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
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.


    Paul M

    Paul M. Weyrich

    National Chairman

    Coalitions for America


    Lisa S. Dean

    Vice President for Technology Policy

    Free Congress Foundation

    Grover Norquist


    Americans for Tax Reform


    Karen Kerrigan


    Small Business Survival Committee

    Tom DeWeese


    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


    The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation

    Amy Ridenour


    The National Center for Public Policy Research


    Erik Johnson


    Young Americans for Freedom

    Laura W. Murphy


    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


    60 Plus Association


    Paul Haughton


    National Federation of Republican Assemblies

    Evan Hendricks


    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


    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


    Association of Concerned Taxpayers

    Dwight Patel


    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


    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


    Global Analyst

    Star Parker


    Coalition on Urban Renewal & Education (CURE)


    Kathryn A. Serkes


    Square One Media Network

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

    Director of Certification

    Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals


    Robert D. Lonn


    Northwest Council of Governments

    Larry Cirignano




    Joseph Eldred

    President and Founder

    God Bless America

    Audrey Mullen


    Advocacy Ink


    Helen E. Farson


    Phonetic Bible Printing Committee

    Andrew F. Quinlan


    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


    Concerned Christian Americans (IL)


    Lee Coleman


    Constitution Committee of Florida

    Eunie Smith


    Eagle Forum of Alabama


    Ann Frazier


    Eagle Forum of North Carolina

    Peter J. LaGrasse


    Board of Assessors (NY)


    Cathie Adams


    Texas Eagle Forum

    Janine Hansen


    Nevada Eagle Forum


    Bobbie Patray


    Tennessee Eagle Forum

    Mike Fellows


    Libertarian Party of Montana


    Ronald D. Bain

    Former Chairman

    Libertarian Party of Colorado

    Marie B. Corn


    Western North Carolina Area

    Family Advocacy & Research


    Duane Royal


    Sampson County Republican

    Executive Committee (NC)

    Victoria T. DeLacy


    Prince William & Manassas

    Family Alliance (VA)


    Warren Nelson

    Founder and Commander

    Ector County Volunteers (TN)

    Roger L. Boyell

    Forensic Analyst

    Moorestown, New Jersey



  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *