LEAP talk at Akzept drug conference in Bielefeld

Here’s a talk I did last week at the inter­na­tional Akzept Con­fer­ence in Biele­feld about pro­hib­i­tion and the failed “war on drugs”:

Akzept Kon­gress 2013 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Keeping Abreast of Privacy Issues

In the wake of the Edward Snowden dis­clos­ures about endemic global sur­veil­lance, the rather thread­bare old argu­ment about “if you have done noth­ing wrong and have noth­ing to hide, you have noth­ing to fear” has been trot­ted out by many Big Brother apologists.

But it’s not about doing any­thing wrong, it’s about hav­ing an enshrined right to pri­vacy — as recog­nised in the Uni­ver­sal Declar­a­tion of Human Rights agreed in 1948.  And this was enshrined in the wake of the hor­rors of World War 2, and for very good reason.  If you are denied pri­vacy to read or listen, if you are denied pri­vacy to speak or write, and if you are denied pri­vacy about whom you meet and see, then free­dom has died and total­it­ari­an­ism has begun.

Those were the les­sons learned from the growth of fas­cism in the 1930s and 1940s.  If you lose the right to pri­vacy, you also lose the abil­ity to push back against dic­tat­or­ships, cor­rupt gov­ern­ments, and all the attend­ant horrors.

How quickly we for­get the les­sons of his­tory: not just the rights won over the last cen­tury, but those fought and died for over cen­tur­ies. We recent gen­er­a­tions in the West have grown too bloated on ease, too fin­an­cially fat and socially com­pla­cent, to fully appre­ci­ate the freedoms we are cas­u­ally throw­ing away.

body_armourSo what sparked this mini-rant? This art­icle I found in my Twit­ter stream (thanks @LossofPrivacy). It appears that a US police depart­ment in Detroit has just sent out all the tra­di­tion­ally vital stat­ist­ics of its female officers to the entire depart­ment — weight, height and even the bra size of indi­vidual female police officers have been shared with the staff, purely because of an email gaffe.

Well people make mis­takes and hit the wrong but­tons. So this may not sound like much, but appar­ently the women in ques­tion are not happy, and rightly so. In the still macho envir­on­ment of law enforce­ment, one can but cringe at the “josh­ing” that followed.

Put­ting aside the obvi­ous ques­tion of whether we want our police officers to be tooled up like Rob­ocop, this minor débâcle high­lights a key point of pri­vacy. It’s not that one needs to hide one’s breasts as a woman — they are pretty much obvi­ous for chris­sakes — but does every­one need to know the spe­cif­ics, or is that per­sonal inform­a­tion one step too far? And as for a woman’s weight, don’t even go there.….

So these cops in Detroit, no doubt all up-standing pil­lars of their com­munit­ies, might have learned a valu­able les­son. It is not a “them and us” situ­ation — the “them” being “ter­ror­ists”, act­iv­ists, com­mun­ists, lib­er­als, Teabag­gers — whatever the theme du jour hap­pens to be.

It is about a fun­da­mental need for pri­vacy as human beings, as the Duch­ess of Cam­bridge also dis­covered last year. This is not just about height, bra size or, god for­bid, one’s weight. This is about big­ger issues if not big­ger boobs. We all have some­thing we want kept private, be it bank state­ments, bonk­ing, or bowel movements.

How­ever, with endemic elec­tronic sur­veil­lance, we have already lost our pri­vacy in our com­mu­nic­a­tions and in our daily routines — in Lon­don it is estim­ated that we are caught on CCTV more than 300 times a day just going about our daily business.

More import­antly, in this era of fin­an­cial, eco­nomic and polit­ical crises, we are los­ing our free­dom to read and watch, to speak and meet, and to protest without fear of sur­veil­lance. It is the Stasi’s wet dream, real­ised by those unas­sum­ing chaps (and obvi­ously the chapesses with boobs) in law enforce­ment, the NSA, GCHQ et al.

But it is not just the nation state level spies we have to worry about. Even if we think that we could not pos­sibly be import­ant enough to be on that par­tic­u­lar radar (although Mr Snowden has made it abund­antly clear that we all are), there is a bur­geon­ing private sec­tor of cor­por­ate intel­li­gence com­pan­ies who are only too happy to watch, infilt­rate and destabil­ise social, media and protest groups. “Psy­ops” and “astro-turfing” are ter­ri­fy­ing words for any­one inter­ested in human rights, act­iv­ism and civil liber­ties. But this is the new reality.

