I was a young lawyer, right out of law school, and had joined John Ehrlichman's
law firm. John Ehrlichman had been our family friend of many years' standing,
and right after the election in 1968, he came back to Seattle. I remember
vividly his coming to my office and sitting down across from me across my desk.
He put his feet up, and he said, "Do you like the work?" And I said, "I love
the work, you know, here I am, in your law firm where I always wanted to work."
And he said, "Would you consider leaving and joining me on the president's
staff?" And I thought it over for a couple of seconds and said, "Yes, I'd
consider that." . . . He came in on a Tuesday. By Friday, I was in the
transition headquarters in the Hotel Pierre in New York City.
I was not directly involved in the campaign myself, but obviously, as soon as
the transition headquarters were up and running, our job was to translate the
campaign promises that the president had made into policies and programs that
we would initiate as soon as we got to Washington. One of his major campaign
themes was to restore respect for the law. He had singled out Washington,
D.C., as the crime capital of the country. . . .
. . . We were dealing with another issue with respect to how we would respond to major antiwar demonstrations. The issue of crime in the District came up. The president said, "Bud, now get after that. I want you to cut the crime in the District." I had my yellow pad and I wrote down on it, "cut crime in the District." Obviously, that's consistent with what he had campaigned on, so I knew that was my assignment. I remember going back to my office--this is sort of embarrassing to tell--but picked up the phone and called the mayor, Walter Washington, a wonderful man. We became close friends. And I said, "Mr. Mayor, my name is Bud Krogh, I've just come from a meeting with the president, and he'd like you to cut the crime in the District. Would you please sort of get after that, and call me back when the crime stops?" There was a decided pause after that, and he said, yes, he would, he would certainly look into that and get back to me, and I figured that's it. You know, all you do is you call up from the White House, talk to the mayor, say let's get cracking on the crime, and you'll get a positive response.
I forget what the exact number of FBI Index crimes were being committed each day, but the number strikes me as 169. We went through the next few months developing some legislation in the District of Columbia, pre-trial detention, expanding the court system, doing a lot of the things that we had campaigned on and felt had to be done. But after about six or seven months, the index had moved up to about 202 crimes per day, and in anybody's judgment, that's not progress.
So, based upon that lack of progress, we felt that we had to get more directly
involved in assisting the District of Columbia, its police department, its city
council, and the mayor, with funds, and other kinds of support--helping them
with federal agencies that had developed certain programs we thought might
work. We really looked after this now as something where the District was, in
a way, almost a laboratory for how we might be able to develop a national crime
program or anti-crime program. So that's the way things got started. . . .
The District of Columbia, I think, was viewed by many of us as our home. . . .
And it was also a place that was the capital city. This was the home for
people in foreign embassies and consulates, and it's a place where many people
come each year to visit. We felt, I think, a special obligation to see if we
could really improve it, by reducing crime in the District of Columbia. And we
felt that programs that could work in the District could then be used in other
cities, which we would then offer to other cities. . . . So we did look at it,
in a sense, as a laboratory--a place where we could try things that we felt
would have a positive effect, and then make that available to the rest of the
One of the staff people that I worked most closely with on the drug issue right
from the beginning was Jeffrey Donfeld. He had been working on this almost
exclusively from the time he started on the White House staff, and he had
access to this study that Dr. DuPont had prepared on the relationship
between heroin addiction and crime. It was basically a study of inmates in the
D.C. jail, and he found a very direct correlation between those who had been in
prison and drug addiction. With that information we felt that, well, maybe our
focus . . . should be expanded to include, what can we do to treat that
population that is addicted? If we can provide treatment modalities for those
people--whatever modality might work for them--maybe that would enable us to
achieve some reduction in the crime problem, as well. So that study was made
available to me by Jeff, I believe, sometime in late 1969.
