The American Bear


CONFIRMED: The DEA Struck A Deal With Mexico's Most Notorious Drug Cartel

An investigation by El Universal has found that between the years 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an arrangement with Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs in exchange for information on rival cartels.

Sinaloa, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, supplies 80% of the drugs entering the Chicago area and has a presence in cities across the U.S.

There have long been allegations that Guzman, considered to be “the world’s most powerful drug trafficker,” coordinates with American authorities.

But the El Universal investigation is the first to publish court documents that include corroborating testimony from a DEA agent and a Justice Department official. [holy shit…continue]

Is the End of Marijuana Prohibition the End of the War On Drugs? Probably Not. | Bruce Dixon

The forty years of so-called “war on drugs” has been the rhetorical excuse for a nationwide policy of punitive overpolicing in black and brown communities. Although black and white rates of drug use have been virtually identical, law enforcement strategies focused police resources almost exclusively upon communities of color. Prosecutors and judges did their bit as well, charging and convicting whites significantly less often, and to less severe sentences than blacks.

The forty years war on drugs has been the front door of what can only be described as the prison state, in which African Americans are 13% of the population but more than 40% of the prisoners, and the chief interactions of government with young black males is policing, the courts and imprisonment. Given all that, the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition, first in Colorado and soon to be followed by other states ought to be great good news. But not necessarily.

Ask yourself, what would it look like if policymakers wanted to end the prohibition of marijuana, but not necessarily the the war on drugs. What if they desired to lock down the potential economic opportunities opened up by legalizing weed to themselves and their class, to a handful of their wealthy and well-connected friends and campaign contributors? What if they wanted to make the legal marijuana market safe for predatory agribusiness, which would like to claim lucrative patents on all the genetic varieties of marijuana which can be legally grown, as they already try to do with other crops?

If they wanted to do those things, the system in place in Colorado today would be a good start. In Denver today, low income property owners can’t just plant pot in the back yard or on the roof in hopes of making one mortgage payment a year out of twelve, it doesn’t work that way. Ordinary households are limited to 3 plants per adult, and for reference only the female plants are good for smoking, and prohibited from selling the weed or the seed. To participate in the marijuana economy as anything but a consumer requires background checks, hefty license fees, a minimum of hundreds of thousands to invest, and the right connections. All this currently drives the price of legal weed in Colorado to over $600 per ounce, including a 25% state tax, roughly double the reported street price of illegal weed.

So to enable the state to collect that tax money, and the bankers, growers and investors to collect their profits from marijuana taxed by the state and regulated in the corporate interest, cops and judges and jailers in near future, in Colorado and in your state as well, figure to be just as busy as they always have been the last forty years, doing pretty much what they’ve always done… conducting a war on illegal drugs, chiefly in the poorer and blacker sections of town, with predictable results.

The end of marijuana prohibition is not designed to create jobs in our communities, nor is it intended to shrink the prison state. Our ruling class simply does not allow economic growth that they can’t monopolize, and the modern prison state has never been about protecting the public from drugs or crime. Prisons and our lifelong persecution of former prisoners serve to single out, brand and stigmatize the economic losers in modern capitalist society, so that those hanging on from paycheck to paycheck can have someone to look down upon and so that they might imagine that this vast edifice of inequality is, if not just, inevitable.

On many thousands of occasions, drug dealers in foreign countries decided that, rather than using armed truck drivers, bribed customs agents, desperate drug mules, thuggish regional distributors, and street level drug dealers who used guns to defend their territory, they’d just mail drugs directly to their far away customers. Of course, folks at the beginning of the supply chain were still often violent drug cartels who one hates to see profit. But from the perspective of the many innocents who suffer from the black market supply chains involved in traditional drug sales, narcotics via mail order would seem to be a vast improvement. … The FBI summed up its case against The Silk Road by writing that “the site has sought to make conducting illegal transactions on the Internet as easy and frictionless as shopping online at mainstream e-commerce websites.” Insofar as it trafficked in violence-for-hire and hacked bank accounts, that was a bad thing — society has an interest in as much friction as possible in the market for hit men! But compared to the epidemic violence that has characterized the drug trade for the entirety of the War on Drugs, and that shows no signs of abating in the foreseeable future, a frictionless drug trade starts to seem like a relative utopia. Did Shutting Down The Silk Road Make the World a More Dangerous Place?

Drug Agents Use Vast Phone Trove Eclipsing N.S.A.’s | NYT

For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.

The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.

The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.

The project comes to light at a time of vigorous public debate over the proper limits on government surveillance and on the relationship between government agencies and communications companies. It offers the most significant look to date at the use of such large-scale data for law enforcement, rather than for national security.

The scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by other government programs, including the N.S.A.’s gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act. The N.S.A. stores the data for nearly all calls in the United States, including phone numbers and time and duration of calls, for five years. Unlike the N.S.A. data, the Hemisphere data includes information on the locations of callers.

Hemisphere covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years, according to Hemisphere training slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some four billion call records are added to the database every day, the slides say; technical specialists say a single call may generate more than one record.

The slides were given to The New York Times by Drew Hendricks, a peace activist in Port Hadlock, Wash. He said he had received the PowerPoint presentation, which is unclassified but marked “Law enforcement sensitive,” in response to a series of public information requests to West Coast police agencies.

The program was started in 2007, according to the slides, and has been carried out in great secrecy.

“All requestors are instructed to never refer to Hemisphere in any official document,” one slide says. A search of the Nexis database found no reference to the program in news reports or Congressional hearings.

The Obama administration acknowledged the extraordinary scale of the Hemisphere database and the unusual embedding of AT&T employees in government drug units in three states.

Grant Program May Incentivize More Weed Arrests Among Blacks - COLORLINES


Black Americans were nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana posession in 2010, even though the two groups smoke weed at similar rates, according to new federal data. The American Civil Liberties Union cites the Edward Bryne Justice Assistantship Grant Program as one possible reason for the disparity. The program incentivizes increasing drug arrest numbers by tying the statistics to funding. Law enforcement then concentrates on low-income neighborhoods to keep those numbers up.

More at the Atlantic Wire:

The argument resonantes with criticism of the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” program, which overwhelmingly targets young, black or latino men in the city (and, indeed, demonstrates a racial disparity in arrests for marijuana possession). But as the ACLU and the Times show, the problem of racial bias in arrests for possessing a drug that is, after all, gaining acceptance across the U.S., is a national one. the ACLU found a bias in “virtually every county in the country,” they told the Times, regardless of the proportional population of minorities in that county.

Back in 2010 the NAACP called the racial discrepency in weed arrests a “civil rights issue.” One year later, to mark the 20th anniversary of the U.S. War on Drugs, author Michelle Alexander told a crowd of 1,000 at Harlem’s Riverside Church back in 2011, “The enemy in this war has been racially defined. The drug war, not by accident, has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color.”

To see just how that war has played out in communities of color, check out our infographic [at the link].

(Source: afrometaphysics)

ACLU report confirms PoC make up most of marijuana arrests | The Raw Story


And in other news water is very wet and fire is still extremely hot.

Statistics like this are the reason why I would like to see marijuana legalized. I don’t give a shit about the white hipsters who wanna smoke a blunt with their friends while listening to Bob Marley and retwisting their “dreads.” I don’t give a shit about the white college students who get pissed and cry to mommy and daddy when they get a ticket for possession.

What I do care about are the PoC who are stopped, searched, and abused by police who think they have drugs on them. I care about the parents ripped from their families to serve mandatory sentences in prison because of a three strikes law. I care about the fact that in Iowa, Black people are eight times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana-related charge than white people.

If your “legalize it” campaign revolves around making sure white people can get high whenever and wherever they want, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your actions.

(Source: womanistgamergirl, via randomactsofchaos)

Western leaders study 'gamechanging' report on global drugs trade | The Observer

European governments and the Obama administration are this weekend studying a “gamechanging” report on global drugs policy that is being seen in some quarters as the beginning of the end for blanket prohibition.

Publication of the Organisation of American States (OAS) review, commissioned at last year’s Cartagena Summit of the Americas attended by Barack Obama, reflects growing dissatisfaction among Latin American countries with the current global policy on illicit drugs. It spells out the effects of the policy on many countries and examines what the global drugs trade will look like if the status quo continues. It notes how rapidly countries’ unilateral drugs policies are evolving, while at the same time there is a growing consensus over the human costs of the trade. “Growing media attention regarding this phenomenon in many countries, including on social media, reflects a world in which there is far greater awareness of the violence and suffering associated with the drug problem,” José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the OAS, says in a foreword to the review. “We also enjoy a much better grasp of the human and social costs not only of drug use but also of the production and transit of controlled substances.”

