War On Drugs Targets Tech

War On Drugs Targets Tech
Posted by FoM on February 02, 2001 at 11:56:35 PT
By Lewis Z. Koch, Special To Interactive Week
Source: ZDNN
The new scapegoat for the failed War on Drugs is, of all things, technology. The 120-page December 2000 International Crime Threat Assessment report - created by basically every federal law enforcement agency in the U.S. - is riddled with examples of how computer technology has advanced the cause of national and international crime. Modern telecommunications and information systems, state-of-the-art communications equipment, computers - they're all to blame. 
What the report fails to squarely acknowledge is that the oil that fuels organized crime in the U.S. and abroad, including terrorist organizations, is profit from the trade in illegal drugs bound for the U.S. - billions of dollars in profit from drug sales that enhance the power of international crime cartels and their ability to corrupt police, judges and governmental officials from Tijuana to Tanzania. "Through the use of computers, international criminals have an unprecedented capability to obtain, process and protect information and sidestep law enforcement investigations," the report stated. "They can use the interactive capabilities of advanced computers and telecommunications systems to plot marketing strategies for drugs and other illicit commodities, to find the most efficient routes and methods for smuggling and moving money in the financial system and to create false trails for law enforcement or banking security." It goes on to assert: "More threateningly, some criminal organizations appear to be adept at using technology for counterintelligence purposes and for tracking law enforcement activities." In other words, it's not our flawed drug policy that's to blame - it's new technology. Where All This Began: In 1937, Harry J. Anslinger, six years into his 30-year-reign as director at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, testified before the U.S. Senate on behalf of the "Marihuana Tax Act." This delighted the Hearst newspapers, which, lacking a real war to increase newspaper sales, launched an all-out battle against demon marijuana. Here are a few excerpts from Anslinger's sworn testimony. Clearly, our drug policy traces its roots to reasoning that was as racist and alarmist as it was wildly inaccurate: "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana can cause white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others." "The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races." "Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality and death." "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind." With Hearst's backing, Anslinger's war on marijuana escalated to an all-out war on narcotics. Now, after six and a half decades of speeches and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of arrests, convictions and sentences, what signs point to even modest success in this multitrillion-dollar war against drugs? Drug trafficking is the most profitable of all illegal activities, according to the International Crime Threat Assessment. Where Do We Go from Here? Instead of rethinking the sanity of our basic policy on drugs, federal police agencies appear bent on blaming technology - unbreakable encryption via e-mail, encrypted cellular phones and faster, cheaper networked computers - for the losses sustained in the drug war. This is clearly nonsense. In 1999 alone, Americans spent an estimated $63 billion on illegal drugs, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. And the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated: "The estimated total cost of drug abuse in the United States - including health care and lost productivity - was $110 billion in 1995, the latest year for which data is available." In addition, a U.S. Customs Service report said the department will soon be able to inspect only 1 percent of all goods entering the U.S. This is the score after six and a half decades of our drug policy. Do we have to wait until 2037 to recognize that we lost the Hundred Years' Drug War? And, in the meantime, will we see more and more attacks on technology as the evil ally of narcotics? The obvious yet politically difficult solution here is to remove the profitability factor from drugs. Will there be more casualties? Will more people succumb to addiction? Maybe. But don't we already have casualties? You have to employ some tortured logic to rationalize how removing the profit incentive from drug use could make things any worse than they are. Now the Feds want to escalate the war as an excuse for having their way with encryption. But encryption is an essential business tool and a means of protecting our privacy. Outlawing it as a scapegoat of our drug policy is like trembling in fear before the great Wizard of Oz and paying no attention to the discredited man and his policies behind the curtain. Introducing Lewis Koch's "First Annual George Orwell 1984 Award" The prize, a 1949 first-edition copy of Orwell's 1984, worth about $100, will be awarded to the reader who supplies the best tip about an egregious assault on personal privacy. The judges will be yours truly, plus Richard M. Smith and other officers of the Privacy Foundation. E-mail all suggestions to: lzkoch All tips will be held in strictest confidence, so the award might well go to "anonymous." All suggestions will be fully investigated and thoroughly checked. Source: ZDNNAuthor: Lewis Z. Koch, Special To Interactive WeekPublished: February 1, 2001Copyright: 2001 ZD Inc. Website:
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Comment #10 posted by Stripey on February 03, 2001 at 10:36:46 PT
Uhm. . . oops.
