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Sentencing: Federal Bill to Create Criminal Drug Dealer Registry Introduced

It was just a matter of time. First came the laws mandating that society's favorite demonized criminals, sex offenders, must register their whereabouts with the state even after they have completed serving their sentences. Next, various states began passing legislation requiring convicted methamphetamine cooks to do the same. Now, a Republican congressman from New Mexico, Rep. Steve Pearce, has filed federal legislation that would create a national online "criminal drug dealer" registry and require the states to do the same or risk losing federal aid.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/methregistry.gif
Do we really want to help kids find the drug dealers?
Last month, Pearce introduced yet another cutesy acronym of a bill, HR 6155, the "Communities Leading Everyone Away From Narcotics through Online Warning Notification Act," or the "CLEAN TOWN Act." Under the proposed bill, anyone convicted of a drug distribution, conspiracy, or possession with intent to distribute offense would be required to register with authorities annually and provide them with their name, address, employer and/or school information, social security number, criminal history, physical description, copy of official identification, and other personal information. Length of registration would vary from five years from the end of sentence for a first offender to 10 years for a second offender to life for a three-time offender.

The bill would require both the US attorney general and the various states to establish such registries. States that failed to comply would be penalized by withholding a percentage of the federal crime control funds they receive through the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. Convicted drug dealers could be exempted from registration if they become snitches, or in the anodyne language of the bill, if they provide "substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense."

The bill mandates that states pass laws criminalizing failure to register. Such laws must carry sentences of greater than one year. In other words, they must be felonies.

In a press release touting his new legislative baby, Pearce coached his sponsorship of the bill in terms of protecting the children and gave his constituents credit for the idea. "During our methamphetamine awareness tour across the 2nd District in August, I heard repeatedly that we should treat convicted drug dealers like we do convicted sex offenders," Rep. Pearce said. "Both have the capacity to violate our children and destroy their lives. Our communities need more tools to protect our children. In particular, parents and teachers have a right to know when someone who could poison their son or daughter lives in their neighborhood."

No other legislators have so far stepped forward to cosponsor the bill. It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Doubts Aside, U.S. Set to Boost Colombia Aid (Los Angeles Times)

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http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-fg-colombia29sep29,1,5547928.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

Southwest Asia: Leading Scholar Takes Senate Foreign Relations Committee to School on Afghan Drug Trade

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/kabul2.jpg
war-torn Afghanistan (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith, 2005)
While Afghan President Hamid Karzai was in Washington this week for meetings with President Bush and other officials, and politicians of both parties were calling for increased anti-drug spending in Afghanistan to deal with that country's burgeoning opium crop, a little noticed Senate hearing last week provided a real crash course on a rational drug policy in Afghanistan. In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on September 21, New York University Professor Barnett Rubin, perhaps the country's leading Afghanistan expert, provided a strong critique of the obsessive focus on crop eradication and even suggested policymakers consider regulating the opium trade. Rubin is most recently the author of Aghanistan: Uncertain Transition from Turmoil to Normalcy, published by the Council on Foreign Relations in March.

Rubin addressed the issue both in his prepared remarks and in a brief question and answer session at the end of the hearing. His remarks are worth quoting extensively. Here is what he said in his prepared remarks (available only to paid subscribers):

"On narcotics, I would like -- sometimes when people call for a stronger counternarcotics policy, which I fully endorse, they focus on crop eradication, as if crop eradication were the central point of counternarcotics. I would submit that that is an error.

"First, we have to be clear about what is the goal of our counternarcotics policy in Afghanistan. Where does the harm come from? We are not trying to -- or we should not be trying to -- solve the world's problem of drug addiction in Afghanistan. If we, with all our capacity, cannot stop drug addiction in the United States, we are certainly not going to use law enforcement successfully to eliminate half the economy of the poorest and best armed country in the world.

"Therefore, we must focus on the real harm which comes from drug money. Now, 80% of the drug money inside Afghanistan, regardless of the 90% of the total income from drugs which goes outside of Afghanistan -- 80% of the drug money inside of Afghanistan is in the hands of traffickers and warlords, not farmers. When we eradicate crops, the price of poppy goes up, and the traffickers who have stocks become richer. Therefore, we should be focusing on the warlords and traffickers, on interdiction and so on, while we are helping the poor farmers. That is also consistent with our political interests of winning the farmers over and isolating those that are against us.

