The Incredible Shrinking Résumé of Thomas White

Thomas White used to be proud of his résumé. When he was appointed secretary of the army last May, his online bio boasted about his 11 years as a senior exec at Enron. Then that nest of thieves collapsed, and suddenly it wasn’t so cool to have been a big shot there. It was time to apply some serious splotches of white-out to White’s life. Swiftly, quietly, the official biography for the army’s top dog was changed, but cybersleuths soon unearthed the original.

No longer posted for the broader public on the army’s Web site, the document could serve as a kind of primer for the senators who’ll soon hear White’s testimony about the energy trader’s downfall. The record begins by explaining White’s new responsibilities. It then quickly jumps into a two-paragraph recap of his Enron glory days:

Prior to his appointment as Secretary of the Army, Secretary White served as Vice Chairman of Enron Energy Services, the Enron Corporation subsidiary responsible for providing energy outsource solutions to commercial and industrial customers throughout the United States. Mr. White was responsible for the delivery component of energy management services, which included commodity management; purchasing, maintaining and operating energy assets; developing and implementing energy information services; capital management; and facilities management.

Secretary White also served as a member of Enron’s Executive Committee and was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Enron Operations Corporation. He was also responsible for the Enron Engineering and Construction Company, which managed an extensive construction portfolio with domestic and international projects.

Sometime after Enron tanked, that glowing report went the way of a California city in an Enron-sponsored blackout. Visitors to the army’s site are no longer regaled with details of White’s corporate prowess. Instead, they read this: “From 1990 to 2001, Mr. White was employed by Enron Corporation and held various senior executive positions.”

The Enron material has not only been shrunk to tiny proportions, but it has also been shoved down to the very last sentence, where it sits as nothing more than a lonely afterthought.

Reached for comment, Charles Krohn, the deputy chief of public affairs for the army (and former next-door neighbor of White), said, “I don’t know what the company answer is. But I think it’s the obvious one. After what happened with Enron, his experience doesn’t seem relevant. But it would be disingenuous, if not dishonest, to take out all Enron references.”

Besides the general taint of being associated with a company that screwed its employees, stockholders, and consumers while executives stuffed their pockets with cash, White has many specific reasons to downplay his role.

As a bigwig with Enron, he set up deals to supply the army with electricity. As head of the army, he immediately spoke of the need to further privatize the army’s utilities. Enron must’ve been salivating.

Further, White failed to divest himself of all Enron holdings as quickly as he told the Senate he would during his confirmation hearings. In March, the Senate Armed Services Committee strongly rebuked him for it: “Based on the information we have received from you… and from the Office of Government Ethics, we do not believe that your actions satisfied the requirements of this committee.”

White finally got around to selling his stock at the end of last October, five months into his tenure as head of the army. Funny thing is, during that same month, he documented talking to his old buds at Enron — either on the phone or face-to-face — 13 times. October 2001, you may recall, is the month that Enron started to go belly up. Naturally, White denies they talked about the company’s impending doom before he dumped his stock.

Not everyone is buying his story, though. Both the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating his contacts with his former cronies.

But it gets even better.

In early May, the world got to see an internal memo in which Enron’s lawyers revealed ways to manipulate the California energy market and jack up prices — creating phony congestion, skirting price caps, etc. The media had a field day reporting on the plans, known by names like “Death Star,” “Get Shorty,” and “Ricochet.” What they didn’t mention was that the corporate division where White was “responsible” had been directly involved in these maneuverings. Enron Energy Services was, in fact, the only division specifically named in the smoking-gun memo. What’s more, the skullduggery was happening while White was in the hands-on position of vice chairman.

Research by the Nader-affiliated Public Citizen shows that during the first three months of 2001, Enron Energy Services traded millions of megawatts of electricity with other divisions of Enron, artificially jacking up the prices to as much as $2500 per megawatt hour (compared to the average price of $340 at the time). “As vice chairman,” the nonprofit watchdog notes, “White was in charge of running day-to-day operations, including managing and signing retail energy contracts.” The results for California were rolling blackouts and sky-high prices. The results for White were much better. “As a direct result of his division’s fraud, White is a multimillionaire,” says Public Citizen.

Now White has been called to testify before the Senate about Enron’s shenanigans in California. He agreed to appear and has said that Enron Energy Services didn’t engage in manipulation. But the mere specter of him sitting before lawmakers provides a solid sign that the Enron scandal is reaching high into the Bush administration.

We shouldn’t forget that White has problems not relating to Enron. There was that little jaunt he took last spring on a government plane to sell some of his real estate in Colorado. And he fought hard for the Crusader, which pissed off Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who had decided that the mobile artillery system had to go. During a recent press conference, Rumsfeld trotted out White to shamefacedly say he supports the decision to can the Crusader. The Daily Enron, a Web journal, later noted, “One reporter there said he looked like a POW being forced to read a confession while tapping out an SOS with his eyelids.”

Is White on his way out? Official army flacks deny it, but that’s certainly the scuttlebutt. Time magazine reports that after the press conference, “folks close to White began hinting that the Army Secretary might leave in a few weeks.” USA Today quotes senior Pentagon officials saying that the army man “is likely to be forced out of his post.”

