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Editorial: Lawsuit paints troubling picture of feds and crack

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American taxpayers – especially those who reside in the Land of Enchantment – deserve to know if the ends justify the means for U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

As in: Ignoring rules and getting a reformed crack addict back on the pipe is OK if it means busting his dealer.

Granted, Aaron Romero says in his federal lawsuit that only sheer, abject poverty got him clean. But Romero also claims DEA corner-cutting helped get him hooked again.

He says federal agents knew their informant was paying him in crack cocaine to broker deals in their 2011 “Smack City” operation in Las Vegas, N.M., but they never sought approval from the U.S. Attorney’s Office – violating a DEA regulation designed to prevent abuse by law enforcement – and then altered reports on the amounts of cocaine purchased to hide his cut.

Considering there are strict protocols for conducting noninvasive research on animals in this country, it’s disturbing to think the federal government would ignore procedures and hand bags of illegal narcotics to a random addict on the sly several times a week just to make a case.

Federal agents need to investigate how Smack City went down, determine if it was by the book or off the books, and let the public that pays their salaries and funds their investigations know what they find.

New Mexico has serious problems with drug abuse and addiction. It is important to determine if government efforts to clean up those problems are just as dirty as the criminals they target.

And it should be noted the federal government likes to investigate misconduct by state and local agencies. It’s about time it applied some of those standards to itself.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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