(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #203, 9/21/01
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 9/21/01
Americans have derived partial comfort the last several days from tales of heroism displayed in the midst of tragedy: firefighters, rescue workers, chaplains, people of all walks of life rising to the occasion, more than can be named.
One of those tales is that of Flight 93. When I first heard that a plane had crashed Tuesday morning in the countryside outside Pittsburgh, I wondered if perhaps a struggle had taken place that had foiled other hijackers' plans. Evidence has since suggested this was the case, and I choose to believe that passengers on that flight took fateful actions to prevent a larger holocaust, saving lives and making their final moments count for years, even centuries to come.
The living also have fateful decisions to make, decisions that will shape our lives and our world far into the future. Some of those decisions involve the need to respond to violence and to reduce it in the future, some concern our relations with other countries and peoples, others our civil liberties and our way of life here at home.
A broad coalition of organizations has rallied "in defense of freedom," calling for Constitutional rights and American freedoms to be respected, not curtailed in this crisis, for freedom and security to be reconciled rather than placed at odds. One of the planks in the coalition's platform warns, "[w]e should resist the temptation to enact proposals in the mistaken belief that anything that may be called anti-terrorist will necessarily provide greater security."
The warning is not frivolous. In 1996, flowing out of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a Congressional anti-terrorism legislative package morphed into the "Effective Death Penalty and Antiterrorism Act." This and related legislation eroded important Constitutional protections in ways that have no bearing on public safety or national security.
Among the most unfortunate provisions of the ultimately enacted law was one which placed tight restrictions on the length of time available to the convicted in which to raise issues of rights violations at trial (habeas corpus). Many defendants were left with little or no time in which to prepare their extremely complex habeas petitions, denying any without the needed time or resources the opportunity to seek redress. Some of those people are innocent, but will never have the opportunity to demonstrate the wrongfulness of their convictions, short of a change in the law or a commutation by a governor or the president, and will remain unjustly incarcerated for much or all of their lives. And this is only one of the bad provisions, unrelated to safety, that were cynically attached to a so-called anti-terrorism bill passed in the wake of an actual act of terrorism.
Many fateful decisions lie ahead of us. All should be made with care, and restraint, as we move through the difficult days ahead. Actions taken in the heat of grief and righteous outrage, without full and deliberate consideration of their possible consequences and regard for our core values, will risk further needless loss of life and of our way of life.
(Visit http://dailynews.yahoo.com/fc/US/Emergency_Information/ for a comprehensive directory on how to contribute to the relief efforts or for emergency contact information. See article four, below, for information on the "In Defense of Freedom" civil liberties coalition.)
September 11, when suicide hijackers destroyed the World Trade Center and severely damaged the Pentagon, was, in the widely-repeated phrase, "the day everything changed." But not everything did change. In the United States, the drug war has not gone away, the police have not stopped arresting drug users and sellers, the prisons have not emptied of drug offenders, the illicit profits of the drug trade have not stopped accruing. Drug reformers know this and as, like other Americans, they struggle to comprehend the enormity of this attack and its implications, they also grapple with how to pursue the drug reform agenda in a political environment radically transformed in a matter of horrifying moments.
DRCNet spoke with a number of leading drug reformers and drug reform organizations this week about where the movement goes from here. In an indication of the supercharged atmosphere in the country at this time, several respondents expressed deep concern about saying things "that might get me beaten up on the street." The interviews yielded a nearly unanimous sense of foreboding about the future of civil liberties in this country, but also diverse and even antagonistic ideas about what this new era means for drug reform and whether and how aggressively reformers should react to the attacks. In particular, the tactic of arguing that the huge illicit profits generated by drug prohibition may have helped finance these attacks has proven extremely controversial.
Kevin Zeese does not shy away from making that argument. "We cannot fail to address the link between terrorism and US drug policy," the head of Common Sense for Drug Policy (http://www.csdp.org) told DRCNet. "It is coming out, and our opponents will seek to use this to their advantage. We have to engage, we have to make people see that the enemy is not drug users but drug prohibition."
Zeese sketched an outline of the argument drug reformers could use. "First, the drug war funds terrorism," he explained. "Drug profits fund terrorist networks. Second, the drug war enriches our enemies by providing them with billions in underground revenue. Prohibition thus becomes an important issue to move our struggle forward," he said.
For the Institute for Policy Analysis' director of drug policy Sanho Tree, staying quiet on the drug money-terrorism link is similarly impossible. "It's coming right at us, and the question is not whether but how we respond," he told DRCNet. "You can be sure that [drug czar nominee John] Walters will be bringing it up, talking about narco-terrorism and the IRA in Colombia. The drug warriors are rallying; [former drug czar press spokesman Bob] Weiner, who last week was critical of Walters, is calling for fast confirmation now," he noted. But, said Tree in a remark echoed by everyone who spoke with DRCNet, "it has to be done in a very sensitive way because of public attitudes."
Those attitudes come into play particularly when reformers attempt to make connections between the pathologies of the drug war and US foreign policies that may have contributed to the intense hostility toward the US so savagely expressed last week. Tree, for example, is unlikely to win friends among the revenge-minded majority when he attempts to tug at some of the deeper strands.
"Fighting terrorism is like fighting the war on drugs," he said. "If you attack them in orthodox ways, you only make the situation worse. We in the drug reform movement are familiar with how drug users are portrayed and how complex social problems are reduced to certain chemicals. That is the same kind of dehumanization that you see both in the war and drugs and in the war on terrorism," Tree added. "We are already dehumanizing our intended targets. We don't know who we are going to strike, but we are talking about getting them. That is the same trap that the terrorists themselves fell into."
Long-time California cannabis activist Chris Conrad of the Family Council on Drug Awareness (http://www.fcda.org) agrees both on using the narco-terror nexus as a line of attack and with the deeper critique of American society. "We have to use this," he told DRCNet. "The other side is going to dump this on us anyway, and we have to be ready to point out that if people are concerned that our appetite for drugs is feeding foreign terrorists, the answer is regulating the market, not more war on drug users," he said.
"If we change as a society to help and protect drug users, we can prevent that money from going to all those bad people. But if we continue along our current prohibitionist path, terrorist organizations will continue to profit from that," Conrad added. "We can also argue that this has come about at least in part because of the drug war. If you want more terrorism, just keep our same policies."
Conrad acknowledged the political dangers of this line of attack -- "We're walking through a mine field with this" -- but then ventured in even deeper. "Rationality has suffered a big hit in this whole attack," he told DRCNet. "I have people who tell me they are liberals, but they seem to think that for the US to kill a large number of civilians is an acceptable response. Also, there is a huge disconnect -- a lot of people think America has no responsibility for this. It is the same with the drug war. Most people think pot has always been illegal and for good reason. We are a people without history. We need to fundamentally rethink everything. That is not a popular sentiment, I know, but reasonableness has gone out the window."
Other reformers see no utility and great danger in such talk. Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (http://www.norml.org) told DRCNet reformers should cool it on the terror connection. "I would urge my colleagues to step aside from whole terrorism issue," he said. "Let's focus on our issue, not spin the tragedy of the last week to our political advantage. Nothing will hurt us more than being perceived as insensitive to the tragedy that occurred. If we think drug policy is more important than the safety and security of the American public, we would be dead wrong," he said.
"When and if the other side tries to blame us for the tragedy, then we will have to come back and respond, but to try to make that connection ourselves will look like we're trying to make political hay out of the death of 6,000 Americans. We don't want to do that," Stroup concluded.
"Drug reform is good domestic policy and we should stick to the clear issues around drug policy," warned Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation (http://www.cjpf.org). "Our job is not to jump into the current fascination with the problem of terrorism," he told DRCNet. "It is clear, however, that people are thinking about the connection between drug money and terrorism, and we should not be afraid to lay out our analysis. But we need to remember that our silence or speaking out is not going to be a critical factor in this. What is clear is that to talk about the issue ineptly will certainly anger people already enraged by these heinous attacks on the country."
DRCNet Executive Director David Borden took a slightly more proactive stance. "This is an issue that has come up before," said Borden, "and it is certainly something that should be pointed out." But, said Borden, reformers should not jump the gun on the issue. "Clearly Osama bin Laden has a variety of funding sources, and it would be a mistake, both tactically and intellectually, to blame this attack specifically on drug prohibition. On the other hand, prohibition clearly is one of the major forces making the world a more dangerous place, and one can only speculate what the course of world events would have been without it."
Cliff Thornton, President of Efficacy, a Connecticut-based drug reform advocacy group (http://www.efficacy-online.org), had little time for cautions. "I'm in favor of pushing forward on the terrorism issue," he told DRCNet, "and I don't have any concerns about spinning the issue. We know that some percentage of illegal drug profits go to terrorist organizations or states. How are we going to end that unless we bankrupt the illicit drug economy by ending prohibition?" he asked.
"Going after these policies is what will work, not trying to play political ball so we won't be seen as unpatriotic," said Thornton. "The trouble with politics is we never get what we want when we play politics. Harm reduction is good, but it only goes so far. We need to follow this to its logical end and start talking legalization."
Dave Fratello, of the Campaign for New Drug Policies (http://www.drugreform.org) flinches at such talk. "We should lay low. Making this argument does not give us a strategic advantage that we didn't have the day before this happened," he told DRCNet. "We're off the radar screen when it comes to terrorism, and I don't think it helps us to be aggressively contrarian at a time when the country is trying to unite. The wounds are fresh and you don't want to go rubbing salt in them, said Fratello. "There is a very real risk of a nasty backlash."
Charles Thomas, President of the newly-formed Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform, also voiced serious doubts about the wisdom of dramatizing any possible drug trade funding of "prime suspect" Osama bin Laden. Making a point well taken in these days of much official finger-pointing and little available evidence, Thomas told DRCNet the movement needed to react with caution. "The US government needs to be sure who did it before taking any action, and drug reformers need to be sure that drug money has anything to do with it before going on the attack," said Thomas.
"Even if that were proven, I'm still very ambivalent about making the connection. First, the nation is still grieving right now. Many Americans do not have a high regard for the drug reform movement as it is, and if they see us as being opportunistic, that could really box us in," he continued. "And I don't see the American people being ready to say terrorism is so bad we might as well legalize drugs to end terrorism. Instead, people will just have this drug-terrorism connection that could justify even more oppressive policies."
According to Thomas, a more useful tack would be to start offering actual models of what a regulated drug distribution system might look like. "If people have the idea that we have to have crack in vending machines or heroin at the corner store to defeat terrorists, they will say it is not worth the trade-off," he told DRCNet. "But if we can demonstrate a range of workable policies -- such as the Swiss model of nonprofit medical clinics distributing drugs -- that do not bolster a criminal market, do not attract large numbers of new users, but do improve the lives of users and reduce other social problems, including the possible funding of terrorist acts, then we have a chance."
Eric Sterling would also like to see a more pragmatic approach. "In general, the drug reform movement is pathetically non-strategic," he told DRCNet. "It wastes a phenomenal amount of time on trivia while there is an unwillingness to respond to serious discussions. Our strategy has to look at the end game, and I have written about this, but got no substantive responses. The movement so far has not figured out how to break the orthodoxy about drugs in this country. Prohibition won't end because of well-written letters to the editor," Sterling argued. "You have to understand that we have 16 US senators from states that have overwhelmingly adopted medical marijuana laws, yet none of them have introduced a medical marijuana bill."
If reformers are all over the map on the terror connection, they huddle together defensively as they confront a strong push for increased police powers in the wake of the attacks. With Attorney General John Ashcroft crafting new legislation by the minute, the movement is gearing up for a nasty fight with the "anything for security" crowd.
As NORML's Stroup pointed out, drug users are often the victims of new security measures even if not aimed directly at them. "It's been years since we had a skyjacker in this country, but in the meantime some 60,000 nonviolent drug offenders are arrested at airports every year." (Sterling sardonically retorted, "If you're going through a security checkpoint, that they have the right to search, and that they will, what are you thinking, you have some sort of Harry Potter cloak of invisibility?") But Stroup's larger point stands: Drug users are likely to get caught up in whatever new anti-terrorist security measures are coming down the pike.
"If it is necessary to increase security to protect public safety -- and it is, I don't want to live through this again -- there must be a way to do that that doesn't sacrifice our cherished civil liberties. Our challenge is to get in that debate and do it in an effective manner. I'm not willing to live in a fascist state or give up those liberties our forefathers fought for. We have to do this in a sensitive manner, we have to raise these legitimate concerns, but we must let America know we share their patriotism, love of country, and concern for the safety of fellow citizens."
Both Fratello and Sterling see new police powers and restrictions on civil liberties as inevitable in the current situation. "It will happen," Sterling flatly declared. Fratello agreed. "As a nation, we are going to accept further curtailments of civil rights in the name of this new war. I don't see any way around it."
The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation (http://www.drugpolicy.org), based in Manhattan, is still grappling with the disaster that shook the island last week, but the pace of events is shortening its mourning period. "Our most immediate reaction is grief," research associate Matt Biggs told DRCNet. "We're just getting underway with an organization-wide discussion of the implications, what is the meaning of this for an open society. We haven't advanced much beyond that point yet," said Briggs. "Unfortunately, the politicians in Washington are moving fast, so that means we must move quickly, too."
IPS's Sanho Tree went monosyllabic when queried about the civil liberties issue. "Oy," he muttered before recovering. "This is another parallel with the drug war," he said. "That more funding, more police and military power will make us safer. It was an illusion with the war on drugs, it is an illusion with terrorism. As with the drug war, getting more technology, more military power will only aggravate the situation. That is the paradigm and this country is about to deepen it."
If the reformers sound fatalistic about a creeping police state, some see opportunities as well, especially around drug war funding. "One can make the very strong argument that in a time of war you have to focus your national priorities, and arresting pot smokers is at a minimum a low priority," said Sterling. "If we are serious and straightforward about setting priorities, this could serve as an occasion for decriminalizing pot. It would free up hundreds of thousands of law enforcement man hours."
The Unitarians' Thomas also stressed budgets and funding of the drug war. "We can beat the opposition to the punch about the fact that scarce resources are misappropriated," he said. "There are some connections between terrorism and the drug war, the biggest being that we spend all this time and money hunting down 1.5 million drug offenders every year when we could instead be spending that money protecting Americans from terrorism," said Thomas.
"It's time to rethink our spending priorities. Do we want a war on drugs or a war on terrorism? The US gave $43 million to the Taliban as a reward for cutting opium production. What kind of crazy drug war is this that it's so important that we would fund a really extremist group like the Taliban?" Thomas spluttered. "It is such an oppressive extremist regime, we shouldn't have given them a dime. And we knew all along that they were aiding and abetting terrorists."
For Sterling, it's all about politics, and politics is all about priorities. "There will be an enormous increase in costs to cities and states to protect the nation's infrastructure, not just airports, but water supply, the electric grid, transmissions lines, schools, stadiums, a host of places that will require heightened security. Uncle Sam will not pay the bill for all of that," Sterling pointed out, and therein lies opportunity, he said.
But Sterling also had some harsh words for his fellow reformers. "The challenge for drug policy reformers is to engage in their community debates on these priorities," he said. "Part of the problem for drug policy reformers is their near obsessive focus on drug policy. On any other issue, drug reformers are not present or are talking only about drugs, to the irritation of the rest of the community. Thus even when talking about priorities, most drug policy reformers make little contribution to the broader discussion in their communities."
In the meantime, life goes on and so do the policy battles. CNDP's Fratello told DRCNet the attacks would not affect upcoming efforts to place similar initiatives on the ballot in Florida, Ohio, and Michigan. "Not unless they suspend the elections," he said.
And DRCNet's Borden reported that the effort to repeal the anti-drug provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA) continues to move forward. "I've spoken with some of our contacts on Capitol Hill, and no one knows what's going to happen with anything in Congress," he said, "but the [Education and the Workforce] Committee isn't going out of business, and unlike crime legislation, education is a policy area with relatively little connection to anti-terrorist measures. On the grassroots side, students seem to continue to be strongly interested in this. The first student government resolution of the school year opposing the HEA drug provision actually passed on September 12, and more such votes are coming up fast. Just today the student-run NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group) reaffirmed its commitment to mount a major statewide campaign on this issue -- even though their national office is two blocks from World Trade Center Plaza and is still closed. I've also been told that registrations for the upcoming Students for Sensible Drug Policy conference (November 10-11) have continued to come in."
Finally, Sterling touched on an ugly topic no one wants to talk about. There are an unknown number of Americans who, at least in part, felt a certain cold glee in the attacks on American power and arrogance, if not at the huge loss of life. They don't show up on TV, but they, too, are Americans, and many of them have been embittered by the war on drugs. "People have some intuitive sense that they have something in common with terrorists, namely that they are outlaws," noted Sterling. "They feel stigmatized as outlaws, and fearful of any measure against outlaws."
And angry enough at their own government, perhaps, to find some satisfaction in seeing it take a blow like this. Now, that's a terrible thing.
Armies need money to function. If the armies are national armed forces, they can count on the revenues available to the central government to supply their needs. Non-state, political-military formations, whether guerrilla armies or "terrorist networks," must look elsewhere. And while last week's murderous attacks in New York and Washington have focused attention on the alleged links between the Afghan opium trade and Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda (The Base) organization, the use of illicit drug profits to fund political violence is neither new nor limited to people whom Washington describes as "the bad guys."
In fact, bin Laden was once considered to be one of "the good guys," working in tandem with the CIA and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) in the $3 billion effort to drive Soviet armies out of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Bin Laden was only one of a frightening array of multinational Islamic extremists cobbled together into an anti-Soviet alliance by the CIA. His role has been common knowledge for at least three years, when, in an eerily prescient piece titled "Bin Laden Comes Home to Roost," NBC reporter Michael Moran chronicled the Saudi millionaire's strange odyssey from American ally to public enemy number one.
"The decision was made to provide America's potential enemies with the arms, money -- and most importantly -- the knowledge of how to run a war of attrition violent and well-organized enough to humble a superpower," wrote Moran. "That decision is coming home to roost."
As part of that story, one of Moran's colleagues questioned Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and key decision-maker on the Afghan war, about the wisdom of such alliances. "Those were very important, pivotal matters that played a role in the downfall of the Soviet Union," said Hatch. "It was worth it." Hatch has not commented on the connection in recent days.
Another aspect of the anti-Soviet struggle was the well-documented and massive increase in opium production in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the CIA-sponsored conflict raged in the 1980s and mutated into an Afghan civil war in the 1990s, the opium crop became a virtual lifeline. In a report released earlier this year by the United Nations Drug Control Programme (http://www.undcp.org/adhoc/report_2001-06-26_1/analysis_afghanistan.pdf), the UN placed the beginning of the rapid expansion of Afghan opium production precisely in 1979, the year of the Soviet invasion and subsequent US-sponsored jihad. "It is no coincidence that Afghanistan began to emerge as a significant producer of illicit opium in precisely the period of protracted war that began in 1979, and still persists," the report noted. In 1980, Afghanistan accounted for less than 5% of global opium production; by 1999 it accounted for 71%, according to the report. (The Taliban announced last year that it was banning opium production, which has apparently occurred, and which prompted the US government in May of this year to give the Taliban $43 million in anti-drug assistance.)
(The curious coincidence between CIA involvement in Afghanistan and the rapid increase in opium production is the stuff of another story, one which would examine a number of other curious coincidences between CIA activities and sudden spurts in drug production or drug trafficking in various global hot spots over the past five decades.)
According to various sources, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda have pocketed some of the proceeds. "There are increasing reports out of the region that, indeed, he is replenishing his coffers with drug money and helping move drugs across Afghanistan," Congressional terrorism researcher Kenneth Katzman told CBS News back in May.
John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute, a Vancouver-based think-tank that studies crime and terrorism, told the Canadian Senate earlier this year that Islamic radical groups, which would presumably include Al-Qaeda, use illicit drug profits as a significant source of funding. "With the Islamic fundamentalists, it is maybe 25% to 30%," he said. "It is probably the single biggest money earner."
And in an announcement that illustrates the shadowy international connections between terrorism and different regional conflicts, Russian officials in February accused bin Laden of using profits from heroin trafficking to bankroll Chechen rebels in that breakaway Russian republic.
But the bin Laden drug connection is only the most striking example of the links between political violence and the black market profits of the illicit drug trade. French drug researcher Alan Labrousse, formerly of the now defunct Geopolitical Drug Dispatch and now with French Drug and Addiction Observatory, told the Canadian Senate that as many as 29 countries faced armed insurgencies financed in part by the drug trade. In Kosovo, for example, "the creation of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) was financed by heroin trafficking from Istanbul," said Labrousse. "The heroin was sold in Switzerland to buy Kalishnikovs and handguns."
And illicit drug profits have historically played a role in a large number of conflicts, including:
"Probably," replied the Mackenzie Institute's Thompson. "In fact, you could probably hurt it considerably." But Thompson does not think the world's governments will end prohibition to fight terrorism. "This is a sacred cow. It's going to be hard to kill," he told Gardner.
The link between the drug trade and political violence is sure to be closely scrutinized in coming weeks and months. Whether or not the drug reform movement wants to evade the issue, the other side is certain to be yelling "drugs fund terrorism." The counterargument -- that drug prohibition funds political violence -- will seem counterintuitive to many and possibly unpatriotic to some, but reformers had best be prepared to make that argument, and make it well.
(For a useful set of articles, papers, and links on political violence and the drug trade, see the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy at http://www.cfdp.ca/terror.htm online.)
A broad coalition of public policy organizations, law professors, technology professionals and common citizens kicked off a campaign to ensure that the "war against terrorism" does not become a war on hard-won American rights and liberties with a press conference at the National Press Club in downtown Washington Thursday.
"Americans should think carefully and clearly about the balance between national security and individual freedom, and we must acknowledge the fact that some will seek to restrict freedom for ideological and other reasons that have little to do with security," warned Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU and an impressive list of more than 150 organizations of the left, right, and center -- from Amnesty International to the American Conservative Union, from the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs to the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, from the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation to Gun Owners of America, from the Free Congress Foundation to People for the American Way -- as well as more than 300 law professors and 40 computer scientists -- have come together around ten basic points in an effort to fend off post-attack security measure that threaten fundamental civil liberties.
The "In Defense of Freedom" declaration reads as follows:
Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, told the press conference that history shows that civil rights and civil liberties fall before the imperatives of national security. "This coalition has been formed with the hope that the aftermath of last week's tragedy will be the exception," he said. "We must resist rash action conceived in the heat of national crisis. We must not compound this tragedy by infringing on the rights of Americans or persons guaranteed protections under the Constitution."
The coalition is particularly concerned with provisions of the hastily-drafted Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 (available online at http://www.epic.org/privacy/terrorism/ata2001_text.pdf), which is being rapidly rushed through the Congress. Its wiretapping proposals, for example, seek to remove judges from the minimal oversight role they currently have. By calling for "nationwide" pen registers, which record phone numbers called, and trap and trace surveillance, the Justice Department is asking Congress to approve what the ACLU calls the equivalent of "a blank warrant in the physical world." Under this provision, a judge would issue the warrant and law enforcement would fill in the places to be searched. "This is not consistent with the Fourth Amendment privacy protection of requiring that warrants specify the place to be searched," the ACLU noted.
Saying that law enforcement already possesses broad authority for wiretaps and has a history of abusing that authority, the ACLU warned lawmakers to "be extra careful not to upset the careful balance between law enforcement and civil liberties. These amendments were adopted with little debate in the middle of the night."
One of the participants in the coalition, the conservative Free Congress Foundation, had earlier organized a letter (on September 10), under the umbrella of the "Coalition for Constitutional Liberties" asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to consider certain issues in its deliberations over the nomination of John Walters as drug czar. Saying the coalition was 'concerned that the war on drugs has degraded our privacy and civil liberties," the letter asked the committee to consider raising the following privacy and civil liberties issues in connection with the Walters nomination: the use of new surveillance and investigative technologies, including the Carnivore/DCS1000 and Echelon systems, the "Know Your Customer" proposal of the Financial Action Task Force, asset forfeiture abuses, racial profiling, wiretaps and the drug war's sometimes corrupting influence on law enforcement itself."
By the next day, the whole issue was subsumed within the broader concerns now abroad in the land as Congress works feverishly on proposals with unproven utility for improving security but strong risk of eroding civil liberties that have already been deeply undermined.
Free Congress has launched a companion web site -- http://www.defendyourfreedom.org -- which allows visitors to endorse the "In Defense of Freedom" declaration and send it to the president and Congress. A statement by the foundation in releasing it called the impulse to pit civil liberties against security a "false choice." The statement cited evidence that no criminal investigations have ever been thwarted by the use of encryption technology, and that a reliance on wiretapping and surveillance had come at the expense of the "human intelligence" that could infiltrate terrorist networks and the governments supporting them.
Two articles by Declan McCullagh in Wired News yesterday provide further information on the proposals currently in Congress and the civil liberties coalition:
New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and new DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson faced off in a debate over drug policy reform at the University of New Mexico's Continuing Education Center on Monday, September 10. The 90-minute encounter was sponsored by National Public Radio's "Justice Talking" program and is scheduled for broadcast on NPR affiliates and C-Span on October 7.
Johnson appeared the clear favorite of the crowd of around 300 people in the packed auditorium, drawing repeated loud applause despite the moderator's entreaties for silence, while the audience at times booed Hutchinson. Johnson opponent New Mexico Rep. Ron Godbey told the Santa Fe New Mexican the audience was stacked. "If they had brought in a drug-sniffing dog, that would have cleared about half the room," the drug war hardliner quipped.
The 48-year-old libertarian Republican governor took the opportunity to reprise the message that has brought him national attention: The war on drugs is bad social policy, marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and it is a waste of government resources to spend money to arrest and jail nonviolent marijuana users.
"I believe the war on drugs is an absolute, miserable failure," said Johnson. "Prohibition of drugs is doing more harm than drugs themselves."
Hutchinson wasn't having any of that, and the crowd wasn't having much of Hutchinson, either. "Drug use is harmful," said Hutchinson. "I don't think you discourage use by saying we're not going to make it a criminal offense." When the former Arkansas congressman then tried to jab Johnson for his failure to get marijuana legalized in his own state, the boos came raining down and didn't stop until Johnson took the mike and thanked Hutchinson for coming to New Mexico state to discuss the issue.
Hutchinson surprised Johnson -- and many other observers -- by agreeing with the governor that the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision, which bars drug offenders from obtaining student loans for specified periods of time, is misguided policy. As Johnson decried what he called a "double standard" where drug offenders but not rapists or robbers are penalized, Hutchinson broke in to say: "Governor, you're correct that that inequity needs to be remedied; there's a lot of unfairness for our college students in that regard. That's something Congress is going to have to look at."
"Gosh," responded Johnson, "kind of got a strike there. That was a good thing. Thank you."
But there were few other areas of agreement. The two Republicans sparred over what marijuana legalization might look like after an audience member asked if Johnson would allow big corporations to sell it. "Yes," Johnson replied, "if marijuana is legalized, the government should tax and regulate it, just as it regulates other sin products."
Hutchinson fired back a zinger: "If you like what the tobacco companies did marketing to our teens and marketing to adults in selling their products," he warned the audience, "wait until they get a hold of marijuana cigarettes."
And they sparred over the utility of trying to stop drugs at the US border. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Hutchinson repeated the drug war mantra that border enforcement will reduce supply and hence demand. Johnson bluntly rejected that claim. "This is pissing in the wind," he said. "We're not having an impact. We're not stemming the flow of illegal drugs into this country."
Hutchinson repeatedly mentioned the recent extradition of Medellin cartel-era drug runner Fabio Ochoa from Colombia as an example of progress in the war on drugs, but Johnson scoffed, arguing that others will take his place. "Cutting his head off just creates ten other heads," he said.
Hutchinson, who has been an advocate of drug courts, argued that the courts should have treatment options for first-time marijuana offenders, but Johnson got some of the heartiest cheers of the night with his response. "The government assumes that everyone who smokes marijuana belongs in rehab," he said. "That's just not true."
In the end, neither Johnson nor Hutchinson was persuaded by his opponent, agreeing to disagree. But Hutchinson, with his apparent retreat on student loans and his attack on racial profiling, as well as his embrace of treatment and education, gave an early indication that he will be a smart and effective advocate for the drug war status quo.
At first glance, Rainbow Farms is a beautiful, tranquil rural retreat in the Michigan woodlands. The trees and meadows, the cool, clean air and the country quiet all suggest a peaceful, pastoral place. But then you notice the burnt out hulks of buildings and the gaping holes in the ground where other buildings collapsed, the charred papers blowing across the grounds, and the police tape blocking the entrances. This is where Rainbow Farms owner Tom Crosslin and his life partner Rollie Rohm died over the Labor Day weekend, gunned down by FBI and Michigan State Police shooters, who ended a four-day standoff by ending their lives.
DRCNet reported two weeks ago on the circumstances leading to the confrontation (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/202.html#rainbowfarm): Crosslin's enthusiastic pro-marijuana activism, his use of the campground for pro-pot rallies, the vendetta by Cass County Prosecutor Scott Teter that resulted in Crosslin's and Rohm's arrests in May. After the arrests, things went from bad to worse for the couple, as local authorities threatened them with years in prison for growing marijuana, moved to seize the property, and removed Rohm's 12-year-old son from the family unit. On the Friday before Labor Day, rather than face a bail revocation hearing for holding an unauthorized marijuana rally in August, Crosslin and Rohm retreated to Rainbow Farms and began burning down the buildings rather than let the state take them. By the following Tuesday, both were dead.
The killings, which are now under investigation by both the Michigan Attorney General's office and the US Justice Department, have excited deep anger as well as profound grief from the couple's friends, supporters, and political allies, and stunned disbelief among area residents.
"This is just not right," said 18-year-old Nessa Hunkler of nearby Cassopolis, who had first encountered Rainbow Farms at last year's Roach Roast, where she worked as a vendor. "They were great guys, and the atmosphere here was happy and energetic. Scott Teter said this was their choice," Hunkler told DRCNet, "but it was his choice to hound them and try to take their land and their son. He's the one who chose to shoot and kill. Everything about this is twisted. What do I think about the local authorities? Fuck 'em all," she said.
Such sentiments are unsurprising coming from someone who had enjoyed Crosslin's hospitality, but even more mainstream local people confess to being deeply disturbed by the killings. Cass County Democratic Party chairman Bruce Webb -- not a big marijuana fan -- told DRCNet that local people are in shock. "I think many people were and are stunned, as well as feeling sorry for the deceased because of what they were about. You don't expect this type of Bruce Willis Hollywood-style gangbusters stuff out here. People here are deeply uncomfortable with this, they wish it had never happened," he said.
But in his remarks to DRCNet, Webb also indicated how widely the suspicion of police misconduct has spread. "I think they were executed," he said. "If the county sheriff had been allowed to handle this instead of the FBI and the State Police, we think they would still be alive."
At the encampment of Rainbow Farms supporters at the intersection of Michigan-60 and White Temple Road, a few miles from the farm, popular support could be heard clearly in the honking of horns from passing motorists, including semi-truck drivers, old farm couples in their pick-ups, and middle-aged women passing by. One army vehicle gave supporters a thumbs-down, but according to Huckler, "at least half the traffic is honking for us." It certainly seemed that way when DRCNet visited two weekends ago.
The encampment had been in place since the beginning of the stand-off and featured a 4' x 8' plywood sign reading "Rainbow Farms Lives Forever," as well as flags, posters from the November Coalition and a dozen or so people holding vigil. At one point in the afternoon, a rainbow appeared in the sky above the camp, much to the elation of the crowd.
A much larger crowd attended the funeral of Tom Crosslin in nearby Elkhart, Indiana, earlier in the day. And what a sight it must have been for the good burghers of Elkhart: Hundreds of mourners spilling out of the funeral home on Jackson Boulevard on a sunny Sunday morning: young tye-died hippies; legions of graying, pony-tailed men, several men with obvious prison tattoos who, from their demeanors and the looks of their dreadlocks, had through pot found a path out of petty criminality; men in suits and ties; crying women in their Sunday best; distraught relatives being comforted by family friends; guys who looked like they had just come in from the fields.
But appearances can be deceiving. Spotting one portly, middle-aged man dressed in farm overalls and work boots, DRCNet asked, "Are you a farmer?" "Yeah," he smiled, "mostly indica."
At the funeral service, people began crying as a song played. "I see fire and brimstone coming," ran the refrain. But people smiled through their tears when Crosslin and Rohm's dog, Thai Stick, made an appearance. The dog had been placed in the pound after the raid. "We liberated Thai Stick," people cheered.
After the funeral, DRCNet toured the Rainbow Farms site with Crosslin family spokesman Doug Leinbach, Crosslin's long-time business manager. Leinbach was angry and frightened as he discussed the deaths. "There's been an organized conspiracy of government agencies, which included the Cass County prosecutor, Cass county police, the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Attorney General's office, the FBI, and the DEA," he said. "They had been meeting at least twice a year for the last four years to try to figure out how to shut this down. The result is cold-blooded murder. They couldn't stand a man who stood up and spoke for freedom and organized people to get active. So they killed him."
Leinbach paced restlessly. "They knew this would happen," he said. "Tom had told them years ago if they tried to take his land, they'd get nothing but fire and blood." In fact, Cass County Prosecutor Teter has produced a letter written by Crosslin in 1998 saying just that.
An American flag flew upside-down and at half-mast over Rainbow Farms. Leinbach scowled. "I don't know who did that," he said. "Tom would never have done that. He always flew the flag proudly. He was always very patriotic, he loved freedom, that's why he became so outraged at the drug war ruining people's lives all across the country," Leinbach explained.
"But look around you," he said, surveying the burnt-out buildings. "It looks like Bosnia, like a war zone. You see what the drug war reaps. That is what this flag is about. There were tanks, armored vehicles, they were shooting bullets and tear gas, and this was a full-scale assault. They knew what they were doing, because they planned to do this for the past four years. They drove him to this point."
David Watts of nearby Goshen, Indiana, was Crosslin's long-time security chief during events at the farm. "This is some hard shit, man," he said as he looked at the farm for the first time since the standoff. "Me and Tom and Rollie go way back. This is really tearing me up." Then he walked off to be alone with his thoughts.
Even as the funerals were taking place and the September 15 scattering of Crosslin's and Rohm's ashes over the property was being planned, the legal wheels were beginning to grind.
Dan Wilson and his wife, attorney Janet Frederick-Wilson, head the parents rights group Parents for Children in Warren, Michigan. Frederick-Wilson is representing Crosslin's and Rohm's parents in a potential wrongful death lawsuit and related matters. Wilson, who is a spokesman for the families, told DRCNet there are four tasks ahead. "We are following the state and federal investigations," he said, "and we need to regain custody of the boy and settle the estates. Keeping that boy from his grandparents is a real tragedy. We're a society that pulls together in a crisis, but here, Cass county, the state, and the federal government are acting to tear this family apart."
Wilson also provided information casting doubt on official versions of how the two men died. In media interviews, FBI and Michigan State Police officials said Crosslin was shot by an FBI agent after pointing a weapon at him and Rohm was shot at by two Michigan State Police officers for the same reason. The officials did not clarify the degree of danger faced by the MSP officers, who shot and killed Rohm from 150 yards away while hiding in a tree line at dawn as Rohm came out of a burning house.
"Crosslin was shot 3 to 5 times," said Wilson, "and Rohm 2 to 3 times. It appears there were several shooters in both cases," he said.
The fourth legal task for the Crosslins and Livermores (Rohm's parents) is the wrongful death suit. "We're awaiting the results of those investigations before we act," said Wilson.
Law enforcement officials are keeping mum. Although the local press has reported that Cass County Prosecutor Teter continues his efforts to seize the farm, a tight-lipped employee at his office would not confirm that. The only thing she would tell DRCNet was: "Everything is under investigation."
Lt. Parrish of the Cass County Sheriff's Office was slightly more forthcoming. "We are not investigating that incident," he told DRCNet. "You'll have to ask the state." He told DRCNet the sheriff's office had not been contacted by state or federal investigators. But Parrish also expressed some sorrow over the killings. "It's too bad it had to happen that way," he said. "No one wanted that to happen."
Chris DeWitt of the Michigan Attorney General's office told DRCNet that both the FBI and the Michigan State Police are completing their reviews. "There's no timeline," he said.
"Tom wanted all this to go to his son, he wrote that in his last hand-written will," said Leinbach, gazing on the green rolling hills of Rainbow Farms. "And we intend to see that happen. Teter will be toast in the 2002 elections, I guarantee it."
Democratic Party head Webb isn't so certain. "It's too early to tell, although he'd already made some enemies in the county," he said. "But he's also got some support."
Not from Nessa Hunkler. "I'm registering to vote," she told DRCNet. "Let's get rid of these guys. Teter said this was their choice, but it was Teter's choice to come after them and hound them and try to take their land. He's the one who chose to shoot to kill."
They may be toking in the streets in Brixton, but police in Manchester took a decidedly dim view of Colin Davies' efforts to open a Dutch-style cannabis cafe in their neck of the woods. Davies, a notorious medical marijuana activist who has twice won acquittals on medi-pot charges and who last year caused scandal in the tabloids when he gave the Queen a cannabis bouquet, had announced last week that he would open a cannabis cafe on the weekend. The police promised to shut it down. He did and they did.
Davies suffers from debilitating back pain and is a founder of the Medical Marijuana Cooperative, which provides marijuana to some arthritis and multiple sclerosis sufferers who do not wish to buy their medicine on the street. But Davies wanted to go to the next level, providing cannabis to recreational as well as medicinal users in a safe, secure setting.
"Social users will subsidize the low-cost medical users," he told the Manchester Guardian. "I think Britain is ready for this. We want to be transparent and act in a civilized way. We have got to get the medicine to the patients, so we aim to stay open with the support of many local people. I feel it is immoral to withhold cures from people experiencing acute pain," he said.
According to Davies, the cafe would stock three types of pot and three types of resin in 2 gram and 5-gram bags, and would offer pre-rolled joints for novices. The cafe, in a former restaurant in a suburban storefront, would also sell coffee and cakes, but not alcohol. Davies said he had recruited a staff with experience working in Amsterdam's "coffee houses."
The "Dutch Experience" cafe opened on Saturday, but Manchester police shut it down before the first transaction occurred. They arrested Davies on suspicion of possessing cannabis with intent to deliver. They also arrested his employees, one Briton, three Dutch men and a Dutch woman, "on suspicion of being concerned with the supply of controlled drugs," a police spokeswoman told Reuters.
"I believe the cafe was opened and then we went in and arrested him," said the spokeswoman. "The premises have now been closed and the shop is being boarded up."
