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comment by kleinbl00

There's a great Frontline that answers all your questions. Unfortunately it hasn't been digitized.

The problem with trading up the chain, simply put, is that law enforcement only knows what criminals tell them. They are not constructing parallel cases. They're not making the roads safer, they're filling their quota of speeding tickets.

Torture doesn't work for the same reason - if you tell me you'll stop pulling my toenails off if I tell you who gave me the IED, I'll stick with the pliers so long as my source scares me more than you. Which means all I need to do is give up someone who scares me less than you do - and there's no downside to iteratively throwing names out there.

Let's say I've got four buddies - Alex, Bob, Chuck, Dave and Elvis. You've got my phone and you know that I call all of them. You're going to throw me down the forever hole unless I give up my dealer, and you suspect it's Alex, Bob, Chuck, Dave or Elvis. I play cards with Alex. Bob occasionally buys weed from me. Chuck's a single dad who hits me up for money. Dave gets me work sometimes as a bricklayer and also loves to share his collection of child porn. Elvis works for the Zetas cartel.

I'm going to give them up in the following order:

1) Chuck because he's a drag on my bottom line

2) Alex because I lose money when I play him, even if it's usually fun

3) Bob, because I'll miss that income

4) Dave, because I'll really mis that income

Never) Elvis, because I don't want my entire family to end up beheaded on the side of the road outside Amarillo

Presume, for the sake of kindness, that the DEA can rule out Chuck and Alex immediately. They are obviously, visibly harmless. Bob? The DEA is going to squeeze Bob, who will give up his own list that also doesn't include Elvis. Each one of the people on his list will be squeezed until eventually someone is stupid enough to flip a supplier. That supplier is then going to play the exact same fucking game. Elvis is doing just fine, the DEA is chasing their tails, and low-level addicts are suddenly drug kingpins because they're all narcing on each other.

Let's add some financial incentive to the pot, shall we? Every single person who gets implicated is also subject to DEA seizure. That means they get to take anything that touches drugs. Did you drive a car with drugs in it? it belongs to the DEA. Did you ride in a friend's car with drugs in it? It belongs to the DEA. Store drugs in your house? It belongs to the DEA. Store drugs in your landlord's house? It belongs to the DEA.

Along with everything in it.

Let's take my buddy Dante. He was addicted to Meth. He got clean for the sake of his life, and for the sake of his son. And then his buddy, who helped him get clean, told him that he needed 2 kilos of coke to make it across town by 5 or the Zetas would kill him. So my buddy Dante got the keys out of a mailbox, got in the car and started it up.

The car? The DEA's. The drugs? The DEA's. Dante's buddy? Trading up the chain, giving up Dante rather than the guys the DEA wanted because Dante couldn't make him show up headless on the side of a freeway outside Amarillo. Dante, of course, had no one to give up so he was charged with trafficking and faced a ten year bid for a first offense. Lost his truck, lost all his musical equipment, is a felon forever.

Well yeah. Shouldn't have gotten in the car. No shit. But if you think policing, public order, the war on drugs or any civil good has been advanced by this travesty of criminal justice you're not only high, you're evil.

And that's what's wrong with it. Dante is real. The seizures are real. The dead on the side of the road outside of Amarillo is my sister's ex-boyfriend. And here's the DEA, getting low-level smurfs to snitch on each other for fun and profit while the Coast Guard siezes 225 tons of coke.

user-inactivated  ·  575 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Wow. All of that sounds absolutely, completely awful. I'd just like to say, in my defense, I don't agree with civil asset forfeiture the way it's practiced and I think I've said so before on Hubski. The deputy I talked to, also very much believes in what he does and talked about it in a compelling and charismatic way. So I think, in his defense, he thinks he's doing the right thing.

b_b  ·  571 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Beyond what has already been said, there's another dimension to the "morality" of the war on drugs that hasn't yet been covered. Despite what any well meaning police officer may believe about the moral nature of what he or she is doing, the war on drugs was started for a very explicit reason: to infiltrate the President's enemies (President Nixon, that is, and this isn't speculation or conspiracy theory--it is well documented). There is a longer history than that that extends back to post-prohibition when the G-men all needed jobs suddenly--and that history is mostly about racism. The modern incarnation of the DEA was convened by Richard Nixon because he saw hippies and radical blacks as his natural enemies, and the thing they had in common was a penchant for weed, LSD, and heroin. Thus, the drug war. It was started on a lie, and thus has literally zero moral credence. The premises don't hold, so the conclusions can't either.

Everyone who supports the war on drugs is a stooge in Nixon dirty political game. The DEA is a great example of what is sometimes called "internal lobbying" (to distinguish it from industry lobbying). Once a government department has been created, that department has to spend a bunch of time, effort, and money to ensure that their people still have jobs. Because drugs do affect lots of people negatively, the DEA has done a splendid job ("THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGS") of making themselves appear important enough that no Congressperson will vote to kill them. It's effective and pernicious.

user-inactivated  ·  571 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thanks for the additional input. I knew most of that. I think I need to defend myself though, now, to you and kleinbl00 and cgod. I know there's some screwed up stuff that goes on and I don't have a strong opinion on the War on Drugs on one way or another (I think citizens rights being trampled on is bad, I think crazy ass drugs like meth and heroin are bad, origins and practices aside, I think the whole issue is too big and nuanced to take a single, solid stance). I just wanted to know why the particular practice I was told about is controversial. Now I know. If I ever talk to the guy again, I'll politely bring up the points provided and ask about his counter points. He striked me as a good guy and I think most honest, good hearted people who pursue careers in law enforcement do so with a desire to do good and I think it's safe to view him in that light.

b_b  ·  571 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Not trying to be lecturing, just trying to point out that the morality of any particular tactic in the War is irrelevant, because the whole thing immoral and illegitimate.

kleinbl00  ·  575 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm sure he means well. And from his perspective, he's making the world a better place. After all, it's those scumbag career criminals that are fucking shit up, not the street guys with a habit and the closer we can get to them the better we all are, right?

But this presumes that (1) the street guys have any access to the career criminals (2) there's equivalency between crime and punishment and both assumptions are readily challenged.

I mean, Brian was told that he probably wanted to stop dealing. Brian was making plenty of money dealing, so he wasn't about to stop. So the cartels stopped his ass. He was fully guilty of committing felonies. But he's also dead for buying and selling pocketfuls of the product the coast guard seized cargo-planefuls of. And your buddy would no doubt argue that the goal is to save Brian and punish the guys who cut his head off and threw it in a ditch. But an ecosystem that exists surrounded by punishment and betrayal is necessarily going to get more and more brutal over time.

ThurberMingus  ·  575 days ago  ·  link  ·  

So working your way up the chain to the big guys soundslike a good idea. But it doesn't work in practice because of a handful of reasons, it will cause terrible side effects the whole way, and it costs a ton of dough and you'll never finish so we will have keep paying for it forever as well as paying to fix problems you cause...

...and that sounds like the generic conservative argument.

Devac  ·  575 days ago  ·  link  ·  
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