Letter to Senators Leahy and Hatch re: Drug War

September 10, 2001
Coalition for Constitutional Liberties
Letter to Senators Leahy and Hatch
Regarding The Drug War


Coalition for Constitutional Liberties
A project of the Free Congress Foundation’s Center for Technology Policy

717 Second Street NE * Washington, DC 20002 * (202) 546-3000 * Fax (202) 543-5605


September 10, 2001

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman
The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch, Ranking Member
Members
Senate Judiciary Committee
United States Senate
225 Dirksen Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Re: Nomination of John Walters

Dear Chairman Leahy, Senator Hatch and
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

We are part of a broad coalition of groups concerned that the war on drugs has degraded our privacy and civil liberties. We respectfully ask that the members of Committee consider raising the following privacy and civil liberties issues in connection with the nomination of John Walters to be the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (Office of the White House). We intend by issuing this letter to signal neither support nor opposition to Mr. Walters’ nomination. Rather, we are issuing this letter to urge members of the Committee to explore these issues in connection with Mr. Walters’ nomination. As we set forth below, these issues include the use of new surveillance and investigative technologies, including the Carnivore/DCS1000 and Echelon systems, the “Know Your Customer” proposal of the Financial Action Task Force, asset forfeiture abuses, wiretaps and the drug war’s sometimes corrupting influence on law enforcement itself.

Rapid advances in technology have unfortunately brought with them new opportunities for the invasion of privacy in the form of programs like Carnivore, a system designed to allow the FBI to sift through vast quantities of internet communications, or “Know Your Customer” (proposed regulation requiring banks to collect personal financial information about their customers) “profile” them, and report “suspicious activities” to the Government. The misguided drug war is often a driving force behind these initiatives. “Know Your Customer” was prompted largely to further the drug war by combating drug-related money laundering. The FBI claims that Carnivore helps in narcotic investigations.

We are concerned that “profiling,” including racial profiling, appears to be an accepted component of the federal government’s war on drugs. As noted by Georgetown University Law Professor David Cole, characteristics of “drug courier profiles” used by U.S. Customs at airports have included:

  • Arrived late at night
  • Arrived early in the morning
  • Arrived in afternoon
  • One of first to deplane
  • One of last to deplane
  • Deplaned in the middle
  • Bought coach ticket
  • Bought first class ticket
  • Used one-way ticket
  • Used round-trip ticket
  • Traveled alone
  • Traveled with a companion
  • Wore expensive clothing
  • Dressed casually
  • Suspect was Hispanic
  • Suspect was black female

    In short, everyone anywhere at any time could fit the profile of a drug courier according to U.S. Customs officials. Court records confirm that highway patrol officers both in California and in New Jersey were taught to profile automobile drivers using minority status as an excuse to stop them, search their car, and in some cases, find drugs, a process known as racial profiling. In fact, civil rights organizations have charged that the DEA’s own Operation Pipeline actually trains state and local law enforcement agents to engage in racial profiling.

    The extent to which our drug policy drives government surveillance and invasion of privacy is especially clear in the case of wiretaps. Three quarters of all wiretaps are authorized for narcotics investigations. The Administrative Office of the United States Courts reports that annually approximately 80 percent of conversations intercepted on wiretaps are innocent communications.

    In addition to government surveillance, there has been an increasing effort to have private businesses monitor their customers in order to fight the drug war. In the case of the “Know Your Customer” proposal now being resurrected by the FATF, the government attempts to force customer monitoring through regulation. More and more often, the DEA is using financial incentives to induce businesses to report personal information about their customers to the government. This undermines both consumer privacy and businesses’ relationships with their customers. In April, the Albuquerque Journal reported that Amtrak was providing access to its ticketing database to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Amtrak provided agents with information such as passengers’ last names, their destinations, their method of payment, and whether they were going on a round trip or only one-way. In return, Amtrak was given 10% of anything the government seized. Although controversy led Amtrak to discontinue the DEA’s computer access, the company still provides information gleaned from the ticketing system to law enforcement officers and continues to receive a portion of assets seized on trains by agents.

    The Amtrak case demonstrates the degree to which forfeiture laws are giving an incentive for law enforcement and private businesses to focus on seizing property supposedly related to drug crimes. The system is still very susceptible to abuse and one does not have to be convicted of a crime before their property is taken. Before the passage of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Act of 2000, which addressed some of the more egregious abuses, eighty percent of people who had property forfeited were never charged with a crime. While this number will likely become lower because of the reforms, the abuse of forfeiture laws continues.

    As reports (some of which were initiated by members of this Committee) have shown, the war on drugs has had a corrupting influence on the professionalism of law enforcement; one March 1999 GAO report described the problem as a “serious and continuing threat.”

    We urge you to raise these issues with Mr. Walters and ask for assurances that he will reform the conduct of the drug war in order to address these problems and ensure that drug policies respect the privacy and other civil liberties of all Americans.

