Naked City

The (Bad!) Smell of VICTORY

If you thought the federal government couldn't possibly create legislation more draconian and reprehensible than the PATRIOT Act, RAVE Act, CLEAN-UP Act, or Ecstasy Awareness Act, you thought wrong -- really, really wrong. Late last month ABC News shagged a copy of a proposed bill quietly making the Capitol rounds, and reportedly slated for introduction this fall, that would create the crime of "narcoterrorism" -- making it possible for the feds to redefine any and all drug crimes as acts of terrorism.

"This bill would treat drug possession as a 'terrorist offense' and drug dealers as 'narcoterrorist kingpins,'" a Democratic aide for the House Judiciary Committee told ABC News. "To say that terrorist groups use a small percentage of the drug trafficking in the United States to finance terrorism may be a fair point, but this bill would allow the government to prosecute most drug cases as terrorism cases."

The draft legislation, titled the Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations Act of 2003 -- or, quaintly enough, the VICTORY Act -- is authored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A Hatch spokesperson told ABC that the senator is merely "examining legislative options" but hasn't yet "submitted anything for consideration." The bill would expand law-enforcement powers that lawmakers couldn't stuff into the USA PATRIOT Act, against which criticism continues to mount. Among VICTORY's provisions: raising the threshold for court rejection of information gained through illegal wiretaps; giving law enforcers authority to issue "nonjudicial" subpoenas to gain access to individuals' financial records; and extending the U.S. Department of Justice's power to issue "sneak-and-peek" subpoenas in drug cases. That means cops and prosecutors could subpoena communications, financial records, or other information for perusal before notifying the subject of the search. A host of the sweeping and invasive provisions aren't directly related to terrorism, but would "severely undermine basic constitutional rights and checks and balances," notes a recent ACLU press release.

Also only tenuously related to security, homeland or otherwise, is the bill's creation of a charge of narcoterrorism that could apply to anyone who "knowingly" sells, manufactures, or possesses drugs whose profits "may" end up in the hands of groups the government has designated as terrorist organizations. Convicted narcoterrorists would receive a 20-year mandatory-minimum sentence. "They're thinking that Americans are scared of drugs and scared of terrorists, so they should be really, really scared of narcoterrorists," the Drug Policy Alliance's Bill Piper told the Drug Reform Coordination Network. "We already have laws against drugs and against terrorism. We don't need this."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Weed Watch, VICTORY Act, Orrin Hatch, Drug Policy Alliance, Drug Reform Coordination Network, DPA, DRCNet, Bill Piper, Bill McColl, PATRIOT Act, RAVE Act

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