US: KY Crop Report Part 3 ( Goldie`s home)

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Mar 27, 2005
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APPALACHIA HIDTA's command center occupies the top floors of a bank building in London. It's heavily secured, with doors that require pass codes and bulletproof windows. On his office wall, Keller, the deputy director of HIDTA for Kentucky, has a personal letter from Bush thanking him for his 30 years with the FBI. Also on the wall is a picture of Keller in the field, wearing a big beard, "deep undercover" in Eastern Kentucky in an investigation that "brought numerous indictments against law enforcement officers that were protecting drug shipments."

Keller looks across a table in with annoyance and confusion in his eyes. He's taking it personally, the proposed 55-percent slashing of the Appalachia HIDTA budget -- from $280 million to $100 million in 2006 -- as well as cuts to a half-dozen other law enforcement grant programs in 2006.

Keller says he likes Bush, even voted for him. But he can't understand why a Republican president would propose cutting HIDTA funding. Currently, the Appalachia HIDTA gets $6 million of the overall figure, and Keller predicts the cuts that will hit his organization will be greater than 55 percent. Bush's Office of National Drug Control Policy has called HIDTAs inefficient, but Keller plainly says that in Kentucky, eradication efforts will suffer significantly if HIDTA is cut. This, almost by definition, will have wider implications. "To be [designated as] a HIDTA, you have to have an impact on the rest of the country with your drug problem. Everyone has a drug problem -- Cleveland, Youngstown, Louisville."

He takes off his glasses and rubs his forehead.

"George Bush said these cuts will be painful, but this is not painful. This will destroy HIDTA as we know it. In my estimation, it's a terrible, terrible thing, as far as the impact this will have on local communities. When you fight narcotics, you fight trafficking, you fight money laundering, you fight street gangs.

"Drug dealers are constantly trying to take office, be deputized, run for sheriff. Or they will back a sheriff or other political office to facilitate their drug trade. I know from firsthand experience. I worked undercover and we ended up indicting several public officials that had a nexus to drug trafficking.

"We have police officers in Eastern Kentucky making less than $20,000 a year. We have police departments that can hardly afford to buy gas, let alone a cruiser that's not a hand-me-down."

Keller says the HIDTA's coordinating of federal, state and local efforts is a "truly effective, measurable" counter to drug crime. He cites a recent study out of the White House's ONDCP that shows drug use among teenagers down 17 percent.

"We're finally doing things right," he sighs, "and now we're getting ready to kill the goose that laid the golden egg."

AFTER SUNDAY AFTERNOON "CHURCH" at a bikers' clubhouse on the edge of the Boone National Forest -- a private gathering that doesn't seem to involve a preacher -- the doors open and a few women and children and straggling strangers are welcomed in for fried cornbread, soup beans, baked beans and ham. An older woman, a relative of one of the bikers, cooked the Sunday feast. And the old wild man suggests coming back anytime to go riding.

"Get you another piece of meat," a huge man called Hank says. "If someone only gave me one piece of meat, I'd get mad."

It's a warm springtime Sunday, several weeks before spring made its way north. The open door and the good food seem promising of good things to come. The bikers tell stories mixed with an anarchical blend of anti-Bush politics.

Standing behind, under an intricate painting of biker bash with guys and dolls getting it on eight ways from Sunday, the Bear Cat fellow laughs at a crude joke and confides with a wink, "We were just talking about running for sheriff. We'll be the corruptest county you ever seen, but we'll make money."

Louisville Eccentric Observer (KY)
Copyright: 2005 Louisville Eccentric Observer
Contact: [email protected]

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