08/14/11 Norm Stamper

Century of Lies

Norm Stamper, LEAP Speaker and Fmr. Police Chief of Seattle, author of "Breaking Rank - A Top Cop's Expos?Ôö¼┬½ of the Dark Side of American Policing + Pot Republic trailer from PBS' Frontline & the wisdom of Tony Montana & Abolitionist Moment

Audio file


Century of Lies / August 14, 2011


DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


DEAN BECKER: Hello. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. We have a very busy show for you but first a little high praise for Rick “Paris”.


To the tune of "The Impossible Dream"

To secede from the United States

To build an intercontinental toll way to nowhere

To ignore those who voted for him

To embrace the biggest cash piles

This is his quest

His bid for glory

No matter the truth

He'll change his story

He's George Bush's clone

He's bad to the bone

Our next President

Rick Paris

DEAN BECKER: Oh yes, the man has done so much…so much. Alright, here we go

DEAN BECKER: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. These men and women have served in the trenches of the drug war as prosecutors, judges, cops, guards and wardens. They have seen first-hand the utter futility of our policy and now work together to end drug prohibition. Please visit http://leap.cc


NORM STAMPER: I’m Norm Stamper. I was a police officer for 34 years- the first 28 in San Diego, the last 6 as Seattle’s Police Chief. That was from 1994 to 2000.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Norm, you and I are speakers for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and I want to talk about you…you mentioned you were Seattle’s Police Chief and the gentleman that followed you, one Gil Kerlikowske, as Police Chief went on to become our nation’s Drug Czar. And a short time back you and other members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition wanted to share some information, have a discussion with him. Tell us about that.

NORM STAMPER: Back on June the 14th…June 17th being the 40t h anniversary of Richard Nixon’s famous or infamous proclamation that drugs were public enemy number 1 followed by a declaration of war against them which, of course, was a declaration of war against his own people. So 3 days before that date several of us convened in Washington, D.C. We spoke at the National Press Club and then we marched over to the Drug Czar’s office a few blocks away and attempted to hand him a copy of our report which calls for ending the Drug War.

He was too busy to meet with us according to his aide. We had tried several times to phone him, to email him and let him know that we wanted that meeting. So, to this moment, here we are now in August, we have not heard back from him.

DEAN BECKER: I have over the last 8 or 9 years done something similar – sought that discussion – with the various Drug Czars along the way and the best they can ever do was to tell me that they don’t have time to do a radio interview which can be done at any time of any day from anywhere and yet they cannot find the time for that discussion. What are the reasons that they avoid these discussions?

NORM STAMPER: Well let’s first be real clear that they are dodging you just as they dodged us back in June. I should say Gil Kerlikowske dodged us back in June. I give you any number of reasons but the top of my list would be they are afraid that they don’t have adequate answers to our questions. I fully believe that in any kind of honest debate they would be at a loss for words. Let me amend that. I don’t know of any politician whose ever at a loss for words.

They really do believe, and I think this starts with William Bennett and it continues right up through our incumbent Drug Czar, that their points are weak, that their alleged reliance on research, on analysis, on evidence-based examination of drug policy in this country is built on a very shaky foundation.

I would suggest two things. One is they are firm believers in their position. I think they become believers as a result of what I would consider to be some learned helplessness and a willingness to buy generation after generation of drug war propaganda. So they believe what they are saying. It’s just that when they get questioned about why they take the position they do that they become, if nothing else, they become very reluctant to engage in that conversation.

DEAN BECKER: You know Norm, the fact of the matter is that in the last few weeks there have been numerous organizations coming out for ending the drug war…NAACP, the Conference of Mayors, certainly our group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the week before that the Global Commission on Drugs…and we all call for a re-examination but, as we been discussing here, the government just doesn’t want to do that new analysis.

NORM STAMPER: Well, let’s go to some of those other reasons. Let’s assume that you’ve come out of a career in law enforcement, you’re stooped in drug policy traditions and vocabulary and I think there’s a tendency on the part of those who preside over U.S. drug policy, willfully or unintentionally, to succumb to all of the moneyed interests that are associated with perpetuating the drug war.