I meant "sin tax, similar to the one on Tobacco."
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Comment #9 posted by Stripey on February 03, 2001 at 10:35:32 PT
Something just occured to me. . .
Okay, they said Americans spend $63 billion on illegal drugs in one year alone. Okay, say that there's full legalization for adults, okay, so the price drops by 75%. That makes that figure $15.8 billion. Now, say that the Government opposes a sin tax, similar to the one on alcohol. Even if it's as little as 15%, that leaves Uncle Sam $2.4 billion. Hell, the government could fund the treatment plans (according to the adjusted DEA numbers) on the tax money alone! That doesn't even account for the moneys freed up from ending the drug war. . . hell, they could make sure that all the kids are (honestly and correctly) educated and all the addicts are getting treatment. Also, We'd need fewer cops. More government money free. . .we'd need fewer prisons. More government money free . . .we'd have fewer trials. More government money free. . .I can't believe that the government actually thinks they've got anything to gain by this war. It's a disaster, monitarily speaking. . .
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Comment #8 posted by freedom fighter on February 03, 2001 at 00:47:35 PT
Can you hear the electronic laughter?? :)))
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Comment #7 posted by NIftySplifty on February 02, 2001 at 20:55:42 PT
Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act.
Weren't certain parts of the MAPA basically to try to eliminate/punish with 10 year sentences the dissemination of information on sites like this, our beloved Cannabis News? If you tell someone that herb will help their nausea you'll get spanked by Johnny Law with a big paddle.I really think the community (Legalizers) as a whole has made a huge difference via the internet (dang-technology!)...otherwise, the Antis wouldn't have tried to pass laws making speech illegal. What was once a snowflake is as big as a snowman's ass...and it's headed downhill.Nifty...
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Comment #6 posted by Dan B on February 02, 2001 at 20:12:53 PT:
This is a great article.
I appreciate Lewis Z. Koch's accurate historical depiction of the drug war's origins, and I applaud the way this entire subject of blaming technology has been handled by him. Normally I would recommend sending this to all of the politicians out there. But I think there is a better use for this article: it should be sent to the CEO of every technology-oriented company/corporation in the western hemisphere--nay, in the world. Getting the big money technology industry on our side may well be the final step we will need to dismantle this insane, destructive so-called war on drugs once and for all. The antis may have just given us a whole passle of wealthy allies. I imagine that a lot of them are already reading / have already read the December 2000 International Crime Threat Assessment, and many are surely planning a strategy to keep the millions--nay, billions--they have earned over the past decade or so. Many can't afford to have their technologies rendered obsolete by laws enacted against them, and I am willing to bet that many will "suddenly realize" the futility of the war on some drugs . . . to save their businesses and the money those businesses have earned them.We'll have to wait and see.Dan B
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Comment #5 posted by Ethan on February 02, 2001 at 13:43:10 PT:
Time to Decide
This whole government argument is anti-intellectual in the extreme. If something is hidden from view, it must necessarily be insidious and subversive. How paternalistic government has become! Americans must assert their independence and insist on their freedoms before they pass as water through our hands.
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Comment #4 posted by meagain on February 02, 2001 at 13:27:01 PT
go figure
I don't get it the gov wants to send a cuban child back to cuba people riot in the streets ..... they take their friends and lock em up in jail over marijuana and they bend over an take it up the tailpipe....that is pathetic.No wonder people in other countries hate us and burn our flag.
