AOH :: WODACLU.TXT|
What the ACLU has to say about the War On Drugs
The following was written on ACLU Letterhead.
American Civil Liberties Association.
132 West 43rd Street
New York, New York 10036-6599
Ira Glasser, Executive Director.
The American People have finally spoken out about the attack on personal
liberty. And what they are saying will scare the hell out of you.
Acceptable: A violent knock on the door awakens you in the middle of the
night. When you go to see who it is, several police officers
burst in and begin to ransack your house. They dump the
contents of your drawers and medicine chest on the floor,
examine them, and list them on a form. When you ask them what
they want and whether they have a warrant, they tell you to
"shut up." They don't _need_ a warrant, you are told--because
they are looking for drugs...
Acceptable: You are about to check in your luggage at the airport when two
customs agents order you to accompany them to a small room and
open your suitcases. As you watch in helpless frustration, your
flight already gone, the men carefully hold each item of your
clothing up to the light. They find nothing--and grudgingly
tell you that you are free to go. When you demand to know why
you were detained and your personal belongings examined, they
tell you they are "trying to stop drugs," and if you don't like
being searched, perhaps you shouldn't travel...
Acceptable: You are settling back in your theater seat to watch the famous
Woddy Allen comedy "Annie Hall," when the house lights suddonly
come on and a police officer walks out on stage. He announces
that the film has been _confiscated_ and orders everyone to
leave, since the law now _forbids_ showing the use of illegal
drugs in feature films...
If these scenarios scare you, you're not alone. As Executive Drector
of the ACLU, I'm scared to death every time I look at them.
But even _more_ frightening than any of these police state scenarios is
the fact that a majority of Americans find _nothing objectionable about any
of them_. In fact, they now _favor_ them!
That's right--when _The Washington Post_ and ABC News polled the nation,
they found that most Americans--_62 percent_--were willing to "give up a
few of the freedoms we have in this country" to win George Bush's so-called
"war" on drugs.
Thats why I'm writing today to invite you to join nearly 300,000
men and women as a "card-carrying member" of the ACLU--the only
organization devoted exclusively to protecting our precious freedoms
from the assaults of government ... including those "few freedoms"
now deemed expendable by a majority of Americans.
Which few freedoms? Here's what the poll revealed:
- Two-thirds of those polled said the police should be allowed to _pull any
car off the road at any time_ to stage a _random_ fishing expedition for
drugs, with the police going through your glove compartment, trunk,
pockets or purse simply because they _want_ to, even though they have no
reason to suspect anything at all.
- More than half said that _the police should not be required to get a
search warrant_ from a judge in order to invade your home to search for
drugs. Again, the fact that innocent people like themselves -- or you
-- might have their homes searched by mistake or malice was _acceptable_.
- And a startling _71 percent approved the censorship of feature films to
forbid_ showing the use of illegal drugs!
In many ways, that last figure is the most frightening of all. For its
overwhelming approval of censorship indicates how successful George Bush
has been in using the drug crisis and the American public's understandable
concern over related violent street crime to justify his Administration's
attacks against the most fundamental guarantees of the Bill of Rights.
That's a path of profound danger, for one of history's gravest lessons
is that this kind of "wartime mentality" is almost always accompanied by
frightening abuses of liberty.
The Japanese-Americans interned in concentration camps during World
War II ... the suspension of freedom of the press during the
"Pentagon Papers" episode of the Vietnam War ... and mob assaults
on innocent schoolchildren whose religion forbade them from
saluting the American flag ... show what can happen when government
"protects" citizens by attacking civil liberties.
The irony of this approach is that most senior law enforcement officials
do _not_ believe that constitutional rights are an impediment to effective
I know that for a fact--because the ACLU has been working with police
chiefs and district attorneys for more than a year now, sharing insights
and suggestions with one another on how to fight crime without endangering
AND YET ... the Administration still insists on waging its cynical
"war" on drugs and street crime by leveling one attack after another
directly on the Fourth Amendment, which protects innocent citizens like you
and me against the kind of illegal searches and seizures we have always
associated with "other countries," where citizens live in terror of the
dreaded midnight knock on the door.
Most ironically, this is all happening during the 200th anniversary of
the Bill of Rights. Back then, Americans insisted on the Fourth Amendment
because they were all too familiar with British soldiers entering their
homes at will on the pretext of searching for smuggled goods.
Many Americans have forgotten how dangerous it can be to permit the
police to search without a warrant. Today, with the help of a Supreme
Court and a lower federal judiciary now dominated by the appointees of
Ronald Reagan and Edwin Meese, many of our Fourth Amendment protections
have already been chipped away.
