The Keystone Cops

After reading this story, I’ll sleep a little less soundly knowing that we have idiots working for in charge of important government agencies.

The FBI used expanded powers under the USA Patriot Act to demand information from banks and other companies as part of the investigation of Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield, who was wrongfully arrested in connection with the Madrid train bombings in 2004, according to a report issued yesterday.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine also found that although FBI investigators did not abuse any of its powers in the case, the Patriot Act anti-terrorism law “amplified the consequences” of the FBI’s misidentification of a fingerprint by allowing numerous agencies to share flawed information.

The findings are part of a 273-page report by Fine’s office that was declassified and released yesterday. It expanded on a summary released in January.

The full report provides many new details about the treatment of Mayfield, who was the subject of surveillance and secret searches before he was hurriedly arrested in response to media leaks about the case. FBI examiners had wrongly identified a fingerprint found on a bag of detonators as Mayfield’s and then resisted the Spanish police’s conclusion that the print belonged to someone else, according to the report.

Incompetence, arrogance, and laziness all rolled up into a nice little ball of governmental abuse. Of course, no the FBI admits there was no abuse in the sense of misconduct, but the bottomline is a huge screw up leaving one wondering if the FBI is now a new clown school or something.

Via the Agitator.

Update: Also from the Agitator is this article about how there is now a new national security threat! Methamphetamines!

The new version of the Patriot Act scheduled to become law later this week will protect us from more than just terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. It addresses what lawmakers are calling another threat to our nation: methamphetamine, an illegal homemade stimulant.

According to the commander of the Albany County Narcotics Unit, rightfully so.

Beginning Sept. 30 it will be harder to buy something as simple as Sudafed. The law is supposed to make it harder to manufacture meth, but it’s cracking down on the people who have to enforce it too.

[snip]

The key ingredient in many cold medicines is also the main ingredient of meth. To crack down on the drug’s processing, the new version of the Patriot Act requires pharmacies to store medicines containing pseudoephedrine behind the counter, impose limits on how much could be bought at once and force pharmacists to collect signatures and identification from consumers.

Screw this signatures and ID crap, I think we need to call in airstrikes on Walgreens right now. And send all pharmacists to concentration camps yesterday!

FILED UNDER: National Security, Terrorism, , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. McGehee says:

    Everyone knows what the real threat is.

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    See what I mean McGehee, they are completely focused on the wrong thing!

  3. denise says:

    Restrictions on pseudephedrine were already in place, and I thought that was federal law. Maybe it’s just a state law. Hmm.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    Uhhmmm…no, this is the Patriot Act which will likely supersede anything currently in place.

  5. Herb Ely says:

    Steve, spend half an hour talking to a recovering crystal meth addict and you may change your opinion.

  6. D. C. Russell says:

    So, Herb, you believe that it is just dandy to increase the suffering of millions of innocent sick people, as well as increase the costs of medicines and medical treatments, just because a few bad people choose to violate drug laws or to use illegal drugs?

  7. floyd says:

    herb ely; the question is not whether methamphetamines are dangerous , just whether they have relevance in an already overreaching homeland security act. there are many dangers facing our liberty, an overreaching octopus of federal law is just one of them . beware your guardian doesn’t become your jailor!

  8. Steve Verdon says:

    Herb,

    That is one doozy of a non-sequitur.

  9. anjin-san says:

    Yea, the drug laws have worked so well, lets throw more freedoms into the toilet in the name of fighting drugs.

    News flash, the government does not really give a crap about addicts. If they did they would fund treatment and change the emphasis on criminalization.

  10. TJIT says:

    Herb,

    There are two substantial problems with this law on a drug policy level.

    1. It won’t stop Meth abuse. Low quality locally made meth will simply be replaced by high quality imported Mexican meth. With the associated additional problems created by the presence of armed gangs to smuggle and distribute the higher quality meth.

    2. It will have a very real negative impact on people who suffer from allergies or chronic sinus infections.

    End results will be a typcial drug control policy flop. 1. Punish the 99% of the people who are innocent cold and sinus infection patients. 2. Increase the amount and purity of the substance (Meth) the policy is trying to control.

    US drug control policy has consistently lead to the development of increasingly dangerous drugs. Crack, Heroin, and meth would never have existed if drug control policy had not lead to their creation to replace less harmful drugs that were unavailable because of drug laws.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Good point by TJ, the law of unintended consequences at work. Like when Nixon cracked down on pot imports from Mexico in the early 70’s. Crackdown was pretty sucessful. Did smugglers retire? Nope, they switched to cocaine and launched the coke boom of the 70’s. The pot did a lot less harm.

    Course to know this you would have to read history, which lets Herb out.

  12. LJD says:

    I don’t see how Meth is any part of Homeland Security, however I also don’t see how chronic allergy sufferers will in any way be negatively impacted by going to the counter, or buying one box at a time.

  13. TJIT says:

    LJD,

    You miss the primary point, this legislation is going to do nothing to reduce the supply of meth. In fact it is probably going to increase the amount and purity of meth supply.

    Let me explain how chronic allergy and sinus infection patients are going to be negatively impacted.

    1. Many rural areas don’t have any pharmacies and patients already have a long drive to get to town in the first place.

    2. The limit on the amount prescribed means they will need to make more trips to town.

    3. The limit on amount purchased is going to be an especially big problem for parents who have children who need sudafed to treat allergies.

    4. Some of these people might decide to purchase sudafed at a couple of different pharmacies so they can stock up and avoid the extra trips to town. Doing this will probably set a flag in the database of sudafed users that this law creates.

    5. Being flagged in the database is going to result in a visit from the local sheriff if the patient is lucky or the local swat team if he is not.

    Lets review: The law is not going to reduce the supply of meth. But it is going to make what allergy patients have been doing for years to treat their problem an illegal act.

  14. Steve Verdon says:

    3. The limit on amount purchased is going to be an especially big problem for parents who have children who need sudafed to treat allergies.

    As in, suppose you have 3 kids and want to buy several bottles at the start of “hay fever” season. Nope, not any more, because you might be a meth manufacturer.

    5. Being flagged in the database is going to result in a visit from the local sheriff if the patient is lucky or the local swat team if he is not.

    From reading Radley Balko’s site, I’d say more likely the latter. Nothing like a military style commando raid on a cozy little ranch style house while mom is giving her cute cuddle kids the medicine they need so they can sleep peacefully. Don’t forget to lock-n-load your MP-5 submachine gun, that teddy bear might be armed!

  15. LJD says:

    Whether it reduces meth use or not is irrelevant. This is simply not a H.S. issue.

    I have thought some more on this… I think your point is sound, but your hypothetical leaves too much room for rebuttal. You shift the argument from individual rights to one of access.

    This should be considered on a much simpler, constitutional ground. i.e. Americans can own whatever quantity of a legal substance they wish, without any explanation.

    That said, a different argument would be an individual’s ability to purchase hundreds of gallons of gasoline, perhaps to make molotov cocktails or a fuel bomb, without any identification or purchase limit. (Or- GASP!- They could sniff the gasoline to get high!)

    The logistics of monitoring are difficult and there are too many ways to get around the controls. I don’t think we’ll be seeing it any time soon.

  16. Jay Cline says:

    What everyone is ignoring (or is simply ignorant of) is that every state (like OK, MN and IA) that has passed laws that simply put things like Sudafed behind the counter, meth labs in those states have dropped dramatically.

    By dramatically, I am talking an 80% reduction. Year after year.

    Actually, in this world of Google, it isn’t ignorance.

    It is simple stupidity.

    Google it, dudes. The law works.

  17. TJIT says:

    Jay Cline,

    Nobody argued that this law would not reduce domestic meth labs. I argued that it would not reduce meth usage because domestic meth would be replaced by imported, highly pure Mexican Meth.

    Do a Google search on Mexican meth and you will find an article from the New York Times, by Kate Zernike 23-Jan-06. It discusses the impact of putting sudafed behind the counter in one of those states (IA) that you mentioned as having a great success with the law. The article headline is

    “Potent Mexican Meth Floods In as States Curb Domestic Variety”

    some quotes

    “Sometimes called ice, crystal methamphetamine is far purer, and therefore even more highly addictive, than powdered home-cooked methamphetamine, a change that health officials say has led to greater risk of overdose. And because crystal methamphetamine costs more, the police say thefts are increasing, as people who once cooked at home now have to buy it”

    Another interesting quote.

    “It’s killing us, this Mexican ice,” said Mr. Van Haaften, a former sheriff. “I’m not sure we can control it as well as we can the meth labs in your community.”

    These are just two of numerous problems mentioned in the article. And now thanks to the Meth provisions in the Patriot act we have a law that is going to lead to these same problems nationwide.

    Unfortunately for you Jay Cline your arrogance combined with your ignorance allowed you to produce an abundance of “simple stupidity” in one convenient post. Next time use Google yourself dude, it may prevent you from looking like such a donkey.

  18. Jay Cline says:

    TJIT,

    But you do seem to agree that the laws in fact reduce domestic meth lab production.

    That is bad?

    I stand by my characterizations.

  19. Jay Cline says:

    TJIT,

    My apologies.

    You are right. I am being arrogant. And I am guilty of making certain assumptions, namely that I would not have to break this down.

    Let me dumb my point up a bit.

    Over the past several years, state laws passed by state legislatures in various states have effectively reduced meth labs in their states by 80%.

    These laws are state laws, enforceable within the borders of state lines by state law enforcement officials.

    Now we have a national law that is attempting to replicate that success on a national level within nation borders.

    Two questions come to mind in response to your response.

    1) What is intrinsically different between the state and national levels where you believe this won’t work?

    2) Given that the Mexican and Canadian borders are not exactly sealed up tight, are you inferring that those borders are easier to cross than, for example, the border between TX and OK or WI and MN?

  20. Jay Cline says:

    I have argued against the “Legalize Drugs” argument many times (particularly with the misnamed organization LEAP) and it always seems to devolve to the following point. Since we can’t shut the spigot on smuggled drugs, we should stop making criminals of drug users and stop filling up our prisons.

    I have found the only effective argument against this illogic is to point out the illogic and take it to its natural ad nauseum.

    If the argument is that we cannot stop all the drugs coming in and therefore should just “give up” (my words), then we need to abolish both the FBI and the US Treasury enforcement.

    1) In the entire history of the FBI and the US Treasury, crimes like murder, kidnapping, bank robberies, counterfeiting and racketeering have not been eradicated.

    2) The fundamental mission of those agencies are to combat and defeat those crimes.

    3) They have failed.

    4) Ergo, let’s decriminalize all those “crimes” and stop making criminals out of people and filling up the prisons and save millions in “wasted” law enforcement costs.