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Agency of Fear

Opiates and Political Power in America

By Edward Jay Epstein

Copyright, 1977, G. P. Putnam and Sons, New York.

The Story of How the Drug Enforcement Administration Came to Be.





1. Legend of the Living Dead

2. Nelson Rockefeller

3. G. Gordon Liddy: The Will to Power


4. The Barker of Slippery Gulch

5. The Bete-noire Strategy

6. The Education of Egil Krogh


7. Operation Intercept

8. The War of the Poppies

9. The French Connection

10. The Panama Canal


11. The Narcotics Business: John Ingersoll's Version

12. The Border War: Eugene Rossides's Version

13. Conflict of Interest: Egil Krogh's Version

14. The Magic-bullet Solution


15. The June Scenario

16. Bureau of Assassinations

17. The Screw Worm

18. The Celebrity File

19. World War III


20. The Manipulation of the Media

21. The Movable Epidemic

22. The Crime Nexus

23. Private Knowledge


24. The Liddy Plan

25. The Secret of Room 16

26. Executive Order

27. Dangerous Liaisons

28. The Heroin Hotline

29. The Philadelphia Story

30. The Consolidation of Power



31. The Revolt of the Bureaucrats

32. The Coughing Crisis

33. The Drugging of America

34. Lost Horizons

35. Decline and Fall

END NOTES - Coming Soon!

Chapter Notes


Personal Sources




 This book is based on the view that the American president under ordinary circumstances reigns rather than rules over the government of the United States. To be sure, the president is nominally in command of the executive branch of the government, and he has the authority to fire the officials that in fact control such critical agencies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the criminal division of the Department of Justice, etc. (though he does not in many cases have the authority unilaterally to appoint a replacement). In practice, however, this presidential power is severely mitigated, if not entirely counterbalanced, by the ability of officials in these key agencies to disclose secrets and private evaluations to the public that could severely damage the image of the president.

For example, in theory, six presidents, from Franklin Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, had the power to fire J. Edgar Hoover as head of the FBI, but in each case he had the power to retaliate by revealing illicit activities that occurred during their administrations (as well as information about the private lives of the presidents). This potential for retribution by government officials is compounded by the fact that in the vast complexity of the executive branch a president cannot be sure where embarrassing secrets exist, and he must assume that most officials have developed subterranean channels to journalists, who will both conceal their sources and give wide circulation to the "leak." A president could seize control over the various parts of the government only if he first nullified the threat of disclosures by severing the conduits through which dissidents might leak scandalous information to the press. This prerequisite for power is in fact exactly what President Nixon attempted when he set up a series of special units which, it was hoped, would conduct clandestine surveillance of both government officials and newsmen during his first administration. If he had succeeded in establishing such an investigative force, he would have so radically changed the balance of power within the government that it would have been tantamount to an American coup d'etat.

A coup d'etat is not the same as a revolution, where power is seized by those outside the government, or even necessarily a military putsch, whereby the military government takes over from the civilian government; it is, as Edward Luttwak points out in his book Coup d'Etat, "a seizure of power within the present system." The technique of the coup involves the use of one part of the government to disrupt communications between other parts of the government, confounding and paralyzing noncooperating agencies while displacing the dissident cliques from power. If successful, the organizers of the coup can gain control over all the levers of real power in the government, then legitimize the new configuration under the name of eliminating some great evil in society. Though it is hard to conceive of the technique of the coup being applied to American politics, Nixon, realizing that he securely controlled only the office of the president, methodically moved to destroy the informal system of leaks and independent fiefdoms. Under the aegis of a "war on heroin," a series of new offices were set up, by executive order, such as the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement and the Office of National Narcotics Intelligence,- which, it was hoped, would provide the president with investigative agencies having the potential and the wherewithal and personnel to assume the functions of "the Plumbers" on a far grander scale. According to the White House scenario, these new investigative functions would be legitimized by the need to eradicate the evil of drug addiction.

In describing the inner workings of the "war on heroin" I have relied heavily on the files supplied to me by Egil Krogh, Jr., who was the president's deputy for law enforcement before he was imprisoned for his role in the Plumbers' operations. This archive includes verbatim transcripts of' conversations the president had with presidential advisors; handwritten notes describing meetings between John Ehrlichman, John Mitchell, H. R. Haldeman, and other principals in the administration's "crusade"; option papers drafted for the Domestic Council; scenarios designed for the media; internal analyses of political problems; drafts of presidential speeches; private reports on the drug problem; briefings for the press; and outlines of conversations Krogh had with the president. Krogh, after he was released from prison, spent more than three weeks assisting me in analyzing the material, and I then went over many of the documents with Jeffrey Donfeld, who was Krogh's assistant on the Domestic Council. The archive is by no means complete-the White House retained a large portion of Krogh's files-and it presents information only from the perspective of the White House. I therefore filled in the archive by interviewing officials in the various agencies that were to be affected by the White House plans for a "reorganization." These interviews took over three years, and reflect personal animosities as well as bureaucratic perspectives. Because the circumstances surrounding each interview bear directly on the credibility of the interview-why, for example, did Krogh provide me with such embarrassing documents?-I have decided to reveal all the sources for this book and comment on the motives, problems, contradictions, and gaps that I found in the interviews and documents. Unless otherwise specified, whenever references are made to persons explaining, commenting, observing or otherwise divulging information, they were made to me for the purposes of this book, and a fuller explanation of when, where, and why is provided in the final section of the book. Books and documents are listed in the Bibliography.

The research for this book was financed in large part by the Drug Abuse Council, Inc., a privately financed foundation which was established to provide another perspective on problems of drug abuse. Assistance was also provided by National Affairs, Inc., the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Police Foundation. Esquire helped subsidize my reportage of poppy-growing in Turkey, and The Public Interest magazine supported my investigation of methadone clinics and helped me obtain the Krogh file. Research on various parts of the book was done for me by Hillary Mayer, Suzanna Duncan, Elizabeth Guthrie, and Deborah Gieringer, to all of whom I am grateful.

I am also indebted, for their insights into the political process, to Edward Banfield, Daniel Bell, Allan Bloom, Edward Chase, Nathan Glazer, Erving Goffman, Andrew Hacker, William Haddad, Paul Halpern, Bruce Kovner, Irving Kristol, Edward Luttwak, Jerry Mandel, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Victor Navasky, Bruce Page, Norman Podhoretz, Mark Platner, John Rubenstein, William Shawn, Jonathan Shell, Leslie Steinau, Edward Thompson, Lionel Tiger, Paul Weaver, William Whitworth, and James Q. Wilson. The conclusions that I draw from their insights are, of course, entirely my own. 

E. J. E.



Other books by Edward Jay Epstein



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