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Tag: Drug War

Al Jazeera: Obama Should Commute Stiff Sentences of Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Pres. Obama at state of the union/white house photo

By Daniel Denzir
Al Jazeera

Last month Don McIntosh, a journalist and friend of mine in Portland, Ore., posted on Facebook that his half brother Daniel McIntosh had just been sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for selling 954 kilograms of marijuana and money laundering as part of a 16-member pot-selling ring. “Our nation’s drug and mandatory minimum sentencing laws are monstrously unjust,” he wrote. “His mom, his wife and three kids are also punished by this prison sentence.”

It could have been worse. Had federal prosecutors prevailed in convicting Daniel McIntosh of distributing more than 1,000 kilograms, his previous drug convictions would have triggered a sentence of mandatory life without parole. Facing the judge before sentencing, McIntosh reflected on what such a long term would mean. “When you love your children as much as I love mine, sir,” he said, “two days away from them … 10 years, 20 years … I don’t know how my mind can even comprehend that.”

The drug war is in its fifth decade and on its eighth president, yet what befell McIntosh for trafficking a drug that many Americans consider less harmful than alcohol still defies comprehension.

The root of extreme sentencing is legislative: Eighty-three percent of those serving life without parole for a nonviolent offense as of 2012 received a mandatory minimum sentence prescribed by law. Judges protest the harsh sentences even as they hand them down.

To read more click here.

Former DEA Agent: Legalize Drugs

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former federal investigator called for the legalization of drugs during a Libertarian Party of Texas convention over the weekend, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Saying the war on drugs has spread needless violence and wasted billions of tax dollars, Sean Dunagan, who worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration, also told the audience that money would be better spent on prevention and treatment programs.

“There is a huge collateral impact by the drug war,”  said Dunagan a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a Massachusetts-based group of law enforcement authorities who support the legalization of drugs, the paper reported. “We spend at the federal level about $26 billion a year fighting this war, and we really have nothing to show for it. Ten years ago, 8.3 percent of the population reported using illegal drugs. Today it’s 8.9 percent.”

While Dunagan said he does not advocate drug use, he believes the ban on drugs violates civil liberties, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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DEA Money Laundering Began Under Reagan, Justice Says

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The DEA sting operation involving the laundering of money to drug cartels that has angered some Republican congressmen actually dates back to the Reagan administration, according to the Justice Department.

Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich sent a letter to Rep. Darrel Issa–the Republic congressman leading the charges against the Justice Department–which said Congress gave the DEA the authority to conduct such operations in 1984, reports a blog from the Houston Chronicle. During Reagan’s time in office DEA investigations laundered as much as $100 million, gaining access to top levels of drug cartel leadership, according to Weich.

Congress gave the Drug Enforcement Administration the authority to conduct such sting runs as far back as 1984, Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich told Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in a letter, obtained by Texas on the Potomac. In investigations during the Ronald Reagan administration, some in which agents laundered over $100 million, they gained access to the top levels of drug-cartel leadership, Weich wrote.

To read more click here.

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How Far Does Free Speech Go For Agents of Law Enforcement?

istock photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

It is a fundamentally American right to criticize one’s government, to speak out against wrongful policies–a patriotic act, some would say. But how much dissent is possible if one’s job is to enforce existing laws, whether one agrees with them or not? Legislative change is reserved for political channels, after all–not law enforcement.

A Border Patrol agent found out just how far that dissent can–or, rather, can’t–go, reports the New York Times.

Bryan Gonzalez, a retired police officer and ex-Marine, pulled his vehicle alongside another agent during a lull at their Deming, N.M. border station, and began venting about some of the job’s frustrations, the Times reported.

Gonzalez acknowledged remarking to the other agent that if marijuana were legal drug violence in Mexico would cease, then referenced the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which advocates for an end to the war on drugs.

That and remarks sympathetic to illegal immigrants were passed on along the chain all the way to Border Patrol headquarters in Washington, according to the Times, where the decision was made to let Gonzalez go. Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and espirit de corps,” his termination letter read.

“More and more members of the law enforcement community are speaking out against failed drug policies, and they don’t give up their right to share their insight and engage in this important debate simply because they receive government paychecks,” Daniel Pochoda, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, told the Times. Pochoda is handling the case of Joe Miller, an Arizona probation officer who was fired after adding his name to a letter from LEAP.