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Comment #3 posted by observer on February 02, 2001 at 12:45:00 PT
Squealing for Internet Censorship
I find it ironic that I'm reading this on Cannabis News Dot Com. Is this the kind of evil technology that the drug warriors are railing against?I believe so. We hear calls for banning sites like this one often. The prohibitionists (in order to "save the children") are seriously lusting to censor us, to shut down sites like this one. Any dissent, objection or suggestion that drug laws should be changed is automatically spun by the Carrie Nation brigade into, "promot[ing] the use of illicit and addictive substances"Jan 28 --Society needs to view drug use as offensive, destructive and disguising behavior; to apply meaningful consequences to users, since most users coerce others into joining in this folly; and especially apply significant, unpleasant consequences to those who promote the use of illicit and addictive substances.War On Illegal Drugs Should Be Escalated, Sandra Bennett This is in the time-honoured tradition of denouncing anyone who merely disagrees with you as "evil", "harmful", "a doper", a "pothead", etc. And we all know that (to Save te Children) "potheads" don't deserve to be allowed to poison the minds of Our Children with pro-drug propaganda (i.e., anyone who disagrees with the current [drug] laws should be censored. All for the Children.)``8. Anyone questioning any of the above assumptions is bitterly attacked and characterized as part of the problem that needs to be eliminated.'' . . .``A reading of any number of works which trace the development and evolution of our narcotics policy, all demonstrate the personal hazards in challenging those policies. To attack or challenge existing policies has opened one up for charges ranging from a lack of patriotism to charges that the critic is himself part of the international drug conspiracy. [or more crudely, the Nalepka technique of calling all question drug laws, "potheads"] To most persons, confronting the issues surrounding the inadequacies of existing drug policy is simply not worth the challenges to their own personal integrity.''Themes in Chemical Prohibition, NIDA, 1979 
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Comment #2 posted by Kevin Hebert on February 02, 2001 at 12:28:24 PT:
When is this going to ever end?
The drug warriors will say or do anything to keep the drug war alive. They certainly have no problem blaming their failure to keep drugs out of the country on technology. Never mind that these same technologies have fueled explosive growth in the US economy -- if the "drug dealers" use it, it must be bad. The failure of the drug warriors to realize that the billions of dollars and millions of prison cells thrown at "drug dealers" only exacerbate the problem is astonishing. Drug warriors, however, have a vested interest in keeping the drug wat going for as long as possible, no matter what the cost -- they don't want to lose their jobs. So, in the end, we all suffer tremendous setbacks in personal liberty and freedom -- and now, most likely, in the technology we can use -- all to prop up a bloated, ineffective conglomerate of ostriches with their head in the sand. The drug war does not work. The only reason why it continues to be fought is the massive propaganda and lies fed to the public in the name of public safety. If public safety entails hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens thrown into jail, innocents murdered during drug "busts", and billions of tax dollars wasted, then I would hate to see what our lives would be like if we were "unsafe." Prohibition does not work. It didn't work in the 1920's, and it certainly isn't working now. Rather than throw away more money and lives on this clearly failed policy, the time has come to examine legalization and regulation of currently illegal drugs, with the goal being to minimize harm caused by drugs, instead of maximizing the number of prisoners in our overcrowded jails.
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Comment #1 posted by J.R. Bob Dobbs on February 02, 2001 at 12:18:59 PT
Feds Admit Unabomber May Have A Point
  I find it ironic that I'm reading this on Cannabis News Dot Com. Is this the kind of evil technology that the drug warriors are railing against? They don't mention it, but I think the biggest effect technology is having on the WOD is the fact that everyone connected to the net has access to sites that speak the TRUTH and they can't control it. Plus, it allows repressed cultures (like ours [puff]) to form a sense of community.  Now if only someone could figure out a way to download the weed itself...
Pot TV - another dangerous technology!
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