UK paper: Americans’ constitutional liberties have been trashed for the war on drugs

It’s kind of sad that if you want to really see how Americans have lost their liberty, you are more likely to read about it in another country’s newspaper.

A patriotic duty: repeal the Patriot Act by Jennifer Abel in the Guardian (UK)

The first thing you need to understand about the Patriot Act is this: Osama Bin Laden’s destruction of the World Trade Centre wasn’t the reason the act was passed; it was merely the excuse. The real reason dates back to the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan demonstrated his principled commitment to personal liberty and small government by turning the “war on drugs” up to 11.

Of course, the constitution as it’s written makes drug laws difficult to enforce. Police learn about most crimes – real crimes – when the victims report them to the police. But there’s no victim to complain when a willing buyer purchases a product from a willing seller, so drug cops looking to make arrests and justify their existence had to resort to privacy violations and fishing expeditions instead.

Then came the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the most horrific in my country’s history. But it was also the answer to every drug warrior’s prayers: they finally got the unconstitutional powers they craved, and under a spiffy patriotic acronym to boot.

Jennifer Abel notes that even with the end of Bin Laden and the lack of international support for al-Quida, the Patriot Act isn’t likely to go away, “because the Patriot Act was never about Bin Laden in the first place.”


But come on now, there were all sorts of politicians grudgingly accepting the Patriot Act as a short term requirement that objected to the sheer magnitude of the rights infringement. Surely now that Bin Laden is dead, they’ll at least discuss it, right?

Glenn Greenwald last night:

Tonight, a cloture vote was taken in the Senate on the four-year extension and it passed by a vote of 74-8. The law that was once the symbolic shorthand for evil Bush/Cheney post-9/11 radicalism just received a vote in favor of its four-year, reform-free extension by a vote of 74-8. […]

But what’s most notable isn’t the vote itself, but the comments made afterward. Sen. Paul announced that he was considering using delaying tactics to hold up passage of the bill in order to extract some reforms (including ones he is co-sponsoring with the Democrats’ Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Leahy, who — despite voicing “concerns” about the bill — voted for cloture). Paul’s announcement of his delaying intentions provoked this fear-mongering, Terrorism-exploiting, bullying threat from the Democrats’ Senate Intelligence Committee Chair, Dianne Feinstein:

“I think it would be a huge mistake,” Feinstein told reporters. “If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear.”

In other words: Paul and the other dissenting Senators better give up their objections and submit to quick Patriot Act passage or else they’ll have blood on their hands from the Terrorist attack they will cause. That, of course, was the classic Bush/Cheney tactic for years to pressure Democrats into supporting every civil-liberties-destroying measure the Bush White House demanded (including, of course, the original Patriot Act itself), and now we have the Democrats — ensconced in power — using it just as brazenly and shamelessly

And these folks take an oath to defend the Constitution.

Update: Powerful slam on the Democrats (and so-called “liberal” blogosphere) by Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake: Deafening Liberal Silence as the Senate Moves to Extend the Patriot Act

Why are there so few Democrats taking issue with the idea that government should be able to violate the Fourth Amendment to fight terrorism when that is not the case? Why is there so little push back from liberals or progressives to put an end to the extraordinary assault on civil liberties that the Bush Administration escalated and the Obama Administration has done little to bring to an end? […]

Liberals began the Obama presidency committed to making Obama do it—whatever they thought needed to be fixed now that President Bush was gone. They had some kind of a vision. Now, they tinker around the edges and ask for minuscule reform that will not upset the balance (or gross imbalance) of power in the country. They ask for changes that have no monetary impact on the corporatist elements of the United States, which make money off of subverting democracy to fight the “war on terror.” When their voices are most needed, they say nothing and do nothing.

Liberals contend that people must cut Obama some slack. Meanwhile, the imperial presidency expands.

