(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #145, 7/14/00
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
On Friday, July 7th, President Clinton granted sentence commutations to five drug war prisoners. Amy Pofahl, Serena Nunn, Louise House, Shawndra Mills, and Alain Orozco walked out of prison the same day.
The commutations came just days after Pope John Paul II called on governments worldwide to make "a gesture of clemency" to prisoners. On June 30th, the Pope urged "a reduction, even a modest one, of the term of punishment" before Jubilee Day (July 9th), when Catholic bishops around the world visited prisoners.
Pofahl, whose case was featured in Glamour magazine and in the book "Shattered Lives: Portraits From America's Drug War," had already served nearly ten years of a no-parole 24-year sentence on conspiracy charges related to her ex-husband's participation in an Ecstasy production and distribution ring. He got three years of probation in the US, but also served a four-year sentence in Germany.
Pofahl told the authors of Shattered Lives, "Federal agents promised that if I refused to help them gain the information against my husband, they would destroy my life. This they did."
Serena Nunn, 30, had served ten years of a 14-year sentence for conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine. She was one of several women profiled in a 1997 Minneapolis Star-Tribune series about women who played peripheral roles in drug operations, but received harsher sentences than the principals because they refused to cooperate with federal authorities out of loyalty to their loved ones.
Nunn, a former high school homecoming queen, cheerleader and member of the school newspaper and yearbook staffs, committed the offense of dating the son of a man in federal agents' gun sights for cocaine trafficking. Although many of the group's members received reduced sentences after cooperating with authorities, Nunn refused to inform on her boyfriend. Her sentence was double that of one of the operation's leaders.
Nunn benefited from a campaign by federal, state, and local officials -- including the judge who sentenced her -- to secure her release.
US District Judge David Doty wrote a three-page letter to President Clinton saying he favored reducing her sentence. He told the President he believed that mandatory minimums sentencing guidelines were unfairly applied to Nunn.
But Doty told the Star-Tribune Nunn's case was not unusual. "It happens not daily but weekly that we are giving sentences in drug cases that are horrendous," he said. "None of us are happy with mandatory minimums."
Details of the House, Mills, and Orozco cases were not available at press time.
Organizations devoted to reforming harsh federal drug sentencing laws welcomed the commutations, but said they failed to address the fundamental inequity of federal drug sentencing laws.
"We're thrilled that five sentences were commuted, but we wish Clinton would go further and examine these sentencing laws," Monica Pratt of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM -- http://www.famm.org) told DRCNet.
"This is just selective altruism unless something is done about mandatory minimums," said Pratt. "Unless the laws are corrected, these sorts of injustices will continue. These commutations are great for the people involved, but they are subjective and that's really not fair."
"I wish he would acknowledge something is wrong with sentencing laws, I wish he said we should review mandatory minimums," she added.
White House aides told the Associated Press that Clinton commuted the sentences because they were "too harsh" for the drug crimes under which they were convicted.
The aides added that pardon or commutation requests from other drug war prisoners are making their way to the president's desk for possible action.
Among those seeking commutations is Kemba Smith, a young Richmond, Virginia woman serving 24 years for minor involvement in her boyfriend's cocaine dealing activities. She had turned herself in and was cooperating with authorities, but after the boyfriend was murdered her cooperation was no longer needed.
Smith has been prominently featured in campaigns aimed at redressing the evils of current federal drug sentencing laws, and her story has twice graced the cover of Emerge, a national news magazine focusing on the African American community, under the title "Kemba's Nightmare." (Visit the Kemba Smith Justice Project at http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/8899/ for further information.)
Kemba's father, Gus Smith, told DRCNet, "I'm glad for Amy and the others that they're free. It makes me very optimistic," he said. "I think this shows that Clinton recognized these disparities and that they needed to be corrected, and that's a very good sign."
As for Kemba, her father reports that her petition for a pardon was filed on Wednesday. In the meantime, said Gus Smith, "She's doing pretty good, considering. She has probably received 4,000 letters. She's teaching African history and Excel and Powerpoint."
Kemba Smith has done six years now. Without a pardon or commutation she will not be released until 2018. Her father told DRCNet that he wished to thank all of Kemba's supporters and asked them to continue to write the president and ask for a pardon for her. "We'll continue to work for liberty and justice for all," he said.
A massive petition campaign directed at Clinton may help him find the political will to grant more such reprieves. The November Coalition, a drug war prisoners' support group, is organizing the Jubilee Justice 2000 (http://www.jubileejustice.org) petition drive to ask President Clinton to commute the sentences of thousands of federal prisoners.
The November Coalition will collect signatures up until the end of Clinton's term, but will have a massive petition turn-in in Washington, DC, in October. November Coalition leaders will be in the nation's capital to receive the prestigious Letelier-Moffet Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies.
