Tag Archives: law enforcement

Indiana First State to Allow Citizens to Shoot Law Enforcement Officers

Indiana First State to Allow Citizens to Shoot Law Enforcement Officers

Police officers in Indiana are upset over a new law allowing residents to use deadly force against public servants, including law enforcement officers, who unlawfully enter their homes. It was signed by Republican Governor Mitch Daniels in March.

The first of its kind in the United States, the law was adopted after the state Supreme Court went too far in one of its rulings last year, according to supporters. The case in question involved a man who assaulted an officer during a domestic violence call. The court ruled that there was “no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.”

The National Rifle Association lobbied for the new law, arguing that the court decision had legalized police to commit unjustified entries.

Tim Downs, president of the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, which opposed the legislation, said the law could open the way for people who are under the influence or emotionally distressed to attack officers in their homes.

“It’s just a recipe for disaster,” Downs told Bloomberg. “It just puts a bounty on our heads.”

SOURCE

Life in Prison for possession of a Half-Ounce of Medical Marijuana

Facing life in prison for a half Ounce of medical marijuana

Alex Webb

Well now, all other crimes will have to wait, there’s a pothead out there trying to score. Why waste the time chasing rapists, murders and meth manufacturers when it’s so much easier to nab a stoner. How is it that governments and law enforcement is so against marijuana, but supports viewing the killing of a world leader on TV? We have Disney and Nickelodeon trying desperately to sell sex to our children, and with the rise of child sex offenders their efforts are paying off, but if someone smokes a plant they’re attacked as if they were Hitler. I guess none of these Middle aged mothers taking their clothes off for Justin Bieber ever sparked a joint and watched the Big Lebowski. Which one of those statements sounds more illegal? But lets digress…

20-Year-old Chris Diaz is an asthma sufferer from Texas. After learning medical marijuana was a successful treatment for asthma, he headed to Dank Nation Dispensary in California seeking medical treatment. Diaz was approved for medical marijuana in California for his serious condition, so he stocked up on what he could afford and headed back to his home town in Texas.

He was pulled over on a Texas highway for having an expired license tag, a routine traffic stop. But when Diaz wasn’t able to produce a drivers’ license or proof of insurance this alerted the police officer. Already in custody for a criminal offense, the officer began to search Diaz’s car. They found 14 grams of medical marijuana and hashish, medical marijuana is not legal in Texas nor do they recognize medical cannabis cards from other states.

Under Texas law, Marijuana possession of less then 2 ounces is a Class B misdemeanor that is punishable with fines and up to six months in jail. But the hash is a totally different story, possession of hashish is a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 20 years including fines if less then 4 grams. Diaz can only wish he was so lucky.

He is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, a half ounce must be “Big Time” in Texas. Diaz was indicted by a Brown County grand jury, and now he faces up to life in prison, and without his much needed medication. He is now in jail on a $40,000 bond awaiting trial.

Why is Texas so worried about a small amount of pot, so much to the extent to take someone’s entire life away? Diaz’s real crime was driving in an unregistered plates and without a license and insurance. Some stiff fines and community service will nip that in the bud, but to focus on some small amount of marijuana and treating him like a murder is just plain BS. No one is saying Diaz is innocent, but at the ripe age of 20 he deserves the opportunity to become a valuable citizen. Moral of the story is, stay away from Texas!

SOURCE

Incentivizing Selective Enforcement

Incentivizing Selective Enforcement

Custom Search

– As Jessica Shaver and I chat at a coffee shop in Chicago’s north-side Andersonville neighborhood, a police car pulls into the parking lot across the street. Then another. Two cops get out, lean up against their cars, and appear to gaze across traffic into the store. At times, they seem to be looking directly at us. Shaver, who works as an eyebrow waxer at a nearby spa, appears nervous.

“See what I mean? They follow me,”
says Shaver, 30. During several phone conversations Shaver told me that she thinks a small group of Chicago police officers are trying to intimidate her. These particular cops likely aren’t following her; the barista tells me Chicago cops regularly stop in that particular parking lot to chat. But if Shaver is a bit paranoid, it’s hard to blame her.

A year and a half ago she was beaten by a neighborhood thug outside of a city bar. It took months of do-it-yourself sleuthing, a meeting with a city alderman and a public shaming in a community newspaper before the Chicago Police Department would pay any attention to her. About a year later, Shaver got more attention from cops than she ever could have wanted: A team of Chicago cops took down her door with a battering ram and raided her apartment, searching for drugs.

Shaver has no evidence that the two incidents are related, and they likely aren’t in any direct way. But they provide a striking example of how the drug war perverts the priorities of America’s police departments. Federal anti-drug grants, asset forfeiture policies and a generation of battlefield rhetoric from politicians have made pursuing low-level drug dealers and drug users a top priority for police departments across the country. There’s only so much time in the day, and the focus on drugs often comes at the expense of investigating violent crimes with victims like Jessica Shaver. In the span of about a year, she experienced both problems firsthand.

THE BATTERY

On the night of May 13, 2010, Shaver was smoking a cigarette with her friend Damon outside the Flat Iron bar in Wicker Park. She said she saw a woman walking away from the bar alone when two men began shouting profanities at her. The men then began walking toward the woman. “I made eye contact with her, and she looked like she was in trouble,” Shaver said.

Shaver shouted at the men to leave the woman alone, at which point she says the the two men turned their attention to her, approached her, and began shouting at her. Damon told the men to leave Shaver alone. They jumped Damon and began to beat him. Shaver said she then tried to pry the men off her friend, and managed to free him long enough for him to get away and call 911. Shaver said she was punched repeatedly, including in the face. She fell, stood up, and was hit in the face again. The men then robbed her and left. When she woke up the next morning with bruises, she went to the hospital. Doctors found a concussion and several contusions.

Two weeks later, Shaver still hadn’t heard from the detective assigned to her case. When she finally went to the police station in person to get an update on the investigation, she was told there was no record of the incident. She filed another report, but was told it was unlikely police would be able to track down the witnesses again, and that even if they were, the witnesses’ memories were likely to have faded. Shaver says she decided to investigate on her own. She went back to the Flat Iron and questioned customers and employees herself. A bartender gave her the men’s nicknames: “Cory” and “Sonny,” the guy who hit her. Shaver learned that Sonny was also a reputed cocaine dealer. She heard he had a violent streak, and had been banned from a number of neighborhood bars.

“I was scared,
” Shaver said. “I’d heard bad things about this guy, and he knew who I was.”

