last week, Haji Bagcho, a
notorious Afghan drug trafficker, with ties to the Taliban, was
sentenced to life in prison on narco-terrorism charges in the
U.S. His heroin was traced to 20 countries in 1 year. It is
estimated that he supplied about 20 percent of the world's
heroin supply. Thanks to the work of extraordinary DEA law
enforcement personnel, supported by you, he will never be free.
I have great confidence that DEA, with your support, will
continue to meet and overcome these challenges and those that
lie ahead, and they are not insignificant. From the growing
list of designer synthetic drugs, to the reemergence of
methamphetamine, from the increasing presence of drug
traffickers in West Africa, to the emerging financial and
communication tools being used by criminal organizations, and
so many more, we have our work cut out for us. But, just
because the mission is difficult does not mean we should give
up or surrender. And some argue that legalization and
regulation, even at the cost of untold human suffering and
misery, would strip the traffickers of their enormous profits.
Both common sense and history have taught us that those who are
displaced from the drug trade migrate into other areas of
criminality, and we have a responsibility, in a Nation of laws
to enforce the law. And I have devoted my life to this duty,
and all the people at DEA are committed to this goal and to
this fight, a fight in which, with your support, we shall
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, and I
ask that my written statement be added to the record----
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Without objection.
Ms. Leonhart [continuing]. Before taking your questions.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Leonhart follows:]
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Thank you very much, Ms. Leonhart, for a
very comprehensive statement. Let me use my 5 minutes to try to
pack in as much as I can.
First, let's get the issue of Daniel Chong, who was the 23
year old who apparently was forgotten in a holding cell in San
Diego after a decision was made not to charge him. Has anybody
been disciplined as a result of this?
Ms. Leonhart. Well, thank you for asking about that
incident, Mr. Chairman. I am deeply troubled by the incident.
DEA is deeply troubled by the incident. The incident was a
mistake. It wasn't malicious, and it wasn't intentional. And
during our 39-year history as an agency, we are not aware that
anything like that has ever happened. And like you, the entire
agency was shocked by what happened. And no one's more shocked
than the agents and taskforce officers that were involved in
Immediately upon learning about the incident, I ordered a
review of our detention policies. We are currently fully
cooperating with the Office of the Inspector General for
Department of Justice, and they are conducting the
investigation. But, in the interim, I ordered the assessment. I
felt compelled to send a management team from a neighboring
field division, Los Angeles, down to review what had happened,
and I have personally spoken with all 21 of our Field Division
SACs. We have entered into a discussion about how to make sure
this doesn't happen any place else. We have put many different
procedures in place already, and all 21 SACs have reviewed
their policies and their procedures. They have initiated
changes to ensure that this never happens again.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Well, that is nice to know.
Now, let's talk about Cartagena. The Secret Service has
been very public in disciplining, and, in fact, dismissing many
of the agents who were involved in the prostitution scandal
there. Have any of the DEA agents who were involved there been
Ms. Leonhart. Well, let me say that I am extremely
disappointed by the conduct allegations in Columbia. These
allegations are not representative of the 10,000 men and women
that work for the DEA.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Well, I will stipulate that. And, you
know, nor were the Secret Service Agents who were involved in
their end of the scandal indicative of the people who work for
the Secret Service. Most of them are dedicated. But, the Secret
Service moved quickly. I have not noticed that the DEA has
moved quickly at all to deal with this.
Ms. Leonhart. Well, I can assure you, we moved immediately,
very quickly. As soon as information was given to me by the
director of the Secret Service, I brought the agents in
question out of country and made them available to the OIG.
Now, it is not being investigated by DEA, because the OIG has
taken on the investigation. We are cooperating with them and
making everybody available, all witnesses, and are assisting
them wherever possible.
The action that I could take, however, was I curtailed
their tours in Columbia. They are presently on limited duty
while the investigation is taking place. OIG is still
completing interviews. So, it is not really appropriate for me
to prejudge the results.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Okay.
Ms. Leonhart. But, I guarantee you that if there was
misconduct they will face our disciplinary process.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Okay. Now, have you investigated Mr.
Colson's allegations relating to Fast and Furious, and if so,
what has been the result there?
Ms. Leonhart. Well, I could tell you that that, too, is
still under review by the OIG. We're all interested in
resolution there, so we can find out who knew what, when, and
where. As far as Mr. Colson, you should know that we understand
that he retracted his statement, and so we are waiting for the
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Now, was the part of the statement that
Mr. Colson said, quote, Guns were actually getting in the hands
of criminals, unquote, part of what he retracted?
Ms. Leonhart. I believe he retracted all his statement. He
said he was misquoted and retracted it. Beyond that, I am not
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Well, I think we know that guns have
been getting in the hands of criminals. Well, you know, let me
say, Ms. Leonhart, I think your answers have been inadequate in
all three. There has been no discipline. The OIG works at its
own pace. The Secret Service did take very, very quick action
when the scandal came to light. And I will accept the
suggestion that the Ranking Member of the full Committee, Mr.
Conyers, has made to have another hearing.
The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Scott.
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Leonhart, Pew Research Center has estimated that any
incarceration rate over 350 per 100,000 starts creating
diminishing returns, and over 500 per 100,000 becomes actually
counterproductive. You are adding to the crime rather than
detracting from it. That is at 500 per 100,000. Our
incarceration rate in the United States is over 700-and-some
per 100,000. In minority communities in some States, it is as
high as 4,000 per 100,000.
