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ACLU: Why the War on Drugs Is So Bad For Privacy

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online Archives, Victimless Crime by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The War on Drugs is a War on US!Earlier this month Jay Stanley, ACLU Senior Policy Analyst, neatly summarized why the War on Drugs is so very destructive of privacy rights. It’s a powerful argument, and very useful to bring those on the left to join libertarians in opposing the Drug War and other victimless crime laws:

“It’s important to remember a key point about why the Drug War has been so corrosive of privacy: drug use is a victimless crime.

“Why does that make it so bad for privacy? Think about it: with an ordinary crime, you have a victim who goes running to the police to tell them about the wrongdoing that has taken place. They have been assaulted, or stolen from, or otherwise wronged, and are hopping mad, and look to the police for justice. If the crime is murder, then the victim’s loved ones will do the same. While police might engage in a certain amount of patrolling, for the most part reports of crime come to them.

“But when there’s no victim, how are the police supposed to find out when the law has been broken? The only way for police to fight victimless crime is to proactively search out wrongdoing: insert themselves into people’s lives, monitor their behavior, search their cars, etc.

“The enforcement of drug laws thus relies disproportionately on surveillance, eavesdropping, and searches of private places and effects.

“This (and misguided judges) is the reason that the failed War on Drugs has generated so much bad law around privacy and the Fourth Amendment in particular.

“It’s a simple point, and I’m hardly the first to make it, but it’s well worth keeping in mind, and it’s one reason that the ACLU generally opposes victimless crimes.”

Surveillance, Safety… and Rabbit Hunting

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For the past year or so liberty-loving Americans have been appalled by the revelations of Rabbit HuntingEdward Snowden and others about the secret and unconstitutional spying programs the federal government is engaged in.

Ironically, we’ve also learned that the programs have been spectacularly ineffective. As the federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said earlier this year:

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

And that reminds me of a story…

Federal Rabbit Hunting

The NSA, the CIA and the FBI were fighting among themselves, each arguing that they were the best and most qualified at apprehending terrorists.

Finally the president decided to settle the argument with a simple test. He would release a rabbit into a forest, and give each agency a chance to find and capture it.

The NSA went first. They placed cameras throughout the forest. They eavesdropped on every animal, plant and mineral. NSA drones circled the forest, filming every leaf on every tree. After three months of extensive investigations the NSA concluded that there was no rabbit in the forest at all. But they warned the president that 300 other kinds of animals and insects were behaving strangely and the whole forest needed round-the-clock surveillance.

Then the CIA went in. They captured numerous innocent animals and questioned them harshly, but got no information. After two weeks with no leads they burned the forest to the ground, killing everything in it. “The rabbit had it coming,” one agent said. (Later, the NSA sent the president a classified tape showing the rabbit hopping away from the forest just before it was destroyed.)

Finally the FBI had their chance. They went into another forest chosen by the president. Just two hours later they proudly emerged — holding a ruffled, badly frightened raccoon. The raccoon shouted: “Okay! Okay! I’m a rabbit! I’m a rabbit!”

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Tired of the surveillance state? See this issue’s Intellectual Ammunition column to learn about “Reset The Net,” a worldwide effort to preserve free speech and liberty on the Internet by taking simple steps to shut off the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. You’re invited to take part.