Shaver is thoroughly tattooed, which makes her easy to recognize. So she dyed her hair, covered her tattoos with clothing, and kept investigating. She worked her way through social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace until she was able to put actual names to her attackers’ faces and nicknames. And yet she still couldn’t get anyone at Chicago PD to help her. “I gave them the guy’s name and everything,” she said. “There were even hip hop videos online with him in them. I told them, ‘That’s the guy!’ They still wouldn’t listen to me.”

In August 2010, three months after the attack, Shaver contacted a reporter for Time Out Chicago, who began asking around about her case. Shaver also met with Chicago Alderman Joe Marino. Shortly before the Time Out article went to press, a detective finally called Shaver down to the police station to identify her attacker. But even with her identification, the police didn’t arrest “Sonny.” He wasn’t charged with the assault until the following month, when he was arrested on an unrelated domestic violence charge.

Shortly after she finally identified her attacker at the police station, Shaver said the detective in charge of her case told her, “Now I don’t want to hear any more bitching from you.”

MISPLACED PRIORITIES

Arresting people for assaults, beatings and robberies doesn’t bring money back to police departments, but drug cases do in a couple of ways. First, police departments across the country compete for a pool of federal anti-drug grants. The more arrests and drug seizures a department can claim, the stronger its application for those grants.

“The availability of huge federal anti-drug grants incentivizes departments to pay for SWAT team armor and weapons, and leads our police officers to abandon real crime victims in our communities in favor of ratcheting up their drug arrest stats,” said former Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Stephen Downing. Downing is now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an advocacy group of cops and prosecutors who are calling for an end to the drug war.

“When our cops are focused on executing large-scale, constitutionally questionable raids at the slightest hint that a small-time pot dealer is at work, real police work preventing and investigating crimes like robberies and rapes falls by the wayside,” Downing said.

And this problem is on the rise all over the country. Last year, police in New York City arrested around 50,000 people for marijuana possession. Pot has been decriminalized in New York since 1977, but displaying the drug in public is still a crime. So police officers stop people who look “suspicious,” frisk them, ask them to empty their pockets, then arrest them if they pull out a joint or a small amount of marijuana. They’re tricked into breaking the law. According to a report from Queens College sociologist Harry Levine, there were 33,775 such arrests from 1981 to 1995. Between 1996 and 2010 there were 536,322.

Several NYPD officers have alleged that in some precincts, police officers are asked to meet quotas for drug arrests. Former NYPD narcotics detective Stephen Anderson recently testified in court that it’s common for cops in the department to plant drugs on innocent people to meet those quotas — a practice for which Anderson himself was then on trial.

At the same time, there’s increasing evidence that the NYPD is paying less attention to violent crime. In an explosive Village Voice series last year, current and former NYPD officers told the publication that supervising officers encouraged them to either downgrade or not even bother to file reports for assault, robbery and even sexual assault. The theory is that the department faces political pressure to produce statistics showing that violent crime continues to drop. Since then, other New Yorkers have told the Voice that they have been rebuffed by NYPD when trying to report a crime.

The most perverse policy may be asset forfeiture. Under civil asset forfeiture, police can seize property from people merely suspected of drug crimes. So long as police can show even the slightest link of drug activity to a car, some cash, or even a home, they can seize it. In the majority of cases, most or all of the seized cash goes back to the police department. In some cases, the department has taken possession of cars as well, but generally non-cash property is auctioned off, with the proceeds then going back to the department. An innocent person who has property seized must go to court and prove his property was earned legitimately, even if he was never charged with a crime. The process of going to court can often be more expensive than the value of the property itself.

Asset forfeiture not only encourages police agencies to use resources and manpower on drug crimes at the expense of violent crimes, it also provides an incentive for police agencies to actually wait until drugs are on the streets before making a bust. In a 1994 study reported in Justice Quarterly, criminologists J. Mitchell Miller and Lance H. Selva watched several police agencies delay busts of suspected drug dealers in order to maximize the cash the department could seize. A stash of illegal drugs isn’t of much value to a police department. Letting the dealers sell the drugs first is more lucrative.

Earlier this year, Nashville’s News 5 ran a report on how police in Tennessee are pulling over suspected drug dealers and seizing their cash along I-40, often without bothering to make an arrest. The station combed through police reports showing that officers spent 10 times as long policing the side of the interstate where a drug runner would be leaving after he sold his supply — and thus would be flush with sizable amounts of cash — than on the side where he was likely to be flush with drugs. The police were letting the drugs be sold in order to get their hands on the cash.

Back in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) recently signed a new law that will require convicted drug dealers to reimburse the police agencies that arrested and prosecuted them. The law will provide even more incentive for departments to devote time and resources to drug crimes — and that shift comes at the expense of solving more serious crimes.

The bill does not require reimbursement from convicted rapists or murderers.

Which means battery victims like Shaver can expect even less cooperation from police as more officers are moved to investigations that pay for themselves — and then some.

THE RAID

Shaver’s next encounter with Chicago police came in April of this year. She and her then-boyfriend were living on the first floor of a three-story graystone in the Edgewood neighborhood. “Nate,” a friend of Shaver’s boyfriend whom Shaver describes as a “stoner hippie,” was between residences, and asked if he could sleep on their couch while he waited for his new apartment to become available. They agreed.

“He never had keys,
” Shaver said. “He’d text us when he was coming home to sleep, and one of us would let him in. He had been here about a week before the raid.”

The raid came on the night of April 14, 2010, part of a series of drug raids across Chicago that night by the city’s Mobile Strike Force and Targeted Response Unit, essentially a SWAT team.

Shaver, her then-boyfriend and a roommate were in the apartment with her four dogs when the door flew open with the crash of a battering ram. “I thought we were being robbed,” Shaver recalled. “It wasn’t clear to us that they were cops at all. I had a flashback to my attack. I was just terrified. I peed myself. I had peed myself, and I was shaking, trying to gather my dogs while they were pointing these guns at me — these huge guns that could blow me apart. My Vizsla mix ran off, and I was afraid they were going to shoot it. I asked if I could get it, and they said ‘We don’t give a fuck about your dog.’

According to the search warrant, the police were searching for Nate. Shaver said they looked through Nate’s belongings gathered on the couch and found about $900 and a sandwich bag filed with marijuana. They didn’t leave a receipt for what they took.

“They were going through his mail,” she said. “They tried to say he was my brother. They kept looking for some way to say he had always lived here. He had mail here, but it was mail he brought from his old place. It all had his old address on it.”

Shaver’s boyfriend and roommate were handcuffed. Shaver started to panic. She told the police about her prior assault, and asked if she could take some anti-anxiety medication and change her clothes. They refused.