There had been sort of an intuitive understanding that there was a relationship
between the two. But that study in the D.C. jail really focused and
crystallized thought that there is a very dramatic correlation between
addiction--addition to heroin--and crimes that were committed to be able to
support heroin habits. . . . So that was really the solid basis on which we
felt we could start designing a program that would really go after the heroin
I'm not altogether certain what the fundamental idea behind Operation
Intercept was, other than to make it clear that the United States was going
to be very serious about trying to interdict the flow of narcotics into the
United States. We felt that a program focused on the Mexican-United States
border would draw attention to that clear policy position. The effect of
Operation Intercept, in addition to tying up traffic, to Tijuana, to Mexico
City, probably was to give some of us who were working in this field a clearer
understanding of the importance of sovereignty to our neighboring countries. I
remember being in a meeting in Mexico City and being given a very powerful
lecture by the foreign minister on the importance of working with Mexico, of
not trying to intimidate them into cooperation. That's a lesson that was
critical for us to learn. In terms of actually interdicting substances flowing
into the United States, I don't think that Operation Intercept would be looked
upon as our finest hour. . . .
In addition to finding ways to attack the crime problem on the streets in the United States, when we had the linkage between crime and drugs, it opened our thought to the need to see this on a global scale. And to not just try to provide more police in the local community, but how can we to try to detect the problems with drugs--what can we do to try to stop the flow of drugs?
That expanded our thought to where these drugs are coming from. What's the source of this? A number of studies that the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs had done-- Customs had also participated--pointed out that we had a source in Turkey. We had a source in Southeast Asia. There were sources in Mexico. There were places in France where they would take the morphine base that came out of Turkey, and by the addition of acidic anhydride would convert it into heroin, and then move the heroin into the United States through many different routes; directly from France; from France to South America; coming up in a contrabandista system from South America to the United States.
It was important, I think, for us to understand the relationships between the source countries, the intermediary countries, and how it flowed into the United States to be able to design a policy to be able to respond to that. So in 1969 and 1970, I took trips to France, Turkey, India, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam to try to understand better from the perspective of those people who were working in those countries how these patterns were developing--patterns of moving narcotics to the United States.
And that also was the background for our attempting to get the Turkish
government to agree to really outlaw the growing of poppy in Turkey. I forget
exactly what the nature of the transaction was. We gave them a destroyer and
something else, and they agreed to stop the production of poppy for two or
three years. But the problem is that we were basically dealing with an
enormous demand in the United States. You might squeeze these sources of
supply in one part of the world, but it's going to crop out someplace else. So
what we felt we needed to do was to try to develop a global strategy. That was
behind, I think, the president's decisions to work directly with our
ambassadors in these countries where poppy was being grown or where it was
being converted into heroin, and to try to enlist the support of those
countries. . . .
When I first started working on the drug issue, I don't think I had a concept
of how large the drug business really was, and even today I wouldn't
know how to quantify it for those years. But it became apparent that there was
an enormous amount of criminal activity that was related to the drug business,
not just that by addicts who had to commit crimes--burglary, armed robbery--to
get the money to buy the drugs to support their habits. But there was a lot of
money circulating for those who were involved in the smuggling operations and
distribution systems--an enormous amount of money. It would be very hard for
me to put a number on it. I've heard numbers like $100, $200 billion a year,
how it's one of the largest industries in the United States. I don't know
whether it was of that scope or size back in 1969 or 1970 or 1971. But we came
to the conclusion that it was an enormous financial drain as well as a huge
In 1969 and 1970, the real focus was on heroin. We felt that that's where we
had to put the resources of US government. That's where we felt there were the
greatest social pathologies that we were trying to address. There was some
concern on the part of some people about marijuana use. I had just come out of
school and a lot of my friends participated--they inhaled--and it was just not
viewed by those of us on the staff as really the critical problem that we
should be addressing. The American people had elected the president to come in
and try to attack the most severe problems. Heroin was the one that had
created a lot of the crime problem that we were trying to solve. At that time,
I don't think that cocaine was even on anybody's radar as something we needed
to deal with-- neither crack nor any kind of cocaine. So in those first years,
heroin was really the focus of our attention.
When we saw the scope of the heroin and problem and the number of addicts that were in the country, we felt that if we could bring enough treatment to bear on that problem, we would be able to accomplish the policy goal. That was clearly articulated most eloquently by Dr. Jaffe--that no addict would be able to state that he had to commit a crime because treatment was unavailable. Our job was to make treatment available. In terms of the modality of treatment, that would depend really upon what the need of the addict was.
