Drug Pardons for Pay
November 2010 has been full of many stories from the new snitch-line: Wikileaks. “Someone” has been leaking out formerly secure information in an effort to let the world know information that was formerly kept secret. There has always been a great amount of debate concerning whether people should know the government’s business in detail, or whether that might cost people their lives, or impact governmental policy and relationships. If information keeps leaking out, we will soon know.
A story from November 30, 2010 stated that “A secret U.S. diplomatic memo released Tuesday by WikiLeaks says Afghan President Hamid Karzai freed dangerous detainees and pardoned [five] suspected drug dealers because they… were distantly related to two individuals who had been martyred during the civil war.” The five Afghan policemen were caught with 273 pounds (124 kilograms) of heroin. They were sentenced to 16-18 years in prison, but Karzai pardoned them.
The memo also stated that President Karzai and his attorney general have released 150 detainees, “including including 29 former prisoners held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay.” The pre-trial releases have continued even though complaints have been voiced by Frank Ricciardone, the deputy U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.
Karzai has also intervened in other narcotics cases, including drug trafficker Ismail Safad, arrested in 2005 with large quantities of heroin and weapons.
Throughout U.S. history, the presidents have maintained the authority to pardon those whom they felt were deserving. There are a few cases listed that involved people who were pardoned for their involvement with marijuana or cocaine trafficking, the most famous one being Bill Clinton’s brother, who served one year and then was pardoned.
But President Karzai is exhibiting a complete lack of acceptance of the authority of either the U.S. or the law enforcement and courts in his own country. Instead, the memo states that he has overturned sentences and held his own court when a verdict didn’t suit him. This is taking the idea of Presidential pardon further than any U.S. individuals are comfortable having it go.