Spying on Us

Those of us involved in drug policy reform have seen the continual destruction of the 4th Amendment in the name of the drug war and we have shouted until we were hoarse, as the general population turned a blind eye to law enforcement and the federal government continuing to expand their “tools.” And we watched as those tools were turned on the innocent and used to entrench and expand a policy that treats American citizens as criminals.
911 was a tragedy in many ways. In a bizarre twist, it was a tragedy for the future of freedom in this country because of the tastes and lusts of the federal police system. Now there was a new justification for more “tools”: terrorism.
The recent revelations of warrantless spying on American citizens by the NSA under the express authorization of the President is horrifying, although unfortunately not very suprising. President Bush has admitted to the particulars…

“This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and Constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States,” Bush said.

Spying on people to protect their civil liberties? Sort of like raping someone to protect their virginity.

Bush said the program was narrowly designed and used “consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution.”

Now in everything I’ve read so far, including the statements by Attorney General Gonzales, I don’t see any way that the program could be considered legal unless (as seems to be their argument):

  1. The President is, by nature of being President, exempt from all laws (except for those related to blow jobs). And if that’s not enough…
  2. The Congress, when authorizing the use of force against terrorists, by implication revoked all previous law and the Constitution as it relates to the President.

They don’t even try very hard to justify taking away rights anymore.
The thing is that the system was already so easy for the government to use. You just go to a secret FISA judge (often referred to as a rubber-stamp judge) and get a warrant (almost never turned down). If you don’t have time, start your spying and get the warrant later (within 72 hours).
The spying they are doing simply means that they don’t even want a judge looking at it or knowing that they’re doing it. Why? Because they’re so embarrassed? Or because the judge might balk at the scope of the investigations? Hmmm…

He said it is used only to intercept the international communications of people inside the United States who have been determined to have “a clear link” to al-Qaida or related terrorist organizations.

“I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al-Qaida and related groups,” he said.

Links to terrorist organizations. And what does the federal government consider terrorism?
“bullet” During the 2002 Superbowl, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) aired two thirty-second ads targeted at young Americans who do drugs.æ One of the ads asked, “Where do terrorists get their money? If you buy drugs, some of it might come from you.”
Links to terrorism. Every person in America who has smoked pot?
“bullet” When Orin Hatch introduced the Victory Act (to add to the Patriot Act) in 2003, it was sub-titled:

To combat narco-terrorism, to dismantle narco-terrorist criminal enterprises, to disrupt narco-terrorist financing and money laundering schemes, to enact national drug sentencing reform, to prevent drug trafficking to children, to deter drug-related violence, to provide law enforcement with the tools needed to win the war against narco-terrorists and major drug traffickers, and for other purposes.

Narco-terrorism. A big new word since 911.
“bullet” The DEA’s traveling museum exhibit: Target America: Drug Traffickers, Terrorists and You
“bullet” In the recent attempt to extend the Patriot Act (which already has been used to a great degree for drug investigations), a provision was inserted relating to meth. How was that appropriate?

“When we think about the global war on terrorism, we shouldn’t forget about the war on terrorism at home,” said Ron Brooks, the president of the National Narcotics Officers’ Associations Coalition. [Link]

The war on terrorism at home. Has a nice ring to it if you’re looking for more tools to use on the American citizen.
The thing is, of course, that we have no idea how this spying has been used. And that’s the point. We are put in the position of having to trust one source. Without even a friendly judge we don’t have anyone looking out for the American people who can say, “Whoa, that’s going too far.” (Anybody who’s been involved in retail sales or auditing knows the critical importance of the two-person rule. That’s what checks and balances in our system are all about.)
So we’re left to speculate. And given the information above, it doesn’t take much to start looking for your tin-foil hat.
Take the case of Marc Emery, for example. A Canadian with many ties, financial and otherwise, to people in the states. A Canadian who sold seeds to a relatively harmless plant. A Canadian that the DEA really wanted to nail. And after months of investigations, they had him arrested.

In her bizarre press release of July 29, DEA chief Karen Tandy left little doubt as to why they singled out Emery’s operation. “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 the marijuana legalization movement,” it begins, adding: “Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.”

Gee, I wonder if any American citizens’s communications with Marc Emery (including those of a current candidate for Governor of Alabama who publicly and proudly worked with Emery) were part of this warrentless spying?
We need to join with everybody in every part of the political spectrum to stop this intrusion on our rights.
And for those of you who “trust President Bush to do the right thing,” I urge you to consider that these powers, if not stopped by Congress and the people, will never be given up by any administration. Imagine your worst nightmare as President and then imagine them with this unchecked power.

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