I refer, of course, to the prison industrial complex. Nothing more pernicious by way of aspects of that complex than the increased privatization of American prisons which makes it a profit-motivated enterprise…relying on per diems, building and filling as many prison cells as possible. That’s a very, very powerful lobby in this country.

The law enforcement narcotics industry is also a big part of that. And, it could be argued that the pharmaceutical companies and a variety of others have interest in perpetuating the drug war.

I think it’s safe to assume, as one who’s on the outside looking in now, that one of the reasons they don’t want to talk to us is a fear that even being seen with us or were the American public made to understand that there’s been a sit-down, face-to-face, honest, grown up conversation about U.S. drug policy would put them at odds with all those people who are supporting the drug war.

DEAN BECKER: You know that list of people who benefit..i think you’ve got to throw in the banks that launder the money. Wachovia being a prime example, $300 billion dollars laundered and only fined $140 million.

Now I want to also talk about the fact that there are provisions in the Drug Czar’s contract that also forbid him from having this discussion, right?

NORM STAMPER: The Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 makes it very clear that the Drug Czar cannot support any effort of legalization, cannot devote any ONDCP funds toward that end. We weren’t asking for money. All we were asking for was his time and a conversation. We did not get the courtesy of a response. We were met with an aide in the lobby of his office building who did say, “I’ll take it up to the Director and I will give it to him and I will convey your request that he read it and get back to you.” And, like I said, so far we have not heard a word from him.

DEAN BECKER: Norm, as a speaker for LEAP I find it refreshing, truthfully, the fact that when I give presentations these days…used to be that we got 70-80% of the people that would agree with us. I think it’s approaching 90 going on 100% these days. This cat’s been swung pretty hard and I hope it gets its job done. Your thought.

NORM STAMPER: Well, first of all, I love your metaphor and I think you’re right. What I’ve experienced in my travels and reactions to things that I write is…I see change over the last couple of years throughout this country and in very traditional strongholds where there is sort of a strong bias toward the status quo, people are questioning. The expenditures associated with the Drug War. They are looking at the costs associated with emotional and personal and community costs associated with the Drug War.

And we see this enormous change. I believe that we will see by popular demand an end to the Drug War in our time. The real fundamental question we face is what do we replace current U.S. drug policy with and, as you well know each of us shares this perspective, we’ve got to end prohibition and replace it with a regulatory model. And more and more people are signing on to that particular agenda.

DEAN BECKER: Friends, again, we are speaking with Norm Stamper, 30 years in law enforcement, most recently Seattle’s Police Chief. He’s author of “Breaking Rank – A Top Cop’s Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing” and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. We’re talking about his most recent one here, an attempt to contact and get a response from the current Drug Czar.

One thought I wanted to ask you about Norm is that in Texas we’ve had a lot of people talking about immigration and the tie-in with the Drug War. What a lot of folks don’t realize is that it’s not immigration leading us to more drugs, it’s the Drug War leading to more immigration. Your response to that.

NORM STAMPER: I think that’s a irrefutable assertion. I believe if we take a look at the sestimic, the economic implications of immigration that reality exists on either side of the border, we would, in fact, conclude that not only drug trafficking but gun running is an everyday reality that is contributing to the immigration problem in this country.

Immigration is a complex issue. As an organization, LEAP does not take a particular position on the immigration issue but we’re not shy about asserting precisely what you’ve just said, Dean. And that is the Drug War is contributing to the immigration problem. It also, needless to say, contributing to unspeakable forms and levels of violence on both sides of the border and particularly, in the last several years, in Mexico.

DEAN BECKER: I brought this up with Neill Franklin last week and, again, I just want to touch on this…I want to get another response and that is recently Obama set the hatchet team against the La Familia, one cartel in Mexico and not bringing that same focus on the other cartels. I think that’s…well, I don’t want to lead you but I just think that’s preposterous that going after one cartel that we can make a difference in the overall drug war. Your response.

NORM STAMPER: Let’s assume for the moment that in targeting La Familia we are achieving some level of success, conventionally defined. What we’ve really done is strengthen the other cartels. I think it’s safe to assume, and we have ample evidence of this, that every time we take down a drug kingpin or one of his lieutenants we have created an employment opportunity or a promotional opportunity for somebody in the ranks of that cartel to move up. And, these are people who have learned from the history of their own syndicated criminal enterprises that the way you expand or protect your profits is through escalating levels of violence and more and more imagination being applied to kidnappings and to torture and other forms of really unspeakable violence in Mexico.

