revolution and ruthlessly trampling on the agents of law enforcement,rnwho have come increasingly to rely on the denial ofrndue process in order to accomplish their e’eryday work. Consider,rnfor example, the vast realm of anti-drug enforcement,rnwhich currently consumes some $15 billion of federal moneyrnannually (to say nothing of state expenditures). Much of thernfunding for this War on Drugs comes from asset forfeiture, arnsupposedly civil proceeding which in fact inflicts savage penaltiesrnon individuals without legal process.rnThe idea of asset forfeiture is ancient and is based on the reasonablernbelief that tools or weapons used in the commissionrnof a crime should be seized by the state. Under a 1970 U.S.rnlaw, however, authorities are permitted to seize any goods orrnpropert}’ used in connection with drug manufacture or trafficking,rnwhile the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1984 allowsrnagencies to seize any cash or propert}’ allegedly used in connectionrnwith the narcotics trade. Monetary seizures are a particularlyrnsensitive topic, as cash is often taken because individualsrnhappen to be transporting what customs officials regard as suspiciouslyrnlarge amounts, even if there is no concrete evidence ofrnwrongdoing. Confiscated money can be reclaimed, but onlyrnthrough a cumbersome procedure in which the accused individualrnhas to prove his innocence and is required to put up anrnoppressively large bond even to obtain a hearing. This representsrna gigantic leap from the simple notion of confiscating arnburglar’s tools or a robber’s knife. The same 1970 federal lawrnintroduced the vicious RICO process, ostensibly targetingrnRacketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, and anyrngroup so designated may have its assets seized prior to trial orrnjudgment, destroying its ability to mount an effective legal defense.rnCumulatively, the new legal apparatus means that goods canrnbe confiscated even if the actual owners of the propert)’ werernunaware of the illegal conduct for which it had been used, andrnby means of a process in which the accused possesses few rights.rnIn a 1996 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that authoritiesrncould seize assets through a civil procedure in addition tornprosecuting offenders criminallv, even though this is a prima faciernviolation of the constitutional prohibition of double jeopardy.rnIncredibly, the seizure of property is not legally categorizedrnas a punishment, though the confiscation of a house, car,rnor bank account looks pretty penal to most observers. As confiscatedrngoods are used to fund further anti-drug efforts, state, city,rnand local agencies have a vast incentive to seek out drug trafficking,rnand many blatantly cut legal corners in the process.rnVery few politicians even question the activities of the anti-drugrnbureaucracy, much less defend the rights of alleged drug dealers.rn(One exception is Rep. Henry Hyde, whose courageousrnjeremiad Forfeiting Our Property Rights was published in 1995rnby the Cato Institute.)rnFor most members of the public, the War on Drugs seems arndistant and unsavory reality, and there is a general sense that,rnwhile a certain rough justice might be inevitable, few of thosernarrested or imprisoned are truly innocent. However, ideas likernasset forfeiture have an inevitable tendency to creep into the socialrnand legal mainstream, and the overwhelming power of thernnotion is apparent from some recent controversies. One camernin New York Cit)’, where Mayor Rudolph Ciuliani decided tornapply the principle to seizing the cars of people arrested (notrnconvicted) for drunk driving. After all, drunk drivers are now sornunpopular that thev- can have no defenders, and the same holdsrntrue of anyone accused of the offense: accused, suspected,rnproved guilt)’, what is the difference?rnOne remarkable example of official chutzpah from earlierrnthis year was a pernicious piece of stealth legislation whichrnsought to impose a “Know Your Customer” principle on allrnbanks. Under the proposed law, which was withdrawn followingrna national outcry, banks would have been required to trackrnthe financial patterns of their customers and to report to federalrnauthorities any deviations which suggested extraordinary or suspiciousrntransactions — behavior which might imply moneyrnlaundering. Once the IRS or DEA had determined that the unexplainedrncheck or payment indicated evildoing, the agencyrntheoretically could have seized the account in question andrnheld it under the same circumstances which apply to suspectedrndrug dealers. Assets could be recovered, but only if customersrncould prove their innocence and could afford to post the requiredrnbond which constitutes the admission fee to the courts ofrnjustice.rnContrar)’ to widespread impression, you can indeed siffferrncriminal penalties without a smidgen of due process, and that isrnnot the only legal myth which has recently been exploded.rnThere are some ill-informed folk who believe in a mythicalrnbeast called the “principle of double jeopardy,” the theor’ thatrnno one should be tried hvice for the same offense. Once again,rnthis principle of justice has been put to rest as part of the pursuitrnof higher and nobler goals: in this instance, the establishment ofrnci’il rights. The civil-rights revolution of the 1960’s marked arnlegal watershed in American history because of the many glaringrninstances in which state and city authorities denied or twistedrnjustice in the interest of preserving racial superiority. In response,rnthe federal government vastly increased federalrncriminal jurisdiction at the expense of state powers and intervenedrnto supersede the decisions of biased Southern courts.rnOne casualt)’ of this process was the idea of double jeopardy.rnWhen flagrantiy guilty racist assassins were freed by Southernrnjuries, the government intervened to prosecute them anew forrnthe novel offense of violating the civil rights of their victims, arnfascinating concept given the vast array of possible connotationsrnof “civil rights.”rnWhen groups of men in white hoods and/or swastikas hang orrnburn a black man chosen randomly on the basis of his race,rnmost reasonable people would agree that an offense against civilrnrights has been committed, but then a natural process of escalationrnexpands the meaning of the term still further. It is suggestedrnby analogy that any number of other victims are likewisernpersecuted on the strength of their status, whether as women,rngays, or ethnic minorities, and the level of “violation” requiredrnto invoke the lav’ plummets from the forcible violence of hnchingrnto assault or even mere name-calling. It is puzzling to knowrnthat a California jury acquitted the police officers charged inrn1991 with beating Rodney King, but it is even more troubling tornsee that this verdict was de facto overturned b}’ a civil-rights prosecution.rnOf course, the second trial was not technically for thernsame charges, but the same actions by the same individualsrnwere examined afresh by a new court. By any reasonable standard,rnthat is a second trial for the same action.rnProtection against double jeopardy also collapsed due to thernthorough confusion of civil and criminal penalties, which, asrnwe have already seen from the case of asset forfeiture, constitutesrna sinister and pervasive threat to our ideas of justice. A majorit)’rnof Americans were outraged when O.J. Simpson was acquittedrnof criminal charges, and they were duly gratified whenrn14/CHRONICLESrnrnrn