The drug war is abuse of the rule of law

August 6, 2013
By

It’s good to see the DEA/NSA story getting some traction. It’ll help some more people wake up to the systemic abuse of the law that is going on regularly in the name of the drug war.

The notion of “parallel construction” is completely foreign to the core principles of our justice system. And yet, the notion is so natural to those in the drug war that the DEA officials who provided info for the Reuters story seemed oblivious to the magnitude of thier admissions.

The ACLU comments:

“The DEA is violating our fundamental right to a fair trial,” said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “When someone is accused of a crime, the Constitution guarantees the right to examine the government’s evidence, including its sources, and confront the witnesses against them. Our due process rights are at risk when our federal government hides and distorts the sources of evidence used as the basis for arrests and prosecutions.”

“When law enforcement agents and prosecutors conceal the role of intelligence surveillance in criminal investigations, they violate the constitutional rights of the accused and insulate controversial intelligence programs from judicial review,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “Effectively, these intelligence programs are placed beyond the reach of the Constitution, where they develop and expand without any court ever weighing in on their lawfulness. This is inappropriate, dangerous, and contrary to the rule of law.”

Of course, we also don’t know how often this use of intelligence information simply ended up as a cash grab for law enforcement without it even reaching the arrest stage.

In a nice moment of coincidence, the New Yorker published an extensive article about the abuse of civil asset forfeiture: Taken. The whole article is worth reading, even though it’s pretty much the same material that Radley Balko has covered already. It’ll hopefully get more people upset, about the abuse of our judicial system.

Ilya Somin comments on forfeiture:

Ultimately, however, the best solution is to abolish civil asset forfeiture completely. If a person is convicted of a crime, he or she can be duly punished, including in some cases with financial penalties. Stolen or illegally acquired property can then be returned to its rightful owners. But there is no good reason for the authorities to be able to seize property merely because they suspect it might have been used in some illegal transaction. Moreover, once such a system is established, it turns out to be very difficult to prevent it from becoming highly abusive. As a practical matter, most of the people victimized by asset forfeiture abuse are poor, lacking in political influence, and unable to bear the expense of prolonged litigation. For these reasons, there is little political pressure to prevent the sorts of abuses documented in Stillman’s article and elsewhere. And there is similarly little incentive for higher officials to monitor police and prosecutors’ use of asset forfeiture to curb this kind of behavior. A categorical ban on civil asset forfeiture would be easier to administer than piecemeal reforms, and therefore more likely to succeed.

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Pete Guither is the editor of drugwarrant.com

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