(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #144, 7/7/00
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A month ago, DRCNet reported on threats by district attorneys in Texas border counties to quit prosecuting drug cases referred to them by federal prosecutors (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/140.html#texasglimmers). Now, however, Congress has bought another three months of local cooperation with a $12 million emergency appropriation announced last week.
That appropriation will provide assistance to border prosecutors all along the frontier, with only some $3 million going to the squeaky wheel Texas DAs.
The $12 million will reimburse border counties for the costs they incur in prosecuting drug cases generated by the DEA, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Border Patrol.
But the $12 million won't make much difference, according to academic and local border-watchers. George Kourous, director of the Interhemispheric Resource Center's Border Information & Outreach Service (BIOS -- http://www.irc-online.org), told DRCNet the funding was "a band-aid approach."
"I don't know what amount of money would be enough," he said. "This whole strict law enforcement approach is a black hole. Interdiction clearly has not affected price or availability; we need to be looking instead at a demand-reduction approach."
Jose Palafox, a doctoral student at the University of California at Berkeley who has studied and written extensively about the militarization of the border, agrees, but also ties the border problems to the broader question of US-Mexican bilateral relations.
"The whole war on drugs paradigm does not address the root causes of the drug economy," he told DRCNet, "on either the demand or the supply sides."
"If you were to stop the drug economy you would do real damage to Mexico's stability," said Palafox. "The cartels are so deeply embedded in the national economy that they cannot be destroyed without substantial damage to the economy as a whole." And, added Palafox, "a 'success' in the drug war would effectively dispossess hundreds of thousands of Mexican peasants who have no alternative, no effective substitute," he added. "The way the US prosecutes this war is very much related to the future we have in mind for people down there."
Palafox also commented that the increase in cross-border commerce since NAFTA together with the US law enforcement build-up on the border has created what border scholar Peter Andreas has termed "a borderless economy but a barricaded border." The more free trade you encourage, the more illicit traffic comes with it, he said.
For Jack MacNamara, longtime resident of remote Alpine, Texas and publisher of the Nimby News (http://www.nimbynews.com), the view from ground zero is a little bit different.
The dance of the DAs is "a piece of Kabuki theater," he said. "You've got one group of crime fighters going on strike until they get a pay raise," he added. "Listen, $12 million looks good, but these federal drug task forces running around here inhale $12 million every other day."
"You've got paramilitarization, not militarization on the border," said MacNamara. "You've got a bunch of roving bands, sometimes they're drug dealers, sometimes they're cops, but they've all got guns and they're all in it for the same thing: money, power, and prestige."
Warming to his subject, MacNamara continued, "This has been a great shell game ever since 1986. There's been an endless array of prosecutorial and enforcement initiatives, and now we're part of HIDTA [the DEA's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program], so the money moves around."
"Since 1986, without any central plan or idea, we've increased jails, prosecutors, this and that. All the way through 1991, federal prosecutions in this area were done by one Assistant US Attorney out of Midland; now we have four or five living here in Alpine. The feds have escalated things incredibly: The five counties in this area barely have 20,000 people, but we have all these US Attorneys, a full-time federal public defender and a full-time US Magistrate. The local federal detention facility in Pecos has just doubled its capacity to 2,000 prisoners," he added.
All of this, said MacNamara, is no more than "running the sausage machine to send 'em on to fill the jails."
The Texas dust-up is only the latest indication that the border law enforcement boom is putting severe strains on the entire system. The New York Times reported that the five federal judicial districts along the border are swamped with cases. They handle 26% of all federal criminal cases now (almost all of them related to drugs or immigration); the remaining 89 federal judicial districts account for 74% of the cases.
The Times reported on the efforts of legislators to find a way out, with most of those efforts involving more judges, more money, more jails.
"You know," said MacNamara, "We sit out here and wait for the New York Times to define reality for us. But guess what? It ain't necessarily the same reality."
New Mexico Republican Governor Gary Johnson returned to promoting his crusade for a new drug policy in the last two weeks. In a well-attended speech in Houston sponsored by the Drug Policy Forum of Texas (DPFT), the governor brought his message to a mixed audience of reform advocates, mainstream politicians, and criminal justice professionals. Meanwhile, back in New Mexico, Governor Johnson has announced the formation of a 40-member advisory panel to make recommendations for reforms in that state's drug laws.
Before the June 26 lunchtime speech in Houston, Johnson had an hour-long meeting with the editorial board of the powerful Houston Chronicle. According to DPFT Executive Director Al Robison, who attended the meeting, Johnson was "absolutely magnificent."
Robison wrote that "He did such a good job with the editorial board that they ran out of questions for him even before the hour was up... I have the strongest gut feeling that the Governor had a very positive impact on the way they're now thinking about the drug problem, and maybe it'll be reflected in their editorials in the weeks and months to come. We'll see."
In the speech itself, Johnson shocked some audience members with his blunt embrace of decriminalizing drug use, beginning with the legalization of marijuana.
"I think it is really good politics to say that the war on drugs has failed miserably and that we need to be looking at alternatives," he said, as quoted in the Houston Chronicle.
Johnson contrasted American drug policies with more enlightened models elsewhere. He described a Swiss heroin maintenance clinic where addicts get a prescription and inject the drug.
"The heroin (cost) is significantly less. There's not the need to commit the crime to be able to pay for the heroin. The heroin is clean. The needle is clean. The product is a given product. There is no overdose. There is no hepatitis B and no AIDS."
"Tell me that this is not a better situation from what we presently have?" he said.
Some audience members appeared open to second thoughts even if they were not necessarily swayed by the governor's arguments. Chuck Rosenthal, the Republican Harris County (Houston) district attorney candidate, told the Chronicle he opposes legalizing drugs.
"I'm not in favor of it, but I'm always glad to listen to other options," he said. "I'm not clear on how it shapes up from a medical standpoint."
And, according to Robison, the chairman of the Harris County Republican Party paid strict attention to the governor's speech, especially Johnson's point that being against the war on drugs is actually good politics.
Robison added that the speech was also attended by deans from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, the Democratic and Republican candidates for Harris Country District Attorney, three Republican Harris County judges, the Rotary Clubs district governor, and other politically powerful people.
Since then, Governor Johnson has remained active on the drug reform front. He will appear at the Shadow Conventions scheduled to coincide with the Democratic and Republican national conventions this summer. (For the Albuquerque Journal's recent coverage of Johnson and the Shadow Conventions, visit http://www.abqjournal.com/news/70549news07-04-00.htm. Also visit http://www.drcnet.org/wol/143.html#shadowconventions and http://www.shadowconventions.com for further background.)
In the meantime, he has also, after a year of taking to the national soapbox on drug policy, turned his sights to his home state. Johnson has created a new Drug Policy Advisory Group to study and recommend drug strategies he can enact or present before the state legislature at its next session in January.
Johnson wants the panel to develop harm reduction policies for New Mexico, with an emphasis on hard drugs such as heroin. The panel's recommendations could include calls for needle exchanges, treatment and prevention programs, government drug-dispensing clinics and methadone programs.
The group, led by former state District Court Judge Woody Smith, met for the first time last week. The Albuquerque Tribune quoted Smith as saying that "every member" of the group agreed on one thing: the war on drugs is not working.
Johnson told the Tribune that his bottom-line question for the advisory group is: "Can we point to less harm done by illegal drugs in our society?"
Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca, who sits on the panel, told the Tribune, "I think it's good to get into a logical debate about it. I really don't know what we'll come up with. All I know is, things don't work now and something different has to be done."
The Albuquerque Journal, meanwhile, has reported that the group's expenses are being financed by The Lindesmith Center.
A drug bust last week in which two St. Paul, Minnesota, police officers identified themselves as census takers has caused an uproar. Census officials, public defenders and organizations involved in gaining public cooperation with the decennial census have strongly criticized the police action as disruptive to the census effort and possibly a violation of federal law.
St. Paul police spokesman Michael Jordan told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that two officers were talking to neighbors who had complained about a suspected drug house on St. Paul's East Side. They were confronted by a resident of the house who demanded to know who they were and what they were doing. It was then, said Jordan, that the officers identified themselves as census takers.
The official police report obtained by the Star-Tribune differs from Jordan's account. That report, written the day of the incident, says that the two officers, posing as census workers, went to the house and asked resident Heidi Frison for information about residents. Later that day, police armed with a search warrant raided the house and arrested four people, including Frison.