“There were 20 to 25 cops in my apartment now. Some of them were in street clothes. Some of them were in SWAT clothes with face masks. They told me I wasn’t allowed to move. I wasn’t even certain they were police until about two hours later, when a uniformed cop showed up with the warrant,”
she recalled.

Shaver says she heard laughter from her bathroom and bedroom. “They went to my bathroom and started going through all of my medication, laughing about how messed up I was,” she said. “I also have a ‘lady drawer,‘ where I keep sex toys and some sex-related gag gifts friends have given me.” Shaver said that when the cops finally left, they had left her place a shambles. When she looked in her bedroom, the police had emptied the drawer and laid all of her sex toys out on her bed.

The raid ruined the door to Shaver’s apartment and she has since been evicted. She filed a complaint with Chicago PD, but never heard back. When she attempted to get a copy of the affidavit for the search warrant to see what probable cause they had for such a violent raid, she was told that since she was not the target of the raid, she is not allowed to see the affidavit. As for “Nate,” authorities have yet to issue a warrant for his arrest. Chicago PD and the officer who left Shaver his number after the raid did not return The Huffington Post’s requests for comment.

FIGHTING CONSENSUAL CRIMES IN A VIOLENT CITY


“This case is a perfect example of how the war on drugs distracts police from doing the job we hired them for,”
Downing said.

Chicago is one of the most violent cities in the country, and is home to America’s most violent neighborhood. The city is usually left out of annual “Most Dangerous Cities” lists because of disputes between the state of Illinois and the FBI on how crimes are reported, but Chicago has roughly triple the murder rate of New York City, and double that of Los Angeles. Crime has gone down in Chicago over the last 20 years as it has in the rest of the country, but at a slower rate than in cities of similar size.

Perhaps more tellingly, the city’s clearance rate — the percentage of homicides solved by police — was 70 percent in 1991. It dropped to under 40 percent in 2008 and 2009. According to a report (PDF) from the criminal justice reform advocacy group The Sentencing Project, drug offenses made up 4.8 percent of Chicago PD arrests in 1980. In 2003, they made up 28.2 percent. The overall number of drug arrests increased 264 percent over that period. An analysis by the Marijuana Policy Almanac found that from 2002 to 2007 alone, overall pot arrests in Cook County jumped from 25,776 to 32,996.

The drug war’s financial incentives appear to be having an effect. A drug offender is much more likely to be arrested in Chicago than he was 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. But kill someone in Chicago, and you’re only about half as likely to be caught as you were in the early 1990s.

Last July, more than a year after her attack, Shaver’s assailant “Sonny” was finally convicted. He was sentenced to six months of probation. Reflecting back on the last tumultuous two years, Shaver says, “It just doesn’t make sense. Repeat violent offenders get to walk while casual pot smokers get terrorized by SWAT teams. I’m pretty disappointed in the justice system.”

SOURCE

Rise of the Machines

New Police Drone Near Houston Could Carry Weapons

By Stephen Dean

CONROE, Texas — A Houston area law enforcement agency is prepared to launch an unmanned drone that could someday carry weapons, Local 2 Investigates reported Friday.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Conroe paid $300,000 in federal homeland security grant money and Friday it received the ShadowHawk unmanned helicopter made by Vanguard Defense Industries of Spring.

A laptop computer is used to control the 50-pound unmanned chopper, and a game-like console is used to aim and zoom a powerful camera and infrared heat-seeking device mounted on the front.

“To be in on the ground floor of this is pretty exciting for us here in Montgomery County,
” Sheriff Tommy Gage said.
He said the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) could be used in hunting criminals who are running from police or assessing a scene where SWAT team officers are facing an active shooter.
Gage said it will also be deployed for criminal investigations such as drug shipments.

“We’re not going to use it to be invading somebody’s privacy. It’ll be used for situations we have with criminals,” Gage said.

It could have been used to help firefighters in the recent tri-county wildfires, he said, and it also could be handy in future scenarios like a recent search for a missing college student in The Woodlands.

In 2007, Local 2 Investigates uncovered a secret Houston Police Department test of a different kind of drone, fueling a nationwide debate over civil liberties and privacy.

A constitutional law professor and other civil liberties watchdogs told Local 2 Investigates that questions about police searches without warrants would crop up, as well as police spying into back yards or other private areas.

HPD fueled that 2007 controversy even further by suggesting that drones could be used for writing speeding tickets.
The backlash prompted Mayor Annise Parker to scrap HPD’s plans for using drones when she took office.

Gage said he is aware of those concerns.
No matter what we do in law enforcement, somebody’s going to question it, but we’re going to do the right thing, and I can assure you of that,” he said.

He said two deputies are finishing their training and should be ready to fly police missions within the next month.
Tapped to operate the Montgomery County Sheriff’s helicopter UAV are Sgt. Melvin Franklin, a licensed pilot, and Lt. Damon Hall, who heads the department’s crime lab and crime scene unit. The sheriff said Hall’s SWAT team background will assist the department in using the new tool on hostage standoffs or active shooter events.

The ShadowHawk chopper was displayed on a small conference room table as it was unveiled Friday. It displayed a sheriff’s logo and flashing blue lights on the side. On the front of the chopper, a grapefruit sized back unit houses the camera and Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) sensor that can detect heat from a gun or a suspect’s body.

Deputies said they can quickly switch between day and night vision on the camera, which is zoomed and moved from side to side by a game-like console inside a police command vehicle on the ground.

The display shows up on a small TV-like box, while the actual flight controls are handled from a laptop computer.
Michael Buscher, chief executive officer of manufacturer Vanguard Defense Industries, said this is the first local law enforcement agency to buy one of his units.

He said they are designed to carry weapons for local law enforcement.
“The aircraft has the capability to have a number of different systems on board. Mostly, for law enforcement, we focus on what we call less lethal systems,” he said, including Tazers that can send a jolt to a criminal on the ground or a gun that fires bean bags known as a “stun baton.”
You have a stun baton where you can actually engage somebody at altitude with the aircraft. A stun baton would essentially disable a suspect,” he said.
Gage said he has no immediate plans to outfit his drone with weapons, and he also ruled out using the chopper for catching speeders.

“We’re not going to use it for that,” he said.
Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel said, “I’m tickled to death” about using the drone, pointing out that in his years of police work he could imagine countless incidents having ended more quickly and easily.

