Victory Act: Redefining Drug Crimes As Terrorism

While Attorney General John Ashcroft distracts us by parading around the country touting the Patriot Act, the equally dangerous, overly broad Victory Act bill is making the rounds through Congressional offices. The full name of the bill is the Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations Act of 2003.

In a nutshell, the bill reinvents drug offenses as terrorism crimes. The ho-hum label of "controlled substance offense" will get a glossy makeover as many routine drug crimes become elevated into crimes of "Narcoterrorism."

Whose brilliant idea was this? The bill was drafted by worker bees in the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-UT.) Justice Department employees are disassociating the department from the bill, but we take that with a heavy grain of salt. Do you have any doubt Ashcroft will come to praise it?

ABC News has obtained a copy of the draft of the bill and provides this preliminary analysis of the 89 page bill:

Provisions in the draft would:

* Raise the threshold for rejecting illegal wiretaps. The draft reads: "A court may not grant a motion to suppress the contents of a wire or oral communication, or evidence derived therefrom, unless the court finds that the violation of this chapter involved bad faith by law enforcement."

* Extend subpoena powers by giving giving law enforcement the authority to issue non-judicial subpoenas which require a person suspected of involvement in money laundering to turn over financial records and appear in a prosecutor's office to answer questions.

* Extend the power of the attorney general to issue so-called administrative "sneak-and-peek" subpoenas to drug cases. These subpoenas allow law enforcement to gather evidence from wire communication, financial records or other sources before the subject of the search is notified.

* Allow law enforcement to seek a court order to require the "provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service" or a financial institution to delay notifying a customer that their records had been subpoenaed.

The bill is set to be introduced by Hatch on the first day of the new Congress next month. Here's what critics have to say:

A Democratic aide for the House Judiciary Committee said the linking of drug-related crime and terrorism raises questions about the draft.

"This bill would treat drug possession as a 'terrorist offense' and drug dealers as 'narco-terrorist kingpins,' " the aide argued. "To say that terrorist groups use a small percentage of the drug trafficking in the United States to finance terrorism may be a fair point, but this bill would allow the government to prosecute most drug cases as terrorism cases."

Concluded the aide: "It really seems to be more about a political agenda to jail drug users than a serious attempt to stop terrorists."

American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Jameel Jaffer added: "Absolutely nothing would prevent the attorney general from using these subpoenas to obtain the records of people who have no connection to terrorism, drug trafficking or crime of any sort."

Update: We should have known Patriot Watch would have a link to the draft of the soon-to-be introduced Victory Act.... Here it is.

[thanks to Ron Galant of Madison, WI for the hat tip on the ABC news article]

< ACLU: Ashcroft Obscures True Threat of Patriot Act | Bush Administration Resumes Cooperation in Shooting Down Drug Planes >
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