AuthorTopic: Official Global Police State Thread  (Read 77153 times)

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“WE’RE GONNA TAKE EVERYONE” — BORDER PATROL TARGETS PROMINENT HUMANITARIAN GROUP AS CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION

Amber Stenson of "No More Deaths," a group of volunteers who provide water, food and first aid to illegal migrants crossing through the southern Arizona desert from Mexico, treats the blistered feet of men who were camped in the brush near the town of Aravaca Thursday, July 21, 2005.  (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

April 30 2018, 4:00 p.m.
 

FROM THE MOMENT Scott Warren was arrested by Border Patrol agents on a remote property just north of the Mexican border, in January this year, there were questions. The 35-year-old college instructor, with a doctorate in geography and a history of academic and humanitarian work along the border, was found in a building known locally as “the Barn,” in the company of two young undocumented men from Mexico.

Accused of supplying the men with food, water, clothing, and a place to sleep, he was indicted by a grand jury in February, on two counts of harboring illegal aliens and one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens. The humanitarian aid volunteer could spend up to two decades in prison if convicted and sentenced to consecutive terms.

 

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Scott Warren, a professor at Arizona State University and a volunteer with No More Deaths, was arrested and charged after Border Patrol allegedly witnessed him giving food and water to two migrants.

Photo: Carrot Quinn

Warren is also one of nine volunteers with No More Deaths, an official ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, to be hit with federal charges in recent months for leaving water in a remote federal wilderness preserve where migrants routinely disappear and die. His arrest came just hours after No More Deaths published a report that documents evidence of Border Patrol agents destroying jugs of water that the group leaves for migrants in the desert.

 

Now, more than three months after the raid on the Barn, filings in the criminal case against Warren reveal new details about the January operation, bolstering suspicions that law enforcement has come to see No More Deaths, an organization focused on preventing the loss of life in the borderlands, as a criminal organization aimed at aiding the unlawful entry of migrants into the U.S.

A motion to suppress evidence that was filed by Warren’s attorneys, who claim that the warrantless search of The Barn was unlawful, includes text messages between Border Patrol agents from before and after the raid, as well as reports written by agency officials at the time. The materials include talk of open investigations into No More Deaths as an organization, descriptions of Warren as a “recruiter” for the group, and links made between Warren’s arrest and prior enforcement actions that stemmed from the organization’s “illicit” work.

The Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector declined to comment on the recently filed materials, referring The Intercept’s questions, initially sent Friday, to the U.S. attorney’s office. The U.S. attorney’s office refused to say whether an investigation has been opened into No More Deaths as an organization, citing office policy. By Monday, the documents had been removed from the federal government’s online database of court records.

For those working to address the humanitarian crisis along the border, the documents underscore the challenges of continuing that work in the Trump era. Echoing the sentiments of her fellow No More Deaths volunteers, Kate Morgan-Olsen, abuse documentation and advocacy coordinator for the organization, said the records disclosed in Warren’s case confirmed what the group has always suspected: that the government views her organization as a target. “The documents, particularly the text messages, show what we thought was the case, which is that there is some sort of investigation into our organization,” she said.

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A surveillance photo of “the Barn,” taken by Border Patrol agents on Nov. 17, 2017.

Photo: United States District Court for the District of Arizona

“Knock It Fast Before They Can Bolt”

The Barn, and the work that goes on there, is no secret. The Ajo, Arizona, property is openly used by humanitarian aid groups that provide food, water, and medical care to the adults and children who come stumbling out of the Arizona desert exhausted, dehydrated, and sometimes on the verge of death. The most prominent group to make use of the space, No More Deaths, has worked along the border for nearly a decade and a half. Warren has volunteered with the organization, among others, since 2014.

Border Patrol agents and humanitarian groups in Arizona, such as No More Deaths, have long operated with an understanding that spaces used to save human lives are generally off limits to law enforcement. The verbal agreement upheld by Border Patrol agents in the Tucson Sector and volunteers in the area is built on a set of written principles modeled after Red Cross guidelines on the treatment of humanitarian aid organizations, which include a passage that reads, “Medical treatment provided by humanitarian aid agencies should be recognized and respected by government agents and should be protected from surveillance and interference.”

The internal communications of law enforcement as they descended on the Barn in mid-January shows that those past practices are no longer being respected.

“Toncs at the barn,” wrote agent Brendan Burns at 4:38 p.m., in group text titled, “Los Perros Bravos part 3.”

Common in Border Patrol slang, the word toncs, or tonks, is used to refer to migrants. Though its precise etymology is unclear, the word, by some accounts, refers to the sound a law enforcement-issued flashlight makes when it connects with a human skull.

CBP-text-messages-1-1525103387

 

An excerpt from text messages sent between Border Patrol agents during a January raid in Ajo, Arizona.

Screenshot: United States District Court for the District of Arizona

“Get ready to roll this way all who are available,” Burns wrote. “Came out of the house.”

“10-4,” replied agent Albert Ballesteros, whose avatar featured white letters and an image on a black background — “WATERBOARDING — BAPTIZING TERRORISTS WITH FREEDOM SINCE 2003” — encircling a stick figure strapped to a rack with a bucket of water being poured into his mouth.

From his vantage point, Burns was able to identify Warren by sight. “Scott Warren pointing out terrain to them,” he wrote, adding, in reference to the two men Warren was with, “Probably the two from Ajo yesterday.”

“How much time do we have?” Border Patrol supervisor Desiderio Vargas wrote.

“Unknown,” Burns replied. “We’re watching now. We’d like to get guys in position to get up and knock it fast before they can bolt.”

CBP-text-messages-2-1525104680

An excerpt from text messages sent between Border Patrol agents during a January raid in Ajo, Arizona.

Screenshot: United States District Court for the District of Arizona

Ballesteros advised that a contingent of the raiding party would convene at a hotel on the highway. “I am here now,” he wrote. Burns called for the perimeter to be secured before dark. In a message to another member of the team, Chris Smith, Burns wrote, “Smitty just run it by your side regarding prosecution for these guys.”

“For 1324 harboring and conspiracy for the uscs,” he added, referring to the statute the Border Patrol intended to invoke against U.S. citizens found on the property.

“T4,” Smith replied. “I believe Nogales has an investigation on the organization.”

At that point, Vargas wrote, “I’m asking now for the AUSA” — referring to the Assistant United States Attorney — “Waiting for the call back.”

There is no indication in the messages as to whether the call was ever returned. “T4,” Burns said in response. “We’re gonna take everyone in regardless.”

“Everyone be as professional as possible,” said Vargas, the supervisor.

“Of course,” Burns replied. “You know us.”

In a message sent after the raid concluded, Burns provided a word of advice on questioning the migrants who were arrested, to ensure that they would become useful material witnesses. “Sandoval make sure those toncs are isolated so we can get good mat wit interviews.”

“10-4,” replied Ballesteros, the agent with the waterboarding avatar.

CBP-text-messages-3-1525110610

 

An excerpt from text messages sent between Border Patrol agents during the January operation at the Barn.

Screenshot: United States District Court for the District of Arizona

The “Stash House” Narrative

As Burns suspected, the two undocumented immigrants arrested that day became material witnesses for the U.S. government, used in the state’s case against Warren.

In its initial one-page complaint, the government claimed that Border Patrol agents conducting surveillance had observed Warren, and the men he was arrested with, entering the Barn before they were taken into custody. The agents, along with Pima County sheriff’s deputies performed a so-called knock and talk search on the property, leading to a determination that the migrants had entered the country unlawfully. Once in custody, the migrants allegedly told law enforcement that Warren had provided them with food, water, clean clothes, and beds to sleep in over the course of the three days.

