This week 60 Minutes explained how cops pressure young, low-level drug offenders unto serving as confidential informants, sometimes with fatal consequences. In my latest Forbes column, I consider how drug warriors defend this reckless, deceitful practice:
On November 22, 2013, his 20th birthday, Andrew Sadek sat down across a table from Richland County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Weber at the Law Enforcement Center in Wahpeton, North Dakota. It was the day after cops had searched Sadek's dorm room at the North Dakota State College of Science, finding "an orange plastic grinder with marijuana residue on the inside." It was more than seven months after a confidential informant had caught Sadek on tape selling him small amounts of marijuana: an eighth of an ounce for $60 on April 4 and a gram for $20 on April 9. It was seven months before Sadek was fished out of the Red River near Breckenridge, Minnesota, dead from a gunshot wound to the head and weighed down by a backpack full of rocks.
Sadek's journey from small-time pot dealer to waterlogged corpse, which was highlighted by 60 Minutes last Sunday, dramatically illustrates the dangers faced by young, legally naïve drug offenders who are pressured by the threat of imprisonment to do unto others what was done unto them. Even at a time when the collapse of pot prohibition seems inevitable, drug warriors insist this cruel, occasionally deadly chain of betrayal is essential to their work. They may be right about that, but their work is fundamentally immoral, employing unethical means to achieve an ever-elusive goal that a just government would never pursue.