“It’s so simple in its design and the objectives, you just wonder why anyone would choose not to have it,” said McDaniel.
At the same time Houston police were testing a different drone, the Miami-Dade Metro Police department was also taking test flights of a helicopter UAV, and the Federal Aviation Administration said that department is now using its drone for local police work.

The San Diego Police Department also made local headlines in 2008 for beginning its own flights with a fixed-wing UAV.
But Les Dorr, an FAA spokesman in Washington, said very few local police departments actually have the required certificate of authorization (COA) to fly police missions nationwide.

He said Montgomery County is the first COA by a local police department in all of Texas.

In September 2008, the Government Accountability Office issued a 73-page report that raised issues about police drones endangering airspace for small planes or even commercial airliners.

The report’s author, Gerald Dillingham, told Local 2 Investigates that 65 percent of the crashes of military drones on the battlefield were caused by mechanical failures.
He said a police UAV could lose its link to the ground controllers if wind knocks the aircraft out of range or the radio frequencies are disrupted.

“If you lose that communication link as the result of that turbulence or for any other reason, then you have an aircraft that is not in control and can in fact crash into something on the ground or another aircraft,
” said Dillingham.

Pilots of small planes expressed those concerns in the original 2007 Local 2 Investigates reporting on police drones, and the FAA reported then that police departments across the country were lining up to apply for their own drones.

At Montgomery County, Franklin said an onboard GPS system is designed to keep the UAV on target and connected with the ground controllers. He said coordinates are plotted in advance and a command is given for the UAV to fly directly to that spot, adjusting to turbulence and other factors. He said he and the other controller can alter “waypoints” quickly on the laptop to move the chopper to areas that had not previously been mapped out. He said the aircraft moves at a speed of 30 knots, which he said makes it unsuitable for police pursuits.
Small aircraft pilots have expressed concerns that drones cannot practice the “see and avoid” rule that keeps aircraft from colliding in mid-air. Since the camera may be aimed somewhere else, pilots said police controllers may not be able to see and avoid other aircraft in the area during a sudden police emergency.

Gage said he would take every concern into account as his UAV is deployed.

The only routine law enforcement flights inside the United States over the past four years have been the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Their border flights over Texas and Arizona have included one crash, where the drone lost its link to the ground controller.

SOURCE

NEW AMERIKAN CENTURY

New York magazine reported some telling figures last month on how delayed-notice search warrants — also known as “sneak-and-peek” warrants — have been used in recent years. Though passed with the PATRIOT Act and justified as a much-needed weapon in the war on terrorism, the sneak-and-peek was used in a terror investigation just 15 times between 2006 and 2009. In drug investigations, however, it was used more than 1,600 times during the same period.

It’s a familiar storyline. In the 10 years since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the government has claimed a number of new policing powers in the name of protecting the country from terrorism, often at the expense of civil liberties. But once claimed, those powers are overwhelmingly used in the war on drugs. Nowhere is this more clear than in the continuing militarization of America’s police departments.

POLICE MILITARIZATION BEFORE SEPTEMBER 11

The trend toward a more militarized domestic police force began well before 9/11. It in fact began in the early 1980s, as the Regan administration added a new dimension of literalness to Richard Nixon’s declaration of a “war on drugs.” Reagan declared illicit drugs a threat to national security, and once likened America’s drug fight to the World War I battle of Verdun. But Reagan was more than just rhetoric. In 1981 he and a compliant Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which allowed and encouraged the military to give local, state, and federal police access to military bases, research, and equipment. It authorized the military to train civilian police officers to use the newly available equipment, instructed the military to share drug-war–related information with civilian police and authorized the military to take an active role in preventing drugs from entering the country.

A bill passed in 1988 authorized the National Guard to aid local police in drug interdiction, a law that resulted in National Guard troops conducting drug raids on city streets and using helicopters to survey rural areas for pot farms. In 1989, President George Bush enacted a new policy creating regional task forces within the Pentagon to work with local police agencies on anti-drug efforts. Since then, a number of other bills and policies have carved out more ways for the military and domestic police to cooperate in the government’s ongoing campaign to prevent Americans from getting high. Then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney declared in 1989, “The detection and countering of the production, trafficking and use of illegal drugs is a high priority national security mission of the Department of Defense.”

The problem with this mingling of domestic policing with military operations is that the two institutions have starkly different missions. The military’s job is to annihilate a foreign enemy. Cops are charged with keeping the peace, and with protecting the constitutional rights of American citizens and residents. It’s dangerous to conflate the two. As former Reagan administration official Lawrence Korb once put it, “Soldiers are trained to vaporize, not Mirandize.” That distinction is why the U.S. passed the Posse Comitatus Act more than 130 years ago, a law that explicitly forbids the use of military troops in domestic policing.

Over the last several decades Congress and administrations from both parties have continued to carve holes in that law, or at least find ways around it, mostly in the name of the drug war. And while the policies noted above established new ways to involve the military in domestic policing, the much more widespread and problematic trend has been to make our domestic police departments more like the military.

The main culprit was a 1994 law authorizing the Pentagon to donate surplus military equipment to local police departments. In the 17 years since, literally millions of pieces of equipment designed for use on a foreign battlefield have been handed over for use on U.S. streets, against U.S. citizens. Another law passed in 1997 further streamlined the process. As National Journal reported in 2000, in the first three years after the 1994 law alone, the Pentagon distributed 3,800 M-16s, 2,185 M-14s, 73 grenade launchers, and 112 armored personnel carriers to civilian police agencies across America. Domestic police agencies also got bayonets, tanks, helicopters and even airplanes.

All of that equipment then facilitated a dramatic rise in the number and use of paramilitary police units, more commonly known as SWAT teams. Peter Kraska, a criminologist at the University of Eastern Kentucky, has been studying this trend since the early 1980s. Kraska found that by 1997, 90 percent of cities with populations of 50,000 or more had at least one SWAT team, twice as many as in the mid-1980s. The number of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 with a SWAT team increased 157 percent between 1985 and 1996.

As the number of SWAT teams multiplied, their use expanded as well. Until the 1980s, SWAT teams were used almost exclusively to defuse immediate threats to the public safety, events like hostage takings, mass shootings, escaped fugitives, or bank robberies. The proliferation of SWAT teams that began in the 1980s, along with incentives like federal anti-drug grants and asset forfeiture policies, made it lucrative to use them for drug policing. According to Kraska, by the early 1980s there were 3,000 annual SWAT deployments, by 1996 there were 30,000 and by 2001 there were 40,000. The average police department deployed its SWAT team about once a month in the early 1980s. By 1995, it was seven times a month. Kraska found that 75 to80 percent of those deployments were to serve search warrants in drug investigations.

