War on Drugs

Feds Want to Conscript FedEx to Block Your Cheap Medicine

Modern, efficient government: Arm-twisting private enterprise into engaging in intrusions that nobody should be committing, presumably at a cost-savings to the taxpayers being intruded upon.


Dylan Ashe

Why should law enforcement agencies do their own footwork when they can simply threaten others into doing it for them? Specifically, why should the United States government trouble itself with enforcing its silly rules against you and I purchasing our medicine over the Internet when it can hold package delivery services liable for delivering our orders from point A to point B. It's deputization, the hard way, and cargo delivery giant FedEx is on the receiving end as Uncle Sam looks to conscript assistance for its prohibition efforts.

According to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office from the Northern District of California, FedEx is delivering drugs. That's probably not a shocker, considering the number of sealed packages the company moves. But just how nefarious is this drug business?

beginning in approximately 1998, Internet pharmacies began offering consumers prescription drugs, including controlled substances, based on the provision of information over the Internet. While some Internet pharmacies were managed by well-known pharmacy chains that required valid prescriptions and visits to the patient's personal physician, others failed to require a prescription before filling orders for controlled substances and prescription drugs. Rather, these Internet pharmacies filled orders based solely on the completion of an online questionnaire, without a physical examination, diagnosis, or face-to-face meeting with a physician. Such practices violated federal and state laws governing the distribution of prescription drugs and controlled substances.

Oh noes! Somebody is selling Uncle Bob discount little blue pills! For shame. And he's willingly buying them! Shocker.

So…Why the fuck should FedEx care?

As it turns out, the feds say that "as early as 2004, DEA, FDA and members of Congress" told the delivery company that willing buyers and sellers were engaging in transactions that make politicians very, very sad. FedEx apparently established internal systems for tracking online pharmacies, but shipments still got through. This makes the feds even sadder, and they insist FedEx has been "conspiring" to let the packages through.

FedEx says this is all bullshit. The company insists that, in response to the government's crusade to keep Uncle Bob from buying his little blue pills at a discount, it's asked the feds for a list of suppliers it shouldn't service. The feds haven't gone beyond the bitching phase to offer anything helpful.

We have repeatedly requested that the government provide us a list of online pharmacies engaging in illegal activity.  Whenever DEA provides us a list of pharmacies engaging in illegal activity, we will turn off shipping for those companies immediately. So far the government has declined to provide such a list.

So, what do the feds want FedEx to do? The indictment isn't specific, but FedEx hints that the government wants the company to paw through everything it ships and block the stuff that officials don't think people should be allowed to send from place to place.

FedEx transports more than 10 million packages a day.  The privacy of our customers is essential to the core of our business.  This privacy is now at risk, based on the charges by the Department of Justice related to the transportation of prescription medications.

We want to be clear what's at stake here:  the government is suggesting that FedEx assume criminal responsibility for the legality of the contents of the millions of packages that we pick up and deliver every day.  We are a transportation company – we are not law enforcement.  We have no interest in violating the privacy of our customers. We continue to stand ready and willing to support and assist law enforcement.  We cannot, however, do the job of law enforcement ourselves.

Oh, awesome. Instead of government-conducted NSA-style surveillance of our personal activities, we'll get coerced surveillance by a private company. It's like contracting out an astoundingly creepy law-enforcement task, but without the actual contract. Or any compensation.

It'll probably have interesting consequences for delivery speed, too.

This is modern, efficient government for you: Arm-twisting private enterprise into engaging in intrusions that nobody should be committing, presumably at a cost-savings to the taxpayers being intruded upon.

For the record, I don't give a damn if FedEx is transporting containers of heroin, so long as the shipper and recipient are happy with the price and speed of delivery.