The drug war and privacy

Not that this is a new revelation on my part but I just wanted to relay it because it’s fresh on my mind: the war on drugs is the biggest threat to American privacy we have going.  What happened to me that makes me want to post this now?

I’m currently driving across the country visiting friends and family.  I left Salt Lake City earlier today and braved winter storm Gandolf to make it to Reno, Nevada. Afterwards, I’m headed to northern California to visit a friend, then make my way back to Florida through the Southern United States. As I approach Reno, a flash of red and blue lights up behind me.  Perplexed, I pull over at the next safe spot. I wasn’t speeding  given the severe weather conditions (though it wasn’t too bad at that moment). I had actually seen a state trooper a few miles back but I didn’t see him leave his spot though I suspect this was the same one.

He approached the car and I rolled down my window to the 25 degree air. He asked how I was doing this evening (about 9pm). I said fine then asked why he had pulled me over. He asked for my license, which I produced and he said I had crossed the line and wanted to make sure I was safe to drive.  This was a blatant falsity. What was really going on was he was profiling me because of my Florida license  in Nevada (or maybe my Gary Johnson bumper sticker) and used the pretext of me crossing the line to stop me.  [More about how I know this in a minute.]  He then asked for my registration and proceeded to ask me a series of questions:

Where was I headed? Oh a friend is California? How did I know him? High school, really?  Was I staying in Reno? Where was I staying? What did I do for work? Website development? Anything he would know about? Why do I have so much crap in my car? Why am I acting nervous? (I was shaking because I had been warm until I had to roll down the window to the cold night air) The state trooper was a really good actor. He genuinely seemed interested in the answers; like he wanted to learn more about me. The entire time he is vigorously inspecting my license and registration for any discrepancy. Of course he found none.

Unfortunately for him, I’m not a drug mule and had an immediate answer for every question.He eventually let me go and didn’t even say be careful about crossing the line, his original excuse for stopping me. 

 How do I know the officer was pretexting in stopping me?  My friend, whom I’m visiting in Northern California, had exactly the same experience in Oregon. He was driving to visit a friend in Oregon and just a few miles across the state line, he was stopped under the guise of having crossed the line. He was given almost the exact same line of questioning, where was he going, what did he do for work (it was midweek), etc.  Unfortunately for my friend, the officer claimed to smell marijuana and searched his car without his consent. Fortunately, the officer didn’t go that far in my case.

Privacy is about the right to be let alone.  By pulling people over under false pretenses, invading their personal space and then asking a series of ever probing questions in an attempt to find a gap in their story that would allow them to ultimately search their vehicle in at attempt to find illicit drugs, our fundamental right to let alone suffers. This is no isolated incident, this is a systematic assault on the freedom we enjoy as Americans.  No other rationale serves to create such a culture of invasiveness than the drug war. From pretext traffic stops, to no-knock warrants, to databasing of our cold drug buying habits, the drug war is an insidious disease on freedom. Not event the cause-du-jour, the war on terror, with it’s privacy assault is as pervasive across the country and world as the the fight against narcotics

The war on drugs must end.