AuthorTopic: Official Global Police State Thread  (Read 88734 times)

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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.




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.



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.



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.”


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.



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.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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« Reply #406 on: July 10, 2018, 09:28:33 AM »

To Silicon Valley idealists, technology promises greater freedom. But in China, innovation is shepherding in an authoritarian hellscape.
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
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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.

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


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.

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.

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.

“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
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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.

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

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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.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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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" -

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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 »

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


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.

Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower.
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Re: Official Global Police State Thread
« Reply #413 on: December 03, 2018, 08:48:55 AM »

Mexico’s New President Vows To Destroy ‘New World Order’
I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

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The Canadian government are apparently mobsters! That’s the image they’re going to project if they implement “unexplained wealth orders” or UWO’s which seeks to "allow confiscation without finding the crime”. With UWOs, anyone targeted by the government would be required to prove they bought their property using “legitimate sources” of income, the province wouldn't need to show any link to criminal activity. In this video Dan Dicks of Press For Truth speaks with John Sneisen of World Alternative Media about UWO’s that go a step beyond civil forfeiture and "allow confiscation without finding the crime”.

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I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

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Trump's Wall/Cruz's Space Pirates, Tax Donkey Choices
« Reply #415 on: May 24, 2019, 08:08:19 AM »

Do We Need Space Force to Protect us from Space Pirates?


On May 14, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave a speech in support of Congress moving forward with the creation of Space Force as a new branch of the US military. Cruz gave an intriguing perspective on what the proposed new military branch would protect the country from – space pirates!

Cruz said the following in his Space Force speech at a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, which he chairs:

Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors. Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space. In this same way, I believe we, too, must now recognize the necessity of a space force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration.
I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

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Monsters with Human Faces: The Tyranny of the Police State as Law-and-Order
« Reply #416 on: July 26, 2019, 06:37:56 AM »
Monsters with Human Faces: The Tyranny of the Police State Disguised as Law-and-Order

By John W. Whitehead
July 24, 2019

“But these weren’t the kind of monsters that had tentacles and rotting skin, the kind a seven-year-old might be able to wrap his mind around—they were monsters with human faces, in crisp uniforms, marching in lockstep, so banal you don’t recognize them for what they are until it’s too late.” ― Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Enough already.

Enough with the distractions. Enough with the partisan jousting.

Enough with the sniping and name-calling and mud-slinging that do nothing to make this country safer or freer or more just.

We have let the government’s evil-doing, its abuses, power grabs, brutality, meanness, inhumanity, immorality, greed, corruption, debauchery and tyranny go on for too long.

We are approaching a reckoning.

This is the point, as the poet W. B. Yeats warned, when things fall apart and anarchy is loosed upon the world.

We have seen this convergence before in Hitler’s Germany, in Stalin’s Russia, in Mussolini’s Italy, and in Mao’s China: the rise of strongmen and demagogues, the ascendency of profit-driven politics over deep-seated principles, the warring nationalism that seeks to divide and conquer, the callous disregard for basic human rights and dignity, and the silence of people who should know better.

Yet no matter how many times the world has been down this road before, we can’t seem to avoid repeating the deadly mistakes of the past. This is not just playing out on a national and international scale. It is wreaking havoc at the most immediate level, as well, creating rifts and polarities within families and friends, neighborhoods and communities that keep the populace warring among themselves and incapable of presenting a united front in the face of the government’s goose-stepping despotism.

We are definitely in desperate need of a populace that can stand united against the government’s authoritarian tendencies.

Surely we can manage to find some common ground in the midst of the destructive, disrupting, diverting, discordant babble being beamed down at us by the powers-that-be? After all, there are certain self-evident truths—about the source of our freedoms, about the purpose of government, about how we expect to be treated by those we appoint to serve us in government offices, about what to do when the government abuses our rights and our trust, etc.—that we should be able to agree on, no matter how we might differ politically.