"Furthermore, it is a mistake to consider the drug problem in Afghanistan as something that is isolated in the major poppy growing areas. For instance, now there is fighting in Helmand province, which is the major poppy producing area in the world. Because there is fighting going on, it is not possible to implement a counternarcotics strategy in Helmand. We need to implement rural development throughout Afghanistan, especially in the areas where there is no poppy, in order to show people what is possible and build an alternative economy."

And here is an exchange between Rubin and Sens. George Voinovich (R-OH) and Frank Lugar (R-IN):

VOINOVICH:

"Mr. Chairman, could I just ask one last thing? You alluded to the issue of the drug problem in the United States. And I got the impression that some of these drugs are coming into the US. Is that...

RUBIN:

Well, I perhaps should have said the developed world. I believe actually the bulk of the narcotics produced in Afghanistan are consumed in Iran and Pakistan.

VOINOVICH:

OK. So that's why the Iranians are so interested in making sure it stops.

RUBIN:

Yes.

VOINOVICH:

The reason I bring it up is I just had our local FBI director visit with me from Cincinnati, and he said, "Senator, the issue of terrorism is one that we're gravely concerned about." But he said the biggest issue that we've got here in the United States that we're not paying attention to is the drug problem, and that our resources are being, you know, kind of spread out. And we really have got to look at that. It's still there, and we need to deal with it. And we're not directing our attention to it. And I think you remember the other hearing we had a year or so ago, we had the folks in here and they were talking about how active the Russian mafia is in the United States and seemed to be doing about whatever they want to do, because we don't have the resources to deal with that problem. So from my perspective, you're saying the biggest market is in those countries you just mentioned...

RUBIN:

That's in physical quantity. The biggest market in money is in Europe and of course in the United States. If I may add, if you don't mind my mentioning something that I heard in the other house yesterday, Dr. Paul, a Republican from Texas, mentioned at the hearing yesterday that in his view we had failed to learn the lessons of prohibition, which, of course, provided the start-up capital for organized crime in the United States, and that, in effect, by turning drug use into a crime, we are funding organized crime and insurgency around the world. And it may be that we need to look at other methods of regulation and treatment.

VOINOVICH:

Thank you.

LUGAR:

Thank you, Senator Voinovich. It's a fascinating thought that you just imparted, that although the bulk of the drugs may be utilized by Iran and Pakistan, that the greatest value for those that are not imbibed by these countries comes from Europe and the United States. Why? Because the people surely don't receive it for free, but what is the distribution? Why are Pakistan and Iran so afflicted by drugs from...

RUBIN:

Well, they're closer. Basically, the cost of production is a negligible portion of the price of narcotics.

LUGAR:

So it's transportation...

RUBIN:

No, no. It's risk because it's illegal.

LUGAR:

I see.

RUBIN:

If it were not illegal, it would be worth hardly anything. It's only its illegality that makes it so valuable.

LUGAR:

Another fascinating topic. (LAUGHTER) Well, we thank you again for your help (inaudible). The hearing is adjourned."

Another fascinating topic, indeed. At least someone is trying to educate our elected officials about the economic and political consequences of drug prohibition -- in Afghanistan, anyway.

Barnett Rubin Lectures the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Afghan Opium