In its letter notifying the Coalition of the award, the Institute wrote, "The selection committee chose your organization in recognition of your collective struggle against one of the great injustices of our time."
The petition drive takes as its cue Biblical passages calling for a Jubilee every 50 years to "proclaim liberty throughout the land" (Leviticus 25:10) and "because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor..." (Isaiah 61: 1-2).
In his introduction to the Jubilee campaign, Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, wrote: "Jubilee Justice 2000 is a campaign to educate the public about the need for sentencing reform, and ultimately to persuade the President to commute the sentences of thousands of Federal prisoners before he leaves office."
If the manner in which last week's commutations were announced is any indication, Clinton needs all the political pressure such a campaign can provide. The commutations were the last item on a daily press list of White House activities, and they were announced late on a Friday afternoon, ensuring that mass media coverage, if any, would occur over the weekend, when fewer people are watching the news.
Please help the campaigns for Jubilee Justice 2000, Free Kemba Smith and to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing and end the failed and unjust war on drugs. Here's what you can do:
One of the House's leading drug war zealots has introduced a bill to preempt the wave of successful initiatives designed to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The bill, introduced by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), would also render impotent any state initiatives or legislation attempting to reform laws dealing with any controlled substance.
House Bill 4802, introduced by Souder on June 29th, says Congress will supersede any state or local laws that:
"permit or purport to authorize the use, growing, manufacture, distribution, or importation by an individual or group of marijuana or any controlled substance which differs from the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act... Any law, regulation, or ordinance purporting to establish such different requirement, prohibition, or standard shall be null and void."
The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary and Commerce committees.
Voters in seven states and the District of Columbia have passed initiatives to legalize medical marijuana. Hawaii recently became the first state to decriminalize medical marijuana through the legislative process.
Souder said efforts to make medical use legal "is just a phony excuse to be a pothead."
That didn't sit well with Dr. Rick Bayer, one of two chief petitioners in Oregon's successful 1996 medical marijuana initiative. Bayer, an MD who practices internal medicine, told DRCNet, "That's ridiculous. He obviously has no idea what it's like to try to practice medicine and try to take care of people will serious and terminal illnesses."
"I'm outraged to have a congressman or cop try to tell me how to treat a patient," growled Bayer.
Souder has also taken some hits on the home front, first in an exchange of letters with NORML executive director Keith Stroup published in his hometown paper, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, and then from the Journal-Gazette's own editorial page. (Go to http://www.jg.net/jg/ and search their archives for "medical marijuana.")
The newspaper attacked Souder for insulting the intelligence of voters in states that have chosen the medical marijuana route, for suggesting that their votes could be "bought" by George Soros, for belittling patients' suffering, and, most emphatically, for violating conservative principles of individual freedom and states' rights.
Stroup told DRCNet that Souder's bill had little chance of passing.
"Souder wants to wipe out the will of the voters with a stroke of the pen in Congress," said Stroup. "I doubt many members are willing to make that statement, because they respect basic tenets of democracy."
"His zealotry is overwhelming his common sense here," added Stroup. "This doesn't strike me as necessarily sophisticated," he said, "trying to accomplish that which cannot be done."
Citing the Constitution's supremacy clause, Souder argued that states cannot pass laws that contradict federal law, thus state laws to relax drug penalties can have no effect.
Souder wrote that his bill would ensure that "the longstanding federal laws against the use of marijuana and narcotic drugs take precedence over efforts to change those laws in the states."
He called it a "technical matter."
Stroup disagreed on several counts. "Contrary to the overly simplistic analysis offered by the congressman," wrote Stroup, "not all federal laws overrule state law. In fact, only when Congress specifically declares its intentions to usurp the field does federal law trump state law, and no such declaration has been made regarding marijuana policy."
"Souder is trying to declare the intent of Congress," Stroup told DRCNet, "and if he were successful then all of a sudden federal law would overrule state laws. But not now."
Stroup told DRCNet his argument was based on an analysis of the issue done by the California Legislative Council prior to the passage of Proposition 215, the state's medical marijuana initiative. That research found that the Controlled Substances Act, the bedrock legislation of the drug laws, did not declare any Congressional intent to supersede state laws.
Also, said Stroup, the council concluded that the supremacy clause kicks in only when state and federal laws are in direct conflict.
"Were a state to decide to set up a legally regulated market, as the Oregon initiative proposes, that would be a direct conflict and the feds would override the state law," said Stroup. "But a state could constitutionally remove all drug laws, and that would not be a direct conflict."
In most cases, Stroup said, the drafters of medical marijuana initiatives have avoided direct conflicts with federal law on the advice of their attorneys.
For Dr. Bayer it less a matter of constitutional subtleties than an attack on the free practice of medicine relationship within the context of a broader assault on fundamental freedoms.
"This would be an extreme violation of the doctor-patient relationship," said Bayer. "Congressman Souder should not be practicing medicine."
