back to article Blaze it: US drug cops taken to court to ensure all dragnet snooping records are destroyed

Campaign group Human Rights Watch is suing Uncle Sam's anti-drug squads – the US Drug Enforcement Administration and others – after it emerged the g-men were secretly monitoring Americans' international phone calls. The activists claim the collection of telephone conversation records is unconstitutional, and causes " …

  1. Schultz

    a pattern of partial or somewhat misleading statements on issues of mass surveillance

    No shit, Sherlock. But good luck doing something about it. I'd guess they'll have a hard time proving that they were affected by the snooping.

    Might as well try to prove that the falling tree makes a sound if nobody is around to hear it. Or that the cat died in the box even though nobody looked for a year.

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: a pattern of partial or somewhat misleading statements on issues of mass surveillance

      "Partial or somewhat misleading" doesn't really do them justice. The American propaganda machine is the best in the world.

  2. skeptical i

    Yet even with these privacy invasions

    the War on Drugs(TM) is still a failure. Of course, there is no money available for addressing the root causes of drug abuse (self-medication, social/cultural alienation, unemployment breeding dealers and manufacturers, &c), only lots of money for weapons, criminal enforcement, ineffective "just say no" pabulum, and apparently widespread wiretaps in a never-ending bandaging of symptoms.

    1. Dr. Mouse

      Re: Yet even with these privacy invasions

      Even more, the underlying cause of the "drugs problem" is demand. Humans have always had a desire for recreational substances. All over the world, in all cultures, there has been some form of drug available and in widespread use. In the west it was mostly alcohol, Native Americans had tobacco, in South America they had the cocoa leaf... the list goes on. Now, these have spread from their native lands, some have been defined, so people have more choice.

      While demand exists, someone will supply, legal or not. If the government ban it, criminals (or someone, who then becomes a criminal) will step in to fill the gap. A lot of the time this is large criminal organisations. So by banning the substance, you feed more money into the criminal organisations, which use that money for other criminal activities.

      The war on drugs is doomed to failure on the grounds of basic human nature, and (IMHO) does more harm than good.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yet even with these privacy invasions

        Case in point :

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Yet even with these privacy invasions

      "the War on Drugs(TM) is still a failure"

      No, it's a fantastic success - for the people selling (illegal) drugs.

  3. Gray

    No war on drugs ...

    The so-called war on drugs is actually an oppression of America's underclass, and a war on the underground economy. I've believed for years that if the drug trade were quashed, America's inner cities would erupt in rioting and flames when the underground economy collapsed and an entire underclass that has little access to education, employment, and economic parity, would refuse to lay down and starve. As hateful as it is, the drug trade, gambling, and prostitution, the bastions of gang crime, are the only revenue streams flowing in the depressed ghettos. And the only upwardly mobile path of opportunity for most ghetto kids is gang membership.

    State and federal authorities do little other than keep the urban ghettos cordoned off, quarantined and isolated, to prevent the spread into affluent suburbs. The police skim a fringe of offenders, as proof of effort. There is no political support from either the state or federal level to deal with root causes. Meanwhile, the deepening urban cancer and expanding drug trade provides an incredibly convenient opportunity for expansion of federal surveillance powers, hence the DEA spying and massive information gathering. Congress has neither the will nor the means to pull these agencies back, now that they've got their tentacles embedded in the social data stream. Information is power; nobody yields power willingly.

  4. Alister

    The activists claim the collection of telephone conversation records is unconstitutional, and causes "irreparable harm" to people.

    The thing is, whilst the routine interception of calls and collection of data is almost certainly unconstitutional, and definitely wrong ethically and morally, I can't see how you show that it can, of itself, cause "irreparable harm" to a person. It's simply not the case.

    Only if someone acts on the information gathered, is it possible for there to be any actual harm to anyone, I would have said.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      If I break into your house or car, but don't steal or break anything, were you harmed?

      1. Alister

        If I break into your house or car, but don't steal or break anything, were you harmed?

        Err, well presumably you've done some damage by breaking in, so yes I would be harmed.

        If not, then I wouldn't know about it, so no, I wouldn't be harmed.

        You can't equate data slurping to breaking into a house though.

  5. JaitcH

    Recently a WB lawyer asked me, with disbelief, why ...

    I hadn't had telephone service in my name, or in any of my residences, since the late 1980's.

    My answer was I worked on government telecommunications and knew what they could, and actually did, do.

    All those funny protected circuits running back to central locations in the RCMP.

    Colour me private.

  6. Tom 13

    Plaintiffs loose hands down.

    Just yesterday the courts turned down a Mississippi case on immigration* on the grounds they didn't prove harm when they filed the case. If they aren't sure the records have been deleted they have no proof of harm.

    Yes, this bit of law sucks. Doesn't change the fact that we're stuck with it.


  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah yes, proving harm...

    How hard can it be?

    What harm?

    /sarcasm off.

  8. ecofeco Silver badge

    The DEA

    The DEA was the wedge that eventually negated and rescinded all the civil rights gains over the last 200 years up to and including the 1960s civil right movements.

    War on Drugs my ass. War on your bank account and your rights (goodbye 4th Amendment).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    FWIW, they surely picked the right venue, one living under the thumb of the 9th Circuit, known to be hostile to the government on civil rights issues.

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