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Pragmatic Paranoia?
Security issues in a world at war
Part II
by Jon Hanna
Winter 2001
Originally published in The Entheogen Review
Citation:   Hanna J. "Pragmatic Paranoia? Security issues in a world at war; Part II". The Entheogen Review. Winter 2001;X:4;121-124.
Since most ER readers don't run businesses selling botanical products or research chemicals, it seems prudent to discuss security measures that individuals interested in entheogens can take. Different people will have different degrees to which they wish to "play it safe." By making the following suggestions, it is my hope that I am giving people something to think about without encouraging paranoia. Even if you ignore these suggestions, it is unlikely that anything will happen to you unless you are pretty careless--there simply isn't enough interest in busting entheogen users, yet. Nevertheless, I'll begin by describing a few busts that have occurred to individuals from which we can learn something.

The Hogshire Bust: Author of several books including Opium for the Masses (Loompanics, 1994), Jim Hogshire was arrested in 1996. The warrant issued authorized cops to search for a multitude of different drugs. What they found was: of dried poppy pods still in their original florist's box, some scales, some weapons, numerous drug-related books, "pipes and tubes" said to be drug paraphernalia, and photos of Hogshire lancing poppy pods. Hogshire's wife Heidi, who was also arrested, was charged with "possession of opium poppies." Jim was charged with "possession with intent to manufacture or distribute" and with a "sentence enhancement" due to his owning (legally) a rifle. While the judge ended up permitting the prosecution of Heidi, all of the charges against Jim were dropped due to lack of prima facie evidence of guilt. However, Heidi was then badgered into signing a statement against Jim, which the prosecutors used to file new charges. Hogshire eventually struck a deal with the prosecutors, who agreed to abandon the poppy charge as long as Jim agreed to a misdemeanor charge of "attempted possession of an improvised explosive device," which was--in reality--merely a flare that had been found in his apartment (Boire 1996a; Hogshire 1997). The events that lead up to this bust are too detailed to describe in their entirety here. In a nutshell, Hogshire's publisher had set him up as host for another one of their authors, Bob Black. At Hogshire's apartment, the two got into an argument, and Black later told the police that Jim had a drug lab and weapons in his apartment.

George Singleton: An African American organic farmer with dreadlocks, Mr. Singleton was pulled over in 1998 by an Oklahoma state trooper, for "speeding and weaving." The cop found a bag of herbs and decided that they looked like Cannabis; these were seized and tested, while Singleton spent 25 days in jail. The herbs turned out to be rosemary and mullein, which Singleton used medicinally to treat his tuberculosis. At one point they threatened to charge him with "possession of an imitation controlled substance." He was never charged with speeding or drug possession, but they did charge him with "driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance," even though his blood tests came back negative for the presence of any drugs. The district attorney was willing to reduce this charge to one of "careless driving," and impose a fine of $50.00 and court costs less than $100.00, but Singleton wouldn't agree to this (Gram 1998). When this case finally went to court, Judge Harry Wyatt dismissed the charge, although the 49-year-old Singleton did plead "no contest" to another charge of failing to display current license tags. Amazingly, the prosecutors said they intended to appeal the decision (Associated Press 1998). Singleton estimates the case cost him over $2,000.00 in legal, travel, and other expenses (Kozaczek 1998).

"When asked if the car contained anything illegal, Donut said 'no' and refused to let the cop search his car; the cop then used a drug-sniffing dog, which 'alerted' on the car, providing the cop with a reason to search against Donut's will."
Forbidden Donut: A frequent writer for early issues of The Enthoegen Review, in 1996 Donut was arrested and charged with three counts of possession of Schedule I substances (LSD, psilocybian mushrooms, and mescaline sulfate). Donut plead guilty under a plea bargain that stipulated there would be no conviction shown on his record if he completed a year-long in-patient drug treatment program, with six months of follow-up and five years on probation. He also had to forfeit his car and the bond that he posted. Donut's arrest was precipitated due to being pulled over for speeding. When asked if the car contained anything illegal, Donut said "no" and refused to let the cop search his car; the cop then used a drug-sniffing dog, which "alerted" on the car, providing the cop with a reason to search against Donut's will. Although this search may have been unconstitutional, Donut and his attorney decided that accepting the plea was a better approach than fighting this point (Boire 1996c). Now that his five years of probation are over, Donut says that the entire incident cost him about $50,000.00, for the loss of his car, legal fees, drug treatment costs, and other expenses (Donut 2001).

The Doctor Wasn't In: In May of 1996 a medical doctor with an interest in entheogens was arrested after police found suspected psilocybian mushroom cultures in his office. This material was located when police responded to a burglar alarm that had been accidentally triggered by window washers. The doctor arrested was a member of the on-line Visionary Plants List (the e-mailing list that was the predecessor to the Lycaeum), and the doctor's computer that was seized from the office contained over a year's worth of archived messages from this forum (Boire 1996b). Alas, no information is currently available regarding what charges may or may not have been filed in this case, nor is their any data on what the police may or may not have done with the computer files. At the time, there were rumors that the doctor's medical license might be suspended.

Although none of the above situations had anything to do with procuring legal entheogens or related products from supply companies, they do provide some points of departure for our discussion on how to stay out of trouble. The most basic rule is to keep a low profile. Unfortunately, those folks who are vocal about their work in the area of entheogens may be easier targets; one only has too look at some of the names of people who have had legal actions taken against them: Antonio Escohotado, Jochen Gartz, Elizabeth Gips, Steve Kubby, Timothy Leary, Peter McWilliams,Dennis Peron, Sasha Shulgin, and Strike, for example. Jim Hogshire's case clearly shows that prosecutors will attempt to use what one writes (and reads) against them. Some ways to keep a low profile include:

1) Don't use your real name. It seems unlikely that there would be anything illegal about ordering any product from any company using an alias.

"The DEA has been known to have seized or subpoenaed entheogen-related businesses' mailing lists from companies that sell products as varied as extraction gear [...], books, indoor lighting equipment, and mushroom spore-syringes, [...] and in some cases used this information to go after the folks on these lists."
2) Don't use your real address for any entheogen-related purchases, even if what you are getting is perfectly legal (and don't pay by credit card). The DEA has been known to have seized or subpoenaed entheogen-related businesses' mailing lists from companies that sell products as varied as extraction gear (Boire 1998), books, indoor lighting equipment, and mushroom spore-syringes, (for examples, see Boire 1993-1999) and in some cases used this information to go after the folks on these lists. Such activities have resulted in raids on the homes of people who are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing (such as the grandparents' home of one individual who purchased a grow light with their credit card, as well as situations where cops burst into "grow operations" of hothouse tomatoes). The best approach is to get a mail drop that can't be traced to you, and use an alias. A discussion of how to obtain a mail drop is beyond the scope of this article, but books on this subject are available from Eden Press (www.edenpress.com) and Loompanics (www.loompanics.com).

3) Don't manufacture or deal drugs. Clearly these activities open one up to many potential problems; a manufacturer or a dealer is more likely to get busted (and do serious time in prison) than an individual user. Prosecutors may attempt to paint the individual user as a manufacturer or a dealer; this was seen in the Hogshire case, when they noted that he had scales, chemicals, and books describing how to make drugs. One should avoid owning these sorts of products (although a pipe or bong might actually be argued as evidence of personal use). One should also avoid owning a gun (even if legally owned), since--again as was shown in the Hogshire case--this can be used to attempt an increased sentence.

4) Consider the potential security leaks in the methods of communication that you use. In general, I feel that the following applies, moving from most secure to least secure:

Person to Person: Preferably via a hushed whisper in a moving rental car with the stereo turned up. Person to person is the only truly safe method of communication, provided that the person you are speaking with can be trusted (and isn't bugged and taping what you are saying, or coerced into using the conversation against you in the future).

First-class USPS snail mail: Protected by law, domestic first-class mail can only be opened with a warrant. (Note that mail sent via any other "class" is not protected in this manner, nor is mail sent via private mail carriers.) Risks to this method of communication include mail being lost (dead letters and packages are routinely opened) or mangled and accidentally opened (surprisingly, this doesn't occur that often). To protect against possible accidental opening, it is a good idea to seal any letters in a blank envelope first, and then reseal this in a second larger outer envelope. Sending via registered and/or insured mail may help protect one's mailings, as I suspect that such mail receives better handling.

The Telephone: Some may feel that this method of communication is fairly safe--perhaps even safer than first-class mail. Generally speaking, it probably is pretty safe, since your line would have to be tapped in most cases in order for someone to listen in. Be aware that it is much easier (technologically- speaking) to eavesdrop on a conversation that is held on a cordless phone, and cell phones may also be particularly easy targets. Also, you should know that your phone number will appear on the bill of anyone you call using an 800 or 888 toll-free number, and it is easy enough for the police to target such lists during an investigation of some botanical or lighting supply store. Using a pay phone is best for toll-free calls, and pay phone to pay phone calls are best when one needs to discuss entheogens with a friend. (Sadly, it is becoming increasingly hard to locate pay phones that accept incoming calls.) Also, keep in mind that it is much better to actually own an answering machine (where you can erase the messages yourself ) than use a voice-mail service (where your calls are stored somewhere else out of your immediate control). You never know when someone might leave you a message that you wish they hadn't. A fax has about the same level of security as a phone call, "interception-wise," except that there will be a physical representation of the transaction at the point where it is received.