And the situtation is now growing even worse, as the government uses the
public's concern over the drug problem -- inflamed by the Administration's
cynical declaration of a "war" on drugs -- to extend its reach deeper and
deeper into our private lives.
In one of the more outrageous examples, thousands of innocent
federal workers -- _with Supreme Court approval_ -- are now forced to
submit to degrading urine testing procedures that require them to
be escorted into the bathroom by official "witnesses" who _directly
eavesdrop on the most intimate sounds of their urination_.
Many buisnesses have also begun to require their workers to submit to
urine tests without any reason to suspect drug use. More than 40 percent
of Fortune 500 companies, for example, _already_ demeand that their applicants
or employees undergo these degrading tests.
We have been successful in persuading some states to pass laws
prohibiting such tests unless there is good reason to suspect a particular
individual, but these kinds of protections are fragile. There has already
been an attempt to push a bill through Congress that would _override such
state laws and allow employers to test virtually everyone, whether there is
reason to do so or not. And we expect to see this bill again.
If this outragous law should ever be passed, those companies that have
held back will quickly join the parade in support of further shrinking the
rights of American citizens. And each of us -- no matter how law-abiding
-- will be in deep and serious trouble. Because when civil liberties are
eroded in the name of "law and order," the innocent suffer along with the
guilty. Intrusions of privacy used first against despised targets ultimately
become institutionalized -- and are used routinely against all of us.
THE WORSENING CLIMATE FOR FOURTH AMENDMENT PROTECTIONS
For the last decade, beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan and
continuing with the Administration of George Bush, the issue of crime --
drug-related crime, in particular -- has been used as an excuse to hack
away at our civil liberties, with Fourth Amendment protections against
illegal searches and seizures and the right of privacy being made
Year after year, spokesmen for both of those Administrations have
lied to the American people by pretending that constitutional rights were
standing in the way of the fight against crime. And even thogh most
senior law enforcement officials deny it, politicians keep saying it. As a
result, Americans have come to believe that the loss of their rights is
necessary in order to make a real difference in the war against drugs and
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary were quietly
stacked with judges who shared those anti-civil liberties views. And
anyone who advocates constitutional rights is quickly accused of being
"soft" on crime.
In 1988, this phenomenon reached a crescendo when George Bush became
the first presidential candidate to make his personal opposition to civil
liberties -- and to their greatest defender, the ACLU -- a _cornerstone_ of
his presidential campaign!
Sadly and frighteningly, this sustained attack on liberty soon began to
Under former national "drug czar" William Bennett the Administration
installed a "battle plan" emphasizing more police and prisons.
Most law enforcement officials maintained from the very beginning that
this was exactly the _wrong_ approach -- and the "war on drugs" is now
conceded by most to be failing. Yet we are still immersed in the war
mentality of Ronald Reagan and George Bush; a mentality that says "anything
goes" in the attempt to vanquish the enemy:
- There was a serious Congressional proposal -- the "Arctic Penitentiary
Act" -- to actually create an "American Gulag" of remote, desolate
prison camps for drug offenders. Although that proposal was first made
early in the Reagan Administration, it could be revived again. After
all William Bennett publicly said he didn't see anything wrong in
_beheading_ drug offenders! And his replacement, former Florida Governor
Robert Martinez, has reacted to his own state's drug problems bx
advocating capital punishment for drug dealers and mandatory drug-testing.
- The Drug Enforcement Administration was caught not long ago maintaining
computer files on _more than 1.5 million persons_, including congressman,
entertainers, clergy, industry leaders and foreign dignitaries. By the
DEA's own admission, many of these files were created on the basis of
"unsubstantiated allegations." with _only fiver percent_ of those people
actually under investigation as suspected narcotics traffickers!
- Nearly 600 rural utility workers in 41 pennsylvania counties were
organized into a network of _drug surveillance informants_ by the state
attorney genaral's office -- with instructions to inform the police of
unusual "signs" of possible drug manufacture, like "unusually high
consumption of water" and "fans whirring through the night."
- And federal agents in 46 states carried out simultaneous raids on garden
supply shops in order to _seize customer lists_! Specifically, they
wanted to know who was buying the indoor "grow lights" and hydroponic
equipment used by gardeners to grow tomatoes and other vegetables year
round ... because those same materials _might_ also be used to grow
marijuana plants indoors -- out of the view of police helicopters.
Abuses like this have happened before, but now there are two critically
important differences that should be sending shock waves of fear through
every person like yourself who cares deeply about personal liberty:
DIFFERENCE NUMBER ONE: _The Washington Post_/ABC poll I cited earlier
shows that a majority of Americans are now _comfortable_ with such outrages,
and are willing to "give up a few of the freedoms we have in this country"
to win the so-called "war" on drugs ...
