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Federal Failure by Design
Lawmakers Give Terrorists a Pass

John Gaver
September 11, 2002

John GaverIt has now been a year since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. In that time, our military has performed admirably, in rooting out known terrorists from their caves and hideouts. President Bush and Congress have now had plenty of time to take effective legislative action against the terrorists. Yet, as this anniversary date arrives, we find that our elected lawmakers have done little on the legislative front, that will aid in the War on Terrorism.

In the intervening year, President Bush, Congress, the military, numerous federal agencies and media policy wonks have been telling us repeatedly, that one of the most important things that we can do to win the War on Terrorism, is to cut off the source of funds to terrorist organizations. So we ask, why do our lawmakers refuse to even consider the one thing within their power, that would have the most devastating impact on terrorist funding sources?

Before going any further, let me make it clear that I do not intend, in any way, to disparage any of our various intelligence operatives, who have managed to track down a small amount of terrorist funding sources, outside of normal banking channels, since the terrorist attacks. In fact, because the Arab world has its own banking system, those agents are to be commended for tracking down as much as they have. The questions that I will raise, are only about the ineffectiveness of our lawmakers, as regards fighting terrorism. Also, the proposal that I will present is intended to make the work of those agencies easier and more effective and allow them to shift more resources to the War on Terrorism.

Moreover, it is primarily through the excellent work of our various intelligence operatives, that we have acquired two solid facts about how terrorists fund their cowardly ventures - facts that our lawmakers have conveniently ignored. Those facts are:

  1. Only a negligible amount of the terrorists' funds ever passed through the US banking system or any other Western financial institutions. Essentially, the accounts that the terrorists had in the US were almost exclusively personal accounts that the individual terrorists used for living expenses and paying for flight school. There were no major money laundering operations connected with the US banking system. More specifically, the Arabs have their own banking system, that is completely isolated from the US banking system and that is what the terrorists used.
  2. A major source of funds for terrorist organizations derives from the sale of drugs - drugs that are eventually injected, sniffed or smoked by our children. That translates into a double win for the terrorists - they make millions, while addicting our children. In fact, in an address to the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Twentieth Anniversary Conference, on July 30, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft went to some length to make the connection between terrorist organizations and drug trafficking organizations. Specifically, he stated that after comparing a list of major drug trafficking organizations with the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, "Nearly one third of the organizations on the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations appear also on our list of targeted U.S. drug suppliers."

These two facts would indicate to any reasoning person that attacking US financial institutions and individual privacy, would yield only negligible results, while taking action to reduce terrorist drug profits would severely cripple the terrorists. But, who ever accused our lawmakers in Washington of being reasonable or more than a handful of them of having any respect for the Constitution?

The Unreasonable Response

Within a few short weeks after the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Centers, our lawmakers overwhelmingly passed and the President signed, the ominous USA Patriot Act (H.R.3162), aimed NOT at cutting off the terrorists' access to drug money, but at the same Western financial institutions that the terrorists had so scrupulously avoided. In fact, of the 362 pages that comprise the USA Patriot Act, over one third (125 pages) are concerned only with American banking and finance and tracking the finances of law-abiding US citizens. Now, think about what that says about our elected officials. Instead of doing something to really hurt the terrorists, they pass a bill aimed squarely at US citizens and US businesses.

There are only two possibilities. Either they knew what they were doing... or they didn't.

As the available facts show, if they really thought that the USA Patriot Act represented a significant step toward fighting terrorism, they would have to be totally incompetent. On the other hand, if they knew what they were doing, then they must have another agenda - an agenda that they consider more important than fighting terrorism - an agenda that they even consider more important than the Constitution.

We can safely assume that most of our elected officials are not totally incompetent, since getting elected to such a high office would normally preclude that possibility (at least in most states). So, we are left to conclude that they must have some other agenda that they consider more important than fighting terrorism. This raises a very serious question.

What is it that our lawmakers consider more important than fighting terrorism?

To answer that question, we have only to look at what they have accomplished, in place of cutting off the terrorists' source of funds. In fact, not a single legislative action taken by our elected officials, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, has had more than a nominal effect on terrorist funding sources. So, what is their great accomplishment?

Most constitutional scholars, regardless of political persuasion, consider the USA Patriot Act, that our lawmakers did pass, to constitute the greatest single attack on the Constitution in the history of the United States. In fact, they point out that the primary feature of the USA Patriot Act was to give the government unprecedented (and unconstitutional) authority to spy on US citizens, going about their normal business. This new authority was not aimed at foreign nationals, Arabs in general or even young Arab males in particular. It was aimed very broadly at US citizens and US financial institutions.

So, addressing the question of what our elected officials have really accomplished, since September 11, it becomes clear that they have callously and significantly increased their own power over those who elected them, at the expense of the Constitution (particularly the 1st, 4th and 10th Amendments), while having no significant impact on terrorist funding sources.

