Wednesday: Senate to Hold Confirmation Hearing on Obama’s Controversial Nominee to Head the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Press Release November 15, 2010
Media Contact

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Bill Piper at 202-669-6430

WASHINGTON, DC — On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on several of President Obama’s nominees, including his controversial nominee for Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele Leonhart. A coalition of organizations that support the right of patients to use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation have called on President Obama to withdraw her nomination.
“Michele Leonhart continues to wage war on sick people and their caregivers, undermining the Obama Administration’s otherwise compassionate medical marijuana policy,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Obama needs to publicly let her know that he is the boss or withdraw her nomination and nominate someone who will follow the stated policies of his administration.”
As Special Agent in Charge (SAC) for the DEA office in Los Angeles under President George W. Bush, Ms. Leonhart was the ranking DEA agent responsible for numerous Bush Administration raids against medical marijuana patients and providers there. President Bush later made her acting DEA Administrator, a position she currently holds. Since the Obama Administration took office, the DEA has continued to raid medical marijuana patients and caregivers despite a directive issued by the U.S. Justice Department strongly discouraging federal law enforcement from using scarce resources to arrest and prosecute those acting in compliance with their state’s medical marijuana laws.
Additionally, Acting Administrator Leonhart has links to the ongoing “House of Death” scandal and is directly tied to the Andrew Chambers / “Super Snitch”scandal. The “House of Death” in Juárez, Mexico, was a house used by the Juárez drug cartel to murder people. Dozens of bodies were eventually recovered when the police raided it. The case revolves around a U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) and DEA informant in Mexico, codenamed “Lalo,” who witnessed (and perhaps took part in) a murder in the House of Death during August 2003. In a lawsuit, whistleblower and former DEA Special Agent Sanalio Gonzalez charges that Leonhart and other officials fired him for speaking out about the murders and then helped cover the scandal up.
In the Andrews Chambers case, Ms. Leonhart reportedly continued to use a corrupt informant despite mounting evidence that he was a serial perjurer and ongoing thief and fraud. Mr. Chambers began working for the DEA in 1986 and, over the span of an almost 15 year career, received approximately $2.2 million in payments from the DEA, making him the most highly paid informant in DEA history. His primary role was to conduct sting operations, which resulted in hundreds of prosecutions. He was branded a perjurer by the US 8th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals and many prosecutors ceased to use him after they learned of his previous criminal convictions and his record for perjury. Michelle Leonhart had a close professional relationship with Chambers, continuously defending him, describing him as “an outstanding testifier.”
Both the House of Death scandal and the Andrews Chambers scandals are detailed, along with Leonhart’s recent medical raids, in a Drug Policy Alliance footnoted memo on Leonhart that is available to reporters.
“Given both the law enforcement scandals that Acting Administrator Leonhart appears linked to and her ongoing role in threatening cancer, AIDS and other medical marijuana patients, the U.S. Senate should hold multiple hearings on her to find out the truth,” said Piper. “Senators have a duty as an institution and as representatives of the people to do more than rubber stamp this important position.”
What: Confirmation hearing on DEA Administrator nominee Michele Leonhart.
When: Wednesday, November 17, 10 a.m.
Where: 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC
A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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