TERROR ATTACKS BRING NEW ROUND OF MILITARIZATION

The September 11th attacks provided a new and seemingly urgent justification for further militarization of America’s police departments: the need to protect the country from terrorism.

Within months of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Office of National Drug Control Policy began laying the groundwork with a series of ads (featured most prominently during the 2002 Super Bowl) tying recreational drug use to support for terrorism. Terrorism became the new reason to arm American cops as if they were soldiers, but drug offenders would still be their primary targets.

In 2004, for example, law enforcement officials in the New York counties of Oswego and Cayuga defended their new SWAT teams as a necessary precaution in a post–September 11 world. “We’re in a new era, a new time,” here,” one sheriff told the Syracuse Post Standard. “The bad guys are a little different than they used to be, so we’re just trying to keep up with the needs for today and hope we never have to use it.” The same sheriff said later in the same article that he’d use his new SWAT team “for a lot of other purposes, too … just a multitude of other things.” In 2002, the seven police officers who serve the town of Jasper, Florida — which had all of 2,000 people and hadn’t had a murder in more than a decade — were each given a military-grade M-16 machine gun from the Pentagon transfer program, leading one Florida paper to run the headline, “Three Stoplights, Seven M-16s.”

In 2006 alone, a Pentagon spokesman told the Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram & Gazette, the Department of Defense “distributed vehicles worth $15.4 million, aircraft worth $8.9 million, boats worth $6.7 million, weapons worth $1 million and ‘other’ items worth $110.6 million” to local police agencies.

In 2007, Clayton County, Georgia — whose sheriff once complained that the drug war was being fought like Vietnam, and should instead be fought more like the D-Day invasion at Normandy — got its own tank through the Pentagon’s transfer program. Nearby Cobb County got its tank in 2008. In Richland County, South Carolina, Sheriff Leon Lott procured an M113A1 armored personnel carrier in 2008. The vehicle moves on tank-like tracks, and features a belt-fed, turreted machine gun that fires .50-caliber rounds, a type of ammunition so powerful that even the military has restrictions on how it’s used on the battlefield. Lott named his vehicle “The Peacemaker.” (Lott, is currently being sued for sending his SWAT team crashing into the homes of people who appeared in the same infamous photo that depicted Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Michael Phelps smoking pot in Richland County.) Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio also has a belt-fed .50-caliber machine gun, though it isn’t connected to his armored personnel carrier.

After 9/11, police departments in some cities, including Washington, D.C., also switched to battle dress uniforms (BDUs) instead the traditional police uniform. Critics says even subtle changes like a more militarized uniform can change both public perception of the police and how police see their own role in the community. One such critic, retired police sergeant Bill Donelly, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, “One tends to throw caution to the wind when wearing ‘commando-chic’ regalia, a bulletproof vest with the word ‘POLICE’ emblazoned on both sides, and when one is armed with high tech weaponry.”

Departments in places like Indianapolis and some Chicago suburbs also began acquiring machine guns from the military in the name of fighting terror. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick actually suspended the Pentagon program in his state after the Boston Globe reported that more than 80 police departments across the state had obtained more than 1,000 pieces of military equipment. “Police in Wellfleet, a community known for stunning beaches and succulent oysters, scored three military assault rifles,” the Globe reported. “At Salem State College, where recent police calls have included false fire alarms and a goat roaming the campus, school police got two M-16s. In West Springfield, police acquired even more powerful weaponry: two military-issue M-79 grenade launchers.”

September 11 also brought a new source of funding for military-grade equipment in the Department of Homeland Security. In recent years, the agency has given anti-terrorism grants to police agencies across the country to purchase armored personnel carriers, including such unlikely terrorism targets as Winnebago County, Wisconsin; Longview, Texas; Tuscaloosa County, Alabama; Canyon County, Idaho; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Adrian, Michigan; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. When the Memphis suburb of Germantown, Tennessee — which claims to be one of the safest cities in the country — got its APC in 2006, its sheriff told the local paper that the acquisition would put the town at the “forefront” of homeland security preparedness.

In Eau Clare County, Wisconsin, government officials told the Leader Telegram that the county’s new APC would mitigate “the threat of weapons or explosive devices.” County board member Sue Miller added, “It’s nice, but I hope we never have to use it.” But later in the same article, Police Chief Jerry Matysik says he planned to use the vehicle for other purposes, including “drug searches.” It may not be necessary, Matysik said, “But because it’s available, we’ll probably use it just to be cautious.”

The DHS grants are typically used to purchase the Lenco Bearcat, a modified armored personnel carrier that sells for $200,000 to $300,000. The vehicle has become something of a status symbol in some police departments, who often put out press releases with photos of the purchase, along with posing police officers clad in camouflage or battle dress uniforms.

HuffPost sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Homeland Security asking just how many grants for the vehicles have been given out since September 11, how much taxpayer money has been spent on them, and which police agencies have received them. Senior FOIA Program Specialist Angela Washington said that this information isn’t available.

The post-September 11 era has also seen the role of SWAT teams and paramilitary police units expand to enforce nonviolent crimes beyond even the drug war. SWAT teams have been used to break up neighborhood poker games, sent into bars and fraternities suspected of allowing underage drinking, and even to enforce alcohol and occupational licensing regulations. Earlier this year, the Department of Education sent its SWAT team to the home of someone suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program.

Kraska estimates the total number of SWAT deployments per year in the U.S. may now top 60,000, or more than 160 per day. In 2008, the Maryland legislature passed a law requiring every police department in the state to issue a bi-annual report on how it uses its SWAT teams. The bill was passed in response to the mistaken and violent SWAT raid on the home of Berwyn Heights, Maryland mayor Cheye Calvo, during which a SWAT team shot and killed his two black labs. The first reports showed an average of 4.5 SWAT raids per day in that state alone.

Critics like Joseph McNamara, who served as a police chief in both San Jose, California, and Kansas City, Missouri, worry that this trend, now driven by the war on terror in addition to the war on drugs, have caused police to lose sight of their role as keepers of the peace.

“Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed,”
McNamara wrote in a 2006 article for the Wall Street Journal. “An emphasis on ‘officer safety’ and paramilitary training pervades today’s policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn’t shoot until they were about to be shot or stabbed.” Noting the considerable firepower police now carry, McNamara added, “Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed.”

In 2009, stimulus spending became another way to fund militarization, with police departments requesting federal cash for armored vehicles, SWAT armor, machine guns, surveillance drones, helicopters, and all manner of other tactical gear and equipment.

