This story below from NBC San Diego is simply so horrifying in what it reveals as to just how far America has declined as a nation that I feel I have to post it in its entirety:
Daniel Chong, the UC San Diego student who was left in a Drug Enforcement Agency holding cell for nearly five days, said the time spent in his cell was a life-altering experience.Before I continue, I just wanted to point out that the only reason this story is getting a lot of media coverage is because the victim of this gross governmental abuse of power was a middle class college student. Does anyone really believe that this is the first time anything like this has happened in the DEA’s detention cells? If so, I’ll take that bet. The agency’s “bad luck” in this case was that Chong wasn’t some poor, black kid from the projects.
Before holding a press conference Tuesday afternoon, the 23-year-old spoke with NBCSanDiego and said he was increasingly worried throughout the days he spent in a 5 ft. by 10 ft. cell, where he could not spread his arms out wide.
“They never came back, ignored all my cries and I still don’t know what happened,” he said. “I’m not sure how they could forget me.”
Chong and his lawyer spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the claim they will file with the federal court system on Wednesday.
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said his lawyer Gene Iredale, who compared Chong’s experience to Abu Ghraib.
Chong said he was at a friend’s house in University City celebrating 4/20, a day many marijuana users set aside to smoke, when agents came inside and raided the residence. Chong was then taken to the DEA office in Kearny Mesa.
He said agents questioned him, and then told him he could go home. One agent even offered him a ride, Chong said. No criminal charges were filed against him.
But Chong did not go home that night. Instead, he was placed in a cell for five days without any human contact and was not given food or drink. In his desperation, he said he was forced to drink his own urine.
“I had to do what I had to do to survive….I hallucinated by the third day,” Chong said. “I was completely insane.”
Chong said he lost roughly 15 pounds during the time he was alone. His lawyer confirmed that Chong ingested a powdery substance found inside the cell. Later testing revealed the substance was methamphetamine.
After days of being ignored, Chong said he tried to take his own life by breaking the glass from his spectacles with his teeth and then carving “Sorry mom,” on his wrists. He said nurses also found pieces of glass in his throat, which led him to believe he ingested the pieces purposefully.
Chong said he could hear DEA employees and people in neighboring cells. He screamed to let them know he was there, but no one replied. He kicked the door, but no one came to get him.
By the time DEA officers found Chong in his cell Wednesday morning Chong was completely incoherent, said Iredale.
“I didn’t think I would come out,” Chong said.
He said when employees discovered him in the cell that they looked confused and nervous. A DEA employee rode with him to the hospital, where they paid for Chong’s visit.
He spent three days in the intensive care unit at Sharp Hospital and his kidneys were close to failing.
The DEA has not apologized to Chong, said Iredale.
The incident also caused Chong to miss his midterms at UCSD. He said he does not know if he will return to school, as his perspective on life has changed since his isolation.
San Diego defense attorney Gretchen Von Helms said the victim could get millions if he files a lawsuit.
"In all my years of practice I've never heard of the DEA or any Federal government employee simply forgetting about someone that they have in their care," she said.
"There has to be repercussions if people do not follow the safety and the care when they have a human being in their custody."
There are so many levels of Fail in this story that I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start with the DEA busting into a private residence trying to defeat the “deadly scourge” of college students smoking pot. Really? In this day and age in which governmental resources are being stretched to the breaking point and vital agencies like the National Weather Service and the Department of Agriculture are undergoing cutbacks—not to mention that none of the criminals on Wall Street who crashed the economy back in 2008 have been arrested or punished?
Then there is the issue of Chong’s five day confinement, which was so profoundly negligent as to beg the question of whether it was done intentionally. As far as we can determine from the story, Chong was arrested for mere possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor offense at best. Given how, as I have documented numerous times before on this blog, the court system, including the federal courts, are also facing steep cutbacks in budgets and personnel, it seems highly possible that Chong’s case would have eventually been simply dismissed—and don’t think for a minute that those who locked him in that cell and then “forgot” about him didn’t know that.
Does it seem incredible to you that the DEA might have made an example out of Chong in order to send a chilling message to the other potheads at his school? If so, then you need to read some to the articles Exiled reporter Yasha Levine wrote about the treatment that he and other Occupy LA protesters received at the hands of the police after their encampment was raided. There is a cold, Machiavellian logic to the idea of sending a message that since the courts cannot be counted on to hand out stiff punishments to the young miscreants who are no longer going along with the program, they should expect to be badly abused during their time in custody to serve as a deterrent. From Chong’s comments about how “his perspective on life has changed since his isolation,” I’d say he got the message loud and clear.
And let’s also not lose sight of who it is that is ultimately responsible for this abuse of power—President Hopey-Changey himself. Maybe we can’t pin the Occupy LA abomination on the “Constitutional Scholar” in the White House, but the DEA is a federal agency directly under his control. The president absolutely does have the authority to stop this kind of bullshit if he wants to, but given that Obama has gone so far as ordering a federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, he has conclusively shown which side he is on. Any young people thinking of making the mistake of voting for him again this November should take that under consideration.
All in all, the arbitrary indefinite detention of citizens for minor offenses in inhumane conditions is one of the key hallmarks of any authoritarian regime. While it is hyperbolic to say that America has already become a dictatorship, the overall trend could not be more alarming. Chong’s lawyer was absolutely right to conjure up visions of Abu Ghraib, and he might have mentioned Guantanamo as well. We citizens are now reaping what we have sown by not loudly condemning the crimes of the empire around the globe. It was inevitable that the evil at first being perpetrated against brown skinned foreigners overseas would eventually find its way back to our shores, and that by the time it did it would be far too late to stop it from beginning to consume us all.
Addendum: After I wrote the initial post, it was reported that the DEA apologized to Chong. Sorry, but there are times when merely saying your sorry just doesn't fucking cut it. This is one of those times.
Addendum 2: Another news report indicated that a large stash of Ecstasy was found in the
house where Chong was arrested, but that the DEA agents who detained him quickly realized he was not involved with the drug stash.
Bonus: Roll another number