by Leon Felkins
Having become addicted to the exploration of the various and many forms of government chicanery, my curiosity was immediately aroused yesterday when I was reading the news report, "Leaders set to sign historic Americas action plan" (REUTERS, April 18, 1998) -- the proclaimed purpose being
"to sign an action plan to launch talks for the world's largest free trade bloc, to broaden the regional fight against drugs and to attack poverty."-- and saw the sentence, "The emphasis (on drugs) is on the need to seek a focus and a cooperative mechanism...". It was the term "cooperation" that tripped my button, as it can mean just about anything in government-speak, from "I won't tell if you won't" to "I'll send you the bombs if you will do the killing".
The article goes on to say:
"For 12 years the U.S. government has issued an annual list to Congress on whether narcotics producing or transit countries are cooperating in the war on drugs. Those nations that are blacklisted, or decertified, face economic sanctions.So, what does it mean to "cooperate" and obtain "certification". Well, certainly Barry McCaffrey, the current Drug Czar, ought to know, so I looked for what more of what he has had to say on the subject.
The process has done little to stop billions of dollars of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana flowing into the United States. Drug enforcement officials say the drugs are cheaper and more readily available on U.S. streets than ever.
U.S. anti-drug chief Barry McCaffrey has stressed a U.S. commitment to multinational cooperation but said the government would continue to comply with the certification process because it was federal law."
With minimal searching, I found a copy of a transcript of testimony given by McCaffrey to Congress back on October 29, 1997 (a more recent report by Benjamin F. Nelson on the same subject, dated 3/18/98, is available from the GAO). Some of what he said was:
"Through collaboration and cooperation with Mexico and other hemispheric partners we are able to attack the entire chain of illegal drug production, shipment and distribution. Close cooperation is the key to magnifying our counter-drug efforts. Multinational solutions are the best way to counter the multilateral problems of illegal drugs and drug-related crime and corruption."Ah, we are on the right track! Now let us see how he defines "cooperation".
Of course, I suspect that it has something to do with "forfeiture and seizure", so I scan the text for those terms. This popped up:
"...the new Organized Crime Law (OCL) provides Mexico with a new arsenal of investigative and prosecutorial tools, including electronic surveillance, witness protection, plea bargaining, and prosecution for criminal association.Bingo! If I understand this, we are telling Mexico about the seizing of private assets, phone tapping, protecting witnesses, plea bargaining, and jailing for "criminal association" (whatever that means!). Is that not just a bit presumptuous to think that the US, which is fairly new in the game of thuggery, citizen abuse, and the scrapping of due process, can tell Mexico how to do these things?! Come on. Surely, they are offended by the mere suggestion that they need help in these areas. Assuming for the moment that we are sincere in the stated purpose (ha!) of the proposed actions, do we, in our wildest dreams, think that Mexico can somehow do a better job than our government has in carrying off such dubious activities without the program becoming totally infested with corruption, fraud and abuse?
[Editorial comment: Did he miss "Paid Informants", another very effective US criminal justice tool -- effective in destroying innocent lives based on incredibly unreliable witnesses but which saves much time for lazy (whoops, I mean overworked) prosecutors and judges?]
This new legislation also permits the seizure and forfeiture of assets used in illicit activities."
Maybe we should look at our own government's record in these areas:
"According to statistics compiled by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, surreptitious government surveillance is now at record levels. From 1985 to 1995, more than 12 million conversations were intercepted through law enforcement wiretaps, and all but a relative handful were completely innocent (in 1995 alone, nearly two million innocent conversations were intercepted). Although government agents must obtain a warrant, their requests for wiretaps are almost never turned down by judges or magistrates. In fact, only one request by law enforcement for an intercept has been rejected in the last eight years."
"It has already prompted the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold its first hearings on the federal witness protection program in history. Among the findings of this yearlong investigation are the following: many criminals who have been given fresh starts by the government choose to continue their life of crime, often violently; many high-profile criminals receive minimal if any jail time and get to keep much off their ill-gotten wealth simply by implicating other criminals, while lesser criminals might end up only with broken promises in exchange for their testimony; and the program exists in a world where liars are rewarded and secrecy is paramount, even if it means putting ordinary citizens at risk. "
"About 90 percent of all guilty verdicts result from negotiated guilty pleas, not trials."
"Even though jail is far more expensive to operate than prison, prosecutors like jail for defendants. The dreariness and oppression of jail time are often the single most important factor in getting defendants to accept a deal, and deals -- the negotiate pleas of guilty -- are the real basis of our felony trial system."
"[Plea bargaining] has become the dominant mode of disposition of criminal cases without ever having been defined or authorized by any legislative body."Jackson likens the "plea bargain" system to a school in which the professor "grade bargains" with her students. The instructor tells the student, "If you force me to read your lousy essay, I will probably give you a "D" -- but if you will waive that right, I think a "B" is about right".
But there are other aspects to making it international. The US is in the process of making treaties with every country it can to establish an exchange of forfeited assets. See the Newswire article of April 2, 1998, "CLINTON TRANSMITTAL ON TREATY WITH ISRAEL" in which it states:
"The Treaty provides for a broad range of cooperation [there's that word again!] in criminal matters. Mutual assistance available under the Treaty includes: taking the testimony or statements of persons; providing documents, records, and articles of evidence; serving documents; locating or identifying persons or items; transferring persons in custody for testimony or for other assistance; executing requests for searches and seizures; assisting in proceedings related to seizure, immobilization and forfeiture of assets, restitution, and collection of fines; executing procedures involving experts; and providing any other form of assistance appropriate under the laws of the Requested State."It is important that such treaties be established as the US has a policy of always going after a person's loot no matter where they may be in the world today if they have ever had the misfortune of establishing residence in the US or has any connections with the US in any way. A very telling example is the current exchange with Hong Kong in which the US is to receive $17 million from confiscated assets there. Sadly, Hong Kong -- not being nearly as progressive in law enforcement as the US -- has no forfeiture procedures on the law books. Therefore, the US quickly stepped in and said, "Well, if you can't grab the loot, then we will take it off your hands". For a more precise quote, I refer you to the article in the HONGKONG STANDARD of 3/31/1998, in which it says:
"THE Finance Committee of the Provisional Legislature on Monday approved giving the US government its share of confiscated assets - totalling about $17 million - which belonged to a fugitive drug trafficker. The largess represents 40 per cent of the $42 million confiscated from drug trafficker Chan Ching-wai who skipped bail.
Since the Drug Trafficking (Recovery of Proceeds) Ordinance did not provide for confiscation of assets of absconding defendants, the government had to request the US to make an external confiscation order against Chan's assets in Hong Kong based on his illicit activities in the US."
"The committee was told the case was just one of 15 drug cases Hong Kong was cooperating [I hate that word!] in with the US. Assets amounting to about $360 million have been frozen in Hong Kong so far. "
Now, in summary, I will attempt to clarify the title. The US is in the process of interfering with internal governmental affairs -- in particular, those that have to do with criminal justice -- in practically every country in the world. First off, our government always offers money. When the "Monica-obsessed" news media reports that such and such country is "cooperating" with the US in drug traffic interdiction efforts, they rarely ever report that the "cooperation" is based on getting piles of money shipped their way. If a country should have the dignity to refuse this offer that "You can't refuse", then the US has ways it can get tough. But that refusal is such a rarity that it is not worth discussing.
More of Leon Felkins' essays may be found on his webpage, A Rational Life. Leon's other pissedOff rants can be found here.