"It sounds like he's trying to be a tough guy in the war on drugs and promote himself by encouraging the arrest of sick and dying patients. The public will not stand for it," he predicted.
Congressman Souder has quite a track record as a drug war tough guy. Here are some of his more notable quotes and achievements:
DRCNet readers are all too familiar with the horror stories generated by asset forfeiture, the civil procedure the government uses to seize cash, bank accounts, houses, cars, and other properties it claims are the fruit of crime. In fact, the national chorus of complaints grew so loud that Congress was finally forced to pass a modest asset forfeiture reform bill this year.
But the new law only applies to federal seizures. The vast majority of drug arrests and attendant seizures occur at the state and local level. Now, US News & World Report has reported on a particularly egregious example of entrepreneurial policing and seizure fever run amok.
The South Florida Impact Task Force, operating out of Coral Gables, has been a rousing success by drug war standards. Impact's 50 officers, detailed from state and local law enforcement agencies, have seized more than $140 million in suspect funds and confiscated 30 tons of cocaine and almost seven tons of marijuana.
Impact officers have arrested 532 people and been responsible for 71 deportations since the task force came into being in 1993.
The task force has pumped millions of dollars in seized funds into the accounts of participating police agencies. Drug czar Barry McCaffrey even cited it as an example of effective law enforcement.
But not everyone is so pleased. Its critics include the DEA, the Justice Department, and law enforcement experts, as well as defense attorneys and civil libertarians. The critics also include legitimate businessmen who had the misfortune to encounter the Impact Task Force:
"This is not too much different from the Sheriff of Nottingham, except we don't have any Robin Hood," Robert Bauman told DRCNet. Bauman, a former Maryland congressman, is on the board of the forfeiture reform organization Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR -- http://www.fear.org).
"I wish I could say this was unusual, but it's not and it's been going on for a long time," added Bauman. "That doesn't justify this conduct, but it doesn't surprise me."
But there is more to this story than merely some overreaching by enthusiastic drug warriors. The South Florida Impact Task Force appears to have some unique and disturbing features.
Impact is an entirely self-funding operation. In other words, to survive it must seize assets. Asset forfeiture is both its reason and its means for existing. This institutional imperative to search and seize led to what US News qualified as "overaggressive" property seizures.
There is more. Woody Kirk, a retired US Customs officer who cofounded the task force with former FBI agent Mike Wald, had financial arrangements with Impact that has raised eyebrows and tempers across the board. While Wald joined Impact as a Coral Gables police commander, Kirk signed on as a full-time consultant.
With a string of potentially valuable informers in tow from his days as a money-laundering investigator at Customs, Kirk cut a deal with Impact in which the task force gave him a 25% cut of all assets he helped seize.
He earned $625,000 in just the first year of the task force's operations. "It was," Kirk told US News, "a very good deal."
Joseph McNamara, formerly chief of police in San Jose and Kansas City and currently a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institute, was surprised. "I'm writing a book about thousands of cases where cops abuse asset forfeiture, but I've never heard of anything that formal," he told DRCNet.
Neal Sonnett, the Miami-based former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers, was incredulous. "This is very strange," he told DRCNet. "They're a vigilante group."
It was a little too strange even for the Justice Department, which threatened to end cooperation with the task force unless the deal was halted. To comply, Impact put Kirk on a $10,666 monthly retainer.
But the creative Kirk still wasn't done. He confirmed to US News that he had begun asking his informants to sign contracts handing him a 15% commission on rewards they received from asset forfeiture cases. He lent one informant $115,000 as an "advance" on future seizure income; in another case, Kirk lent an informant $50,000 in return for a 60% share.
Such deals are apparently not illegal under existing law, but even Kirk's colleagues in the drug war can barely stomach this. "It's abhorrent, it just grates on the nerves of a lot of cops who've done the work that Kirk has done," former Customs agent Bill Gately told US News.
"In money laundering investigations there can be no room for any personal interest in any transaction," former DEA dirty money specialist John Moynihan told the magazine.
McNamara, however, pointed out that it was only Kirk's brazenness that was unusual. "Lots of people personally profit from the drug war, and not just crooked police," he said. "Drug testing labs, mandatory treatment programs, police and prison guards unions, and don't forget the cartels. Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex; there's a drug war complex as well."
What the Impact Task Force has done "shouldn't be done," McNamara added, "but until these laws are repealed this kind of corruption is waiting to happen and does happen every day."
"It's inherent in the conception of the current statutes, because the money substantially goes for the police to augment salaries, budgets, and expenses," the ex-chief explained. "There's an incentive for police to take property."
But there is still more. Under the tutelage of Kirk, one of the Impact Task Force's techniques was the money laundering sting. To gain credibility with suspected money launderers, Impact itself laundered more than $120 million since 1994. Most of that money went back to drug dealers.
