Drug Agents Have an NSA-Style Spying Problem

By Ezekiel Edwards, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project
September 4th, 2013

Over the last few months, we’ve been bombarded with revelation after revelation about the NSA’s unprecedented spying on Americans. But, according to The New York Times, the NSA’s untethered snooping is eclipsed by the agents fighting in a war that began long before 9/11: the costly and failed War on Drugs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s secret Hemisphere Project, news of which broke this week, allows drug law enforcement agencies broad access to billions of AT&T phone records going back a quarter century—to 1987. As The New York Times explained, “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.”

Our government’s mass telephonic data-mining has sparked immense and deserved outrage. But to those who have been targeted by the War on Drugs for the last several decades, the Hemisphere Project is only one in a long line of privacy-invading tactics employed by the U.S. government. Many other intrusions – such as the thousands of unconstitutional stops-and-frisks of people of color in cities across the country, the countless doors kicked in by police in search of drugs, the seizure and forfeiture of property of people never convicted of a crime – are representative of the kinds of common corporal intrusions that have been endured by many Americans, disproportionately of color, long before many post 9/11-era invasions of privacy became commonplace for all Americans.

Further, since 9/11, there has been an increasingly entrenched relationship between overreaching national security programs and domestic drug law enforcement policies. Each has fed on the other: the long-running drug war provided useful surveillance blueprints for the massive domestic spying programs that have sprouted up since 9/11. At the same time, domestic drug law enforcement agencies have seized upon the dismantling of basic constitutional protections over the past decade – in the name of national security – and pointed the resulting weapons toward America’s own citizens.

Read the rest of this important post by Ezekiel Edwards here.

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