On Thursday, I crossed back into the US from British Columbia and spent the day listening to all the back and forth over Chavez's "devil" comments as I drove across Washington, Idaho, and Montana. About 4am, I checked into a motel in Broadus, Montana—which is about 150 miles from nowhere in any direction—flipped on the tube, and lo and behold, there was Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin giving the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a tutorial on the complications of US Afghan policy. What really caught my attention was Rubin's closing remarks. Unfortunately, the C-Span video link to Rubin's remarks isn't working as I type these words (but perhaps is by the time you are reading them; give it a try), but the good professor basically lectured the committee on the foolishness of attempting to wipe out the opium crop. Addressing the senators as if they were a group of callow undergrads at a seminar, Rubin explained that the only way to deal with the opium problem was to regulate and control it. That caused Sen. Frank Lugar (R-IN) to stir himself from his lizard-like torpor long enough to mutter something to the effect that "this is a big issue for another day." Here is what Rubin had to say in his prepared remarks:
"The international drug control regime, which criminalizes narcotics, does not reduce drug use, but it does produce huge profits for criminals and the armed groups and corrupt officials who protect them. Our drug policy grants huge subsidies to our enemies. As long as we maintain our ideological commitment to a policy that funds our enemies, however, the second-best option in Afghanistan is to treat narcotics as a security and development issue. The total export value of opiates produced in Afghanistan has ranged in recent years from 30 to 50 percent of the legal economy. Such an industry cannot be abolished by law enforcement. The immediate priorities are massive rural development in both poppy-growing and non-poppy-growing areas, including roads and cold storage to make other products marketable; programs for employment creation through rural industries; and thoroughgoing reform of the ministry of the interior and other government agencies to root out the major figures involved with narcotics, regardless of political or family connections. "News of this year’s record crop is likely to increase pressure from the US Congress for eradication, including aerial spraying. Such a program would be disastrously self-defeating. If we want to succeed in Afghanistan, we have to help the rural poor (which is almost everyone) and isolate the leading traffickers and the corrupt officials who support them."
What he actually said at the end of his testimony was even stronger. Check it out if that damned C-Span link ever actually works.
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Feature: House Votes to Require School Districts to Allow Random, Warrantless Mass Search Policies

In a voice vote Tuesday night, the US House of Representatives voted to approve a measure that would force school districts across the country to adopt policies allowing teachers and school officials to conduct random, warrantless searches of all students at any time based on the "reasonable suspicion" that one student may be carrying drugs or weapons. Sponsored by Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY), the Student Safety Act of 2006 (H.R. 5295) had no committee hearings and was fast-tracked to the House floor.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/stratfordraid.jpg
Expect more of this if the Davis bill passes.
"Drugs and violence don't belong in our schools," said Rep. Davis during floor debate Tuesday. "I am a firm believer in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, and this legislation doesn't offer a blank check to anyone to conduct random arbitrary searches. The Supreme Court has held that teachers and school officials can use their judgment to make decisions that will help control their classrooms and protect their students. This is simple, commonsense legislation."

Actually, the bill does not offer a blank check for searches, it forces it down school districts' throats. According to an analysis of the bill by the Congressional Research Service, it "requires states, local educational agencies, and school districts to deem a search of any minor student on public school grounds to be reasonable and permissible if conducted by a full-time teacher or school official, acting on any colorable [changed in the final version to "reasonable"] suspicion based on professional experience and judgment, to ensure that the school remain free of all weapons, dangerous materials, or illegal narcotics." And just to make sure school districts get the message, the analysis notes, the bill "denies Safe Schools and Citizenship Education funds, provided under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, to states, local educational agencies, and school districts that fail to deem such searches reasonable and permissible."

Some House Democrats stood up to oppose the bill. "This bill would strip funding from any school district that decides local teachers and administrators know better than Congress how to make their schools safe," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). "It is a mistake to assume that every student is as guilty as some troubled person. We will stop any new program that would label all youth as guilty," she vowed.

"As someone who taught for six years in one of the toughest schools and communities in the country, I have serious reservations about what this legislation actually does," said Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL). "I am not alone. The American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the PTA, the ACLU, the American Federation of Teachers, and my own Chicago school district all have concerns. We are concerned that this legislation overrides already enacted school search policies for a one-size-fits-all policy. This bill establishes a policy that gives teachers the authority to conduct searches when that authority should rest with the school board. And it penalizes schools for noncompliance by withholding Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act funds. While we all want our schools to be safe and secure places, this bill is duplicative, unnecessary, and takes away rights that should be reserved to local communities."

While Democrats spoke against the bill in debate Tuesday night, none took the simple step of asking for a roll-call vote, which might have resulted in a defeat for the measure. Since the bill was fast-tracked, it required a two-thirds vote in the House, and it is not clear that the bill could have reached that hurdle had members been forced to vote on the record. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

"We're disappointed not only with the House in passing this bill, but with the cowardice displayed by the Democrats in not calling for a roll call vote to get legislators on the record," said Tom Angell, communications director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). "Any member could have called for a roll call vote, but nobody did, and that could have made a difference. Not a single member of Congress felt it was important enough to get their colleagues on the record on this issue," he told Drug War Chronicle.

