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What is the DEA?

Stephanie Pagones

The Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, is a federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Justice whose mission is to keep drugs off the streets and away from the American people.

The DEA targets a person or group “involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States,” its website states.

The agency was formed in 1973 and is tasked with enforcing laws related to controlled substances, as well as investigating “drug gangs” and big-level drug law violators, and seizing “assets derived from, traceable to, or intended to be used for illicit drug trafficking,” according to the website.

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The DEA has 239 offices throughout the country and 91 foreign offices outside of the U.S.

In May 2020, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr appointed Tim Shea as acting administrator of the federal agency.

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Shea is the DEA’s fourth acting administrator in five years, after the agency’s last permanent administrator, Michele Leonhart, resigned in 2015 amid questions from Congress about her handling of agent misconduct allegations involving cartel-organized sex parties in Colombia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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