Pubdate: Mon, 27 Dec 2010
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2010sThe Australian
Referenced: New York Times "Cables Portray Expanded Reach of Drug 


THE US Drug Enforcement Administration has grown into a global
intelligence and diplomatic body.

And its reach extends far beyond narcotics, leaked cables

The DEA's operations have become so expansive that the agency has had
to fend off struggling foreign leaders who want to use it against
their enemies.

One cable from August last year reported that Panamanian President
Ricardo Martinelli sent an urgent message to the US ambassador asking
the DEA to go after his political rivals. "I need help with tapping
phones," the President said, according to The New York Times yesterday.

A May 2008 cable from the West African nation of Guinea reported that
the country's biggest narcotics dealer was Ousman Conte, son of then
president Lansana Conte.

And a cable from the US embassy in Mexico said military leaders had
appealed for closer links with the DEA because they did not trust
Mexican police.

In Sierra Leone, the attorney-general solicited $US2.5 million in
bribes from defendants in a cocaine-trafficking prosecution, according
to a 2009 cable. But the then president, Ernest Koroma, scuttled the

Cables from Burma tell of DEA informants reporting on how the military
government enriches itself with drug money and on the activities of
the junta's opponents, the New York Times said.

But the tables were turned in Venezuela, which infiltrated the DEA,
sabotaging equipment and using a computer hacker to intercept US
embassy emails.

US diplomats in Paraguay wrote in February that the government had
asked the DEA to help spy on the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP)
insurgent group. When diplomats refused to make the agency's
wiretapping system available, Interior Minister Rafael Filizzola
threatened to shut it down, saying: "Counter-narcotics are important,
but won't topple our government. The EPP could."

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli yesterday denied information
in a leaked cable suggesting he asked the US to help install phone
taps on his political opponents, but acknowledged requesting help
against criminals. A cable from August 22 last year quotes then US
ambassador Barbara Stephenson as saying the newly elected conservative
president asked for help with wiretaps soon after he took office on
July 1.

"He made no distinction between legitimate security targets and
political enemies," the cable states, adding that Ms Stephenson had
said: "We will not be party to any effort to expand wiretaps to
domestic political targets."

A cable reports Mexico's army leader "lamenting" the military's role
in the anti-drug offensive, but expecting it to last up to 10 more
years. It says Mexican Defence Secretary General Guillermo Galvan
mistrusts Mexican law-enforcement agencies and prefers to work
separately, because corrupt officials leaked information.

The October 26, 2009, cable describes a meeting between Mexico's top
soldier and former US national intelligence director Dennis Blair, and
quotes the general as saying Mexico's army "would be willing to accept
any training the US can offer".

Colourful cables from Guinea have sections titled "Excuses, Excuses,
Excuses" and "Theatrical Production", describing diplomats attending
what was billed as a bonfire of seized marijuana and cocaine worth
$US6.5 million.

But informants told the embassy the authorities replaced the cocaine
with manioc flour, proving, the diplomats wrote, that
"narco-corruption has contaminated" the government of Guinea "at the
highest levels". The cable reported that even the ambassador's driver
sniffed out a hoax.

"I know the smell of burning marijuana," the driver said. "And I
didn't smell anything."
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