In a report filed that day, agent John C. Marquez narrates the events that led up to the arrests, reporting that he and agent Burns set up an observation post on a Bureau of Land Management property that provided a view of the Barn, after getting word from an undocumented immigrant picked up the day before of other migrants moving through the area. “The Barn,” Marquez wrote, “is also known as a ‘stash house’, and is suspected to be used by Non-Government Organizations (NGO) to harbor illegal aliens.” Marquez added that “local residents” had “complained of finding paraphernalia associated with illegal alien activity such as black water jugs and carpet booties in the immediate vicinity of ‘The Barn.’”

PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA - JUNE 16:  Discarded clothes and a sneaker lay on the ground on a trail used by migrants entering the U.S. illegally from Mexico June 16, 2006 in Pima County, Arizona. Since 1998 over 2,650 men, women and children have died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, a record 473 illegal immigrants died while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border during the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2005. The group No More Deaths runs 24-hour camps in the desert conducting search and rescue patrols for migrants in peril.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

 

Discarded clothes and a sneaker lie on a trail used by migrants entering the United States from Mexico on June 16, 2006, in Pima County, Ariz.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The NGOs are engaged in “humanitarian supply drops for illegal aliens,” Marquez wrote. “These supply drops consist of food, water, and other items to aid illegal aliens as they further their entry into The United States,” he went on to say. “One of the NGOs identified as operating out of ‘The Barn’ is No More Deaths (NMD).” In the passage that followed, Marquez described Warren as “an active volunteer for NMD who organizes and recruits college students to aid in supply drops, and speaks publicly on immigration issues.”

Then, in a line that acknowledged a link between Warren’s arrest and a standoff between the Border Patrol and No More Deaths last summer, Marquez added that the organization “was long suspected of illegally harboring and aiding illegal aliens and a search warrant for their illicit activities was recently executed at their humanitarian station near Arivaca, Arizona.” Noting the “search warrant resulted in the arrest of several illegal aliens,” Marquez said the raid last summer “revealed that NMD would provide illegal aliens with food and water along with showers and new clothes to wear to further their illegal entry into the United States.”

The incident in Arivaca that Marquez referenced was, for many No More Deaths volunteers, the first concrete sign that the Border Patrol would be taking a more aggressive approach to the group. Last June, the Border Patrol followed four men, later identified as Mexican nationals, to a No More Deaths encampment in the unincorporated community of Arivaca. With temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, volunteers said the men arrived in desperate need of medical care. Border Patrol agents surrounded the camp and a tense, multi-day standoff ensued. After three days, the Border Patrol secured a warrant to enter the property and arrested the migrants.

The warrant included evidence that the men were photographed “by a sensor” minutes before they entered the camp, raising questions among volunteers as to how intensely their camp was being watched. “This is the second time in a matter of weeks that they’ve attempted to penetrate the camp, that they’ve set this situation up,” Margo Cowan, an attorney for No More Deaths, told The Intercept at the time. “Prior to that, there weren’t these kinds of incursions and there wasn’t this kind of surveillance.”

In Warren’s case, a second document produced by the Border Patrol and included in recent court filings, written by Border Patrol intelligence agent Mary Ann Fogal, also suggests a keen interest in No More Deaths’ humanitarian aid work, again citing “supply drops” used to “support illegal aliens as they further their entry into the United States.” Describing the surveillance that occurred before his arrest, Fogal suggested that Warren, like the organization he volunteers with, was on the Border Patrol’s radar before the raid at the Barn. “Agents recognized the man as Scott Warren,” Fogal wrote. “Agents also recognized the vehicle as one frequently driven by Warren. Warren is a resident of Ajo, Arizona. Warren is involved with NMD.”

Prosecuted for Humanitarian Work

At the time, Warren’s fellow volunteers reacted to the news of his arrest with disgust, but they were not surprised. In the months leading up to the operation, they had observed a marked shift in the Border Patrol’s tactics, including the ramped up surveillance and open disregard for protocols observed last summer. For them, the explanation for the shift was obvious: President Donald Trump came into office with strong support from law enforcement, including the Border Patrol in particular, and now his agents felt empowered to take the sort of actions they had long been denied.

Senior Trump administration officials, particularly Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have called on law enforcement to bring the investigative and prosecutorial hammer down on anyone involved in unlawfully moving people into and around the country. Officials have also called for the prosecution of parents who pay to have their children smuggled into the U.S. Whether an organization could be similarly targeted for efforts to prevent people from dying in the desert remains an open question.

For No More Deaths volunteers and casual observers alike, the timing of Warren’s arrest was particularly curious. Just hours before Warren was taken into custody, the group published a report, along with the organization Coalición de Derechos Humanos, that documents evidence of Border Patrol agents systematically destroying jugs of water left for migrants crossing the desert.

FILE -- William Berk and Lydia Delphia, volunteers with No More Deaths, hike through the desert, carrying water to drop for migrants near Arivaca, Ariz., July 25, 2013. The Border Patrol raided the humanitarian aid group's base camp in 2017, arresting four men who had crossed into the United States illegally and were at the camp receiving emergency medical care. (Josh Haner/The New York Times)

 

Volunteers with No More Deaths hike through the desert carrying water to drop for migrants near Arivaca, Ariz., on July 25, 2013.

Photo: Josh Haner/The New York Times/Redux

Based on a three-year analysis of mapping data, land jurisdictions, and hunting seasons, the report found that “3,586 gallons of water were vandalized” through 2015, and concluded that “the only actors with a sufficiently large and consistent presence across a sufficiently wide area of the desert, during periods when hunting is both authorized and prohibited, are agents of the U.S. Border Patrol.” The report also included video of Border Patrol agents destroying jugs of water left in the desert.

Following Warren’s arrest in Ajo, The Intercept was first to report that Warren was one of nine volunteers to be hit with federal charges in a period of a few months. While Warren’s felony charges stemming from the Barn raid carried the heaviest penalties, he and eight other volunteers were charged last winter with federal crimes for leaving jugs of water, cans of beans, and other supplies on the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, a particularly remote region where 45 percent of the human remains discovered in the state were found in 2017.

Many of the charges currently leveled against No More Deaths volunteers have been brought before, though those cases were years ago, and they ultimately fell apart. In 2005, for example, two volunteers with the organization were arrested by Border Patrol agents as they attempted to transport three undocumented migrants to a local hospital. A judge threw out the charges. Similarly, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, five years later, overturned a littering conviction against a No More Deaths volunteer for leaving gallons of water for migrants passing through an Arizona wildlife refuge.

When asked about No More Deaths’ work, senior Border Patrol officials have maintained that their agency, too, is in the business of saving lives, that destruction of humanitarian aid supplies is strictly prohibited, and that the two groups are not working at cross purposes. No More Deaths disagrees. “Any effort by the Border Patrol to provide humanitarian aid is merely a band-aid solution on to a crisis of its own making,” the organization argued in its most recent report.

A shrine honoring the lives of those who have died in the desert made of objects found throughout the desert on migrant trails at the No More Deaths camp in Arivaca, Arizona. The group deposits water and gives medical attention to migrants in need traveling from Mexico through the desert to the United States.

 

A shrine, made of objects found on migrant trails, honors the lives of those who have died in the desert, at the No More Deaths camp in Arivaca, Ariz.

Photo: Matt Nager/Redux

Currently, Warren’s lawyers are arguing that the government’s case amounts to an attack on their client’s religious freedom.