What role does DEA policy play in over-incarceration in the
ratio disparity, and what is DEA doing about it?
Ms. Leonhart. Thank you, Ranking Member. I can tell you
that the Drug Enforcement Administration, our mission is really
to go after the world's biggest and baddest drug traffickers.
We spend our resources, our work hours going after the largest
drug traffickers, the sources of supply, the heads of
organizations, and the heads of drug cartels, the heads of
trafficking organizations, transportation organizations, those
that most impact the drug supply on the United States.
Mr. Scott. Well, has any DEA policy contributed to over-
incarceration and the racial disparity?
Ms. Leonhart. Well, there are Federal drug laws that DEA
enforces. You, as Congress, set the laws. We enforce the
Federal laws. We go where our intelligence takes us. We go
where the evidence takes us.
Mr. Scott. Well, what is the policy of the DEA on mandatory
minimums? They have been studied and found to be discriminatory
and ineffective in reducing crime. What is the DEA policy on
Ms. Leonhart. There is no policy for DEA on minimum
mandatories. We go where the evidence is. If someone is
trafficking drugs, we investigate that. We investigate their
Mr. Scott. You don't have a position supporting mandatory
minimums as a crime-fighting tool, since they have been found
to be discriminatory, and a waste of money, and ineffective in
reducing crime? You don't have a position on mandatory
Ms. Leonhart. We do our investigations, we conduct our
operations without regard to the sentencing. But, the
Department was very----
Mr. Scott. Well, in terms of sentencing, when you are
dealing with local, State, and Federal taskforces, there are
allegations that some of the taskforce results have been
referred to Federal court and some have been referred to State
court. Federal court, where you have the draconian mandatory
minimums, have been shown to have a discriminatory impact,
because all the crack cases get sent to Federal court, where
you can get 5 years mandatory minimum. And meth cases tend to
be tried in State court, where they are not subject to those
kinds of mandatory minimums. Is that DEA policy?
Ms. Leonhart. That is not DEA policy. Again, we bring our
most significant cases to Federal court. We bring the sources
of supply and those responsible for the drug supply on the
streets of the United States and much of the violence.
Mr. Scott. Are you aware of that allegation?
Ms. Leonhart. I am aware, and the Department of Justice has
taken a position on the fair sentencing and the recent change
with crack versus powder. The Department has been very
supportive of that. Our role as investigators, though, is to
investigate, follow the evidence, go after the most extreme
traffickers, and that is what we do.
Mr. Scott. Are you aware of the study that showed that you
can reduce drug abuse by 1 percent with $35 million in
treatment, and 250 and up for law enforcement side? Are you
familiar with that study, and, if so, how does that affect the
strategy of the DEA?
Ms. Leonhart. Well, I don't know if it is the same study. I
am familiar with studies that show the savings, you know, every
dollar put into demand reduction, every dollar put into
treatment. And that is why we are very supportive of the very
balanced drug strategy that we currently have in the United
The President's drug strategy is very clear, that you need
demand reduction and prevention.
Mr. Scott. And you are putting the same amount of resources
Ms. Leonhart. I am sorry, sir?
Mr. Scott. You are putting similar resources in both?
Ms. Leonhart. Well, actually, this past year there was more
money spent on prevention and treatment than there was on
domestic law enforcement.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The gentleman's time is expired. The
gentlewoman from Florida, Mrs. Adams.
Mrs. Adams. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to go back over a couple of things earlier on. The
issue with the San Diego holding cell, where this person was
held, as you know, no need in rehashing it all, but, I just
have a question. I listened to your answer.
What was your current policy at the time this happened?
Ms. Leonhart. The policies are different in the different
field divisions. Some don't even have a holding cell. But, in
San Diego, the standard policy is that anybody that is
detained, and they are only detained in our field division for
interviewing and processing, that the agents and taskforce
officers in the group that brought that defendant in is
responsible for him while he is there being processed, and is
responsible until he is either brought to jail or released.
Since this incident, that San Diego field division moved
very quickly to put in a divisional order and policies and
procedures that actually spell out what everyone's duty is. And
we shared that with the 20 other field divisions, who have also
put these in place.
Mrs. Adams. So, in other words, there was no one assigned
to make sure that that holding cell, or whatever you want to
call it, was empty at the end of the day, so that no one was
Ms. Leonhart. It is unwritten that it is always the
responsibility of the group supervisors of the group
responsible for the----
Mrs. Adams. That is a no then. It is not written down, so,
therefore, they didn't follow that type of procedure, because
it is very apparent by what happened, which is, you know, as a
former law enforcement officer, I am just so astounded and
baffled by how this could happen.
I know you have 226 domestic offices and 21 field divisions
throughout the U.S., and 85 foreign offices in 65 countries,
and they are all led by special agents in charge called SACs. 7
out of 21 DEA field divisions are leaderless and have been for
several months, and some for well over 1 year. These divisions
include Boston, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Diego,
Los Angeles, and the Caribbean. The New York post reported in
April that the New York SAC vacancy is having a significant
impact on agent morale. Although, there are acting SACs in
these divisions, they may or may not feel empowered to make the
decisions needed or policy changes needed, due to their acting
And again, I am a former deputy sheriff, and knowing how
important a stable chain of command is, knowing that your rank
and file need to have the leadership, knowing that they need to
have the direction, knowing that there should be policies and
procedures in place, why are so many SAC positions vacant, and
are you doing anything to fill these? And when will they be
Ms. Leonhart. Thank you for asking the question. In filling
SAC vacancies, some are open for extended periods of time, but
when a SAC leaves, retires, or is transferred, there is someone
put in charge. It has only recently been that we have had a
confirmed administrator, myself, who rose up through the ranks,
and a confirmed deputy that causes this domino effect. And so,
as we move our chief of operations into the deputy position,
now we are moving the pieces, we are putting people in place.
