The Narco-Terror Trap
December 15, 2015 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Lou Milione, a senior official at [the DEA], told me, “One of the things the DEA is kind of in the business of is almost all of our investigations are proactive.” But Russell Hanks, a former senior American diplomat, who got a firsthand look at some of the DEA’s narco-terrorism targets during the time he served in West Africa, told me, “The DEA provided everything these men needed to commit a crime, then said, ‘Wow, look what they did.’” He added, “This wasn’t terrorism — this was the manipulation of weak-minded people, in weak countries, in order to pad arrest records."

The Making of a Narco-Terrorist: Five criminals in far-flung parts of the world, five DEA sting operations, five dubious links between drugs and terror. The characters are different but the story remains the same. Authorities said each case demonstrated alliances between terrorists and drug traffickers, but most of the alleged links fell apart in court. Here’s how narco-terrorism cases are made.

Vox: How the DEA Invented "Narco-Terrorism." Three months after 9/11, George W. Bush said drug trafficking funded terrorist networks. Two months after that, the White House bought two Super Bowl ads saying the same for $1.9 million each. Now, 15 years into the merging of the war on drugs with the war on terror, ProPublica's Ginger Thompson has followed every public "narco-terrorism" case the DEA has made – and the results are shocking. We collaborated on a video about what she found.
posted by Rustic Etruscan (16 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Looks like the DEA spends a lot of time chatting with the FBI over at the water cooler.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:02 PM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can we please get rid of all quotas in law enforcement? When your performance structure is based around writing traffic tickets to staging elaborate entrapment schemes, something is wrong.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:06 PM on December 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


Where "proactive" = "manufactured"
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:28 PM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]




The problem with getting rid of quotas is that law enforcement costs money. The people spending that money (nominally our elected "representatives") want to know whether that money would be better spent elsewhere since there is only so much of it to go around. This is generally evaluated by metrics like arrest or conviction rates or fee collections. And when you say you want to see X performance metric to justify Y public expenditure, walla you have created a quota.

The claim that X funds terrorism is the new claim that X is communist. These same assholes tried to shut down the porn industry by claiming porn funds terrorism, working their way from the most extreme BDSM sites (whose output does look a bit like terrorism if you're five years old and have never heard of acting) but the effort probably would have gone a lot further by degrees if Peter Acworth had not headed them off at the very detailed contract pass.

And of course all money in sufficient quantity to justify stealing it from you is suspected of being drug money unless it can prove otherwise. And since the money is suspected, not the guy who thought he owned it, pesky obstacles like due process can be ignored. That the Supreme Court upheld this fantasy is one of the greatest shames in the history of the institution.

"Narco-terrorism" is really just a slick way to outfit the war on drugs' attitude toward your money with an even scarier terrorism coat. But this is a very nasty slippery slope, because anything that is useful (publishing, the internet, privacy, encryption) can be used by bad guys to do bad things. What we need to get rid of is the idea that it is OK to take those things from everyone because of what the bad guys might do with them.
posted by Bringer Tom at 1:37 PM on December 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


From ChurchHatesTucker's link:
“These people were dealing in drugs, and they are guilty, and because of a procedural issue and a suppression motion, they got away with it,” said Mike Ramos, the district attorney in San Bernardino, Calif., whose office prosecuted the case.
Wow, this moron is a prosecutor and he doesn't know that the only meaningful penalty for enforcing Constitutional protections is to throw out convictions? Books about the Constitution written for ten year old kids mention that. It is widely considered one of the unfixable bugs of the system but it's not like everyone doesn't know about it. I bet the man would be shocked to find gambling going on here too.
posted by Bringer Tom at 1:43 PM on December 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


TBF, the Supreme Court has a hard time with that concept lately.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:52 PM on December 15, 2015


Wow, this moron is a prosecutor and he doesn't know that the only meaningful penalty for enforcing Constitutional protections is to throw out convictions? Books about the Constitution written for ten year old kids mention that.