Frison and two others were charged only with "operating a disorderly house," but even those charges were later dropped against Frison and one of the other people.
Frison told the Star Tribune that two men who identified themselves as census workers talked to her outside her house before the raid. "They just said they were census workers," she said. "They said they were sent out because two houses had not filled out their forms. I took them as who they said they were. But I'm learning."
Ramsey County (St. Paul) public defenders who were assigned to the case informed local Census Bureau officials of the incident. Patricia Waller, Census Bureau manager for Ramsey and Washington counties told the Star-Tribune she was "just awed" at the officers' duplicity and that she was consulting with regional headquarters in Kansas City about whether the impersonation violated federal law.
She said she is concerned the incident may undermine public confidence in Census Bureau workers, who, she added, had no knowledge of the impersonation and did not condone it.
"I don't want the credibility of the St. Paul census office injured by this. We had absolutely no idea about this," Waller told the Star-Tribune.
Census Bureau officials in Washington and Kansas City who spoke to DRCNet were more reticent. All that the bureau will say, according to Washington spokesman Maury Kagel, is the following:
"The Census Bureau condemns any action which may erode public cooperation with any ongoing census activities, especially reports of people posing as Census Bureau employees. This is particularly important as we contact households across the country in the next few months, during quality check operations as part of the overall task of making Census 2000 complete and accurate. We understand that this matter is under investigation with the St. Paul Police Department and appreciate their efforts to see that such misrepresentations will not be repeated."
Ramsey County public defenders were less sanguine than Census Bureau officials, who appear willing to let the matter slide. "I don't know if [the officers] broke the law, but it seems to me that what they did was highly unethical and so unprofessional that it should be discontinued immediately," assistant public defender Diane Alshouse, told the Star-Tribune.
The police action undermines Census Bureau efforts to convince members of minority groups, which have traditionally been undercounted in the census, that census data is kept private and that census workers can be trusted.
The public defenders said that they had, at the request of census officials, encouraged their clients to cooperate with census workers. Now, they said, they fear they have lost their clients' trust.
Law enforcement attempts to hide behind the census are rare but not unknown. According to the Washington Post, earlier this year census officials in Texas rejected an FBI agent's demand for a census worker badge and other identification. The agent wanted to impersonate a census worker for an ongoing investigation.
Federal law states that "whoever falsely assumes or pretends to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency, or officer thereof, and acts as such, or in such pretended character demands or obtains any money, paper, document, or thing of value, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."
Last week DRCNet reported on the gradations of drug policy reform present in the various camps of the Green Party (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/143.html#nader). This week we report on another third party, the Libertarians, who held their annual convention last weekend in Anaheim, California.
The national Libertarian Party (http://www.lp.org) gave Harry Browne a first ballot nod to be the party's presidential candidate. Browne, 67, defeated four other contenders for the nomination and is the first repeat Libertarian presidential candidate. He ran in 1996 and gained nearly half a million votes nationwide.
Browne is an investment advisor and best-selling author. He first gained fame in the 1970s for books such as How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, and You Can Profit from a Monetary Crisis, which reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
More recently, Browne has turned his pen to more political-philosophical themes, publishing Why Government Doesn't Work and The Great Libertarian Offer.
The Browne campaign web site may be accessed at http://www.harrybrowne2000.org. Joining Browne on the Libertarian ticket is vice-presidential nominee Art Olivier, former mayor of Bellewood, California. Olivier defeated well-known California medical marijuana activist Steve Kubby, among others, to gain the nomination.
The Libertarian Party has been a consistent and insistent voice for ending drug prohibition, which it views as just another example of intrusive government interference in the lives and activities of American citizens.
The Week Online interviewed
Harry Browne on July 6:
Last week's review of Ralph Nader statements and Green Party platforms related to the war on drugs incorrectly stated that Nader was silent on "debate on hemp as a major potential source of pulp and paper substitute" as advocated in the official party platform (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/143.html#nader). In fact, Nader made the following remarks in a campaign speech posted on his web site:
"In Hawaii, we visited one of the only two plots in the United States (the other is on the Pine Ridge Reservation) legally permitted to grow industrial hemp, that 5000 year old, versatile plant with thousands of uses, including textiles, fuel, food and paper. A fraction of an acre was surrounded by barbed wire fence, saturation night lights inside a larger fenced area. This medieval experience brought home once again that for the sake of farmers, the environment, consumers and energy independence, it is necessary to free industrial hemp from the proscribed list of US Drug and Enforcement Agency."
