It's the drugs â" though non-existent â" that make that possible because federal law usually imposes tougher mandatory sentences for drugs than for guns. The more drugs the agents say are likely to be in the stash house, the longer the targets' sentence is likely to be. Conspiring to distribute 5 kilograms of cocaine usually carries a mandatory 10-year sentence â" or 20 years if the target has already been convicted of a drug crime.
That fact has not escaped judges' notice. The ATF's stings give agents "virtually unfettered ability to inflate the amount of drugs supposedly in the house and thereby obtain a greater sentence," a federal appeals court in California said in 2010. "The ease with which the government can manipulate these factors makes us wary." Still, most courts have said tough federal sentencing laws leave them powerless to grant shorter prison terms.
To the ATF, long sentences are the point. Fifteen years "is the mark," Smith said.
"You get the guy, you get him with a gun, and you can lock him up for 18 months for the gun. All you did was give this guy street creds," Smith said. "When you go in there and you stamp him out with a 15-to-life sentence, you make an impact in that community."
[A defendant's] lawyer, Michael Falconer, said he wouldn't be opposed to the drug-house stings if he thought the ATF could make sure they were aimed only at people who were already ripping off drug dealers. "But on some level," he said, "it's Orwellian that they have to create crime to prevent crime."
You know what the US government won't do for that same individual? Ensure they have a decent education, a basic level of care for their mental and physical health, a safe neighborhood, and a real shot at becoming a contributing member of society even though that would cost less than convicting them of thoughtcrime and throwing them in prison for fifteen years. Instead we pay for some kitted out machine gun-toting pigs to play cowboy rather than policing the streets like officers. Not incidentally, they're too chickenshit to get out of their cars in a lot of those neighborhoods. Yet they still collect their paycheck and their pension, live way out in the suburbs to avoid the desperation they help create with their cowardice, and pat themselves on the back for being heroes.
Now imagine you're an immigrant, or an Iraqi, Yemeni, Afghani, or Syrian. You're worth even less than a citizen. You're trash. You're not even a speedbump on the way to some policy goal rooted in geopolitical theories that have been dead to the rest of the world since the 80s. The kind of policy that sends a million troops and five trillion dollars to a sanctioned, isolated nation, and ends up destabilizing the entire region, massively aiding Iran, and stoking tensions between Shia and Sunni, all while avoiding a single hint of punishment for Saudi Arabia or Pakistan where all of the funding and most of the terrorists for 9/11 came from. Oh, and as a plus: where al Qaeda was unheard of before, they now have another weak state to operate from. Brilliant.
That's why the rest of the world despises the American government. It's not our freedom. It's our complete lack of principle, abject hypocrisy, and massive state violence that they hate. And with our apathetic political landscape, they're beginning to tire of Americans individually for being lazy, ignorant, wasteful, and greedy. We just sit here and take it; a nation of lolling toddlers waiting on the next innovation in fast food and reruns of Pawn Stars while our wealth is squandered in military adventurism that has killed millions of innocent people in only five decades.
PRISM is just icing on the rotting carcass that once was America, and our allies are starting to look towards the exit. Our government has taken another step on the road to fascism and failed statehood: it has declared unlimited surveillance and assassination rights over every human being on the planet; it has declared war on the truth, and it has promised (and delivered) punishment for anyone who dares to speak it. Despite that, the same throwaway phrase about America not being the worst country in the world is still technically true, if you're not allowed to consider how it treats non-citizens. But if the best thing about your country is that it isn't Somalia, do you think there are a few things you could work on?
Anyway. There's my two minutes of well-earned hate for the state of democracy in America. Enjoy the decline.