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30 Responses to UK paper: Americans’ constitutional liberties have been trashed for the war on drugs

  1. Paul says:

    As we all know, there is little real difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, and their media cheerleaders. When a politician actually stands up to the whole corrupt mess and says, “Hey! this is corrupt! I’m not going to be part of it,” they are marginalized and labeled crackpots.

  2. kaptinemo says:

    The money quote, as it pertains to drug law reform:

    “The desire to avoid debate is sadly typical these days. As an American, I’ve always heard that congressmen and women and presidents are my “elected representatives”, though their behaviour of late suggests most think their job is to rule the populace rather than represent it. Debate, after all, requires the consideration of opinions other than your own, and sometimes even compromise; such things are part of a representative’s job description, but beneath a ruler’s dignity.” – Emphasis mine

    This is precisely the mindset that we reformers have been battling all these years; the Olympian disdain that our supposed ‘servants’ have for those who challenge their precious beliefs and thus, their raison d’etre for being ‘leaders’ at all. Debate for them is to admit that they are as fallible as the rest of us, and this seems to be anathema to them, particularly when it comes to drug law reform. We even had the sorry spectacle of Barry McCaffery running down a London side-street in 1999 to avoid reformers who wanted to speak with him about reform. Professional prohibitionists want to be able to pontificate unchallenged, safe and snug from behind their taxpayer-supplied bureaucratic battlements, like old Soviet commissars used to do during their version of ‘press conferences’.

    They day they are drawn out into the open in public debate is the day they will be rhetorically slaughtered in the arena of public opinion, and they know it. And with increasing public restiveness about taxpayer dollars being wasted, that debate may be arriving soon.

    • Sukoi says:


      You were right about the economic collapse that is currently happening and that you have been talking about for years. Your predictions, at least in my mind, are playing out like an actual play and I think that we are close to, if not AT, act IV of IV. I also think that you are right about the debate being inevitable in the very near future as we have at least two presidential candidates not only not opposing reform but vocally being for it.

      To everyone here:
      These are some trying yet exciting times for us reformers but many sane voices are starting to be heard loud and clear and I can’t wait to see the Balko’s, Gillespie’s, Sullum’s and of course the Guither’s and Morgan’s (not to belittle any of the outstanding commenters and contributors to each, particularly here at DRW) of the reform community get more and more main stream coverage. Things are going to be very interesting and hopefully very successful for the drug law reform community in the very near future; a tip of my hat to all of you X10!

  3. Peter says:

    One drug war story from the Guardian some years ago focussed on the effects of prohibition on would-be immigrants to the US. A criminal conviction obviously presents problems for immigrants but waivers are available for most types of crime, where the immigrant is a spouse of a US citizen. This means that those convicted of many crimes of violence such as armed bank robbery or sexual assault do qualify for a waiver and can immigrate to the US. The big exception to the rule is anyone convicted of a drug offence, even simple possession, for which no waiver is available and immigration is impossible for life.
    The Guardian story at the time examined several British spouses of US citizens in their 50s and 60s, who had been convicted in the UK in the 1960s for minor drug offences. These had been dealt with by British courts with a small fine at the time, but had subsequently caused great hardship for the families concerned, who were effectively banned from being together by the federal government in pursuit of this vindictive agenda. There is no appeal available through the courts.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      Did that change since John Lennon’s deportation procedure, or did he just “have enough green to cover his black” as George Jefferson liked to say?

      • Peter says:

        John Lennon hired some of the best, and most expensive lawyers in the country and managed to introduce the so-called John Lennon exception. This states that a single charge of possession of under 15 grams of marijuana “for experimental purposes” may qualify the immigrant to a waiver. More than one offence, or possession of even the tiniest quantity of any other drug and the life-long ban is automatic.
        Here are Lennon’s court papers:

  4. Cannabis says:

    Please go back to read PATRIOT Drug War Act – what we’ve been telling you all along and watch former Senator Russ Feingold get a DOJ official to admit that the PATRIOT Act provisions are being used primarily for the drug war. This is one of the reasons that they got rid of the Good Senator.

