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December 2007



Christmas Greetings

Via Transform

I’d recommend buying hemp products for your Christmas presents instead.

Wrong-address raids reaching wider audience?

Another wrong-address raid, as a result of bad informant information, took place in Minneapolis earlier this week.

With her six kids and husband tucked into bed, Yee Moua was watching TV in her living room just after midnight when she heard voices Ö faint at first, then louder. Then came the sound of a window shattering.
Moua bolted upstairs, where her husband, Vang Khang, grabbed his shotgun from a closet, knelt and fired a warning shot through his doorway as he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He let loose with two more blasts. Twenty-two bullets were fired back at him, by the family’s count.
Then things suddenly became clear.
“It’s the police! Police!” his sons yelled.
Khang, a Hmong immigrant with shaky command of English, set down his gun, raised his hands and was soon on the ground, an officer’s boot on his neck.
The gunmen, it turned out, were members of a police SWAT team that had raided the wrong address because of bad information from an informant Ö a mistake that some critics say happens all too frequently around the country and gets innocent people killed.

The difference in this wrong-address raid? In the wake of the Kathryn Johnston murder, it’s getting national attention. And the articles are at least starting to ask the tough questions.
That was an AP article with wide national distribution quoted above, and, in addition to talking about the Kathryn Johnston story, included information on Radley Balko’s work

A study last year by the libertarian Cato Institute said: “Because of shoddy police work, over-reliance on informants, and other problems, each year hundreds of raids are conducted on the wrong addresses, bringing unnecessary terror and frightening confrontation to people never suspected of a crime.”

Another version of the AP story hit my local paper. generating dozens of online comments, most unfavorable to the police. And it’s been in USA Today, Washington Post — all over.
RubÚn Rosario in the Twin Cities’ Pioneer Press interviewed Radley Balko for Botched police raids not so rare — worth checking out.
It’s possible — just possible — that people are starting to wake up a little bit regarding this issue of indiscriminate use of paramilitary-style raids on homes.
The question is, how many Khang families will have to have to experience that terror before significant changes are made? How many more Xavier Bennetts and Alberto Sepulvedas and Ashley Villareals will have to die first?

Odds and Ends

“bullet” Tom Angell has been looking over the big appropriations bill in Congress. Here’s what he’s found so far (of course, this could still change).

Drug Czar’s “anti-drug” ad budget is being slashed down to $60 million next year (down from $99 mil this year and considerably less than the President’s 2008 request of $130 […]

Word of the Day: Fungible

noun: 1. Something that is exchangeable or substitutable.

In an interesting article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune about the fear-mongering over the retroactivity regarding the slight reduction in crack cocaine sentencing, this caught my attention:

[Federal judge Ruben] Castillo, who helped build large-scale drug prosecutions in the Chicago U.S. attorney’s office in the 1980s, says the […]

What’s in a name?

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name […]

Drug war and terrorism war as excuses for expanded government surveillance

Interesting article in tomorrow’s New York Times: Wider Spying Fuels Aid Plan for Telecom Industry by Eric Lightblau, James Risen and Scott Shane.
We’ve long talked about the increase in government abuse of Constitutional rights and privacy in the name of the drug war. With 911, terrorism was added to the mix, with each feeding the other in terms of giving the government excuses to ask for, or take, more power. Recent revelations are showing just how much the drug war and terrorism war are tools in the search for greater authoritarian reach.

The N.S.A.‰s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before, according to government and industry officials, yet that alliance is strained by legal worries and the fear of public exposure.
To detect narcotics trafficking, for example, the government has been collecting the phone records of thousands of Americans and others inside the United States who call people in Latin America, according to several government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program remains classified.

And this began before 911.

The government‰s dependence on the phone industry, driven by the changes in technology and the Bush administration‰s desire to expand surveillance capabilities inside the United States, has grown significantly since the Sept. 11 attacks. The N.S.A., though, wanted to extend its reach even earlier. In December 2000, agency officials wrote a transition report to the incoming Bush administration, saying the agency must become a ‹powerful, permanent presenceŠ on the commercial communications network, a goal that they acknowledged would raise legal and privacy issues. [..]
In the drug-trafficking operation, the N.S.A. has been helping the Drug Enforcement Administration in collecting the phone records showing patterns of calls between the United States, Latin America and other drug-producing regions. The program dates to the 1990s, according to several government officials, but it appears to have expanded in recent years.

Interestingly, the demands went far enough to set off warning bells within some companies.

At least one major phone carrier Ö whose identity could not be confirmed Ö refused to cooperate, citing concerns in 2004 that the subpoenas were overly broad, government and industry officials said. The executives also worried that if the program were exposed, the company would face a public-relations backlash.
The D.E.A. declined to comment on the call-tracing program, except to say that it ‹exercises its legal authorityŠ to issue administrative subpoenas. The N.S.A. also declined to comment on it.

On Monday, the Senate will discuss a bill to grant immunity to the telecom companies for spying on Americans (thereby essentially shutting down any chance of finding out the truth about government abuses).

[Thanks, Tom]

Update: More from Glenn Greenwald who has been indispensable on this topic.

December 15, 1791 (updated)

Bill of Rights ratified Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A […]

Open Thread

“bullet” “drcnet”

Prohibition and deterrence

Politicians have the answer — the magic demand-side solution to creating a drug-free world. It’s a simple concept called deterrence. If there’s an activity with which you disapprove, all you have to do is find the right penalty, and people will stop doing it. Deterrence! So the politicians came up with jail terms for possessing […]

Letting go of prohibition propaganda

In the course of my wandering across the net searching for interesting things to share with you, I occasionally come upon some minor thing that strikes me, maybe in comments somewhere. That happened with this post at a site I had not visited before. It was a nice post about legalization and the incredible LEAP […]