For No More Deaths volunteers, one of the greatest concerns stemming from stepped-up enforcement against their organization is the impact it could have on those who find themselves lost, stranded, or dying in the desert. In the last decade and a half, a minimum of 8,000 people have died trying to cross into the U.S. The Arizona borderlands where No More Deaths operates are among the deadliest in the country.

According to Morgan-Olsen, No More Deaths volunteers see the government’s efforts as part of a broader trend across the country. “There’s any number of folks that we’ve seen in the last couple of months, who the state has been targeting for their work as immigrants, as immigrant rights activists, or as people who are in solidarity with those folks,” she said. With Warren’s arrest, the documents surrounding it, and the charges against other volunteers, she added, “We’re starting to see a more clear narrative of how that’s happening with No More Deaths.”

Top photo: Amber Stenson of No More Deaths treats the blistered feet of men who were camped in the brush near the town of Aravaca, Ariz., on July 21, 2005.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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CHINA’S TERRIFYING SURVEILLANCE STATE LOOKS A LOT LIKE AMERICA’S FUTURE
« Reply #406 on: July 10, 2018, 09:28:33 AM »
CHINA’S TERRIFYING SURVEILLANCE STATE LOOKS A LOT LIKE AMERICA’S FUTURE

To Silicon Valley idealists, technology promises greater freedom. But in China, innovation is shepherding in an authoritarian hellscape.
lux.ip3viso180301195.jpg
By Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images.

Until recently in Silicon Valley, it was taken as an article of faith that technology could enhance democracy. “One could change the world with one hundred and forty characters,” Twitter C.E.O.Jack Dorsey declaredin 2007. That may be true to some extent—in many countries, services like Twitter and Facebook have made it easier than ever to organize, and have eliminated many media gatekeepers. But in China, which is undergoing a tech boom, innovation seems to be expanding in the opposite direction: instead of allowing for free and open platforms, the country is implementing an authoritarian tech dystopia. Already, local Chinesegovernments and schoolshave employed surveillance technology to do everything from fine residents for jaywalking to pinpoint an alleged thiefin a 20,000-person crowd. It is, asThe New York Times reports, a chilling alternative vision of the future—and one that will almost certainly go global. While the use of facial-recognition software has inspired some backlashin the U.S., China has rapidly embraced A.I.-based surveillance technologies to police its 1.4 billion people. By 2020, analysts estimate that China will have nearly 300 million cameras installed, and Chinese police will spend $30 billion on surveillance technology. “This is potentially a totally new way for the government to manage the economy and society,”Martin Chorzempa,of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told theTimes.“The goal is algorithmic governance.”

China, a semi-authoritarian state, is in a unique position to implement such technology, even if it hasn’t yet done so on a mass scale. Political dissent is repressed. Restrictions on Internet use limit the information available to the public. And with few laws in place to protect consumer privacy, many tech start-ups are already handing their data over to the government, enabling a dystopian marriage of human policing and surveillance. In Zhengzhou, law-enforcement officers use facial-recognition glasses to apprehend drug smugglers at train stations. In the western part of the country, mass-surveillance technology is used to track members of the Uighur Muslim minority, mapping out relationships with friends and family. Information on plane trips and hotel stays is readily available. A start-up called Eyecool gives more than 2 million facial images every day to a big-data policing system called—perhaps a bit heavy-handedly—Skynet.

The human psyche has played a crucial role in the success of China’s new system. Last summer, when police posted a large, outdoor screen showcasing the photos, names, and government I.D. numbers of people who sped or jaywalked at a certain intersection, the number of incidents quickly declined. “If you are captured by the system and you don’t see it, your neighbors or colleagues will, and they will gossip about it,”Guan Yue, a spokeswoman, told theTimes.“That’s too embarrassing for people to take.” And while the technology itself may only be partially effective right now, theperceptionof surveillance has an equally powerful effect. Bureaucratic inefficiencies have so far prevented the country from creating a truly national surveillance network: cameras on one block, or in one town, may not be functional in another, preventing the state—for now, anyway—from fully tracking its citizens. But that’s not necessarily common knowledge to China’s citizens. “The whole point is that people don’t know if they’re being monitored,” Chorzempa explained. “And that uncertainty makes people more obedient.”

Despite some setbacks, China’s hunger for surveillance appears to be fueling an investment boom. Companies like SenseTime, Megvii, and Yitu are raising hundreds of millions of dollars with investments from traditional players like Tiger Global Management and Temasek, as well as state-sponsored funds created by the country’s leadership. Some of these companies are already expanding beyond China’s borders: at Yitu, an artificial-intelligence start-up whose Shanghai headquarters includes a network of surveillance cameras linked to a facial-recognition system that tracks and monitors its own employees, talks of Southeast Asian and Middle East expansion are already underway. Similar efforts are taking root in countries like India, where the government iscollecting biometric dataand linking it to things like welfare programs and pensions. For certain services, biometric registration is mandatory, resulting in the creation of one of the largest stores of biometric data in the world. Countries like Britain, Russia, and the Philippines are studying India’s efforts, according to theTimes.

Similar technologies have been deployed in the United States, although some have been scaled back in the face of public protest. Amazon, whose Rekognition facial-recognition software has been used by some national law-enforcement agencies, was recentlypressured by its employees and shareholdersto stop selling the tech to law enforcement, citing the potential for abuse. “Along with much of the world we watched in horror recently as U.S. authorities tore children away from their parents,” read a letter from employees, distributed on a mailing list called “we-won’t-build-it.” “In the face of this immoral U.S. policy, and the U.S.’s increasingly inhumane treatment of refugees and immigrants beyond this specific policy, we are deeply concerned that Amazon is implicated, providing infrastructure and services that enable ICE and DHS.” (Microsoft saw asimilar revoltlast month over its own contract with immigration-enforcement agents.) Yet even if Silicon Valley giants discontinue their government partnerships, other companies will likely step in to fill their place—even now, the Department of Health and Human Services is planning totest the DNA of immigrant childrenseparated from their families, potentially establishing a database which the government could later access. It’s still uncertain which company will step in to carry out the task. But without a doubt, one will.

MAYA KOSOFFMaya Kosoff writes about tech for VF.com.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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David Simon, creator of The Wire (the best episodic series ever produced for TV) got it right 20 years ago. Like most endeavors, police work is governed by metrics. The ability to clear cases is highly prized. The last thing a lieutenant wants is to reopen a cold case or leave a murder unpinned on someone.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/xH_6_8NOfwI" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/xH_6_8NOfwI</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/KvMKzLA1yEQ" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/KvMKzLA1yEQ</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/cqBtIhA87Js" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/cqBtIhA87Js</a>



The chief wanted perfect stats, so cops were told to pin crimes on black people, probe found

BY CHARLES RABIN, JAY WEAVER AND DAVID OVALLE

July 12, 2018 12:25 PM

Updated 1 hour 59 minutes ago

The indictment was damning enough: A former police chief of Biscayne Park and two officers charged with falsely pinning four burglaries on a teenager just to impress village leaders with a perfect crime-solving record.

But the accusations revealed in federal court last month left out far uglier details of past policing practices in tranquil Biscayne Park, a leafy wedge of suburbia just north of Miami Shores.

Records obtained by the Miami Herald suggest that during the tenure of former chief Raimundo Atesiano, the command staff pressured some officers into targeting random black people to clear cases.

“If they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries,” one cop, Anthony De La Torre, said in an internal probe ordered in 2014. “They were basically doing this to have a 100% clearance rate for the city.”

