The Associated Press is a mixed bag in terms of the objectivity of its writers, so one always has to be careful when reading AP stories.
The latest cause for caution is headlined, "US Mulls Unusual Tactic as Charges Loom," by the AP's Matt Apuzzo (pictured) and Lara Jakes Jordan.
Apuzzo and Jordan breathlessly report that some people in the Justice Department are considering use of the "Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988" as an inspired flash of brilliance in a long-shot effort to convict Blackwater security guards involved in the September 2007 incident at Nisoor Square in Baghdad.
It's another non-story that AP axe-grinders crank out to blow more smoke about Blackwater, leading people to think there's now some kind of drug connection. There's nothing "unusual" about the 1998 law, incorporated into the federal statute called 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).
That law makes it a crime to use any gun in connection with a "violent crime." Of course, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 was a Reagan-era law designed to crack down on drug traffickers. Now, some in the Justice Department want to twist the intent of the law so they can go after Blackwater.
The law in question provides legal beagles of the world a whole a la carte smorgasbord of extra charges to heap on an accused person in order to try to scare them into making a plea.
Abusing 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) in order to scare people of forcing a plea is nothing "unusual."
If Apuzzo and Jordan at AP had looked at the Nazario case (the Marine accused of killing Iraqis) that they trotted out in their very own article, they would have promptly seen that the charge was used there.
In fact, they could have checked out just about any federal court case involving allegations of “violent crime” and they’d have found The Anti-Drug Abuse Act charge at work.
Want a statistical measure of how “new” and “unusual” is this count? Well, in 1990 it was used 4,000 times. In 2000 it was used 5,000 times.
If our intrepid mudslingers weren’t up to going down to the courthouse and digging through legal cases (usually they're content to let trial lawyers and political hacks feed them with dirt), even though they wanted to spout off about them, they could have found out how "unusual" is use of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) by going to Wikipedia. An entry there describes 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) as “a frequently used section of the federal criminal code.”
But we can't expect those two AP reporters to be careful or objective. Apuzzo admitted that he was a "D" student in college before he decided to become a journalist. And if AP stuck to professional journalism standards, it would never hire someone like Jordan to cover contentious political issues because her husband is a career Washington political operative.