"And no matter how safely you conduct your own actions, do you really want to bank on the idea that someone else is being as safe?"
E-mail: This is the least secure method of communication. There is no legal protection of any e-mail, and courts have ruled that employers have the right to read their employees' e-mail. Most Internet service providers will happily turn over your e-mail to any cop that asks. As policy, one should routinely delete all messages from their service provider's storage, after they have been downloaded or sent. Using an "anonymous remailer" is a good way to reduce the likelihood of "Joe Blow" tracking your mail, but these are not much protection against someone who is truly determined to locate the sender. A friend was after me for years to install and use Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) on my e-mails, and when I finally did so he said that he no longer used it himself. "Sooner or later, you will get a message from some knucklehead who has forgotten to hit the ‘encrypt' button… perhaps a message that you wish hadn't been sent that way," he warned. Apparently it had happened to him. PGP can give a false sense of security for this reason, and people might be tempted to send messages via encrypted e-mail that they wouldn't send via normal e-mail. In addition, after the person you've sent the mail to decrypts it, you have no idea what they are going to do with it. As in the case described with the doctor who belonged to the VPL, your message might sit unencrypted on someone else's hard drive for years. And no matter how safely you conduct your own actions, do you really want to bank on the idea that someone else is being as safe? The best time to use PGP is when you are sending emails that don't need to be encrypted (and indeed, I look forward to the day when encryption is standard e-mailing procedure, if only for the sake of returning to the ethos that an individual's privacy is an important thing). On the other hand, PGP can be invaluable for encrypting your own files stored on your own computer (although you should remember to store the decryption key on some other device). It is worth noting that it has been suggested that the Al-Queda terrorists used PGP, and because of this use, any e-mails sent using PGP might be seen as suspect. Finally, while LSD may give one access to collective consciousness, DSL can give the collective access to your consciousness--or, at least to that part of it you store on your computer. DSL leaves a continually open line to access your computer; those who have DSL should also have a "firewall" installed to restrict access to their machines. Cable connections can also be more easily hacked than direct dial-up (Erowid & Erowid 2001). Don't talk about drugs via e-mail, and don't subscribe to any e-mail lists that discuss drugs, and you will be playing it safe.

5) Hide records. As noted in Part I of this article when discussing businesses, password-protect and/or encrypt your computer. And burn any non-essential paper records.

"The law provides your home with the most privacy protection, and you also have the greatest control over what happens there."
6) Don't carry drugs outside the home. The law provides your home with the most privacy protection, and you also have the greatest control over what happens there. Store your drugs at the office (as in the example of the doctor and his mushrooms), and you are at the whim of tripped alarm systems and nosey employees, co-workers, or bosses. Store your drugs in a car, as Donut did, and there's the risk of getting pulled over. And while you should always refuse to consent to a search, this doesn't mean that one won't happen. If you have to carry drugs, you are much safer on foot. (Or take a bus or a cab and let someone else drive, assuming the drugs you are carrying aren't overly aromatic.) Driving with drugs in the car opens one up to numerous possibilities that are out of one's control. Merely giving the impression of having illegal drugs is enough to get a person busted, as was shown with the Singleton example. If you have to drive, make sure that your car is in perfect operating order (no need to be stopped for a tail light that is out), don't drive more than 5 miles over or under the speed limit, and store your drugs in a locked briefcase, inside a locked trunk.

7) Cut your hair. The police categorize people as "types," and treat them accordingly. While there is little doubt that Singleton's arrest was a case of racial profiling, it might have helped him to have short hair rather than long dreadlocks. This goes for white hippies too; Donut's appearance matched that of the typical "head," with long hair, a mustache and goatee, and this no doubt played a large part in why the cop wanted to search his vehicle (Donut 2001). A conservative appearance is less likely to draw attention.

8) Don't prepare large quantities of consumable controlled substances from legal live plants at one time. Since the living plants are less likely to get you in trouble, it is best to only prepare enough to consume in a single setting. Along these same lines, it is much less risky to grow entheogens that are not specifically scheduled: Trichocereus are safer than Lophophora williamsii, Salvia divinorum is safer than Cannabis, and ayahuasca plants are safer than opium poppies.

