Retired Special Agent, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
"Every drug arrest creates another job opportunity."
Richard Amos worked for the United States government for 30 years, wearing the uniforms
of the Marine Corps, the Army and later a DEA pilot. He has been involved with drug
prohibition from the beginning, when, in the 1968 Presidential election campaign Richard
Nixon announced a new war - the War on Drugs. Richard had seen U.S. soldiers become
addicted to drugs in Vietnam and witnessed the early use of government drug tests on
soldiers returning home.
Being qualified to fly helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, and agreeing with the
administration’s focus of putting drug dealers in prison, Richard joined a new anti-drug
super agency formed in 1973—the Drug Enforcement Administration. Little did Richard
imagine, DEA would still be around 40 years later; it was the early days of the new
agency and the agents believed they would soon rid America of drugs.
The travels of Richard Amos are a chronological atlas of DEA history. His career
stretched from the jungles of Southeast Asia, Central and South America, to the jungles
of New York City, Houston, and Los Angeles. From the rain forest of Hawaii to the Far
East, he was involved in major drug interdiction operations. Over the years, record drug
busts were the reason for celebrations and press conferences but the busts were
eventually blurred by the same dismal results—drugs continued to pour into the U.S. DEA’s
original 40 million dollar budget exploded over the years. But the mantra from DEA and
the Drug Czars never varied from"Give us more money and we will win this war!"
In 1998, Administrator Thomas Constantine addressed the Retired DEA Agent’s Annual
Conference in Houston, Texas. He looked out at the gathered agents and said, "I have good
news and bad news. First, the good news—Congress has approved a $17 billion budget to
fight the drug war. Now the bad news—drugs are cheaper, the purity is higher and we need
to work harder." When the Administrator finished, he invited questions from the audience.
Amos stood to ask a question that had been troubling him for years. "Sir, if America legalized drugs, wouldn’t we remove distribution of those drugs from the Cartels? Wouldn’t we reduce the size of our prisons and stop criminalizing drug users? We have used the same tactics since the beginning of DEA; yet you tell us, more drugs cross the border than ever before and they are cheaper than they were in 1973. Is it not time to try different tactics?" The Administrator had no answer and was not amused. Amos was retired at that time; however, he was still committed to seeing the drug scourge end in our country.
Richard Amos joined LEAP in 2002. Richard’s explanation of his transformation from drug war-warrior to drug-war-reformer takes his audience on a mesmerizing tour of America’s headlines over the past 30 years.