How the DEA Harasses Amtrak Passengers

http://www.pharmaciststeve.com/?p=10462

Earlier this year, Aaron Heuser of Eugene, Oregon, had to travel to Washington, D.C. The trip had two purposes: The 37-year-old mathematician was officially leaving his job at National Institutes of Health and starting a new position at a private firm. Since he is terrified of flying he booked himself a sleeper car on Amtrak. Upon reaching Reno, Nevada, there was an unexpected knock at his door. “There was a DEA badge on the window,” he said…

After that he asked if he could bring a dog into my room to check out the bags, to which I again said ‘no,’” said Heuser, who hasn’t passed the bar but knows a little bit about Fourth Amendment law. “Finally he told me that he was going to bring a dog, walk it by my room, and that if alerted, my room would be searched. He told me that I could not argue this and that I was not allowed to be present for the search. His reasoning for violating my right to be present was that the dog might bite me.” …

Minutes later, while Heuser was on his way back to his room, a DEA agent looked him in the eye and said, “You Oregonians may think that the green leafy stuff is harmless, but I know from my job that it kills people every day.” …

“I found my backpack moved and open, and my wallet, which was set down on the room table, had $60 missing,” he said. “I told one of the dining car attendants that I felt Amtrak and the DEA violated my rights. She told me that Amtrak is forced to give passenger info to Feds, that the DEA comes on every trip, usually arresting someone in the sleeping car or taking all their money…

Last year, the Associated Press reported that the DEA “paid an Amtrak secretary $854,460 over nearly 20 years to obtain confidential information about train passengers, which the DEA could have lawfully obtained for free through a law enforcement network.” (This was reportedly done so that the DEA could avoid sharing seized assets with Amtrak police, which hints at how lucrative such seizures are.) …

“I’d always lived under the false impression that they don’t profile people like me,” he explained. “I never thought that was a good thing. But I had the impression that as a white, middle-aged professional, I’m not getting profiled. Now I’m a little bit more afraid of them. Maybe more white, middle-aged professionals should experience this if that’s what it takes to get this taken care of. I’m definitely not in a place where I appreciate them.” …

Some people really do try to smuggle drugs by train. Last year, for example, the DEA caught a young man concealing cocaine in a fake cast. How many innocent Americans were harassed to make that cast-sized dent in the national cocaine supply? No one knows. But if you’ve been bothered by police while not smuggling drugs aboard an Amtrak train you’re encouraged to email conor@theatlantic.com with your story.

4 thoughts on “How the DEA Harasses Amtrak Passengers

  1. that is so blatantly a violation of civil rights and so many laws it isn’t even funny-it’s sick and disgusting and criminal and they should be being monitored, not doing the monitoring.

    Liked by 1 person

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