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DEA Scandal Report Barely Mentions Critical Problems

An external probe of the Drug Enforcement Administration that began in 2021 after reports of a rogue agent's corruption yielded a final report on the agency's vast overseas operations that barely mentions recent scandals and makes recommendations that critics said fall far short. The case of José Irizarry, a disgraced former DEA agent now serving a 12-year federal prison sentence after confessing to laundering money for Colombian drug cartels and skimming millions from seizures and informants, got mentioned in one paragraph in a 50-page report and Irizarry's offer to be interviewed was rebuffed. “This report is stunningly vague in its actual evaluation of known problems at the DEA and remedies to fix them,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This speaks to the agency’s broader effort to evade oversight. The agency has attempted to dodge my oversight inquiries but I intend to push forward.”


The report also made little mention of the turmoil that has roiled DEA operations in Mexico, where law enforcement cooperation collapsed amid the tenure of a regional director who was quietly ousted from his post for having improper contact with lawyers for narcotraffickers. It did find fault with the bureaucracy it said bogs down the assignment of agents to foreign divisions and recommended putting incentives in place to attract “top talent to hard-to-fill offices.” It blamed the “corrupting influence” of cartels for instances of “individual misconduct by DEA personnel.” “DEA also could do more to ensure supervisors are effectively evaluated and ultimately held accountable for compliance-related issues,” the review found. Other recommendations included more regular audits of foreign offices and vetted police units, and stricter controls on expenses. The external review was conducted by former DEA administrator Jack Lawn and Boyd Johnson, a former federal prosecutor who handled international drug cases. Public records show the no-bid contract was awarded to the law firm WilmerHale, where Johnson works, at a cost of $1.4 million. DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, who has declined repeated interview requests, said in a statement that the agency would implement all 17 of the report’s recommendations. “DEA is committed to meeting the challenges presented by today’s global drug threats and ensuring that our work is conducted at the highest level possible,” she said.

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