The U.S. Coast Guard is jailing thousands of suspected drug smugglers on ships in international waters for several months before charging them in a U.S. federal court.
During their imprisonment at sea, the suspects are denied access to lawyers, shackled to cables on the Coast Guard ships’ decks, have to defecate into buckets, and are exposed to rain, wind and sea water, reports The New York Times Magazine.
The Coast Guard used to wait for drug smugglers to cross into U.S. waters, but Congress passed the 1986 Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, which claims that drug smuggling in international waters is actually a crime against the U.S. even if there is no evidence the drugs are headed for the U.S.
Over 2,700 men have been taken from boats suspected of smuggling Colombian cocaine to Central America over the past six years.
Coast Guard officials and federal prosecutors claim that suspects are not formally under arrest at sea, but rather detained by the Coast Guard, which is the only military and law enforcement body.
While they are being detained by the Coast Guard, the suspects are not read their Miranda rights, not assigned attorneys, and not allowed to contact their families or their country’s consulate as most foreign countries allow Americans to do.
These fascist-like detentions began increasing when General John Kelly was placed in charge of the Southern Command from 2012 to 2016 under the Obama administration.
Kelly is now serving as President Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff.
Kelly gave a speech at George Washington University where he admitted that the U.S. is unilaterally expanding its borders:
We are a nation under attack. The more we push our borders out, the safer our homeland will be. That includes Coast Guard drug interdictions at sea.
Seth Freed Wessler, who wrote The New York Times Magazine article, told Democracy Now:
They bring nearly all of these men to Florida, to courts in the Eleventh Circuit in Florida, because the Eleventh Circuit prosecutors and judges there have experience in these cases, there are task forces set up in Florida to take on drugs, and because the Ninth Circuit, the California courts, have actually put some restrictions on the kinds of cases that can be prosecuted.
So instead of moving people up the West Coast to San Diego, which would often be much easier, these men are held aboard these cutters, and then either brought through the Panama Canal or flown from Central America to Florida.