In a report from that probe, four officers — a third of the small force — told an outside investigator they were under marching orders to file the bogus charges to improve the department’s crime stats. Only De La Torre specifically mentioned targeting blacks but former Biscayne Park village manager Heidi Shafran, who ordered the investigation after receiving a string of letters from disgruntled officers, said the message seemed clear for cops on the street.

“The letters said police were doing a lot of bad things,” Shafran told the Herald. “It said police officers were directed to pick up people of color and blame the crimes on them.”

Beyond the apparent race targeting, the report — never reviewed in village commission meetings — described a department run like a dysfunctional frat house. It outlines allegations that the brass openly drank on duty, engaged in a host of financial shenanigans and that the No. 2 in command during the period, Capt. Lawrence Churchman, routinely spouted racist and sexist insults.

RaimundoAtesiano.JPG
Former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano

Amid the probe, Atesiano abruptly resigned in 2014. Afterward, there was a stark change in village crime-busting statistics.

During his roughly two-year tenure as chief, 29 of 30 burglary cases were solved, including all 19 in 2013. In 2015, the year after he left, records show village cops did not clear a single one of 19 burglary cases.

Village leaders say they have since overhauled the department, calling the ousted police chief’s actions “appalling.”

Atesiano, 52, has strongly denied the allegations. He pleaded not guilty in the federal caseand is now awaiting trial on charges of civil-rights violations. Two of his former officers, Raul Fernandez and Charlie Dayoub, also have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. Sources say they are cooperating against their one-time boss.

The federal case doesn’t raise allegations of racial profiling but records show the false charges were filed against a black Haitian-American teen identified only as T.D. in the indictment. Whether or how many other blacks might have been targets is unclear. State and local arrests records differ somewhat, but of the 30 burglary arrests documented in 2013 and 2014, nearly all were of black males.

But at least one other case is under review in an ongoing investigation: The arrest of a black transient man, Erasmus Banmah, 35, who was charged with five vehicle burglaries on the same day in February 2014. Each was dropped immediately by prosecutors when Biscayne Park cops failed to cooperate, records show.

Commanders dispute allegations

Both Atesiano and Churchman, who was not named in the indictment, deny pressuring officers to make unwarranted arrests or to target blacks. In 2014, they disputed the officers’ allegations to the village’s outside investigator and they repeated that defense to The Herald.

The former chief argues he demanded diligence from his officers, not illegal actions, His attorney pointed blame at Atesiano’s former underlings for any resulting problematic arrests.

“Encouraging, or even demanding, that public employees raise their performance levels to meet the citizens’ expectations is not an invitation for those public employees to cut corners or falsify documents,” his defense attorney, Richard Docobo, told the Herald.

Ana Garcia, who served as village manager when Atesiano was first elevated to chief in January 2013, said the federal charges of framing a teen conflicted with the chief’s reputation in the village. She left the role before Shafran took over while Atesiano quietly stepped down in April 2014.

“Everyone thought highly of him,” Garcia said. “This comes as a total shock, not only to me but everyone in the community.”

Biscayne Park’s little police department has been on the radar of state and federal prosecutors for years.

With a population of just over 3,000 residents and less than one square mile in size, the little village has produced an outsized share of scandals, most surrounding its cops.

Biscayne Park Police Station.jpg

The Biscayne Park Police Department
Jay Weaver Miami Herald

The department of about a dozen sworn officers — once housed in a historic log cabin but now based at village hall — was long infamous for ticketing speeders. But over the last decade, the department has also seen an officer arrested on charges of holding his wife hostage, a troubled officer sued for excessive force and another officer charged with beating a suspect.

At the helm was Atesiano, a burly and mustachioed officer who was hired in 2008 and worked his way through the ranks while penning a column in the village newsletter warning residents to beware of trespassers, report people crossing the railroad track and staying off lawns.

Atesiano had come to the village after an earlier case involving a doctored arrest record. In 2006, Atesiano, then a sergeant in Sunny Isles Beach, agreed to leave there after investigators discovered he forged a man’s name on a notice to appear in court after police arrested him for marijuana. Prosecutors told him to resign or face arrest.

Atesiano left but landed with Biscayne Park two years later and rebuilt his reputation. The village named him officer of the year in 2011. Two years later, he was promoted to replace the retiring chief and he immediately began touting impressive progress in solving home break-ins and property crimes, always a priority issue in otherwise quiet suburbs.

“This year, as we stand, we have a 100 percent clearance rate on burglary cases in the Village of Biscayne Park,” Atesiano declared to hearty applause during a commission meeting in July 2013. “This is the first time I’ve ever known that to happen in any department that I’ve ever been in.”

Department in turmoil

Behind the scenes, records show, the department was in turmoil.

That became clear over the following year as former village manager Shafran began receiving what wound up being 10 separate letters — some signed, some not — laying out an array of problems, topped by the potentially explosive allegation of targeting blacks for unwarranted arrests . It was April 2014 — a few months before national protests erupted over the treatment of black men by police when a white officer shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. About a quarter of Biscayne Park’s population is black.

Shafran immediately hired a private investigator to investigate the claims. As the probe unfolded, the village suspended Churchman and Cpl. Nicholas Wollschlager, the department’s third in command. She also fired off a letter to Atesiano ordering him to cooperate fully with the investigator. He resigned five days later.

IMG_1689.jpg
One allegation was made public at the time: That a police officer, Thomas Harrison, had loaned Atesiano $2,000, and the chief agreed to repay him in off-duty and overtime shifts. An ethics investigation found no evidence the loan existed, other than Harrison’s word.

That was benign in comparison to other allegations that officers raised with Jessie Scott, the private investigator hired to handle the internal probe .

Many of the officers’ complaints focused on Churchman, a former Sweetwater cop who was second in command in the village. Like his boss, Churchman also had a history with altered records. Sweetwater had demoted him for allegations of falsifying education records to earn an extra $40 a week. Biscayne Park hired him in 2008.

In the report, seven fellow officers described the captain as Atesiano’s enforcer, belittling cops, threatening them with firing, and bullying them into paying cash fees for working off-duty security gigs and into paying insurance deductibles with cash when they got into an accident in their police cruisers. His disdain for minorities also was “common knowledge,” Officer Harrison told the investigator. The report quotes officers saying Churchman used racial, homophobic and gender slurs.

“The captain has said on several different occasions he doesn’t want any n-----s, f-----s or women b-----s working at Biscayne Park,” Harrison said, according to Scott’s investigative report.

Former Biscayne Park Capt. Lawrence Churchman
Biscayne Park Police

Slurs ‘a ridiculous lie’

Churchman, through his attorney, denied using such language. In response to questions from The Herald, lawyer Kristi Kassebaum issued a statement quoting her client: “That is a ridiculous lie. That’s just not the way I think and certainly not the kind of language I use in public or in private.”

In all, four officers interviewed by Scott said the command staff told them to frame people but only De la Torre specifically said they were ordered to target blacks.

In his statement, Officer Omar Martinez said that after a string of vehicle break-ins, the command staff told him there was only one way to attain a 100 percent clearance rate on property crimes. Martinez was told “if he saw anyone walking in the village at night [and] if they had any type of past at all to arrest them and somehow try to charge them with the burglaries, even if they weren’t the ones who committed it.”

Martinez singled out Wollschlager as the commander who gave the orders, but said the officer said he refused to carry them out because “it was illegal and unethical.” He also wrote the village manager, saying: “I will not arrest an innocent person in order to make the department look good.”