If so, White’s official bio will have to be changed again — his brief tenure as head of the army could easily be shrunk to a single sentence.


U.S. Military Proposes Illegal Bioweapons Research

According to documents unearthed by a nonprofit government watchdog, the United States military has proposed the development of biological weapons that would violate international treaties and federal law. In fact, they may have already developed some of these illegal, treaty-busting bioweapons. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Sunshine Project has recently pried loose some damning documents from the Marine Corps, which seems to be overseeing this area of research.

Exhibit A is a 1997 proposal from the Naval Research Laboratory to create genetically engineered bacteria and fungi that will corrode and degrade enemy matériel, such as roads, runways, vehicles, weapons, and fuel.

Then we have the document from Armstrong Laboratories at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas. The flyboys propose much the same thing as the navy — engineered microbes that can destroy enemy equipment, including explosives and chemical weapons.

The military scientists take great care to point out that the germs they want to create would be “nonlethal.” But this doesn’t matter. The international Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention treaty absolutely bans member nations from possessing or developing microbes, toxins, or any other biological agents for use in battle or other hostile situations. (Under the treaty, bioweapons can only be developed for defensive purposes, which is what lets the U.S. government brew anthrax with the supposed goal of developing a vaccine.) The U.S. was one of the original signatories, putting its John Hancock on the treaty in 1972.

Yet the navy lab is advocating these super-bugs for blatantly offensive purposes, saying they will “degrade opposing forces’ mobility, logistical support and equipment maintenance programs prior to or during military engagements.” Likewise, the air force proposal is for bioweapons that would be used to attack enemy forces: “Catalysts can be developed to destroy whatever war matériel is desired. All [military] Services would have an interest.”

Both proposals claim that the destructive germs wouldn’t violate the biological weapons treaty. “That’s completely false,” says Edward Hammond, a co-founder of the Sunshine Project. He notes that the convention makes no distinction between bioweapons that target humans and those that take out equipment or other targets. “If the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention was limited to humans, it would be disastrous. Weapons that target animals, like livestock, would be legal. Destroying crops would be legal.”

And let’s not forget that the actual use of biological weapons, as opposed to their development, was outlawed way back in 1925 by the Geneva Convention.

The military’s proposed germ research would violate more than just international treaties. “U.S. federal law explicitly states that biological weapons that attack matériel are illegal,” Hammond says. “The penalty is life in federal prison. If they lifted a finger to do this research, they have violated the [Biological and Toxin Weapons] Convention and federal law.”

Which leads to another crucial point. The military’s proposals from five years ago reveal that they already had developed similar bioweapons. The navy lab says it has a fungus that breaks down polyurethanes. In the air force document, Armstrong Laboratories brags that it’s been doing “biotechnological research at the molecular level” for eight years. Specifically, it’s cooked up a bio-agent that quickly destroys rocket fuel, plastic, and other organic and artificial polymers “without fire or explosion.”

Does this mean that the military has already violated the bioweapons treaty and U.S. law? “I don’t want to comment on that right now,” Hammond says. “We’re discussing it with lawyers.”


Attack of the Mutant Bollworms

Starting this summer, thousands of genetically modified insects could be released in Arizona. Assuming that scientists get the green light from the government, this field test will mark the first time a GM bug has been let loose in the U.S.

The critter in question is a tinkered-with version of the pink bollworm, a moth whose larvae have a distressing appetite for cotton. Most prevalent in the Southwestern states, this archenemy of the “fabric of our lives” tears through 20 to 50 percent of each crop it infests, leading to millions of dollars in losses each year. It’s been causing problems in the U.S. since 1917, when bollworm larvae hitched a ride in some cotton brought into Texas from Mexico. Since then, growers have waged an all-out war. In the latest salvo against the bug, scientists have come up with a plan to introduce a “self-destruct” gene into the population. The goal is complete eradication.

These scientists insist they’re not trespassing on virgin territory. “The bollworm has been spread because of mankind’s intervention,” says Dr. Thomas Miller, the lead scientist for the project, which is being run with the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Speaking from his office at the University of California, Riverside, the entomology professor emphasizes, “Mankind is responsible for sending the bollworm all over the world. We’re just using nature to correct the problem.”

The situation may not be that simple, warns Dr. Jane Rissler, a senior staff scientist in the Food and Environment division of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Her group doesn’t consider genetic engineering inherently unnatural, but argues that each case needs to be looked at closely. Still waiting to see all the research on the pink bollworm, Rissler says she’s not inclined to endorse the release of GM bugs. “Insects raise a lot of issues,” she says. “They reproduce often. They’re small, and they occupy a lot of ecological niches.

“Besides the risks, we also need to examine the benefits,” Risler adds. “Is this really the best solution? So far, genetic engineering isn’t contributing very much to agriculture.”

Phase one of the APHIS effort involves giving the bollworms an enhanced gene from a jellyfish, which causes them to turn bright green when placed under a certain kind of light. This marker will allow scientists to tell which bollworms carry the identifying trait. Scientists will study whether the GM bollworms survive in the semi-wild enclosure, whether they live as long and attempt to mate as much as their non-GM counterparts.