Like McNamara, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper finds all of this troubling. “We needed local police to play a legitimate, continuing role in furthering homeland security back in 2001,” says Stamper, now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “After all, the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place on specific police beats in specific police precincts. Instead, we got a 10-year campaign of increasing militarization, constitution-abusing tactics, needless violence and heartache as the police used federal funds, equipment, and training to ramp up the drug war. It’s just tragic.”

PART 2

SOURCE

It’s OFFICIAL! It Is Not Illegal To Film Police

Appeals Court Rules It Is Not Illegal To Film Police

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com

Despite the mass hoax still being promulgated by both the mainstream media and local authorities across America, the First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that it is not illegal for citizens to videotape police officers when they are on public duty.

“The filming of government officials while on duty is protected by the First Amendment, said the Court,
” reports Daily Tech.

“The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity].,” said the Court. “Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs,” stated the ruling, adding that this has been the case all along, and that the right to film police officers is not just restricted to the press.

The case cited several examples where citizens were arrested for documenting acts of police brutality on recording devices, including that of Simon Glik, who was arrested after he filmed Boston police punching a man on the Boston Common.

Another case involved Khaliah Fitchette, a teenager who filmed police aggressively removing a man from a bus in Newark. Fitchette was arrested and detained for two hours before police deleted the video from her cellphone.

The court ruling also made it clear that bloggers who report news based on their recordings of police have equal protection under the law as journalists.

The recent arrests of law abiding citizens for simply exercising their Constitutional rights is a constant reminder of the encroaching Police State. The elite in control of our government have used increased Police Brutality and Torture. They have followed a detailed Roadmap to complete enslavement under eventual Martial Law. Our increasing Prison population, the largest in the world, is made up primarily of non-violent drug offenders. The failed WAR ON DRUGS has served only to rob offenders of their future and help build a powerful Prison Industrial Complex! Rather than focus on petty criminals, law enforcement should focus on the Illegal Alien Problem.

“The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status,” stated the court.

Despite the ruling, state authorities in Illinois are still trying to prosecute 41-year old mechanic Michael Allison for recording police officers in public. Allison faces a life sentence on five separate counts of “eavesdropping” that add up to 75 years.

The Attorney General’s Office is determined to make an example out of Allison in a bid to intimidate the public against filming the actions of police. In brazenly disregarding the law as well as legal precedent (every single charge against people for filming police, including a recent case in Illinois, has been thrown out of court), authorities are clearly using official oppression in their vendetta against Allison.

Despite innumerable cases where charges have been dropped against citizens arrested for filming police, the mass media still constantly invokes the misnomer that it is illegal to record cops in public.

The fact that arrests are still occurring on a regular basis nationwide also underscores how police are being trained to enforce a law that doesn’t exist, before hitting victims of this hoax with charges more severe than those a murderer would expect to receive and expecting them to back down and plea bargain, a startling reflection of the cancerous criminality that has set the United States well on course to becoming a police state.

*********************

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show.

SOURCE

5 Outrageous Examples of FBI Intimidation and Entrapment

5 Outrageous Examples of FBI Intimidation and Entrapment

Kevin Gosztola
AlterNet
July 2, 2011

In 2010, the FISA court approved all 1,506 requests by the FBI to electronically monitor suspects. They were also generous with granting “national security letters,” which allow the FBI to force credit card companies, financial institutions, and internet service providers to give confidential records about customers’ subscriber information, phone number, email addresses and the websites they’ve visited. The FBI got permission to spy on 14,000 people in this way.

Do they really think there are 14,000 terrorists living in the US?

That’s just the beginning.

Now, the FBI is claiming the authority to exercise more surveillance powers, which include undocumented database searches, lie detector tests, trash searches, surveillance squads, investigations of public officials, scholars and journalists and rules that would provide more freedom for agents and informants to not disclose participation in organizations that are targets of FBI surveillance.

Here are five cases of FBI abuse that show the FBI deserves more scrutiny, not a free pass to continue fighting the so-called “war on terror.”

1. FBI’s Use of Warrantless GPS Tracking

Given the fact that Americans have a constitutional right to privacy, one might think you have to get a warrant to place a GPS device in a location that can track a suspect 24 hours a day. Yet, in many cases, law enforcement officers are attaching GPS devices without first getting a warrant.

In October 2010, 20-year old Arab-American student Yasir Afifi was concerned that he had found a pipe bomb when he noticed a “black, rectangular device” attached to his car. Upon finding the device, he posted photos to Reddit.com hoping someone could tell him what was on his vehicle. A couple days later, FBI agents showed up at his apartment to “retrieve the device.”

Turns out, the mysterious device resembling a bomb, which had understandably petrified Afifi, was a GPS device.

As a lawsuit filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) details, “after requesting counsel, the FBI agents continued to make demands of Mr. Afifif and interrogate him…They asked him whether he was a national security threat, whether he was excited about an upcoming (but undisclosed) trip abroad, whether he was having financial difficulties, whether he had been to Yemen, why he traveled overseas, and many other questions.”

Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller are being sued for violating Afifi’s constitutional rights.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration has urged the Supreme Court to allow government to attach GPS devices on “suspects’ vehicles to track their every move.” According to the Justice Department, “A person traveling on public thoroughfares has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another,” and that is why, as of April 2011, they wanted a lower court’s decision that reversed a conviction and life sentence for a drug dealer whose vehicle had a GPS attached without a warrant undone.

The ACLU of Delaware filed a brief at the end of May urging Delaware to uphold its ruling on the case of the drug dealer. The brief asserts, “The Fourth Amendment protects all persons, regardless of their location, from government searches, absent exigent circumstances, unless a court has issued a warrant upon proof of probable cause.” It adds, despite the rise in use of “sophisticated electronics,” the New York Court of Appeals, for example, does not find the public’s “socially reasonable expectation that our communications and transactions will remain to a large extent private” has diminished.

Additionally, the FBI’s use of warrantless GPS tracking is invasive, for the reason outlined by a Washington, DC, federal appeals court:

A person who knows all of another’s travels can deduce whether he is a weekly churchgoer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups — and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.

The US Supreme Court agreed on June 27 to hear the case on whether police can attach a GPS tracking devices to a suspect’s vehicle without obtaining a warrant. The court’s decision could have profound implications for US citizens because a majority carry a “tracking device” every day—a cell phone. It could define whether the FBI would be able to circumvent traditional wiretapping guidelines and just use this loophole to tap citizens through their cell phones.

