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A Small But Perceptible Shift in U.S. Global Drug Policy

This doesn't seem to have picked up as much traction in the U.S. as it has elsewhere, and it may not be huge, but it does represent a shift in stance on the U.S. global war on drugs.

Robert Brownfield, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, speaking at a foreign press conference in New York on October 9, while discussing the third of the four pillars of global drug policy, said (Full text here):

Things have changed since 1961. We must have enough flexibility to allow us to incorporate those changes into our policies … to tolerate different national drug policies, to accept the fact that some countries will have very strict drug approaches; other countries will legalize entire categories of drugs.

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Flak Over FBI and DEA Impersonations

The FBI and DEA's impersonation tactics have been facing a lot of criticism lately. First, there was the case of the cocaine defendant in New York who has filed a lawsuit to stop the DEA from impersonating her on Facebook. The DEA used photos and personal information from her seized cell phone to set up a fake Facebook account in order to trick her friends and associates into revealing incriminating information.

Then there was the disclosure a few days ago that in 2007, the FBI created a fake Associated Press article, put a spyware tool in it and sent it to the My Space account of a Seattle teen suspected of making bomb threats. [More...]

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Missing Afghan Cops Training at Quantico With DEA Found

The DEA brought a bunch of Afghan police to Quantico to train them. It says it polygraphed them and took their passports. That didn't stop two of them from taking off in Georgetown Saturday.

They have now been found. They will be returned to Afghanistan. There's a suggestion in the article they may have intended to seek asylum and "a better life" here.

It’s not known if Samimi and Ataye intended to seek asylum, but it’s likely they left their supervised group to seek a better life in the United States.

More here.

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NYPD Chief Bratton Outlines New Police Training

NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton today appeared before the City Council and outlined changes for the city's police force:

On Monday, Mr. Bratton, surrounded by much of his top leadership, delved into the details of his plan. Every officer would go through a three-day retraining course, on how to talk to an “uncooperative person” in a way that does not escalate into a physical conflict; how to subdue a suspect if the encounter does escalate or if a suspect resists arrest; and how to be sensitive to cultural differences. It would also include a leadership workshop called Blue Courage.

Mr. Bratton said that officers would be expected to retrain regularly in these techniques, as they do with the use of firearms, and that the course would most likely evolve over time.

Bratton also acknowledged the problems with excessive force: [More...]

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Michael Brown: Redacted Police Reports Released

Ferguson police today released the name of the officer who killed Michael Brown (Darren Wilson, who had been on the force for 6 years with no disciplinary history) and 16 pages of heavily redacted reports (available here) related to Michael Brown.

None of the released reports describe the shooting. Instead, they describe an alleged "strong arm" robbery at a convenience store that occurred shortly before noon on the day Brown was shot and killed. Police also released video images from a surveillance camera inside the store showing a person they say is Brown "towering" over a much shorter person (the store clerk or manager). Brown, according to the report, is 18 years old, 6'4" and 292 pounds. [More...]

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AG Eric Holder Addresses Criminal Defense Bar

Attorney General Eric Holder was the featured speaker yesterday at the annual meeting of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) in Philadelphia. The primary topic: Federal sentencing. He also addressed indigent defense, the role of defense lawyers, and the need to act in good faith in discovery matters.

Every day, in courtrooms from coast to coast, criminal defense attorneys take on cases that are fraught with difficulty and often controversy – because you understand that, for our criminal justice system to function at all, every accused individual must have effective representation. And every defendant’s right to due process must be guaranteed.

The full text of his remarks is here.

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New York Times Editorial: Feds Should Legalize Marijuana

The New York Times has taken a bold step. Its editorial board is calling for the legalization of marijuana -- Repeal Prohibition Again.

The Times will feature marijuana legalization all week in a series of articles, High Time. Here's the first article, Let the States Decide. [more....]

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No Treaty, No Problem for the DEA

Update 7/27: The Netherlands has authorized Aruba to release Hugo Carvajal, saying he does have diplomatic immunity. Looks like the DEA has lost this round. Definitely the right decision in my view.