All of the field divisions that have been vacant have had very,
very strong and good leadership.
Mrs. Adams. So, you are working to fill them. because I
have a lot more questions, and I want to get my time in.
I have a question: Was the impact of there being an acting
SAC in San Diego an issue with what happened?
Ms. Leonhart. Not at all.
Mrs. Adams. Okay. I know you said you have different
policies for different areas. Wouldn't it be easier to set up a
major streamlined policy for every one of your divisions to
follow, and then those that have other things, like if you have
a holding cell, you will make sure that before you close that
office every day that you go through that holding cell. One,
you sweep for people. Two, you sweep for any contraband. I
would say that every time you put someone in, before you put
them in, you make sure there is no contraband in, and every
time you take them out, you do the exact same thing. But, when
you leave every day, there should not be anybody in there to be
One other question I have before I run out of time is: Is
it still the policy of not allowing any of our agents that are
working with Mexico, let's say, to be armed when across the
border, and if so, why? Because as we know, we have lost one of
our agents that did not and was not armed, and was murdered. I
just want to know if it is still the policy. Are you still
promoting that policy? Or are you trying to change that policy,
so our men and women can protect themselves while on detail?
Ms. Leonhart. Having been a former law enforcement officer,
you know that the safety of our agents is more important than
anything. And I would say because of their safety, I would be
glad to talk to you not in this forum, to discuss those safety
issues. And I am hoping that you respect that, and I would be
glad to come and see you myself.
Mrs. Adams. I look forward to discussing that. I yield
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The gentlewoman's time is expired. The
gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers.
Mr. Conyers. Thank you, Chairman Sensenbrenner. I
appreciate your announcing that there will be continued
hearings about DEA and its role. You will note Madam Director
that I originally pointed out in my remarks that we spend huge
amounts of resources, and the rate of illegal drug activity
continues at about the same pace. Have you been able to reflect
on that in terms of how this keeps going on, and what we might
be able to do about it?
Ms. Leonhart. Thank you for the question, sir. I think
there is a lot of misinformation and misperceptions about
actually the drug situation, and especially when it comes to
teens. So, I do want to tell you that 650,000 fewer teenagers
are using drugs today than a decade earlier. And that is a 15
percent decline. The balanced drug strategy that we have has
played a role. Marijuana used by teens has dropped 7 percent.
Methamphetamine has plummeted 67 percent. Ecstasy use has been
slashed 42 percent. And cocaine use is down 40 percent since
2006. Meth has dropped even more, and that is 50 percent since
So, we do see these drops in teen drug use. We also see the
same corresponding drops in adult drug use. So, we are doing
something correct with our drug strategy. And we believe that
it is the three: The prevention, the treatment, the
enforcement. You need all three. And that is one of the causes
that we are seeing changes in drug use.
Obviously, we are concerned with the uptick in prescription
drugs, legal drugs, but we have been able to change the drug
use. We have also been able to change availability of drugs on
the streets, especially cocaine. And since 2006, since
partnering with the Calderon Administration in Mexico, we
actually have had sustained increases in the price of cocaine,
and we have seen the purity plummet.
Mr. Conyers. Well, this goes contrary, your statement,
which is, I am happy to hear it, and, of course, you know, you
are coming back before us, so I will have a chance to check
what you are telling me against information that I have not
validated yet. But, the statement that bothered me here was
that the drug addiction rates, currently 1.3 percent in this
country, are the same ratio as in 1971, and that we have spent
over $1 trillion in appropriations fighting this war, and it is
Are we just citing different pieces of information to
support our positions, or is there some correctness in the
citation that I just gave you?
Ms. Leonhart. The figures that I am using are from the
Monitoring the Future study, which has been used to look at and
to track trends in teen drug use. It also comes from the
statistics from Quest, on workplace drug testing. And if you
are using the year 1971, and comparing it with this year, you
have to remember that the highest rates of drug use, those
years were 1974, 1975, and 1976. They spiked significantly
after 1971. It is undisputed that we actually are having the
lowest rate of cocaine use in this country in 30 years.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. Conyers. Thank you.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The gentleman from Puerto Rico.
Mr. Conyers. Mr. Chairman, can I just point out that I want
to continue this discussion outside of the hearing room between
now and the next time we have the distinguished witness in.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Okay. The statement will be in the
The gentleman from Puerto Rico, Mr. Pierluisi.
Mr. Pierluisi. Good morning, Administrator. Thank you again
for meeting with me in February to go over the public safety
crisis we are facing in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
Islands. You, as much as any other Federal official, have an
intimate understanding of how serious this problem is. The
number of drug-related homicides in Puerto Rico in recent years
would be considered a national emergency if it were occurring
in any State. That is not just my opinion. That is what Senator
Rubio also stated during a hearing in December.
