Archive for the ‘Drug Enforcement Administration’ tag
It may surprise many Americans to know that it has become routine for state, local, and federal governments to seize the property of people who were never even charged with, or convicted of, a crime. Though the US legal mantra has traditionally been innocent until proven guilty, asset forfeitures turn that concept on its head, leaving the accused guilty until they have proven themselves innocent.
Radley Balko details the scam in a recent article, which should be read in its entirety. One of the most shocking details in Balko’s article is how, in some cases, police have seized assets preemptively — for crimes that have not yet been committed – as part of a warped kind of Minority Report stratagem.
One of the examples Balko provides concerns a man named Anthony Smelley, who had $17,500 seized by the police when he was pulled over in Putnam County, Indiana for making an unsafe lane change. Smelley was carrying around the cash because he’d just received a settlement from a car accident, and Smelley claims he was on his way to purchase a car for his aunt.
The settlement of a 15-year-old lawsuit has resulted in the U.S. agreeing to pay $3 million to a former government worker who accused officials with the CIA and State Department of spying on him with a “bugged coffee table.”
Richard Horn, a former special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, alleged that Franklin Huddle, Jr, the former State Department’s mission chief at the U.S. embassy in Burma, and Arthur Brown, who worked for the CIA at the time in Burma, planted listening devices in his home while he was stationed in Burma (now known as Myanmar).
Threat Level reporter, Kim Zetter, observes that a close reading of the case suggests that the Justice Department may have decided to pay off the plaintiff in order to “quash the series of damaging legal rulings issued by the influential judge, [U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth,] overseeing the case that would have forced them to disclose the classified information.”
Horn had been stationed in Burma in the early 1990s as the DEA country attaché to Burma, which ranks as one of the top opium poppy producing countries in the world. He was charged with overseeing the agency’s mission in that country of eradicating the opium poppy, which is used to produce heroin.
President Obama drew a slew of criticism recently when he derisively dismissed a drug reform question during a town hall meeting. Here was the “crazy” question that warranted such a disrespectful response:
“With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control, and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money making, money saving boost to the economy? Do we really need that many victimless criminals?”
This was the top ranked question on Whitehouse.gov, and yet Obama treated the query as if it came from a pack of giggling stoners. The president chuckled, “I don’t know what that says about the online audience…The answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.” As is so often the case when discussing the War on Drugs, the president offered no proof of this claim. He doesn’t have to. The room applauded, while laughing at his little joke. Stupid stoners. Always thinking about their pot.
But what Americans may not know is that many former law enforcement officers have recently stepped forward to speak against the failed War on Drugs. I was recently contacted by members of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), including Jack Cole, a 26-year veteran of the New Jersey State Police, where he served 14 years undercover in the Narcotics Bureau. Cole is the executive director of LEAP. Cole explained to me his first epiphany when he realized something was wrong with the War on Drugs.
It occurred to me that I liked a lot of the people I was working on more than some of the people I was working for. I discovered nearly all of the 114 million people in the US above the age of twelve whom DEA says have used an illegal drug (46% of that population) were basically just like me. The only difference was they wanted to put something in their body that I don’t want to put in my body.