Along with DRCNet and the Drug Policy Alliance, SSDP worked with extremely short notice to mobilize opposition to the bill, which was thought to have died a peaceful death but was revived at the last minute as a campaign maneuver by Rep. Davis. The drug reform groups opposing the bill were joined by the ACLU and a number of education groups. The only major education group supporting the bill is the National Education Association.

"We did pretty good analysis when we got the legislation, and the thing that really hung us up was the way they defined searches as an activity performed by a full-time teacher or public school official," said Tor Cowan, director of legislation for the American Federation of Teachers, which opposed the bill. "We don't think teachers are trained to be police officers. If a teacher believes a student is carrying a weapon or in possession of drugs, they should direct that to the vice-principal or dean of discipline, who has been trained by the district as to what's allowable, and he would determine what the next step should be. That is preferable to having 50 school teachers, all with a different understanding of what reasonable suspicion meant, try to do this," he told Drug War Chronicle.

"From an administrator's perspective," Cowan continued, "they feel like they have policies in place that could be jeopardized by this bill. We already have enough federal requirements and mandates, and this could lead to challenges of policies that have already been settled by the Supreme Court. The court gives a pretty wide berth to school districts when it comes to establishing reasonable suspicion."

Although Republican legislators Tuesday night hammered away at the theme that the bill would protect the safety of teachers and students alike, Cowan bristled at the implication that bill opponents were not concerned with security. "It is a false argument to say that people who didn't support this don't care about school safety," he said. "It is already very clearly in a teacher's self-interest -- not only in herself, but in her students', and her school's -- to report her suspicions that a student is carrying a weapon or using drugs to the appropriate administrator in the school. The means are already there to ensure security and make sure schools remain drug- and violence-free."

"We have a couple of issues with this bill, too" said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the drug reform groups leading the opposition. "First, Congress is saying if you don't set a policy allowing teachers and administrators to search students, then you won't get federal money. The bill's authors say they are just trying to maintain the status quo, but that's absurd. School districts now can set their own policies and they should be able to set their own policies. If they want to protect the privacy rights of students, they should be able to do so without fear of losing federal funding," he told the Chronicle.

"Second, the way this bill is worded, it strongly implies that the school district's policy has to be one where they can conduct random mass searches," Piper continued. "If the principle hears a rumor that someone is selling marijuana, he could search every student in the building, and whether those kinds of searches will be constitutional is anybody's guess. Our big concern is that school administrators will get the wrong idea about the limits of their constitutional powers."

"In the controlling Supreme Court cases on these searches, the court held that school administrators did not need probable cause to search students, only 'reasonable suspicion,' which is a lesser standard," said Jesselyn McCurdy, legislative counsel at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. "But the court did not specifically rule on whether or not there has to be individualized suspicion; in fact, in its decision, it specifically said it was not expressing an opinion on mass searches," she told the Chronicle.

"We worry that the vague language in the bill will lead administrators to think they can do massive, sweeping searches like they did at Goose Creek," the site of a now notorious drug raid where police with drawn weapons and police dogs invaded a South Carolina high school, McCurdy said. "Regardless of whether the bill actually allows that, it is kind of silly. You can pass any bill you want, but if it's unconstitutional, someone will challenge it and force the Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality. Given that most school districts already have policies on school searches in place, this will only cause more confusion about what schools can and cannot do."

"We oppose this legislation because it is a one-size-fits-all blanket policy mandated from Washington," SSDP's Angell explained. "It sends the message that Congress knows better than school administrators how to keep drugs out of schools, and that is offensive, which is why all those education groups spoke out against it. If this becomes law, we're in danger of seeing more Goose Creek-style raids. A lot of schools already allow searches based on the rather flimsy reasonable suspicion standard, but they currently have a choice. Now Congress is trying to make them do that under the threat of losing federal funding."

Now the bill moves to the Senate, where reformers hope it dies a quiet death. If not, they are prepared to put a stake through its heart. "We'll be keeping a watchful eye on the Senate to ensure they don't try to sneak this bill into law," said Angell. "Lots of times at the end of the session things get tacked onto totally unrelated bills, and we're very wary of that. We'll be alerting the masses and asking people to call the Senate if we get word this bill is moving," he said.

While the opposition effort didn't manage to stop the bill in the House, organizations managed to deliver thousands of e-mails and countless phone calls to representatives in less than a week. And they'll be watching what happens next.