So, what can we do? Let’s remem­ber that most law enforce­ment people in the var­ied agen­cies are us — they want a stable job that feels val­ued, they want to provide for their fam­il­ies, they want to do the right thing. Reach out to them, and help those who do have the cour­age to speak out and expose wrong­do­ing, be it law enforce­ment pro­fes­sion­als speak­ing out against the failed “war on drugs” (such as those in LEAP) or intel­li­gence whis­tleblowers expos­ing war crimes, illegal sur­veil­lance and torture.

Thomas_PaineBut also have the cour­age to protest and throw the tired old argu­ment back in the faces of the secur­ity proto-tyrants. This is what the found­ing fath­ers of the USA did: they risked being hanged as trait­ors by the Brit­ish Crown in 1776, yet they still made a stand. Using the “sedi­tious” writ­ings of Tom Paine, who ended up on the run from the UK, they had the cour­age to speak out, meet up and fight for what they believed in, and they pro­duced a good first attempt at a work­able democracy.

Unfor­tu­nately, the USA estab­lish­ment has long been cor­rup­ted and sub­ver­ted by cor­por­at­ist interests. And unfor­tu­nately for the rest of the world, with the cur­rent geo-political power bal­ance, this still has an impact on most of us, and provides a clear example of how the chan­ging polit­ical land­scape can shift the goal posts of “accept­able” beha­viour — one day your are an act­iv­ist wav­ing a plac­ard, the next you are poten­tially deemed to be a “terrorist”.

But also remem­ber — we are all, poten­tially, Tom Paine. And as the end­less, neb­u­lous, and frankly largely bogus “war on ter­ror” con­tin­ues to rav­age the world and our demo­cra­cies, we all need to be.

In this post-PRISM world, we need to take indi­vidual respons­ib­il­ity to pro­tect our pri­vacy and ensure we have free media. At least then we can freely read, write, speak, and meet with our fel­low cit­izens. We need this pri­vacy to be the new res­ist­ance to the creep­ing total­it­ari­an­ism of the global elites.

Read the sem­inal books of Tom Paine (while you still can), weep, and then go forth.….

With thanks to my mother for the title of this piece. It made me laugh.

LEAP Interview on The Real News Network, October 2012

I par­ti­cip­ated in the Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP) board meet­ing last Octo­ber in Bal­timore. While there, I arranged for board mem­bers to do a series of inter­views about the failed global “war on drugs” with the excel­lent and inde­pend­ent Real News Net­work.

The tide of his­tory is with us — more and more coun­tries are speak­ing out about the fail­ure of pro­hib­i­tion.  LEAP sup­ports and con­trib­utes to this discussion.

LEAP has rep­res­ent­at­ives across the world with a wide range of pro­fes­sional expert­ise: police officers, drug czars, judges, prison gov­ernors, law­yers, drug enforce­ment officers, and even the occa­sional former spook.…

Our var­ied exper­i­ences and back­grounds have brought us to one con­clu­sion: we all assess the “war on drugs” to have been an abject fail­ure that causes more global soci­etal harm than good, as well as fund­ing organ­ised crime, ter­ror­ism and white col­lar bank crime.

We urgently need to rethink the failed UN drug conventions.

Here is the RNN inter­view I par­ti­cip­ated in, along with Brazilian Judge Maria Lucia Karam:

Just Say No — the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Just back from the annual United Nations happy-clappy ses­sion about drug pro­hib­i­tion in Vienna, the Com­mis­sion on Nar­cotic Drugs.  I was there as part of the del­eg­a­tion from Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP), a global cam­paign of serving and former police officers, law­yers, judges, intel­li­gence officers, cus­toms officers and prison gov­ernors, all with years of exper­i­ence on the front line of the drug war, and all of whom cam­paign against prohibition.

Why do they do this? Pre­cisely because they have, dur­ing their pro­fes­sional lives, wit­nessed the ter­rible fail­ure of the drug pro­hib­i­tion laws.

LEAP’s mes­sage is simple, logical and power­ful, and its mem­ber­ship cred­ible and exper­i­enced — have a look at the web­site.

