DEA launches criminal probe into states that illegally imported execution drug
A Nov. 9 memo notes that "FDA is concerned about importation of non-FDA approved sodium thiopental used for executions ... Safety, efficacy and indication are FDA issues. So is the matter of off-label use (which was also brought up)."
The memo from the Liaison and Policy Office explains that the "DEA requires a valid DEA registration as an importer and a properly executed declaration in order to import controlled substances."
A Nov. 12 memo confirms that "only two import declarations have been filed for sodium pentothal" — meaning that all the other states obtained their supplies illegally. The identity of the two states is blacked out.
Arizona has an execution date set for May 25, and Nebraska has an execution scheduled for June 14. But the documents are so heavily redacted, and so many pages are missing, that it's impossible to tell exactly which states are doing what — and whether any of the upcoming executions would be using illegally obtained drugs.
"The DEA is making it impossible to know whether the states are complying with the law and whether DEA is fulfilling its obligation to enforce our nation's drug laws," said Natasha Minsker, death penalty policy director for the ACLU of California. "Importing sodium thiopental without informing the DEA is a crime. We now know the DEA was poised to go into the Arizona Department of Corrections and seize their drugs, as they did in Georgia, but for some unknown reason they did not. Why did the DEA seize drugs in some states but not others?"
Calls and e-mails to the California Department of Corrections seeking information on whether the department is the target of a federal investigation were not returned.