March 15, 2002

Government Admits Spying on Drug Reformers

According to a report issued by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) in December 2001 and recently made available on the NDIC Web site, the government has been monitoring 52 Web sites in search of individuals and groups who use the Internet to "promote or facilitate the production, use, and sale of MDMA, GHB, and LSD." 

The NDIC report, titled "Drugs and the Internet: An Overview of the Threat to America's Youth", acknowledges that a majority of the sites monitored (32 of 52 sites) were "probably operated by drug legalization groups." (Drugs and the Internet, p. 12). 

Sites monitored included those operated by what the report calls "Drug-culture advocates" which it defines as individuals or groups "chiefly interested in expanding the size of the community to both legitimize their activity and increase pressure on lawmakers to change or abolish drug control laws." (Id. at p. 3.) Also monitored were "Advocates of an expanded freedom of expression," which the report defines as "purveyors of information with yet another agenda. These individuals and groups publish information on the Internet to push the boundaries of self-expression and the First Amendment. The information they provide may induce minors and young adults to break drug laws or to become a danger to themselves or to others by abusing illegal drugs." (Ibid.)

The fact that the majority of the sites monitored by the government likely advocate public policy positions which are opposed to the government's drug prohibition policy, raises the question of whether the NDIC study is actually an effort by the Department of Justice (of which the NDIC is a component) to silence drug reform advocates, by making them fear criminal prosecution for information posted on their web sites. 

Drug reform organizations are comprised of growing numbers of Americans who have grown tired of a national drug policy which ignores science, violates human rights, and which is bent on arresting hundreds of thousands of Americans each year whose only offense was altering their consciousness with drugs like marijuana or MDMA (ecstasy) rather than with state-approved drugs such as alcohol, nicotine or Prozac.  

Rather than pursue a "war on drugs" and send government agents out on reconnaissance missions to snoop on reform-oriented Web sites, the government should welcome and invite a dialogue with such groups aimed at creating a sustainable drug policy that is science based and that respects human rights and human nature. The right of a person to liberty, autonomy and privacy over his or her own intellect is situated at the core of what it means to be a free person in a democratic society. 

As new drugs, technologies or techniques are developed for augmenting, controlling, or surveilling the human mind (and new legislation is considered in order to regulate these drugs and other technologies), the US government should resign from prohibition and censorship and explicitly recognize, as constitutionally protected, the right to cognitive liberty and autonomy.

--Richard Glen Boire
Co-Director, The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE)

The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (http://www.cognitiveliberty.org) is an international group of people working in the public interest to foster cognitive liberty the right of each individual to think independently, to use the full spectrum of his or her mind, and to engage in multiple modes of thought and alternative states of consciousness. 

Resources:

Read a Wired magazine article about the NDIC report.

Read a DRCNet article about the report.

The NDIC report "Drugs and the Internet: An Overview of the Threat to America's Youth"

A 1998 article in Reason Magazine about UN efforts to censor certain speech regarding certain drugs.

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