Our purpose was to try to find a way to move those modalities out into the country in such a way that, if an addict wanted to go into treatment, it would be there for him. And that became sort of the bedrock drive and policy that we followed from, I believe, early in 1971 through 1972. We felt we could get our hands around the heroin problem if we could just make that kind of treatment available to everyone that needed it. . . .
The focus of the narcotics treatment program in the District of Columbia was to
build upon the study that DuPont had done in the D.C. jail. It was to be able
to bring to bear in the District of Columbia, or put into place in the District
of Columbia, the kinds of treatment modalities that we thought would work. At
that time, that was primarily methadone maintenance, methadone detox. And we
set up a number of clinics around the city. . . . We found it was amazing,
because in three or four months, the results were dramatic. We found that
there was an appreciable decline in the Index crimes that were related to drug
addiction. Now, with that kind of data--and this was in May of 1970--we felt
that we had something solid on which we could then design a national program. .
We recognized that there was quite a bit of opposition to the kind of program
that we had in the District of Columbia, the methadone maintenance program.
There was opposition particularly within the sort of the established treatment
organizations in the federal government--the National Institute of Mental
Health that was run by Dr. Bertram Brown. He was a very fine man, but just
basically disagreed with the underlying theory behind methadone maintenance,
with the government being involved in providing an alternative synthetic opiate
to an addict. He was more oriented towards the live-in community type of
treatment, and was much more cautious in how the government ought to proceed.
Dr. Brown had persuaded Secretary Elliott Richardson that the program like we
were developing in the White House really ought not to be supported. We
recognized that. . . .
The drug problem in Vietnam came first to my mind through Congressmen Steele and Murphy. Congressmen Steele and Murphy had gone over there, had done a study, came back and said this is a huge problem. And we had been told by people in the defense department that the size of the drug problem . . . was maybe a hundred addicts in the US military. And when I heard this number, I realized that there's something fundamentally flawed about this. How can that be? And it was explained, well, that's how many we had in prison that we've managed to convict for heroin use. I realize that that doesn't give you any sense of the scope of that population, of the heroin population.
So when I reported this to the president, he basically said, go to Vietnam, and to let General Abrams know that I'm sending you over there to find out the scope of the problem. And I remember going into one firebase, got out of the chopper, and you could hear some random firing off in the distance. I told the colonel why I was there, and he'd gotten a radio message that there were White House guys coming out to check on drug issues, and he said, "Well, what do you want to do?" I said, "Well, let me wander around."
So I wandered out behind one of these tanks, and there were four guys hunkering down there. They're smoking a substance that was very aromatic, and they had their peace symbols and their headbands. I said to one of them, "I'm here from the White House, and I've been asked to find out about the scope of the drug problem." And one guy looked on, took a big toke out of his cigarette, and then he said, "Well, I'm from Mars." I said, "Okay, I'm just interested in knowing, are drugs available?" He said, "Oh, man, what do you want?" And proceeded to tell me where I could go, not too far away from their base, where I could get very good marijuana, where the heroin was available. I found out that we weren't dealing with a problem. We were dealing with a condition. This was a fact of life in Vietnam.
And I so reported that to the president when I came back. I said, "It's not a problem, it's a condition. And what we need to do is find ways to be able to diagnose people who have this condition before they leave the country, so that we can get them treatment before they enter the United States again." A program in Vietnam was set up very quickly. The president had to get the attention of the defense department, and the joint chiefs. I remember coming back from that trip and telling him what I'd seen. And he said, "Now I want you to set up a breakfast. Bring in Mel Laird," who was then the secretary of defense, "and bring in the service secretaries and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and you tell them what you've seen."
That was on a Thursday morning, and we, set up the breakfast in the West dining room. They all came out to the U-shaped table, and the president sat in the middle of the table, with Mel Laird next to him, and with the others in descending rank around there. I was over in a chair, and he said, "Mel, how many addicts do we have in the military?" And he said, " A hundred, sir," which was the information that he had gotten from his chief of the narcotics control program. And he said, "Well, I want you to listen to Bud's briefing." I . . . explained what I'd seen, and the scope of it. The president said, "We have to go after this, and we have to go after it now." . . .