Since our meeting, there have been several important
developments. First, the House approved a CJS appropriations
bill that notes that Federal efforts along the Southwest border
have affected trafficking routes and crime rates in the
Caribbean, and directed the attorney general to address these
trends by allocating the necessary resources to U.S.
jurisdictions in the Caribbean, and reporting back to Congress
on the specific steps that have been taken.
Second, about 2 weeks ago, Attorney General Holder was
sitting where you are now. I asked him why it would not be
appropriate for DOJ to increase the resources it devotes to
Puerto Rico, even if it is only a temporary surge, just as the
Federal Government did when there was a spike in violence on
the U.S. side of the Southwest border. I acknowledged current
budget constraints, but said that this is a matter of
prioritizing limited resources, and making sure they are being
allocated to the U.S. jurisdictions where the need is the
The AG responded that DOJ is starting to embrace this surge
concept, injecting agents and resources into what he called hot
spots. That is areas that have seen a rise in violent crime.
The attorney general said that Puerto Rico would certainly be a
candidate for such a surge, because of the island's violent
crime rate. I just hope that action follows those words.
Third, the Appropriations just approved a bill today
basically saying that we should have a counter-narcotic
strategy for the Caribbean border, just along the same lines as
the ones we have for the southwest and the northern border
areas. That is great. I have been fighting for that, and it is
about to happen. ONDCP will be told to do this, and to do it
within 180 days from the time this appropriations bill becomes
Now, your men and women in Puerto Rico are doing terrific
work, Administrator. You know several weeks ago your agency led
an operation that resulted in the arrest of dozens of airline
workers in Puerto Rico who were smuggling drugs on flights to
the mainland U.S. However, despite the recent staffing
increases that you briefed me on when we met, I remain
absolutely convinced that the DEA does not have enough agents
in Puerto Rico.
According to data provided to my office, there are nearly
three times as many agents assigned to the Miami field office
as there are to Puerto Rico, even though the island's
population is 7.5 times greater than metropolitan Miami's, and
our drug-related violence is off the charts. I want to be
clear. I am not saying Miami doesn't have significant problems
that you need to deal with. I am just providing this
comparison, because you realize how under-resourced Puerto Rico
is when you see this stat. So, I would like to hear your view,
in terms of what you can do or not in staffing our office in
Puerto Rico and the VI.
Ms. Leonhart. Thank you, sir. We have met, and you know
that the whole Caribbean region is of concern to the DEA. When
we moved resources in 2002 from our other field divisions down
to the Southwest border, we left the Caribbean alone, because
we knew if we were successful on the Southwest border that we
would start seeing impact in the Caribbean. So, San Juan, that
field division has been very important to us, and I actually
have increased the resources there. So, let me talk about those
In 2009, there were 83 agents assigned to San Juan and
Ponce. I increased it to 95. In fact, I have done what we can
to make sure that agents graduating from the academy and senior
agents rotating in from foreign offices are assigned there. We
will continue to try to give as many resources to Puerto Rico
On the surge, know before your discussion with the attorney
general about surges that DEA actually was surging in Puerto
Rico a couple years back when you needed help with housing
projects on the drug trafficking, and the murder rate, and the
violence there. We responded by sending agents from MET Teams
around the country into Puerto Rico for periods of time to help
with that. And we will continue, even though we no longer have
the MET program. We will look for ways to assist our agents and
our fellow law enforcement officers in Puerto Rico with
Mr. Pierluisi. Thank you.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The gentleman's time is expired. The
gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte.
Mr. Goodlatte. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms. Leonhart,
I wanted to ask you about reports that DEA field agents in
Southern Arizona were aware of the gun walking being done by
ATF. Tony Coulson, the DEA's agent in charge of Southern
Arizona during Fast and Furious, said that many DEA field
agents knew that the ATF was walking guns to Mexico, but their
supervisors told them to back off when they objected.
Have you investigated who within the DEA knew what about
Fast and Furious and why they did so little to stop gun walking
Ms. Leonhart. Thank you, sir. As I mentioned earlier, those
statements, as I understand it from Mr. Coulson, were actually
recanted. He said he was misquoted and he has recanted that. We
are very excited and we are waiting on these results from the
OIG, because prior to Mr. Coulson's statements, we were not
aware that DEA agents in Arizona were aware of the tactics that
ATF was using.
So, the investigation is being done by OIG. That should
answer. We have made all our people available. That should
answer the question about who knew what from my agency.
Mr. Goodlatte. Did Mr. Coulson explain why he made the
statements in the first place, if he later recanted them?
Ms. Leonhart. I have not had any discussions with Mr.
Coulson. I just know that right after there was a reporting of
what he had said, he called our headquarters to say he did not
say those things, and that he recanted his statements.
Mr. Goodlatte. So he denied saying them. He didn't say them
and then take them back, is what you are telling us?
Ms. Leonhart. I heard both. But, hopefully, the OIG is
going to interview him.
Mr. Goodlatte. So you are relying on the Office of the
Inspector General to investigate his statements and whether or
not it is true that agents working under him were aware of the
fact that gun running was taking place. Because, in fact, we
know it was taking place, so it is not all that surprising that
some DEA agents might know what was going on with regard to ATF
activities in the same region. But, at the same time, our
greater concern is why supervisors might have told the agents
to, quote, back off, when they raised concerns about the wisdom
of sending guns to drug dealers and others in Mexico that
ultimately resulted in the death of a border patrol agent.
