Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 1, Page 2
Framing issues to take down drug dealers

     How would you like a career that forced you to deal with drug
kingpins, corrupt dictators and pornographers? If you were Cynthia
Rhoades Ryan, Delaware '76, you'd love it.
     Ryan considers herself lucky that her career combines two things
she relishes: law enforcement and practicing law.
     A political science major while at the University, Ryan is one of
40 attorneys in the Office of the Chief Counsel of the Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Alexandria, Va. She has headed the
office's international criminal law section since its formation in
     With more than 70 offices in 50 countries, the DEA has the
largest U.S. law enforcement presence abroad. Ryan provides legal
advice to DEA managers and staff involved in foreign operations and
intelligence activities and she advises DEA employees and prosecutors
on the handling of classified information.
     "We help in the discovery process. We interact between the
prosecutor and the agent and take the time to help the prosecutor
research ways to use the information without violating the
classification," Ryan says. "While [prosecutors] see situations case
by case, we have a national view of cases popping up all over the
     Ryan played a major role in the United States' prosecution of
former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega, who's now serving a 40-year
prison sentence for racketeering and drug trafficking. As the attorney
on the six-person DEA headquarters team that researched and provided
case support during the government's investigation, Ryan reviewed the
documents that would be used in the courtroom each day to determine if
they contained DEA classified information. If they did, she ensured
that prosecutors followed the Classified Information Procedures Act, a
federal law that details how classified pre-trial and trial
information must be handled.
     "There was a team of lawyers in Washington representing different
agencies who organized the search of all files and brought classified
information to a joint group for review. Our team had to make sure
everything from the DEA was pulled so that prosecutors could review
it," Ryan says.
     For her two years of work on the case, she received the DEA
Special Act of Service Award.
     Ryan, who lives in Fairfax, Va., with her new husband, Matthew,
loves her job.
     "I believe in it. You feel at the end of the day that you're
doing a good service for the public. The DEA is a really good
organization," she says. "The staff works for the public here and
shows other countries the best ways to handle drug enforcement in
their countries."
     In addition to the Noriega prosecution, Ryan cited two other
highlights in the six years she's been with the DEA.
     In the late '80s, she encouraged the Department of Justice to
take to the Supreme Court a case that affected the DEA. Originally,
the Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in U.S. vs. Verdugo that the United
States needed a search warrant to arrest a foreign national in a
foreign land, in this case, Mexico.
     For the Supreme Court appeal, Ryan helped to frame the issues,
reviewed drafts and participated in a moot court. In February 1990,
the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's decision and found that
the Fourth Amendment does not protect a foreign national in a foreign
country. For her efforts, she received an Excellence in Performance
Award from the DEA.
     Ryan also was involved in U.S. vs. Alvarez Machain. Machain, a co-
defendant in the Verdugo case, was abducted by the DEA. His case
appeared before the Supreme Court after the circuit court said the DEA
had violated the extradition treaty with Mexico by abducting Machain.
For the case, Ryan played much the same role as in the Verdugo case.
     In June 1992, the Supreme Court again overturned the circuit
court's decision, ruling that forcible abduction didn't violate the
treaty and therefore didn't prohibit Machain from being tried in the
     Ryan's been practicing law since she graduated from Delaware Law
School at Widener University. After passing the Delaware bar exam, she
accepted a position in the Delaware Attorney General's Office for six
years. She then worked for 15 months as a staff attorney with the
United States Senate, serving on the Permanent Subcommittee on
Investigations, chaired by Delaware Sen. William V. Roth.
     She left the Senate to become a trial attorney in the U. S.
Department of Justice. As a member of a new, high-profile, national
obscenity enforcement unit that targeted hard-core adult and child
pornography, she prosecuted a regional distributor of obscene videos
and magazines. As co-counsel, she won the first obscenity-based
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) case. From the
Justice Department's criminal division, Ryan joined the DEA.
     As busy as Ryan is-her workday begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 7
p.m-she still makes time for her Delaware connections. She's on the
University's Volunteer Admissions Support Team, which helps with
admissions recruiting, and she remains active in her national Alpha
Sigma Alpha sorority.
     And, although she lives in Virginia, she still tries to get back
to at least one Blue Hen football game each year. Before last year,
she hadn't missed a Homecoming game since she'd started at Delaware.
But, she had a good excuse last year. She was on her honeymoon in
                                         -Marylee Sauder, Delaware '83