  5. Duncan20903 says:

    Isn’t it getting to be time for a “Reefer Madness” revival? All over the news, schizophrenia caused by smoking pot, forgetting the baby is in the car and letting it cook to death in the hot Texas sun like a real life is episode of Dragnet, and here’s a guy who went looney with a knife because he was high on mary wanna according to the headline. Of course the man said his cannabis was laced with something, but that’s just sniggling over details. Is Jack Webb still alive?

    “Police: Man Claims Marijuana Made Him Stab Woman”

    “Man Accused Of Cutting His Throat, Stabbing Date Several Times”

    • DdC says:

      ‘After Two Puffs, I Was Turned Into a Bat’

      Anslinger’s assertions were rarely questioned, and his few critics, like the anti-prohibitionist mayor of New York, Frank La Guardia, were subjected to smears and rebuttals.

      Anslinger swept all before him for decades, to the extent that his success began to pose its own problems. Admitting to marijuana use became a popular way of avoiding conscription, and murderers cited the brainwashing powers of “an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality and death” to plead diminished responsibility for their crimes. Their claims were frequently supported by an expert witness, the pharmacologist Dr James Munch, who claimed that “after two puffs on a marijuana cigarette, I was turned into a bat”. Sentences were commuted from death to imprisonment on Munch’s evidence, and Anslinger had to ask him to stop testifying.

    • Peter says:

      ‘After he ducked into the lavatory, passengers wondered aloud if Pearce was “stoned on marijuana,” ‘

      Reefer madness will make you masturbate on an airplane….

    • Paul says:

      Oh, my no. Stabbing your date and cutting her throat isn’t marijuana. That’s ALCOHOL.

  6. DdC says:

    Frankenfeinstein is a Neocon. Tried passing the internet censorship bill with Hatch. If short term memory serves. It was Klintoon and J Edgar Reno who wrote the Patriot Ax and John PTL Ashcroft objecting to it’s intrusion. Then after 911 Boosh initiated it. These are not your Mothers Democrats and Republicans. They are Corporate Neocons with International obligations and no concern for any countries sovereignty. As with the drug war product they sell. Perpetuate is profit. Winning or losing is nothing. Trying to figure it out in the old format is why they get their bought and paid for legislation passed, and its always to advance an agenda that has little to do with working class pot toking Americans. Leahy is presently trying to pass another internet censorship bill and against net neutrality. The Neocon Kratz hate Ron Paul more than the GOPerverts are afraid of him.

    I’d wager Kucinich voted against it. One of the true democrats remaining. Feinstein got her kick into the big leagues after Harvey Milk was assassinated. By the councilman who got off on the twinkie defense. Witnesses said the assassin went from Milk right passed Feinstein and then shot Mayor Moscone. Even smiled at her. Sure cleared the way for her political career. Nothing but Neocon Frisco Nob Hill money. Pitiful state of affairs.

    When I hear teabog dipshits whine about medicaid not being in the Constitution I wonder if they realize those corporations and wealthy Kocheads sponsoring these Fascists Acts aren’t in the Constitution either. Giving citizens power to corporations until we now have “employees” instead of elected officials. Nixon lied about Ganja and they still put people in cages over it. This is just another tool to maintain dysfunction and perpetuate the chaos and profits “treating” it. USA! Qaeda.

    Government isn’t a real entity made with atoms and molecules. It’s merely a human concept. Corporations are human inventions. All human inventions need checks and balances. Especially governments supposedly made up of we, by and for the people. This government is presently made up of corporate workers obeying their bossman. It can’t change on its own or within the confines of the corrupt system. If we don’t demand accountability and truth. We will get what we want to hear until the election, and then won’t hear a thing until the next one.