The UN del­eg­a­tion con­sisted of former US drug pro­sec­utor Jim Gier­ach, retired Brazilian judge Maria Lucia Pereira Karam, award-winning US prison super­in­tend­ent Rick Van Wick­ler, and myself.

Need­less to say, LEAP and all this breadth of rel­ev­ant expert­ise was mar­gin­al­ised at the UN.

Un_system_chart_colourThe UN is the sine qua non of bur­eau­cra­cies, an organ­isa­tion of such Byz­antine com­plex­ity it makes your eyes bleed to look at it.

Each coun­try around the world funds the UN via vol­un­tary dona­tions. Once they have coughed up, they are allowed to send national del­eg­ates to rep­res­ent “their” interests at shindigs such as the CND. Those del­eg­ates are pre-briefed by their bur­eau­crats about the line they must take, and no dis­sent is allowed.

NGOs are notion­ally able to feed in their views to their del­eg­ates, although access is lim­ited, and over the last few years the lan­guage of the CND has indeed moved towards harm reduc­tion and children’s rights.  But this merely propag­ates the basic, flawed premise that “drugs” are bad, not that the “war on drugs” has com­pre­hens­ively failed, is ill-thought out, and act­ively dam­ages society.

3_wise_monkeysUN decisions on drug policy are made by con­sensus, which means that there is no real demo­cratic debate and that the res­ol­u­tions are so bland as to be mean­ing­less.  At no point what­so­ever are evidence-based altern­at­ive solu­tions, such as reg­u­lated leg­al­isa­tion, even whispered in the cor­ridors of power.

The CND’s key achieve­ment this year was to get all the nations to reaf­firm their com­mit­ment to the 100-year old Inter­na­tional Hague Con­ven­tion, the first drug pro­hib­i­tion law in a long and escal­at­ing legal lit­any of fail­ure and harm.  And this in the teeth of all evid­ence provided by the suc­cess­ful decrim­in­al­isa­tion exper­i­ments in Por­tugal, Switzer­land and the Neth­er­lands.

So here’s where the fun kicks in, but I stress that this is my highly per­sonal take on what it was like to attend the CND last week:

.….….

WARNING: CND appears to be a potent psy­cho­tropic drug which has unknown and poten­tially dam­aging effects on the human brain.  Expos­ure to CND for even so short a period as a week can lead to dis­or­i­ent­a­tion, numb­ness, depres­sion and a dis­lo­ca­tion from real­ity.  No data exists about the long-term psy­cho­lo­gical effects of pro­longed expos­ure, but some sub­jects can dis­play unchar­ac­ter­istic aggres­sion after only a couple of days’ exper­i­ence of CND.

CND appears to be highly addict­ive lead­ing to rapid depend­ency, and del­eg­ates return year after year for another hit. For a week, it’s party time, but then comes the crash­ing low, as they have to push CND on their own coun­tries for another long year, against all com­mon notions of decency, human­ity and community.

CND is con­tinu­ally presen­ted to vul­ner­able del­eg­ates as the only life­style choice.  Those who ques­tion its effic­acy are out­cast from the gang.  But what of the del­eg­ates’ rights to live a CND-free life, away from the peer pres­sure, bul­ly­ing and viol­ence?  What about redu­cing the harm that CND increas­ingly causes to com­munit­ies across the world?

As the god­fath­ers of CND push the line of harm reduc­tion pro­grammes, devel­op­ing coun­tries are increas­ingly drawn into a life of sor­did “money depend­ency”, even pros­ti­tut­ing them­selves polit­ic­ally to enable their con­tin­ued reli­ance on CND.

The organ­isa­tions con­trolling CND garner huge profits, and there is little polit­ical will to change the cur­rent set-up.

.….….

So, a win-win for the drug car­tels, ter­ror­ists, enforce­ment agen­cies, gov­ern­ments, bur­eau­crats and the wider global “drug war” infrastructure.

Not so good for the rest of us.

