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.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·


PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·


Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers

The latest passage of the NDAA "is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors' interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo