Drugs and drug policy are everywhere -- even in the final
report released yesterday by the 9-11 Commission. Drugs were
a decidedly secondary issue for the commission, understandably
-- we are able to include literally every excerpt on the topic
in this short article -- but the report information of some relevance
and importance to the topic nonetheless.
Page 17, NORAD Mission and Structure: "The threat of
Soviet bombers diminished significantly as the Cold War ended,
and the number of NORAD alert sites was reduced from its Cold
War high of 26. Some within the Pentagon argued in the 1990s
that the alert sites should be eliminated entirely. In an effort
to preserve their mission, members of the air defense community
advocated the importance of air sovereignty against emerging
'asymmetric threats' to the United States: drug smuggling, 'non-state
and state-sponsored terrorists,' and the proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology."
Drug War Chronicle comments: It's no surprise and not
new news that officials would seek to preserve their Cold War
budgets and programs by using the drug argument. But that doesn't
make it useful to others besides them. Supply will always fill
demand, which makes military activity a ridiculous way to reduce
substance use or abuse. During his confirmation hearings in January
2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Senators, "If
demand [for drugs] persists, it's going to find ways to get what
it wants. And if it isn't from Colombia, it's going to be from
someplace else." It's been reported to DRCNet that during
the 1990s, now-Secretary of State Colin Powell, responding to
a question asked following an unrecorded speech at a college
in New York, said "We will never solve the drug problem
Page 74, The Justice Department and the FBI: "[P]riorities
were driven at the local level by the [FBI's] field offices,
whose concerns centered on traditional crimes such as white-collar
offenses and those pertaining to drugs and gangs. Individual
field offices made choices to serve local priorities, not national
DWC: The FBI fighting drugs instead of the FBI fighting terrorism
-- misplaced priorities, perhaps missed opportunities.
Page 76-77, FBI Organization and Priorities: "FBI, Justice,
and Office of Management and Budget officials said that FBI leadership
seemed unwilling [during the 1990s] to shift resources to terrorism
from other areas such as violent crime and drug enforcement...
With a few notable exceptions, the field offices did not apply
significant resources to terrorism and often reprogrammed funds
for other priorities... In 2000, there were still twice as many
agents devoted to drug enforcement as to counterterrorism."
DWC: Misplaced priorities...
Page 80, Other Law Enforcement Agencies: "The [Justice]
department's Drug Enforcement Administration had, as of 2001,
more than 4,500 agents. There were a number of occasions when
DEA agents were able to introduce sources to the FBI or CIA for
DWC: Drug war supporters might argue that this is an argument
for continuing to wage the drug war -- sometimes the information
that drug agents find is useful for counterterrorism. The argument
would be flawed, however -- clearly any resources and manpower
applied deliberately to counterterrorism would be likely to accomplish
more for counterterrorism than counternarcotics efforts then
and now might occasionally accomplish by accident.
Page 100, Counterterrorism: "President Clinton's first
national security advisor, Anthony Lake, had retained from the
Bush administration the staffer who dealt with crime, narcotics,
and terrorism (a portfolio often known as 'drugs and thugs'),
the veteran civil servant Richard Clarke."
Page 171, General Financing [of al Qaeda]: "Al Qaeda
has been alleged to have used a variety of illegitimate means,
particularly drug trafficking and conflict diamonds, to finance
itself. While the drug trade was a source of income for the Taliban,
it did not serve the same purpose for al Qaeda, and there is
no reliable evidence that Bin Ladin was involved in or made his
money through drug trafficking."
DWC: If any terrorists do use drug trafficking to finance
their operations, and there is some evidence for it, that is
a much better argument for legalization of drugs, not for fighting
them. Of course, the commission did not raise that subject.
Page 179, [Attempted LA Airport Bombing Plotter] Ahmed Ressam:
"Inspectors examining Ressam's rental car found the explosives
concealed in the spare tire well, but at first they assumed the
white powder and viscous liquid were drug related -- until an
inspector pried apart and identified one of the four timing decides
concealed with black boxes."
DWC: Another example drug warriors might use to argue for
the drug war as helping the fight against terror. Also invalid,
though -- there's no reason to believe in this day and age that
inspectors spotting white powder hidden in a rental car's spare
tire compartment would not think to investigate further.
Page 186, Terrorist Financing: "Treasury regulators,
as well as US financial institutions, were generally focused
on finding and deterring or disrupting the vast flows of US currency
generated by drug trafficking and high-level international fraud.
Large-scale scandals, such as the use of the Bank of New York
by Russian money launderers to move millions of dollars out of
Russia, captured the attention of the Department of the Treasury
and of Congress. Before 9/11, Treasury did not consider terrorist
financing important enough to mention in its national strategy
for money laundering."
DWC: Another case of misplaced priorities, but more -- why
is there such a vast flow of laundered US currency? As the commission
noted, partly from drug trafficking. How can we get rid of it?
Only through legalization, of course -- but again, of course,
the commission didn't bring that up.
Page 209, Military Plans: "The FBI was struggling to
build up its institutional capabilities to do more against terrorism,
relying on a strategy called MAXCAP 05 that had been unveiled
in the summer of 2000. The FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism,
Dale Watson, told us that he felt the new Justice Department
leadership was not supportive of the strategy. Watson had the
sense that the Justice Department wanted the FBI to get back
to the investigative basics: guns, drugs, and civil rights...
On May 9, the attorney general [John Ashcroft] testified at a
congressional hearing concerning federal efforts to combat terrorism.
He said that 'one of the nation's most fundamental responsibilities
is to protect its citizens... from terrorist attacks.' The budget
guidance issued the next day, however, highlighted gun crimes,
narcotics trafficking, and civil rights as priorities. Watson
told us that he almost fell out of his chair when he saw this
memo, because it did not mention counterterrorism."
DWC: Our nation's misplaced priority of the misguided drug
fight seems to emanate right from the top.
Pages 383-384, Protect Against and Prepare for Terrorist Attacks:
"In the decade before September 11, 2001, border security
-- encompassing travel, entry, and immigration -- was not seen
as a national security matter. Public figures voiced concern
about the 'war on drugs,' the right level and kind of immigration,
problems along the southwest border, migration crises originating
in the Caribbean and elsewhere, or the growing criminal traffic
DWC: Denial of reality -- it is well demonstrated from decades
of experience that border enforcement cannot possibly stop the
drug traffic, nor even reduce it enough to raise the price of
drugs. Whether border security can protect us from terrorists
either, I don't know. But drugs? Not a chance.
The 9/11 Commission Report is available at www.9-11commission.gov online.