Gov't Watchdog Sues Defense Dept for Info on Opiate Use by U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan

By Michael W. Chapman | March 13, 2017 | 4:55 PM EDT

Heroin and hypodermic needle.  (AP) 

(CNSNews.com) -- Because the Department of Defense (DOD) did not respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about the illegal use of opiates by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the DOD demanding the information from the U.S. Army Crime Records Center. 

The lawsuit, Judicial Watch v. Department of Defense, was filed on Feb. 13, 2017 following the failure of the Army Crime Records Center to produce the information requested back in February 2016.

“The Obama administration’s multi-billion-dollar effort to counter narcotics in Afghanistan is a humiliating failure," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a statement.  "Poppy cultivation and opium production have increased.  Last year, opium production reportedly rose 43 percent in Afghanistan."  

Soldier guards poppy field in Afghanistan.  (AP) 

"The U.S. Army has gone into full-fledged cover-up mode, refusing to release data about illicit drug usage by our soldiers in that war zone," said Fitton.  "This is an opportunity for the Trump administration to begin a new era of transparency and end this obvious cover up.”

The lawsuit seeks the release of "all records" from Jan. 1, 2012 to the present, "regarding the nonprescription use of opiates (including opium, heroin; and/or pharmaceutical opioid medications) by American service members in Afghanistan and by veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (OEF-A) or Operation Freedom’s Sentinel."

Last year, in March, the Army Crime Records Center said it could not comply with the request by Judicial Watch because the data "are indexed by personal identifiers such as names, Social Security numbers, dates and places of birth and other pertinent data to enable the positive identification of individuals."

However, as Judicial Watch reports, the Army Crime Records Center was able to release the identically requested information in March 2012. As Judicial Watch states, "In that case, the U.S. Army Crime Records Center 'was able to identify, retrieve, review, apply appropriate redactions to, and release records responsive to the [2012] request in a matter of approximately 15 days.'"

When those data were released in 2012, Tom Fitton said, "Prescription [opiates] abuse can easily veer into heroin drug use.  Afghanistan is the capital of this opiate production and the temptation is great there....  Judicial Watch is concerned that there hasn’t been enough public discussion, and we would encourage the leadership to discuss or talk about this issue more openly.”

Heroin seized by U.S. military police.  (AP) 

 

Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman