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Claude Thormalen

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The Right Side of the Law: Reminiscences of a Federal Narcotics Agent
Claude A Thormalen  More Info

About the Drug Enforcement Agency

The tradition of federal drug law enforcement began in 1915 with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In the following decades, several federal agencies had drug law enforcement responsibilities. By the 1960s, the two agencies charged with drug law enforcement were the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (BDAC) and the federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).


In 1968, with the introduction into Congress of Reorganization Plan No. 1, President Johnson proposed combining two agencies into a third new drug enforcement agency. The action merged the Bureau of Narcotics, in the Treasury Department, which was responsible for the control of marijuana and narcotics such as heroin, with the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (BDAC), in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which was responsible for the control of dangerous drugs, including depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens, such as LSD. The new agency, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), was placed under the Department of Justice, which is the government agency primarily concerned with federal law enforcement.


In 1973, President Richard Nixon declared "an all-out global war on the drug menace" and sent Reorganization Plan No. 2 to Congress. "Right now," he pointed out, "the federal government is fighting the war on drug abuse under a distinct handicap, for its efforts are those of a loosely confederated alliance facing a resourceful, elusive, worldwide enemy. Certainly, the cold- blooded underworld networks that funnel narcotics from suppliers all over the world are no respecters of the bureaucratic dividing lines that now complicate our anti-drug efforts."


When John R. Bartels, Jr., was confirmed as the DEA's first Administrator on October 4, 1973, he had two goals for the new agency: (1) to integrate narcotics agents and U.S. Customs agents into one effective force; and (2) to restore public confidence in narcotics law enforcement.

Claude Thormalen was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1940 and grew up in Alice, Texas. Claude has a masters degree in education with a minor in criminal justice. He has worked as a police officer, criminal investigator for Customs Agency Service in the Treasury Department and as a special agent with the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in the Justice Department. After leaving the Justice Department, he taught law enforcement at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, where he also served as department chairman, Dean of Men and Dean of Students. Thormalen also worked as a middle school counselor in San Antonio. He now lives with his wife Karen in the mountains of western Colorado where he spends his time writing, horseback riding the many mountain trails in the area and hunting deer and elk when the law allows. Claude also volunteered for 3 years in the 82nd Airborne Division and was discharged a Sgt. E-5


His book is The Right Side of the Law.  According to the book description, “This fictionalized, realistic look at the life of a federal narcotics agent follows Alton Haymon, former special agent still suffering from post traumatic stress resulting from work with both the Treasury and Justice Departments as drug agencies were merged to form the DEA. The conflict between his honest desire to enforce his country’s laws and his need to protect his brother agents with whom he feels bonded is the major struggle of the book. Thefts of drugs and drug money and use of illegal wiretaps become common and agents’ drugs use is wide spread. This struggle between good and evil and Haymon’s continued risk taking causes his final collapse. Haymon, a broken 31-year-old man, resigns from what was up until then the most important thing in his life and finds himself living in the mountains of Western Colorado where, in a last desperate attempt at sanity, he writes his story.”


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