It's likely that Ramos, like many if not most prosecutors, has political ambitions of one sort or another (potential judicial careers can be included, since judges are either elected or appointed by those who are), and he's probably speaking to voters who, if they read those books when they were ten, either have forgotten what they said or no longer care.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:16 PM on December 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


You can probably add to that the fact that we've had about 3 of 4 decades of absurdly pro-police-misconduct propaganda in the popular media. We are awash in police procedurals, detective stories, and crime thrillers, and it seems like practically all of them, at some point, pull the, "the audience should be outraged, for this person is getting off on a technicality!" card.

Of course, they almost never pause to reflect that the technicality has a name: The Constitution of the United States of America.

People love to claim this somehow started with 24, but it's been the dominant theme in police stories just about forever: "lousy bureaucrats are preventing the god-like and infallible police from bringing justice to the wicked!" Well, this is the kind of shit you get when that's the view of authority that you inculcate. The rules are seen as just being tools used by evil men to get away with horrible deeds, instead of the necessary restraints on government power required to safeguard liberty.
posted by tocts at 2:25 PM on December 15, 2015 [18 favorites]


“These people were dealing in drugs, and they are guilty, and because of a procedural issue and a suppression motion, they got away with it,” said Mike Ramos, the district attorney in San Bernardino, Calif., whose office prosecuted the case.
Well it was a trivial oversight really -- and why shouldn't the prosecutors and investigators of San Bernardino be spending all their time surveilling and ginning up charges against some drug dealers who might actually have had some property worth seizing?

I mean, it's not like they could have been doing anything better in San Bernardino with their time during the last year.
posted by jamjam at 3:15 PM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jail should await law enforcement agents and prosecutors involved in entrapment or really any violation of basic human rights.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:46 PM on December 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


The problem with getting rid of quotas is that law enforcement costs money.

No, that's a reason for assessment. And, as any person who spends time in assessment knows, you get what you assess. So, if your assessment metric is arrests, you get arrests. If your assessment metric is test scores, people fudge the scores. So you need to assess for what you really want -- more satisfaction in neighborhoods, or economic growth or something else that might deter crime.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:54 PM on December 15, 2015 [19 favorites]


Now, 15 years into the merging of the war on drugs with the war on terror, ProPublica's Ginger Thompson has followed every public "narco-terrorism" case the DEA has made – and the results are shocking.

Those results would only be shocking if the DEA was telling the truth.

Unfortunately, I have a sinking feeling that those results are going to be exactly what I suspect, and not even mildly surprising.
posted by el io at 9:59 PM on December 15, 2015


All the time, pal, all the time.

I was sharing a spliff with a copper in the back room of the Docklands pub behind the nick. It was 2am, but the pub had no problems with licensing laws, as long as it was open when the late shift came off.

The subject of legalisation came up.

"Be terrible," he said. "Half the scrotes we want to nick are clean when we pull them, except for they all like a puff. We can always put the heat on for that, get a chance to turn over their place."

"They all smoke?"

"Seems that way. After we've gone through their pockets."

(The pub also served the best pint of Tim Taylor's Landlord I've ever had, even during the day. You can say a lot about the London plod, but some of them use their influence for good)

((Not the only cute trick. The Sweeney TV series, which depicted a lot of questionable behaviour by the police but used them as consultants, only had to pull one thing from a script because it was too close to the bone - the habit of certain officers of carrying a few hundred US$ in a polythene bag, then dropping it on the floor of the car of the person they wanted to maximally inconvenience. By declaring themselves suspicious that it might be counterfeit, they got to hold their man for as long as it took forensics to check.Which could be some time, in the 70s))
posted by Devonian at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


The problem with getting rid of quotas is that law enforcement costs money.

What if crime were reported to a different organization than the police? This organization would be assessed by how accurately they measure the crime rate. Then the police could work independently on getting that number down.
posted by panic at 2:21 AM on December 19, 2015




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