Monday, November 29, 2010

What might have been

On September 10, 2001, I announced on the Issues & Views website the formation of a unique coalition whose aim would be to make war on the "War on Drugs." This was on September 10, just one day before Doomsday. September 11, of course, would force the postponement and outright termination of so many prospective events and potential good works.

The new organization that did not get to breathe life was to be part of the Free Congress Foundation's "Coalition for Constitutional Liberties," and was initiated by an array of conservative thinkers and activists. It had the blessings of such stalwarts as Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation and Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum. Eagle Forum chapters in Wisconsin, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee were to play leading roles in helping to expand the Coalition's reach. Among the more than two dozen groups allied with the Coalition were the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, and the Republican Leadership Council.

On September 10, Weyrich released this statement, which was sent directly to Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

We are part of a broad coalition of groups concerned that the war on drugs has degraded our privacy and civil liberties. We respectfully ask that the members of Committee consider raising the following privacy and civil liberties issues in connection with the nomination of John Walters to be the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (Office of the White House).

We intend by issuing this letter to signal neither support nor opposition to Mr. Walters' nomination. Rather, we are issuing this letter to urge members of the Committee to explore these issues in connection with Mr. Walters' nomination. As we set forth below, these issues include the use of new surveillance and investigative technologies, including the Carnivore/DCS1000 and Echelon systems, the "Know Your Customer" proposal of the Financial Action Task Force, asset forfeiture abuses, wiretaps and the drug war's sometimes corrupting influence on law enforcement itself.

Little did these concerned citizens know what was on the horizon, as they expressed alarm over the potential of everyone becoming a "drug suspect" due to heavy-handed government intrusions into privacy. Given what the American people are now experiencing, how quaint seem the members of this Coalition, as they complained about Amtrak giving DEA officials access to its ticketing database, along with passengers' last names, destinations, method of payment, and data on whether they were going one-way or round trip. Would any of these worthy patriots back then ever have conceived of airport body scanners?

In concluding my article on the activities planned by the Coalition, I asked, "Is it too much to hope that some day there might be a light at the end of this dark tunnel now ruled over by the DEA, BATF, FBI, and sundry other bureaucracies?" Well, yes, it was too much to hope for, as the tunnel has grown darker than ever.

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