Insulza describes the report, which examines a number of ways to reform the current pro-prohibition position, as the start of “a long-awaited discussion”, one that experts say puts Europe and North America on notice that the current situation will change, with or without them. Latin American leaders have complained bitterly that western countries, whose citizens consume the drugs, fail to appreciate the damage of the trade. In one scenario envisaged in the report, a number of South American countries would break with the prohibition line and decide that they will no longer deploy law enforcement and the army against drug cartels, having concluded that the human costs of the “war on drugs” is too high. [++]

As ever, the utter failure of American drug policy is taken by the establishment as evidence that persisting is of even more importance. The policies the United States pursued in Mexico as part of our increased role there coincided with a huge uptick in violence and no reduction in the supply of Mexican drugs? By God, let’s hope that the Mexicans don’t decide to try something completely different! It’s the most irrational status-quo bias you’re likely to find. Conor Friedersdorf

[In 2006] Bush agreed to help [new president Felipe Calderon], and the Merida Initiative, a $1.9 billion aid package for military training and equipment and judicial reform, set the framework for a new level of U.S.-Mexican cooperation. In a little-noticed move, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence took a leading role in the U.S. effort to defeat the cartels, signaling the importance of intelligence in combating organized crime. By then, cartels had begun employing assassination squads, according to Guillermo Valdes, who was CISEN director at the time. CISEN discovered from a captured videotape and a special analytical group it set up that some of the cartels had hired former members of the U.S.-trained Guatemalan special forces, the Kaibiles, to create sociopathic killers who could behead a man, torture a child or immerse a captive in a vat of acid. Anxious to counterattack, the CIA proposed electronically emptying the bank accounts of drug kingpins, but was turned down by the Treasury Department and the White House, which feared unleashing chaos in the banking system.

U.S. role at a crossroads in Mexico’s intelligence war on the cartels | The Washington Post

Two things to note here. First, the blowback from “US-trained Guatemalan special forces” going on to “create sociopathic killers” - old story, new setting.

Second, preventing the CIA from blocking the bank accounts of kingpins for fear of “unleashing chaos in the banking system” speaks volumes about the priorities of the U.S. government.

From the Guardian, April 2nd, 2011 “How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico’s murderous drug gangs”:

… At the height of the 2008 banking crisis, Antonio Maria Costa, then head of the United Nations office on drugs and crime, said he had evidence to suggest the proceeds from drugs and crime were “the only liquid investment capital” available to banks on the brink of collapse. “Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade,” he said. “There were signs that some banks were rescued that way.”

Going back to the Post piece, we see the results of the Merida Initiative:

… In deference to their visitors, the U.S. briefers left out the fact that most of the 25 kingpin taken off the streets in the past five years had been removed because of U.S.-supplied information, often including the location of top cartel members in real time, according to people familiar with the meeting. …

Also unremarked upon was the mounting criticism that success against the cartels’ leadership had helped incite more violence than anyone had predicted, more than 60,000 deaths and 25,000 disappearances in the past seven years alone.

Meanwhile, the drug flow into the United States continued unabated. Mexico remains the U.S. market’s largest supplier of heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine and the transshipment point for 95 percent of its cocaine. …

So, in order to avoid “unleashing chaos” in the banking system by freezing the assets of the cartel kingpins, i.e. admitting that some of the nation’s largest banks were insolvent but for laundered drug money, Bush and Calderon pursued a military/paramilitary and assassination policy, continued under Obama, resulting in the deaths of at least 60,000 people and 25,000 disappearances over a 7 year span which did nothing to stem the flow of drugs into the United States.

But at least the banks are OK.

Meanwhile, ending prohibition - the main driver of violence - isn’t even on the table.

(The drug war sounds insane because it is insane.)

Supreme Court rules immigrants cannot be deported for minor drug offenses


In a decision issued Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that immigrants living in the U.S. cannot be deported for minor drug crimes absent the presence of a large quantity of a controlled substance or direct evidence of a sale.

“We must decide whether this category includes a state criminal statute that extends to the social sharing of a small amount of marijuana,” Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote for the court’s 7-2 majority in Moncrieffe v. Holder (PDF), ruling in favor of a Jamaican man who was deported over possession of 1.3 grams of marijuana.

The ruling is aimed at clarifying that, under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the “aggravated felony” classification does not apply without evidence of distribution. The ruling could also influence judges’ thinking on cases in states where penalties for distributing a controlled substance are broadly applied by authorities even to offenders caught with small amounts.

In the case, Jamaican national Adrian Moncrieffe, who’d lived in the U.S. legally since age 3, was deported after accepting a plea deal on a minor marijuana offense that he believed would keep him out of prison.

He was pulled over in 2007 by police in Georgia and caught with 1.3 grams of marijuana, and charged as a drug dealer despite the lack of evidence that he sought to distribute the drug. However, Moncrieffe’s attorney did not inform him that a guilty plea would endanger his immigration status, because the law considers any “aggravated felony” to be a trigger for deportation. When he signed the plea, federal authorities immediately moved to deport him.

“This is the third time in seven years that we have considered whether the Government has properly characterized a low-level drug offense as ‘illicit trafficking in a controlled substance,’ and thus an ‘aggravated felony,’” Sotomayor added. “Once again we hold that the Government’s approach defies ‘the ‘commonsense conception” of these terms.”

Dems call for federal commission on marijuana


Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) on Thursday introduced a bill to create a National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy, which would examine the conflicts created by state laws that allow marijuana use and the federal prohibition on marijuana.

