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Former DEA ‘Propagandist’ Now Says Marijuana is Safe

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Alice Salles Comments are off

Former DEA ‘Propagandist’ Now Says Marijuana is Safe

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Marijuana is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s “cash cow,” the former spokeswoman for the agency told the audience during a recent Marijuana for Medical Professionals Conference in Colorado.

Marijuana

“Marijuana is safe, we know it is safe. [But] it’s our cash cow and we will never give up,” she added.

According to Belita Nelson, she was hired by the agency in 1998 to become their “chief propagandist,” despite the fact reporters were unable to find professional links between her and the agency online. Nevertheless, Nelson was listed as the founder of a drug-awareness nonprofit in the 1990s, and was seen on TV regularly talking about the dangers of cannabis. Now, she advocates for the plant’s medical benefits.

While allegedly working for the DEA, Nelson claims, she learned a friend had developed cancer. To help him fight the consequences of chemotherapy, she reached out to her teenage son, asking him if he had access to marijuana.

Passing the substance on to her friend, both noticed that, over time, adding weed to his treatment worked. Instead of ignoring the evidence before her, the former drug warrior turned into an acolyte. In 2004, Nelson resigned from the agency due to a dispute involving the heroin epidemic. The agency had been investigating reports showing that addicts had an easier time getting off the opioids by using marijuana. But according to Nelson, the agency preferred to maintain its official line than to cave in after looking at the evidence that weed is safe.

Regardless of the agency’s lack of attention to the evidence at hand, the U.S. government holds a patent on cannabis, which was granted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But while this patent claims cannabis can protect the brain from damage tied to certain diseases, it has no bearing on drug-related laws. Instead of waiting on the federal government to reschedule cannabis, many pro-legalization advocates are using nullification methods to pass pro-marijuana bills in their states, putting an end to federal prohibition locally. This method could end up being much more effective than petitioning the federal government for a change.

But until all states have been successful in this effort, it’s hard to know whether the end to the drug war is nigh.

Over the decades, the arbitrary use of legislation to criminalize behavior has been responsible for great damage, especially in Black and Latino communities. If we’re serious about liberty, we’re also serious about putting an end to such rules. Allowing people to make their own decisions freely so they may live with the consequences of their actions on their own.

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Two years ago, Microsoft refused to comply with a warrant concerning information hosted in Ireland, and the case was brought to court where justices ruled against the tech giant. Recently, however, the 2nd Circuit appeals court ruled in favor of Microsoft, claiming that the US government warrants do not apply to data stored outside of the country.

DOJDespite the ruling, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now proposing a piece of legislation that would affect Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs), allowing the US government to force companies like Microsoft to unlock a server abroad.

According to the proposed legislation documents, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik claims that the ideas proposed by the DOJ would help the US government investigate foreigners suspected of being involved in terrorism, urging Vice President Joe Biden to consider having Congress look at the DOJ’s solution.

In a post crafted by a former DOJ lawyer, the proposed legislation would allow the US government to have access to communication from non-US citizens who are located in foreign countries. Pieces of communication subject to the proposed rules would only be available for what the DOJ calls “criminal investigations,” which legalists claim to be helpful, since this restriction could help prevent current MLATs from being used with the purpose of gathering intelligence. Despite the carefully crafted piece of legislation, concessions aren’t enough to cover up for the DOJ’s goals to expand the agency’s reach.

According to Tech Dirt, the DOJ is using this proposed legislation to target laws and statutes that the agency has been abusing for years. Is the DOJ trying to make its work easier?

Take the Wiretap Act for instance, a law that has been rendered toothless ever since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used a single state judge in California to build a massive wiretapping operation in the Los Angeles suburbs. If the DOJ’s proposed rules are considered and signed into law, remaining restrictions imposed by the Wiretap Act would be lifted for good, making incidents like the one that took place in California more common across the country.

But that’s not all, restrictions imposed by the Stored Communications Act, which was used by the DOJ in its fight against Microsoft, as well as the criminal Pen Register statute would also be lifted under the proposed rules, Tech Dirt reports.