Researchers will move to a second phase of the project, in which they’ll give bollworms a self-destruct gene. This second bit of DNA will cause any eggs produced in mating with normal bollworms to be duds. Scientists believe that by continually releasing the barren bug throughout the growing season, they can wipe out the general population. The approach could applied to other pests, including that bane of farmers, the Mediterranean fruit fly.

A crucial step in this process—and, actually, an enormously important event for all of us—is the scheduled release this summer. If the government gives its nod, starting this July 15 and continuing for a year, scientists will turn loose 2350 adult GM bollworms under enclosures in a cotton field in Phoenix, Arizona, to see how they fare under real-world conditions. No more than 300 will flit at any one time through the three-acre testing area. The three pens, designed to keep the creatures from flying away, consist of a mesh-fiberglass screen over a galvanized-pipe frame.

According to the application submitted to the division of APHIS that grants permission for releases, “The potential for escape from the three field cages will be minimal, barring a major weather catastrophe.”

To further prevent the escape of the bollworms, sticky traps scented with sex hormones will be set immediately outside the cages to catch stray males, and the female moths will have their left wings removed. What’s more, the bollworms released in the experiment’s first phase will be sterilized with a dose of radiation. “If one escapes, it’s not going to do anything,” Miller says. “It’s going to die.”

On their way to the field, the moths will be transported in containers that don’t exactly seem industrial grade. The official application says the bugs will be kept in “shatter-resistant capped plastic vials or sealed cardboard cup-type containers. The lids on each of these containers will be further secured with tape. Additionally, the containers will be transported in a cardboard box lined with Styrofoam and sealed with a nylon strap.”

Asked if the scientists could get their application approved in time for the proposed July 15 release, Rissler declares, “They won’t make it.” The wheels of bureaucracy turn at a snail’s pace, and that’s just fine with her. She wants the FDA to convene panels to study the issue. “It would behoove the government to act very slowly and deliberately regarding this—carefully, slowly, and deliberately.”

If the bollworm field test isn’t approved in time for summer, it’ll have to wait until the cotton-growing season next summer. Though that would allow more time for debate, it’s important to note that some mutated animals have already left the labs where they were created. Rissler says that GM nematodes (a tiny worm) and mites (similar to insects but technically arachnids) have been released. “Some genetically engineered fish have also been released, but only in isolated ponds,” she says.

On the microscopic front, a GM citrus viroid has been released in Florida, and the BioKyowa corporation filed an application to release a modified form of E. coli in Missouri. BioKyowa later withdrew that application for unspecified reasons.

Other countries are busy approving the release of GM animals, bacteria, and viruses (the microorganisms are often part of a vaccine). Belgium has released GM human adenovirus type 5, France has turned loose GM bacilli, Finland let GM streptococcus out of the lab, and Spain has been the site of four releases of GM infectious bovine rhinotracheitis virus. Seven countries, including the U.S., have approved the release of GM rhizobium bacteria. South Africa allowed the field trial of GM E. coli in 1995, as did New Zealand in 1999. It was the Kiwis who, more than a decade ago, approved the engineering of goats and sheep to produce human protein in their milk.

The genetically modified cat is out of the bag, but before issuing a permit for the pink bollworms to flutter around an Arizona cotton field, the government has opened up the issue to public comment, through July 23.

Miller and his colleagues welcome response. “It’s important that the public knows what we’re doing,” he says.

To respond to the GM bollworm project, send four copies (an original and three copies) of your comments to: Docket No. 01-024-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Suite 3C03, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

You’ll need to state that your comment refers to Docket No. 01-024-1.


World Leaders on Dope

The American drug war may yet grind on, but one by one, the troops are hiking out. Right-wingers like Jesse Ventura, Gary Johnson, Dan Quayle, William F. Buckley, and George Schultz have all voiced support for either ending the costly campaign of interdiction and imprisonment, or at least decriminalizing pot.

Through the years, in statements little-noted or splashed onto front pages, they’ve aligned themselves with leaders around the world, all standing in unlikely opposition to the frat-boy chief commander in the White House. President Bush shows no sign of yielding, instead choosing to harden his stance. In May, announcing the appointment of a drug czar who makes John Ashcroft look like a hippie, Bush thundered, “John Walters and I believe the only humane and compassionate response to drug use is a moral refusal to accept it. We emphatically disagree with those who favor drug legalization.”

These days, that means disagreeing with a lengthening list of international heavyweights—former presidents of the United States, current presidents of Latin American countries, legislators, governors, high-ranking judges, and law enforcement officials. Not that all of them favor outright legalization—most don’t—but each has broached the possibility of relaxing the laws.

Two weeks ago, as the U.S. Supreme Court shot down medical marijuana like Christian missionaries over Peru, the Canadian Parliament was questioning whether soft drugs should be decriminalized. “It’s time to be bold,” lawmaker Derek Lee told the Ottawa Citizen. “Everything has to be on the table.”

Bush finds himself hemmed in by opinion south of the border as well, where some of his strongest allies in free trade break radically with his policies on drugs. President Vicente Fox of Mexico, for one, assures the Bush administration he will be an obedient, merciless drug warrior, while he tells his own country’s newspapers that someday humanity will recognize universal drug legalization as the best course.

A parade of brutal statistics has long made clear the merit of Fox’s legalize-it zeal. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, police in 1998 arrested 682,885 Americans for marijuana offenses, more than the number for all violent crimes combined. After eight years of Bill Clinton, a supposed progressive who could have provided relief, some 450,000 drug offenders sat behind bars—a total almost equal to the entire U.S. prison population in 1980. The president who later told Rolling Stone he believed small amounts of pot should be decriminalized spent his terms fueling a multibillion-dollar escalation of the drug war, in which people were killed in raids of the wrong homes and constitutional rights were shredded. On average, the Lindesmith Center reports, a federal offender in the Clinton era drew twice as much time for drugs as for manslaughter.

The Drug Policy Foundation calculates that in 1999, the feds spent $1.7 billion to guard America’s borders and coasts—$17,700 per mile—only to have 70 percent of the coke and 90 percent of the heroin make it through. Drug use continues to climb, with some 72 million Americans believed to have tried pot.

While the U.S. continues its self-destructive orgy of arrests and wasted money, other parts of the world move forward. The Swiss government has endorsed a plan to legalize pot and hash consumption and allow some shops to sell cannabis. Belgium allows people to grow pot for personal use. The Netherlands allows coffee houses to sell marijuana. Portugal, Spain, and Italy punish the use of any drug (including heroin and coke) with only an administrative sanction, such as a fine.

Britain has loosened its laws a tiny bit, allowing low-level marijuana offenses to be immediately expunged from arrest records. In an effort to control the damage from opiate addiction, Australia has opened the world’s largest heroin-injecting room in Sydney.

But it’s in the regions most wracked by narco-violence that the cry for legalization rings most clear. Having been shot in the neck by a police officer thought to be acting under orders from drug lords, Patricio Martínez García, governor of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, told El Universal in March that he believed a proposal for legalization must be considered. “[B]ecause if the war is going to continue being lost, with the deterioration of the life of communities and even the nation, and with the deterioration of the quality of life for the citizens of the country, well, then, where are we heading?” said García, whose state borders Texas and New Mexico. “There has to be a remaking of the law.”

Vicente Fox

Mexican President

“My opinion is that in Mexico it is not a crime to have a small dose of drugs in one’s pocket. . . . But the day that the alternative of freeing the consumption of drugs from punishment comes, it will have to be done in the entire world because we are not going to win anything if Mexico does it, but the production and traffic of the drugs . . . to the United States continues. Thus, humanity will one day view it [legalization] as the best in this sense.”

source: Unomasuno, March 17, 2001


Jorge Castañeda

Mexican Foreign Minister

“In the end, legalization of certain substances may be the only way to bring prices down, and doing so may be the only remedy to some of the worst aspects of the drug plague: violence, corruption, and the collapse of the rule of law.”

source: Newsweek, September 6, 1999

Jorge Batlle

President of Uruguay

“Why don’t we just legalize drugs? . . . The day that it is legalized in the United States, it will lose value. And if it loses value, there will be no profit. But as long as the U.S. citizenry doesn’t rise up to do something, they will pass this life fighting and fighting.”

source: El Observador, December 1, 2000

Bill Clinton

former U.S. President

“I think that most small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in some places, and should be.”

source: Rolling Stone, October 6, 2000

Joe Clark

Head of Tory Party, member of Canadian Parliament, former Prime Minister

“I believe the least controversial approach is decriminalization [of marijuana], because it’s unjust to see someone, because of one decision one night in their youth, carry the stigma—to be barred from studying medicine, law, architecture or other fields where a criminal record could present an obstacle.”

source: Globe and Mail, May 23, 2001

Jimmy Carter

Former U.S. President

“Penalties against a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana for personal use. The National Commission on Marijuana . . . concluded years ago that marijuana use should be decriminalized, and I believe it is time to implement those basic recommendations.”

source: speech to Congress, August 2, 1977

Dan Quayle

former U.S. Vice President

“Congress should definitely consider decriminalizing possession of marijuana. . . . We should concentrate on prosecuting the rapists and burglars who are a menace to society.”

source: Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure by Dan Baum, quoting Quayle from 1977

George Schultz

Reagan’s Secretary of State

“We need at least to consider and examine forms of controlled legalization of drugs.”

source: Associated Press, November 6, 1989

Abigail Van Buren

Advice Columnist

“I agree that marijuana laws are overdue for an overhaul. I also favor the medical use of marijuana—if it’s prescribed by a physician. I cannot understand why the federal government should interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, nor why it would ignore the will of a majority of voters who have legally approved such legislation.”

source: “Dear Abby,” March 1, 1999

William F. Buckley

Conservative Author

“Now it’s one thing to say (I say it) that people shouldn’t consume psychoactive drugs. It is entirely something else to condone marijuana laws the application of which resulted, in 1995, in the arrest of 588,963 Americans. Why are we so afraid to inform ourselves on the question?”

source: syndicated column, October 21, 1997

Gary Johnson

Governor of New Mexico

“Make drugs a controlled substance like alcohol. Legalize it, control it, regulate it, tax it. If you legalize it, we might actually have a healthier society.”

source: The Boston Globe, October 13, 1999

Ben Cayetano

Governor of Hawaii

“I just think it’s a matter of time that Congress finally gets around to understanding that the states should be allowed to provide this kind of relief [medical marijuana] to the people. Congress is way, way behind in their thinking.”

source: Associated Press, May 15, 2001

Jesse Ventura

Governor of Minnesota

“The prohibition of drugs causes crime. You don’t have to legalize, just decriminalize it. Regulate it. Create places where the addict can go get it.”

source: Playboy, November 1999


Kurt Schmoke

former Mayor of Baltimore

“Decriminalization would take the profit out of drugs and greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the drug-related violence that is currently plaguing our streets.”

source: The Washington Post, May 15, 1988

Frank Jordan

former mayor of San Francisco

“I have no problem whatsoever with the use of marijuana for medical purposes. I am sensitive and compassionate to people who have legitimate needs. We should bend the law and do what’s right.”

source: Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1995

Ron Paul

U.S. Congressman from Texas

“When we finally decide that drug prohibition has been no more successful than alcohol prohibition, the drug dealers will disappear.”

source: Paul’s Web site.

Jorge Sampaio

President of Portugal

“Policies conceived and enforced to control drug-related problems and effects have led to disastrous and perverse results. Prohibition is the fundamental principle of drug policies. If we consider the results achieved, there are profound doubts regarding its effectiveness. Prohibitionist policies have been unable to control the consumption of narcotics; on the other hand, there has been an increase of criminality. There is also a high mortality rate related to the quality of substances and to AIDS or other viral diseases.”

source: Madrid’s El País, April 7, 1997

Milton Friedman

Nobel Prize winner for economics

“Legalizing drugs would simultaneously reduce the amount of crime and raise the quality of law enforcement. Can you conceive of any other measure that would accomplish so much to promote law and order?”

source: Newsweek, May 1, 1972

Part II of this article: Dream of a Worldwide Truce

Related links:
Narco News
Radical Party: Legalization of Drugs


Dream of a Worldwide Truce

On the eve of a United Nations special session on drugs, an international roster of luminaries signed a letter, penned by members of the Lindesmith Center, that lobbied for radical change. “We believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself,” read the June 1998 declaration. “Persisting in our current policies will only result in more drug abuse, more empowerment of drug markets and criminals, and more disease and suffering.”

Among the signatories were Willie Brown, Joycelyn Elders, several former members of Congress, two former U.S. attorneys general, a former assistant secretary of state, three federal judges, the San Jose mayor, a former police commissioner of New York City, a former secretary general of the UN, 28 Spanish judges, past presidents of Bolivia, Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, and current legislators from Australia, Britain, Canada, European Parliament, Mexico, and Peru.

Non-politicos who signed include Kweisi Mfume, Walter Cronkite, Stephen Jay Gould, Andrew Weil, Isabel Allende, Günter Grass, a slew of professors at top-notch universities, CEOs, various clergy, and Nobel laureates.

Several representatives on Capitol Hill are also bucking for new approaches. Reformers include California representative Tom Campbell, who has suggested “experiments in supplying drugs to addicts the way Zurich tried,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Massachusetts representative Barney Frank has repeatedly introduced a bill to change pot from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug, thus allowing states to legalize it for medical purposes. In its current incarnation, the States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act is cosponsored by 14 representatives and is residing in a House subcommittee.

Many on the federal bench have also seen the light. During his tenure as chief judge of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (1993-2000), Reagan appointee Richard Posner argued in favor of legalizing marijuana and psychedelics. District Judge Warren Eginton of Connecticut wants to see pot and cocaine legalized, while District Judge James C. Paine of Florida has condemned the war on drugs.

Other leaders who question prohibition are listed below. —R.K.

Gustavo de Greiff

former Attorney General of Colombia

“We should legalize drugs because we here are providing the dead, and the consumers are there in the U.S.”

source: El Diario-La Prensa, May 8, 1994

Peter Bourne

President Carter’s Drug Czar

“We did not view marijuana as a significant health problem—as it was not. . . . Nobody dies from marijuana. Marijuana smoking, in fact, if one wants to be honest, is a source of pleasure and amusement to countless millions of people in America, and it continues to be that way.”

source: PBS’s Frontline: “Drug Wars,” October 2000

Joseph D. McNamara

former police chief of San Jose and Kansas City

“We should immediately stop arresting people whose only crime is possessing small amounts of drugs for their own use. . . . Marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol and cigarettes.”

source: The Washington Post, May 19, 1996

Jaime Ruiz

senior adviser to the Colombian President

“From the Colombian point of view [legalization] is the easy solution. I mean, just legalize it and we won’t have any more problems. Probably in five years we wouldn’t even have guerrillas. No problems. We [would] have a great country with no problems.”

source: Ottawa Citizen, September 6, 2000

George Papandreou

Greek Foreign Minister

“I can officially state that my government and myself believe that all over Europe we need to open a debate on the ‘drug question’ in order to create more coherent and human policies with better perspectives. . . . The policy of criminalizing consumers has failed, creating many problems to our society.”

source: Transnational Radical Party’s Anti-Prohibitionist Days, Brussels, December 11, 1997

Edward Ellison

former head of Scotland Yard’s Antidrug Squad

“I say legalize drugs because I want to see less drug abuse, not more. And I say legalize drugs because I want to see the criminals put out of business.”