Ex-DEA analyst Moynihan told US News, "You want to seize at least twice what you launder. If not, you're creating as much crime as you're solving."
Impact's overseers, a committee of state and local officials, have no problems with the task force, but now the DEA and Customs have announced they have severed ties with Impact, and the Justice Department is conducting a review that could halt all federal cooperation with the task force.
McNamara is not reassured. "When it comes to the war on drugs, the feds are the worst. They certainly fought tooth and nail against federal asset forfeiture reforms. They think they're fighting a holy war, so anything goes. Forget about the Bill of Rights or ethics as long as they're fighting the evil of drugs."
"This is just another example of the moral bankruptcy of the war on drugs," he concluded.
Caving in to pressure from Congressional overseers and the US Attorney, the DC City Council voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to make distribution of marijuana a felony subject to a maximum five-year prison term.
Under DC's municipal criminal code, all marijuana offenses had previously been misdemeanors.
Because of sentencing "reform" legislation mandated by Congress and passed by the Council the same day, anyone sent to prison on a marijuana felony will serve at least 85% of his sentence with no possibility of parole.
The bill also classifies the felony manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute marijuana as a "dangerous crime," which allows the court to hold persons charged under those provisions without bail.
On the positive side, the bill does exempt first offenders selling a half-pound or less from the felony penalties. Instead, such persons will be charged with misdemeanors and face a maximum six months in the DC jail.
Wayne Turner of ACTUP DC, who was one of the chief organizers of the District's medical marijuana initiative, saw a small measure of good news in the bill. "The good news is that the US Attorney says she won't prosecute patients; she's never said that before," said Turner. "Still, we can't take her word on it; we'll be watching carefully."
"And we still have the medical use defense here in DC," he added, "so we will be working on a patient support project so patients can get their doctors' letters of authorization and have them in hand in the case of trouble."
The bill will become law unless vetoed by Mayor Anthony Williams, but Williams is expected to sign the measure.
The Council's action came largely at the urging of US Attorneys, with added pressure from Congress. The District of Colombia is unique in that its residents can be prosecuted under either the DC municipal criminal code or under federal law. The decision to choose one or the other rests with the US Attorney's office.
In 1996, then US Attorney Eric Holder attempted and failed to persuade the Council to toughen DC marijuana laws.
In 1998, DC voters expressed their support for medical marijuana by voting more than 2-to-1 for a District medical marijuana initiative. Congress, however, has blocked the initiative from taking effect.
In 1999, current US Attorney Wilma Lewis renewed Holder's crusade. Lewis raised the specter of "marijuana violence" and argued that DC's lax laws made it a haven for marijuana peddlers.
Turner told DRCNet, "Lewis came in talking about this enormous increase in marijuana violence, but she had no numbers to back her up."
For Keith Stroup, executive director of NORML, Lewis's argument is "totally disengenuous."
"Look," Stroup told DRCNet, "The US Attorneys come running in here saying 'we can't do anything about those marijuana dealers,' but that is the opposite of the truth. The US Attorneys can prosecute any case they want under the much harsher federal laws."
"Council members were covering their asses politically with the US Attorney," said Stroup. "Our elected council cared more about the will of the US Attorney than the will of the voters."
And, Turner noted, the Council was also heeding pressure from Capitol Hill. "We had Sen. Kaye Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) sitting up there asking every day about the progress of that bill. I'm sure the Council took notice."
Opponents of the measure, including medical marijuana activists, community groups, and what Council Member Charlene Drew Jarvis derisively referred to as "yuppies and buppies" testified to no avail.
National drug reform and criminal justice organizations also opposed the bill. "I testified," Stroup said, "and so did the ACLU, the Drug Policy Foundation and others."
"Even though our focus is national, we did what we could with our limited local resources," said Stroup. "We spent hours preparing testimony, and we managed to get the half-pound provision inserted, but that isn't nearly enough."
Council Member Harold Brazil introduced the bill and, as Stroup puts it, "Without Brazil carrying water for US Attorney Wilma Lewis, this never would have happened."
Turner agreed. "Brazil actually supported the medical marijuana initiative, but now he's toeing the line for Wilma."
Brazil claimed to be concerned about violence and open-air drug markets, but Stroup countered that violence and corruption are a function of the black market. "If they want to end the violence, they should legally regulate the market."
That could be difficult to do now. In the District's annual appropriation bill, Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), the same man who blocked the District's medical marijuana initiative, inserted language barring any reduction in marijuana penalties by the District.
The appropriations bill is an annual bill, so that language remains in effect only until a new appropriations bill is passed. But given the makeup of the Congress, such language is likely to be reinserted.
"That's why I'm very excited about the November elections," said Turner. "I don't care who wins the White House, but ending Republican control of the Congress would really brighten our prospects here in the District."