That was one of the major shifts, too, in how the military would respond to
drug use. In the past, it was a fairly common understanding that if a person
was detected, it was a major criminal offense under the Uniform Code of
Military Justice, and would potentially lead to a court martial. We felt that
there had to be a shift in that approach, so that people could voluntarily come
into treatment and not risk a court martial or being imprisoned. Then we could
respond to the problem intelligently. That was a critical part of getting a
broader acceptance, not just from the officers in charge, but also those who we
were trying to reach. We felt that they needed to have some comfort, that if
they were going to be engaging or participating in some detection and treatment
program, that they would not be unduly penalized. And that was a very
. . . In our Vietnam and D.C. programs, as well as what we were trying to do through the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, was to shift the primary focus of federal drug policy--if not the exclusive focus--from a law enforcement model to one that included a much broader and expanded effort to treat, rehabilitate, educate and research the demand side. We wanted to know why were people involved in it, and how we could help them once they were involved in drugs. It was adding health to what had been just crime reduction as one of the principal objectives. It was a gradual shift. It didn't happen overnight. No one just came up and said, "Eureka, now we have to work and expand it this way." It just evolved, I think, because of the intelligent response to the problems that we saw.
On June 17, 1971, with the president and Dr. Jaffe present, we were able to present to the country a program that really had greatly expanded the treatment, rehabilitation, research, and education side of this. It doesn't mean that we stopped doing the other work, because there was still a lot of money that was flowing into the law enforcement programs. But this added another dimension that had not been there before, and this was quite new. Prior to our administration, under the old Federal Bureau of Narcotics, federal effort was. . . really primarily involved in the law enforcement side of it. This fundamentally changed it, and was responsible for a great deal of the success that we were able to achieve during that four-year period. And I should say that we had four years, maybe three-and-a-half years. The way a presidential administration works is that you've identified a problem, you've developed the programs and policies, you've set up the budgets, and then you've got to get some results on which a candidate can run. . . .
When we first came into office in 1969, we did not have a clear understanding of the relationship between drugs and crime. This was an evolutionary learning experience. It took us about a year and a half to really understand it, and to have the data that supported the linkage. And we kept the president informed all the way through. "Here's what was going on." . . . He was learning all the time about what was effective, and then was able to support us as we moved to the next stage. . . . We were learning the first year. We made mistakes.
We had one really tragic circumstance in the District of Columbia. We were
pushing so hard to get methadone out into these clinics. One of the
methodologies for administering methadone was to put it in Tang, and then we
were allowing addicts to take it home. I remember coming to work one morning
and being told that one of those in a treatment program that we had funded had
left the Tang with the methadone in the glass in her refrigerator. Her
daughter drank it and had an immediate reaction to it. She almost died. It
was one of those things that maybe we didn't think it through clearly enough.
I mean, what's going on here? Well, it was the method of ingestion. And we
then had to find some way to make the methadone able to be taken either in a
completely protected environment where children didn't have access to it, or
with a tablet that was so large or kind of a bottle that could not be accessed
. . . by young people. That's the kind of thing you take personally--did we
screw that up? And then, immediately, how do we respond to it? So I wouldn't
say that the educational period, the learning curve, was free of mistakes,
because we made a lot of them.
Some of us came to see the drug issue more in terms of public health than just a law enforcement matter. . . . We didn't want to somehow be labeling those who had an addiction problem as bad people, or as people that had moral problems or ethical problems. When you're addicted to heroin, you have enough to deal with just with the addictive situation. For the government to somehow come out and from a position of some high moral position--which is questionable, for any government to take that position--just simply wouldn't be responsive to what we were trying to do. And Mr. Nixon, never, to my knowledge, ever sort of viewed what we were doing in the drug area as really something where we were imposing some kind of a moral judgement on people. . . .
I remember sitting next to him in a helicopter when we were leaving New York
and looking down and he said, "You know, when people think about drugs, they're
just disgusted by it. They just want to lock them up, and throw away the key.