“Regardless of your views on marijuana, it’s important that we understand the impact of current federal policy and address the conflict with those state laws that allow for medicinal or personal use of marijuana,” Cohen said.

“This conflict is only going to continue to grow over the next few years, and we must provide certainty to the millions of individuals and businesses that remain caught in a web of incompatible laws,” he said. “A national commission would provide us with the information we need to create sensible policy going forward.”

The new commission would study how federal laws should be reconciled with state laws, the cost of the federal prohibition on marijuana, and how the federal government should place marijuana in the schedule of the Controlled Substances Act.

It would also examine the health impacts of marijuana, and racial disparities and other consequences related to marijuana possession.

Cohen noted that a national commission on marijuana use was set up in 1971, and it released a report in 1973 that called for the decriminalization of the drug.

“In the four decades since the Shafer Commission, however, the federal government has only expanded its War on Drugs and continued to prohibit the use marijuana,” a statement from Cohen’s office said.

Cohen’s bill is cosponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Jim Moran (D-Va.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients to Prevent Abuse | Lawrence Rafferty

I have seen the suggestion before that Welfare recipients need to be drug tested to make sure that taxpayers are not paying for the drug habits of those evil poor people. I have even seen relatives allude to it in messages on social media sites and I have witnessed friends championing the idea in personal emails. I always wondered why some people think that the poor must be abusing the state and federal aid programs and therefore must have drug tests to insure that the taxpayers money is not being wasted. While I agree that taxpayers money should not be wasted, I have not seen any benefit from forcing people to be drug tested before they receive their aid payments.

The State of Florida tried this from 1999 to 2001 and reintroduced it in 2011. The Florida plan was subsequently struck down by the courts because there was no evidence that poor people abused drugs more often than their wealthier counterparts. “The state of Florida passed an almost identical testing procedure that ran from 1999 to 2001 and was reintroduced in July of 2011 that was struck down by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta the following month, citing the fact: ‘there is nothing inherent to the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a “concrete danger” that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use.’” Crooks and Liars Does it surprise you that it took the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals before this expensive and intrusive process was ended in Florida?

The Florida experience proved to be a costly waste of taxpayers money according to the Tampa Tribune. “The Tampa Tribune investigated the results of those July 2011 drug tests and found that “96 percent proved to be drug free”, another 2 percent never bothering to complete the lengthy application process, and 2 percent actually failing drug testing. At an average cost of $30 per test, the state was hemorrhaging tax dollars at a rate of “$28,800-$43,200 monthly”… FAR out pacing the supposed “savings” from preventing drug-abusers from gaming the system to buy drugs.” Crooks and Liars The failure of this idea in Florida did not prevent or dissuade the Texas State Senate from unanimously passing an even more draconian plan to screen and drug test welfare recipients.

“On Wednesday, the Texas State legislature, currently composed of 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats, unanimously passed Senate Bill 11, which mandates that every Texan applying for food assistance through the TANF (Texas Assistance for Needy Families) program, submit to an undefined “screening process” and possible drug test before receiving benefits if the screener finds “good cause” to even suspect that person is… or is likely to… abuse any “controlled substance” — despite the fact that there is no evidence at all that people seeking assistance are more likely to do drugs. [++]


The New Inquiry Magazine, Vol. 15, “Weed”
From the Editor’s Note: 
There’s a zero percent chance that America is going to have any chat about weed without some giggles. Laughter isn’t just an effect of the drug; it’s the only rational response to a president who belonged to the smoking club “Choom Gang” and says he truly believes we should still imprison people for getting high. Here in New York, Michael Bloomberg jokes to the cameras about inhaling and enjoying it even as he uses prohibition to justify a street war against the city’s black and brown youth. So long as gay marriage corners the market on liberal self-righteousness, policy makers can still get away with laughing off pot. But if the president was right and weed helps you see through hypocrisy, bullshit, and cheap moralism, America is going to have to be as stoned as hell for this national conversation.
Read more


The New Inquiry Magazine, Vol. 15, “Weed”

From the Editor’s Note: 

There’s a zero percent chance that America is going to have any chat about weed without some giggles. Laughter isn’t just an effect of the drug; it’s the only rational response to a president who belonged to the smoking club “Choom Gang” and says he truly believes we should still imprison people for getting high. Here in New York, Michael Bloomberg jokes to the cameras about inhaling and enjoying it even as he uses prohibition to justify a street war against the city’s black and brown youth. So long as gay marriage corners the market on liberal self-righteousness, policy makers can still get away with laughing off pot. But if the president was right and weed helps you see through hypocrisy, bullshit, and cheap moralism, America is going to have to be as stoned as hell for this national conversation.

Read more