The DEA Targets America

'Target America' Exhibit

Images from the Exhibit in Chicago

(Museum of Science and Industry version. The exhibit has now moved to Navy Pier)

Parental advisory at the entrance to the exhibit.

Parental Advisory
Photo by Mark Draughn

The signature piece -- linking drugs to the World Trade Center attack with absolutely no evidence of any link.

Target America
Photo by Mark Draughn
“there is no reliable evidence that Bin Ladin was involved in or made his money through drug trafficking”
— 911 Commission Report, page 171

A looping video of DEA head Karen Tandy welcomes visitors. Another looping video plays a constant commercial about the DEA.

Photo by Mark Draughn

Overview of the exhibit area

Exhibit Overview
Photo by Mark Draughn

Part of a smashed car surrounded by kids toys. The video plays the "frying pan" commercial.

Front of Crash Exhibit
Photo by Mark Draughn

Back of the smashed car exhibit, loaded with an amazing collection of unrelated items

Back of Crash exhibit
Photo by Mark Draughn

An Afghanistan heroin processing lab.

Afghan Lab
Photo by Mark Draughn

A crack house.

Crack House
Photo by Mark Draughn

A hotel room used to make meth. It's an "interactive" exhibit -- when you walk up to it, the room is dark and the screen makes it hard to see what's inside. When you press the button, the lights come on and you can see.

Meth Room
Photo by Mark Draughn

The exhibit even includes a promo for former Commissioner Harry Anslinger (there's another one for exhibit sponsor and former DEA head Peter Bensinger)

Anslinger is known, in many ways, as the father of the modern drug war. He lied to the people and Congress in order to get drug laws passed, and used racist attacks to further his agenda. Some of his quotes:

  • This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others."
  • "...the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races."
  • "Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men."
  • "Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing"
  • "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind."
Photo by Mark Draughn
[Image caption:] Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger, 1950s
Anslinger inspects a drug seizure. His good working relations with foreign law enforcement agents helped keep drug production low worldwide.

Below is an example of a fairly common technique used in the exhibit. Multiple images with no connection to each other, placed in such as way as to imply a connection. The captions on these three images are:

  • [top] Security teams at a French airport, after a security breach involving a passenger who boarded a flight with explosives hidden in his shoes.
  • [middle] Accused drug dealers are lined up in public in Panama City, Panama in 1993.
  • [bottom] Colombian children watch a family member harvest coca on their farm in Arauca...

The DEA seems unaware of the irony of this wall mural. It serves as a perfect reminder of the two prohibitions, with one picture of alcohol prohibition era enforcement agents next to a picture of a drug task force.

Then and Now

We're not sure what the purpose is of this kid's room in the exhibit.

Kid's room
Photo by Mark Draughn

You can always stop and read some literature about drugs.

Photo by Mark Draughn

Finally, in the museum gift shop, you can purchase DEA hats, DEA t-shirts, DEA keychains, DEA medallians, DEA lapel pins, DEA mugs, and DEA stuffed animals.

Gift Shop
Photo by Mark Draughn

The DEA has been caught having a difficult time explaining the exhibit. In the Congressional Quarterly on August 14, the article noted:

Just as Capone profiteered using the illegal status of alcohol during Prohibition, Angell argues, terror groups are able to realize enormous profits because of the artificially high prices of illicit drugs today. The exhibit's DEA sponsors are "hiding the fact that it is their prohibitionist policy that has allowed terrorists to make money off drugs," he says.

The DEA's response?

DEA spokesman David Ausiello says that, while the exhibit does make use of such specific cases [terrorist drug connections], its primary message is much broader: "We are up against a formidable enemy that is well-funded with money that comes from drugs," he says. "We have to take away their means to make money."

Thanks for making our point, David.

Images from the Exhibit in New York

This is a centerpiece of the exhibit -- a crashed car surrounded by children's toys. Apparently, this is the car driven by Victoria Rogers, who was killed when someone sideswiped a truck and ran into her in Springfield, Ohio. There are conflicting stories about that driver... from Karen Tandy, Head of the DEA (depending on the point she wants to make):

March, 2006
...marijuana's victims -- people like Victoria Rogers, a mother driving with her children when she was killed by a marijuana-intoxicated motorist.
October, 2004
One Saturday morning, a drugged driver -- high on a virtual drug cocktail of marijuana, cocaine, and opiates...
Note: In that same year, there were 16,696 alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

No terrorism exhibit would be complete without him, despite what the 911 commission said.

Your typical Crack House, complete with gun leaning against the bed and baby carriage.

Note: When the exhibit was in New York, visitors had to go through detailed security searches and metal detectors to get in. Apparently not going out, though. Three guns (a 45-caliber Ruger and two 40-caliber Sig Sauer guns) were stolen from the exhibit.

A cocaine processing lab in Colombia.

Images from the exhibit in Detroit

DEA head Karen Tandy at the opening in Detroit.

Using kids as props.