Is the slang used by some African Americans, including some drug dealers, a foreign language? The Smoking Gun reports the DEA is seeking to hire ebonics linguists to assist in their drug investigations, particularly on wiretaps. They even have the contract.
A maximum of nine Ebonics experts will work with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta field division, where the linguists, after obtaining a “DEA Sensitive” security clearance, will help investigators decipher the results of “telephonic monitoring of court ordered nonconsensual intercepts, consensual listening devices, and other media”
The DEA’s need for full-time linguists specializing in Ebonics is detailed in bid documents related to the agency’s mid-May issuance of a request for proposal (RFP) covering the provision of as many as 2100 linguists for the drug agency’s various field offices. Answers to the proposal were due from contractors on July 29.
Case law involving Ebonics arises far more frequently in civil cases, particularly workplace harassment and discrimination cases. One court opinion says "Ebonics" is also known as "African American Vernacular English." (Webster's II New College Dict. (2001) p. 356, col. 1.)
In my experience, drug agents frequently misinterpret the conversations they hear on the wiretaps, and that includes Ebonics as well as official languages like Spanish or Hmong. I don't think their reliability or their methodology should pass muster under Daubert. But there's very little case law on it. [More...]
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