A series of agreements between the US and Canada, purportedly to stop terrorism, has created cross-border teams with sights on destroying the Canadian cannabis trade.
On December 3, 2001, US attorney General John Ashcroft and Canadian Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay met to sign an agreement of historical import ? an agreement that created the groundwork for a gargantuan information-sharing and project-coordination effort between a host of dangerous border thugs, including Integrated Border Enforcement Teams, the Cross Border Crime Forum, and project North Star, all of which have their sights on Canada’s prosperous marijuana trade and smuggling industry.
“What they are there to do is crunch issues on intelligence sharing,” Solicitor General spokesperson Blaine Harvey told Cannabis Culture. “How do we work together on drug smuggling, human smuggling, and now terrorism?”
The Solicitor General’s primary concern is letting legal US/Canada trade flow more swiftly. Marijuana smugglers get in the way because trucks, cars and trains have to be searched for buds under our current system of prohibition. Instead of ditching prohibition so that trade can flow free, pot-haters prefer to enforce prohibition even more heavily.
Anti-pot border cops
Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBETS), the Cross Border Crime Forum and project North Star are all seasoned bud-crushing agencies.
IBETS were originally created by Vancouver Customs and Excise in 1997, for helping authorities crack down on areas of “high smuggling activity,” in BC’s marijuana-rich province. IBETS quickly grew to include RCMP customs and excise, RCMP drug enforcement, Canadian immigration and passport authorities and Canada Customs. On the American side, it expanded to include the US Border Patrol, US Customs Service, and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Both nations’ city and regional police also jumped on board.
Like IBETS, the Cross Border Crime Forum (CBCF) was created in 1997 to target smugglers, through an agreement between American and Canadian heads of state. The CBCF brings together high ranking officials from the Canadian Solicitor General’s Office, the RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada Customs, Canada Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canadian provincial police, US local police, the US Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), DEA, US Border Patrol, US Customs, US Attorneys, the US State Department and many others.
Perhaps the most controversial part of the December 3 agreement is to “reinvigorate Project North Star,” which according to its proponents is similar to Operation Alliance, a program which stations US military troops on the border with Mexico to block drug traffickers. In 1997, one of Operation Alliance’s elite anti-drug squads shot and killed innocent teenager Esequiel Hernandez, who was simply tending his grandfather’s goats, his regular after-school chore. The soldiers left him to bleed to death in the dirt. After widespread public protest that included a demonstration at Hernandez’ high school, Operation Alliance troops were withdrawn from the border, but only for a while.
Will we soon see equally trigger-happy US troops stationed along the Canada-US border?
The FBI in Canada
US and Canadian intelligence agencies already have a long history of drug war cooperation. Last year, the DEA opened an office in Vancouver, in addition to the office they already had in Ottawa (CC#34, DEA in BC).
Other US agencies are also eager to place more agents in Canada. Blaine Harvey, spokesperson for the Canadian Solicitor General’s Office, told Cannabis Culture that the FBI have had officers in Canada for “quite some time.” He explained that the FBI agents are “probably at the US Embassy. We have had RCMP officers in Los Angeles, Washington, and New York for some time as well. Mostly drug file.”
FBI/RCMP cooperation goes way back. They have been sharing license plate information since at least the 60’s, when the RCMP’s Special “L” squad reputedly coordinated with the FBI in investigations of hippie communities conducted on Canadian soil.
The FBI, US Customs or even state police have always been able to access the RCMP’s Criminal History Records database by making a simple request, processed by an RCMP official pushing a button on a computer.
The December 3, 2001 agreement, however, promotes information sharing between narks everywhere that would eliminate the RCMP’s button-pusher. The RCMP and FBI fingerprint databases will be linked together to form one of Big Brother’s swelling brain lobes.
In the US, the FBI fingerprint database is the center of US intelligence-gathering activity, and was the very first reliable database of American citizens, created by former FBI head Edgar J Hoover in the 1920’s. In Canada, the RCMP fingerprint database is a core component of Canada’s Criminal Records History files, and is accessible by cops through the Canadian Police Information Center (CPIC), already available to every Canadian intelligence organization.
The recently passed USA PATRIOT Act mandates using the combined RCMP/FBI fingerprint databases to screen border-crossers and weed out undesirables, while opening up information sharing between the the FBI, CIA, US Customs and other law enforcement agencies.
On March 21, 2002, Canada and the US signed another agreement that will merge the two countries’ visa, customs and immigration databases, and provide for shared information about flight passengers, even while they are in transit between countries.
New technology makes this massive database accessible to any cop on the beat. In August 2001, the ONDCP successfully tested wireless technology for installation in the cars of anti-drug agents that will link the databases of the DEA, US Customs Service, local police and anti-drug task forces. It is likely that this new “inter-operable” technology will be used to further link citizen record databases throughout North America. Whether you are pulled over by a cop, questioned at the border by customs, or visiting a government office, you can assume they have quick access to detailed information about you, including the color of your underwear, be it red-white-and-blue or marijuana green.
With free-trade deals evaporating national borders despite massive public protests, global drug cops will become an ever-increasing reality. For an example of where the Americas are headed, look at Europe with its open borders, shared trade, common currency, European parliament? and international Euronarks, a division of Europol, Europe’s multinational police force. On December 6, 2001 the US signed a deal with the Euronarks as well, calling for shared information in cases of terrorism and drug trafficking.
In December 2001, Cannabis Culture contacted Maurizio Turco, a member of the European Parliament and representative of the Italian pro-legalization Transnational Radical Party, to ask him about the EU/US agreement.
“It excludes exchange of [non-criminal] personal data for now, but the European Parliament has not yet been consulted on this,” he stated. “Furthermore, Europol has been given wider powers to coordinate police cooperation in Europe. The European Parliament is very concerned about the fact that this development is not counterbalanced by the establishment of democratic and judicial control on its functioning and operations. What we fear now is that democracy can be spoiled and citizens’ rights and freedoms infringed, with the aim of protecting them from terrorism. This is a serious risk that the US, and the EU, are running.”
FedEx & Amtrak: corporate narks
Many private corporations enthusiastically support the drug war by rounding up their employees like cattle, testing their body fluids and hair for traces of relaxing moments spent lifting cares with cannabis. Some companies go even further, actively spying on their customers and getting them busted.
On April 13, 2000, the DEA and US Customs made a 34,000 pound marijuana bust with the help of FedEx, who ratted out their pot smuggling customers and their own employees.
“The cooperation between FedEx and law enforcement in this case is an excellent example of the kind of government-industry partnership we need to combat drug smugglers,” US Customs Commissioner Raymond W Kelly was quoted as saying in a DEA press release.
“From the moment our offices first detected these shipments in July of 1998, FedEx worked side-by-side with DEA to expose the full scope of this operation,” boasted FedEx Vice President Robert A Bryden shortly after the bust. “FedEx, like DEA, is concerned about prevalent illegal drug use in our society.”
Amtrak is another company which helps bust its customers. They have their own Amtrak Police, who use their powers to snoop and spy on their passengers. They pass on information to the DEA, in return for a 10% commission on any money or assets seized as a result.