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Improving Interagency Information Sharing Using Technology Demonstrations: The Legal Basis for Using New Sensor Technologies for Counterdrug Operations Along the U.S. Border

April 3, 2014 Comments off

Improving Interagency Information Sharing Using Technology Demonstrations: The Legal Basis for Using New Sensor Technologies for Counterdrug Operations Along the U.S. Border
Source: RAND Corporation

The Department of Defense (DoD) has developed new sensor technologies to support military forces operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. These new capabilities may be useful in counterdrug (CD) operations along the southern U.S. border. DoD has held technology demonstrations to test and demonstrate new technologies along the southern border — because the field conditions along the border closely resemble those in current military theaters of operation and because they can also reveal whether new technologies are useful for CD operations led by domestic law enforcement agencies. However, there are legal questions about whether such technology demonstrations fully comply with U.S. law and whether advanced DoD sensors can legally be used in domestic CD operations when they are operated by U.S. military forces.

In this report, the authors examine federal law and DoD policy to answer these questions. Some parts of U.S. law mandate information sharing among federal departments and agencies for national security purposes and direct DoD to play a key role in domestic CD operations in support of U.S. law enforcement agencies, while other parts of the law place restrictions on when the U.S. military may participate in law enforcement operations. Reviewing relevant federal law and DoD policy, the authors conclude that there is no legal reason why a DoD sensor should be excluded from use in an interagency technology demonstration or in an actual CD operation as long as a valid request for support is made by an appropriate law enforcement official and so long as no personally identifiable or private information is collected. The authors recommend DoD policy on domestic CD operations be formally clarified and that an approval process should be established for technology demonstrations with a CD nexus.

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America’s New Drug Policy Landscape; Two-Thirds Favor Treatment, Not Jail, for Use of Heroin, Cocaine

April 3, 2014 Comments off

America’s New Drug Policy Landscape; Two-Thirds Favor Treatment, Not Jail, for Use of Heroin, Cocaine
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

The public appears ready for a truce in the long-running war on drugs. A national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that 67% of Americans say that the government should focus more on providing treatment for those who use illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Just 26% think the government’s focus should be on prosecuting users of such hard drugs.

Support for a treatment-based approach to illegal drug use spans nearly all demographic groups. And while Republicans are less supportive of the treatment option than are Democrats or independents, about half of Republicans (51%) say the government should focus more on treatment than prosecution in dealing with illegal drug users.

As a growing number of states ease penalties for drug possession, the public expresses increasingly positive views of the move away from mandatory sentences for non-violent drug crimes. By nearly two-to-one (63% to 32%), more say it is a good thing than a bad thing that some states have moved away from mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders. In 2001, Americans were evenly divided over the move by some states to abandon mandatory drug terms.

The survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 14-23 among 1,821 adults, finds that support for the legalization of marijuana use continues to increase. And fully 75% of the public –including majorities of those who favor and oppose the legal use of marijuana – think that the sale and use of marijuana will eventually be legal nationwide.

DoJ OIG — Review of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Fusion Center

April 3, 2014 Comments off

Review of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Fusion Center (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General

INTRODUCTION
This review examined the operations of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Fusion Center (OFC) and assessed its process for sharing its analytical products. The OFC is a multiagency intelligence center that produces intelligence products in response to requests from federal investigators (requesters). The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Special Operations Division (SOD) supports the OFC in developing these products.

ISSUES THAT AROSE DURING THE REVIEW
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) learned during the course of the review that OFC management took actions that created difficulties for us in obtaining information from OFC employees and in ensuring that interview responses were candid and complete.

We had issues in obtaining documents directly from OFC personnel. Further, two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employees detailed to the OFC, who met with us to describe their concerns about the OFC’s operations, told us that thereafter they had been subjected to retaliation by the OFC Director. The OIG recently completed its review of these retaliation allegations and concluded there were reasonable grounds to believe that actions were taken against the FBI employees in reprisal for making protected disclosures. We have referred our findings to the appropriate authorities for adjudication and resolution under applicable law.

Given this troubling conduct, we cannot be sure we obtained complete information from or about the OFC or that other OFC employees may not have been deterred from coming forward and speaking candidly with us. The results of our review reflect the findings and conclusions that we were able to reach based on the information that was made available to us.

RESULTS IN BRIEF
Although we found that OFC products may provide information that is valued by the investigators and prosecutors who use them, the OIG review identified deficiencies in the OFC’s operations that could limit its contribution to the OCDETF Program’s effectiveness.

See:

The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1990-2006

April 2, 2014 Comments off

The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1990-2006
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Debate has surrounded the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes for decades. Some have argued medical marijuana legalization (MML) poses a threat to public health and safety, perhaps also affecting crime rates. In recent years, some U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, reigniting political and public interest in the impact of marijuana legalization on a range of outcomes.