source: London’s Daily Mail, March 10, 1998

Ray Kendall

Secretary General of Interpol

“[I am] entirely supportive of the notion of removing the abuse of drugs from the penal realm in favor of other forms of regulation such as psycho, medical, social treatment.”

source: Report of Premier’s Advisory Council, 1996

Juan Torruella

chief judge of the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals

“There is a need for pilot tests of some types of limited decriminalization, probably commencing with marijuana, and obviously not including minors.”

source: Spotlight Lecture at Colby College, Waterville, Maine, April 25, 1996

John Curtin

U.S. district judge, New York

“Education, counseling, less use of criminal sanctions, partial legalization, and legalization are all alternatives. It is a hard road, but the present course has failed.”

source: The Buffalo News, March 2, 1997

Robert Sweet

U.S. district judge, New York

“Finally, the fundamental flaw, which will ultimately destroy this prohibition as it did the last one, is that criminal sanctions cannot, and should not attempt to, prohibit personal conduct which does no harm to others.”

source: National Review, February 12, 1996

House of Lords, Great Britain

“We consider it undesirable to prosecute genuine therapeutic users of cannabis who possess or grow cannabis for their own use. This unsatisfactory situation underlines the need to legalise cannabis preparations for therapeutic use.”

source: “Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis,” Select Committee on Science and Technology, March 14, 2001

Australian Parliament

“Over the past two decades in Australia we have devoted increased resources to drug law enforcement, we have increased the penalties for drug trafficking, and we have accepted increasing inroads on our civil liberties as part of the battle to curb the drug trade. All the evidence shows, however, not only that our law enforcement agencies have not succeeded in preventing the supply of illicit drugs to Australian markets, but that it is unrealistic to expect them to do so. If the present policy of prohibition is not working, then it is time to give serious consideration to the alternatives, however radical they may seem.”

source: Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority, 1988

Part I of this article: World Leaders on Dope


Columbine Research Task Force

It may not be pretty, but the site created by the Columbine Research Task Force reveals some of the Net’s true potential. You won’t find dancing baloney or Shockwave tricks—just the work of determined people who question the official story about the Columbine massacre. If Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold acted alone in slaughtering 13 people and wounding many others at their high school two years ago, why did the police and press originally report that many students were saying up to eight gunmen were involved? Why did CNN’s live coverage from the scene include an interview with a student who repeatedly said the gunmen were throwing grenades? Why do investigators say Harris and Klebold killed themselves at 12:05 p.m., but live coverage indicated shots were being fired in the school until approximately 3:45? Who was the still-unidentified student in a black jacket who was arrested at gunpoint during the siege?

Describing themselves as “a group of private citizens with no affiliation with the government or the press,” the task force continues to post and link to new information. The message board gets four or five new posts a day, and some members are still interviewing key players. Michael Shoels, whose son Isaiah was killed in the massacre, told the CRTF that when he was on the scene, “everyone was talking about shooters in black masks.” According to the authorities, Harris and Klebold weren’t wearing masks at any point. Injured student Mark Taylor says a Jefferson County deputy saved his life against the orders of commanding officers, who told the cop he wasn’t to go into an area containing injured students.

You’ll also find maps of the school and the surrounding area, photographs of the scene, a list of the dead and injured, links to scads of articles, and—most important—scans of the 11,000 pages of raw information released by the county last November.

This site shows the Net doing what it was made to do: facilitate the exchange of information among dogged pursuers of the truth who would otherwise be working in isolation.



You just got a call that your sister is in critical condition in the hospital, so you jump in your car and hit the gas. Trouble is, the speed limit is 30 miles per hour, and your car won’t let you drive any faster. Or maybe you’re lucky enough to have a vehicle that still lets you drive at the speed you choose. A cop pulls you over and demands a saliva sample, so he can instantly match your DNA to a data bank of criminals’ genes. You refuse, and are arrested. After booking you, the authorities force you to submit to “brain fingerprinting,” a technology that can tell if memories of illegal events are in your mind.

By this point, you’re thinking this is a worst-case scenario, a science-fiction dystopia. Well, wake up and smell the police state, because all of this technology—and more—is already being implemented.

Britain is funding trials of “speed limiters,” which track your car’s whereabouts via Global Positioning Satellites, then refuse to let you drive faster than the limit for that stretch of road. Results from initial trials, according to the Guardian of London, were so promising the government is forking over money for more research, with an eye toward fitting all cars in Britain with speed limiters by 2006.

“Law enforcement technology developed in any country will soon be deployed in all countries,” says reporter Jim Redden, author of Snitch Culture: How Citizens Are Turned Into the Eyes and Ears of the State. “If speed limiters work in England, we’ll see them here before too long. My understanding is that the [U.S.] government is currently looking at requiring carmakers to install computer chips which would allow the police to remotely shut off any car’s motor.”

And what about roadside DNA tests? The New York City Police Department has expressed interest in the mobile kits from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. They’re expected to hit the market within two years.