But it's more complex than that." He knew what we had been doing in these
treatment programs. I never heard him say that anybody was a bad person
because they got caught up in an addiction situation. He had great sympathy
for people, and also some disgust for what it led to. But he never put it on a
basis that we somehow were going to bring any moral judgements to bear. . .
The period from, say, mid-June to June 17--June 14 through June 17--was really D-day, in terms of the narcotics programs. This is where everything was brought together in one place and launched. On the foreign side, we had traveled all over the world. I'd been to Thailand, Burma, Turkey, and France. We wanted to bring back to Washington the ambassadors, and with the secretary of state and the president, Dr. Kissinger, and the National Security Council staff, explain to them that their assignment as ambassadors was to help us stop the flow of drugs into the United States as a matter of US foreign policy. While it was important to get along with their host countries, this was an issue that we wanted them to be guided by what was coming out of Washington, because we wanted them to really help us interdict the flow of drugs from those countries. . . .
Now, that preceded by three days or four days the June 17 White House press
briefing where Dr. Jaffe was presented to the country, and the overall program
was then presented to the nation. We had the Special Action Office for Drug
Abuse Prevention that was working on the demand side--treatment,
rehabilitation, research, education. Then we had the Cabinet Committee for
International Narcotics Control, chaired by Secretary of State William Rogers.
Their focus was, how do we get these countries to help us interdict the flow of
narcotics into the United States? . . .
One of the . . . major organizational problems that we had to deal with--and I don't think we ever cured it--was the relationship between the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department. . . . Treasury never really liked the fact that it had lost the Bureau of Narcotics. It retained substantial jurisdiction on certain matters on the drug issue with the Customs Bureau, which Miles Ambrose was appointed to direct. But there was sort of an on-going competition between the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the Bureau of Customs. I remember having to mediate one particular dispute where there was an altercation at one of border points. A Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs agent wanted to have a mule go through the border, and the Customs agent wanted to stop him at the border and they both drew guns. And I remember telling them, I said, "You know, gentlemen, the president had declared war on drugs, but shooting each other isn't part of it." I was just trying to have them see that we have to work together. . . .
We finally decided that the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs would be the principal law enforcement agency. They would have agents abroad, and so would Customs. Customs would be able to have agents in our embassies and they would share information. Then the two of them would help make the determination of what to do with narcotics that were flowing into the United States, whether it ought to be interdicted at the border or whether it should go through the border, where we would have a chance to apprehend those that were part of the planning of that smuggling operation. So we basically worked it out so that the agents in the embassies would be the ones with the assignment to work together. And I was traveling enough at the time and talked with both Customs and BNDD agents to see that they did work extremely well together.
So often a lot of the conflict is at a higher political level, rather than at the level of the agents who really do acknowledge the need to work together, and do so very effectively. Sometimes the problem is ego conflicts going on in Washington, rather than substantive differences between people who are engaged in trying to do something together. . . . There were also some basic philosophical differences between how the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs saw its law enforcement mission and how the Bureau of Customs saw its mission.
BNDD was attempting to figure out what the major syndicates were--the large systems of moving narcotics into this country. They were concerned about stopping it, obviously, but they were trying to attack these criminal syndicates at higher and higher levels. And they put money on the street in sometimes in order to see who was involved in drug distribution networks to try to figure out how they could crack that.
Customs was, I think, much more oriented towards, "If we got them coming into this country, we nailed them there. We interdicted at the border. We arrest them and lock them up." So you had two different approaches. Part of our job was to figure out how to reconcile those two. We needed to work out some guidelines, so that we would know what type of intelligence would be useful for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to accomplish their mission, and what kind of intelligence would be useful and appropriate for Customs to get so that they could accomplish their mission. It was complex trying to figure out who would be doing what. I'm not sure we ever completely worked that out when we had BNDD and Customs vying with each other. The effort was eventually to bring them all together in the Drug Enforcement Administration. . . .
Over time, we were persuaded that the federal government needed to expand its
law enforcement mission to include some activity at the street level. And that
led to the creation of the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement, where the
effort was to try to get federal support into the task forces that were working
at the street level--not just to be trying to penetrate the kingpins at the top
level of these criminal organizations. . . . We'd already put into place the
Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, and the Cabinet Committee for
International Narcotics Control. This was an effort to reach down to the
street level and try to help local law enforcement there.
