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Via MetaFilter comes news that won’t really shock anybody, at this point, but ought to horrify all of us: the USA PATRIOT Act and a slew of related state legislation are being used to investigate and prosecute a whole range of domestic, non-terror-related crimes, including drug dealing, bookmaking, and confidence schemes. Most notably, a North Carolina prosecutor has charged the alleged operator of a methamphetamine lab with manufacturing chemical weapons. This is possible in part because the law “defines chemical weapons of mass destruction as ‘any substance that is designed or has the capability to cause death or serious injury’ and contains toxic chemicals.”

The MeFi discussion contains a series of links to useful sites, including Howard Dean’s Stop Ashcroft petition, and a Daily Trojan article that reports a recent anti-Ashcroft protest that I really hope achieves meme-status. The discussion also highlights all the too-apparent reasons to be afraid of this alarming and unabated expansion of the Justice Department’s powers of surveillance, seizure of assets, and indefinite detainment of suspects without attorneys.

But I’m thinking… has North Carolina inadvertently created a way to do in the tobacco industry once and for all? Surely the state’s attorney general will begin wholesale prosecutions against the executives of these companies, right? After all, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with another substance that more perfectly meets the criteria of “‘any substance that is designed or has the capability to cause death or serious injury’ and contains toxic chemicals.” I mean, these laws are being applied even-handedly and without regard to lobbying power and campaign contributions, right?

Right?

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