Not Just Drugs Anymore: DEA Now a Vast, Global Spy

WikiLeaks cables reveal the growing reach of the DEA
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2010 9:55 AM CST
Anti-narcotics police officers prepare packages of cocaine for disposal in Panama City last Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

(Newser) – It's not your daddy's Drug Enforcement Agency: The DEA reach is now so vast and global that it extends far beyond illegal drugs into global intelligence gathering, reports the New York Times. The DEA, with 87 offices in 63 countries, has developed strong ties with foreign governments, including those that dislike working with the CIA. But WikiLeaks cables reveal that those governments often try to muscle in on the DEA's spying abilities for their own nefarious purposes. "I need help with tapping phones," texted the president of Panama. The DEA's refusal set off months of diplomatic tensions.

It's a high-stakes game the DEA plays, in which anyone could turn out to be an enemy: WikiLeaks cables note a case in Guinea in which the country's biggest druglord turned out to be the president's son. They also reveal how pervasive and international drug rings are, rivaling and often interconnecting with terrorists and governments from Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. In Paraguay, which is fighting insurgent group EPP, the interior minister demanded use of the DEA's wiretapping abilities. “Counternarcotics are important, but won’t topple our government," said the minister. "The EPP could.”

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