This week, Wollschlager told the Herald that he was “absolutely not” involved in giving such orders and wasn’t aware that the other commanders, Atesiano and Churchman, issued them either. “It caught me by surprise, especially having my name mentioned,” he said.

Wollschlager, who met with FBI agents several times as their investigation gained momentum this year, said he was told that Martinez “recanted” his accusation against him under questioning.

Reached by phone, Martinez refused to comment.

Wollschlager, who is still a commander at the village, and Martinez are among only a few officers still left on the Biscayne Park force from Atesiano’s tenure.

Churchman left in July 2014, when the internal affairs report was completed. In a statement through his lawyer, he said the police chief and detective bureau handled burglary cases and crime statistics — not him.

“It is ridiculous to believe that I would encourage sworn officers to falsify crime reports and to pin crimes on innocent people when clearing crimes was not my responsibility,” Churchman said in a statement.

Biscayne Park’s ‘Badlands’

In the federal case, the apparent patsy picked to take the rap for four unsolved 2013 burglaries was a black Haitian American 16-year-old who lived with his family in a duplex on Northwest 12th Court. It’s alongside the railroad tracks in an area Biscayne Park cops used to call “The Badlands.”

T.D, now 21, could not be reached for comment, but records show he was well known to village officers.

T.D.’s first encounter with Biscayne Park cops came when he was arrested for trespassing — while crossing the Florida East Coast railroad tracks to get home. Village police regularly arrested people for trespassing because the department had an agreement with the Florida East Coast Railway Police to patrol the private property.

In February 2013, an officer named Guillermo Ravelo claimed he tried to pull T.D. over. After a dangerous high-speed car chase, Ravelo claimed, the teen bailed out on foot and ran off. Ravelo later wrote he identified T.D. from “a records check.” But that claim contradicted the officer’s own account, which noted T.D. had no valid driver’s license and was driving a BMW with temporary tags. T.D. wasn’t arrested right away — instead, Ravelo entered a juvenile “pick-up order” for him.

(Ravelo now faces charges himself. He plans to plead guilty this month to unrelated federal civil rights charges that he assaulted two people and falsified arrest reports in that case.)

Four months later, North Miami police arrested T.D. and accused him of raping a teen girl after daring her to drink a bottle of Barbancourt rum, according to an arrest report. Because of the outstanding pick-up order, Biscayne Park police was notified the same day: June 13, 2013.

That was the same day federal prosecutors say Biscayne Park officers Fernandez and Dayoub — at the direction of Atesiano — charged the teen with four previously unsolved burglaries of unoccupied homes.

The arrest reports are sketchy by any measure, listing no witnesses, fingerprint evidence, confessions or even property stolen. Instead, the reports used the same vague language — that the “investigation revealed” T.D. employed the same “M.O.” and the homes had a “rear door pried open.”

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office soon dumped all the cases, including the accusations of fleeing and eluding and the rape case. No formal charges were ever filed against T.D.

But state public corruption prosecutors and investigators continued looking at the circumstances of the arrest, pulling arrest data and working with federal counterparts to build a case against Atesiano and the two officers.

A trial date has been scheduled for July 23 but is expected to be postponed.

New police leadership

Today, Biscayne Village’s leaders say they have almost completely overhauled the department since Atesiano’s resignation.

BiscayneParkPoliceChiefLuisCabrera.JPG
“This all happened long ago,” said current village manager Krishan Manners. “And as far as the village is concerned, we have cleaned up the police department and continue to strive to make it better.”

In June, the village hired as its top cop Luis Cabrera, a former high-ranking Miami police officer. He says he’s audited the evidence room, restructured the command staff and is getting civil-rights training for officers. Cabrera made Wollschlager his second-in-command, despite being entangled in the 2014 internal investigation.

The investigation concluded Wollschlager drank on duty and ordered suspect burglary arrests. But the department’s new chief reversed course and cleared Wollschlager. He left the Biscayne Park force this spring for a command post in North Bay Village, but was soon let go after news broke about the indictment of Atesiano and the other officers. Cabrera said he decided to rehire Wollschlager in June.

“The manager and I had discussions with the FBI. They made it very clear that Nick was never a target or a subject,” Cabrera said. “He was a cooperating witness who helped them.”

Biscayne Park Police Chief Luis Cabrera
Miami Herald
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Here's what China does to people who speak out
« Reply #408 on: August 19, 2018, 07:01:17 AM »
Barging into your home, threatening your family, or making you disappear: Here's what China does to people who speak out against them

3. Put your family under house arrest, even if they haven't been accused of a crime.

3. Put your family under house arrest, even if they haven't been accused of a crime.
Portraits of Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia displayed at a protest in Hong Kong in June 2017.
Vincent Yu/AP

China has kept family members of prominent activists under house arrest to prevent them from traveling abroad and publicly protesting the regime.

In 2010 Liu Xia tried to travel to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of her husband, Liu Xiaobo, a human rights activist who at the time was imprisoned for "inciting subversion" with his protests.

She wasn't allowed to go and was placed under house arrest with 24-hour surveillance. She had no access to a cell phone or computer, even though she hadn't been charged with a crime.

She was allowed to leave the house in 2017 to attend the sea burial of her husband after his death from liver cancer, before being sent to the other side of the country by authorities so she wouldn't see memorials held by supporters in Beijing.

Liu Xia was detained in her house for eight years in total. She was released to Berlin in July after a sustained lobbying effort from the German government for Liu's release.

Still, she is not completely free: Xia is effectively prevented from appearing in public or speaking to media for fear of reprisal from Beijing. She fears that if she does, the government will punish her brother, who remains in Beijing, her friend Tienchi Martin-Liao told The Guardian.

4. Threaten to kill your family and forbid them from leaving China.

4. Threaten to kill your family and forbid them from leaving China.
Anastasia Lin, whose family in China is being punished for her activism against China.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Even when dissidents leave China, they are not safe. Many Chinese expats and exiles have seen family members who remained in China pay the price for their protest.

One example is Chinese-Canadian actress Anastasia Lin, who repeatedly speaks out to criticise China's human rights record.

She told Business Insider earlier this year that her uncles and elderly grandparents had their visas to Hong Kong — a Chinese region that operates under a separate and independent rule of law — revoked in 2016.

Security agents also contacted Lin's father saying that if she continued to speak up, the family "would be persecuted like in the Cultural Revolution" — a bloody ten-year period under Mao Zedong when millions of Chinese people were persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured.

Shawn Zhang, a student in Vancouver who has criticized President Xi Jinping online, told Business Insider earlier this year that police incessantly called his parents asking them to take down his posts.

The family members of five journalists with Radio Free Asia — a US-funded media outlet — were also recently detained to stop their reporting on human rights abuses against the Uighur minority in China's Xinjiang region.

Read more: China uses threats about relatives at home to control and silence expats and exiles abroad

5. Take down your social media posts.

5. Take down your social media posts.
A woman surrounded by Chinese paramilitary police on a smoggy day in Beijing in December 2015.
Kevin Frayer/Getty

Chinese tech companies routinely delete social media posts and forbid users from posting keywords used to criticize the government.

Censorship in China has soared under Xi Jinping's presidency, with thousands of censorship directives issued every year.

Posts and keywords are usually only banned for a few hours or a few days until an event or news cycle is over.

In February, popular chat and microblogging platforms WeChat and Weibo banned users from writing posts with the letter N when it was used to criticize a plan allowing Xi to rule without term limits.