So, you will report back to this Committee once you hear
from the OIG, and let us know what actions have been taken to
make sure that when people find out that wrongdoing is taking
place that they are freely able to report it to their superiors
and then have some interagency discussions between ATF and DEA
to say, ``Hey, guys. What are you doing here, giving guns to
people that we are trying to stop from smuggling drugs in the
United States. It is not a good idea.''
Ms. Leonhart. The OIG report will answer the questions
about what our folks knew. The OIG was given the unilateral
authority to investigate.
Mr. Goodlatte. Well, we will welcome that. In my last
minute here, I want to get in another area of interest.
What assistance does the DEA give to State and local law
enforcement to combat synthetic drugs?
Ms. Leonhart. Thank you for that question. Since synthetic
drugs is a new emerging, very troubling problem, I personally
have been working with the chiefs and sheriffs, both of the
National Sheriffs Association, but also of the IACP. They are
the ones that first brought it to my attention that synthetics
was a problem. and so we have given them considerable
assistance, both in training classes. We have also offered our
Mr. Goodlatte. What additional tools do you need that would
make the DEA better able to combat synthetic drug abuse?
Ms. Leonhart. Actually, this Committee just helped, and
that was the scheduling of so many of those chemicals. That was
Number two, you have given us, you know, the support, our
funding, our agent workforce that has allowed us to teach our
agent workforce about this new and emerging trend. It has also
allowed us to teach our State and local counterparts about the
emerging trend. And we have been able to expand our
investigations now internationally to go after the sources of
supply that are actually supplying the chemicals showing up in
our neighborhoods and then eventually being sold as Spice and
Mr. Goodlatte. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The gentleman's time is expired. The
gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms., is it Lean-hart?
Ms. Leonhart. It is Lin-hart.
Mr. Cohen. Lin-hart.
Ms. Leonhart. Think of the ``O'' being silent.
Mr. Cohen. Thank you. Thank you, Ms. Leonhart. What is your
Ms. Leonhart. Well, currently----
Mr. Cohen. Approximately.
Ms. Leonhart. $2 million.
Mr. Cohen. $2 million?
Ms. Leonhart. I am sorry. $2 billion----
Mr. Cohen. Yes. So about $2 billion.
Ms. Leonhart [continuing]. Is salary and expenses. And then
we have additional, with a fee account for our diversion
program. So, total budget is----
Mr. Cohen. It is over $2 billion.
Ms. Leonhart. Yes.
Mr. Cohen. Do you get any confiscation money? Do you get
any monies from confiscations?
Ms. Leonhart. I am sorry?
Mr. Cohen. Do you get any money from confiscations of
Ms. Leonhart. You are talking about asset forfeiture.
Mr. Cohen. Yes.
Ms. Leonhart. There is money that the Department of Justice
gives us from the asset forfeiture fund.
Mr. Cohen. How much do you get from that?
Ms. Leonhart. I would have to----
Mr. Cohen. Do you have any idea at all?
Ms. Leonhart. If you would give me a moment, I could----
Mr. Cohen. I would rather not take the time for you to
research your files. You don't know. Maybe one of your staff
members can give it to you.
Let me ask you this. What is your number one drug you are
fighting? What is your priority?
Ms. Leonhart. Well, our priority right now is
Mr. Cohen. All right. And what is your second priority?
Ms. Leonhart. We don't prioritize specific drugs, because
the organizations that we are going after are poly-drug.
Mr. Cohen. So, you are not going after the drugs for the
harm they do. You are going after the drugs, because of the
effect it has on these organizations, and you are going after
the organizations. Is that right?
Ms. Leonhart. We are going after the organizations that are
having the most impact on our communities, supplying the most
drugs, and the most violence.
Mr. Cohen. Right. So, it is the fact that meth, or crack,
or heroin is causing the most damage to individuals. If that is
not the number one choice of the crime syndicate, it is not
your number one choice. Your number one choice is the crime
syndicate, not the fact that heroin, and meth, and crack are
destroying people's lives.
Ms. Leonhart. No. Not correct. The organizations now have
their poly-drug. So, for instance, the Columbian cartels, which
are a priority----
Mr. Cohen. Right. They have all these drugs, right?
Ms. Leonhart [continuing]. Are the primary source for
methamphetamine, cocaine, and a good amount of the heroin on
Mr. Cohen. Right.
Ms. Leonhart. They are a priority.
Mr. Cohen. So, that is your number one priority, is going
after that cartel.
Ms. Leonhart. Our number one priority is going after those
that most impact the United States.
Mr. Cohen. Do most of those cartels, what are the drugs
they emphasize in their arsenal?
Ms. Leonhart. The Mexican cartels, poly-drug. It is
cocaine, meth, heroin, marijuana.
Mr. Cohen. Right. Marijuana is fourth. Would you agree that
marijuana causes less harm to individuals than meth, crack,
cocaine, and heroin?
Ms. Leonhart. As a former police officer, as a 32-year DEA
agent, I can tell you that I think marijuana is an insidious
Mr. Cohen. That is not the question I asked you, ma'am.
Does it cause less damage to the American society and to
individuals than meth, crack, cocaine, and heroin? Does it make
people have to kill to get their fix?
Ms. Leonhart. I can tell you that more teens enter
treatment for marijuana.
