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A very strange legal system

I used to think that each country had its own laws and those laws affected the people in that country. How naive I was.

I also used to think that to break a law you actually had to, you know, break the law, not just think about breaking the law, or know something about some law that might be broken in the future. And that if you thought you broke the law but really hadn’t, then you hadn’t. (In other words, if I thought I ran a stop sign, but it turns out there wasn’t really a stop sign there, then I didn’t run a stop sign.)

Obviously I was young then, and not experienced in the intricacies of modern U.S. criminal justice.

Still, I found the following bit of braggadocio in an email that the DEA sent me today someone unsettling…

On January 10 the indictment of Franklin William McField-Bent, a/k/a “Buda,” a Nicaraguan national, and five members of his drug and weapons smuggling organizations was announced. McField-Bent was charged with three narcotics counts and four counts of conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Colombian Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), which is a foreign terrorist organization. According to the indictment, McField-Bent and the other five members of his group conspired and attempted to distribute cocaine knowing that it would eventually be imported into the United States. The indictment also alleges they conspired and attempted to provide grenade launchers, grenades, automatic rifles, and other weapons to what they thought were AUC members. To their surprise, they soon found out that these “terrorists” were undercover agents.

I like that little bit of humor at the end.

So, to recap (with some additional detail from the press release):

A foreigner, who was in a foreign country, was arrested in that foreign country and indicted in U.S. court for violating a U.S. law while in a foreign country. He was indicted for two things:

  1. “Conspiring and attempting to distribute cocaine knowing that it would eventually be imported into the United States.” Hmmm… my head just about exploded with that one.
  2. “Conspired and attempted to provide grenade launchers, grenades, automatic rifles and other weapons to what they thought were members of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (“AUC”).” Except of course that there were no AUC members, just undercover agents.

I have no doubt that this McField-Bent guy is probably not a nice guy and maybe deserves some criminal justice attention. But when did our laws get so squirrelly? And have we really gone from a nation that supposedly wasn’t allowed to have a national police force, to a nation with a national police force, to a nation with an international police force that enforces U.S. laws on people anywhere in the universe?

If the Russians send another cosmonaut to the moon and his lunar rover has the capability of going 140 kilometers per hour, can we arrest him for conspiring to violate U.S. speed laws?

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21 comments to A very strange legal system

  • Sick........!

    No ones in the world is safe from the thought police.

    Sure , this guy probably is not a nice guy. There are lots of not so nice guys around the world. Are we going to arrest them all for thinking about crimes our govevernment dosent like? Someday these other countries are going to tire of our government bullying.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Strange News, Ebony. Ebony said: http://bit.ly/dBXT9h A very strange legal system: … to a nation with a national police fo… http://bit.ly/huRjYc http://bit.ly/dBXT9h […]

  • Ben

    Dun dun dun! The amazing DEA saves the daaaaay! Thank goodness for these guys, fighting for good, and making the world a better place!

  • is it sarcasm?

    America owns the internet too. Those countries will never tire of being bullied. The weak are here to justify the strong. Might is always right.

  • paul

    I’ve given up trying to figure out what they can and cannot do. I just figure law enforcement can do pretty much anything it wants, and if they focus on you, you are pretty much doomed. Keep out of sight and out of mind and pray your luck holds long enough to live your life in peace.

  • tintguy

    Paul, I’m afraid that is the main purpose of the police state we are becoming- to make the majority keep their heads down. Makes change from the status quo a lot harder to achieve.

    It is hard to see where you’re going if you have to always watch where you’re stepping.—Randyism

  • DdC

    Ooooooo I know I know….
    C – to a nation with an international police force that enforces U.S. laws on people anywhere in the universe?

    We even import them since our cages are so empty. Only 2.2 mil. locked up…

    Marc Emery’s US Prison Blog #23
    Discrimination Against Jailed Foreigners

    The FREE MARC campaign wants the Canadian government to repatriate Marc Emery from the US federal prison system so he can serve his sentence in his home country of Canada. Marc Emery is a political prisoner, imprisoned for activism and funding the marijuana movement through marijuana seed sales.”

