The success of drug decriminalization in Portugal

The new report on drug policy is available online now. Also: what will the Obama DOJ do today about still-secret torture memos?

Published April 2, 2009 4:20PM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV)

My report for the Cato Institute on the effects of full-scale drug decriminalization in Portugal -- the background for which I wrote about here -- is now available online.  It can be read here, and the .pdf is here.  I'll be at Cato tomorrow to present the report at noon, and the event can be watched live here.  Drug policy is being more openly debated than ever before in the U.S. (Time 's Joe Klein just wrote a column advocating marijuana legalization), and the unambiguous success of Portugal's 2001 decriminalization -- which is what enabled the Portuguese Government to address their exploding drug problems in the 1990s and to achieve far better results than virtually every other Western country -- provides a compelling empirical basis for understanding the profound failures of the American approach.

I'm traveling today and it's unlikely I'll be able to write again, but today is the deadline for the Obama DOJ either to release 3 key, still-secret OLC torture memos or explain to the court why they refuse to do so.  A report two weeks ago from Newsweek's Michael Isikoff  (which quoted an anonymous Obama official as describing the memos as "ugly") claimed that Obama had disregarded the emphatic objections from ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden and others in the intelligence community and had decided to disclose the documents in full, but a New York Times article this week indicated that no decision has been made because of very adamant objections to disclosure from the likes of Obama counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan (whose pending appointment to be CIA Director, it's worth recalling, was opposed precisely because he was clearly an advocate for some of the worst CIA abuses of the Bush era).  

I will have an interview with the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer, lead counsel in the ACLU's litigation to compel disclosure of these documents, as soon as the ACLU receives the response from the DOJ.  As always, it's worth underscoring here that most of the work to compel disclosure of Bush-era secrets has been, and still is being, performed not by our establishment media or the Congress -- both of whose responsibility it is do so -- but by the ACLU and similar organizations using the power of FOIA requests and litigations to extract these secrets (it was the ACLU's lawsuit, for instance, which compelled the release of the 9 OLC memos last month which were so extreme and caused such furor).

Finally, as a reminder: I'll be on Bill Moyers' Journal tomorrow night, along with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, talking about the establishment and independent media.  Local listings are here.


UPDATE:  I just learned from the ACLU that the Obama DOJ has requested yet another extension of the deadline to disclose these documents, indicating -- at the very least -- that they are not yet committed to disclosure and nothing will happen today.  It remains to be seen how long their extension will be, but given how many extensions they've already sought and obtained, it is likely it will be a very short one.  These OLC memos are probably the most vivid and inflammatory of all the DOJ torture-authorizing documents, and there is clearly concern in the Obama administration that their release with only further inflame the demands for investigations and prosecutions.  Needless to say, that is not a legitimate basis for withholding critical government documents, particularly ones that purported to authorize blatant war crimes.


UPDATE II:  I'll be on C-SPAN's Washington Journal tomorrow morning (Friday) from 8:00-8:45 a.m.  The program is also streamed live online here, and the program will be archived on C-SPAN's site shortly thereafter.


UPDATE III:  My segment on Washington Journal this morning, which I think was actually more substantive than most televisions discussions (the questions from the host and call-in audience were almost uninformly quite good), can be viewed here.


UPDATE IV:  Those interested can view the Moyers segment, broadcast tonight, here

By Glenn Greenwald

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