So, I think it is very short-sighted of us to target a single cartel. On the other hand the argument could be made that we realize how big the problem is in Mexico and how ineffective it is to spread our resources and go after them all. In fact, bottom line, we’ll never win that battle, we never should have engaged in it in the first place and it’s time for us to withdraw from the Drug War. Declare a victory if necessary or a truce if that’s more politically palatable but recognize that adding to our failed policy year after year after year and dollar after dollar after dollar is just utter folly.

DEAN BECKER: This leads me to one last thought that I want to examine. And that is that there was a high lieutenant and I forget the cartel name but he was used by agents of the federal government to point at other cartel efforts to, in essence, be their informant. And for that they were allowed to smuggle tons of cocaine into these United States. We had the gun smuggling into Mexico where the AFT allowed that to happen. How criminal must law enforcement be to win?

NORM STAMPER: I’m with you Dean and I’ve written in my book that of all the major scandals involving U.S. law enforcement in the last several decades virtually every one of them is traceable to drug trafficking. It is an enterprise created through prohibition which is the organizing mechanism behind U.S. drug laws that guarantees not only violence but corruption. It guarantees over zealousness, violations of the 4th amendment for example. And as it relates to the specific issue that you’ve raised, it guarantees that we will as a government, because this is how law enforcement functions, we will favor one breed or brand of evil conduct over another in order to grab what we perceive as the larger level of evil.

And what that means, and we’ve seen this in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency, DEA and the like, buying off people in effect allowing them to continue their criminal enterprise in order to go after a bigger fish. There’s something just unholy about that. I don’t consider it to be honest and honorable police work. Police work, for example, the kind that prevents people from hurting other people. Police work that actually makes a positive difference in the lives of people who in many cases are terrified of crime, who change the way that they live as a result of that, but we have found ourselves preoccupied with these strategies and these tactics that ultimately undermine police work and public confidence in police work.

And having spent 34 years as a cop I can tell you that it’s an absolutely essential, indispensable line of work, It’s an honorable profession but when we engage in those tactics we dishonor it.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. We see the bold display of those deviations from our basic rights on television shows like COPS and DEA where they threaten people, they scare people and they setup people and manipulate them.

NORM STAMPER: In the real world, this would be the traditional cop speaking, I’m not rejecting my own history and my own background, but there are plenty of occasions where we develop snitches who help lead us to the prevention of homicides and robberies and burglaries and the like. That’s been a part of police work from day one and it will always be a part of police work.

But we always kind prided ourselves… those of us who – myself – who identifies progressive police officers – as those who formulate sound rules and live by them. It’s when we deviate from those rules, it’s when we create rules, if you will, that are beyond the spirit of the Constitution of the United States that we find ourselves in big, big trouble. And it’s just not worth it. There are ways to do police work and there are ways to do police work. And unfortunately under the Drug War we have found lots of reasons to violate if not the letter then certainly the spirit of the constitution.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we’ve been speaking with Mr. Norm Stamper, one of my band of brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, author of “Breaking Rank – A Top Cop’s Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing” and he’s got a great new piece up on Huffington Post. Norm, thank you so much. I hope to see you soon, my friend.

NORM STAMPER: Always a pleasure and I look forward to it, Dean.


DEAN BECKER: I wanted to make a correction. After I finished this interview with Mr. Norm Stamper I realized that it was the Zeta cartel that Obama was going after. Just wanted to that known and it was the Sinaloa cartel that was allowed to traffic tons of cocaine into the United States in exchange for information about rival cartels.


DEAN BECKER: Here’s an extract from the anti-Drug War anthem, “No Knock Raid” by Lindy.


LINDY: Yeah we are the SWAT,
We are adrenaline junkies til the drugs are all gone,

It’s no-knock raid,
Don’t be afraid,
Paramilitary police-state on parade,
It’s no-knock raid,
Don’t be afraid,
You do the time for your victimless crime,

And it’s a no-knock raid,
It’s a no-knock raid…


DEAN BECKER: The following segment is courtesy of the PBS program Frontline and their focus on the Pot Republic.

