A Scanner Darkly
The Fourth Amendment was Mortally Wounded by the Drug War Long Before National Security Tried to Kill It
Lucy Steigerwald, July 26, 2013
In 1971, Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs and tested the waters with a DC bill that made no-knock raids legal on private homes. Some years later, Ronald Reagan stepped up that war, and unlike Nixon, most of the powers that Reagan claimed — and the Supreme Court frequently confirmed — were not ever taken away. The cop, court, and Constitutional drug war mess needs more detail than there is space here (check out Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop, as well as Antiwar’s interview with him for more of that history) but really, once upon a time, when terrorism wasn’t keeping the paranoid up at night, a bunch of people decided that enemy number one was drugs. And no violation was too serious, no quarter was to be given in this fight. Sound familiar?
The effects of that decision to go to “war” can now be seen in the prison-industrial complex, militarized police and their mission creep, and our comatose Fourth Amendment.
Here are just a few figures: in 2012 87 percent of state and federal law enforcement wiretaps were over narcotics, with stats from the past decade showing similar numbers. ”Sneak and peak” warrants — legalized by the PATRIOT Act — between 2009 and 2010 were used for narcotics investigations 76 percent of the time. And what is the NYPD’s contentious “stop and frisk” policy if not a massive violation of the privacy of (mostly black and Hispanic) New Yorkers?
Previously at Antiwar I critiqued libertarian John Stossel’s bizarre refusal to admit that the NSA spying is dangerous. But Stossel did indeed have a point within the madness –the drug war started it. Not only are terror-fighting tools used to investigate drug crimes much of the time, but many privacy protections were already chipped away by the drug war decades before 9/11...
Recently Rand Paul pestered the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for clarification about their use of domestic drones. The FBI responded with a few details including that drones have been used for “eight criminal cases and two national security cases” since 2006. The most notable thing mentioned in their report is that the FBI did not see fit to get a search warrant for their drone use, since the targets of their investigations didn’t have an expectation of privacy. This isn’t particularly surprising, more a depressing confirmation of what we would already have suspected...