Mr. Cohen. Can you answer my question? Answer my question,
Ms. Leonhart. I am trying to. It causes harm, because it is
young people that are using it, if you are talking about the
Mr. Cohen. It is not just young people. But, you are trying
to answer the question like I am Jeff Sessions. I am not
Senator Sessions. I am asking you a question. Does meth, does
crack, heroin cause more damage to society? Does meth and
heroin cause more deaths than marijuana?
Ms. Leonhart. All drug trafficking causes deaths. I don't
have a breakdown of how many.
Mr. Cohen. Does aspirin cause deaths?
Ms. Leonhart. I am talking about the illegal drugs. I don't
have a breakdown for you of how many deaths are caused by
cocaine, and how many are caused by meth.
Mr. Cohen. Let me ask you this. Have you ever seen a person
who had cancer and used marijuana to help them eat or to relive
their condition of suffering from terminal cancer?
Ms. Leonhart. No, I have not.
Mr. Cohen. And if you had, and I have, and seen that it
helps them with their appetite, and makes them smile, would you
agree that it has some benefit to society for somebody who is
dying, maybe a Navy Seal, who spent his life working and
defending this country, and is emaciated to 120 pounds, and
that marijuana is the only thing that makes him eat, and makes
him smile, according to his 80-year-old mother. Is there not an
efficacious situation there?
Ms. Leonhart. I think that is between him and his doctor.
Mr. Cohen. Well, if it is between him and his doctor, why
does the DEA take a position that medical marijuana is wrong,
which you have taken. You have taken the position it is not
between him and his doctor. You have a publication, which on
page 6 of your publication, in 2011, has the most insane and
banal paragraph. The legalization movement is not simply a
harmless academic exercise. The moral danger of thinking
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The gentleman's time has expired. The
gentlewoman from California, Ms. Chu.
Ms. Chu. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Ms. Leonhart, I represent a
district in Los Angeles County, where 3 years ago a young
rising star, an elected official in my district, Bobby Salcedo,
was murdered by the Mexican drug cartel, when he was simply
visiting relatives there. This tragedy is why my colleague, Mr.
Poe, and I worked on legislation that would allow U.S. law
enforcement to more easily freeze the illicit proceeds of
international criminal organizations in U.S. financial
institutions, in hopes of preserving those assets for future
It corrected the situation, where the U.S. could only
freeze assets of those engaged in criminal activity, once a
final decision was made, and our legislation, which was signed
into law, allowed U.S. courts to freeze assets once there was
evidence of criminal activity.
So, what role has this law, the Preserving Foreign Criminal
Assets for Forfeiture Act, played in assisting DEA's financial
investigations in interdicting the foreign criminals' money or
Ms. Leonhart. First, let me thank you for bringing us that
legislation. It has helped already. I am aware that more than
$50 million has been frozen, because of that. So, we want to
thank you for it, and know that with DEA, especially our
international investigations that regularly are conducted, it
is essential to our efforts that we have a way to freeze those
assets in the middle of an investigation and during an
investigation. We must be able to freeze the money for these
foreign countries, and this has allowed us to do it.
Ms. Chu. Thank you for that. I wanted to follow-up on your
statement that cooperation between the United States and Mexico
is at an all time high, and that, in particular, the DEA is
grateful for the extradition relationship that you have with
Mexico, because it is important, too, that criminals are
brought to justice in this country.
I wanted to know what you mean by the relationship is at an
all-time high, and also, you talked about the extradition of 94
and 93 individuals from Mexico in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
I wanted to know, also, what the status is of those who have
Ms. Leonhart. Okay. The relationship with Mexico is at an
all-time high, and I say that, because we now are working
investigations jointly. We are able to develop partners in
Mexico that we can share intelligence with, and they can
actually take action on that, and vice-versa. They develop
intelligence and are sharing it with us.
We have representatives from the Mexican Federal Police,
the SSP, and from the PGR, that are even sitting in our El Paso
intelligence center. So that is a true partnership. Especially
working the violators the cartel heads that are most important
to Mexico, working with them, we have doubled the number of
high-value targets that they have been able to arrest in Mexico
by sharing this intelligence.
On the extraditions, a number of these extraditions, the
folks have already been prosecuted, and are serving sentences
in the United States, many significant sentences.
The other thing that Mexico has done by extraditing them to
us is those that cooperate after being incarcerated are really
giving us a clear picture as to how the Mexican cartels are
operating, and that has helped us and Mexico, because we share
that information, determine the best way to go after those
cartels and those traffickers.
Ms. Chu. How many have been convicted and sentenced?
Ms. Leonhart. I can get you those numbers. I don't know.
Many have pled guilty. So a good number of them have pled
guilty and many have been convicted.*
*The Subcommittee had not received this information by the time
this hearing record was submitted for printing on February 19, 2013.
Ms. Chu. And how has it impacted the drug trafficking and
violence along the border?
Ms. Leonhart. Well, especially of the high-value targets,
who are the heads or lieutenants of the cartels that we have
been able to incarcerate. It has helped Mexico, because they
have been able to take the people that have been able to have
the power to corrupt Mexican officials. They now are in jail
cells in the United States, no longer able to run their
operations. So, it has affected the drug supply as well.
Together, we have done such damage to the cartels that that
is why you see these drops in availability of cocaine on the
streets of the United States, and the price up and the purity
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The gentlewoman's time has expired. The
gentleman from Colorado, Mr. Polis.
Mr. Polis. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to begin by
following-up on my colleague Mr. Cohen's questions, and I want
to try to get a clear answer, to make sure the Drug Enforcement
Administration is aware of some of the evidence.
Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?
Ms. Leonhart. I believe all illegal drugs are bad.
Mr. Polis. Is methamphetamine worse for somebody's health
Ms. Leonhart. I don't think any illegal drug is good.
Mr. Polis. Is heroin worse for someone's health than
Ms. Leonhart. Again, all drugs----
Mr. Polis. I mean either yes, no, or I don't know. I mean
if you don't know, you can look this up. You should know this
as the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency. I
am asking you a very straightforward question.
Is heroin worse for someone's health than marijuana?
Ms. Leonhart. All illegal drugs are bad.
Mr. Polis. Does this mean you don't know?
Ms. Leonhart. Heroin causes an addiction.
Mr. Polis. Okay.
Ms. Leonhart. It causes many problems, so it is very hard
Mr. Polis. So, does that mean that the health impact of
heroin is worse than marijuana? Is that what you are telling
Ms. Leonhart. I think you are asking a subjective question.
Mr. Polis. No. It is objective. Just looking at the
science. This is your expertise. I am a lay person, but I have
read some of the studies and aware of it. I am just asking you
as an expert in the subject area, is heroin worse for someone's
health than marijuana?
Ms. Leonhart. I am answering as a police officer and as a
DEA agent that these drugs are illegal, because they are
dangerous, because they are addictive, because they do hurt a
Mr. Polis. So, heroin is more addictive than marijuana. Is
heroin more addictive than marijuana, in your experience?
Ms. Leonhart. Generally, the properties of heroin, yes, it
is more addictive.
Mr. Polis. Is methamphetamine more addictive than
Ms. Leonhart. Well, both are addictive.
Mr. Polis. Well, is methamphetamine more highly addictive
Ms. Leonhart. I think some people become addicted to
marijuana and some people become addicted to methamphetamine.
Mr. Polis. You mentioned that your top priority, I believe
you indicated to us, is abuse of prescription drugs. Is one of
the main classifications of prescription drugs painkillers that
you are concerned about?
Ms. Leonhart. That is correct.
Mr. Polis. And are those painkillers addictive?
Ms. Leonhart. Yes, they are very addictive.
Mr. Polis. Are those painkillers more addictive than
Ms. Leonhart. All illegal drugs in schedule one are
Mr. Polis. Well, again, this is a health-based question,
and I know you obviously have a law enforcement background, but
I am sure you are also familiar, given your position with the
science of the matter, and I am asking, you know, again,
clearly, your agency has established abuse of prescription
drugs as the top priority. Is that, therefore, an indication
that prescription drugs are more addictive than marijuana?
Ms. Leonhart. All illegal drugs are addictive.
Mr. Polis. Okay. Your agency has established abusive
prescription drugs as its top priority. You have indicated as
much to us. Does that mean that abuse of prescription drugs is
a greater threat to the public health than marijuana?
Ms. Leonhart. Because it is an emerging threat, because
people are turning to prescription drugs faster than any other
drug, that is why we prioritized it.
Mr. Polis. Well, in many States, including my home State of
Colorado, we have a legalized and regulated regime of medical
marijuana, and we have found some great degree of success in
combating the abuse of prescription drugs by making sure the
patients have access to medical marijuana, which the science
indicates, and I would certainly encourage you to look at the
science is less addictive and less harmful to human health than
some of the narcotic prescription drugs that are abused, and
also, when they are used on label, they can be very harmful to
health as well.
Would your agency consider supporting medical marijuana
provisions when that can be used in pursuit of your top
priority, which is reduce the abuse of prescription drugs. If
it can be documented that the use of medical marijuana helps
reduce the abuse of prescription drugs, is that something you
are willing to pursue?
Ms. Leonhart. Well, Congress has determined that marijuana
is a controlled substance, and DEA's tasked with enforcing
Mr. Polis. You mentioned priorities, though, and you said
top priority, reducing abuse of prescription drugs. One tactic
to do that would be use of medical marijuana, and I wanted to
make sure again, top priority, in pursuit of your top priority,
are you willing to look at the use of medical marijuana as a
way of reducing abuse of prescription drugs?
Ms. Leonhart. We will look at any options for reducing drug
Mr. Polis. Thank you.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentlewoman from Texas, Ms. Jackson Lee.
Ms. Jackson Lee. I thank the Chairman and the Ranking
Administrator Leonhart, thank you for your appearance here
today. And having been in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, let me
express my appreciation for the service of the Drug Enforcement
Agency officers, their professionalism, and as well, the work
that is done in Houston, Texas, where we are the center point,
if you will, for a number of issues dealing with gun
trafficking, and, as well, the confluence, if you will, of
money, drugs, and guns. And so, we are well aware of the
importance of collaboration.
I am going to ask a series of quick questions, and
appreciate helping me get as much on the record as I possibly
can. What is the importance of collaboration between the major
Federal law enforcement? I use as an example, FBI, DEA, ATF,
and others, along with those that I represent on Homeland
Security. What is the importance of that?
Ms. Leonhart. Well, ma'am, let me start by saying that
State and local participation has been DEA's bread and butter
for the 39 years we have been an agency. And you combine that
partnership with the partnerships that we have developed with
other Federal agencies, I don't think there is anything
stronger, anything more effective at attacking violent crime,
attacking drug trafficking than having taskforces.
