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Tag: Drugs

Weekend Series on Crime: The Dangers of Methamphetamines

AG Holder Says Drug Cases Down Because Less Focus on Smaller Offenders

Holder speaks in Philadelphia/doj photo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal prosecutors handled fewer drug prosecutions last year because of a new approach to handling smaller non-violent offenders, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Attorney General Eric Holder said at a National Press Club address that prosecutions for drug cases fell 6% last year.

Holder said the feds are placing more focus on larger drug dealers, instead of smaller offenders.

Prior to the change in focus, Holder said drug users were getting sent to prison with no possibility of parole.

“For years prior to this administration, federal prosecutors were not only encouraged — but required — to always seek the most severe prison sentence possible for all drug cases, no matter the relative risk they posed to public safety,” he said. “I have made a break from that philosophy.”

He added: “These numbers show that a dramatic shift is underway in the mind-set of prosecutors handling nonviolent drug offenses. I believe we have taken steps to institutionalize this fairer, more practical approach such that it will endure for years to come.”

Other Stories of Interest

 

Is Law Enforcement Crossing Line by Taking Photos of Drivers, Passengers?

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A license-plate scanning system designed to combat drug trafficking and other crimes has raised serious privacy questions because of the technology’s ability to snap photographs of drivers and their passengers, the ACLU said, reports Bloomberg.

The concern is that authorities will combine the photographs with facial-recognition software.

“This adds a whole other dimension to what is already a very significant surveillance infrastructure,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the ACLU, said in an interview. “Facial recognition software holds the potential to super charge this kind of system. We haven’t seen anything like a nationwide systematic infrastructure snapping photographs of Americans as they go about their lives, and this is what this appears it can turn into.”

Records obtained by the ACLU found that the license-plate database had more than 343 million records.

“An automatic license plate reader cannot distinguish between people transporting illegal guns and those transporting legal guns, or no guns at all; it only documents the presence of any car driving to the event,” the ACLU said in a blog post last month. “Mere attendance at a gun show, it appeared, would have been enough to have one’s presence noted in a DEA database.”

Other Stories of Interest


Border Patrol Fatally Shoots Drug Smuggling Suspect in South Texas

istock photo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Agents returned fire Wednesday morning and killed a drug smuggling suspect near Roma, Texas, the Associated Press reports. 

The incident happened after Border Patrol agents came under fire while investigating suspected drug smugglers in the desert, the agency said.

The agency, which has pledged to be more transparent about agent-involved shootings, didn’t divulge many details Wednesday evening.

Border Patrol has come under fire for what some critics charge is a quick-trigger mentality, even when the threat is minimal.

We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.

The FBI and Drugs in the Beginning

Cocaine/ticklethewire.com file photo

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Webster Bivens may have been a drug dealer, but his place in law enforcement history is not proportional to his status as an alleged dealer.

In the fall of 1965, Federal Bureau of Narcotics agents raided Bivens’ Brooklyn apartment. The FBN agents had neither an arrest warrant nor a search warrant. The agents arrested Bivens and handcuffed him in front of his family. They also allegedly threatened his family and in the terminology of Bivens’ later law suit searched his apartment from “stem to stern.” No drugs were found, and the charges filed after Bivens’ arrest were dismissed.

Bivens apparently had a litigious streak and brought a civil action against the “six unknown agents” of the FBN based on the violation of his rights under the 4th Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.”

Up until that time, a cause of action could not be brought against the US or its agents except as specifically authorized under certain statutes, and that was the ruling of the lower courts in Bivens’ action. But the Bivens case made it to the US Supreme Court, and in 1971, the Court decided that the US could be sued if the acts of its agents violated the Constitutional rights of a person. This not only created a cause of action, it fostered a perception that federal drug agents were running amok and were incapable of doing more than simple “buy-bust” investigations.

As the Bivens case worked its way through the courts, the whole approach to the federal war on drugs was being evaluated. The FBN agents who arrested Bivens were part of the Department of the Treasury. Presumably because drugs like alcohol were viewed as taxable commodities even though the principal drugs being targeted at that time were heroin, cocaine and marijuana, and were illegal per se.

Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Was Created

In order to unify the federal effort against illegal drugs, one agency was created in 1968, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), and it would now be an investigative agency in the Department of Justice. Then in 1973 the BNDD was renamed the Drug Enforcement Administration, and it remained in the DOJ. Although the perception of drug agents out of control was mostly inaccurate, DEA did have limited resources and was under pressure to produce results in terms of arrests and drug seizures. This made it difficult to dedicate their limited resources to long-term investigations targeting the upper echelons of drug trafficking organizations.

In the meantime the FBI was learning to utilize tools provided by the Omnibus Crime Act of 1968. This lengthy act was intended to provide means for federal law enforcement to investigate organized crime. For the FBI that meant La Costa Nostra, the Mafia. One particular part of the act (Title III) prescribed the process to legally intercept wire, oral or electronic communications – electronic surveillance or elsur for short. It included telephone wiretaps and surreptitiously placed microphones or bugs – generally referred to as a “wire.”

