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House Holds Hearing on National Guard Involvement in 'War on Drugs'


September-October 1994

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice, chaired by Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY), held a hearing on October 6, 1994 on the future of the use of the National Guard in anti- drug activities. "The National Guard is a powerful, ready-made fighting force," Schumer said in his opening statement. "Redefining its role in the post Cold War era presents exciting possibilities in the war against crime."

Testifying before the committee were: Major General John R. D'Araujo, Jr., Acting Chief of the National Guard Bureau; Mr. Mark Richard, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division of the Department of Justice; the Honorable Pedro Rossello, Governor of Puerto Rico; Dave Brewster, Assistant Chief of Police for Phoenix, Arizona; Harold Johnson, Chief of Police for Sumter, South Carolina; David Kopel, Senior Fellow, CATO Institute; and Nkechi Taifa, Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union.

D'Araujo testified about the results of the National Guard's activities in fighting the drug war -- cash and asset confiscation, drug seizures, and destruction of marijuana plants.

Governor Rossello said that Puerto Rico has re-defined the role of the National Guard for peace-time activities. "The time has come to direct more of our attention to internal security issues, to current dangers we find at home, drug-trafficking, and the violent crime that drug-trafficking engenders," he said. "There does exist an 'enemy-within,' and this is it."

Kopel outlined the history of the use of the National Guard and the constitutional and legal prohibitions against such use. The use of the National Guard for anti-drug activities represents a dangerous blurring of the military and civilian spheres, testified Taifa of the ACLU. She discussed abuses of civil liberties in the United States and Puerto Rico. "Scandalous abuses of military power are occurring daily in that island, where public housing projects are being taken over and 'occupied' by the National Guard and the police, as part of the government's anti-crime campaign," she testified. "We are troubled that the precedent being set could take us down a slippery slope towards a police state in America."