Jamaica's Weekly Gleaner reported last week that at least one prominent church leader has called for legalizing drugs, beginning with marijuana, and that his call is finding support among other prominent Christian churchmen.
The Rev. Oliver Daley of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, a widely respected religious leader, told the Gleaner it is "illogical, hypocritical, and oppressive" to criminally sanction marijuana.
Noting that, in his view, the addictiveness and dangerousness of marijuana remained unproven, Daley said it was certainly not a "natural born killer" like alcohol and tobacco, both of which are legal.
The reverend took pains to point out that his stand does not mean the church endorses drug use and he added that he considered the drug trade to be the single greatest threat to the fabric of Jamaican society.
But, he said, not everything that might be a sin should necessarily be a crime. Rev. Daley took adultery as an example. It is a sin, he said, but it would be impractical to make it illegal, something the church learned long ago. Now, said the reverend, politicians need to learn the same lesson regarding drugs.
Daley's comments build on positions he took in the 1999 Synod Papers of his church, which argued that:
"This situation diminishes the moral authority of many of those employed to wage war against drugs," he said.
Rev. Daley said that while it may be difficult for Jamaica to legalize cocaine, "where ganja is concerned, where we are a major supplier, and where it is a substance bearing cultural and religious relevance to some in our society," legalization would be both right and reasonable.
Daley's comments sparked cautious support from other clergymen. Bishop Robert Foster of the Moravian Church told the Gleaner that the case for legalization should be "carefully considered." Foster added that he would welcome anything that diminished the economic value of black market drugs and the greed it engenders.
The Reverend Stanley Clarke, former president of the Jamaican Council of Churches, offered nuanced support for Daley's position. Clarke told the Gleaner he would be reluctant to legalize hard drugs, but that ganja was different. "In the current Jamaican environment it is senseless to arrest someone for a spliff or for growing a plot of weed for personal use -- making a criminal out of someone for a harmless activity."
The Gleaner did not query the Rastafarians, but the ganja-consuming religionists are presumably in full support of moves to legalize Jah herb.
The call by Rev. Daley comes in the wake of a move by the Jamaican Senate last fall to establish a commission to examine legalization of marijuana. In October, the Senate unanimously passed that resolution.
It was sponsored by Sen. Trevor Monroe (Independent), who also sponsored legislation to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a non-criminal offense and to establish a medical marijuana research center. Those bills died in parliament.
The commission to study legalization will not be the first. In 1977, a parliamentary commission recommended decriminalizing marijuana, mandating a $10 fine for public use and allowing doctors to prescribe it. Despite the conclusions of its commission, parliament refused to enact reform legislation, largely for fear of offending the United States.
The Portuguese parliament voted on July 6 to decriminalize the use and possession of illegal drugs. The measure, which includes both "soft" drugs such as marijuana and "hard" drugs such as heroin and cocaine, keeps criminal penalties for production and trafficking in illegal drugs.
"The idea is to get away from punishment and move toward treatment," a spokesman for the Ministry of the Presidency, which handles drug policy, told Reuters.
Under existing Portuguese law, drug users and possessors faced up to a year in jail. Now, instead of a criminal charge, offenders will be charged with an "offense against the social order" and fined. Police will report drug takers to special local commissions, which are charged with ensuring that addicts seek treatment. The fines will be waived if the offender accepts drug treatment.
"It was agreed that in relation to drug addicts, a fine system will no longer be applied; a sick person should not be compelled to pay a fine. He should instead be supported under the best possible circumstances," said Left Bloc Deputy Francisco Louçã.
The ruling Socialist Party needed help from the Communist Party, the Left Bloc and ecological parties to win the vote. The measure survived a negative publicity campaign by the conservative Social Democratic Party, which bought ads in five major newspapers, Narco News reported (http://www.narconews.com/portugal1.html).
According to Narco News, the vote marks the first time that leftist parties anywhere have united to support decriminalization. It also comes in the wake of US efforts to enlist European Union support for American escalation in Colombia.
Portugal now joins Italy and Spain among European Union member states which have effectively decriminalized the use and possession of small amounts of illegal drugs.
Parliament is now in recess until September, but members of the Left Bloc have announced plans to introduce even deeper reforms when the session resumes. They will introduce legislation to have the government supply addicts with heroin and provide "injection rooms" where users can inject in a safe and therapeutic environment.
Michigan's Personal Responsibility Act initiative will not be on the ballot in November. The campaign for the initiative, which would legalize the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana and divert seized assets to voluntary treatment and prevention programs, failed to gain the required number of signatures by this week's deadline.
The initiative received no backing from the deep-pocketed backers of other initiatives and relied on $10,000 from organizer Gregory Schmid and donations from sympathizers.
Schmid, who is the Michigan coordinator for NORML, vowed to continue the struggle.
"We're starting right away," he told the Saginaw (Michigan) News. "With a little luck and $75,000, we should be able to successfully pull it off."