2. FBI Targeting WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning Supporters

David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, has faced harassment since November 2010, when Department of Homeland Security agents detained him at O’Hare International Airport on his return trip from Mexico.

A press release posted by the Bradley Manning Support Network described how House had his laptop seized and was “questioned extensively” about his support for alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning. House requested a copy of his research data from the computer that was seized. His request was denied.

House faced intrusive and intimidating tactics that included copying and possibly disseminating the contents of his USB drive, camera and laptop, all because he joined a lawful group.

“The search and seizure of my laptop has had a chilling effect on the activities of the Bradley Manning Support Network, by silencing once-outspoken supporters and causing donors to retreat. Our government should not be treating lawful activists like suspects,
” House said. Days later, the FBI approached House at a computer conference.

The FBI has also been at the center of attempts to intimidate WikiLeaks supporters, especially those involved in organizing with the Bradley Manning Support Network, a grassroots group.

In April of this year, House sent a message on Twitter reporting that FBI agents had gone to “interrogate a West Coast friend at his place of work.” He described how his friend, who is not involved in computers or activism, was pressured to sign a non-disclosure agreement and was held for four hours after the interrogation. His friend was released after repeated banging on the interrogation room’s door. He had taken notes during the interrogation on “a scrap of magazine paper during his four-hour detention” but was made to surrender his notes before leaving his detention.

The friend said that the FBI agents wanted to know what he knew about House, his beliefs and his lifestyle. There were no questions about Manning.

The ACLU has come to House’s defense and filed a lawsuit against the DHS. The ACLU has called for the “return or destruction of any of House’s personal data still in the custody of the government and disclosure of whether and to whom the data has been disseminated.” If not for the ACLU sending a letter to DHS, House would likely have not been able to get his seized laptop, camera and USB drive back after seven weeks.

The FBI recently subpoenaed House to appear before a federal grand jury empanelled to investigate WikiLeaks in Alexandria, Virginia. He pled the fifth and refused to answer questions on possible violations of the Espionage Act. House also has alleged that agents from various government agencies tried to bribe him for information on Boston-area hackers.

Additionally, Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher who represented WikiLeaks at the 2010 Hope conference, has been detained and searched regularly for nearly a year. On July 29, 2010, he was detained for three hours at the Newark airport. His bag was searched, receipts in his bag were photocopied and his laptop was inspected. Appelbaum refused to answer questions because he did not have a lawyer present. He was not allowed to make a phone call and three mobile phones he was carrying were seized and have yet to be returned.

Days later, he was approached by two FBI agents at a Defcon conference after he made a presentation about the Tor Project.

FBI agents wanted to chat but Appelbaum said he had nothing to say. An agent claimed he was interested in hearing how his rights were being trampled because “sometimes it’s nice to have a conversation to flesh things out.” The agents said they were at the conference for official and personal reasons.

Appelbaum continues to be detained at US airports. He was detained when returning from a vacation in Iceland on January 10 at the Seattle airport, in a Houston airport when returning from Siberia on April 12 and on June 14, he was subjected to detention without charge when he arrived at the Seattle airport from Iceland.

3. FBI Spied on Children While Using ‘Roving Wiretaps,’ Intentionally Misled Courts on Freedom of Information Act Requests

The FBI Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB), which is responsible for reviewing the activities of the US intelligence community, found one instance where the FBI spent a week monitoring children. According to the IOB report, a language specialist listening to the wiretap knew the FBI did not have the right target, but continued to listen in to the children for five more days.

The report was obtained by digital rights advocacy organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) through its FOIA Litigation for Accountable Government (FLAG) Project. The FLAG Project requested records of intelligence violations from the FBI’s use of provisions of the PATRIOT Act that were due to expire, particularly Section 215. The request contained evidence of “multiple reports of potential violations,” but the FBI managed to keep most of the revelations secret by redacting a significant portion of the documents requested. The FBI’s target is unknown and the aforementioned spying was only discovered after comparing the redacted documents to documents from a previous EFF FOIA request.

The incident involving the FBI listening to children constitutes a “roving wiretap” violation. Roving wiretaps are wiretaps that follow the surveillance target. They are typically used when it is believed a target is changing locations to deliberately avoid electronic surveillance.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has said that roving wiretaps are designed to allow law enforcement to track targets who evade surveillance by “frequently changing phones.” They used to only be permitted for criminal investigations but the PATRIOT Act has “insufficient checks to protect innocent Americans from unwarranted government surveillance.” Now under the PATRIOT Act the FBI does not have to know the target is present at the location being tapped.

Beyond the abuse of wiretapping, the FBI appears to be playing games with FOIA requests. It has improperly used “outside the scope” redactions to cover up misconduct.

A post by Jennifer Lynch of EFF indicates the US District Court for the Central District of California found “the FBI lied to the court about the existence of records requested” under FOIA. The FBI “materially and fundamentally misled the court” on its filings related to the case of Islamic Shura Council of S. Cal v. FBI, a case related to the FBI surveillance of the Muslim organization.

Additionally, according to EFF, the FBI argued it was “allowed to mislead the court when it believed revealing information would ‘compromise national security.’

The Court did not go along with this assertion by the FBI:

“The Government argues that there are times when the interests of national security require the Government to mislead the Court. The Court strongly disagrees. The Government’s duty of honesty to the Court can never be excused, no matter what the circumstance. The Court is charged with the humbling task of defending the Constitution and ensuring that the Government does not falsely accuse people, needlessly invade their privacy or wrongfully deprive them of their liberty. The Court simply cannot perform this important task if the Government lies to it. Deception perverts justice. Truth always promotes it.”

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, containing the roving wiretaps provision was recently extended by Congress, despite a bipartisan alliance that attempted to challenge the extension of expiring provisions with little to no debate.

4. FBI Entrapment of Muslims

When David Williams’ younger brother, Lord McWilliams, was hospitalized with liver cancer early in 2009, Williams, 24, was devastated. He had spent the last two years, after serving a five-year prison sentence for selling drugs, being a father figure for McWilliams.

Williams knew he had to find a way to make money so his younger brother could get a liver transplant. In April 2009, an acquaintance named James Cromitie told him that someone named Maqsood could give him $250,000, luxury cars and financing for a barbershop if he helped carry out a terrorist attack in the United States. Williams became part of the scheme because Cromitie allegedly had a plan for getting the money without carrying out a terror plot.

Maqsood was a paid informant named Shahed Hussain, who had spent the last eight months working to get Cromitie to plant bombs at a local synagogue. Hussain had done previous work for the FBI and was involved in a controversial case against a pizza-parlor owner and local imam in Albany, New York.

