After 9/11, the Drug Enforcement Administration reframed its mission, warning the country that terrorists had gotten into the illegal drug trade to finance their activities. Congress passed a law in 2006 that gave the D.E.A. the authority to pursue narco-terrorists anywhere in the world, even when none of their activities occurred on American soil. Neither the D.E.A. nor the Justice Department would provide a complete list of the people that have been prosecuted under the statute. But in May 2014, the D.E.A. issued a report on its narco-terrorism efforts that described some 37 cases. A review of those cases reveals that when they were presented in court, the only links between terrorism and drug trafficking that were entered into evidence was provided by the D.E.A., using agents or informants who were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to lure the targets into staged narco-terrorism conspiracies. The fact that so many of the D.E.A.’s cases rely on sting operations raises questions about whether the links between drugs and terrorism exist at all.
ProPublica and Vox explain.