In fact, in an e-mail distributed among drug reformers, Schmid said the petition drive would continue. "The July 10th deadline is for the November 2000 election only, and we can still go for 2002 as long as we stay within the six-month rule."
The six-month rule refers to the period of time over which the signatures can be gathered.
(courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)
Washington, DC: Drug czar Barry McCaffrey plans to intensify the Office of National Drug Control Policy's anti-drug media campaign to include government anti-drug messages in popular movies. At a House subcommittee hearing this week, McCaffrey announced that he intends to "leverage popular movies" and to work with studios to promote films that "responsibly communicate anti-drug campaign messages." McCaffrey testified Tuesday before the House Government Reform Committee, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, in support of his office's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.
McCaffrey said the ONDCP would not offer government financed incentives for incorporating anti-drug messages in their scripts, but would offer tax dollars for "promotional activities and special events that capitalize on the visibility" of films that feature such messages. McCaffrey has previously offered payment to television networks and print publications that include anti-drug messages embedded in the content.
The NORML Foundation filed a complaint in February with the Federal Communications Commission alleging the ONDCP program violates federal anti-payola laws.
(Read USA Today's coverage of ONDCP's new plot at http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20000712/2447763s.htm.)
Meet Carnivore, the FBI's latest advance in its never-ending war on privacy. Carnivore is a super-fast computer system stuffed with specialized software designed to covertly search for e-mails from criminal suspects, MSNBC reported this week.
The Internet wiretapping system was unveiled two weeks ago after being developed at FBI labs in Quantico, VA. It is called Carnivore because it can rapidly get to "the meat" of huge data flows. It replaces an earlier system, appropriately called Omnivore, which could suck in as much as six gigabytes of data every hour, but in a less discriminating fashion.
The FBI said it has used Carnivore in fewer than a hundred criminal investigations so far. They were predominantly investigations of suspected hackers, drug traffickers or terrorists. But it has at least 20 Carnivore systems on hand, "just in case."
Carnivore is raising hackles in the Internet world because it must be hooked directly into Internet service providers' (ISP) networks. That gives the government the ability, at least theoretically, to scan all communications on an ISP's network. Not only e-mail, but also Web surfing and online financial transaction could be monitored.
Carnivore sits in a locked cage on the ISP's premises, with feds coming by daily to retrieve the captured data.
Internet wiretaps require a state or federal court order and are relatively rare now, but are expected to become more prevalent as use of the Web increases.
Mark Rasch, a former federal computer-crimes prosecutor, told MSNBC that Carnivore is problematic because it looks at every bit of data that flows past, so it can decide what needs to be recorded for police purposes.
"It's the electronic equivalent of listening to everybody's phone calls to see if it's the phone call you should be monitoring," Rasch said. "You develop a tremendous amount of information."
"Once the software is applied to the ISP, there's no check on the system," said Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who sits on a House judiciary subcommittee for constitutional affairs. "If there's one word I would use to describe this, it would be 'frightening.'"
One recourse for people and organizations worried about FBI snooping is encryption. Carnivore can still capture the messages, but it can't read them. If the encryption program is powerful enough, Internet law enforcement lurkers will be out of luck.
MANDATORY MINIMUMS: See articles 1 and 2 above for information on the Jubilee Justice 2000 campaign to free drug war prisoners and how you can help. Visit http://www.drcnet.org/justice/ to tell Congress you think the mandatory minimums should go!
FREE SPEECH: Don't let freedom of speech become a casualty of the war on drugs! Visit http://www.drcnet.org/freespeech/ and tell Congress to reject the unconstitutional drug provisions in the anti-methamphetamine, anti-ecstasy and bankruptcy bills (see http://www.drcnet.org/wol/141.html#freespeech).
CALIFORNIA: Oppose "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License" bill -- visit http://www.drcnet.org/states/california/ to write your state legislators.
NEW YORK: Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws! Visit http://www.drcnet.org/states/newyork/ to send a message to your legislators in Albany.
WASHINGTON STATE: Help the "Reasonable People" campaign get their drug policy reform initiative on the ballot -- visit http://www.reasonablepeople.org and involved!
We reprint our action call on the Higher Education Act campaign below. It's not too late to get involved, and we need your help! See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/138.html#partialvictory for the latest major campaign update and point your browser to http://www.drcnet.org/wol/141.html#usatoday for the campaign's latest major press coverage.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1) We urgently need to hear from students who have been affected by this law, especially students who are willing to go public.
2) Educators are needed to endorse our sign-on letter to Congress. If you teach or are otherwise involved in education, or are in a position to talk to educators, please write to us at email@example.com to request a copy of our educators letter and accompanying activist packet -- available by snail mail or by e-mail.