Towards the end of Nixon's first term, there was some recognition that we
hadn't designed the optimum organization to administer the law enforcement
programs in the drug area. We had the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
We had the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement. We still had Customs with
their authorities at the border. There was an intelligence organization
operating in the Department of Justice. There were, you might say, a lot of
suburbs with no downtown. What people needed to do over the next year or two
was to find some way to bring those together into one organization. A little
bit like what we did with the treatment program, but the treatment program was
special action. It was only going to be in existence for three years and then
go out of business. In the law enforcement arena, the idea was to bring them
all together in to one permanent agency. I understand that that's what
eventually led to the Drug Enforcement Administration. . . .
After we had had our inspection trip in Vietnam, Jerry and I talked through what we were going to tell the president. It was quite apparent from the programs that we had set up in both Long Binh and Cam Rahn Bay that we were not getting the percentages of soldiers that were addicted to heroin that had been predicted or had been identified by Congressmen Steele and Congressman Murphy earlier on. It was a much lower percentage. Now, maybe some people were able to beat the system when they went through it. But we were gratified to see that it was a lower percentage than the fifteen percent that they had estimated of the entire in-country population being addicted to heroin.
So we were able to present that to the president, and let him know that, while
we still had a condition, it wasn't as severe a condition as we originally
thought. The very fact that we had systems in place to detect people acted as
a sort of interim effect. It would get people to stop using before they were
leaving country and hopefully, then, their habits would not lead them to commit
crimes back in the United States. That was our fear--if we didn't detect and
offer some treatment, people that had picked up an addiction in Vietnam would
return to the United States, and be compelled to commit crimes to be able to
maintain those habits. Fortunately, that fear was not well founded. It was a
much lesser problem, and a number of studies that had been done subsequently
that proved that out.
(Laughter) This was the end of my life in many ways. Right after the meeting
that we had in San Clemente with the president, I was given a file by John
Erlichman. The file contained the information about the release of the
Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. I was ordered by John
Erlichman to go get a copy of "Six Crises," which was the president's first
book. And the president said, "Tell Bud to read the chapter on Alger Hiss,'
because he sees a relationship between Alger Hiss and Daniel Elsberg and his
decision to release the Pentagon Papers. The president wants him set up an
office in the White House to examine all the ramifications with respect to the
release of these top-secret documents--why were they released? Who was
involved in it? That was the assignment that I had for the next five or six
weeks. That, incidentally, was going on concurrently with setting up the
Cabinet Committee for International Narcotics Control and doing a number of
things in the drug program. And I have regretted, and will regret to my dying
day that we did not use better judgment in how that program was set up in 1971.
. . .
In late July and August of 1971, we established the Cabinet Committee for International Narcotics Control. The effort here was to bring together into one cabinet committee all the departments, as well as the White House offices that were responsible for setting foreign policy in the field of narcotics control. For example, we have the Department of Agriculture there, because we were dealing with poppy, and were there alternative crops that we might make available or support the Turkish government in making available to those who had grown poppy in the past, like sugar beets? So Agriculture had a role to play in that, as well as in maybe trying to attack the growing of poppy in various parts of the world. The Department of Treasury included Customs. The Department of Justice, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and the Department of State, which was responsible for foreign policy all over the world. In addition, we had staff members from Henry Kissinger's staff, the National Security Council staff, and I was designated to be the executive director of that cabinet committee.
So while I was working directly with John Erlichman and the president, he had
Henry Kissinger's staff, Secretary of State Bill Rogers' staff. We had
everybody there that was responsible for this. The cabinet committee worked
very well in setting policy, and working with the embassies. There was no
conflict because we were all together, trying to work out common problems. It
didn't stay in effect for very long, but it was something that was the right
organizational response to what we were dealing with at that time. . . .
When it comes to evaluating how well you're doing, it's not just the operational indices. You really have to look at substantive results. Let me try to distinguish the two. If you're in a law enforcement organization, the operational indices are that we've seized more narcotics. We've arrested more people. We've convicted more people. We have a larger population of people [in jail] that were involved in drug crimes than before. Those are operational indices. But it doesn't really go ask, are there less narcotics available? Is there really less crime because of that?