U.S. police already have a sneaky new breathalyzer that can measure your blood-alcohol level without your knowledge. The PSA III Sniffer is built into flashlights, which are routinely shone in drivers’ faces during nighttime traffic stops. “All you have to do is breathe once, and, without so much as a search warrant or a warning, police can administer a drunk-driving test that is unreliable, underhanded, and unconstitutional,” warns Steve Dasbach, national director of the Libertarian Party. No probable cause. No consent. And no guarantee of accuracy. “According to some tests, the PSA III Sniffer generates false positive readings from 20 percent to 75 percent of the time.” The Sniffer can also get confused by an alcoholic beverage spilled in your car—or by mouthwash, cologne, and perfume.

Still, having your breath secretly analyzed might be better than having your mind violated by brain fingerprinting. This technology, developed by former Harvard neuroscientist Lawrence Farwell, is based on the theory that your gray matter lets loose with distinctive brainwaves when presented with details of something you’ve done, whether a crime or a chore. Farwell says the process is 100 percent accurate, a claim disputed by other scientists; an Iowa judge will soon be ruling on the technique’s admissibility in court.

Even if it works as advertised, this technology raises hard questions. How much weight will be given to brain fingerprinting evidence? Could you be convicted solely because your brainwaves spiked on some key words? Farwell’s Web site ( ominously mentions the possibility of corporations using the technology. You already have to give your bosses a vial of piss whenever they ask. Are you going to have to let them strap electrodes to your head and peer into your brain?

If you get a creepy sensation of being intensely observed when you go through airports, it’s not your paranoid, fingerprinted brain playing tricks on you. Many American airports are using an experimental machine that scans passengers’ boarding passes and other documents they’ve handled for trace amounts of explosives and drugs. The same company that makes the document scanner is almost ready to unveil a walk-through version that will detect forbidden molecules on your body and clothing. And what about those times when an alarm goes off because it detected the nitroglycerin you use for your heart or the poppy-seed bagel you had for lunch? Well, you’ll probably be allowed to board your flight after a body-cavity search.

People doing something as innocent as going to this year’s Super Bowl later learned they were videotaped—all 100,000 of them—as they went through the turnstiles. Face-matching software then compared each image to a database of mug shots maintained by the FBI and other agencies. As usual in this type of situation, authorities claim the digital portraits have been properly deleted.

Those of you who try to stay one step ahead of the police state shouldn’t get too cocky just because you use PGP or some other bullet-proof encryption on your e-mail and sensitive files. In a federal racketeering trial in New Jersey, the FBI recently introduced evidence obtained through a keystroke-logging device, a small piece of hardware that captures everything typed on a keyboard—even characters you delete. After breaking into the suspect’s home and installing the device, the feds were able to get his PGP password and traipse through his files. “Anything he typed on that keyboard—a letter to his lawyer, personal or medical records, legitimate business records—they got it all,” his lawyer told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

New Scientist magazine recently provided confirmation of another Big Brother technology—”X-ray vision spray.” Just spritz some on an envelope, and you can read what’s inside. Fifteen minutes later, the James Bond-ian gunk has dried, leaving no trace of tampering. The company that developed it assures us that it will only sell “See-Through” to law enforcement agencies, as if that were a comforting thought.

And this is only the beginning. Author Redden lists a stream of devices with disturbing powers. Heat-detecting devices look through walls for marijuana grow-lights. The Federal Intrusion Detection Network, now in development, will search the Web for criminal activity. “And let’s not forget Digital Angel,” he says, “the patented microchip that can be placed under the skin and traced by GPS satellites—even after you’re dead.”

Remember, these are just the tools that have been reported. “The FBI had been using Carnivore for over a year before the press stumbled onto it,” Redden says, referring to the government system that can secretly scan and store all e-mail sent or received by a person being targeted. “A year is many lifetimes in today’s technology market. We’re probably already being watched by the 10th-generation Carnivore and don’t have a clue.”


For the supposed newspaper of record, The New York Times screws up an awful lot. From statements that are outright wrong to embarrassing typos, the old gray lady sometimes appears to have grown senile. To keep her on her toes, Ira Stoll—a self-described “ordinary semi-intelligent guy in Brooklyn”—started Smarter Times ( last June. Each day Stoll gets up bright and early to read the NYT the way an English professor might comb a student’s report. And if a student made this many errors, the Dean’s List would be out of the question. In a recent edition, we learned that the Times has referred to Europe as a country. At other times, Stoll has pointed out what he sees as the Times‘ usually lefty biases regarding guns, the environment, and Israel. The obit of American Communist Party leader Gus Hall, for example, glowed very brightly, Stoll writes, despite the fact that Hall “was a Soviet Communist agent who took orders directly from Moscow.” Not all the criticism comes from a rightist perspective; Stoll has repeatedly chided the paper for describing the physical appearance of female public figures.

Occasionally, Stoll himself makes a grating mistake and runs a correction of his own. Despite its flaws Smarter Times makes an important errata for all the news that’s fit to misprint.


Urban Legend Reference Pages

Admittedly, the name Urban Legend Reference Pages doesn’t sound like it promises tons o’ fun, but this myth-busting site, found at, will fuel your cubicle chatter for ages. The husband-and-wife team behind the site euthanize tall tales, like the ones about the restaurant that served food containing semen from several men, the stray dog that turned out to be a sewer rat, and the stoned baby-sitter who cooked a baby.

In one fell swoop, you can find out that the suicide rate doesn’t increase during the holiday season, Keith Richards did not have all of his blood replaced at a Swiss clinic treating him for heroin addiction, and eelskin wallets don’t demagnetize credit card strips.

