Everyone who gets the Hot Air notifications in their inbox every day, be sure to say, “Hello” to the fine DEA agent who may have read it first. USA Today got a hold of records indicating the DEA is using state and local courts to skip past the Justice Department to spy on people. It’s just … easier:
Drug investigations account for the vast majority of U.S. wiretaps, and much of that surveillance is carried out by the DEA. Privacy advocates expressed concern that the drug agency had expanded its surveillance without going through internal Justice Department reviews, which often are more demanding than federal law requires.
Wiretaps — which allow the police to listen in on phone calls and other electronic communications — are considered so sensitive that federal law requires approval from a senior Justice Department official before agents can even ask a federal court for permission to conduct one. The law imposes no such restriction on state court wiretaps, even when they are sought by federal agents.
The DEA is defending their decision because drug investigations are sooooo important, especially on sophisticated traffickers. They’re also promising not to violate any federal standards, even if they’re going to the states and skipping federal oversight. USA Today points out why the DEA is going to the states (emphasis mine):
Moses said DEA agents were “making no attempt to circumvent federal legal standards and protections by instead pursuing state wiretap authorizations.” Instead, he said, the rapid growth of state-authorized eavesdropping reflects local prosecutors’ increased willingness to take on complex wiretap investigations, which often involve teams of local police and federal agents. At the same time, he said, some federal prosecutors “may be unable to support wire intercept investigations due to manpower or other resource considerations,” so agents take their cases to state officials rather than see them dropped.
In other words, it’s important to get every single possible drug offender off the streets, regardless whether they’re trafficking 212 pounds of cocaine or two ounces of marijuana. Is there any wonder why the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world? Even the federal government admits almost half of their inmates are drug offenders. Most of them barely have a criminal history.
Before people start cheering at the fact all the drug offenders are locked up, there’s a major cost to this. The Bureau of Prisons wants $8.8B this year. That’s more than that what the FBI gets. The FBI.
There’s a cost to this that’s more than just dollars and cents. There’s a freedom cost. As USA Today pointed out, the DEA is going around oversight. It’s just another example of government run amok. Think Fast and Furious, IRS targeting conservative nonprofits, or the insane EPA guidelines. It’s exactly the same, whether we want to admit it or not. Conservatives claim to be focused on budget savings, but tend to look towards the Department of Education, Department of Energy, and the EPA first. That’s all well and good, but it’s imperative to look at other proverbial “golden calves” to see where savings can be made. The U.S is over $18T in debt and the numbers keep spiraling. The only way to get government under control is through reform and budget cuts.
What happens to states which actually pursue justice reform? National Review points out Texas was able to save cash and reduce the size of government through its reforms. It’s a lot different from the crazy prison population of California.
In 2007, Texas passed a reform package that avoided nearly $2 billion in prison construction costs by dedicating a far smaller amount to drug courts, electronic monitoring, and improved parole and probation monitoring of non-violent offenders. Six years later, Texas’s crime rate had reached its lowest point since 1968, and the legislature had authorized three prison closures.
The Texas model succeeds, in part, because Texas is not hamstrung by mandatory sentencing. This is different from the model that has been used for years by the federal government — and by dysfunctional states such as California, in which the state prison population was nearly 180 percent of capacity in 2010.
You know what else justice reform can do? It can ensure the DEA doesn’t waste time perusing who’s emailing who and which website you’re subscribed to. If a government agent wants to get Hot Air alerts, they should just subscribe themselves. That hasn’t been made illegal…yet.