Efforts are underway in the Scottish parliament to bring the marijuana trade "out of the housing estates and into regulated premises," the Daily Telegraph (London) reported.
Tommy Sheridan, the Scottish Socialist Party leader, urged parliament members to support a plan in the British parliament to legalize marijuana on an experimental basis for four years. Sheridan also called for Dutch-style coffeehouses, or retail marijuana establishments, to be introduced in Scotland.
Margo MacDonald, the Scottish National Party parliament minister, meanwhile, is calling for a Scottish commission to study marijuana policy. MacDonald will meet soon with Angus MacKay, the deputy Scottish Justice Minister, to discuss her proposals. MacKay, however, has already thrown up a caution flag, noting that under United Kingdom law, legislation from the British parliament in Westminister would be required to introduce coffeehouses into Scotland.
But MacDonald's call for a new look at Scots marijuana policy is picking up support from other parties as well. Donald Gorrie, a Liberal Democrat, said, "The current system is failing and I think there should be more grown-up debate about it."
Scotland is already awaiting a report from the Scottish Advisory on Drug Misuse, which has been investigating Scottish drug cultures. Its investigations, however, have focused on harder drugs, particularly heroin.
The Board of Social Responsibility of the Church of Scotland called for decriminalization of marijuana in July 1997 -- see http://churchnet.ucsm.ac.uk/cos/socrsdec.htm for the full report. In January 1998, a former chief of the famed Scotland Yard police force called for legalization of drugs (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/027.html#scotlandyard). Scotland Yard was itself implicated in a massive prohibition-related scandal in February 1998 (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/028.html#scotlandyard). Later that year, a Scottish citizens commission, including a Catholic priest among its membership, called for the legalization of such drugs as marijuana and ecstasy (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/064.html#Scotland).
The Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau this week released its list of bills that legislators have asked to be prepared for the 2001 session. Among the 242 requests is one from Assemblywoman Chris Giun-Chigliana (D-Las Vegas) for a bill that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana a misdemeanor.
Under current Nevada law, one of the harshest in the nation, possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison for a first offence, 10 years for a second offence, and 20 years for a third offense.
Sale of any amount of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison; with a second trafficking offense, mandatory minimum five-year and up sentences kick in.
The Las Vegas Sun reported that Nevada judicial officials say many cases of possession of less than four ounces of marijuana are reduced to misdemeanors in Clark (Las Vegas) and Washoe (Reno) counties. In the rest of the state, however, possession charges are prosecuted to the fullest extent.
Giun-Chigliana's bill would follow the path of a state judicial study commission whose report will be released in September. That commission, the Judicial Assessment Commission of the Nevada Supreme Court, headed by Nevada Chief Justice Bob Rose, will recommend that simple possession of small quantities of marijuana be a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months in jail.
Chief Justice Rose told the Sun that the recommendation will bring Nevada law "in line with the other 49 states, a more realistic penalty."
The commission made essentially the same recommendation five years ago, but the Nevada legislature refused to enact the changes.
The commission will also recommend that Nevada's felony "high" law be changed. Under that law, persons using or under the influence of a controlled substance may be charged with a felony. This reform would redress an anomaly in the Nevada statutes: Under current law, a person who drives while under the influence of drugs is charged with a misdemeanor, but one who walks down the street while "high" faces felony charges.
20/20 on the DEA's fallen
top drug informant, Andrew Chambers:
Uncle Sam is Watching You
-- Op-Ed in the Christian Science Monitor on the ONDCP Internet "Cookie-Gate"
controversy, by Criminal Justice Policy Foundation president Eric Sterling:
Three salon.com pieces on Colombia:
The corruption of Col. James
The death of Army pilot Jennifer
Odom in Colombia -- first of many in an undeclared war?
