Heated E-Mail A-OK For DEA

A fiery e-mail sent by a federal agent from his government address does not violate employee policy, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official.

In July, Colorado Confidential reported on an angry letter originating from a Department of Justice e-mail address. The message, riddled with spelling errors, was sent to Independence Institute analyst Jessica Peck Corry in response to a Denver Post editorial she wrote supporting medical marijuana.

Since then it has been discovered that the note came from a DEA agent, and the agency’s Denver field director says that matter comes down to freedom of speech. “I actually encourage my people to try and provide facts to people doing stories,” says Jeff Sweetin, who heads the DEA’s Denver Field Division.

“A government e-mail address, which is the Department of Justice account that DEA uses–our employees are under policy permitted to use those for personal use,” Sweetin says, although noting that  agents are limited to uses that “would be of negligible time and monetary value.”

In the message, agent Thomas D. Miller blasted Peck Corry for putting “liberal spin” on the medical marijuana issue, and misleading the public with her “liberal friends.”

“We don’t adopt the use of the work liberal as an agency, but obviously it’s a very emotional topic,” says Sweetin, explaining that the agency is accused of putting marijuana users in jail when he says that is often not the case.

When asked about the unprofessional nature of the e-mail, notably the misspelling of words like medicinal (spelled “medicimal”) and the lack of factual information, Sweetin brought up the agent’s right to an opinion.

“Well we’re certainly against the misspellings,” he says. “I’m not saying this is a DEA press release, I mean this is one of our agent’s opinions, but I would certainly expect as journalists you all would be more interested  than the average person in society, that people have a voice in our society. I think the fact that this came from a government e-mail address, I would be surprised if that tempered your interest in someone having freedom of speech.”

Although the e-mail may be on shaky ground, the DEA’s policy against marijuana is not. According to Sweetin, the agency does not see pot has medicinal and will “go after cannabis clubs wherever they exist.”

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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