Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Drug Enforcement Administration police are seen as demonstrators marched to Freedom Plaza from Capitol Hill to honor George Floyd and victims of racial injustice on Saturday, June 6, 2020.

Drug Enforcement Administration police are seen as demonstrators marched to Freedom Plaza from Capitol Hill to honor George Floyd and victims of racial injustice on Saturday, June 6, 2020. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

DEA's "Project Safeguard" Latest Salvo in Failed US War on Drugs

"It is astonishing that in the midst of a pandemic and calls for police reform, the DEA is using the same old heavy-handed tactics to address a public health issue."

Andrea Germanos

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration was accused Wednesday of furthering the failed war on drugs with a new initiative that purports to reduce violence but in fact rejects proven methods to achieve actual harm reduction in order to tout high arrest numbers and seized assets.

The DEA announced the initiative, dubbed Project Safeguard, on Tuesday. Since launching in August, the agency said, it has brought about "more than 700 investigations, over 1,500 arrests—including nearly 40 DEA fugitives, more than 2,130 seized firearms, nearly $24 million in seized assets, and more than 6,100 kilograms of illicit drugs."

According to The Associated Press,

Such operations are common for the federal government, but the issue of law-and-order is a major component of President Donald Trump's reelection campaign. The initiative, nicknamed Project Safeguard, comes as Trump is touting the federal government's involvement in other operations as an answer to a spike in crime in cities nationwide, and to showcase what he says is his law-and-order prowess, claiming he's countering lawlessness in Democrat-run cities. [...]

The agency has been roiled in recent years by allegations of misconduct, including a number of agents who have been prosecuted for bribery and other offenses, and allegations of racial harassment.

The federal agency's announcement included a statement from Acting DEA Administrator Timothy  Shea, who, as interim head of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, previously joined Attorney General William Barr in intervening to reduce the recommended prison sentence for Trump ally Roger Stone and sought to dismiss charges against ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"Drug trafficking and violent crime are inextricably linked," Shea said, adding, "Neighborhoods across our country are terrorized by violent drug trafficking organizations that have little regard for human life, and profit from the pain and suffering of our people.

"Along with our law enforcement partners," asserted Shea, "DEA is committed to safeguarding the health and safety of our communities."

Maritza Perez, director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), suggested that's a far stretch from reality.

"It is astonishing that in the midst of a pandemic and calls for police reform, the DEA is using the same old heavy-handed tactics to address a public health issue. Treating drug trafficking offenses as 'homicides' is not the answer to reducing overdoses," said Perez.

Perez put the blame for increasing overdose rates during the pandemic on the nation's failure to "adequately fund harm reduction services and treatment in favor of an ineffective and unproven punitive approach."

Hope for "any real progress in curtailing the underground drug market or aiding people who use drugs and want help" should not be expected from the new initiative, she added.

Instead, Perez called for the funding used for Project Safeguard to "be deployed toward evidence-based and health-centered approaches that have the potential to actually save lives and reduce harm."

DPA has been a fierce critic of the DEA, stating on its website, "In the last 50 years, it's been a tremendous waste of resources and left a wake of devastation in the United States and abroad."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Bodycam Footage Shows Ohio Police Shooting Jayland Walker 60+ Times

"The Department of Justice needs to step in to investigate immediately," said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner.

Common Dreams staff ·


'Impeach Justice Clarence Thomas' Petition Nears 1 Million Signatures

"He has shown he cannot be an impartial justice and is more concerned with covering up his wife's coup attempts than the health of the Supreme Court," reads the petition.

Jake Johnson ·


'Tipping Point of No Return' Feared as Amazon Rainforest Fires Surge

"Up to now, the Biden administration has only legitimized the Brazilian government's anti-Indigenous and anti-environmental agenda," said Greenpeace USA.

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Urged to Embrace Windfall Tax as Exxon Says Profits Doubled in Second Quarter

"It's time for the president to demand that Congress pass a windfall profits tax on Big Oil and use the revenue to provide rebates to consumers NOW!" wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson ·


Texas Supreme Court Allows Century-Old Abortion Ban to Take Effect

"Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo