|American Police State||
TSA, DHS, CIA, and countless other security agencies have been established to keep America safe from terrorist attacks in post-9/11 America. How far beyond that does the feds’ reach really go, though?
The attacks on September 11, 2001 were instrumental in enabling the US government to establish counterterrorism agencies to prevent future tragedies. Some officials say that they haven’t stopped there though, and are now spying on everyone in America; all in the name of national security.
Testimonies delivered in recent weeks by former employees of the National Security Agency suggest that the US government is granting itself surveillance powers far beyond what most Americans consider the proper role of the federal government.
In an interview broadcast on Current TV’s “Viewpoint” program, former NSA Technical Director William Binney commented on the government’s policy of blanket surveillance, alongside colleagues Thomas Drake and Kirk Wiebe, the agency's respective former Senior Official and Senior Analyst.
The interview comes on the heels of a series of speeches given by Binney, who has quickly become better known for his whistleblowing rather than his work with the NSA. In their latest appearance this week, the three former staffers suggested that America’s spy program is much more dangerous than it seems.
In an interview with “Viewpoint” host Eliot Spitzer, Drake said there was a “key decision made shortly after 9/11, which began to rapidly turn the United States of America into the equivalent of a foreign nation for dragnet blanket electronic surveillance.”
These powers have previously defended themselves through claims of national security necessity, but Drake says that it doesn’t stop there. He warns that the government is giving itself the power to gather intel on every American, that could be used in future prosecutions unrelated to terrorism.
“When you open up the Pandora’s Box of just getting access to incredible amounts of data, for people that have no reason to be put under suspicion, no reason to have done anything wrong, and just collect all that for potential future use or even current use, it opens up a real danger; and to what else what they could use that data for, particularly when it’s all being hidden behind the mantle of national security,” Drake said.
Although Drake’s accusations seem astounding, they corroborate allegations made by Binney only a week earlier. Speaking at the “Hackers On Planet Earth” conference in New York City earlier this month, Binney addressed a room of thousands about the NSA’s domestic spying efforts. But in a candid interview with journalist Geoff Shively during HOPE, the ex-NSA official candidly revealed the full extent of the surveillance program.
“Domestically, they're pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you're doing. So the government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it's a very dangerous process,” Binney said.
Drake and Binney’s statements follow the revelation that law enforcement officers collected cell phone records on 1.3 million Americans in 2011. More news articles are emerging every day suggesting that the surveillance of Americans, off-the-radar and under wraps, is growing at an exponential rate.
S 3187 was signed into law just weeks ago, and already it’s had an impact on the herbal incense industry. I’m sure some of you have already noticed effects. Vendors like Mr. Nice Guy have gone from thriving to nothing, only a blank and empty website stands where their company once was.
What exactly did S 3187 do? Let’s step back to the beginning with HR 1254. HR 1254 crept into view in November 2011 and put the industry on alert. Smart vendors began preparing for inevitable ban. They had already been through this song and dance before, but HR 1254 was different, it sought to hurt the industry in a broader sense by adding a rather long list of synthetic cannabinoids to Schedule I of the controlled substances act. HR 1254 was a bee in the bonnet of nearly every incense vendor, and to the near applause of the entire industry, HR 1254 stopped progressing forward and became dead in the water. That near cheer never got actualized though. The content of HR 1254 was lifted from the now-dead bill and put into S 3187, under a section entitled “Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012.” With a wave of his pen, Obama signed S 3187 into law, and shit began to hit the fan.
Remember the smart vendors who began preparing early? These are the guys who read up on the law, anticipated the changes, and got new blends into gear and prepared for market. While some manufacturers were still relying on old tech to brew their aromas, others had prepped for the storm, and it’s a damn good thing. Long before S 3187 became law, possibly alongside the congressional journey of HR 1254, the Drug Enforcement Agency began prepping for something called Operation Log Jam.
Operation Log Jam was a nationally coordinated and strategic attack on herbal incense retailers and manufacturers. While the exact numbers are a bit of a mystery, at least 100 people were arrested last week, 5 million packets were confiscated, and dozens of manufacturing facilities were shut down. While information on exactly which players in the industry were hit the hardest is still coming in, a quick visit to your favorite vendor might shed some light on whether or not they were hit.
Back to the smart vendors who were preparing for this attack? Those vendors still have websites flying strong. Waiting and anticipating the effects of HR 1254 and later S 3187, they stopped using synthetic cannabinoids months ago; if they were even using them to begin with.
Despite it all, there is more than a mere glimmer of hope for these manufacturers to maintain their lifestyles; in fact there are probably a few buckets of optimism to be found. Some manufacturers are still running smooth. UR-144 and FUR-144 showed up in a number of incense before the ban went into effect, and these compounds remain unaffected by S 3187, however, every compound is at risk of being banned at the state level. Kansas has already declared a temporary ban on UR-144, and it’s only a matter of time before other states jump on board.
At a federal level, the true effects of Operation Log Jam remain to be seen. Those 5 million satchels of incense the DEA confiscated; they’ve come out and admitted that not all of the packets seized contain a banned compound. This means they seized some perfectly legal blends, blends that contain UR-144 and other similar compounds. UR-144 is a cannabimimetic, but its structural class is so sufficiently different that it’s not covered under S 3187. Prosecutors however are hoping it might be covered under the Federal Analog Act of 1986. Under this law, compounds with a chemically similar structure to schedule I drugs are to be treated the in same way. The catch is that the compound must have been intended for human consumption; we know that is NOT the case. Ultimately, the courts will have to decide, and it’s going to come down to a judge and jury decision. If the analog act extends far enough to include UR-144 and all theoretical synthetic cannabinoids, the implications will be far reaching. They could be so far reaching as to accidentally ban some pharmaceutical drugs; bye bye Morphine drip. There’s a can of worms waiting to be opened here, but only time will unveil the whole story.
Although the DEA is clearly going after distributors and manufacturers, and not patrons, you need to play it safe out there. Unsurprisingly, gas stations were hit hard by Operation Log Jam, as they were notorious for knowingly selling incense that contained illegal compounds. Their safety standard is the lowest, and the clerk behind the counter probably doesn’t even know what that little foil packet was. Get to know your vendor of choice, and request lab reports. Look for transparency and professionalism and ask questions! If your favorite vendor is still kicking, they’ve definitely done something right. S 3187 caused some real growing pains, but it’s separated the serious vendors from the ones just looking to make a quick buck. To the manufacturers and vendors in the field, S 3187/HR 1254 was no surprise, serious players saw this coming from miles away and they planned for the ensuing chaos.
From here on out, companies will have to strive for transparency to remain legal. Siegel & Wright Strategic Legal Counsel has made it clear that herbal incense clearly marketed as not for human consumption, are not illegal analog chemicals as the DEA has made them out to be. Siegel & Wright aren’t just making this stuff up either, but are basing their information on chemical analysts, and independent lab tests. Trusted vendors and manufacturers should be doing the same, as the common notion amongst law enforcement is all incense are illegal until proven else wise. When the burden of proof is on the manufacturer, you better believe that manufacturers and vendors are going to have to offer the kind of transparency that gives consumers the confidence that they can safely place an order.
This isn’t the end of the herbal incense industry; however it does mark a change, and a distancing away from shoddily designed websites and mystery ingredients. Information is key here, and vendors should be happy to share it with you. If they’re not, consider it a warning sign and look elsewhere. New vendors and manufacturers will rise from the ashes of their fallen brethren as sure as the suns shall rise tomorrow; it’s just a waiting game at this point. Stay patient and stay safe fans, and these dark days shall pass us by unscathed.