Manchester is apparently not ready for the Dutch Experience, but this is only the latest skirmish in Britain's evolving conflict over cannabis. With British law enforcement now turning a blind eye to cannabis imports and the Brixton decrim experiment well underway, Colin Davies may have been ahead of his time -- but not necessarily by much.
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(Please submit listings of events related to drug policy and related areas to [email protected].)
September 21, 2:00-4:00pm, Washington, DC, Forum on Colombia, featuring Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno, Prof. Michael Shifter, Rep. Sam Farr, State Dept. Senior Colombia Desk Officer John Creamer and others. At American University, Ward Circle Building One, sponsored by American University Library, the Archive of Returned Colombia Peace Corps Volunteers and Staff, and Friends of Colombia.
September 23-26, Philadelphia, PA, International Community Corrections Association 37th Annual Conference, on Reintegration and Re-entry of the Offender into the Family. $350 for conference and pre-conference workshops, reduced rate deadline 8/31. For info, call (608) 785-0200, fax (608) 784-5335 or write to ICCA Annual Conference, P.O. Box 1987, La Crosse, WI 54602.
September 26, 7:00-8:00pm, Albuquerque, NM, November Coalition Wednesday Community Meeting. At the Peace and Justice Center, 144 Harvard SE. For further information, call (505) 342-8090.
September 27-28, Washington, DC, "National Mobilization on Colombia, featuring workshops, meetings, lobbying and nonviolent demonstrations. Sponsored by the Chicago Religious Leadership Network, Colombia Human Rights Committee, Colombia Support Network, Global Exchange, United Church of Christ and Witness for Peace. Visit http://www.ColombiaMobilization.org for info.
September 28, 4:30-6:00pm, Albuquerque, NM, "Open the Can" Drug War Vigil. At the New Bernalillo Courthouse, 400 Lomas NW. For fuhrther information, call (505) 342-8090.
October 1-3, Ottawa, Canada, "Women's Critical Resistance: From Victimization to Criminalization," at the Government Conference Centre. For information or to submit a presentation proposal, call (613) 238-2422 for information or write to Kim Pate, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, 701-151 Slater St., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1P5H3.
October 5, 8:30am, Tulsa, OK, forum with Ethan Nadelmann. At the University of Tulsa College of Law, breakfast at 8:15 in the Midcourt Room. For info, call Sue Lorenz at (918) 631-5622 or (918) 631-2431.
October 5, 6:00pm, Tulsa, OK, presentation by Ethan Nadelmann, as part of Shabbat evening services. At Temple Israel, 2004 East 22nd Place. For further information, contact Jeanne Jacobs at (918) 747-1309.
October 6, 8:00 pm, Iowa City, IA, "The Law's Treatment of the Disadvantaged: The Politics of the American Drug War." At the University of Iowa College of Law, call (319) 335-9093 or e-mail [email protected] for further information or to reserve a space.
October 6-7, Phoenix, AZ, "Freedom Summit," annual libertarian seminar. At the Embassy Suites Hotel, visit http://www.freedomsummit.com for further information.
October 7-10, St. Louis, MO, American Methadone Treatment Association Conference 2001. For further information, e-mail [email protected] or call (212) 566-5555.
October 26-27, Cortland, NY, "Thinking About Prisons: Theory and Practice." At SUNY Cortland, call (607) 753-2727 for info.
October 24, 7:00-8:00pm, Albuquerque, NM, November Coalition Wednesday Community Meeting. At the Peace and Justice Center, 144 Harvard SE. For further information, call (505) 342-8090.
October 26, 4:30-6:00pm, Albuquerque, NM, "There's Something Fishy About The War on Drugs." At the New Bernalillo Courthouse, 400 Lomas NW. For further information, call (505) 342-8090.
September 28, 5:00-7:00pm, San Francisco, CA, "Never Stop Dancing: Harm Reduction in Gay Clubs and Parties," forum addressing the cultural significance of the gay club/party subculture, the changing landscape of drug use, emerging health challenges associated with the party scene, and an overview of new interventions to increase safety. Presented by The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation and the Electric Dreams Foundation, at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin Street and Geary. Visit http://www.drugpolicy.org/safecircuit/ for further information.
November 10-11, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy 3rd Annual Conference, at The George Washington University. Call (202) 293-4414, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.ssdp.org for further information.
November 13, 6:00-8:00pm, New York, NY, "Women, Prison and Family." At Audrey Cohen College, 75 Varick St., for information call (212) 343-1234.
November 14-16, Barcelona, Spain, First Latin Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm. For further information, e-mail [email protected], visit http://www.igia.org/clat/ or call Enric Granados at 00 34 93 415 25 99.
February 28-March 1, 2002, New York, NY, "Problem Solving Courts: From Adversarial Litigation to Innovative Jurisprudence." Panelists include former Attorney General Janet Reno, Rev. Al Sharpton and Mary Barr, Exec. Dir. Conextions. At Fordham University Law School, take the A, B, C, D, 1, and 9 subway trains to 59th Street/Columbus Circle and walk one block west. For further information, call (656) 345-5352 or e-mail [email protected].
March 3-7, 2002, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 13th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm and 2nd International Harm Reduction Congress on Women and Drugs. Sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Association, visit http://www.ihrc2002.net or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
May 3-4, 2002, Portland, OR, Second National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, focus on Analgesia and Other Indications. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time and Legacy Emmanuel Hospital, for further information visit http://www.medicalcannabis.com or call (804) 263-4484.
December 1-4, 2002, Seattle, WA, Fourth National Harm Reduction Conference. Featuring keynote speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General, at the Sheraton Seattle. For further information, visit http://www.harmreduction.org or call (212) 213-6376.
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