So, to answer that, especially in the Houston----
Ms. Jackson Lee. My question is: Is the collaboration
strong, positive, continuing, and do the administrators of the
respective agencies encourage that collaboration?
Ms. Leonhart. Yes.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Okay.
Ms. Leonhart. We are probably collaborating now more than
Ms. Jackson Lee. Great. Let me move to Fast and Furious for
a very brief question. Has there been a thorough investigation
of DEA's contact or involvement by the OIG?
Ms. Leonhart. Yes. We made all of our employees in the
Phoenixville division and----
Ms. Jackson Lee. So, any questions regarding supervisor
directions to don't say anything, all of that has been
investigated. Is that correct?
Ms. Leonhart. It is being investigated. Yes.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Being investigated, and all documents will
be able to be accessed, or the final report will be able to be
accessed on that issue.
Ms. Leonhart. Yes. We are all awaiting the OIG finalizing
the investigation, and the report.
Ms. Jackson Lee. And would you be able to submit that to
this Committee once it is finalized?
Ms. Leonhart. Yes. I would have to defer to the inspector
general, but usually the OIG reports are made public.*
*The Subcommittee had not received this information by the time
this hearing record was submitted for printing on February 19, 2013.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Let me move forward and as I said, quick
questions. What is the extent of drug trafficking on tribal
land? Can I just get brief answers, because I have a series
Ms. Leonhart. Yes. There is a serious substance abuse
problem on tribal land, especially in the last 5 years, with
prescription drugs. Their big problem used to be alcohol and
methamphetamine, but more recently----
Ms. Jackson Lee. And so, what are we doing? The DEA has a
focus on that? I want to know that we have a problem, and I
believe it is, and do we have focus in some of your----
Ms. Leonhart. Absolutely. We have established very good
relationships with the other law enforcement agencies, both the
FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other tribal law
enforcement, and have done joint investigations. We depend on
them to tell us, you know, who are the traffickers, who are
those most impacting the supply on Indian lands, and then
jointly work with them, sharing intelligence, and we have had
many successes on those lands.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Right. Let me ask you, there have been
many requests by members, how is the Ryan Republican budget,
the budget that would cut resources, how devastating would that
be? And let me follow-up, so you can answer these questions. I
am very concerned about bath salts. I know we talked about
synthetic, but focused on bath salts, and particularly the
impact that it just had in Houston, Texas. A story I refer you
to, KHOU, Channel 11, specifically talked about a heinous
incident with bath salts, and an individual, David Peterson,
who died on a Galveston street. He was found disoriented, and
in extreme physical deterioration. And then I would appreciate
your comment about DEA officers and physician officers, and
pain pills, and whether or not the response is excessive,
whether you think we are being fair to doctors on those
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Do you have all points of that
Ms. Leonhart. The last question I had a hard time hearing.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The efforts with
DEA officers dealing with physicians and pain pills, there has
been sort of a surge of closing physician offices, arresting
them. I am wondering, are we being excessive, are we being
careful, because you are literally shutting down professionals,
who may be legitimately issuing----
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Okay. The witness will answer.
Ms. Leonhart. Okay. I will start with the, you asked about
Ms. Jackson Lee. Yes.
Ms. Leonhart. You know, these are austere budget times, and
we will work within what money is given to us, and we will
prioritize accordingly. As to the synthetic drugs, and I am
glad you bring that up, an emerging problem that concerns us,
this Committee has just helped give us the biggest tool we can,
and that is controlling some of those chemicals, those
In your area, for instance, our agents have opened a number
of investigations, both on bath salts and on K2 and Spice. And
they have been pretty successful in assisting State and local
officers on those types of investigations as well.
Your third question about, you know, physicians, and pill
mills, and pain clinics, Houston is very troubling, because
they have a pill mill problem. And it is not like in Florida,
with OxyContin. It is Hydrocodone that is the problem there.
And we have many investigations, successful investigations, and
we have arrested and prosecuted some very egregious doctors.
And let me say that the doctors that are affiliated and
operating these pill mills, and working within these pill
mills, they are not practicing medicine. They are not giving
examinations to patients. These pill mills are just open for
pill distribution, and those are the physicians, those are the
clinics that we have targeted, using our intelligence or using
undercover investigations, and we have been very successful in
the Houston area.
Mr. Sensenbrenner. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Mr. Chairman, let me thank you for your
courtesies. Could I put a question on the record to be answered
in writing, please?
Mr. Sensenbrenner. Yes, you can. And that will be taken
care of with the UCs that I am about ready to propound. Thank
you, Ms. Leonhart, for coming. We look forward to seeing you
come back here. You might look forward to seeing us again,
might not do that, but thank you for your testimony today. I
think it has been helpful to all of the Members.
Without objection, all Members will have 5 legislative days
to submit to the Chair additional questions for the witnesses,
which we will forward and ask the witness to respond as
promptly as they can, so that their answers may be made a part
of the record.
Without objection, all Members will have 5 legislative days
to submit additional materials for inclusion into the record.
And with that, again, I thank Ms. Leonhart. And without
objection, this hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:26 a.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
Questions for the Record*
*The Subcommittee had not received a response to its questions by
the time this hearing record was submitted for printing on February 19,