Disagree all you want about healthcare, abortion and immigration—hot-button issues that are guaranteed to stir up the masses, secure campaign contributions and turn political discourse into a circus free-for-all—but never forget that our power as a citizenry comes from our ability to agree and stand united on certain principles that should be non-negotiable.

For instance, for the first time in the nation’s history, it is expected that the federal deficit will surpass $1 trillion this year, not to mention the national debt which is approaching $23 trillion. There’s also $21 trillion in government spending that cannot be accounted for or explained. For those in need of a quick reminder: “A budget deficit is the difference between what the federal government spends and what it takes in. The national debt is the result of the federal government borrowing money to cover years and years of budget deficits.” Right now, the U.S. government is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad. Meanwhile, the nation’s sorely neglected infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads—is rapidly deteriorating.

Yet no matter how we might differ about how the government allocates its spending, surely we can agree that the government’s irresponsible spending, which has saddled us with insurmountable debt, is pushing the country to the edge of financial and physical ruin.

That’s just one example of many that shows the extent to which the agents of the American police state are shredding the constitutional fabric of the nation, eclipsing the rights of the American people, and perverting basic standards of decency.

Let me give you a few more.

Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)—and that’s just what the government spends on foreign wars. The U.S. military empire’s determination to police the rest of the world has resulted in more than 1.3 million U.S. troops being stationed at roughly 1000 military bases in over 150 countries around the world. That doesn’t include the number of private contractors pulling in hefty salaries at taxpayer expense. In Afghanistan, for example, private contractors outnumber U.S. troops three to one.

No matter how we might differ about the role of the U.S. military in foreign affairs, surely we can agree that America’s war spending and commitment to policing the rest of the world are bankrupting the nation and spreading our troops dangerously thin.

All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which they might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to operate a shadow government, and to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump. These presidential powers—acquired through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements and which can be activated by any sitting president—enable past, president and future presidents to operate above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution.

Yet no matter how we might differ about how success or failure of past or present presidential administrations, surely we can agree that the president should not be empowered to act as an imperial dictator with permanent powers.

Increasingly, at home, we’re facing an unbelievable show of force by government agents. For example, with alarming regularity, unarmed men, women, children and even pets are being gunned down by twitchy, hyper-sensitive, easily-spooked police officers who shoot first and ask questions later, and all the government does is shrug and promise to do better. Just recently, in fact, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals cleared a cop who aimed for a family’s dog (who showed no signs of aggression), missed, and instead shot a 10-year-old lying on the ground. Indeed, there are countless incidents that happen every day in which Americans are shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, or challenge an order. Growing numbers of unarmed people are being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

No matter how we might differ about where to draw that blue line of allegiance to the police state, surely we can agree that police shouldn’t go around terrorizing and shooting innocent, unarmed children and adults or be absolved of wrongdoing for doing so.

Nor can we turn a blind eye to the transformation of America’s penal system from one aimed at protecting society from dangerous criminals to a profit-driven system that dehumanizes and strips prisoners of every vestige of their humanity. For example, in Illinois, as part of a “training exercise” for incoming cadets, prison guards armed with batons and shields rounded up 200 handcuffed female inmates, marched them to the gymnasium, then forced them to strip naked (including removing their tampons and pads), “bend over and spread open their vaginal and anal cavities,” while male prison guards promenaded past or stood staring. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the entire dehumanizing, demoralizing mass body cavity strip search—orchestrated not for security purposes but as an exercise in humiliation—was legal. Be warned, however: this treatment will not be limited to those behind bars. In our present carceral state, there is no difference between the treatment meted out to a law-abiding citizen and a convicted felon: both are equally suspect and treated as criminals, without any of the special rights and privileges reserved for the governing elite. In a carceral state, there are only two kinds of people: the prisoners and the prison guards.

No matter how we might differ about where to draw the line when it comes to prisoners’ rights, surely we can agree that no one—woman, man or child—should be subjected to such degrading treatment in the name of law and order.

