High UN Official Calls for Global Attack on Internet Drug Information 6/30/00

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The UN official in charge of the global body's international drug control office called last week for a crackdown on the use of the Internet in the drug trade. But his comments left unclear whether he draws a distinction between the use of the Internet to disseminate information about drugs and drug policy and its use in criminal activity by drug trafficking organizations.

Pino Arlacchi, head of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP, http://www.undcp.org), based in Vienna, told a New York press conference last Thursday that his organization will explore giving "universal jurisdiction" to Internet drug crimes because cyber crime so easily evades traditional national jurisdictions.

Under international law, the only crimes that now qualify for universal jurisdiction are genocide and crimes against humanity.

Because of the global nature of the drug trade, Arlacchi told the press conference, "It is extremely difficult to route a case into a precise jurisdiction, so we believe this problem is encouraging us to go in the direction of universal jurisdiction."

He said the idea will be explored in depth at a UN symposium at year's end in Palermo, Italy, to mark the signing of an international convention on organized crime. The symposium will address expanding universal jurisdiction to money laundering and Internet crime.

Arlacchi admitted, however, that use of the Internet in actual drug trafficking or for online drug sales is "very small, it is minimal."

Arlacchi's remarks provided hints that he has more than drug traffickers' use of the Internet in mind. The former Italian Mafia prosecutor added that, "The Internet is more and more important in providing exchanges of information, in expanding the market, particularly the final market, and we are very worried about it."

Arlacchi said that by searching one key word, which he refused to identify, "You receive advice on where to find drugs, you receive a lot of extremely dangerous information."

Even worse, in the drug bureaucrat's view, "You can enter a completely different world where the issue [drug policy] is treated in the opposite view as it should be. Unfortunately, some of these views are spreading and we are now thinking about some instrument to at least stop the expansion of this flow of information."

The preceding statement appears clearly directed not at drug traffickers but at organizations and individuals expressing policy preferences different from those of the UN ODCCP.

To Sarah Andrews, policy analyst for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit civil liberties organization (http://www.epic.org), Arlacchi's remarks "sound like an argument for censorship."

Andrews told DRCNet that Arlacchi's proposal should be seen in context. "This is part of a larger attempt to control the Internet on the international level," she noted. "The European Union has drafted similar legislation," she said, adding that "this reprises the arguments about cryptography, where law enforcement officials spoke of dire threats but the number of crimes linked to it is really small."

Andrews said EPIC would oppose such a move by the UN. "This is an exaggerated response to a small problem," she said. "There is a need for security," she added, "but giving law enforcement more access to private communications only gives them overreaching powers."

Another UN drug agency, the International Narcotics Control Board, has called on nations to restrict the right of their citizens to discuss drug legalization. (See http://reason.com/9808/col.coffin.html for an excellent discussion by Phil Coffin in Reason magazine.)

Arlacchi drew charges of lacking realism after he spearheaded a major UN drug summit in 1998; the summit's title was "Drug Free in Ten Years: We Can Do It."

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Issue #143, 6/30/00 ACTIVIST Alert: Shadow Conventions to Challenge Democratic and Republican Conventions | New York: Chief Judge Orders Statewide Drug Diversion Plan, Reformers Applaud Softly, Raise Caution Flags | California Sentencing Reform Initiative Draws Powerful Opponents, Reformers Dramatically Ahead in New Poll | Oregon Okays Medical Marijuana For Alzheimer's Agitation, New Initiative Moves Forward | High UN Official Calls for Global Attack on Internet Drug Information | China Marks UN Anti-Drug Day, Executes Dozens, Killings Come in Wake of McCaffrey Visit and US China Agreement | French Education Minister Broaches Cannabis Decriminalization, Ecstasy Quality Controls | Greens Nominate Nader, Questions Remain on His Support of Drug Reform Planks | Dutch Parliament Approves Resolution to Allow Regulated Marijuana Cultivation | Report: Risk of Marijuana Arrest Varies Greatly from State to State, County to County | AlertS: Free Speech, California, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Washington State | Link of the Week: Arianna Huffington on Campaign Finance and Colombia | HEA Campaign | Event Calendar | Editorial: Summary Executions
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