The probable cause required to get judicial approval for elsur was by design a difficult standard to meet. The affidavit documenting this “special “ probable cause often ran well in excess of 100 pages. Among other things, there had to be a showing that other investigative techniques wouldn’t work. For example if a drug dealer would only deal with someone he has known for years, it would be very difficult to get him to deal with an undercover agent.

Once the affidavit & accompanying order are written, they have to be submitted to the Attorney General of the US or a specifically designated Assistant AG for approval. If they are approved, they then have to be authorized by a US District Court Judge in the district where the elsur is to be conducted. The elsurs are limited to 30 days, but can be renewed based on an updated affidavit.

Read more »

Stejskal: The FBI and Drugs in the Beginning

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office
 
By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Webster Bivens may have been a drug dealer, but his place in law enforcement history is not proportional to his status as an alleged dealer.

In the fall of 1965, Federal Bureau of Narcotics agents raided Bivens’ Brooklyn apartment. The FBN agents had neither an arrest warrant nor a search warrant. The agents arrested Bivens and handcuffed him in front of his family. They also allegedly threatened his family and in the terminology of Bivens’ later law suit searched his apartment from “stem to stern.” No drugs were found, and the charges filed after Bivens’ arrest were dismissed.

Bivens apparently had a litigious streak and brought a civil action against the “six unknown agents” of the FBN based on the violation of his rights under the 4th Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.”

Up until that time, a cause of action could not be brought against the US or its agents except as specifically authorized under certain statutes, and that was the ruling of the lower courts in Bivens’ action. But the Bivens case made it to the US Supreme Court, and in 1971, the Court decided that the US could be sued if the acts of its agents violated the Constitutional rights of a person. This not only created a cause of action, it fostered a perception that federal drug agents were running amok and were incapable of doing more than simple “buy-bust” investigations.

As the Bivens case worked its way through the courts, the whole approach to the federal war on drugs was being evaluated. The FBN agents who arrested Bivens were part of the Department of the Treasury. Presumably because drugs like alcohol were viewed as taxable commodities even though the principal drugs being targeted at that time were heroin, cocaine and marijuana, and were illegal per se.

Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Was Created

In order to unify the federal effort against illegal drugs, one agency was created in 1968, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), and it would now be an investigative agency in the Department of Justice. Then in 1973 the BNDD was renamed the Drug Enforcement Administration, and it remained in the DOJ. Although the perception of drug agents out of control was mostly inaccurate, DEA did have limited resources and was under pressure to produce results in terms of arrests and drug seizures. This made it difficult to dedicate their limited resources to long-term investigations targeting the upper echelons of drug trafficking organizations.

In the meantime the FBI was learning to utilize tools provided by the Omnibus Crime Act of 1968. This lengthy act was intended to provide means for federal law enforcement to investigate organized crime. For the FBI that meant La Costa Nostra, the Mafia. One particular part of the act (Title III) prescribed the process to legally intercept wire, oral or electronic communications – electronic surveillance or elsur for short. It included telephone wiretaps and surreptitiously placed microphones or bugs – generally referred to as a “wire.”

The probable cause required to get judicial approval for elsur was by design a difficult standard to meet. The affidavit documenting this “special “ probable cause often ran well in excess of 100 pages. Among other things, there had to be a showing that other investigative techniques wouldn’t work. For example if a drug dealer would only deal with someone he has known for years, it would be very difficult to get him to deal with an undercover agent.

Once the affidavit & accompanying order are written, they have to be submitted to the Attorney General of the US or a specifically designated Assistant AG for approval. If they are approved, they then have to be authorized by a US District Court Judge in the district where the elsur is to be conducted. The elsurs are limited to 30 days, but can be renewed based on an updated affidavit.

Read more »

Border Patrol Makes Rare Move by Firing Warning Shots from Blackhawk Helicopter

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

In a rare show of force, Border Patrol agents fired warning shots from a Blackhawk helicopter to stop a panga boat that authorities suspected was smuggling drugs off the San Diego coast, the Associated Press reports.

The boat was spotted by the Coast Guard, and men were spotted throwing what authorities believe were bales of marijuana overboard.

Two Border Patrol boats also became involved in the pursuit.

Agents fired several warning shots after the boat refused to stop.

The warning shots worked: The three men on the boat surrendered and stopped the boat.

Border Patrol said it has never used such a tactic on the West Coast.

Less Marijuana But More Dangerous Drugs Seized by Border Patrol This Year

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A lot less marijuana was seized this fiscal year by the U.S. Border Patrol in San Diego, but the agency has seen a sizable increase in the amount of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin confiscated, KPBS reports.

Leaders at the San Diego sector said the seizures represent a tighter security.

“I am very pleased with our progress within San Diego sector’s area of responsibility,” said Chief Patrol Agent Paul Beeson in a statement. “The level of border security achieved over the years has resulted in an increase in the quality of life along the border as noted by the development of housing, shopping malls, small businesses and community infrastructure.”

Although marijuana seizures were down, it remained the most popular drug by weight. Agents seized 17,497 pounds of marijuana, 1,697 pounds of cocaine, 2,880 ounces of heroin and 1,797 pounds of meth.

The agency also arrested nearly 30,000 people for entering the country illegally during the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.