In Washington, DC, in contravention of longstanding laws that restrict the government’s ability to deploy the military on American soil, the Pentagon has embarked on a secret mission of “undetermined duration” that involves flying Black Hawk helicopters over the nation’s capital, backed by active-duty and reserve soldiers. In addition to the increasing militarization of the police—a de facto standing army—this military exercise further acclimates the nation to the sight and sounds of military personnel on American soil and the imposition of martial law.

No matter how we might differ about the deference due to those in uniform, whether military or law enforcement, surely we can agree that America’s Founders had good reason to warn against the menace of a national police force—a.k.a. a standing army—vested with the power to completely disregard the Constitution.

We labor today under the weight of countless tyrannies, large and small, disguised as “the better good,” marketed as benevolence, enforced with armed police, and carried out by an elite class of government officials who are largely insulated from the ill effects of their actions. For example, in Pennsylvania, a school district is threatening to place children in foster care if parents don’t pay their overdue school lunch bills. In Florida, a resident was fined $100,000 for a dirty swimming pool and overgrown grass at a house she no longer owned. In Kentucky, government bureaucrats sent a cease-and-desist letter to a church ministry, warning that the group is breaking the law by handing out free used eyeglasses to the homeless. These petty tyrannies inflicted on an overtaxed, overregulated, and underrepresented populace are what happens when bureaucrats run the show, and the rule of law becomes little more than a cattle prod for forcing the citizenry to march in lockstep with the government.

No matter how we might differ about the extent to which the government has the final say in how it flexes it power and exerts its authority, surely we can agree that the tyranny of the Nanny State—disguised as “the better good,” marketed as benevolence, enforced with armed police, and inflicted on all those who do not belong to the elite ruling class that gets to call the shots— should not be allowed to pave over the Constitution.

At its core, this is not a debate about politics, or constitutionalism, or even tyranny disguised as law-and-order. This is a condemnation of the monsters with human faces that have infiltrated our government.

For too long now, the American people have rationalized turning a blind eye to all manner of government wrongdoing—asset forfeiture schemes, corruption, surveillance, endless wars, SWAT team raids, militarized police, profit-driven private prisons, and so on—because they were the so-called lesser of two evils.

Yet the unavoidable truth is that the government has become almost indistinguishable from the evil it claims to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.

No matter how you rationalize it, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

So how do you fight back?

How do you fight injustice? How do you push back against tyranny? How do you vanquish evil?

You don’t fight it by hiding your head in the sand.

We have ignored the warning signs all around us for too long.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government has ripped the Constitution to shreds and left us powerless in the face of its power grabs, greed and brutality.

What we are grappling with today is a government that is cutting great roads through the very foundations of freedom in order to get after its modern devils. Yet the government can only go as far as “we the people” allow.

Therein lies the problem.

The consequences of this failure to do our due diligence in asking the right questions, demanding satisfactory answers, and holding our government officials accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law has pushed us to the brink of a nearly intolerable state of affairs.

Intolerable, at least, to those who remember what it was like to live in a place where freedom, due process and representative government actually meant something. Having allowed the government to expand and exceed our reach, we now find ourselves on the losing end of a tug-of-war over control of our country and our lives.

The hour grows late in terms of restoring the balance of power and reclaiming our freedoms, but it may not be too late. The time to act is now, using all methods of nonviolent resistance available to us.

“Don’t sit around waiting for the two corrupted established parties to restore the Constitution or the Republic,” Naomi Wolf once warned. Waiting and watching will get us nowhere fast.

If you’re watching, you’re not doing.

Easily mesmerized by the government’s political theater—the endless congressional hearings and investigations that go nowhere, the president’s reality show antics, the warring factions, the electoral drama—we have become a society of watchers rather than activists who are distracted by even the clumsiest government attempts at sleight-of-hand.

It’s time for good men and women to do something. And soon.