If the DOJ is lucky and Congress goes along with its plan, the dubious wording in the proposed rules would give officials authority to carry searches related to the “prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of serious crime, including terrorism.” Targets of investigations would have to be in countries that have executive agreements with the United States.

According to Tech Dirt, the proposal may superficially seem to cater to privacy advocates, but “The self-written loopholes allow for plenty of ‘search first, ask permission later’ action.” If Tech Dit’s assessment is correct, the proposal rules’ dubious wording could further entrap US citizens, helping the authorities to destroy even more of our liberties in the name of security, while targeting foreign servers in the meantime.

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Ever since the state of Colorado decided to set an example to the nation by practically nullifying the federal ban on the commerce of marijuana, legislators in many other states also acted on the marijuana ban locally. But as more and more lawmakers embrace a more humane approach to marijuana laws, and several states show signs that the times are changing, it’s even more interesting to see that members of the law enforcement community are also giving in to the “trend.”

PoliceWith the help of organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), two groups working alongside free marketers, marijuana researchers, freedom advocates, and Tenth Amendment champions, a greater number of states now have policies that lessen the consequences of the nationwide drug war, granting marijuana users and sellers the guarantee that their transactions won’t be targeted by law enforcement under certain circumstances.

According to PennLive.com, Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter has shown signs that he supports some pro-marijuana advocates in Pennsylvania by urging local policymakers to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. While Carter believes young people should avoid marijuana, he also believes that individuals caught using marijuana should not go to jail. Instead, Carter wants to treat the offense as a traffic ticket.

“We can turn our heads and deny we have a marijuana problem among our youth or we can proactively take action,” Carter told reporters. Instead of putting these kids in jail and ruining their lives, “I want to give kids a chance, an opportunity to make something better of their lives.”

The comment may have shocked many who were expecting to hear a tough on crime approach to what Carter calls a “marijuana problem,” only to be pleasantly surprised.

Last Tuesday, Carter appeared with other Harrisburg officials at a news conference to discuss the city’s efforts to lower the number of marijuana possession charges. This meeting follows the introduction of a proposal sponsored by Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who hopes to reduce the level of crime for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana to a summary offense. As it stands, possession is handled as a misdemeanor locally.

But to critics of Papenfuse’s proposal, the new policy would force poor residents to pay steep fines. Currently, residents in the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburg pay a $25 fine for a first marijuana possession offense. But in Harrisburg, residents caught with pot would have to pay $100 for their first offense if the proposal becomes an ordinance.

Regardless of whether the proposal becomes an ordinance, the fact the law enforcement community in various areas across the country are joining anti-drug war advocates is important, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Apple Wins Court Battle Against FBI, and the Immorality of the Surveillance State is Exposed

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

 Apple Wins Court Battle Against FBI, and the Immorality of the Surveillance State is Exposed

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

As privacy advocates urge the federal government to stop pressuring Apple to create a backdoor to its iPhone, a move that would essentially undermine the company’s own encryption software, the company has just won big in a federal court.

iPhoneAccording to The Intercept, the ongoing battle between the tech company and the surveillance state could turn out bitter for the federal agency since a New York federal magistrate judge has just rejected one of the US government’s requests.

The criminal case involves an iPhone whose encrypted system has put its data out of the reach of the FBI. Apple was asked to aid investigators, but Magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled against the government’s request.

The iPhone in question belongs to Jun Feng. Back in October, he pleaded guilty to drug charges. While the Drug Enforcement Administration seized Feng’s phone, it claimed it was unable to access its data. As both the DEA and the FBI tried to break the code, they also claimed they were unable to overcome Apple’s security measures.

As a result, a motion was filed, and the company was ordered to assist the investigation “under the authority of the All Writs Act,” a piece of legislation that is also being used by the FBI to force Apple to help investigators with the phone belonging to the San Bernardino killers.

Apple rejected the request on both cases. According to The Intercept, the government has requested the company to aid investigators in at least nine other occasions.

Using previous decisions pertaining to the interpretation of the All Writs Act, Judge Orenstein concluded that “imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will” was not justified by the law. The question raised by the government’s requests, Judge Orenstein added, is whether the All Writs Act gives a court the power to compel Apple to perform work that goes against its will. Apple, the private party in the matter, has no alleged involvement with the criminal activity involving Feng, therefore the federal government has no legal means to compel Apple to create a backdoor to its product.

