Let me tell you about two federal employees, both named Jeff Wood. Both work at the Justice Department. One is a supervisory FBI agent in Boston. The other is an acting assistant attorney general.
Both have had success in dealing with bad people.
I want to highlight them. Partly because Justice and FBI have become so wrapped around a political axle it’s easy to forget the thousands of regular people doing hard jobs day in and day out.
Jeff Wood Jr., the FBI agent, tells hair-raising stories about his quest to take down the MS-13 chapter just north of Boston, in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Besides selling illegal narcotics, MS-13 preys on Salvadoran and other Latin American immigrant communities. It uses the threat of violence to extort from small businesses. Mostly, MS-13 kills its own members suspected of betrayal, and members of rival gangs. But Wood tells me he worries it will move on to threaten law enforcement and judges, as it does in El Salvador.
Wood says this particular operation made him more nervous than anything he’s encountered in his Army or FBI careers. The way to go after gangs, as it is for any form of organized crime, is to plant informants that gain the trust of the members. The FBI had the equivalent of a made man, to use Mafia parlance, within this MS-13 group. If the leadership has the slightest doubt about the plant, he’s dead.
Jeff Wood the FBI agent is a finalist for this year’s Service to America Medals program.
Jeff Wood the acting assistant A.G., oversees the takedown of marijuana farms hidden on public property. These farms aren’t quaint gardens in sunny clearings planted by idealistic ex-hippies. They’re industrial operations with irrigation and mechanical dispensing of dangerous and sometime illegal pesticides. In California the intergovernmental group found 600,000 plants and 25,000 pounds of processed marijuana from 160 planting sites. Wood estimates another 700 sites are out there to be cleaned up. Using flyovers, agents are always finding news ones. Drones are starting to bring in stealthier and closer-up looks.
The farms blight their locales. The chemicals harm nearby animals and insects. The runoff pollutes nearby streams and ponds. Plus they make a mess of the public forests themselves.
The pot farms are operated by people who may kill anyone who stumbles on them. Wood says when interagency teams find the farms, they are sometimes abandoned. But not always. Sometimes stopping them requires trained federal firepower.
Both Jeff Woods are among feds who do work at the edge of the basic moral divide.
A host on one of those TV judge shows used to sign off by saying, if you have a dispute, don’t take the law into your own hands, but rather, “You take ’em to court.” But those with illegal interests use the threat of unlimited violence to coerce others. Consider a poor, immigrant bodega operator experiencing a gang member (from the same country) coming into the store bringing threats. Or a backpacker taking a wrong turn and encountering thugs working a cartel-owned marijuana farm. An individual might be able to somehow take on an individual, but not an entire syndicate.
Thus the Jeff Woods and public employees like them are doing the most essential work for which the Constitution itself was written, namely to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense.”