3) We need students at more campuses to take the reform resolution to their student governments. Campuses recently endorsing it include University of Michigan, Yale University, University of Maryland, University of Kansas, the Association of Big Ten Schools, Douglass College at Rutgers University and many more. Visit http://www.u-net.org for information on the student campaign and how to get involved.
4) All US voters are asked to visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to send a letter to Congress supporting H.R. 1053, a bill to repeal the HEA drug provision. Tell your friends and other like-minded people to visit this web site. Follow up your e-mail and faxes with phone calls; our system will provide you with the phone numbers to reach your US Representative and your two US Senators.
5) Please contact us if you are involved with organizations that have mainstream credibility that might endorse a similar organizational sign-on letter -- organizations endorsing already include the NAACP, American Public Health Association, ACLU, United States Student Association, NOW, and a range of social, religious and other groups.
July 10-16, Nashville, TN, "33rd Race Relations Institute" at Fisk University, one-week seminar devoted to discussing how racism affects the life cycle. For further information, call Theeda Murphy, Information Specialist, (615) 329-8812, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.fiskrri.org.
July 15, Prison Reform Unity Project vigils outside every prison in America, demonstration times are 1:00 Pacific Time, 2:00 Mountain Time, 3:00 Central Time and 4:00 Eastern Time. Contact email@example.com or visit http://www.prup.net.
July 20, Washington, DC, 12:30-2:30pm, "Crime and Punishment: Mandatory Minimums and the Drug War," brown bag lunch and speaker series, with Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and the video documentary PBS Frontline: Snitch. At the Institute for Policy Studies, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 1020, call Jaime Yassef at (202) 234-9382 for information.
July 21, Dartmouth, MA, 9:00am-3:30pm, "Stopping For-Profit Private Prisons" conference and pre-campaign strategy session, at, part of National Jobs With Justice 12th Annual Meeting. At University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, contact Prasi Gupta at (202) 434-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org to register. Contact Kevin Pranis at (212) 727-8610 x23 or email@example.com for further information.
July 23-28, London, Ontario, Canada, International Society for Individual Liberty's 20th Annual World Conference. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
July 27, Washington, DC, 12:30-2:30pm, "Poverty, Race and the Drug War: Unequal Justice", brown bag lunch and speaker series, with Hubert Williams of the Police Foundation and Australian and Dutch documentary excerpts. At the Institute for Policy Studies, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 1020, call Jaime Yassef at (202) 234-9382 for information.
July 29-August 4, San Diego, CA, "Cato University" seminar covering history, economics, law, philosophy, and foreign policy, sponsored by the Cato Institute. Registration fees start at $1,100, some student scholarships available. For information or registration, call (202) 218-4633 or visit http://www.cato-university.org.
July 31-August 2, Philadelphia, PA, Shadow Convention 2000, visit http://www.shadowconventions.com for info.
August 3, Washington, DC, 12:30-2:30pm, "Women and the Drug War: The Fastest Growing (and Least Violent) Segment of the Prison Population," brown bag lunch and speaker series, with Mary Barr, former prisoner and lecturer on substance abuse, prisons and treatment, with video excerpts from ABC News Nightline and Court TV's "Prisoners of Love." At the Institute for Policy Studies, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 1020, call Jaime Yassef at (202) 234-9382 for information.
August 11, Washington, DC, "The Politics of Marijuana: One Arrest Every 46 Seconds," with Rob Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project and the ABC News documentary "Pot of Gold," 12:30-2:30, Institute for Policy Studies Summer "brown bag" lunch and speakers series, 733 15th St. NW, Suite 1020. For more information, call Jaime Yassef (202) 234-9382.
August 11, Washington, DC, 12:30-2:30pm, "The Politics of Marijuana: One Arrest Every 46 Seconds," brown bag lunch and speaker series, with Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project and the ABC News documentary Pot of Gold. At the Institute for Policy Studies, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 1020, call Jaime Yassef at (202) 234-9382 for information.
August 10-13, San Francisco, CA, "Fourth Annual Hepatitis C Conference," sponsored by the HCV Global Foundation. For information or to register, visit http://www.hcvglobal.org or contact Krebs Convention Management Services, 657 Carolina St., San Francisco, CA 94107-2725, (415) 920-7000, fax (415) 920-7001, email@example.com.
August 13, Los Angeles, CA, 2:00-5:00pm, "What's Missing, What Matters: A Town Hall Meeting," sponsored by The Nation Institute. At the Leo Baeck Temple, 1300 N. Sepulveda Blvd. Free, RSVP required, call (877) 486-9395 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register or for info. Co-sponsored by the Leo Baeck Temple and KPFK-FM.
August 14-16, Los Angeles, CA, "Shadow Convention 2000," visit http://www.shadowconventions.com for info.
August 17, Washington, DC, 12:30-2:30pm, "International Harm Reduction Policies: How Do Other Countries Deal With Drugs," brown bag lunch and speaker series, with Allan Clear of the Harm Reduction Coalition and excerpts from US and Australian documentaries. At the Institute for Policy Studies, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 1020, call Jaime Yassef at (202) 234-9382 for information.