    The Drug War Refugees

    Cover-Ups, Prevarications, Subversions & Sabotage

    Karen Tandy, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, wrote: “Today’s DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and the founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement.

    Canada Cowers Under DEAth Threats

    Canada’s War on Marijuana Expanding on All Fronts
    Canada is escalating its war on cannabis and the casualties are piling up on multiple fronts across the nation.

  • It cannot possibly get more ironic considering that the US believe, and I wonder what % of the US population approve it, that it can “police” the world but doesn’t remotely entertain the idea that it itself can be policed by international law. Just to give an example, the US has refused to sign to the International Criminal Court for instance.

    US fanaticism when it comes to pursuing its War on Drugs is just a manifestation of its skewed views about world affairs. Discuss!

    Gart Valenc
    http://www.stopthewarondrugs.org

  • J

    Well, that’s a sting, a time-worn law enforcement practice. By itself that tactic is not bad. The problem is that it is used in something utterly futile and immoral, i.e. the war on drugs.

    Now check out this bit:

    “Drug trafficking is fuel for the terrorists’ engine,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville, Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division. “This indictment drains their tank.”

    Everybody, including the individual who made this statement, knows that the only reason drug trafficking is a fruitful source of money for terrorists is prohibition.

  • Jarvis Goopnik

    CHARACTERISTICS OF FASCISM

    1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
    2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
    3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
    4. Supremacy of the Military
    5. Rampant Sexism
    6. Controlled Mass Media
    7. Obsession with National Security
    8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
    9. Corporate Power is Protected
    10. Labor Power is Suppressed
    11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
    12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
    13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
    14. Fraudulent Elections

  • malcolm kyle

    No one was arrested during this raid, but police confiscated some $20,000 in cash from the business, “as well as from the wallets of the employees and patients.”

    Authorities Rob Michigan Medical Marijuana Complex

  • jack

    The AUC (the terrorist group) was disbanded in 2006.

  • Cannabis

    DEA, Nixon’s national police force, comes back to haunt us over and over again.

  • Duncan20903

    Everybody, including the individual who made this statement, knows that the only reason drug trafficking is a fruitful source of money for terrorists is prohibition.

    That’s simply not true. Haven’t you ever heard a Know Nothing say that if (some) drugs were legal that the cartels would be out of control? I had a back and forth with one guy who was stuck on the theory that there are illicit drug “trade routes”, and that the cartels owned them. You know, if he had polished that turd just a little more, and if we were as gullible as he is, that he could have scared the bejeezus out of me with the threat that the only choice of cannabis post re-legalization was would be Mexican bunk weed. Oh my yes, No on 19! How much would it cost to bring John Walters out of retirement? Really, it’s cheap at twice the price, pay the man. Andrea, Karen, Skip, and Calvina, how could I have been so mistaken? Just say no! no! no! to Mexican brickweed.

    Really, it’s one of the things that I find stunningly stupid is the phenomena among a not insignificant cohort of the Know Nothings is their addle minded belief that if prohibition was flushed down the sewer of history that absolutely the only thing that would change is that those trafficking in the black market would no longer get arrested. There really are people that believe this nonsense despite it rising to the level of felony stupidity in the 1st degree.

    I’ve only recently figured out that the reason that some Know Nothings find the side effect of loss of short term memory is because they think it permanent rather than transient when someone is actually high. Well some think a little differently, they believe that if you enjoy cannabis that you are getting high 24/7/365. They just don’t acknowledge any middle ground.

    I can’t sleep, the clowns will eat me.

