Cops mistake innocuous substances for drugs all the time. In 2013, police arrested a New York woman after field-testing a substance in her car and concluding it was cocaine. It turned out to be homemade soap. In January 2017, police field-tested a giant bag of what they suspected was meth in Ross Lebeau's car. It came back positive, and his arrest was a big story. An official lab test proved the bag was cat litter, which Lebeau kept in his car to prevent his windows from fogging up -- the fancy kind, with crystals. Like some kind of a king.
Breaking Bad Luck
The cheap field tests cops use are notoriously unreliable, returning false positives all the time. A whopping 21 percent of all substances the tests find to be meth are not at all meth -- half the time, they're not even drugs. But the flimsy evidence they provide is enough to throw people in jail for months, so we'd recommend not driving to your job as an Italian chef with bulk bags of loose oregano.
A Mistranslation Landed A Man In Guantanamo Bay For 13 Years
Emad Hassan was a Yemeni college student studying in Pakistan in 2002. He was minding his business in his dorm room when authorities Falcon-punched his door in and arrested him and 14 other students. After two months in a local jail, the U.S. military transported him to an Army prison in Afghanistan for interrogation. The Army wanted to know if Hassan had any connection to Al-Qaeda. Thinking his safest bet was to remain as honest as possible, Hassad confirmed that he did. He waited for follow-up questions, but the authorities had gotten all they wanted, and they took him back to his cell. Shortly after, U.S. officials blindfolded him, put him in a diaper, and transferred him to Guantanamo Bay.
The problem: Hassan's interrogator questioned him in English, and an interpreter repeated the questions in broken Arabic. When they asked about his connections to Al-Qaeda, Hassan thought they were asking about the small town of Al-Qa'idah, near where he grew up.
We're not counterterrorism experts or anything, but being able to speak the language seems like it should be a prerequisite.
Further interrogations at Gitmo brought to light the misunderstanding, but authorities didn't believe him. Finally, in 2009, President Obama assigned a task force to review the possible innocence of certain Gitmo inmates. They found Hassan innocent and scheduled him for release. But before that could happen, a Yemeni terrorist attempted to blow up a plane in Detroit, causing Obama to lay a blanket ban on releasing Yemenis from the facility. Hassan was proven innocent, but remained incarcerated for the next five years in the prison even Harold and Kumar couldn't make funny.
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