And so, you, you really can't just be beguiled by saying, "We put more money out there. We made more arrests." Those are important things to understand, but the real thing is, are we getting a better result? Are there fewer narcotics available? Is the price higher? Are we having more people that we can treat that are no longer engaged in criminal activity? Those are the substantive results that you're trying to get.
From May of 1970, when we got the initial response to the drug programs in the
District of Columbia, we could see a reduction in the crimes committed
attributable to drug problems. That's what we really wanted to see. And in
1972, we were able to see that in a number of cities where they had been an
actual reduction--not just a decrease--in the rate of increase. . . . The trend
lines were very promising in 1972. We felt that if we could continue that kind
of pressure over the next few years, we could maybe effectively have solved the
heroin problem. That's not to say that there would not have been people using
heroin; but in terms of its most serious effect, in terms of its relationship
to crime, and the basic policy being, "No addict would be able to say that he
had to commit a crime because he couldn't get treatment." That's what we
wanted to be able to demonstrate. Other people came in to work on these issues
after some of us left, and they changed the policy. That was certainly their
prerogative to do so. I still feel there was a lot that we did that was
correct and should have been continued.
I frankly, don't know enough about the facts on the ground are. Our program
was designed to respond to the facts on the ground as we saw them. Now these
are shifting. We have different drugs being used today. Cocaine wasn't even
on the scope back in 1969 and 1971. It's a major issue today. I don't know if
there is a drug like methadone that you could use with heroin that would give
you the same effect with cocaine. There may be things under development. It's
a different set of circumstances. As a matter of policy, my sense is that I
would probably opt for programs that would really try to help the treatment
side--rehabilitation, education, the demand side. That's where primary focus
ought to be. . . .
Some programs that were initiated, in retrospect, got too close to breaching the wall of what is not acceptable under the Fourth Amendment. I know the "no-knock" authority was one that had been recommended as a way to be able to get in and be able to stop the destruction of evidence before it got flushed or something like that. Those kinds of programs can lead to abuses, and they have.
. . . I know that there has been some suggestion that the Nixon administration was supporting programs that would lead to a breakdown in civil liberties, and that we were trying to expand federal power into areas that had historically been the domain of state and local law enforcement--the exercise of police power by the states. But there were also areas where we just simply didn't do that. . . . There was an effort to look at it issue by issue, where ought the federal government to be involved and where ought it not to be involved. But there was no overall policy effort to get the federal government into state and local law enforcement and more directly impacting the lives of individual citizens.
In my own case, dealing with the Pentagon Papers investigation, one of the things was so serious. We did not--and I did not--fully understand what the Fourth Amendment required of me in terms of authorizing a . . . surreptitious entry--using a sort of intelligence term, as opposed to burglary, which it really was. We felt that national security justified what was done. But in the cold light of day, afterwards, we realized that that was not the case. Without a warrant, it's a crime, and government can not go there. And, unfortunately, we were not sensitive to that at the time, and paid a price for it. . . .
The overall effort was to use every legitimate possible means at our to try to
attack this problem and the drug problem. Sometimes we moved into domains
where we were not going to be effective. The effort behind the Office of Drug
Abuse Law Enforcement was to try to get federal presence on the street. Now,
this may not have been the wisest policy choice, but we felt at the time we
could leave no stone unturned, and that we were going to move into that area.
There was a tremendous amount of zeal behind what we were doing, too. The
people that worked on these programs came to work each day saying, "What can we
do today?" It was a very exciting atmosphere. It was a place where I look
back with a fierce affection of what we were able to do that I thought was
effective. I regret the mistakes that we made, but we really tried our
It was December 21, 1970. I got a call from Dwight Chapin, who was one of my best friends on the White House staff. And he said, "The King is here." And I said, "King who?" I looked at the President's schedule and said, "There aren't any kings on the president's schedule." He said, "No, not just any two-bit king, the real king. The King of Rock--Elvis. He's right here in Washington and he wants to see the president." And I thought that was just an elaborate practical joke. . . . We did those things in those days. I felt that this is just a joke, that this wasn't true. But he sent over a letter that he said had been written by Elvis Presley, asking to meet with the president to help him with the drug problem. . . .