Wake up and take a good, hard look around you. Start by recognizing evil and injustice and tyranny for what they are. Stop being apathetic. Stop being neutral. Stop being accomplices. Stop being distracted by the political theater staged by the Deep State: they want you watching the show while they manipulate things behind the scenes. Refuse to play politics with your principles. Don’t settle for the lesser of two evils.

As British statesman Edmund Burke warned, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at Whitehead can be contacted at
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Martial law masquerading as law and order: The police state’s language of force
« Reply #417 on: September 20, 2019, 08:24:39 AM »
Martial law masquerading as law and order: The police state’s language of force

“Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? The constitutional theory is that we the people are the sovereigns, the state and federal officials only our agents. We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet.”—Justice William O. Douglas, dissenting, Colten v. Kentucky, 407 U.S. 104 (1972)

Forget everything you’ve ever been taught about free speech in America.

It’s all a lie.

There can be no free speech for the citizenry when the government speaks in a language of force.

What is this language of force?

Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality.

This is not the language of freedom.

This is not even the language of law and order.

This is the language of force.

Unfortunately, this is how the government at all levels—federal, state and local—now responds to those who choose to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble in public and challenge the status quo.

This police overkill isn’t just happening in troubled hot spots such as Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, Md., where police brutality gave rise to civil unrest, which was met with a militarized show of force that caused the whole stew of discontent to bubble over into violence.

A decade earlier, the NYPD engaged in mass arrests of peaceful protesters, bystanders, legal observers and journalists who had gathered for the 2004 Republican National Convention. The protesters were subjected to blanket fingerprinting and detained for more than 24 hours at a “filthy, toxic pier that had been a bus depot.” That particular exercise in police intimidation tactics cost New York City taxpayers nearly $18 million for what would become the largest protest settlement in history.

Demonstrators, journalists and legal observers who had gathered in North Dakota to peacefully protest the Dakota Access Pipeline reported being pepper sprayed, beaten with batons, and strip searched by police.

In the college town of Charlottesville, Va., protesters who took to the streets to peacefully express their disapproval of a planned KKK rally were held at bay by implacable lines of gun-wielding riot police. Only after a motley crew of Klansmen had been safely escorted to and from the rally by black-garbed police did the assembled army of city, county and state police declare the public gathering unlawful and proceed to unleash canisters of tear gas on the few remaining protesters to force them to disperse.

More recently, this militarized exercise in intimidation—complete with an armored vehicle and an army of police drones—reared its ugly head in the small town of Dahlonega, Ga., where 600 state and local militarized police clad in full riot gear vastly outnumbered the 50 protesters and 150 counterprotesters who had gathered to voice their approval/disapproval of the Trump administration’s policies.

To be clear, this is the treatment being meted out to protesters across the political spectrum.

The police state does not discriminate.

As a USA Today article notes, “Federally arming police with weapons of war silences protesters across all justice movements… People demanding justice, demanding accountability or demanding basic human rights without resorting to violence, should not be greeted with machine guns and tanks. Peaceful protest is democracy in action. It is a forum for those who feel disempowered or disenfranchised. Protesters should not have to face intimidation by weapons of war.”

A militarized police response to protesters poses a danger to all those involved, protesters and police alike. In fact, militarization makes police more likely to turn to violence to solve problems.

As a study by researchers at Stanford University makes clear, “When law enforcement receives more military materials — weapons, vehicles and tools — it becomes … more likely to jump into high-risk situations. Militarization makes every problem — even a car of teenagers driving away from a party — look like a nail that should be hit with an AR-15 hammer.”

Even the color of a police officer’s uniform adds to the tension. As the Department of Justice reports, “Some research has suggested that the uniform color can influence the wearer—with black producing aggressive tendencies, tendencies that may produce unnecessary conflict between police and the very people they serve.”

You want to turn a peaceful protest into a riot?

