The Drug War In The Halls Of Justice

By The Wall Street Journal | by Rachel Ehrenfeld
Monday, April 9th, 1990 @ 6:14AM

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When President Bush decides to deliver another “War on Drugs” speech to the nation, it may not be necessary for the Drug Enforcement Agency to stage a drug buy at Lafayette Park. Perhaps all the president has to do is phone Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and ask him to step outside his office and into the halls of the Justice Department.

Late last month, on a trip to Washington, I found myself at the Justice Department, about to attend a meeting a floor below Mr. Thornburgh’s office. Upon entering the building, like all visitors, I provided some identification and stated the purpose of the visit and the office at which I was expected. After those details were recorded and verified, I passed through a metal detector and my belongings were checked by an X-ray machine. I completed the security check and continued on my way to my meeting, in the firm belief that the building must be one of the most crime-free in the capital.

I was very tired that day and it must have showed. The Justice Department headquarters is a rather large and complex building, and it is easy to get lost in its long corridors. As I was rounding one corner, I saw packages and boxes out of the corner of my eye and a person who seemed to approach me from this area suddenly moved and blocked my way. Imagine my shock and surprise when this rather thin, casually dressed young man who appeared to be in his 20s said, “Wanna fix?” I was so startled, I stopped and stared. He repeated his question while taking something out of his pocket and quickly opened his palm revealing a small, shiny white square. Dumbfounded, I made no reply but instinctively moved out of his way and down the corridor to the first open doorway of an office suite seeking help.

As I walked outraged into the room, the full impact of what had just happened dawned on me, and I said to the people in the office that somebody had tried to sell me drugs just outside their office in the corridor. They didn’t seem surprised, nor shocked, nor did they feel impelled to do anything. Their response simply was, “Really?” When I suggested that they check the corridor and see if he was still there, I got no response. They were not interested and went on with their work as though nothing had happened. When I was able to get myself collected, I left their office and continued on my way.

Later I called the office responsible for security in the Justice Department and gave it the details of the incident. When I inquired if something like this had ever been reported before, the answer was no. The security people, however, were very anxious to take down the details of what had happened.

I suppose it is possible that I was the victim of a prank. But Bush administration officials have just admitted that the war on drugs has been a failure in the streets of Washington. Perhaps it has failed in the corridors of power as well. If one can be offered drugs in the halls of the Justice Department in Washington, it seems reasonable to suspect that the “Colombianization” of the U.S. is here now.

Ms. Ehrenfeld is the author of “Narco-Terrorism,” to be published by Basic Books this fall, and a research scholar at New York University School of Law.


Categories: ACD in the Media, Narco-Terrorism, U.S. Policy

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