Supersnitch Scandal: Mistakes Were Made, Says DEA Chief Hutchinson -- But No One Made Them 10/5/01

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DRCNet has reported on several occasions on the strange odyssey of Andrew Chambers, the St. Louis native who went from being the Drug Enforcement Administration's star informant to one 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 last Friday, 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.

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Issue #205, 10/5/01 Editorial: What Is It About Opium? | Politicians Exploiting Drug-Terror Link | Interview: John C. Thompson, Mackenzie Institute, Toronto | Drug War Budgets Unaffected by September Attacks | Wisconsin Lawmakers Seek Tougher Ecstasy Penalties, Would Make Possession a Felony | Supersnitch Scandal: Mistakes Were Made, Says DEA Chief Hutchinson -- But No One Made Them | Violence in the Chapare, Bolivia -- Two Sustain Bullet Wounds | Alert: Senate Judiciary Committee Voting on John Walters Nomination Wednesday | Other Alerts: HEA, Ecstasy Bill, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | Salvia Divinorum Defense Fund Established | Errata: Who's a Drug-Runnin' Terrorist? | The Reformer's Calendar

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