Privacy SOS

Man reports something to the police, gets put on a watch list

Think you have “nothing to hide”? So did Paul Valin, when he played the good citizen by handing over to police a backpack he found in the woods. The bag contained what appeared to be tubing and some chemicals. After he called it in to the local cops in Des Moines, Iowa, an officer filled out a form and sent it to the Drug Enforcement Agency, mistakenly identifying Valin’s home as a “drug lab”. As a result, his home was listed on a federal drug lab list, called the National Clandestine Laboratory Register (NCLR), for two full years. He was only removed from the list when a local television reporter discovered he was on it, and a group called Iowa Watchdog made a stink.

How many homes are on the federal drug lab list? A bunch. You can see them all online.

Here’s the disclaimer on the DOJ website containing links to lists of homes identified as drug labs, organized by state. The DOJ says very clearly that it does not stand by the accuracy of the information it is providing to the public, and, bizarrely, warns that people should not act or not not act upon information provided therein.

The U.S. Department of Justice ("the Department") provides this web site as a public service. It contains addresses of some locations where law enforcement agencies reported they found chemicals or other items that indicated the presence of either clandestine drug laboratories or dumpsites. In most cases, the source of the entries is not the Department, and the Department has not verified the entry and does not guarantee its accuracy. Members of the public must verify the accuracy of all entries by, for example, contacting local law enforcement and local health departments. To report erroneous information found in the database, please contact DEA at NCLR@usdoj.gov. The Department does not establish, implement, enforce, or certify compliance with clean-up or remediation standards for contaminated sites; the public should contact a state or local health department or environmental protection agency for that information. Entries on this web site are not intended to constitute advice nor should entries on this web site be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional familiar with the specific facts and circumstances of the situation in question. The public should not act or refrain from acting based on entries on this web site. The Department does not accept responsibility or liability for damages of any kind resulting from reliance on an entry or on the lack of an entry on this web site.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.