9) Avoid electronic communications. Other ways that you can be tracked include web sites and IRC or chat programs. Visit web sites that provide information about drugs from a library, instead of using your home or office computer. All web sites have log files, that tell the system administrator what your IP address is, your host-name, the browser that you used, the operating system that you used, and what site you were on just prior to visiting that site. With IRC, your IP address will be accessible to anyone using the service, and you can be "fingered" (where someone might even be able to locate your home directory, your real name, and your e-mail address). Also worth noting, the FBI has set up Carnivore, an electronic surveillance program that inserts a "packet sniffer" box on-line. This can be used as a "content wiretap," to capture all e-mails to and from a specific account and capture all network traffic to and from a specific user or IP address, or it can be used as a "tap-and-trace/pen-register," to capture all e-mail headers and addresses going to and from an e-mail account (but not the actual contents or "Subject" line), list all the servers that the suspect accesses, track everyone who accesses a specific web page or FTP file, and track all web pages or FTP files that a suspect accesses. Previously, Carnivore could only be used with a court order, although who knows what the situation is now, due to the USA Patriot Act. According to the FBI--as of August 2000--Carnivore had only been used about 25 times, predominantly to counter terrorism, but also in some cases for hacking and drug trafficking (Graham 2000). Part of the reason that it has been used so infrequently is probably because wiretaps are considered secondary sources of information, and the same information can easily be provided in "primary" form by the ISP itself (which they generally turn over without a fuss). Sniffer boxes like Carnivore are not difficult to create or install however, and could be in use illegally (or for information gathering that won't be used in court) by anyone with the know-how. A new aspect of Carnivore is the proposed Magic Lantern program, that would install "keylogging" software onto a suspect's computer, capturing all keystrokes that are typed (potentially allowing critical encryption key information to be gathered). There is also the National Security Agency's project called Echelon. This project's goal appears to be to intercept all electronic communication globally (phone, fax, e-mail, web, wireless, satellite, etc.), and use a system of computers referred to as Dictionary to search for specific key words and addresses. Although the U.S. government's "official" stance is to deny any knowledge of this program, it is known that it does in fact exist, due to information leaked from other governments that use it in cooperation with the USA (ACLU 2001). It is reasonable to assume that much of what one uses his or her computer for can be (and perhaps is) tracked by the government, although unless one is actively involved in highly illegal activities (terrorism, large-scale drug manufacture or smuggling, etc.), it seems pretty unlikely that any action will be taken.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the recent antiterrorist USA Patriot Act, that resulted from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This Act is most certainly unconstitutional, as it guts the Fourth Amendment, allowing the government to search homes and offices surreptitiously, read e-mail, and follow web surfing habits without a court order. The government now has full reign to ignore the rights to privacy of anyone and everyone, so long as they can reasonably argue that they have done so in an effort to fight terrorism (Hagerty 2001). Alas, "terrorism" has not been well-defined, and there is concern that numerous domestic political organizations, such as Earth First, Greenpeace, and others, may become targets. It is not that far of a stretch to assume that drug dealers and even drug users could be considered "domestic terrorists" in the future. (Indeed, the politicos have said that the War on Terrorism needs to be fought in the same manner as the War on Drugs has been; as if the latter war has been any kind of a success!) Screaming patriots follow like lemmings, unaware that we have had our freedom stolen from us--not by terrorists, but by our own government claiming to fight for us. It is a sad sort of irony. Let's all try to stay as safe as possible within the context of this new world order.

Some information in this article was obtained from "Security on the Net," by Scott, from www.entheogen.com/security.html.

[For the first part in this two-part series, see Pragmatic Paranoia? Part I]


References #
  1. Boire RG. "Author of Opium for the Masses Arrested for Possessing Poppies". The Entheogen Law Reporter. 1996a;11:100-102.
  2. Hogshire J. "Poppycock Prosecution". The Entheogen Law Reporter. 1997;15:154-156. (R.G. Boire, Ed.)
  3. Gram D. "Man Charged with DUI had only Herbs". The Ardmoreite Online. Sep 30 1998.
  4. Associated Press. "Judge Dismisses Case that Stirred Racism Protests: Bag Seized From Black Man Held Herbs, Not Marijuana". Dallas Morning News. Oct 3 1998.
  5. Kozaczek L. "Local Man Faces Jail for Legal Weed". Brattleboro Reformer Saturday. Sep 5 1998.
  6. Donut F. Personal communication. 2001.
  7. Boire RG. "Entheogen-related Arrests in the News: Mushrooms, California". The Entheogen Law Reporter. 1996b;11:105.
  8. Boire RG. Personal communication. 1998.
  9. Erowid E, Erowid F. Personal communication. 2001.
  10. Graham, R. "Carnivore FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)". Sep 7 2000. (www.robertgraham.com/pubs/carnivorefaq.html).
  11. ACLU. "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Echelon". Publication Name. Oct 15 2001. (www.aclu.org/echelonwatch/faq.html)
  12. Hagerty L. "The Fourth Amendment Has Just Been Canceled". www.matrixmasters.com. 2001.
Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Dec 12, 2008 - Published on Erowid.org.
  • v1.0 - Autumn, 2001 - Published in The Entheogen Review.