Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Congress Expansion of Drug War is an Attack on Free Speech

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post

October 25, 2011

Just when you think Congress has gone about as far as it can go in terms of destroying civil liberties and Constitutional rights, eager and earnest Congressmen such as those “serving” on the House Judiciary Committee step up to the plate and show the American people that there is plenty more that can be done.  Case in point: on October 6, 2011, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill (sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith) called the Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011 (H.R. 313), which will serve to continue the administrative beating of the corpse known as Free Speech in America.

H.R. 313 would make it a Federal crime for U.S. citizens/residents to plan or even discuss activities on foreign soil that would violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) if they were carried out inside the United States. Under this bill, it is irrelevant if the activity is actually legal in the country where it is going to be conducted. With H.R. 313, the operative law is the CSA in the United States; the unconstitutional and oppressive law that prohibits drug use and marijuana possession as well as regulates the use and possession of prescription medication.

According to H.R. 313, anyone who discusses, plans, or advises anyone else to engage in an activity prohibited by the CSA, regardless of national boundaries, will be subject to prosecution under Federal law as well as charges of conspiracy. Apparently, conspiracies only exist when they are committed by the citizenry – never the government colluding with corporations or drug cartels.

The conspiracy issue aside, however, there are some disturbing implications for American free speech in this bill. As Jay Van Liere writes for Reality Sandwich:

If passed, this bill could target any American attempting to attend an entheogenic shamanic retreat abroad, or say even just a group of people planning a marijuana bar-crawl in Amsterdam. Americans could face the threat of being convicted of a crime predicated merely upon speech alone. [Got free speech?] And it is worth stressing that the Judiciary Committee is vying for a felony charge (federal crime) here: no paltry misdemeanor, as three felonies alone can be used to lock someone up for a life sentence. 

This bill would also likely affect the medical and academic professions. As Radley Balko of the Huffington Post explains in his article U.S. Drug Policy Would Be Imposed Globally By New House Bill, a U.S. doctor working with overseas doctors or governments on needle exchange programs would be subject to criminal prosecution. Doctors, academics, politicians, and average American citizens could be prosecuted simply for contributing their expert advice to overseas programs such as the drug decriminalization project in Portugal.

Furthermore, because the CSA also regulates prescription drugs, an individual who simply emails a sick friend in Mexico as to where that person could purchase prescription medication over the counter (medication that they would be required to identify and sign for in the land of the free), could potentially be prosecuted as well.

Not only that, but the fact that this new bill can result in charges of conspiracy for something as simple and innocuous as uttering accurate information as to the drug laws in another country, the fallout from H.R. 313 is even more far-reaching than the situations such as those listed above.

Conspiracy charges are themselves very broad and often overreaching categorizations. But, as Balko points out, they are often easier trials to win than those of other charges, allowing prosecutors to take end-runs around legal restrictions such as statutes of limitations. Unfortunately, these charges can also be used in order to cast a wide net and nab up extremely minor players in the game, many of whom were simply unwitting participants who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For instance, in the case of someone “breaking the law” by planning a weed-laden wedding in Amsterdam, not only would the bride and groom who planned the wedding be in danger of prosecution, but so would the other wedding attendees, family members, participants, etc. Such is the ability of H.R. 313 to create a wide swath of “criminals” guilty of victimless crimes. Victimless crimes that, in any of these cases, are only basic expressions of free speech.

Considering the broad and overreaching capacity of this bill, one would also be justified in wondering whether or not activists, bloggers, and journalists will be in danger of prosecution if their statements or writings are not found acceptable to those ensconced within the power structure. This is particularly relevant in light of the fact that the Obama administration, defying all promises made during his campaign, has now launched an intensified version of the drug war within the United States. Of course, this should come as no surprise.

Nevertheless, the Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011 also presents a challenge to the Common Law American tradition. That is, the tradition that says anything not strictly prohibited is legal. H.R. 313 is yet another move toward the type of law that says nothing is permitted unless strictly expressed in statutes.

As Harvey Silvergate, author and civil liberties attorney, stated:

Just when you think you can’t get any more cynical, a bill like this comes along. I mean, it just sounds like an abomination. First, there’s no intuitive reason for an American to think that planning an activity that’s perfectly legal in another country would have any effect on America. . . . So we’re getting further away from the common law tradition that laws should be intuitive, and should include a mens rea component.
There is little doubt that Silvergate’s analysis is correct, as the United States marches further and further every day into a society where free speech is not only chilled in certain circumstances, but nonexistent as a whole. If H.R. 313 succeeds in the general Congress and is subsequently signed into law by the President (a virtual guarantee), then free speech -- even the attenuated version that we experience today -- will be essentially dead forever, apart from a Second American Revolution.

Once there is a subject matter, a word, or point of view that citizens fear to hold or express because of the possibility of government retaliation, there is no such thing as free speech within that society. Such a society can no longer keep up the pretense that it is free. Once such a law has been passed, the mask has been pulled off and tyranny no longer masquerades as anything else but what it is. There is now no excuse for allowing authoritarianism to run amok in this country. It is no longer cloaked under “freedom” and “security.” It is now openly expressing itself and launching an attempt to prevent even feeble criticism of it and its societal oppression.

The very fact that lawmakers even have the gall to write, sponsor, introduce, or even hint at supporting such a bill, without fear of losing their elected position or becoming victims of whatever other means the public may have to exact retribution for their treasonous behavior should send a message to every citizen who pays even minor attention to current events.

With this in mind, feel free to contact the sponsor of this monstrous piece of treasonous legislation, Rep. Lamar Smith, and let him know how you feel about his latest assault on free speech.  

Considering the tendency of Congress to support any and all legislation that would damage the Bill of Rights in the past, it might be a good idea to contact your own Representatives as well.  Feel free to explain to them that their parasitical tenure in the U.S. House depends upon their voting record on issues like this.  

More important than telling them, however, is meaning it

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