September 9-13, St. Louis, MO, "2000 National Conference on Correctional Health Care," sponsored by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, at the Cervantes Convention Center. For information,contact NCCHC, (773) 880-1460 or visit http://www.ncchc.org.
September 13, New York, NY, "Race-ing Justice: Race and Inequality in America Today," with Manning Marable of Columbia University's Institute for Research in African American Studies. at 122 West 27th Street, 10th floor, sponsored by New York Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, $5 requested but not required, call (212) 229-2388 for information.
September 13-15, Durham, NC, "North American Conference on Fathers Behind Bars and on the Streets," sponsored by the Family & Corrections Network and the National Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families, at the Regal University Hotel. For information, visit http://www.npnff.org or call (202) 737-6680.
September 16, Denver, CO, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
October 11-14, Hamburg, Germany, "Encouraging Health Promotion for Drug Users Within the Criminal Justice System," at the University of Hamburg. For further information and brochure, contact: The Conference Secretariat, c/o Hit Conference, +44 (0) 151 227 4423, fax +44 (0) 151 236 4829, email@example.com.
October 21-25, Miami, FL, "Third National Harm Reduction Conference," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, at the Wyndham Hotel Miami Biscayne Bay. For information, call (212) 213-6376 ext. 31 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 11, Charlotte, NC, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
November 16-19, San Francisco, "Committing to Conscience: Building a Unified Strategy to End the Death Penalty," largest annual gathering of Death Penalty opponents. Call Death Penalty Focus at (888) 2-ABOLISH or visit http://www.ncadp.org/ctc.html for further information.
January 13, 2001, St. Petersburg, FL, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation invites applications for a staff attorney position in the New Haven Office of the National Drug Policy Litigation Project. The Project has a active litigation docket in federal courts across the nation, with cases challenging restrictions on medical marijuana, the denial of voting rights and drug testing of students and welfare applicants. The Project also provides legal support to drug reform efforts at the local, state and national levels.
The staff attorney will be responsible for significant federal court litigation on drug policy issues. The work will include district and circuit court litigation, discovery and motion practice, appellate briefs and arguments, occasional trials and policy analysis. The staff attorney will also work frequently with ACLU state affiliates and pro bono counsel, providing litigation assistance and advice on legislative and policy matters. The staff attorney should be able to speak publicly and to represent the ACLU's drug policy positions to the media and the public. The job includes supervision of student interns and law clerks and may require occasional work on foundation proposals and reports. A willingness to travel is necessary.
Familiarity with constitutional, civil rights and drug policy reform is desirable; commitment to those issues is essential. Excellent analytic skills and the ability to write and speak clearly are required. Applicants should have at least three years litigation experience, preferably in the constitutional and civil rights area.
Salary is governed by the national ACLU scale for lawyers, which is based on years out of law school. Health and welfare benefits are provided. Applications are due by August 1, 2000. Applicants should send a cover letter, a resume with three references and one substantial legal writing sample to: Graham Boyd, ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project, 160 Foster Street, 3rd floor, New Haven, CT 06511.
David Borden, Executive Director, email@example.com
Amy Pofahl. Serena Nunn. Louise House. Shawndra Mills. Alain Orozco.
The freeing of these few, late on a Friday, summer afternoon, is a powerful reminder that drug law reform is more than an academic debate over political philosophy or "balanced approaches" or "policy." Changing the drug laws is a moral imperative, even a crusade, an urgent struggle for freedom for 400,000 whose imprisonment is unneeded and unjust.
Will this token gesture presage a larger exodus? It would be uncharacteristic of all but a small handful of US politicians to willingly concede the lives of their oppressed and the fodder that their blood and bondage provides in campaign rhetoric and contributions from the drug war's special interests.
Rather, it will take a demand, an indictment of a cruel and corrupt system, to bring change. It will take citizens, activists, opinion leaders crying out, calling for reason and an end to the failed mass incarceration program. It will take all of our efforts here, and the efforts of many others, to bring about the Jubilee Justice.
Yet those efforts cannot be shirked and must not fail, for true justice is tempered with mercy, yet the drug war is built on neither justice nor mercy. And just as the parents and children across our country for whom the drug war is ostensibly waged are "our people," deserving to live in safety and health, so too are those languishing behind bars our people -- whether innocent like Amy Pofahl or Dorothy Gaines, or guilty by the letter of the law, but unjustly punished, like many others -- and it is time to set our people free.
Kemba Smith. Charles Garrett. Dorothy Gaines. Todd McCormick. Will Foster.
They and countless others wait to follow Amy and Serena and the others who walked free on a late Friday, summer afternoon. The door has been opened a crack; let us proceed to tear down the wall.
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