Read more: Planting spies, paying people to post on social media, and pretending the news doesn't exist: This is how China tries to distract people from human rights abuses

6. Remove your posts from the internet — and reportedly throw you in a psychiatric ward.

6. Remove your posts from the internet — and reportedly throw you in a psychiatric ward.
Dong Yaoqiong live-streaming herself defacing a poster of Xi Jinping in Shanghai, China, on July 4.
Hua Yong/Twitter

In July, Dong Yaoqiong live-streamed herself pouring black ink over a poster of Xi Jinping in Shanghai, while criticizing the Communist Party's "oppressive brain control" over the country.

Hours later, she reported seeing police officers at her door and the video — which can still be seen here— was removed from her social media account.

She has not been seen in public since, although Voice of America and Radio Free Asiareported that she was being held at a psychiatric hospital in her home province of Hunan, citing local activists.

7. Barge into your house to force you off the airwaves.

7. Barge into your house to force you off the airwaves.
Sun Wenguang in his home in Jinan in August 2013.
AFP/YouTube

Sun Wenguang, a prominent critic of the Chinese government, was forced off air during a live phone interview with Voice of America in early August.

The 83-year-old former economics professor had been arguing that Xi Jinping had his economic priorities wrong, when up to eight policemen barged into his home, and forced him off the line.

His last words before he got cut off were: "Let me tell you, it's illegal for you to come to my home. I have my freedom of speech!" You can listen to the audio (in Chinese, but subtitled in English) here.

The father of Dong Yaoqiong, the woman who defaced the poster of Xi, was also interrupted while live-streaming a video calling for his daughter's release.

In the recording, which can be seen here, a man purporting to be a plain-clothed police officer can seen entering the premises, demanding to take Dong's father and his friend away, and ignoring their questions about whether the man had a search warrant.

8. Trap you in your house, and detain people who come to see you.

8. Trap you in your house, and detain people who come to see you.The Voice of America/Twitter

About 11 days after Sun Wenguang, the dissident Chinese professor, was interrupted on his call, he was found locked inside his own home.

Police had detained him in his house and Sun told two journalists who went to interview him that police forced his wife to tell people he had gone traveling to avoid suspicion.

He added: "We were taken out of our residence for 10 days and stayed at four hotels. Some of the rooms had sealed windows. It was a dark jail. After we were back, they sent four security guys to sleep in our home."

The journalists, from the US government-funded Voice of America, were detained immediately after the interview. Their whereabouts are not clear at this point.

Read more: A renegade Chinese professor who was forced off-air while criticizing the government says he was locked in his apartment and told to make up a story that he left town

9. Forbid you from leaving the country.

9. Forbid you from leaving the country.
Ai Weiwei in London in September 2015, two months after his release from China.
Carl Court/Getty

Ai Weiwei, the prolific Chinese artist and avid critic of the Chinese government, was blocked from leaving China for four years.

Authorities claimed he was being investigated for various crimes, including pornography, bigamy, and the illicit exchange of foreign currency.

He was detained for 81 days and charged with tax evasion, for which his company was ordered to pay 15 million yuan ($2.4 million). His supporters claimed the tax evasion charges were fabricated.

The government took away his passport in 2011 and refused to give it back until 2015. He then immediately flew to Berlin, where he now lives.

10. Intercept your protests before they even begin.

10. Intercept your protests before they even begin.
Police surrounding a group of people preparing to protest in Beijing on August 6.
Pak Yiu/Twitter

A group of protesters had been planning a demonstration in Beijing's financial district over lost investments with the country's peer-to-peer lending platforms.

Many of those platforms had shut down due to a recent government crackdown on financial firms, causing investors to lose some tens of thousands of dollars in savings.

But the demonstration, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on a Monday in front of China's banking regulatory commission, never materialized — because police had already rounded up the protesters and sent them home.

Many demonstrators who arrived in Beijing earlier that day found police waiting for them at their bus and train stations, before sending them away.

Peter Wang, who planned to take part in the protest, told Reuters: "Once the police checked your ID cards and saw your petition materials, they knew you are here looking to protect your [financial] rights. Then they put you on a bus directly."

Becky Davis, AFP's reporter in Beijing, described seeing more than 120 buses parked nearby to take the protesters away.

Other protesters seen traveling from their home towns to Beijing to take part in the demonstration were forced to give their fingerprints and blood samples, and prevented from traveling to the capital, Reuters said.

Activists told The Globe and Mail that the police likely found out about the protest by monitoring their conversations on WeChat.

Activists say we are now seeing 'human rights violations not seen in decades' in China

Activists say we are now seeing 'human rights violations not seen in decades' in China
Surveillance cameras in front of a giant portrait of Mao Zedong in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 2009.
Jason Lee/Reuters

China has a long history of suppressing dissenting views and actions. But Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, said the number of people being targeted and the extent of their punishment has worsened under Xi's rule.

"While life for peaceful critics in modern China has never been easy, there have been times of relative latitude," she told Business Insider.

"President Xi's tenure is most certainly not one of those times — not just in the numbers of people being targeted, but in the use of harsh charges and long sentences, and in the state's adoption of rights-gutting laws.

"Add to that the alarming expansion of high-tech surveillance and mass arbitrary detentions across Xinjiang, and you've got a scale of human rights violations we have not seen in decades."

The United Nations recently accused China of holding one million Uighurs in internment camps in the western province of Xinjiang. China has rejected the allegations as "completely untrue."

Does the Chinese Communist Party care that people know what's going on?

Does the Chinese Communist Party care that people know what's going on?
Xi Jinping raises his wine glass at a National Day reception in Beijing in September 2014.
Feng Li/Getty

Probably not.

Richardson said: "The Chinese government and Communist Party will keep treating people however badly they want unless the price for doing so is made too high for them — clearly this calculus finally changed recently for them with respect to Liu Xia," referring to the activist's wife who was released to Beijing after eight years of house arrest.

"That's why relentless public and private interventions on behalf of those unjustly treated is critical — to keep driving up the cost of abuses many people inside and outside China find unacceptable," Richardson added.

But there's a catch, says Frances Eve, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders. While the Party has released political activists due to public pressure in the past, it has kept family members in China to make sure the activists don't speak out.

Eve told The Guardian in July: "The Chinese Communist Party has become more immune to international pressure to release activists and let them go overseas, coinciding with its growing economic clout.

"Nowadays, on the rare occasion it does allow an activist to go abroad, it's with the sinister knowledge that their immediate or extended family remains in China and can be used as an effective hostage to stifle their free speech."

SEE ALSO:China is waging war against a cafe because it served coffee to Taiwan's president

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: Official Global Police State Thread
« Reply #409 on: August 19, 2018, 07:15:28 AM »
The US does all of those. Zero difference.

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Re: Official Global Police State Thread
« Reply #410 on: August 19, 2018, 07:36:01 AM »
The US does all of those. Zero difference.

No kidding?

The FSoA disappears people? Put your family under house arrest, even if they haven't been accused of a crime? Threaten to kill your family and forbid them from leaving?

We're far more sophisticated, and prefer methods that don't leave fingerprints. Unless you are a black male, in which case you can be summarily executed by police without any consequences, ever. And sometimes black women, c.f. Sandra Bland.

