In a glossy swan-song booklet to his employes, William French Smith described some of his proudest accomplishments as attorney general, among them the merger of the Drug Enforcement Administration into the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Merger? The FBI and DEA deny that it occurred. Their parent Justice Department insists that it did.
"No, they haven't," said FBI spokesman Lane Bonner when asked whether the two organizations had merged.
"They definitely have not merged," said DEA spokesman Bob Feldcamp.
"It must have have been a mistake by one of those public relations people," added a DEA agent who did not want to be identified. But Tom DeCair, Smith's spokesman, said there was no mistake. "It's a matter of semantics."
DeCair said the booklet was written by aides who "checked their facts" and was read by Smith before it was released.
The 33-page booklet, called "Challenge, Change and Achievement: The Department of Justice 1981-1985," includes a preface by Smith that described achievements in eight areas. It is dressed up by photographs, charts and a list of the department's "principal officers." DeCair said the report cost several thousand dollars.
The purported FBI-DEA merger is described in a section on "Targeting the Drug Trade."
"Prior to 1982," Smith said, "the No. 1 federal law enforcement agency -- the FBI -- was not being used against the nation's No. 1 law enforcement problem: narcotics trafficking. For the first time the FBI was enlisted in the antinarcotics battle . . . . At the same time, the Drug Enforcement Administration was formally merged with the FBI, producing a truly unified federal investigative effort."
The explanation is accompanied by a photograph over the caption, "Then-associate attorney general Rudolph Giuliani, FBI Director William Webster and DEA Administrator Francis Mullen look on as the attorney general announces the merger of the DEA into the FBI."
In fact, there was a news conference about the FBI-DEA relationship. In fact, all the people in the photograph attended it. But what was said at that conference -- and what was meant -- is in dispute.
An FBI news release from 1982 refers to a "merging and planning of resources" between the two agencies and added, "The FBI is not to become a DEA. The DEA will continue to be the lead organization in the federal government's efforts to direct the assault on drug traffickers . . . . "
The FBI's Bonner said a "merging of resources" is different from a merger of organizations. So does DEA's Feldcamp.
But Justice's DeCair said that a merger of resources is, by any other name, a merger and that in "a few years" agents from both organizations may find themselves wearing the same badge.
DeCair also pointed out that, as of 1982, DEA's Mullen reports to Smith through the FBI's Webster. Before 1982, Mullen and Webster reported separately to Smith.
Feldcamp, for his part, buttressed his argument that the two are separate by pointing out that the DEA has its own budget and that new DEA and FBI agents attend different training academies.
"That [merger] would be a tremendous setback for narcotics enforcement," one DEA agent said. "We deal with the scum of the world. [The FBI is] geared to white-collar crime enforcement, foreign intelligence. They didn't tell me about any merger."
Another added, "Hopefully that [a merger] will never happen. We have a certain amount of pride. They [FBI] agents go to our school for two weeks and all of a sudden they're experts."