    If you have any questions or would like to discuss these issues further, please contact J. Bradley Jansen of the Free Congress Foundation at 202-204-5324 or by email at bjansen@freecongress.org.

    Respectfully,

    Paul M

    Paul M. Weyrich

    National Chairman

    Coalitions for America

     

    Lisa S. Dean

    Vice President for Technology Policy

    Free Congress Foundation

    Grover Norquist

    President

    Americans for Tax Reform

     

    Karen Kerrigan

    Chairman

    Small Business Survival Committee

    Tom DeWeese

    President

    American Policy Center

     

    David Banisar

    Deputy Director

    Privacy International (London, UK)

    Dr. Jane Orient, M.D.

    Executive Director

    Association of American Physicians and Surgeons

     

    Eric E. Sterling

    President

    The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation

    Amy Ridenour

    President

    The National Center for Public Policy Research

     

    Erik Johnson

    Chairman

    Young Americans for Freedom

    Laura W. Murphy

    Director

    American Civil Liberties Union,

    Washington National Office

     

    Alexander-St. James

    Chairman, African American

    Republican Leadership Council

    Frances B. Smith

    Executive Director

    Consumer Alert

     

    Christian Josi

    Executive Director

    American Conservative Union

    Jim Martin

    President

    60 Plus Association

     

    Paul Haughton

    President

    National Federation of Republican Assemblies

    Evan Hendricks

    Editor/Publisher

    Privacy Times, D.C.

     

    Larry Pratt

    Executive Director

    Gun Owners of America

    Richard W. Rahn

    Senior Fellow

    Discovery Institute

     

    James X. Dempsey

    Deputy Director

    Center for Democracy and Technology

    Carol W. LaGrasse

    President

    Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.

     

    Dr. Alexander Tabarrok

    Vice President and Director of Research

    The Independent Institute

    James Landrith

    Editor and Publisher

    The Multiracial Activist & Abolitionist Examiner

     

    Gordon S. Jones

    President

    Association of Concerned Taxpayers

    Dwight Patel

    Director

    Coalition for a Tax-Free Internet

     

    Solveig Singleton

    Senior Analyst

    Competitive Enterprise Institute

    Benjamin Crocker Works

    Executive Director

    Strategic Issues Research Institute of the United States

     

    Katherine Albrecht

    Founder and Editor

    Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering

    Hank Whitmore

    Chairman

    People Against Church Taxation

     

    Chuck Muth, Chairman

    Michael Ostrolenk, Capital Hill Liaison

    Republican Liberty Caucus

    Aaron Zelman

    Executive Director

    Concerned Citizens Opposed to Police States

     

    Adrian Day

    Editor

    Global Analyst

    Star Parker

    President

    Coalition on Urban Renewal & Education (CURE)

     

    Kathryn A. Serkes

    President

    Square One Media Network

    John H. Whitehouse, Jr., Ph.D.

    Director of Certification

    Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals

     

    Robert D. Lonn

    Consultant/Planner

    Northwest Council of Governments

    Larry Cirignano

    President

    CatholicVote.org

     

    Joseph Eldred

    President and Founder

    God Bless America

    Audrey Mullen

    Consultant

    Advocacy Ink

     

    Helen E. Farson

    Member

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    Andrew F. Quinlan

    President

    Center for Freedom and Prosperity

     

    Steve Dasbach

    National Director

    Libertarian Party

    Galen E. Alexander

    Founder and Chairman

    Ohio Conservative Alliance

     

    Gregory Quinlan

    President & CEO

    Pro-Family Network (OH)

    Dottie Feder

    Vice President

    Eagle Forum of Wisconsin

     

    Patricia J. Owens

    Executive Director

    Wisconsin State Sovereignty Coalition

    Miriam Archer

    Director of Operations

    Christian Coalition of California

     

    Ken McEldowney

    Executive Director

    Consumer Action (CA)

    Rev. Bob Vanden Bosch

    Director

    Concerned Christian Americans (IL)

     

    Lee Coleman

    Chairman

    Constitution Committee of Florida

    Eunie Smith

    President

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    Ann Frazier

    President

    Eagle Forum of North Carolina

    Peter J. LaGrasse

    Chairman

    Board of Assessors (NY)

     

    Cathie Adams

    President

    Texas Eagle Forum

    Janine Hansen

    President

    Nevada Eagle Forum

     

    Bobbie Patray

    President

    Tennessee Eagle Forum

    Mike Fellows

    Chairman

    Libertarian Party of Montana

     

    Ronald D. Bain

    Former Chairman

    Libertarian Party of Colorado

    Marie B. Corn

    Coordinator

    Western North Carolina Area

    Family Advocacy & Research

     

    Duane Royal

    Member

    Sampson County Republican

    Executive Committee (NC)

    Victoria T. DeLacy

    Member

    Prince William & Manassas

    Family Alliance (VA)

     

    Warren Nelson

    Founder and Commander

    Ector County Volunteers (TN)

    Roger L. Boyell

    Forensic Analyst

    Moorestown, New Jersey

     

     

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