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Venezuela does not allow the extradition of its citizens to the U.S. That doesn't stop the DEA. The latest conquests in its global war on drugs: Benny Palmeri-Bacchia, a Venezuelan attorney who served as a judge and prosecutor, and Hugo Carvajal Barrios, aka "Pollo" (chicken), the former head of Venezuela's Military Intelligence. Palmeri-Bacchi was arrested en route to Disneyland with his family for a vacation, and Carvajal was arrested in Aruba (as the result of a year long DEA plan to arrest him outside of Venezuela, more on this below.) [More...]

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DOJ' s Child Migrant Solution: Throw Money at the Wind

50,000 children have fled their home countries and arrived in the U.S. since last fall. The number is expected to reach 90,000 by the end of the year. They are desperately in need of humanitarian aid. They should be treated as refugees from the violence in their home countries, not immigration violators. The U.S. should be providing them with asylum, not subjecting them to deportation.

What is DOJ's solution? Yesterday it announced a new policy. [More...]

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Recreational Pot Sales Begin In Washington State

Washington state opened its doors to recreational marijuana sales yesterday. There were long lines and very happy customers. James Lathrop, the owner of Cannibis City, came out at 9:00 a.m. with a big pair of scissors to cut the tape and said:

It's time to free the weed.

Among those who waited in line for hours:[More...]

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2013 Wiretap Report Released


On July 2, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts released its annual statistical report on federal and state wiretaps for 2013. The report is here.

In a nutshell:

  • The number of federal and state wiretaps authorized in 2013 reached a ten year high -- there were 3,576.
  • Only 1 wiretap application was rejected, and that was by a state court. (Number of requests: 3577)
  • 87% of all wiretaps were for drug offenses.
  • Average cost of a federal wiretap: $43,361.

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Sentencing Commission Holds Hearing on Retroactivity of New Drug Guidelines

The U.S. Sentencing Commission today held a hearing on whether to make the two point reduction in drug sentencing guidelines that becomes effective November 1, 2014 retroactive so that it applies to those already sentenced. The hearing agenda with witness statements is here.

The Justice Department, unfortunately, is asking the Commission for limited retroactivity. From its prepared testimony:[More...]

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DEA Threatens MA Medical Marijuana Doctors

Massachusetts enacted a medical marijuana law in 2012. Recently, shortly after the first licenses were approved, the DEA began visiting MA physicians associated with medical marijuana dispensaries and giving them a choice: Give up your DEA license to prescribe most medications, or give up your association with dispensaries.

The stark choice is necessary, the doctors said they were told, because of friction between federal law, which bans any use of marijuana, and state law, which voters changed in 2012 to allow medical use of the drug.

The DEA’s action has left some doctors, whose livelihoods depend on being able to offer patients pain medications and other drugs, with little option but to resign from the marijuana companies,where some held prominent positions.

The DEA gets progressively more out of step with the Department of Justice, Congress and state legislatures every day. Its budget is bloated and it desperately needs new leadership. DEA Director Michelle Leonhart, who presumably approves tactics such as these, should be asked to resign and a more enlightened director should be appointed to take her place. You can sign a Change.Org petition to remove her here.

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Huge Shift: FBI to Record Most Custodial Interrogations

Some very welcome news: The FBI's longstanding policy against recording interrogations of suspects will change in July.

Here is the May 12, 2014 memo sent to federal prosecutors and DOJ agencies by Deputy AG James Cole explaining the policy change. [More...]

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FBI May Loosen Hiring Policy on Marijuana Use

Congress has authorized 2,000 new hires for the FBI, and the FBI will be filling many of the positions with computer programmers and hackers in its fight against cybercrime. The problem, according to FBI Director James Comey, speaking yesterday at a white collar crime conference:

“I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” Mr. Comey said.

Up until now, the FBI has asked applicants whether they have used marijuana within the past three years. Comey says the agency is changing "its mindset and the way we do business" and working more outside the box:

One conference goer asked Mr. Comey about a friend who had shied away from applying because of the policy. “He should go ahead and apply,” despite the marijuana use, Mr. Comey said.

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