    It’s not even a secret. Its obvious just in the UnConstitutional actions they take on a daily basis. Anyone on trial for growing pot can attest to the end around the Constitution they endure. No medicinal defense, Mandatory sentences if a jury finds you guilty. Warrantless searches, snoop and secret searches and now sounds can get doors kicked down. Smells and just the cops suspicion that your profile fits that of a law breaker somewhere. Obvious and ridiculous how the masses take sides against each other and blame each other and never notice the puppet strings making them dance. Liberties have been trashed for the profits on synthetics. The drug war is just another hobgoblin to justify it. Same as terrorism or the deficit. All for our protection or for the kids. The ones they lie too and send to the desert to die. It can and is happening here. Wake up kiddies…

    Koch Roaches A.L.E.C. Drug Detention Centers

    Al Capone and Watergate were red herrings to divert the countries attention from the Fascist acts of eliminating competition. Booze/Ethanol or Ganja//Hemp.

  7. Servetus says:

    For all your drug transportation needs under the Patriot Act, there is now the Mexico Drug War narcotank:

  8. vickyvampire says:

    Well Hells Bells Americans Liberties Trashed from Drug War any Dumb-ass could have figured that out long ago so the solution,is to get the greedy hard asses in US government to end it Yeah right didn’t Hillary say there was too much money involved.Actually there are some republicans who hated the patriot act.

  9. vickyvampire says:

    A few more thoughts,I heard Rush say once that the newspapers in Europe actually published more accurately certain truths about our country that our own news outlets either lied about or just ignored.
    Oh and how many innocent innocent victims have had there homes and other property caught up in asset forfeiture cases a casualty of being in vicinity of those who where arrested for drugs and the patriot act I was naive and thought it was going to be used to catch terrorists,well thank God for internet soon became apparent it entrapment for everyone over almost any any reason other than the original intention. This 2 laws have wrecked terrible havic on this good country of ours.

    Oh have you heard someone I think it was Medved on radio said it might come down to Mitt Romney or Tim Palenty on the Republican side for nomination OH the GOP they must be throwing balloons in the air and jumping for joy GAG me.

  10. Duncan20903 says:

    Well the subject is Constitutional rights being trashed, but this one is also appropriately for the “I must be in a coma on life support because there’s no flippin’ way this could happen in reality” file.

    The State of Arizona has filed a Federal lawsuit seeking to overturn its recently enacted medicinal cannabis patient protection law. I could be mistaken but I’m pretty close to 100% sure that this is the same Arizona which has been wailing and gnashing its collective teeth about the Feds trying to overturn their plainly unconstitutional immigration law. What is it about these lady Governors? first Ms. Gregoire, now Ms. Brewer. If anyone wants watching the season finale of the new Hawaii 5-0 television drama may be cathartic as it features the lady Governor of Hawaii getting murdered and Steve McGarret framed and arrested for doing it. Well they had to do something since Linda Lingle termed out and a man was elected Governor of Hawaii.

    If it’s not the same Arizona or if I’m in a persistent vegetative state I do apologize. If anybody wants me, I’ll be outside banging my head against a brick wall. My brain hurts.

    • fixitman says:

      Mrs. Brewer is not the sharpest tool in the shed that’s for sure. However I don’t agree that she is trying to overturn the proposition. It looks to me that she and Horne are trying to cover their own asses. They want a judge to keep Dennis Burke at bay.

      • Duncan20903 says:

        It still sounds to me like they’re saying “Mother may I” in this case, as opposed to saying “Fuck off mom, we’re doing what we want to do” about their immigration law. Should I forget the history of how the xenophobia about the Mexicans got the entire controversy over cannabis started in this country almost 100 years ago? There’s no reason whatever to suppose that the Feds are going to start prosecuting State employees, and I have a hard time accepting the premise that Ms. Brewer cares even a little bit about the private citizens that will be prosecuted by the Feds under the medicinal cannabis patient protection laws.

      • fixitman says:

        After further review, I retract my previous statement. The case law (I’m not a lawyer) seems to be unambiguous. This is more hypocritical money wasting.

  11. Cliff says:

    “I heard Rush say once that the newspapers in Europe actually published more accurately certain truths about our country that our own news outlets either lied about or just ignored.”