As a report published by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice of the New York University School of Law in May and titled, “Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the ‘Homegrown Threat’ in the United States,” describes, “On May 13, 2009, at the FBI’s direction, Hussain drove Cromitie, David, and two others—Laguerre Payen and Onta Williams (no relation to David)—to the Bronx to conduct surveillance on various synagogues. Next he drove them to Connecticut to look at the Stinger missile they were to use. Unbeknownst to David and the others, the weapons were fake and supplied by the FBI.”

Hussain drove Cromitie, Payen and David and Onta Williams to the Bronx on May 20th. In front of the proposed targets, the FBI placed two cars. The four led by Cromitie were to place explosives in the cars’ trunks. Hussain dropped off David Williams, drove the other three men to the first car and then Hussain turned off a recording device he had been wearing. The men were arrested soon after.

The FBI raided Williams’ younger brother’s home immediately after the arrests. Williams was locked up in White Plains, where people would slip him notes calling him a terrorist. According to David’s aunt Alicia McWilliams, at the jury selection in White Plains, snipers were placed on the roof for “show,” making it seem like Williams’ trial might lead to an attempted terror attack.

McWilliams claims that Williams was “pulled into a political game. The case was directed, produced and scripted by the FBI and all they needed were puppets.”

The CHRGJ report looks at this case and two others to show the “profound toll government policies are taking on Muslim communities and families.” It details how “counterterrorism law-enforcement policies and practices are undermining U.S. human rights obligations to guarantee the rights to nondiscrimination; a fair trial; freedom of religion expression and opinion; as well as the right to an effective remedy when rights violations take place.”

Relaxed FBI guidelines have made it possible to rely on informants like Hussain. Guidelines put into place by former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey allowed the FBI to authorize informants and other surveillance techniques without any factual predicate or nexus to suspected criminal conduct,” which meant the FBI could have informants “gather names, emails, and phone numbers of particularly devout mosque attendees, without any particular nexus to suspected criminal activity.” And, under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, guidelines were established that did not explicitly prohibit using informants to engage in entrapment.

Informants present a particular problem because they may be receiving a benefit for helping the FBI target individuals (for example, a reduction in a criminal sentence or a change in immigration status, etc). They may also be receiving payment for their service. The “dangerous incentive structure,” inevitably helps to increase the possibility of abuse of authority by the FBI. As former FBI agent Mike German says:

If the government targets somebody based on political advocacy, and can lure a few people into committing bad acts, then a successful prosecution in those cases justifies future targeting of people who are in the same position.
. . Whether these cases could survive an entrapment defense is not the relevant question. It’s whether it’s appropriate for the government to act in a way where they’re aggrandizing the nature of the threat. It’s just difficult to understand what the legitimate government interest is in these cases.”

Williams and the other men were found guilty in October 2010. In May of this year, a judge denied the defendants’ motions for dismissal “on the basis of outrageous government conduct and entrapment.” The men are currently in the process of being sentenced for their participation in this scheme and prosecutors are pushing for life sentences for three of the four men, including Williams.

5. The Criminalization of Travel by the FBI

At least 23 antiwar, labor and international solidarity activists have been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. Several of the activists from Chicago, the Twin Cities in Minnesota and other areas have had their homes raided by the FBI with documents, cell phones, storage disks, computers and children’s artwork seized.

The FBI alleges the activists have provided “material support for terrorism.” In the past months, it has been discovered the FBI used an informant named Karen Sullivan to spy on an antiwar organization for months as it made plans for the 2008 Republican National Convention. The FBI also flubbed the investigation when an agent left documents in the home of one of the subpoenaed activists.

A troubling aspect of the investigation is how it effectively criminalizes outspoken citizens who travel to other countries to meet groups that may have beliefs or agendas that are in conflict with US foreign policy. For example, Sarah Smith, a Jewish American woman and avid traveler who lives in Chicago, received a call from the FBI on December 3, 2010. The agent, Robert Parker, asked Smith to meet with him and answer some questions.

Smith asked what questions the agent had, and he said he was not at liberty to discuss the questions. This made Smith think she needed a lawyer. The agent told Smith that it was not necessary to have a lawyer because she was not in trouble. He claimed he had some routine questions about a trip and said, “I think you know which trip I’m talking about.” Realizing Parker wanted to talk to her about the trip she took to Israel and Palestine in August, just months ago, she reached out to a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild.

“We went on an educational trip in which we met with NGOs, teachers, nonviolent protesters,
” explains Smith. “We didn’t meet with anyone who is on any terrorist list. We didn’t give money to anyone that is on a terrorist list. We wanted to see what it was like for ourselves, to live in Israel with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.”

Suppressing the right of American groups to travel is not new to U.S. government policy. In 1992, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) mounted a case on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Geo-Vista Global Experiences and Veterans for Peace asserting regulations on group travel to Vietnam and Cambodia were “making it impossible to organize academic study groups, to travel with study groups, to travel with colleagues to assess humanitarian aid and to engage in group fact-finding trips.”

Secretary of State James Baker eventually lifted the regulations, making it permissible for groups to travel to the two countries.

Tom Burke is another traveler alleged to have provided “material support to terror.” Burke was at home with his wife and daughter on September 24, 2010 and began to receive phone calls from people in Chicago and Minneapolis informing them the FBI had raided their homes. Burke thought the FBI might be coming to raid his house. He decided his daughter needed to get to kindergarten before the FBI entered his home. He left with his daughter.

Burke thought he needed to write a press release, took his computer and got in his car to go find a web café. On the way he noticed that his car was being followed. He called his wife and they agreed he should drive to the parking garage at her work. As Burke reached the parking garage, the car that had been following him sped off. An SUV sped into the road right behind him and followed him into the garage. Burke was served with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury. His wife was later served with a subpoena too.

“We’ve been doing solidarity work with people in other countries who get killed for doing what they do,”
Burke explains. “When I went to Colombia in 2003 with a labor union delegation, at that time three Colombian trade unionists were being killed every single week. And that was the scariest week of my life.” Burke was with the human rights director of the oil workers union. All week he had to have armed security, know who was with the group and whether they were in a safe place.

Months into targeting the activists, there is no evidence that any of these activists provided “material support for terrorism.”

Reminiscent of how animal rights and environmental activists have been targeted in recent years, the FBI is going after the activists, wrecking their lives, intimidating Americans who believe in their right to dissent. It is pressing on, widening its investigation despite a growing backlash against the investigation. And some of the activists fear indictments from the investigation may be coming soon.

SOURCE