Thursday, August 26, 2010

Money-Laundering in the Post

The Washington Post's story on the failure of even redoubled efforts to stop the illicit cash flow from the US to Mexico is a bit depressing, but not too surprising (although I would have guessed that authorities nab more than 1 percent of the drug cash flow). If we can't stop the weapons or drugs from crossing the border, what makes us think we will have better luck with cash, which isn't in and of itself contraband. We might be able to do a better job tracking down big chunks of cash, which would force the narcos to pay more "ants" to bring smaller amounts across the border, not unlike the way weapons are moved. That would likely mean a smaller total sum of cash in the hands of the drug bosses, but it also likely means more total people earning cash from the drug trade, so it's not clear that such would be a positive outcome. In any event, it seems unlikely that we will be able to up our cash confiscation rate to even such a modest number as, say, 20 percent at any time in the near future. Which means that at some point we should conclude that stopping the cash flow, while it would be an enormous help were it possible, is not the best use of our resources.


gtodon said...

I read the WaPo story, too, and I have a question. The story talked about U.S. authorities searching a small percentage of Mexico-bound cars. The searches include looking inside the trunk and the glove box. In the absence of a search warrant or some sort of probable cause, what gives U.S. agents the authority to do this? Why would it not amount to an "unreasonable search," in violation of the Constitution?

pc said...

Good question. I guess the question is what amounts to probable cause. I've not read anything about cases getting thrown out because the searches were illegal, but it does sound like something that could be abused. I can't imagine the people with the drugs are giving the agents permission to search.

I got pulled over once on a bullshit excuse, while I was traveling with a Mexican in a car with Texas plates through Mississippi. I remember thinking, he'll think that's fishy, but don't let him search the car, just because I didn't want to wait. But he asked, "Do you mind if I have a look around here?", which kind of caught off guard, because I was expecting a formal, "Do I have your permission to search the car?" In other words, I didn't realize I was telling him he could search the car. He then proceeded to pull ever panel off of every piece of the car over the next two hours, finding nothing. I always wondered if that was a legitimate tactic had he found something.