    Often people who are having a problem in their life with anything, food, drugs, shopping, etc. won’t seek help until someone they know tells them they have a problem which is affecting their lives, it is called an intervention. I see this as an intervention with the US gov’t as the addict and the drug war as the problem. We need more of this news and debate flooding the internet as it will eventually be too noticeable to be ignored by even the most hard headed, faux news fed, neo-con.

    • Maria says:

      I guess we’ll be seeing even more politicos and US media lament the invasion and corruptible nature of such “foreign media influence.” Which is just so amazingly hypocritical.

      It’s great to see how much we seem to have in common with Iran and Russia when it comes to that type of bull shit.

  12. vickyvampire says:

    Yeah Duncan damn that Governor Brewer Women I was afraid of this the GOP are out for blood they until a few years ago I did not want to believe it but many of them sorry to say are bigots they hate gay folks read Towleroad some of anti-gay legislation by GOP out there lately geez.some of them and will stop any legislation even for medical marijuana even when they damn well know it helps people in intractable chronic pain there’s no excuse for these heartless jerks they think there doing great justice.
    Oh that’s right America women are so compassionate and no some in power are like nurse ratchet I guess my blood pressure is going up but that can’t happen cause I have low blood pressure always damn it. HA HA.

  13. What fraternity or other such organization of order do people as Arizona Governor Brewer and her AZ belong?

    Obviously it is not the general public where these such people’s LOYALties are.

  14. The Hell of it is, it ain’t even a war on drugs, just a war on who gets all the money for the drugs.

  15. palemalemarcher says:

    It has been said that under the Clinton presidency more prosecutions have occured than under Bush 1 and Reagan. So it would be naive to write that affairs would be different in lieu of the so-called patriot act. All I know is that the CEOs of payday loans don’t have to undergo ‘jar wars’ for their huge bonuses.

  16. kaptinemo says:

    Regarding the second article about slamming supposed ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ for abandoning principles, WRT the DrugWar, I’ve been doing that for years on various blogs attributed as being ‘liberal’. The reactions have been, for want of a better word, enlightening as to the lack of depth of thought given by the denizens of such blogs to the issue. The result has been anything but hope-inspiring.

    The usual reactions (other than what I can only surmise is shamefaced silence) have been condescending, smirking suggestions that I was naive to think that the destruction of civil liberties under the rubric of the DrugWar led to the very situation that many of them bemoan. They believe that such diminutions of liberty didn’t happen until the previous Administration came into power. Those ‘progressives’ think that 9/11 was the starting gun for that deterioration, and that there was no evisceration of civil liberties until Bush Too (not a typo) stole the White House with the Supreme Court’s help. In other words, the reaction amounts to (pat pat on the head) sit down and be quiet, druggie, and let the big people do big people talk.

    The other reaction I’ve received was what amounted to a whiny defense that such issues must wait on the back burner while the latest scandal du jour and improprieties of our legislators are dealt with before any substantive action on those diminished rights and liberties can be addressed. We must all (blindly and uncritically) support ‘our’ (supposed) ‘progressives’ against the forces of ‘conservatism’; after ‘we’ win, then we can deal with issues like the DrugWar.

    IMNHO, this isn’t just ‘fiddling while Rome burns’, it’s more like masturbating while the whole country is immolated. And those who’ve called attention to both the origins of the fire and its’ increasingly expanding destructiveness are treated in exactly the way Pete put it long ago:

    “Some days it feels like I’m watching a house on fire. And one idiot wants to put it out with a machine gun. The other one wants to use grenades. And I’m standing there with a bucket of water and they look at me like I’m crazy.”

  17. darkcycle says:

    The selective lens of partisan politics must not be discounted. Easier to believe that your side is not at fault. Same thing goes on at ‘conservative’ blogs. The problem arises though because we are both too busy bemoaning the loss of liberties and simultaeneously pointing fingers to take any action.

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