Though the Republican Party prides itself on being a champion of state sovereignty, one need only mention phrases like “medical marijuana” or “drug law reform” to see how quickly the Administration of George W. Bush becomes hostile to the notion of the autonomy of states. The latest–and perhaps most egregious–example of this enmity is about to become manifest via a new appointment: that of veteran Justice Department official Karen Tandy, soon to be new chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Already approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee after an all but unnoticed, if not farcical, confirmation hearing late last month, the Administration evidently hopes Tandy’s nomination will next clear the full Senate with as little attention or debate as possible. Lost in the shuffle has been any meaningful examination of dubious policy initiatives and prosecutions Tandy has been involved in over the past twenty years.
According to drug-reform activists, the nomination of Tandy–a career Justice Department prosecutor and administrator whose most recent assignments have included busting mail-order bong sellers and those involved in Oregon and California’s state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs–is a clear signal from the Administration that it will give no quarter on any aspect of marijuana policy. This view is also echoed by veteran defense attorneys who have tangled with Tandy; they marvel at the lack of scrutiny her nomination has received, both in the press and on Capitol Hill. Though nary a critical question or ill word was uttered to Tandy at her hearing, a preliminary Nation investigation has found numerous instances of prosecutorial overzealousness on Tandy’s part that don’t lend themselves to a rubber-stamp confirmation:
§ While coordinating the grand jury investigation of major marijuana traffickers Christopher and Robert Reckmeyer in the Eastern District of Virginia in 1984, Tandy and two federal agents were “disqualified and prohibited from directly or indirectly participating” in the investigation by Judge Albert Bryan Jr. because they read documents the court had ruled were protected by attorney-client privilege. On an arcane point of procedure, an appellate court reluctantly reversed Bryan’s decision, noting that it was finding for Tandy “with admitted discomfort” that “the government shall have been able to violate both court decrees and adjudicated rights without any accountability in this proceeding.”
An April 9, 1985, Washington Post article reported that other underhanded Tandy actions in the Reckmeyer case–like waiting until only three days before trial before giving defense attorneys over 60,000 pages of critical documents, all unindexed–had made the US Attorney’s office an object of scorn to the court and the defense bar. Robert Reckmeyer later revealed in an affidavit that after he agreed to aid the government in exchange for a lesser sentence, Tandy afforded him the highly unusual, if not dubious, privilege of lengthy private visits with his wife and family. “There came a time during my debriefings when Karen Tandy complained to me that I was ‘not being cooperative,’ ” he wrote. “I interpreted this to mean that Ms. Tandy was upset because I was not saying what she wanted me to say. She told me that if I was not ‘more cooperative’ in the future, she would end my visits with my wife.”