If Asa Hutchinson had been a Democratic appointee, this story would have exploded across the Fox News/Drudgeosphere long ago, just as the backfired shipment of weapons to Mexico caused Democratic politicians grief.

But Asa Hutchinson was a Republican appointee as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, so this story hasn’t gotten much traction.


The central issue:

An investigation by El Universal found that between the years 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an arrangement with Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs while Sinaloa provided information on rival cartels.

Asa Hutchinson, the leading Republican candidate for governor, led the DEA from 2001 to 2003.


Would Arkansas  elect somebody who signed off on illegal drug running — with all the crime and personal grief that came with it — into the U.S. (and undoubtedly Arkansas), even if to catch other bad guys?

KATV finally ran down Hutchinson for a statement on the issue. He has “no recollection” of the details provided by KATV, an aide said. (Shades of Whitewater/Monicagate when the House prosecutor Asa Hutchinson would have sneered at those with faulty memories of such a momentous happening.) Hutchinson also produced a carefully worded statement:


“As the head of the DEA I had 4,000 agents working to enforce our drug laws and, without being personally familiar with every case, I do know that the DEA worked every day to diminish the power of the cartels and to bring the drug kingpins to justice. Since there may be sensitive investigations that are impacted by this story I will leave further comment to the DEA.” 

Until a more categorical response is forthcoming, I’d call that a non-denial denial.

A more relevant question for Hutchinson — and it’s relevant in the governor’s race in a year when marijuana measures may be on the ballot here — is how he continues to defend the utter insanity of the U.S. “war on drugs.”

The literature is rich with examples of U.S. folly in its failed war on a pathology, but if you have some time I’d urge you to read this particularly shining recent example in the New Yorker about misbegotten adventures in Honduras.

UPDATE: The Justice Department in Washington took notice of this item. It denies categorically the allegations about cooperation with the Mexican cartel and says El Universal has no evidence to back up its allegations. It said the issues have been raised in court and a judge has found them wanting, based on evidence the judge reviewed. I’ll provide some documents when I have them. A spokesman mentioned that law enforcement sometimes has cooperating witnesses with unsavory backgrounds in investigations, of course. I gather that is to distinguish people who might have connections with a criminal organizations to doing deals with those organizations.


Also, Washington Post blogger Max Fisher expressed some skepticism about the claim of U.S. backing of a drug cartel — if not the possibility I alluded to previously of U.S. cooperation with select cartel members as informants. Which brings me back again to winking and nodding at criminals in the course of using them to wage a stupid war with little but death, misery and enormous expenses to show for the efffort — not decreased availability or use of drugs.