Since, as we saw above, it's not reasonable to attribute these actions to total incompetence on the part of our lawmakers, it is only reasonable to conclude that our elected officials were simply using the War on Terrorism to further their own political ambitions and tighten their stranglehold on US voters. The USA Patriot Act has little to do with fighting terrorism and everything to do with subverting the Constitution and giving the government unprecedented power over US citizens and granting them unprecedented access to the private records of US citizens.

It seems that Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709–1784) was right, when he said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." However, I am more inclined to agree with Ambrose Bierce, who submits that it is the first.

A Reasonable Response

As shown above, our best intelligence has shown that a significant portion of the terrorists' funds come from the sale of drugs. In fact, our intelligence services have been telling us this, since long before the attacks of last September.

It's no secret. The government knows the problem. They just refuse to do the one thing that would not only cripple the terrorists financially, but reduce drug usage by our kids.

By far, the most significant negative impact that we could place on terrorist finances, would be to deny them their drug profits. And by far, the best and most cost effective way to do that would be to take their market away. So, what is this magic pill?

Legalize Drug Usage?

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting that recreational drug usage should be considered acceptable behavior. Quite the contrary, it is something that we should be trying to eliminate. We should also be trying to cripple the terrorists financially. At this time, we are doing neither. The War on Drugs has been a dismal failure and the terrorists continue to make millions by funneling drugs to our children. I only suggest that we take a positive step on both fronts.

I'm not talking about a blanket, uncontrolled legalization. Rather, I'm suggesting that the US adopt a structured system, similar to Switzerland's highly successful system, which has not only reduced drug usage in general, but has significantly reduced drug related crime and taken drugs off the street. But, even more importantly, it has made it almost impossible for kids to get their hands on drugs. That alone is something that our War on Drugs has yet to achieve. (See "The War on Drugs - Solution or Problem?" for confirmation of this fact and many links to source data.)

So, what has all this to do with fighting terrorism?

I will demonstrate that such a program would actually take away the double win that the terrorists now have, when they 1) make a tremendous profit by 2) selling their drugs to our kids. Furthermore, it would free up needed law enforcement resources for the War on Terrorism.

In Switzerland and other countries that have legalized drugs and put the distribution of those drugs into the normal commercial supply chain, the cost of drugs to the users dropped to as little as 3% of the former street price. This effectively takes the profit out of peddling drugs on the street. After all, why would a user pay $200 to $300 for drugs of an unknown quality, that he could be arrested for using, when he could get legal pharmaceutical quality drugs for $10 to $15? Think about it...

It is key to note that this would only apply to adult users, who have undergone a doctor's physical and attempted to kick the habit in a qualified program (both at the user's cost). Minors might still try to find drugs on the street, but they would soon find that their street sources have dried up. As has been seen in Switzerland, without the lucrative adult market, the pushers found that the kids did not offer enough profits. After all, the kids have less money to begin with and the pushers have to give away large amounts of their product, just to get a few kids hooked. Add to that, the fact that in a few years, when the kids come of age, the pushers will lose those customers and you have a no win situation for the pushers. In the end, the real winners are the kids.

Translate this to the terrorist situation and what you have is a bunch of terrorists who have a whole lot of poppies and no market for their poison.

The drugs that the clinics would be selling would be coming through the highly controlled legitimate drug supply chain, that currently includes such companies as Abbott Laboratories, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, etc., where each company in the chain is required by law, to know and record the source of every purchase. Furthermore, even if the terrorists were able to somehow sell into the legitimate market, the prices that they would get would be insignificant in comparison to their former underground trade.

Granted that they could sell their drugs in other less profitable countries. But, several countries are already trying variations on the Swiss system, with varying degrees of success. But more importantly, if the United States were to adopt such a system, it would cause a domino effect that would dry up even more of their markets. Then, consider that if the US did implement such a program, they would certainly pressure other countries to do the same. Within a year and at very little cost to taxpayers, we could eliminate one of the terrorists' primary sources of funds and put drugs out of the reach of our kids at the same time.

Since the details of the Swiss program and the many other reasons for implementing such legislation here have been thoroughly covered in the Action America article, "The War on Drugs - Solution or Problem?", I won't go into those details here. But, if you want to take the time to check it out, you will find that those details are many and quite conclusive.

Finally, by ending the War on Drugs, we would free up an enormous amount of resources that are currently being used for drug trafficking interdiction, to be used in the War on Terrorism. Such resources would include, but not be limited to, agents of the DEA, Treasury, FBI, state and local law enforcement arms, as well as ships and crews of the US Coast Guard. Literally thousands of agents could be freed up, at all levels of law enforcement. Also consider that when a Coast Guard cutter intercepts a drug runner, that ship is effectively out of commission until the perpetrators and their contraband are handed over to the appropriate agency. Depending on the distance from port and the size of the haul, such processing could take a day or more. That's a day that the cutter could be on the seas, interdicting terrorist activity.

Legalization may sound like a radical idea, at first. But, it now has a proven, positive track record and the side effects that benefit the War on Terrorism make it an undeniable winner. In fact, it provides us four wins.

  1. It's clear that the 20 year War on Drugs has been a colossal failure, so any change that has shown any degree of success is a move in the right direction.
  2. Since this proposal would knock the bottom out of illegal drug profits and severely impact the terrorists, it gets even better.
  3. Throw in the freed up law enforcement resources for the War on Terrorism and the positive effects become phenomenal.
  4. Then, add the fact that the cost to the taxpayers, of such a program, would be nominal and you have a win-win-win-win situation.

In fact, there would be only two losers in this equation; the terrorists, who would lose a major amount of funds and our lawmakers, who would lose a tremendous amount of power over the voters. And therein, lies the rub. The only way that our lawmakers (including Republicans) will ever vote for any measure that would reduce their power over the voters, is if their constituents give them no choice. You must make your wishes known to your elected representatives at every level, all the way up to the Whitehouse and back up those wishes with your votes, or they will continue to vote themselves more power over you, at the expense of effective policy and a shredded Constitution.

The choice, after all, is ours. But, nothing will change, if we don't change it.

If we allow our lawmakers to get away with such activity, without addressing the real threat, then the terrorists did something much worse than destroy and damage a few buildings and kill 3000 people on September 11, 2001. They effectively took away many of the freedoms that made this nation great and damaged our Constitution in a way that even Bill Clinton could not and that will surely lead to much worse tragedies in the future.

I urge you to contact your elected representatives and tell them that you see through their "smoke" screen and do not accept their underhanded use of "Patriotism" as a catch-all excuse for their power grabs. Inform them that if they want your vote in the next election, you expect them to take solid and continuing steps toward repealing the USA Patriot Act and implementing government run legalized drug usage, along the lines of the Swiss program.

To paraphrase the wisdom of Dr. Samuel Johnson, we can no longer allow our elected scoundrels to hide their deceit behind the banner of Patriotism.

Note: Since this article was originally published, further significant evdence has emerged, that our legislators in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, care more about increasing their own power than they do about the Constitution. Under the guise of fighting terrorism and by touting a few very visible and necessary provisions, Congress and the President managed to pass even more self-serving attacks on the Constitution, than even those represented by the USA Patriot Act, in the form of the Homeland Security Act. A detailed analysis of the HSA reveals that cleverly couched among the 187 pages of that legislation are extremely ominous powers for the almost benevolent sounding Information Awareness Office, in direct opposition to our Constitutional protections. And then, to top it off, who does Bush put in charge of creating this ominous new threat to our rights, than a man who has been proven untrustworthy, Adm. John Poindexter (convicted of lying under oath to Congress).

It's getting worse. Our elected representatives in Washington continue to use the banner of Patriotism to hide their deceit. Democrats and Republicans alike, voted in large numbers for both the USA Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act - considered by many Constitutional scholars, to be the two greatest attacks on the Fourth Amendment in the history of the United States. As you can see, if we don't stop them, our elected representatives will just continue to subvert more and more of our rights. Regardless of your party affiliation, the chances are, that someone who you voted for, voted for both of those bills. We can no longer afford the luxuy of party-line voting. It's time for a thorough House (and Senate) cleaning.

Further note: Since the previous note, overwhelming public outcry forced the elimination of the Information Awareness Office, thus proving that we, the People, can have a positive effect, if we will only use our voices. But just because we have eliminated the Information Awareness Office, doesn't mean that we should sit back and admire ourselves, for that wmall success. We must not rest, until all of the un-constitutional portions of the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act are eliminated and our congress-critters get back to representing their constituents, rather than ruling them.

Copyright 2002 John Gaver
All rights reserved.

Sign the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy
Note: This resolution does not ask anyone to support any particular plan for solving the drug problem, and makes no mention of legalization. It only asks for an open and honest review of the nation's drug policy by our government - something that our government has thus far resisted with a vengance. It seems that our government just doesn't want to confuse the voters with the facts.

See related article:

The War on Drugs - Solution or Problem?

Check out these excellent sources of information and commentary on this subject:

Drug War Facts - Just the Facts, but well sourced
America Locks Up 2 Millionth Inmate - It's a World Record!!!
Adolescent Drug Use and Drug Control Efforts
The War on Drugs Clock - It's ticking a shameful total
Recommendations of New Mexico Governor’s Drug Policy Advisory Group
The Effective National Drug Control Strategy 1999
Justice Policy Institute
Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR)
National Center for Health Statistics - recommended only for experienced researchers
Bureau of Justice Statistics Report on Prison Population


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