Methods
Relying on U.S. state panel data, we analyzed the association between state MML and state crime rates for all Part I offenses collected by the FBI.

Findings
Results did not indicate a crime exacerbating effect of MML on any of the Part I offenses. Alternatively, state MML may be correlated with a reduction in homicide and assault rates, net of other covariates.

Conclusions
These findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.

CRS — Marijuana: Medical and Retail–Selected Legal Issues

April 1, 2014 Comments off

Marijuana: Medical and Retail–Selected Legal Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) outlaws the possession, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana except for authorized research. Twenty states have regulatory schemes that allow possession, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Two have revenue regimes that allow possession, cultivation, or sale generally. The U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause preempts any state law that conflicts with federal law. Although there is some division, the majority of state courts have concluded that the federal-state marijuana law conflict does not require preemption of state medical marijuana laws. The legal consequences of a CSA violation, however, remain in place. Nevertheless, current federal criminal enforcement guidelines counsel confining investigations and prosecutions to the most egregious affront to federal interests.

How Big is the U.S. Market for Illegal Drugs?

March 11, 2014 Comments off

How Big is the U.S. Market for Illegal Drugs?
Source: RAND Corporation

Using data from 2000 to 2010, RAND researchers estimated the number of users, expenditures, and consumption for four illicit drugs: cocaine (including crack), heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine (meth).

See also: What America’s Users Spend on Illegal Drugs 2000–2010

Panama: Detailed Assessment Report—FATF Recommendations for Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism

February 20, 2014 Comments off

Panama: Detailed Assessment Report—FATF Recommendations for Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism
Source: International Monetary Fund

Panama is vulnerable to money laundering (ML) from a number of sources including drug trafficking and other predicate crimes committed abroad such as fraud, financial and tax crimes. It is a country with an open, dollarized economy and, as a regional and international financial and corporate services center, offers a wide range of offshore financial and corporate services. It is also a transit point for drug trafficking from South American countries with some of the highest levels of production and trafficking of illegal drugs in the world. These factors put the country at high risk of being used for ML. Although the authorities have not conducted a risk assessment, they attribute the largest sources of ML to drug trafficking and other predicate crimes committed abroad. No information or estimates were provided on the extent of domestic and foreign predicate crimes and the amount of related ML in Panama. No terrorism financing (TF) cases have been detected so far.

FinCEN Issues Guidance to Financial Institutions on Marijuana Businesses

February 14, 2014 Comments off

FinCEN Issues Guidance to Financial Institutions on Marijuana Businesses
Source: Financial Crimes Enforcement Network

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), today issued guidance that clarifies customer due diligence expectations and reporting requirements for financial institutions seeking to provide services to marijuana businesses. The guidance provides that financial institutions can provide services to marijuana-related businesses in a manner consistent with their obligations to know their customers and to report possible criminal activity.

Providing clarity in this context should enhance the availability of financial services for marijuana businesses. This would promote greater financial transparency in the marijuana industry and mitigate the dangers associated with conducting an all-cash business. The guidance also helps financial institutions file reports that contain information important to law enforcement. Law enforcement will now have greater insight into marijuana business activity generally, and will be able to focus on activity that presents high-priority concerns.

Multinational overview of cannabis production regimes

January 17, 2014 Comments off

Multinational overview of cannabis production regimes
Source: RAND Corporation

In July 2013, the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) of the Netherlands Ministry of Security and Justice asked RAND Europe to provide a multinational overview of cannabis production regimes, with a special focus on identifying and describing official statements and/or legal decisions made about production regimes for non-medical and non-scientific purposes (i.e. recreational use for adults). This research report describes the ways in which these policies developed in selected countries, and the legal, legislative and voters’ decisions that shaped them. It pays attention to whether there have been formal statements from these countries about whether and how the new policies fit within the existing international legal framework. However, it does not make an assessment about whether these countries are compliant with the treaties. The report also does not take a position about whether changes in cannabis production policies would be good or bad for society.

The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime

January 13, 2014 Comments off

The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime
Source: Social Science Research Network

In this paper we analyze the effect of medical marijuana laws on crimes in the US. Using the National Incident Based Reporting System, we exploit daily quasi-experimental variation in state legislation to establish the effect of drug liberalization on crime reports and arrests. As expected, we find that drug crimes decrease. Contrary to expectations, the introduction of such laws in a given state or neighboring state decreases the count of assault and property crimes and has no effect on sexual crimes. This is consistent with price drops and lower risk, associated with the acquiring of drugs. When we explore the effect of seizures of cocaine, we find that quantities decrease, hinting that these drugs are rather complements than substitutes for dealers. We perform several robustness checks and further explore the effect through synthetic control methods.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse: How US Federal Prosecutors Force Drug Defendants to Plead Guilty

December 10, 2013 Comments off

An Offer You Can’t Refuse: How US Federal Prosecutors Force Drug Defendants to Plead Guilty
Source: Human Rights Watch

The 126-page report details how prosecutors throughout the United States extract guilty pleas from federal drug defendants by charging or threatening to charge them with offenses carrying harsh mandatory sentences and by seeking additional mandatory increases to those sentences. Prosecutors offer defendants a much lower sentence in exchange for pleading guilty. Since drug defendants rarely prevail at trial, it is not surprising that 97 percent of them decide to plead guilty.

