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Kiriakou writes: "I, for one, want a president who is going to support civil liberties and civil rights, not conspire with notorious extremists to take them away."

Sens. Strom Thurmond, Joe Biden, and Ted Kennedy before the Clarence Thomas hearings began in 1991. (photo: John Duricka/AP)
Sens. Strom Thurmond, Joe Biden, and Ted Kennedy before the Clarence Thomas hearings began in 1991. (photo: John Duricka/AP)

Asset Forfeiture? Thank Joe Biden and His Friend Strom Thurmond

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

13 May 19


arvey Miller is known in the music industry as “DJ Speedy.” He’s a serious player in the music world, having worked with Beyonce, Jay-Z, and other top pop stars. He is a wealthy and successful entrepreneur and entertainer. He also happens to be African-American.

Miller was driving recently from his home in Atlanta, Georgia, to his second home in Los Angeles. A sheriff’s deputy pulled him over in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, for “not using his turn signal a full 100 feet before changing lanes.” The deputy asked Miller what he was doing in Oklahoma. Miller said that he was a professional musician and he was on his way to his home in California. The deputy said that the story sounded suspicious and he asked if he could search the car. Miller, who had no criminal record, refused. “No, you can’t search my vehicle,” he said. “What warrants you to search my vehicle?”

The cop wasn’t finished with Miller, however. He called in a K-9 unit; a K-9 “sniff” isn’t the same as a “search,” according to the Supreme Court. No permission — or warrant — is needed. The cops claim that the dog “alerted” for possible drugs and they searched the car. Miller protested that he has never used drugs, he hadn’t been drinking, and he had never been arrested. He had never broken the law.

The cops found no drugs. They did, though, find $150,000 in cash, which they seized, claiming that the money “smelled like marijuana.” They also claimed that of the $150,000, one $20 bill was fake, and they arrested Miller. He spent 12 hours in the county jail and was released without charge in the morning.

But the cops kept the money, and they’re not giving it back. It’s called civil asset forfeiture. Literally nothing in the law says that the police have to give Miller his money back, even though he’s never been charged with a crime. He’ll probably never see it again. And who do we have to thank for this travesty of justice? Joe Biden.

Biden was elected to the Senate way back in 1972, and he immediately saw himself as a potential presidential candidate. He was a progressive Democrat from a progressive Democratic state and he had to prove to Republicans and moderate independents that he was tough on crime. He set out to do that immediately.

An early form of asset forfeiture had been passed into law in 1970, but it applied only to goods that could be considered a danger to society, like weapons, illegal alcohol, and untaxed cigarettes, and it applied only after the defendant was convicted of a crime. Prosecutors wanted something that gave them more leverage over defendants and that packed more of a punch besides just a prison sentence. In 1978, Jimmy Carter’s “drug czar,” Peter Bourne, became a proselytizer for a wildly-expanded form of civil asset forfeiture. He held seminars for prosecutors and volunteered to brief members of Congress on the need for forfeiture without conviction as a legal weapon. He quickly gained an ally in Joe Biden.

Bourne told Biden that prosecutors weren’t taking advantage of the civil asset forfeiture law and that it needed to be strengthened. But he was soon pushed out when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. Biden then began working with the new attorney general, Ed Meese, and Assistant Attorney General Bill Weld. (Weld somehow has come to be known as a “moderate,” despite the fact that he went on to become a federal prosecutor, where he was a leader in civil asset forfeiture cases, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, and the Libertarian Party’s nominee for Vice President. He is now running against Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican presidential primaries. He went so far in the 1980s as to ask Congress for the authority to shoot down planes flown by suspected drug dealers.)

Biden, Meese, and Weld agreed that the asset forfeiture laws didn’t go far enough. They decided that, because the existing law required an indictment before the feds could take people’s property, it had to be changed. Police and prosecutors would have unprecedented legal authority to “put the drug cartels out of business.” They turned to Biden to push it through Congress.

In 1983, Biden, along with racist former Dixiecrat senator Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), drafted the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act, which gave federal agents nearly unlimited powers to seize assets from private citizens. Reagan signed it into law quickly. But Biden wasn’t done. A year later, he and Thurmond wrote and had passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. It again expanded prosecutors’ powers and lowered the burden of proof for forfeiture. Now federal agents only had to believe that what they were seizing was equal in value to money believed to have been purchased from drug sales. Nobody had to prove anything. Most importantly, the new law allowed for “equitable sharing,” allowing states and localities to retain up to 80 percent of assets seized.

Do you think Biden has had second thoughts? Nope. In a 1991 speech on the Senate floor, he said, “We changed the law so that if you are arrested, and you are a drug dealer, under our forfeiture statutes, the government can take everything you own. Everything from your car to your house, your bank account, not merely what they confiscate in terms of the dollars from the transaction you just got caught engaging in.” Notice that he didn’t say anything about anybody actually being convicted of a crime.

More recently, in January, Biden was challenged over his support for asset forfeiture. He parsed his words. “I haven’t always been right. I know we haven’t always gotten things right, but I’ve always tried.”

I, for one, want a president who is going to support civil liberties and civil rights, not conspire with notorious extremists like Thurmond, Reagan, Meese, and Weld to take them away. Biden has had his turn at the trough. He blew it. He stripped Americans of their rights. He actually wanted — encouraged — the cops to take our homes, our cars, and our money even if we were never convicted of a crime. He made it easier for them. That’s the kind of politician we should send into a permanent retirement, not to the White House.

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John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act - a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration's torture program.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+14 # DongiC 2019-05-13 17:49
How are our federal law enforcement officials different from the criminals that they try to put behind bars? They both take assets without due process considerations. This law that Biden was so proud of at one time is an absolute travesty and a gross violation of our collective democratic rights. Any candidate espousing such views, let alone putting them into legislation, should be sent packing without without a second's delay.

Are democratic voters so stupid that they will opt for a Trump clone? Just check for a few minutes the historical record of this deplorable candidate, Joseph Biden. Read it and weep! Then vote accordingly by choosing a candidate known for his honesty and concern for the average person, Bernie Sanders.
+13 # NAVYVET 2019-05-14 00:46
Biden should drop out of his run for president before his past record besmirches his reputation altogether. On issue after issue, the good friend of Strom Thurmond now has been exposed for another NeoCon(federate ) Police State policy to his record in Congress. These actions show him to be no liberal at all, just a timid little man too scared to take a stand that supports the Constitution of the United States. Confiscation of property without charges or trial is explicitly forbidden in the body of the Constitution.

I knew about Biden's tendency to collapse and root for the Deep South on civil rights issues years ago and almost decided not to vote for Obama when he chose Biden as his running mate--although he was not quite as awful as Hillary Clinton's choice. This year, when the Dems have winners like Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren, why should voters go for the worst?
+11 # Rwspisak 2019-05-14 03:56
It’s a chilling assault on the fourth amendment. I once asked a States Attorney in Miami a city notorious for out of control drug cartel activity and equally out of control police.
I asked in a candid moment in a social affair.
How did he not just as an up and coming future politician but as an officer of the court, how he reconciled “the Fourth Amendment” and this startlingly UNCONSTITUTIONA L “Civil Asset Forfeiture?”
He said, Honestly no one has successfully fought it.
I said, you as an officer of the court, are supposed to aspire some more than a score keeper? You are responsible to the Constitution a higher calling than careerism. He shrugged, people are people.
+11 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-14 06:55
This is a really horrible story. Police have always been gangsters, extorting bribes and protection money out of businesses, but this juclst goes even farther. Now they can steal from anyone they choose to.

Kiriakou uses the term "progressive" for Biden here is a very special sense. This is what is wrong with the term -- it has two different meanings. In Biden's case, Progressive re-emerged in US politics in the 70s to identify people like Biden, the Clintons, Podesta and the Center for American Progress as right wing democrats. These were the "triangulators" who wanted to take over republican issues so that they could attract money from right wing corporations, defense contractors, and investment banks.

And then there is the old use of the term Progressive from the 1920 which was a more neutral term for Socialist. These are left wing democrats like Sanders and many others who are called progressives.

The media will screw with this conflicted term to confuse voters. Of course, that's what Biden and other "progressives" did in the 80s as they became just like Republicans.
+16 # 1dfnslblty 2019-05-14 07:24
Good essay and excellent "want" in the final paragraph.
dems and republicans are identical oligarchs.
Work for freedom-loving candidates, or lose your freedoms.
Keep writing, Mr Kiriakou.
+9 # AldoJay69 2019-05-14 07:58
Biden is, and has always been, a finger-in-the-w ind handicapper. A phony.

Like Gillibrand, like Booker, -I could go on-, we must weed out the flotsam/jetsam from the ranks so that we may nominate a candidate able to tackle the immediate urgent needs the nation and the world face.

Further, Biden is a climate change idiot. That makes him dangerous! He must be destroyed!

+8 # Texas Aggie 2019-05-14 08:33
One more in a long list of reasons why Biden should be considered just a variation on the Phat Boy. Folks, if we ever expect to restore the country after what the Phat Boy has done to it, we can't let Biden anywhere near the levers of power.
+14 # Kootenay Coyote 2019-05-14 08:44
Theft by Government: a very bad law worse abused by wicked cops. Indeed, the End of Law, right up there with state assassinations.
+8 # PABLO DIABLO 2019-05-14 13:20
Go home Joe Biden, we don't need you.
THANK YOU Mr. Kiriakou for ALL you do.
-6 # upsetter 2019-05-14 22:41
Kennedy is that picture too. I bet he loved Strom as well. I wish we had a 3 party system or that Bernie could get elected. Oh well none of that will happen so I'm not going to vote. Democrats (but especially Joe Biden) suck. It's so hard being a progressive these days.
+4 # NAVYVET 2019-05-15 18:40
Read the polls, and read the details of how Bernie campaigns. He CAN win. And Liz Warren has skyrocketed back from the target of "babe-destroyer s" in the mass media to where she belongs. She is not as wide-ranging as Bernie, nor as knowledgeable, nor as careful with what she says, but she's honest, brainy, and would make a fantastic running mate.
+3 # randrjwr 2019-05-15 15:41
What no critic of civil asset forfeiture has mentioned here is that even if the victim clears him or herself completely, he/she will not get all the seized assets back. Some fraction may be returned on the condition that the victim pleads to some bogus charge so they can keep some of the loot. Local lawless* enforcement departments actually plan on these streams of money to fill gaps in their budgets, caused in part because the wealthy locals will not agree to pay high enough taxes to fund fully the departments. Of course they also vigorously seek opportunities to issue traffic and other misdemeanor citations to help pay their salaries.

I did not realize, until I read this article, that Biden was instrumental in enacting civil asset seizure laws. That alone is enough to cost him my vote. Absolutely disgusting! I could tolerate it IF the innocent people got ALL their assets back.

* Not a typo

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