DIFFERENCE NUMBER TWO: The new anti-liberties makeup of the Supreme
Court and entire lower federal judiciary means that _the courts are no
longer our ally in defending liberty from the excesses of government_.
That means if civil liberties violations take place, it will be more
difficult -- and in some cases impossible -- to resist those violations in
court. This will be true not only with respect to illegal searches, but
also in the areas of racial discrimination, reproductive rights and freedom
For 70 years, the ACLU has been that champion, successfully litigating
thousands of cases in defense of liberty, lobbying in Congress and state
legislatures, and organizing support from hundreds of thousands of
Americans like you who care enough to help.
Many of the rights Americans now take for granted because they are
"guaranteed" by the Constitution -- such as freedom of speech for even the
most unpopular causes -- _did not exist in practice until ACLU lawyers
fought for them in court and won._
**We fought for religious freedom when fundamentalist zealots tried to
make teaching evolution a crime in the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 ...
**We stood up for freedom of speech when the rights of workers and
employers alike were threatened by the labor strife in the 1930s ...
**We defended the due process rights of those Japanese-Americans so
callously imprisoned in American concentration camps in the 1940s ...
**We are carrying the fight to protect abortion rights and other reproduc-
tive freedoms into every court in the land, no matter how hostile ...
_And we have continued to fight in every major civil liberties battle of
the last 70 years_. We defend liberty wherever and whenever it is threatened.
In the state and federal courts ... in the Supreme Court ... in Congress and
in the state legislatures ... and even beford school boards and city councils
in America's small towns.
But we have _never_ faced the kind of threat we face right now. For we now
have a presidential administration and a Supreme Court that are _both_ willing
to chip away the most critical protections of the Fourth Amendment and other
And we have an American public so driven by fear and frustration over
drugs and violent crime that it seems _willing to give up basic freedoms_ as
the horrifying poll results I cited earlier show -- in a misguided
attempt to solve these problems.
But the drug problem will not be solved by police state "solutions" --
such as an "American Gulag" in the Arctic, police helicopters hovering over
your backyard or mine, or urine tests imposed on innocent workers.
Subjected to those kinds of "solutions," America would _still_ have a drug
problem. People like you and I would _still_ be in danger. Bodies would
_still_ be found in the street every morning. We would _still_ be "at war."
AND ... the worst casualty would be the Bill of Rights. The drug
kingpens will not be stopped by searching innocent people. But if such
rights are lost, you and I will be less free to walk in the streets, drive
our cars, or relax in the privacy of our homes -- without suddenly being
seized by the police for no reason ... asked for "our papers" ... searched
... or marched into a bathroom to urinate for an "official" listener.
The ACLU is determined not to let that happen. With the generous
support of nearly 300,000 people like you from all over the nation who
share your commitment to liberty, we have continued our efforts to ensure
that your freedom will not become the cheif casualty of the "war" on drugs.
BUT ... our battle is now much more difficult. For many years, we were
able to rely on the courts as an ally. So the limited resources provided
by our loyal members could be directed in that one critically important
direction: hiring talented lawyers and giving them the tools they needed
to defend your personal liberties.
Now we must continue our battles not only in the courtrooms -- fighting
everything from illegal searches to degrading, random urine tests -- but on
other fronts as well, including: _the propaganda war_ that George Bush's
Administration has declared on personal liberty ... the Bill of Rights ...
and especially the Fourth Amendment.
In the last two years alone, that has meant increasing our public
education staff from one person to 12. But as _The Washington Post_/ABC poll
shows, we have no choice. The climate of hostility to liberty demands it.
AND ... we have also had to _vastly increase our lobbying efforts_ in
Washington and throughout the states, as well. For the courts' reduced
inclination to strike down abusive laws makes it essential that we prevent
such laws from being enacted in the first place.
None of this has come easily, and none of it has come cheaply, either. To
defend liberty, the ACLU has always depended on the commitment of its members.
That's why I have written you today. If your commitment to liberty
is as great as I believe it is, you _belong_ in the ACLU -- a proud,
"card-carrying member" willing to stand up for freedom. And you
can join us in moments -- simply by returning the enclosed
Membership Reply Form with your most generous donation tody.
The ACLU has never turned away from a battle, and we will not turn away
from this one. Nearly 300,000 dedicated men and women are ready to fight
in defense of liberty. We want and need you to stand with us.
The entire AOH site is optimized to look best in Firefox® 3 on a widescreen monitor (1440x900 or better).
Site design & layout copyright © 1986- AOH
We do not send spam. If you have received spam bearing an artofhacking.com email address, please forward it with full headers to firstname.lastname@example.org.