There are too many people with cell phone cams for people to tolerate too much of this. Plus, the internet in Chains is under total lockdown. See the internal cicil war in Google about developing a censored search engine. I think you owe the burden of proof, ed.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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How Saudi Money Keeps Washington at War in Yemen
« Reply #411 on: October 05, 2018, 03:38:20 AM »
How Saudi Money Keeps Washington at War in Yemen



By Ben Freeman

October 04, 2018 "Information Clearing House"- It was May 2017. The Saudis were growing increasingly nervous. For more than two years they had been relying heavily on U.S. military support and bombs to defeat Houthi rebels in Yemen. Now, the Senate was considering a bipartisan resolution to cut off military aid and halt a big sale of American-made bombs to Saudi Arabia. Fortunately for them, despite mounting evidence that the U.S.-backed, supplied, and fueled air campaign in Yemen was targeting civilians, the Saudi government turned out to have just the weapon needed to keep those bombs and other kinds of aid coming their way: an army of lobbyists.

That year, their forces in Washington included members of more than two dozen lobbying and public relations firms. Key among them was Marc Lampkin, managing partner of the Washington office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS), a company that would be paid nearly half a million dollars by the Saudi government in 2017. Records from the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) show that Lampkin contacted Senate offices more than 20 times about that resolution, speaking, for instance, with the legislative director for Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) on May 16, 2017. Perhaps coincidentally, Lampkin reported making a $2,000 contribution to the senator’s political action committee that very day. On June 13th, along with a majority of his fellow senators, Scott voted to allow the Saudis to get their bombs. A year later, the type of bomb authorized in that sale has reportedly been used in air strikes that have killed civilians in Yemen.

Little wonder that, for this and his other lobbying work, Lampkin earned a spot on the “Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns” listcompiled by the Washington publication the Hill.

Lampkin’s story was anything but exceptional when it comes to lobbyists working on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was, in fact, very much the norm. The Saudi government has hired lobbyists in profusion and they, in turn, have effectively helped convince members of Congress and the president to ignore blatant human rights violations and civilian casualties in Yemen. According to a forthcoming report by the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative program, which I direct, at the Center for International Policy, registered foreign agents working on behalf of interests in Saudi Arabia contacted Congressional representatives, the White House, the media, and figures at influential think tanks more than 2,500 times in 2017 alone. In the process, they also managed to contribute nearly $400,000 to the political coffers of senators and House members as they urged them to support the Saudis. Some of those contributions, like Lampkin’s, were given on the same day the requests were made to support those arms sales.

The role of Marc Lampkin is just a tiny sub-plot in the expansive and ongoing story of Saudi money in Washington. Think of it as a striking tale of pay-to-play politics that will undoubtedly be revving up again in the coming weeks as the Saudi lobby works to block new Congressional efforts to end U.S. involvement in the disastrous war in Yemen.

A Lobby to Contend With

The roots of that lobby’s rise to prominence in Washington lie in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As you may remember, with 15 of those 19 suicidal hijackers being citizens of Saudi Arabia, it was hardly surprising that American public opinion had soured on the Kingdom. In response, the worried Saudi royals spent around $100 million over the next decade to improve such public perceptions and retain their influence in the U.S. capital. That lobbying facelift proved a success until, in 2015, relations soured with the Obama administration over the Iran nuclear deal. Once Donald Trump won the presidency, however, the Saudis saw an unparalleled opportunity and launched the equivalent of a full-court press, an aggressive campaign to woo the newly elected president and the Republican-led Congress, which, of course, cost real money.

As a result, the growth of Saudi lobbying operations would prove extraordinary. In 2016, according to FARA records, they reported spending just under $10 million on lobbying firms; in 2017, that number had nearly tripled to $27.3 million. And that’s just a baseline figure for a far larger operation to buy influence in Washington, since it doesn’t include considerable sums given to elite universitiesor think tanks like the Arab Gulf States Institute, the Middle East Institute, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (to mention just a few of them).

This meteoric rise in spending allowed the Saudis to dramatically increase the number of lobbyists representing their interests on both sides of the aisle. Before President Trump even took office, the Saudi government signed a deal with the McKeon Group, a lobbying firm headed by Howard “Buck” McKeon, the recently retired Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. His firm also represents Lockheed Martin, one of the top providers of military equipment to the Kingdom. On the Democratic side, the Saudis inked a $140,000-per-month deal with the Podesta Group, headed by Tony Podesta, whose brother John, a long-time Democratic Party operative, was the former chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Tony Podesta later dissolved his firm and has allegedly been investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for serving as an unregistered foreign agent.

And keep in mind that all this new firepower was added to an already formidable arsenal of lobbying outfits and influential power brokers, including former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who, according to Lee Fang of the Intercept, was “deeply involved in the [Trump] White House hiring process,” and former Senator Norm Coleman, chairman of the pro-Republican Super PAC American Action Network. All told, during 2017, Saudi Arabia inked 45 different contracts with FARA-registered firms and more than 100 individuals registered as Saudi foreign agents in the U.S. They proved to be extremely busy. Such activity reveals a clear pattern: Saudi foreign agents are working tirelessly to shape perceptions of that country, its royals, its policies, and especially its grim war in Yemen, while simultaneously working to keep U.S. weapons and military support flowing into the Kingdom.

While the term “foreign agent” is often used as a synonym for lobbyist, part of the work performed by the Kingdom’s paid representatives here resembles public relations activity far more than straightforward lobbying. For example, in 2017, Saudi foreign agents reported contacting media outlets more than 500 times, including significant outreach to national ones like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and PBS, which has aired multipledocumentaries about the Kingdom. Also included, however, were smaller papers like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and more specialized outlets, even ESPN, in hopes of encouraging positive stories.

The Kingdom’s image in the U.S. clearly concerned those agents. Still, the lion’s share of their activity was focused on security issues of importance to that country’s royals. For example, Saudi agents contacted officials at the State Department, which oversees most commercial arms transfers and sales, nearly 100 times in 2017, according to FARA filings. Above all, however, their focus was on Congress, especially members with seniority on key committees. As a result, at some point between late 2016 and the end of 2017, Saudi lobbyists contacted more than 200 of them, including every single Senator.

The ones most often dealt with were, not surprisingly, those with the greatest leverage over U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia. For example, the office of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who sits on both the appropriations and armed services committees, was the most contacted, while that of Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) was the top Democratic one. (He sits on the appropriations and foreign relations committees.)

Following the Money from Saudi Arabia to Campaign Coffers

Just as there’s a clear pattern when it comes to contacting congressional representatives who might help their Saudi clients, so there’s a clear pattern to the lobbying money flowing to those same members of Congress.

The FARA documents that record all foreign-agent political activity also list campaign contributions reported by those agents. Just as we did for political activities, the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative program conducted an analysis of all campaign contributions reported in those 2017 filings by firms that represented Saudi interests. And here’s what we found: more than a third of the members of Congress contacted by such a firm also received a campaign contribution from a foreign agent at that firm. In total, according to their 2017 FARA filings, foreign agents at firms representing Saudi clients made $390,496 in campaign contributions to congressional figures they, or another agent at their firm, contacted on behalf of their Saudi clients.

This flow of money is best exemplified by the 11 separate occasions we uncovered in which a firm reported contacting a congressional representative on behalf of Saudi clients on the same day someone at the same firm made a campaign contribution to the same senator or House member. In other words, there are 10 other cases just like Marc Lampkin’s, involving foreign agents at Squire Patton Boggs, DLA Piper, and Hogan Lovells. For instance, Hogan Lovells reported meeting with Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) on behalf of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia on April 26, 2017, and that day an agent at the firm made a $2,700 contribution to “Bob Corker for Senate 2018.” (Corker would later decide not to seek reelection.)