REPORTER: A few hours’ drive north of Oakland another plan to regulate medical marijuana growing was being launched, more quietly and carefully in an area known as the emerald triangle. Though you’ll see only a few outward signs of it, these little towns are home to some of the biggest pot producing farms in the country.

The hippies who pioneered pot growing here decades ago are still around but the business has scaled up dramatically in the last few years with vast pot fields set up like organic farms and state-of-the-art equipment to help get pot to market faster for younger growers like Joey Berger.

JOEY BERGER: This sound that we’re hearing, this noise, this is the noise of an industry here. The Twister is the leading cannabis trimming machine on the market today. It can turn the workforce of five into the workforce 30 or more and as revolutionary the way medical cannabis collectives process and they are able to save money and they’re able to pass those savings along to their patients.

REPORTER: Growers at farms Berger works with are careful to say all this pot is headed for medical marijuana patients and dispensaries and not the black market. But it’s been getting harder for local law enforcement to tell the difference. That’s why last year Mendocino County launched an unusual program. Sgt. Randy Johnson was put in charge.

RANDY JOHNSON: Well, it’s new territory. None of us had ever done anything like this. It’s not even all the way legal. I mean it’s legal in our county.

REPORTER: Johnson used to bust local pot growers. Now he’s working with them. Matt Cowen is one of the new breed of growers in the county. For years he said he’s tried to run his medical marijuana operation like a legitimate business so when the county announced a new program to license pot growers he was one of the first to sign up.

MATT COWEN: Right here you can see it says Mendocino County Sheriff. It’s upside down though.

REPORTER: These zip-ties mark the plant as legal. Cowen paid $50 for each of the ties, $1500 to join the program and $500 for every inspection. In return, Cowen gets to grow a lot more plants than otherwise allowed – up to 99 of them which can generate several hundred thousand dollars a year in income for his farm coop. And he gets to do all of this without any fears of getting busted by the sheriff.

RANDY JOHNSON: Have you been having any problems with your security or has that been working out well.

MATT COWEN: It’s been working good. I want to see the whole program succeed. I want to see the county succeed. I want to see Mendocino County be the Napa of cannabis after prohibition. I want all the good people in this county to be doing this legally and still have a job.

RANDY JOHNSON: You getting this so maybe it’s cable … so you can make it tight so you don’t have that looping together.

MATT COWEN: Some people are watching us right now and shaking their heads. Saying, “I can’t believe there’s a cop in uniform that’s working with marijuana people.”

TOM ALLMAN: We’re not a bunch of “Cheech and Chong” law enforcement officers who are encouraging people to grow marijuana. Nothing could be further from the truth.

REPORTER: Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman has been walking a tight rope with marijuana growers for years. Then came medical marijuana and increasing confusion about what’s legal and what’s not.

TOM ALLMAN: We’re trying to remove the gray area. We are trying to make it black and white. And if we can remove the gray, if we can remove the inconsistencies, if we can have people not confused about the marijuana laws – then I have succeeded.


DEAN BECKER: The wisdom of Tony Montana.

TONY MONTANA: It's those guys man, the f'ing bankers, the politicians – they’re the ones that want to make coke illegal so they can make the f'ing money and they can get the f'ing votes. They're fighting the bad guys? They’re the bad guys!



DEAN BECKER: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Abolitionist Moment.

Prohibition is an awful flop. We like it.

It can’t stop what it’s meant to stop. We like it.

It’s left a trail of graft and slime. It don’t prohibit worth a dime.

It’s filled our land with vice and crime…nevertheless, we’re for it.

Franklin Adams, 1931

Through a willing or silent embrace of drug war we are ensuring more death, disease, crime and addiction.

Some have prospered from a policy of drug prohibition and dare not allow their stance taken to be examined in a new light.

But, for the rest, ignorance and superstition will eventually be forgiven.

What Houston has done, in the name of drug war, will never be forgotten.

Please visit http://endprohibition.org Do it for the children.


DEAN BECKER: It’s possible to go back more than one hundred years to the beginning of this Drug War. How far forward do you want it to go? Please do visit our website, http://endprohibition.org and please do it for the children. Prohibido istac evilesco!


For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org