night of April 23, 1973, Herbert Joseph Giglotto, a
hardworking boilermaker, and his wife, Louise, were
sleeping soundly in their suburban house in Collinsville,
Illinois. Suddenly, and without warning, armed men broke
into their house and rushed up the stairs to the Giglottos'
bedroom. Giglotto later recalled, "I got out of
bed; I took about three steps, looked down the hall
and I [saw] men running up the hall dressed like hippies
with pistols, yelling and screeching. I turned to my
wife. 'God, honey, we're dead.' " The night intruders
threw Giglotto down on his bed and tied his hands behind
his back. Holding a loaded gun at his head, one of the
men pointed to his wife and asked, "Who is that
bitch lying there?" Giglotto begged the raiders,
"Before you shoot her, before you do anything,
check my identification, because I know you're in the
wrong place." The men refused to allow the terrified
couple to move from the bed or put on any clothes while
they proceeded to search the residence. As books were
swept from shelves and clothes were ripped from hangers,
one man said, "You're going to die unless you tell
us where the stuff is." Then the intrusion ended
as suddenly as it began when the leader of the raiders
concluded, "We made a mistake."
The night raiders who terrorized
the Giglottos that April night were members of a new
federal organization called the Office of Drug Abuse
Law Enforcement (ODALE) On the same evening in Collinsville,
another group of raiders from ODALE kicked in the door
of the home of Donald and Virginia Askew, on the north
side of town. Virginia Askew, who was then crippled
from a back injury, fainted as the men rushed into the
frame house. While she lay on the floor, agents kept
her husband, Donald, an operator of a local gas station,
from going to her aid. Another agent kept their sixteen-year-old
son, Michael, from telephoning for help by pointing
a rifle at him. After the house was searched, the agents
admitted they had made another mistake and disappeared.
(Virginia Askew the next day was rushed to a mental
hospital for emergency psychiatric therapy.)
In another demonstration, that
Easter week, of their extraordinary powers, a dozen
agents of the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement broke
into a farmhouse on Cemetery Road in Edwardsville, Illinois,
and imprisoned one of the occupants of the house, John
Meiners, a salesman for the General Electric Company,
for seventy-seven hours. "I was asleep about three
A.M.," Meiners said, "when the agents rushed
in and pushed me against the wall." A pistol was
held to his head, and, in Meiners' words, "they
began to ransack the house." Walls were smashed
and windows were broken, and stereo equipment, a shotgun,
golf clubs, and a camera were confiscated by the agents.
Meiners was then forcibly taken to police headquarters
and questioned for more than three days without being
told of the crime he was alleged to have committed or
being allowed to telephone a lawyer or anyone else.
Finally, the General Electric salesman was released
without a charge ever being filed against him.
None of the ODALE agents who
broke into these homes carried the required search warrants,
nor did they legally have any authority to enter forceably
any of these homes to effect an arrest. The Fourth Amendment
of the Constitution of the United States guarantees
"The fight of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures" and that "no Warrants
shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath
or affirmation, and particularly describing the place
to be searched and the persons or things to be seized."
The warrantless raid, by the ODALE agents were subsequently
characterized as "extra-legal" by Myles J.
Ambrose, director of that office, and the agents were
suspended. In an interview in U.S. News & World
Report in 1972, prior to the Collinsville raids, Ambrose
explained that extraordinary procedures, to the limit
of the law, were necessary because the nation was engaged
in an all-out war against drugs and that the very survival
of the American people was at stake. One purpose of
the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement was to facilitate
the arrests of pushers on the street, Ambrose said further.
In effect, this meant that local Justice Department
lawyers assigned to ODALE could obtain warrants to authorize
agents to break into homes in order to effect an arrest.
The office further had the power to go before special
"grand juries" to seek indictments of the
These particular incidents
were reported in the press because they involved "mistaken
identities" (agents had broken into the wrong homes).
These agents were immediately Suspended and a full-scale
investigation was launched, although they were finally
acquitted after being tried on criminal charges. However,
at the time, little attention was paid to the unique
powers of the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement.
Indeed, most commentators on these particular cases,
though outraged that innocent people had been terrorized,
did not question the legitimacy of ODALE itself, or
question the need for deploying strike forces with extraordinary
powers against narcotics dealers, who were presumed
to be an equally extraordinary enemy.
Despite the matter-of-fact
acceptance of the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement
by the press and the public, there was little precedent
in the annals of American law enforcement (or government)
for such an investigative agency. It had been established
on January 27, 1972, by an executive order of President
Nixon, without approval or consideration by Congress.
The office operated out of the Department of Justice,
but, interestingly, its director, Myles Ambrose, also
had an office in the Executive Office of the president.
ODALE was empowered by presidential order to requisition
agents from other federal agencies, including the Bureau
of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Bureau of Customs,
the Internal Revenue Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms, and to redeploy these agents into
strike forces. These forces could use court-authorized
wiretaps and no-knock warrants, as well as "search
incidental to arrest" procedures. This unique office
could also feed the names of suspects to a target-selection
committee in the Internal Revenue Service, which would
then initiate its own audits and investigations. The
office received most of its funds not from congressional
appropriations but from the Law Enforcement Assistance
Administration (LEAA), an appendage of the Justice Department
created by Congress in 1968 for the purpose of financially
assisting state and local law-enforcement units (not
presidential units). Most of its operations were financed
by funneling grants from the LEAA to local police departments
that participated with ODALE in its raids against narcotics
suspects. This method was necessary because LEAA was
never authorized by Congress to disburse its funds to
As long as President Nixon
could focus the attention of Congress and the press
on the "menace" of heroin addiction destroying
America, the hope was that this new office could execute
his orders free of any normal restraints from the "bureaucracy,"
from congressional subcommittees, and from the press,
which normally reported only the stories presenting
the government's statistics in the war against drugs.
The power of this new instrument thus depended directly
on the continued organization of fear by the White House.