LEAP_logo

Cops Take Pro-Legalization Message to UN War on Drugs Meeting

LEAP_logo

Law Enfor­cers Say End­ing Pro­hib­i­tion Will Improve Global Secur­ity & Human Rights

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – Judges, pro­sec­utors and jail­ers who sup­port leg­al­iz­ing drugs are bring­ing their mes­sage to the United Nations Com­mis­sion on Nar­cotic Drugs meet­ing next week in Vienna. At the U.N. ses­sion, which comes just days after the Obama admin­is­tra­tion stepped-up its attempts to coun­ter­act the emer­ging anti-prohibition sen­ti­ment among sit­ting pres­id­ents in Latin Amer­ica, the pro-legalization law enforce­ment offi­cials will work to embolden national del­eg­a­tions from around the world to push back against the U.S.-led failed “war on drugs.”

VanwicklerRichard Van Wick­ler, a currently-serving jail super­in­tend­ent who will be rep­res­ent­ing Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP) in Vienna, says, “World lead­ers who believe we could bet­ter handle drug prob­lems by repla­cing crim­in­al­iz­a­tion with legal con­trol are becom­ing less and less afraid of U.S. reprisal for speak­ing out or reform­ing their nations’ policies. And for good reason.”

Van Wick­ler, who has was named 2011’s Cor­rec­tions Super­in­tend­ent of the Year by the New Hamp­shire Asso­ci­ation of Counties, explains, “Voters in at least two U.S. states will be decid­ing on meas­ures to leg­al­ize marijuana this Novem­ber. It would be pure hypo­crisy for the Amer­ican fed­eral gov­ern­ment to con­tinue force­fully push­ing a rad­ical pro­hib­i­tion­ist agenda on the rest of the world.”

In recent weeks, Pres­id­ents Otto Perez Molina of Guatem­ala, Juan Manuel San­tos of Colom­bia, Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica and Felipe Cal­deron of Mex­ico have added their voices to the call for a ser­i­ous con­ver­sa­tion on altern­at­ives to drug pro­hib­i­tion, caus­ing U.S. Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden to travel to Latin Amer­ica this week in an unsuc­cess­ful attempt to quash the debate.

GierachFormer Chicago drug pro­sec­utor James Gier­ach, recently a fea­tured speaker at a con­fer­ence in Mex­ico City last month atten­ded by the first lady of Mex­ico and the former pres­id­ents of Colom­bia and Brazil, says, “The unend­ing cycle of car­tel viol­ence caused by the pro­hib­i­tion mar­ket has turned a steady trickle of former elec­ted offi­cials cri­ti­ciz­ing pro­hib­i­tion into a flood of sit­ting pres­id­ents, busi­ness lead­ers and law enforce­ment offi­cials call­ing for an out­right dis­cus­sion about leg­al­iz­a­tion. It’s time for the U.S. and the U.N. to acknow­ledge that legal con­trol, rather than crim­in­al­iz­a­tion, is a much bet­ter way to man­age our drug prob­lems. The world can have either drug pro­hib­i­tion, viol­ence and cor­rup­tion or it can have con­trolled drug leg­al­iz­a­tion with safe streets and moral fab­ric, but it can’t have both.”

The UN meet­ing in Vienna is an annual oppor­tun­ity for nations around the world to re-evaluate drug con­trol strategies and treat­ies. More inform­a­tion about the meet­ing is here

In recent years, coun­tries like Por­tugal and Mex­ico have made moves to sig­ni­fic­antly trans­form criminalization-focused drug policies into health approaches by fully decrim­in­al­iz­ing pos­ses­sion of small amounts of all drugs. Still, no coun­try has yet to leg­al­ize and reg­u­late the sale of any of these drugs. Doing so, the pro-legalization law enfor­cers point out, would be the only way to pre­vent viol­ent transna­tional crim­inal organ­iz­a­tions from profit­ing in the drug trade.

Maria.KaramAlso attend­ing the con­fer­ence on behalf of LEAP will be former Brazilian judge Maria Lucia Karam and former UK MI5 intel­li­gence officer Annie Machon.

Law Enforce­ment Against Pro­hib­i­tion (LEAP) rep­res­ents police, pro­sec­utors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and oth­ers who sup­port leg­al­iz­a­tion after fight­ing on the front lines of the “war on drugs” and learn­ing firsthand that pro­hib­i­tion only serves to worsen addic­tion and viol­ence. More info can be found here.

CONTACT:

Tom Angell: 001 202 557‑4979 or media@leap.cc

Shaleen Title: 001 617 955‑9638 or speakers@leap.cc