Privacy SOS

War on drugs + war on terror = war on basic rights

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Radley Balko of is one of our nation's most eloquent critics of the drug war and the militarization of domestic law enforcement in the US. Watch him in the video above describing a particularly horrifying drug raid and the culture of official impunity that surrounds these increasingly regular assaults on our most basic rights. 

The drug war and surveillance state are for all intents and purposes codependant enterprises, and after 9/11 the global war on terror joined the troupe. Laws on the books supposedly meant to deal with hardended terrorists are routinely applied in common drug cases. Technologies justified by the neverending threat of the jihadi menace are more likely deployed in order to lock up drug dealers. These wars converge in some pretty awful places for ordinary people: mass incarceration, society-wide surveillance, police militarization, assaults on the Bill of Rights, and more.

Mission and function creep are all over the law enforcement and policing world today. Local police departments are given cheap military hardware for extreme riot-like circumstances, and then regularly use the equipment in routine arrest raids. The Patriot Act's "sneak and peak" warrants, which authorize the FBI to go into your home and search it while you aren't home, have been used far more often in drug cases than in "terror" related cases, even though the awful bill and secret search provision were rushed into law because of the supposedly enormous risk that terrorism suddenly posed to the United States.

We at the ACLU of Massachusetts are thinking a lot about the militarization of the police, and have some big plans in store to learn more about how police in our state are morphing into organizations capable of military-level surveillance and operations. Stay tuned. 

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.