The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducted a survey of its top performing confidential sources a couple years ago, and asked them to list in order of importance the factors that allow global drug trafficking cartels [and terrorist organizations] to succeed. At the very top of the list for every respondent was the single word— ‘CORRUPTION.’
Powerful Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking cartels, both of which now span the globe, invest billions of dollars a year to corrupt virtually every level of government in their respective countries. And if United States policy and lawmakers think for a moment that the cartels are focused solely on their side of the border, they had better think again. Richard Padilla Cramer, who not long ago retired as a Supervisory Special Agent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was recently accused by the U.S. Government of comporting with Mexican drug cartels and selling out his former U.S. law enforcement colleagues. It is important to remember that Cramer is innocent until proven guilty, but this recent drug corruption arrest should sound some alarm bells here in our country.
It’s also essential to understand that corruption within the ranks of law enforcement in our country is nothing new, especially along our Southwest Border. There have been a number of employees of every three-letter agency in the U.S. Government’s law enforcement alphabet soup, the FBI, DEA, ATF, ICE, CBP and USMs (Marshals), who have succumbed to corruption at the hands of formidable drug cartels. Local and state law enforcement agencies have fared worse, with some officers even arrested while transporting large loads of drugs in their squad cars for Mexican cartels.
The most significant difference between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement is our internal ‘policing’ capacity. Federal and state law enforcement agencies in our country, as well as most local departments, have aggressive internal affairs divisions that work hard to identify, investigate and bring to justice those from within their ranks who have gone wrong. And although American law enforcement has an accomplished track record of policing its ranks, the pressure being exerted on the cartels in Mexico by President Calderon will most certainly cause them to resort to ever more assertive attempts to permeate every nook and cranny of the entire judicial systems of both our countries.
Corruption within the ranks of law enforcement and judicial systems, as well as military and intelligence institutions, is like a cancer. It is absolutely crucial, now more than ever, that these critically important institutions remain healthy. In order to do so they must constantly undergo self-imposed preventive check-ups for the disease, and when a cancer is discovered it has to be aggressively cut out, and the margins continually checked.
Consequently, now is the time for policy and lawmakers, as well as Inspectors General, to vigorously examine and assess the strengths of anti-corruption and internal policing programs within our government’s law enforcement, intelligence and military departments, commands and agencies. More importantly, now is the time to proactively identify and shore-up the weaknesses—before it’s too late.