U-2 Spy Planes Used for What?

Over at the Huffington Post, Radley Balko has been promoting his upcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop with a “Raid of the Day” featuring highlighting outrageous overreach by police.

A few days ago he highlighted raids undertaken in the mid-1980s as part of California’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) initiative. Along with the raids themselves is the level of coordination with the US military to plan the raids,

It effectively turned parts of California into a military zone. CAMP sent U-2 spy planes over the skies to search for pot, then sent — literally — black helicopters full of armed National Guard troops, drug cops, and sometimes even volunteers to cut down the plants. Anyone who happened to be nearby could be detained, often at gunpoint.

According to a 1987 LA Times story, the U-2 spy planes didn’t work out very well,

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which takes part in CAMP, acknowledges using infrared devices to spot cocaine labs in the jungles of Latin America, but DEA officials insist that efforts in 1983 to draw an infrared map of California’s marijuana plantations from a high-flying U-2 spy plane were unsuccessful.

The U-2 costs about $30,000/hour to operate, so that was likely a costly failure (like the entire war on drugs).

The Alternative World Drug Report

The Alternative World Drug Report was created as an alternative counterpoint to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2012 World Drug Report (12.5mb PDF).

According to the Alternative World Drug Report’s website,

In its 2008 World Drug Report, the UNODC acknowledged that choosing an enforcement-based approach was having a range of negative “unintended consequences”, including: the creation of a vast criminal market, displacement of the illegal drugs trade to new areas, diversion of funding from health, and the stigmatisation of users.

It is unacceptable that neither the UN or its member governments have meaningfully assessed these unintended consequences to establish whether they outweigh the intended consequences of the current global drug control system, and that they are not documented in the UNODC’s flagship annual World Drug Report.

This groundbreaking Alternative World Drug Report fills this gap in government and UN evaluations by detailing the full range of negative impacts resulting from choosing an enforcement-led approach.

The 108-page Alternative World Drug Report is available as a PDF (2mb PDF) and is released under a Creative Commons license.

Narcotics Checkpoint a Success?

You have to love stories like this account of a “successful” narcotics checkpoint set up by police in DeRidder, Louisiana,

The Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office set up a Narcotics Checkpoint Thursday night near Starks, Louisiana. Due to several complaints coming from the Fields area, the BPSO put together a joint operation with the help of Sheriff Ricky Moses and the DeRidder city police department. The operations utilized several BPSO deputies as well as the new Drug Interdiction team led by Detectives Dale Sharp and Greg Hill. Seven police units total were used for the operation in addition to 4 other units performing regular patrols.

. . .
Shortly after dark, it was apparent that the team’s presence was making an impact. Detectives Julian Williams, Craig Richard, and Sharp recovered an estimated quarter pound of marijuana tossed out of a vehicle window and onto the highway. If sold, the drugs would have earned a possible $300. “They saw us and panicked,” explains Sharp.
Sharp also stated that more checkpoints could be orchestrated in the future at different locations. “Definitely,” says Sharp. “As more complaints come in, we will be doing more.”
The checkpoint produced 3 arrests for possession of marijuana and hydrocodone, 2 misdemeanor summons for possession of marijuana, and 30 traffic citations. Officers also recovered a small amount of hydrocodone pills and approximately a half pound of marijuana total.

The only problem here is that the Supreme Court in 2000 ruled in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond that checkpoints designed to discover illegal drugs are unconstitutional (largely because they are suspicionless searches aimed at general crime control rather than, say, drunk driving checkpoints which are suspicionless but aimed directly at keeping the roads safe from drivers under the influence).

Reason Magazine, where I first read about this, notes that once this was pointed out the police department in question backpedaled on the checkpoints, telling The Drug War Chronicle.

There just happened to be narcotics officers out there, and it just so happened that we did our safety checkpoint in a certain area where the place is known for drug trafficking. It just so happened they were all in the right place at the right time.

And just so everyone understands how screwed up the legal situation is here, at least one state — Colorado — has held that even though narcotics checkpoints are illegal, fake narcotics checkpoints are completely legal. That’s right, police can put up signs saying “Narcotics Checkpoint 1 mile ahead” and that the Supreme Court has ruled that is completely legal. Apparently jurisdictions that have done this then place cops with binoculars to look for people tossing drugs out of windows when they see the signs, at which point they recover the drugs and arrest the passengers in the vehicle.

(In general, it is amazing the extent to which police are generally allowed to lie in the performance of official duties in situations where the people they are lying to could potentially be subject to criminal prosecution for employing similar tactics with police).

Washington City Paper’s Takedown of Crystal Meth Hype

Washington City Paper’s Ryan Grim just went to town on the Washington Post in the one of the best articles I’ve read on the nonsensical hype over crystal meth.

One possible explanation for the flat national rate of meth use and the lack of a serious local problem could be that the drug is not very addictive. A recent federal survey showed that of the 12 million people who had used meth in their lifetime, only 1 in 10 had used it in the past year. Only 1 in 25 had used it in the past 30 days.

Despite the evidence, health officials are also pushing for legislation that would restrict the sale of cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine, one of the ingredients used to manufacture meth. Virginia, like many states across the country, limits such sales, but Maryland and the District do not.

As I’ve mentioned before, I think the efforts to limit over-the-counter sales of products with pseudoephedrine are simply stupid, but they’re also more than a little amusing.

Consider something like cocaine, which is derived from cocoa leaf that are grown and processed outside of the United States. Yet the fact that cocaine is produced and processed entirely outside of the United States hasn’t exactly lead to a dearth of cocaine.

Yet, apparently, something magical is going to happen with crystal meth such that the second you limit over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine, the supply of the drug is just going to dry right up. You know, because it would be impossible for people to smuggle pseudoephedrine into the United States, or simply switch to producing crystal meth in Canada or Mexico and smuggling the finished product in.

Nah, that would never happen.