Miller was one of a handful of federally employed signers of the letters; the rest were mostly retired law enforcement officials who were free from the boss’s reactions. LEAP began with “five disillusioned officers” in 2002, reports the Times, and has grown to include “145 judges, prosecutors, police officers, prison guards and other law enforcement officials, most of them retired,” who can speak free of reprimands, according to the Times.

“I don’t want to work at a place that says I can’t think,” said Mr. Gonzalez. He has since worked as a bouncer, a construction worker and a yard worker, and has considered going back to school and studying law. He filed suit in a Texas federal court in January. Defending the Border Patrol, the Justice Department has sought to have the case thrown out.

“We all know the drug war is a bad joke,” an anonymous veteran Texas police told the Times over the phone. “But we also know that you’ll never get promoted if you’re seen as soft on drugs.”

To read more click here.

 

 

Fast and Furious Redux? DEA Launders Drug Money to Get to Mexican Cartels

Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Shades of Operation Fast and Furious?

DEA agents have laundered or smuggled–or, “let walk”–millions of dollars in drug proceeds in an effort to trace the money to the end recipients, reports the New York Times. The DEA sought to understand how cartels moved their money, where assets were kept and, ultimately, who the leaders were. Money was put into trafficker accounts or shell accounts set up by agents, according to the Times.

The DEA said the operations began in Mexico only within the past few years, but similar operations have been used internationally before. The controversial tactic lets cartels continue their activities while the investigation is ongoing, and raises serious some questions about the agency’s effectiveness, diplomacy and Mexican sovereignty and the distinction between surveilling and facilitating crime, the Times reported.

Former DEA officials reject any comparison between the laundering operation and the  gun-walking program Fast and Furious, saying that money poses far less a threat to public safety and can lead more directly to the top ranks of cartels, the Times reports.

To read more click here.

One More Tunnel Found on US-Mexico Border in Growing Trend

Border fence along Juarez-El Paso border/istock photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The latest in a series of secret passages used to smuggle drugs from Mexico to the US was found on Tuesday, linking warehouses in San Diego and Tijuana, reports the Associated Press.

“It is clearly the most sophisticated tunnel we have ever found,” Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego, said, according to AP.

The Tijuana warehouse, next to a packaging company and a tortilla distributor, sits on the same block as a federal police office.

Less than two weeks ago US authorities seized 17 tons of marijuana when they discovered a 400-yard passage linking the two towns, according to the AP. The passage had lighting and ventilation.

Tunnels have emerged as U.S. authorities increased on-land enforcement. More tunnels have been found along the border since October of 2008 than in the previous six years, many clustered around San Diego, California’s Imperial Valley and Nogales, Ariz., AP reported.

To read more click here.

Face of Mexico’s War Against Drugs Dies in Helicopter Crash

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The face of Mexico’s drug war went down in a fatal helicopter crash caused by foggy weather on Nov. 11, reports Bloomberg. Authorities ruled it was an accident and not sabotage as many had suspected.

Interior Minister Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, Mexico’s point man in the war against drug traffickers, died in the crash, along with 15 others,  Bloomberg reported. Mora was traveling from Mexico City to Cuernavaca for a meeting of prosecutors.

After initial suspicion of sabotage, or other nefarious causes, authorities determined the crash was caused by foggy weather. Mexican authorities said radar readings show the pilot did not lose control before crashing, Communications and Transportation Minister Dionisio Perez-Jacome told the press, according to Bloomberg.

A team of 16 experts including US National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration officials are working on the investigation.

To read more click here.

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Late Agent’s Family: Holder Must “Take Responsibility”

Brian Terry

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

In more sobering news…

The family of Brian Terry, the border agent killed  last year near the Arizona border, issued a statement on Wednesday in response to US Attorney General Eric Holder’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The message: Holder needs to “take responsibility” for their son’s death, reports Arizona affiliate of ABC.

Holder was testifying about ATF’s failed Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels. ATF lost track of plenty of those weapons, some which surfaced at crime scenes including the one where Terry was killed.

Authorities have been unable to determine whether the two weapons found at the scene were actually involved in the shooting.

Holder stopped short of actually apologizing during his testimony before the committee on Tuesday.

“I certainly regret what happened to agent Terry,” he said when Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn asked if Holder would like to apologize for Fast and Furious.

“I am a father of three children myself,” Holder said. “We are not programmed to bury our kids.  It pains me whenever there is the death of a law enforcement officials, especially under the circumstances that this occurred.  It is not fair, however, to assume that the mistake that happened in Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry,” he testified.

To read more click here.