Lost This One, But Not As Bad As It Sounds

Special thanks to the roughly 1,000 DRCNet supporters who lobbied their Representatives in Congress to reject H.R. 5295, the so-called "Student and Teacher Safety Act." The House of Representatives unfortunately passed the bill, on a voice vote, which means there is no record of who voted yes and who voted no. It is also possible that there might not have really been the 2/3 majority needed to pass it, but without a member of Congress calling for a roll call, that is left up to the ear of the member leading the session. While a few Democrats did speak against the bill, none of them requested a voice vote, probably out of fear that Republican challengers would use the "Rep. So and So voted against a bill to keep kids away from drugs and guns" line in the upcoming campaigns in this high-stakes election season. It's not as bad as it sounds. Most importantly, it is only the House of Representatives that passed the bill. If it doesn't come up and get passed by the Senate -- and we know of no current plans to take it up there -- it will not become law. Secondly, it was exciting to see major, mainstream educational organizations like the PTA come out against the bill. (See Drug War Chronicle later this week for a full report.) And, your support and the work done by our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy and other groups showed that our side is able to mobilize. You can't win all of them, but today's loss notwithstanding our side is winning more than we used to, and I believe we'll get there.
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Watch School Search Bill Debate Online

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST UPDATE UPDATE: It's on right now (5:39pm). Turn on C-Span or go to c-span.org, section "live streams." Nearly a thousand DRCNet supporters have contacted Congress in opposition to the increasingly infamous "Student and Teacher Safety Act" as of the time of this writing. If you're not one of them, and if the vote hasn't happened by the time you read this, and if you're a US voter, click here to add your voice to the chorus of opposition. We have allies too: Among the letters sent to Congress by major national organizations is this one from the American Federation of Teachers. If the vote hasn't happened yet (they have one more bill to go through first), you can see it on C-Span via cable TV or on the C-Span web site. (Scroll down to "live streams.")
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ALERT: Congress to Vote on Dangerous New Student Search Bill This Tuesday, 9/19

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United States
URL: 
http://ga0.org/campaign/searches_bill

ONDCP: Senate Panel Recommends Cutting Salaries at Drug Czar's Office

The Congress is getting increasingly testy with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and in a sharp signal of its unhappiness with the performance of ONDCP head John Walters, the drug czar, a Senate panel is recommending that salaries and expenses at ONDCP be slashed by well over half, from $26.6 million this year to $11.5 million next year.

Although Walters has been able to tout such successes as marginal declines in drug use rates among selected groups -- especially teenagers -- he has come under tough attack from congressional drug warriors, especially over ONDCP's halting response to the spread of methamphetamine. Walters and ONDCP are also taking flak for supporting the Bush administration's calls to slash funding for grants to help local law enforcement form drug task forces and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.

ONDCP has 111 full-time employees. As its director, Walters earns $183,000 a year.

He isn't worth it, the Senate Appropriations Committee signaled. In its July vote on an appropriations bill, the committee recommended the deep cuts, saying the reductions would "more closely reflect actual performance."

In that legislation, the committee called for independent evaluations of ONDCP and demanded documentation of travel records, salaries, and contracts. The committee also complained that Walters and ONDCP have been unresponsive to congressional requests for information and have prevented program directors from meeting with the committee.

"This kind of unresponsiveness... results in an unnecessary waste of time and energy," the bill states. "Numerous follow-up communications are required in almost every instance."

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) chairs the subcommittee with oversight over ONDCP. His spokesman, Rob Ostrander, told the Associated Press Walters had a bad habit of not paying attention to committee requests. "Unfortunately, this has been a long-term problem," Ostrander said. "The agency has a record of being unresponsive to committee staff. We hope that changes, because at the end of the day we need to ensure taxpayers' money is being spent wisely."

Sen. Joe Biden took to the Senate floor last week to complain about Walters. "Under him, the office operates like an ivory tower rather than the command center for our national drug control policy," Biden said.

The budgets cuts are likely to end up being restored, but even threatening to cut the once sacrosanct drug czar's budget is an indication that times are changing.

Panel Advises Cutting Salaries at Agency (ONDCP)

Localização: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://dwb.sacbee.com/24hour/politics/story/3371410p-12405350c.html

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