The voracious maw

Federal prosecutors in Seattle have charged 15 people involved in a marijuana smuggling operation with violations of the Patriot Act, the bill hastily passed by Congress in the wake of the 9-11 attacks to protect the US from foreign terror attacks. That’s a first, at least for the Seattle office, one government lawyer told the Seattle Times.

And no, clarified Assistant US Attorney Todd Greenberg, the Canadians and Americans under arrest were not sending their proceeds to Al Qaeda. They were indicted for conspiring with a Canadian marijuana-smuggling operation to deliver $3.4 million in profits from Washington state back

to British Columbia.

Still, all 15 were charged with one count of “bulk-cash smuggling,” a Patriot Act offense. For years, federal law has made it a criminal offense to take more than $10,000 out of the country without reporting it, but the Patriot Act changed that from a mere reporting violation to a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and the forfeiture of the cash in question.

And although there was no terror connection, invoking the Patriot Act was still appropriate, said Greenberg. “They’re trying to get money from here to support crime somewhere else, so it’s a way to crack down on that,” he remarked cryptically.

That certainly didn’t take long. The Patriot Act hasn’t even been around for three years, and already it’s being used for other purposes. A nice conflation with the equally fraudulent War on Drugs here. I note in passing that no country that bans the unreported transport of personal wealth can reasonably consider itself to be free.