While some might argue that contributions like these look a lot like bribery, they turn out to be perfectly legal. No law bars such an act, and while it’s true that foreign nationals and foreign governments are prohibited from making contributions to political campaigns, there’s a simple work-around for that, one the Saudis obviously made use of big time. Any foreign power hoping to line the pockets of American politicians just has to hire a local lobbyist to do it for them.

As Jimmy Williams, a former lobbyist, wrote: “Today, most lobbyists are engaged in a system of bribery, but it’s the legal kind.”

The Saudi Lobby Today

Fast forward to late 2018 and that very same lobby is now fighting vigorously to defeat a House measure that would end U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen. They’re flooding congressional offices with their requests, in effect asking Congress to ignore the more than 10,000 civilians who have died in Yemen, the U.S. bombs that have been the cause of many of those deaths, and a civil war that has led to a resurgence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. They’ll probably mention Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent “certification” that the Saudis are now supposedly taking the necessary steps to prevent more civilian casualties there.

What they’re not likely to mention is that his decision was reportedly driven by the head of the legislative affairs team at the State Department who just happens to be a former foreign agent with BGR Government Affairs, one of 35 FARA registrants working for Saudi Arabia at this moment. Such lobbyists and publicists are using the deep pockets of the Saudi royals to spread their propaganda, highlighting the charitable work that government is doing in Yemen. What they fail to emphasize, of course, are the Saudi blockade of the country and the American-backed, armed, and fueled air strikes that are killing civilians at weddings, funerals, school bus trips, and other civilian events. All of this is, in addition, helping to create a grotesque famine, a potential disaster of the most extreme sort and the very reason such humanitarian assistance is needed.

In the end, even if the facts aren’t on their side, the dollars are. Since September 2001, that reality has proven remarkably convincing in Washington, as copious dollars flowed from Saudi Arabia to U.S. military contractors (who are making billions selling weapons to that country), to lobbying firms, and via those firms directly into Congressional coffers.

Is this really how U.S. foreign policy should be determined?

Ben Freeman is the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy (CIP). This is hissecondTomDispatch piece.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, Beverly Gologorsky's novel Every Body Has a Story and Tom Engelhardt's A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy's In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, and John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands.

Copyright 2018 Ben Freeman - This article was originally published by " Tom Dispatch" -

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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👮 The Awful Reason Police Don’t Go After Right-Wing Extremists
« Reply #412 on: November 11, 2018, 12:07:47 AM »
https://www.greanvillepost.com/2018/11/08/the-awful-reason-police-dont-go-after-right-wing-extremists/

The Awful Reason Police Don’t Go After Right-Wing Extremists
November 8, 2018 Patrice de Bergeracpas


by TED RALL


In a photo obtained by ProPublica, armed Atomwaffen members pose in the desert in Nye County, Nevada, during a weapons training session in late January 2018. They called the 3-day gathering the Death Valley Hate Camp.

Not for the first time nor the last, the U.S. has recently been hit by a wave of political violence by right-wing political extremists. People are stunned; aren’t far-right groups like the KKK and Nazi Party relics of history?

Clearly not. Package bombs mailed to Democratic politicians and celebrities, the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, another mass killing at a Florida yoga studio and the double murder of African-Americans in a Kentucky grocery store have Americans asking two questions: who’s to blame, and why didn’t the people we pay to keep us safe see this coming?

The answer to the first question can be answered in part by digging into the second: law enforcement and intelligence agencies have long had a dismal record of tracking the activities of right-wing extremist groups, much less disrupting violent plots before they can be carried out.

Considering that the right is responsible for three out of four political terrorism-related deaths, the police are failing to do their job of protecting the public from the biggest threat. (The other fourth are almost all attributable to radical Islamists. In the U.S. the political left hardly ever kills anyone.)

Turning a blind eye to right-wing violence isn’t new. “Law enforcement’s inability to reckon with the far right is a problem that goes back generations in this country,” Janet Reitman wrote in The New York Times, referencing the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

Why don’t the authorities infiltrate and eavesdrop upon the “alt-right” with as much vigor as they dedicate to disrupting peaceful left-leaning organizations like Occupy Wall Street and the anti-nuclear nuns? Why do cops spend more time monitoring political cartoonists than Klansmen and neo-Nazis? Why do they pepper-spray pacifists while “standing down”—refusing to interfere—when a Klansman shot a gun at a black counterprotester at Charlottesville?

[The Fox News effect no doubt]
The answer is as obvious as it is terrifying. America’s state security apparatus, military and civilian police, alike, view the left as enemies. To the police, right-wingers are political allies.

Which is why the police routinely creates “safe spaces” for white nationalist violence. Crazy as it sounds, they even form working partnerships with racists and anti-Semites.
Army or police? It’s becoming ever tougher to tell them apart.

Washington D.C. police conspired with far-right groups Project Veritas and the Oath Keepers to use doctored evidence to prosecute people arrested for protesting Trump’s 2017 inauguration.

There is evidence that the California Highway Patrol is working with the Traditionalist Workers Party, a neo-Nazi organization.

In June 2017 U.S. Department of Homeland Security officers at an alt-right rally in Portland, Oregon worked in tandem with right-wing militia goons to arrest liberal counterprotesters.

“With the extremes of the American political spectrum squaring off nearly every week in tense rallies and counter-protests, where violence erupts not infrequently, police are drawing outside aid from only one side: the far-right,” The Intercept reported. “The relationship works both ways: Police get help, and alt-right demonstrators are seemingly put above the law in return.”

Violent right-wing extremists don’t just work with the police. Many times they are the police.
Most cops are conservative. Quite a few are far, far right. “Federal law enforcement agencies in general — the FBI, the Marshals, the ATF — are aware that [right-wing] extremists have infiltrated state and local law enforcement agencies and that there are people in law enforcement agencies that may be sympathetic to these groups,” said Daryl Johnson, lead researcher on an Obama-era DHS report. The FBI was concerned, Johnson said last year, but local police departments don’t seem to care.

“For some reason, we have stepped away from the threat of domestic terrorism and right-wing extremism,” Samuel Jones, a law professor at the John Marshall Law School, told The Intercept. “The only way we can reconcile this kind of behavior is if we accept the possibility that the ideology that permeates white nationalists and white supremacists is something that many in our federal and law enforcement communities understand and may be in sympathy with.” It’s more than a “possibility”—police unions overwhelmingly endorsed Trump.

The military leans right too. A 2017 Military Times survey found that one out of four servicemen and servicewomen have personally observed white nationalist activist among the ranks. According to a 2018 Pro Publica report a secretive neo-Nazi group called the Atomwaffen Division, a paramilitary organization accused of five murders, has infiltrated the armed services.

Veterans voted 61%-to-34% for Trump over Clinton.

A 50-50 left-right nation ruled by right-wing cops and soldiers is about as good an idea as a black neighborhood policed by all white suburban cops. But what can we do about it?

Part of the issue is self-selection. As local policing has evolved from a protect-the-public “guardian” model to a military-influenced “warrior” mentality, the personality type of recruits and applicants has increasingly skewed toward those with authoritarian tendencies. Your local PD isn’t hearing from many Bernie-voting hipsters.

But the biggest problem is the message from the top.

I’m not just talking about Trump. Liberal Democrats like Obama and Pelosi and likeminded media personalities like those on MSNBC are no less effusive about supporting the troops and first responders while turning a blind eye to the terrible truth that many of rank-and-file soldiers and police officers, as well as their leaders, are rabid right-wingers who ought not to be allowed to own a gun, much less legally train one on a left-leaning protester at a rally.

Both major parties share the blame for atrocities like Pittsburgh.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower.
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