Who sues? Drugs, Lies and the Law

In an earlier posted piece called Who Else Sues? Some Violent Lawsuits, I made harsh mention of a case I worked on involving a drug raid and the weaknesses inherent in the use of confidential informants.

Today I’m tearing my hair out. Take a look at this, on the front page of today’s NY Times:  D.E.A. Deployed Mumbai Plotter Despite Warning – NYTimes.com (Apparently, the Times, so often nowadays ex post facto, picked up the story only after ProPublica, a terrific investigative journalistic group, uncovered it, at Newly Discovered Warnings About Headley Reveal a Troubling Timeline in Mumbai Case – ProPublica.)

A summary: shortly after the World Trade Center catastrophe, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.) sent a small-time drug dealer to Pakistan to work as an informant, despite warnings that he had some connection with radical Islamic groups.

This “informant” became a key member of the group that in 2008 attacked the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, killing 166 people.

The people supplying the warnings were women who had close, even familial, relationships with the informant. These women were dismissed as unreliable.

When I worked in criminal defense law, we had a semi-tacit rating system for the intelligence of law enforcement personnel. At the bottom of the barrel were the marshals. Next up in the stupid department were D.E.A. agents.

So a lot of stupid people, all bearing really heavy weaponry, deaf to genuine intelligence (especially from women), are romping throughout the world pursuing drugs.

A few years ago – when Bush was still in the White House – I went onto the government web site to find out how much tax money we spent on the D.E.A. each year. The number? Two billion dollars. Two billion dollars a year to send promising terrorists into Pakistan as drug informants.

(The punch line of my legitimate research into the federal budget. A day or so later I received an ominous e-mail message: “Welcome to Ask the D.O.J. [Department of Justice]. We will respond to your request shortly.”

I hadn’t asked the D.O.J. anything. And I certainly hadn’t given them my e-mail address.)

Several things to say about all this:

  • First, decriminalize and regulate drugs. Not only will we cut $2 billion a year out of the federal budget and billions more from state prison budgets, we’ll be collecting taxes on legitimate drug sales, just as we do with liquor. No, it won’t end drug use any more effectively than Prohibition ended drinking (far more dangerous to the body than drugs; read about the study that proved it CBC News – Health – Alcohol ranked most harmful drug), but it will control it far more efficiently, humanely and cheaply than our current policies. Look at the best of the many foundations dedicated to an intelligent approach to drugs,  Drug Policy Alliance: Alternatives to Marijuana Prohibition and the Drug War.
  • Second, I haven’t seen a persuasive explanation as to why poppy farmers can’t raise and sell their harvest directly and legitimately to drug companies – who, after all, make hospital-quality morphine out of heroin.
  • Third, nobody seems to listen to women when they warn of impending disaster. I remind us all that it was a woman FBI agent who in 2001 warned her superiors that she was worried about something she’d noticed at small airports — a bunch of Muslims learning how to fly jet planes. She was ignored. The women who warned the government about the guy who helped blow up the Mumbai hotel were ignored. Hasn’t anybody in government read The Iliad? Heard of Cassandra? You know, the woman who…
  • Finally, in my chosen role as Lawsuit Cheerleader, I so hope India brings a lawsuit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Go, India!
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