Afghanistan opium crop cultivation rises 36 per cent, production up 49 per cent

November 28, 2013 Comments off

Afghanistan opium crop cultivation rises 36 per cent, production up 49 per cent
Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose 36 per cent in 2013, a record high, according to the 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey released today in Kabul by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics and UNODC. Meanwhile, opium production amounted to 5,500 tons, up by almost a half since 2012.

Calling the news “sobering”, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, stressed that this situation poses a threat to health, stability and development in Afghanistan and beyond: “What is needed is an integrated, comprehensive response to the drug problem. Counter-narcotics efforts must be an integral part of the security, development and institution-building agenda”.

Quick Facts — Oxycodone Trafficking Offenses

November 13, 2013 Comments off

Quick Facts — Oxycodone Trafficking Offenses (PDF)
Source: United States Sentencing Commission

+ There Were 84,173 Cases Reported to the United States Sentencing Commission In Fiscal Year 2012.

+ Of These Cases, 24,563 Involved Drug Trafficking.

+ 3.4% of Drug Trafficking Offenses Involved Oxycodone.

CRS — Drug Testing and Crime-Related Restrictions in TANF, SNAP, and Housing Assistance

October 22, 2013 Comments off

Drug Testing and Crime-Related Restrictions in TANF, SNAP, and Housing Assistance (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Library)

Throughout the history of social assistance programs, administrators have attempted to limit access only to those families considered “worthy” of assistance. Policies about worthiness have included both judgments about need—generally tied to income, demographic characteristics, or family circumstances—and judgments about moral character, often as evidenced by behavior. Past policies evaluating moral character based on family structure have been replaced by today’s policies, which focus on criminal activity, particularly drug-related criminal activity. The existing crime and drug-related restrictions were established in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, when crime rates, especially drug-related violent crime rates, were at peak levels. While crime rates have since declined, interest in expanding these policies has continued.

Despite Its Siren Song, High-Value Targeting Doesn’t Fit All: Matching Interdiction Patterns to Specific Narcoterrorism and Organized-Crime Contexts

October 18, 2013 Comments off

Despite Its Siren Song, High-Value Targeting Doesn’t Fit All: Matching Interdiction Patterns to Specific Narcoterrorism and Organized-Crime Contexts
Source: Brookings Institution

Over the past decade, decapitation, particularly high-value targeting (HVT), has come into vogue and is being increasingly applied in a variety of counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and anti-organized crime settings around the world. There are several reasons for this widespread adoption of high-value targeting as a dominant interdiction pattern.

First, there is a long tradition of interdiction focused on high-value targeting in counternarcotics efforts in Latin America, which features some key successes, such as those against the Medellín and Cali cartels. Second, over the past decade, HVT delivered some crucial successes in counterterrorism efforts – such as against al Qaeda in Iraq, where the HVT policy was crucially supplemented by mobilizing Sunni tribes to break with Al Qaeda; and in Pakistan against al Qaeda Core. In Pakistan, HVT has been conducted both by controversial bombings, including from unnamed platforms, and to a lesser extent by land-based interdiction teams against presumed high-value al Qaeda and associated militant group operatives. Whatever its complex side-effects in terms of civilian casualties, the growth of anti-Americanism among Pakistanis, and an overall worsening of U.S.-Pakistan relations, these interdiction operations dramatically degraded the capabilities of al Qaeda’s original and most lethal core that had the greatest capacity to conduct terrorism with global reach and hit far-away targets. There are other historic antecedents and renowned successes of the use of high-value targeting by specialized interdiction units (SIUs) in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency contexts, such as the capture of Abimael Guzmán, the leader of the Shining Path. His capture critically contributed to the demise of a vicious and potent Communist insurgency in Peru.

“High-value targeting,” though not always truly focused on top-level operatives, has also been enthusiastically embraced by the United States in Yemen and Somalia for striking presumed al Qaeda or Shabab targets – the HVT tactic itself often elevated to the level of strategy in the absence of a broader policy approach.

Third, the mantra of fighting narcoterrorism by eradicating illicit crops turned out to be highly problematic. Eradication did not deliver on its siren song of bankrupting militants; counterproductively, it strengthened the bonds between local populations and militants and undermined intelligence-gathering and hearts-and-minds efforts. Interdiction thus came to look as a far more appealing alternative.