War instead of peace:
Also in Salon: The
poisoning of suburbia -- an 18-year-old girl dies after taking a pill disguised
as ecstasy. This Salon article provides a sophisticated discussion
of the dangers inherent in a black market drug supply and even goes into
harm reduction and safety testing, but fails to note that deaths from contaminants
are a consequence of drug prohibition.
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 JERSEY: Oppose Gov. Whitman's anti-Ecstasy panic -- no new penalties! Visit http://www.drcnet.org/states/newjersey/ and tell your legislators to just say no to the drug war (see http://www.drcnet.org/wol/141.html#whitmanpanic). Legislation is moving fast, so please take action today!
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 get 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 protected] 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 8, Hackensack, NJ, 10:00am-5:00pm, First Northeast Regional Conference and Symposium on Police Brutality. Sponsored by New Jersey Copwatch and Hartford, Connecticut Copwatch, at Edward Williams College, Fairleigh Dickinson University, 125 Kotte Place. Admission $5-15, contact (201) 487-3748 for further information.
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 [email protected] 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 protected] or visit http://www.prup.net.
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 [email protected] to register. Contact Kevin Pranis at (212) 727-8610 x23 or [email protected] for further information.
July 31-August 2, Philadelphia, PA, Shadow Convention 2000, visit http://www.shadowconventions.com for info.
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 protected]
August 14-16, Los Angeles, CA, "Shadow Convention 2000," visit http://www.shadowconventions.com for info.
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 protected].
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 [email protected].
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, St. Petersburg, FL, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
The Transform Campaign for Effective Drug Policy is hiring an experienced office manager. The ideal candidate will have experience in marketing and fundraising as well as management skills. The Transform office is in Bristol, and the position will pay £22,500 pro rata, four days per week, with a one year fixed term contract.
To apply, contact Isobel at (0117) 939 8052 or e-mail [email protected] to request an application form. Application deadline is July 20th, with a probable interview date of August 3rd in Bristol.
Visit http://www.transform-drugs.org.uk to learn more about Transform.
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
It's not clear who should be more surprised -- the St. Paul resident who thought she had admitted census workers to her home, only to find out they were police on a drug bust -- or the police officers, who thought they could get away with it, but instead now find themselves facing criticism and possible discipline.
It's not hard to find drug war participants testing the limits of propriety. The Office of National Drug Control Policy didn't expect the credits for TV show content component of their ad campaign to turn into a scandal (though they must have had some inkling it could, having kept it very quiet until a reporter brought it out). Nor did ONDCP expect to get flack over its use of "cookies" in the Internet portion of the ad campaign, or to have to stop using them.
More serious, however, are
those police squadrons, often "SWAT" teams, who batter down doors in the
middle of the night, or the early morning, because an informant of questionable
It takes the death of an innocent, such as the Rev. Accelyne Williams in Boston, to even get the issue raised, and changes in such procedures, let alone disciplinary action for reckless tactics that endanger residents' lives, are all but unknown. The enforcers and their bosses find the element of surprise more important, evidently, than the safety or well being of the homeowners, their terrified children or their neighbors.
The heart of the problem is that the drug war is a war where the enemy can be anyone, in plain view anywhere, and is hiding everywhere. Unlike true crimes, where there is a complaining victim, this enemy has only collaborators who wish to remain hidden as well. To find their hidden targets, drug enforcers feel they must employ highly aggressive or deceptive tactics, such as breaking down doors, hiring paid informants or impersonating census workers, trying to be anywhere and everywhere themselves.
In this atmosphere of war -- no, of siege -- the ability of many enforcers to make rational and ethical decisions is damaged, and the standards of conduct in our police forces have deteriorated as a result. Combine this with the ideological zealotry promoted by drug war leaders, and the resulting "anything goes" climate tends to lead to improprieties, turning into outrages, over and over again.
That's why cops can impersonate census workers, or the national drug control office can buy TV program content, violate the privacy of Internet surfers or collaborate with China's murderous criminal justice system, without, in all likelihood, giving it a second thought, and certainly with no expectation of anyone calling foul.
We must, therefore, continue to call foul, continue to press for privacy and due process, tighten the limits on the drug police and rein in the drug war once and for all. Because only in a police state can the enforcers be everywhere as they would like, and the drug war must be stopped before it reaches that point.
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