In about an hour, through the OMB security office of the Oval Executive Office building I get a call saying that "Elvis Presley is here with his two bodyguards." And they came down the hall to my office and he really was Elvis Presley, dressed in a purple jumpsuit and a white shirt open to the navel with a big gold chain and thick-rimmed sunglasses. And he came in and I must say, I was very impressed with him. I had been a big fan of his during the 1950s. He proceeded to tell me about how much he felt for his country. He wanted to help the country, to do what he could. He felt he had an obligation because he'd been given so much. He talked about serving in the military, and felt that that was his duty.
And I thought, "Well, you know, this guy seems to be saying the things that that Richard Nixon would like to hear, so let's see if we can't set up a meeting." So I wrote a memo to the president suggesting some talking points and, and Dwight Chapin wrote a memo to then-Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, to get approval for this meeting. And it came back approved. . . .
So I called back over to their hotel and said, "The meeting's on. Come on over." So he showed up about twelve o'clock. I got a call from the Secret Service telling me we had a little problem, because Elvis had brought a gun in to give the president, a nice Colt automatic with bullets in the display case. I had to go over and explain to them that "No guns in the Oval Office" was standard policy around here. I hoped he'd understand. . . . And he seemed to take that in good grace.
But anyway, we walked in a half an hour later into the Oval Office and the president got up. It was a little bit awkward at first, because I'm not sure that Elvis really believed that he was there. They had a really weird discussion about a lot of things that had nothing to do with the talking points I had written. Elvis was telling the president how difficult it was to play in Las Vegas. The president said, "I understand, Las Vegas is a tough town." And then Elvis said, "And you know, the Beatles came over here and made a lot of money and said some un-American things." And the president looked at me, like, "Well, what's this about the Beatles?"
And then the real reason for the trip finally came out as Elvis said, "Mr. President, can you get me a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs?" And the president looked and he said, "Bud, can we get him a badge?" And I said, "Well, Mr. President, if you want to get him a badge, we can do that." He said, "Well, get him a badge."
Well, Elvis was so happy about this, he steps around the side of the desk and he goes over and he grabs him. And one of my abiding memories while thinking, "This is probably the last thing I'll ever do in the Oval Office," was Elvis Presley hugging Richard Nixon, who's sort of standing there looking up, thinking, "Oh, my God!" You know? (Laughter) And they parted. And then Elvis asked if he could bring in his bodyguards, to which the president said, "Bud, do we have time for that?" And I thought, "You're this far into it, why not finish it off." So, I said, "Yes, sir, you've got a few more minutes."
So [his body guards] came in and, and the president shook hands with them and told Elvis, "You've got some big ones here, Elvis." And he said, "Yes," and the president went behind his desk, and opened up the bottom drawer to give them each a gift. Well, Elvis just sensed that there was a lot of stuff in that drawer. So he went behind the desk and, as the president is taking out the cufflinks and the paperweights and the golf balls, Elvis is reaching in towards the back of the drawer and taking out the real gold stuff, the valuable presents--because they were sort of lined up in order of expense, or cost. The higher the roller, the more expensive the present.
So Elvis starts taking all these things out, and he says, "Mr. President, they
have wives." And so he dived back into the drawer again and out come the
presents for the wives. And they walked out of there--of course, this was four
days before Christmas--with their hands filled with all of these presidential
goodies. And after that, we got him a badge, which Elvis, apparently, carried
with him for a long time. It's on display at Graceland. I went down there
after I wrote a little book about this, and the wallet in which the badge had
been carried was well worn. It showed that he felt that he'd been given more
authority than the badge really suggested. This was just an honorary badge,
but he took it like he'd been given a real agent's badge. We had to tell him
that there were no federal agents-at-large. That's what he'd asked me about.
But that remains one of the more humorous incidents of my time in the White
npr reports · interviews · discussion · archive · video · quizzes · charts · timeline
synopsis · teacher's guide · tapes & transcripts · press · credits
FRONTLINE · pbs online · wgbh
web site copyright 1995-2013 WGBH educational foundation.