Posted on Sun, Jan. 15, 2006

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald...iherald_nation


JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Memo accuses DEA agents of corruption
The DEA has said it is investigating potential corruption among agents in Bogotá after the charges were made in a memo by a Justice Department lawyer.
BY GERARDO REYES
greyes@nuevoherald.com

A memo from a Justice Department lawyer has accused agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Bogotá of massive corruption, from taking bribes to hampering investigations, including one about the sale in Spain of weapons-grade nuclear materials.

First published last week in The Narco News Bulletin, an Internet publication, the memo gives no names or dates and only briefly mentions allegations of suspicious deaths of DEA informers and DEA agents who took bribes, made false statements and disclosed secret information to drug traffickers.

At the time he wrote the memo, in December 2004, Thomas M. Kent was an attorney for the office of wiretaps of the Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs Section of the Justice Department. Now he works as deputy attorney general for the Middle District of Tennessee. Kent did not return calls made to his office in Nashville by El Nuevo Herald.

The memo, sent to senior NDDS officials, also complained about the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility, in charge of the internal investigations. ``The investigative agencies are dropping the ball.''

SERIOUS ALLEGATIONS

On Friday, the DEA announced that OPR is investigating the contents of the memo. ''The allegations that are reported in The Narco News Bulletin are extremely serious,'' said Garrison K. Courtney, spokesman for the DEA's communications office in Washington.

Sandalio González, former deputy director of the DEA in Miami and former chief of the agency's El Paso bureau, told El Nuevo Herald the memo is accurate and reflects the state of moral decay of some departments in the agency.

''The information contained in the memo is accurate as far as I know, because I was involved in some of those cases,'' said González, who is suing the DEA for discrimination. ``The DEA is unable to police itself.''

According to Kent's memo, the DEA got the tip about nuclear materials after a long dispute over an informer, jailed in Bogotá, who had established a close relationship with members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the leftist guerrilla group known as FARC. The memo does not explain the type of nuclear materials involved, and does not say whether the alleged sellers in Spain have links to the FARC.

AGENT IN COLOMBIA

According to the seven-page memo, the problems began when a DEA agent in Colombia, described as corrupt in another case mentioned by Kent, objected to a proposal by agents in Miami to remove the informer from prison so that U.S. officials could pursue the investigation.

When his story was challenged, the informer secretly videotaped a meeting with FARC guerrillas who asked him for help obtaining communications equipment, Kent added, but when the Miami agents showed their Bogotá colleagues the tape as proof of the informer's value, the agents in Bogotá complained that the video had been made illegally.

While the investigation languished because of the disagreement between the agents, the informer was released from prison and contacted the agents in Florida to tell them he remained in contact with the FARC and was willing to press on with the case. That's when he told the DEA about the alleged nuclear materials, the memo said.

But one of the agents in the Bogotá bureau traveled to Washington ''and convinced the DEA to shut [the investigation] down and not work with the informant,'' the memo added, without explaining the end result of the arguments.