  • darkcycle

    It should be clear by now that the National Police (lets call ’em what they really are…the constitutionally prohibited national police force) get to make the rules up as they go along. It adds that extra air of caprice that was missing from U.S. jurisprudence. A little extra excitement, not knowing if what you’re doing is legal today just because it was yesterday. Besides, if they can’t entrap otherwise innocent people, there’s no way they can generate enough arrests of actual criminals to justify their existence.
    And the prerogatives of Empire. International law? We recognize only our own, and we enforce the ones we want where we want. Sovereignty be damned.

  • swansong

    quote…”if you thought you broke the law but really hadn’t, then you hadn’t. (In other words, if I thought I ran a stop sign, but it turns out there wasn’t really a stop sign there, then I didn’t run a stop sign.)”

    Not to derail the main topic…but I’ve been thinking a lot about “intent” recently…and your above quote got me thinking about it again. From a legal pov intent can be impossible to ascertain, let alone prove…but isn’t “intent” really the point?

    I mean…if I shot you in the head with the intent of killing you but instead I affect some part of your brain that cures your migraines…should I be rewarded?

    I know I’m talking more “existentially” than “legally”…but isn’t that the difference between “justice” and “law”?

    Just putting it out there 🙂

  • J said:

    Well, that’s a sting, a time-worn law enforcement practice. By itself that tactic is not bad. The problem is that it is used in something utterly futile and immoral, i.e. the war on drugs.

    I understand the concept of the sting and that it is “time-worn” (although that’s merely here in the U.S. — in some countries like Sweden and Netherlands, the use of a sting is not allowed for police work). We’ve gotten used to it. Perhaps too used to it.

    Besides, to me, the sting is related to the act. As a police officer, I pose as a gang member and get you to sell me drugs. That, it seems, is legitimate use of a sting for charging you with selling drugs. But not legitimate for some separate crime of “selling drugs to a gang member.” There were drugs. But there was no gang member. I was merely pretending to be one. The use of such a device is troubling.

    If you shoot a man who is dressed up as a deer, then you should be charged with shooting a man (and let the courts figure out whether it was manslaughter or accidental, or whatever), but you shouldn’t also be charged with shooting a deer out of season.

    swansong said:

    I mean…if I shot you in the head with the intent of killing you but instead I affect some part of your brain that cures your migraines…should I be rewarded?

    No, but you shouldn’t be charged with murder, because you didn’t actually kill anyone.

    Yes, intent is important to be considered, but we have to be very careful about using intent as the only crime.

  • According to Ron Suskind, a Bush administration official told him:
    ““We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to study what we do.”
    That statement explains everything you need to know about the legal system.

  • C.E.

    While we’re on the subject of stings, police agencies frequently have paid drug informants whose sole job is to recruit people into committing drug crimes so they can be arrested. Typically, these informants are losers and idiots, and every knows it, so they cannot set up real drug dealers, who don’t trust the informants. Instead, they seek out some other loser and offer him money to help them locate a supply of drugs. The target then facilitates a drug transaction, usually by buying drugs from a real dealer and selling it to the informant at markup.

    This type of arrangement does not meet the legal definition of entrapment, because the target usually doesn’t resist the idea of getting involved. But at the same time, if the police informant hadn’t recruited the target, the target never would gotten involved in drug dealing. So, basically, the police agency is manufacturing crime for the sole purpose of finding someone to arrest. Meanwhile, the actual drug dealer continues to do business, because he’s too smart to be taken in by the informant.

    • Yeah, there have been a lot of bad stings. I remember one some years ago (I think in Canada), where the police had someone in a wheelchair who asked people if they could help him get some pot. Well, people who had no interest in pot themselves were tracking some down for him and getting arrested for it, thinking they were helping someone who was using it because of the pain.

      Then there are the school stings, where they get some really hot female undercover officer who can pass as a teenager and she starts asking the boys for drugs. Suddenly it turns out the entire male student body are drug dealers. Of course they’ll find drugs for her. Probably more drugs than have been around the school for the previous ten years.

      These are really despicable.

  • Voletear

    Far worse is the practice of the police offering drugs for sale and then arresting the person who takes them up on it.