How Did the Missouri National Guard "Directly Contribute" to $23 Million in Drug Asset Forfeiture in 2013?

The 2013 Annual Report of the Missouri National Guard contains a section (page 22) detailing the activities of its Counterdrug Task Force:

The Counterdrug Task Force leverages its unique assets on four fronts: providing analytical support to law enforcement to reduce the supply of illicit drugs; providing prevention professionals to communities to aid in reducing the demand for illicit drugs; providing aviation support to law enforcement to find illicit drugs in the state; and providing prevention train- ing, outreach services and treatment resources to Missouri National Guard members.

Highlights for FY-13 include:

• The Task Force has 30 personnel in nine communities. In fiscal year 2013, The Missouri Counterdrug Task Force scored 98.7 percent on its Counterdrug Program Evaluation, which led the nation.

• Criminal analysts supported 17 county, state and federal law enforce- ment agencies. The team’s goal has been to provide dedicated, concise and accurate analytical assistance in cases with a drug nexus.

• The counterdrug criminal analysts develop intelligence products that ensure timely prosecution of a large number of suspects that the law enforcement agencies may not otherwise have the manpower to pursue. This has directly contributed to 1,866 arrests and the seizure of $23,973,155.16 worth of drugs, weapons, vehicles and property. 

We don't know what precise role Missouri National Guard intelligence analysts play in the enforcement of drug laws, and particularly in context of investigations yielding seized property. The statute governing the Missouri National Guard's participation in drug enforcement, RsMO 45.475.1, states:

The governor is hereby authorized to request volunteers of the organized militia to assist federal law enforcement authorities within or outside the state, or to assist federal, state or local law enforcement authorities within this state, and order such volunteers to duty for the purpose of providing assistance in drug interdiction and counter-drug activities and operation and maintenance of equipment and facilities for such purposes pursuant to plans adopted and funding assistance received under the provisions of 32 U.S.C. 112.

This arrangement might be the key interface between Patriot Act/FISAAA dragnet surveillance and revenue-driven state and local law enforcement partnerships with federal agencies through the Equitable Sharing program. As Reuters reported in August 2013:

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIVISION

The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.

(John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans, Reuters, 5 Aug. 2013)

AFR Research Director Scott Meiner notes that:

“While the techniques described are universally bad, they carry special concern in forfeiture cases–where intelligence tips of a driver carrying cash (for legitimate or illegitimate reasons) compels officers to create parallel constructions to obfuscate from the courts and the public the real reasons why drivers are pulled over: so the department can score forfeiture proceeds.”, said AFR Research Director Scott Meiner.  “Informed police departments can use SOD tips to pull over cars that they know have cash (whether it is legitimate or illegitimate) and then apply a K9 sniff (with seeming random innocuity) and find the cash that they knew existed. A positive sniff (which is an inevitably positive sniff given what we know of cuing errors) validates the purported connection to drugs and thus justifies the forfeiture to the courts.”

We have good reason to suspect that tainted products of unconstitutional federal dragnet surveillance are being used on an active basis for everyday criminal law enforcement in Missouri. As WLOX.com reported on May 30, 2014:

The Street Crimes Task Force is out in Poplar Bluff, Missouri on Friday night, May 30.

According to Chief Danny Whiteley, they will be serving 30 or more warrants, along with the usual search for criminal activity in Poplar Bluff's highest crime neighborhoods.

The Street Crimes Task Force is made up of officers from Cape Girardeau, Sikeston, Poplar Bluff and Charleston. The Missouri State Highway Patrol, the SEMO Drug Task Force and the Missouri National Guard also have members involved.

Their goal is to target street level crimes in neighborhoods targeted as problem areas in each community. 

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  • commented 2016-11-19 07:11:17 -0600
    I remember in the 80’s, my dad was in the National Guard and we had to go to Poplar Bluff for his tour duty. They were burning fields of pot, some kept leaves to frame and he would come back each day talking about the bonfires. Before that, the government gave him a hat and book he had to study regarding the War on Drugs. Naturally, while I was there, I was smoking pot with my friends and expressing my apologies. Being a stoner back then, was the only group I sort of fit in, I always thought outside the box. Being more of a misfit because my dad’s job was related to the government burning fields, didn’t help. Now, I’m creating the Amazon for Pot. Everything they taught in school, those ridiculous commercials, how many people suffer in pain and or end up dead because of pills (not to mention the pollution all those medications cause), etc. it frustrates me. Time to end the stigma and at the very least, our economy can afford schools and keeping programs in them. -Justine Baker Founder http://www.BudLodge.com