To Glenn Greenwald, the privacy advocate and journalist involved with the dissemination of information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Orenstein’s ruling clarifies that the purpose of the request put forth by the FBI is not directly tied to the data evidence. Instead, Greenwald argues, FBI wants to broaden its authority, giving the federal government precedential authority to force other tech companies to undermine their own security systems in future investigations.

To privacy—and liberty—advocates, Apple’s decision makes sense.

In an article for the Foundation for Economic Education, Andrea Castillo explains that Apple has decided to put its consumers first. A move that goes against the attitude embraced by many corporations that “serve as quiet collaborators for the surveillance state to avoid retribution from the government.”

To Dr. Ron Paul, the former congressman and founder of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, the United States is not East Germany. Complying with the FBI’s order would represent a major threat to liberty.

If Greenwald is right, the recent court ruling could help privacy advocates in their fight against the federal government’s overreach. But is the over reliance on the courts the best move?

Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) have both claimed that the FBI’s request is unconstitutional. The recent court ruling may confirm the fact the FBI wanted more than a simple aid in their investigations, but the fact the requests were unconstitutional—and immoral—should be enough to give anyone enough reasons to say no to the surveillance state.

Government Recording Your Driving Habits, Tracking Your Phone Calls, and Looking Through the Walls of Your House

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The federal government is gathering information about your driving habits — when, where and why you drive. Government Recording Your Driving Habits, Tracking Your Phone Calls, and Looking Through the Walls of Your House

That’s the latest in a seemingly endless flood of revelations about secret, sinister, invasive government spy programs conducted against innocent American citizens, often without court approval, suspicion, or oversight.

Reports the Wall Street Journal, in an article by Devlin Barrett entitled “Justice Department Spying on ‘Millions of Drivers’”:

“The Justice Department has been building a national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S., a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists, according to current and former officials and government documents.

“The primary goal of the license-plate tracking program, run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is to seize cars, cash and other assets to combat drug trafficking, according to one government document. But the database’s use has expanded to hunt for vehicles associated with numerous other potential crimes, from kidnappings to killings to rape suspects, say people familiar with the matter. …

“What hasn’t been previously disclosed is that the DEA has spent years working to expand the database ‘throughout the United States,’ according to one email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. …

“The database raises new questions about privacy and the scope of government surveillance. … It is unclear if any court oversees or approves the intelligence-gathering.

“The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities, according to DEA documents and people familiar with the program.

“The documents show that the DEA also uses license-plate readers operated by state, local and federal law-enforcement agencies to feed into its own network and create a far-reaching, constantly updating database of electronic eyes scanning traffic on the roads to steer police toward suspects. …

The DEA database, named EPIC, “allows any police agency that participates to quickly search records of many states for information about a vehicle. One May 2010 redacted email says: ‘Anyone can request information from our [license-plate reader] program, federal, state, or local, just need to be a vetted EPIC user.…’”

The Wall Street Journal notes that is just the latest in a stream of such revelations.

In November 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Marshals Service planes carried devices that mimicked cellphone towers, enabling them to scan the identifying information of Americans’ phones.

Earlier this month the DEA revealed that for nearly 15 years it had created and operated a secret law enforcement database that collected virtually all data relating to Americans’ outbound overseas telephone calls, without judicial oversight, which was sifted to search for possible drug law violators. Astoundingly, according to Reuters, federal agents were trained to conceal the role of the database when presenting cases to defense lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.

And on January 15, USA TODAY wrote: “At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance. Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used.”

Renowned libertarian Judge Andrew P. Napolitano says of this crisis:

“None of these flagrant violations of privacy, dignity and basic American constitutional values was enacted by a majority vote of any representative body of lawmakers — and yet none has been stopped by those lawmakers. That’s because we have a deep state system in American government, whereby certain law enforcement, military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel can do as they wish, no matter which party controls the legislative and executive branches and in hair-splitting defiance of the courts. … Who will keep us safe from the government? Who will keep our personal liberties safe? What representative government splits hairs in order to defy the Constitution, rather than complying with its oath to protect it?”