Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has seen the light! Maybe.
The Democratic senator criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week after he announced he would recommit the Justice Department to the so-called War on Drugs.
"Attorney General Jeff Sessions says we need to bring back the War on Drugs. Let's be clear — the War on Drugs was an abject failure," Harris' social media stated.
She's not wrong. The war has been a tragic and disastrous waste, and Sessions' desire to redouble the federal government's efforts marks a significant step backwards.
It is dismaying that, in the name of fighting drug violence, Sessions has agreed to loosen previous restrictions on the flow of surplus military equipment and weapons to state and local law enforcement. It's worse that he has embraced civil asset forfeiture, the practice whereby law enforcement officials can seize property from individuals who have not even been charged with a crime. This is clearly unconstitutional as it is a violation of our Fourth Amendment right to be secure in our "persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."
Though civil asset forfeiture predates the federal government's attempts to curb drug use and violence, it has seen an explosion in popularity over the last thirty years precisely because of Uncle Sam's crusade against narcotics. In fact, as Lucy Steigerwald wrote for Vice News in 2013, the dirty truth is that civil asset forfeiture is the "cash cow of the drug war."
"The system is an endless feedback loop of drug busts that result in seized property leading to more … funding for fancy cop gear that is used most often for drug busts. These absurd policies that incentivize police to prioritize drug arrests because that's where the money is have got to end," she wrote.
Put more simply, civil asset forfeiture is part and parcel of the War on Drugs. The two are somewhat inseparable.
This is apparently great fun for the Attorney General, who said Friday in a speech at a law enforcement conference in Alabama, "I love that program. We had so much fun doing that, taking drug dealers' money, and passing it out to people trying to put drug dealers in jail. What's wrong with that?"
What's wrong is that it empowers the state to confiscate private property based on nothing more than suspicion. It's lawlessness of a different sort – banditry with a badge – and we have the War on Drugs to thank for keeping this practice alive.
This brings us back to Sen. Harris.
As California's Attorney General, Harris was a great fan of civil asset forfeiture. She fought multiple attempts by state lawmakers to reform the vile practice, flexing her authority as state AG to protect this particular law enforcement tool.
It comes, then, as a bit of a surprise to see the Senator signal so loudly against the War on Drugs. We can only presume that she is also opposed to the war's biggest and most persistent tool of enforcement; the same tool she so zealously defended as AG. Well, either that, or she is merely taking shots at the Attorney General because he is a member of the Trump administration, and she's a dedicated and persistent critic of the president with her own eye possible on the White House.
Surely, her opposition to the War on Drugs is not as shallow as that. Let's assume she has seen the light. Hallelujah!