Fourth, the bonanza of intercepts of communications among targeted criminals and militants that signal intelligence has come to provide over the past decade in Colombia, Mexico, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world has also strongly privileged the focus and predominance of HVT.

The Real “Long War”: The Illicit Drug Trade and the Role of the Military

October 11, 2013 Comments off

The Real “Long War”: The Illicit Drug Trade and the Role of the Military
Source: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College

The 21st century has seen the growth of a number of nontraditional threats to international stability on which, trade, and thus U.S. peace and security, depends, and for the moment at least a reduced likelihood of continental scale warfighting operations, and something of a de-emphasis on major involvement in counterinsurgency operations. These nontraditional threats are, however, very real and should command a higher priority than they have done in the past, even in a period of budgetary constraint. The military have cost-effective contributions to make in countering the manufacture and distribution of illicit drugs, and in many cases can do so without serious detriment to their main warfighting role. Successfully completing this mission, however, will require the military to rethink their integration with the nonmilitary aspects of a whole-of-government approach, and almost certainly, their institutional preference for speedy victories in short wars.

Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, 2013

October 7, 2013 Comments off

Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, 2013
Source: Trust for America’s Health (via Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) worked with a range of partners and experts to identify promising policies and approaches to reducing prescription drug abuse in America.

This report evaluates states on 10 key approaches to combat prescription drug abuse, based on input and review from public health, medical and law enforcement experts, and using indicators. The report also provides a review of national policy issues and recommendations.

The temporal relationship between drug supply indicators: an audit of international government surveillance systems

October 4, 2013 Comments off

The temporal relationship between drug supply indicators: an audit of international government surveillance systems
Source: British Medical Journal

Objectives
Illegal drug use continues to be a major threat to community health and safety. We used international drug surveillance databases to assess the relationship between multiple long-term estimates of illegal drug price and purity.

Design
We systematically searched for longitudinal measures of illegal drug supply indicators to assess the long-term impact of enforcement-based supply reduction interventions.

Setting
Data from identified illegal drug surveillance systems were analysed using an a priori defined protocol in which we sought to present annual estimates beginning in 1990. Data were then subjected to trend analyses.

Main outcome measures
Data were obtained from government surveillance systems assessing price, purity and/or seizure quantities of illegal drugs; systems with at least 10 years of longitudinal data assessing price, purity/potency or seizures were included.

Results
We identified seven regional/international metasurveillance systems with longitudinal measures of price or purity/potency that met eligibility criteria. In the USA, the average inflation-adjusted and purity-adjusted prices of heroin, cocaine and cannabis decreased by 81%, 80% and 86%, respectively, between 1990 and 2007, whereas average purity increased by 60%, 11% and 161%, respectively. Similar trends were observed in Europe, where during the same period the average inflation-adjusted price of opiates and cocaine decreased by 74% and 51%, respectively. In Australia, the average inflation-adjusted price of cocaine decreased 14%, while the inflation-adjusted price of heroin and cannabis both decreased 49% between 2000 and 2010. During this time, seizures of these drugs in major production regions and major domestic markets generally increased.

Conclusions
With few exceptions and despite increasing investments in enforcement-based supply reduction efforts aimed at disrupting global drug supply, illegal drug prices have generally decreased while drug purity has generally increased since 1990. These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.

CA — Organized Crime Research Highlights

September 26, 2013 Comments off

Organized Crime Research Highlights (PDF)
Source: Public Safety Canada

IN THIS ISSUE
Internet-facilitated Counterfeit Crime / 1
Violence and Gang Territories / 2
Measuring Police Impact on Organised Crime / 3
Locating Meth Labs / 5
Strategic Intelligence and Transnational
Organised Crime / 6
Sizing Drug Markets using Sewage / 7

AU — Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport

September 25, 2013 Comments off

Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport (PDF)
Source: Australian Crime Commission

Despite being prohibited substances in professional sport, peptides and hormones are being used by professional athletes in Australia, facilitated by sports scientists, high-performance coaches and sports staff. Widespread use of these substances has been identified, or is suspected by the ACC, in a number of professional sporting codes in Australia. In addition, the level of use of illicit drugs within some sporting codes is considered to be significantly higher than is recorded in official statistics.

The ACC has also identified that organised crime identities and groups are involved in the domestic distribution of PIEDs, which includes peptides and hormones. If left unchecked, it is likely that organised criminals will increase their presence in the distribution of peptides and hormones in Australia.

The ACC has identified significant integrity concerns within professional sports in Australia related to the use of prohibited substances by athletes and increasing associations of concern between professional athletes and criminal identities.

Further key findings, summarised into relevant topics are outlined below.

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