Those with a cynical nature will be at least as surprised to find out which legends and rumors are true. A Marlboro man actually died of lung cancer, a married couple accidentally returned a homemade sex tape of themselves to a video store, and porn star Marilyn Chambers did appear on the Ivory Snow box.

Sometimes it’s not possible to render a verdict on a rumor, so this site lets us judge for ourselves. Did a 1975 Sears catalog show an underwear model’s penis peeking out of his boxers, or was it just a photographic imperfection, as the company claims? Look at the scanned image and make the call. Did Donald Duck really use a racist slur against Daffy Duck in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? We’ll never know, but it sure sounds like it when you play the sound file.


Lethal Lasers, Alien Fossils

Even with concerns about privacy on the increase, the presidential election fiasco has triggered talk of voting systems that would make Big Brother proud. Several companies, universities (including M.I.T.), and state governments are spending time and money to create ballot-casting devices that incorporate retina scans, fingerprinting, and “smart” ID cards with encrypted signatures. Besides the obvious Orwellian implications, digital technology such as touch screens and online voting will make fraud much easier to commit and harder to detect, since there won’t be any butterfly ballots or dimpled chads to pore over when problems arise. “An electronic system is inherently corruptible,” computer scientist Peter Neumann told the Christian Science Monitor, sounding an ominous note in an otherwise uncritical article. “It’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

The free ride for users of MP3s and e-books may be coming to a swift end. The excellent cybernews site The Register ( is reporting that the computer industry is well on its way to implementing a copy protection scheme in the next generation of hard drives, possibly starting this summer. Any time you wanted to copy or even play a file, your computer would check against a centralized database to see if you were authorized to do so. Think you could just refuse to get a new computer or perhaps find one that doesn’t have this standard built in? Maybe you could, but then you couldn’t open any protected files.

The Register has also reported that cable moguls are hatching a plan to make VCRs unable to record programs restricted by networks. To work with future generations of digital cable, all TVs and VCRs would have to incorporate the protection scheme. If a TV station coded a show as “copy never,” your VCR would simply refuse to record it.

In a story that might—just might—make you see Bill Gates in a new light, The Boston Globe reports, “Giving away money steadily, tens of millions of dollars at a time, Bill Gates has become the single most influential force attempting to reverse the growing health crisis afflicting the world’s poor.” In 1999, his foundation gave $1.44 billion to fight malaria, TB, and other afflictions around the world. This is almost $300 million more than the U.S. government spent that year, and more than one-quarter of the expenditures from all industrialized countries combined.

You may recall the worldwide headlines that resulted when scientists announced in 1996 that a meteorite from Mars contained signs of primitive life. Strangely, an equally exciting announcement made headlines only briefly in Australia last month. Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist with NASA, says that a meteorite contains fossils of at least two types of bacteria similar to those found in other extreme conditions, such as in the Arctic. The 4.6 billion-year-old chunk of space-rock Down Under is just one of six meteorites NASA is studying for microfossils, according to the Herald Sun of Melbourne.

It used to be that there was only one way to make a baby, but the times keep changing. Scientists in Japan have announced that they can now grow sperm cells in a lab using stem cells from a mouse, and they’ll soon be trying the process with adult men. This could develop into a technique in which infertile men could grow their own sperm in test tubes. The Sunday Times of London further notes that the researchers “believe they will be able to reprogramme male cells into producing eggs so that men can both father and `mother’ children. This could allow gay men to be parents together.” An earlier Sunday Times article revealed that Britain’s leading fertility expert has patented a technique for modifying sperm in ways that can prevent or cause certain characteristics in the resulting kid. As a scientist who worked on the project put it: “This does provide the capability of making designer babies, and it will be up to society to decide what to do with it.”

It sure is a good thing that the World Health Organization hasn’t said anything about mad cow disease spreading beyond Britain and Europe, isn’t it? That would be scary. Well, drop that burger, because the WHO has issued a warning to all corners of the globe that animal feed contaminated with BSE—the virus that causes animals’ brains to turn to sponge—might very likely have been shipped worldwide. United Press International has quoted an ineloquent WHO doctor as saying, “We have concerns that there was sufficient international trade in meat and bonemeal and cattle that there has actually been exposure worldwide already….We are certain there was international movement of materials that could have contained infectivity.” The doc stressed that so far they haven’t confirmed any non-European cases of mad cow disease—or its human equivalent, which is acquired by eating tainted meat—but they’re only now putting major effort into tracing the disease around the planet.

Of course, science is still hard at work as the handmaiden of the military. A well-known London scientist has created a working prototype for a “phaser.” Mixing two forms of laser, the device creates an ionized beam that immobilizes people by overloading them with electrical impulses. Kind of like a stun gun, except this scary device never touches the person and can work from over a mile away. Although the phaser is being pushed as a nonlethal weapon, a bigger charge can short out the target’s heart. On a larger scale, the military’s High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office in late December awarded $8.6 million in grants to researchers who are in the process of developing “lethal laser devices.” Despite using the word “lethal,” an article from the Copley News Service details only the antimissile uses of the lasers, overlooking the possibility of frying large groups of people with the flick of a switch.