The Tribune christened its first Red Couch Chronicles taping on Jan. 9, with four of the most experienced senior experts from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), all now retired from the agency.
Executive Editor Tom Julia interviewed Mike Chapman, Richard Fiano, Derek Maltz and Steve Murphy for 90 minutes about federal drug policy and how the Trump Administration can better combat the dual — and increasingly linked — threats of illicit drug trafficking and the funding of international terrorism.
The full show will be available later this month, along with segments on specific subject areas.
All four men spoke from first hand experience bringing down drug kingpins around the world, and implementing U.S. anti-drug policy in coordination with other federal, state and local agencies — and with law enforcement in other countries.
They also shared war stories of risky, sometimes colorful pursuits of drug traffickers dating back to the 1990’s.
Chapman, who is the elected Sheriff of Loudoun County, Virginia, spent 23 years at DEA as a special agent, regional administrator and head of public affairs. His work in local, federal and private sector law enforcement spans 38 years.
“There’s still a big need for more education of our young people, and not waiting until high school to start,” Chapman said. “Drugs wreck lives, and we have to do more to head off the problem.”
Fiano works for Chapman as a Major and Commander of Loudoun’s Criminal Investigations Division. This is his 40th year in law enforcement, including 30 at DEA where he rose to the position of chief of operations.
“Unlike some other feds, DEA agents work well with other countries around the world,” said Fiano. “It’s cop-to-cop, to stop drugs. We don’t worry about the politics, we just get the job done.”
Maltz retired from DEA in 2014 after 29 years of service, the last nine as special agent in charge of its special operations division. He now works in the private sector.
Asked what advice they would give president-elect Trump to use DEA’s strengths more effectively, Maltz and others urged a better understanding of how profits from the illicit drug trade are being used to fund terrorist groups.
“If you understand the link and how too break it, you can target your resources more effectively to fight both terrorism and drug trafficking,” said Maltz.
Murphy spent 26 years at DEA and is best known as one of the two agents who helped bring down Pablo Escobar.
The most nefarious and violent drug lord of his time, Escobar put the city of Medellin, Columbia, on the map, and was ultimately caught and killed by Columbia’s national police in 1993.
The story of Escobar’s rise and fall, and Murphy’s role, is now the subject of the hit Netflix series Narcos, completing its second season.
“The bad guys had a $300,000 bounty on the head of DEA agents when I was in Columbia, and sometimes that makes you think,” said Murphy. “But at least we knew we could come home. Columbia’s police who stood up to Escobar and others didn’t have that option. They’re owed a lot of gratitude.”