Bring in the militarized police with their guns and black uniforms and warzone tactics and “comply or die” mindset. Ratchet up the tension across the board. Take what should be a healthy exercise in constitutional principles (free speech, assembly and protest) and turn it into a lesson in authoritarianism.

Mind you, those who respond with violence are playing into the government’s hands perfectly.

The government wants a reason to crack down and lock down and bring in its biggest guns.

They want us divided. They want us to turn on one another.

They want us powerless in the face of their artillery and armed forces.

They want us silent, servile and compliant.

They certainly do not want us to remember that we have rights, let alone attempting to exercise those rights peaceably and lawfully.

And they definitely do not want us to engage in First Amendment activities that challenge the government’s power, reveal the government’s corruption, expose the government’s lies, and encourage the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices.

You know how one mayor characterized the tear gassing of protesters by riot police? He called it an “unfortunate event.”

Unfortunate, indeed.

You know what else is unfortunate?

It’s unfortunate that these overreaching, heavy-handed lessons in how to rule by force have become standard operating procedure for a government that communicates with its citizenry primarily through the language of brutality, intimidation and fear.

It’s unfortunate that “we the people” have become the proverbial nails to be hammered into submission by the government and its vast armies.

And it’s particularly unfortunate that government officials—especially police—seem to believe that anyone who wears a government uniform (soldier, police officer, prison guard) must be obeyed without question.

In other words, “we the people” are the servants in the government’s eyes rather than the masters.

The government’s rationale goes like this:

Do exactly what I say, and we’ll get along fine. Do not question me or talk back in any way. You do not have the right to object to anything I may say or ask you to do, or ask for clarification if my demands are unclear or contradictory. You must obey me under all circumstances without hesitation, no matter how arbitrary, unreasonable, discriminatory, or blatantly racist my commands may be. Anything other than immediate perfect servile compliance will be labeled as resisting arrest, and expose you to the possibility of a violent reaction from me. That reaction could cause you severe injury or even death. And I will suffer no consequences. It’s your choice: Comply, or die.

Indeed, as Officer Sunil Dutta of the Los Angeles Police Department advises:

If you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me.

This is not the rhetoric of a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people.

This is not the attitude of someone who understands, let alone respects, free speech.

And this is certainly not what I would call “community policing,” which is supposed to emphasize the importance of the relationship between the police and the community they serve.

Indeed, this is martial law masquerading as law and order.

Any police officer who tells you that he needs tanks, SWAT teams, and pepper spray to do his job shouldn’t be a police officer in a constitutional republic.

All that stuff in the First Amendment (about freedom of speech, religion, press, peaceful assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances) sounds great in theory. However, it amounts to little more than a hill of beans if you have to exercise those freedoms while facing down an army of police equipped with deadly weapons, surveillance devices, and a slew of laws that empower them to arrest and charge citizens with bogus “contempt of cop” charges (otherwise known as asserting your constitutional rights).

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There are other, far better models to follow.

For instance, back in 2011, the St. Louis police opted to employ a passive response to Occupy St. Louis activists. First, police gave the protesters nearly 36 hours’ notice to clear the area, as opposed to the 20 to 60 minutes’ notice other cities gave. Then, as journalist Brad Hicks reports, when the police finally showed up:

They didn’t show up in riot gear and helmets, they showed up in shirt sleeves with their faces showing. They not only didn’t show up with SWAT gear, they showed up with no unusual weapons at all, and what weapons they had all securely holstered. They politely woke everybody up. They politely helped everybody who was willing to remove their property from the park to do so. They then asked, out of the 75 to 100 people down there, how many people were volunteering for being-arrested duty? Given 33 hours to think about it, and 10 hours to sweat it over, only 27 volunteered. As the police already knew, those people’s legal advisers had advised them not to even passively resist, so those 27 people lined up to be peacefully arrested, and were escorted away by a handful of cops. The rest were advised to please continue to protest, over there on the sidewalk … and what happened next was the most absolutely brilliant piece of crowd control policing I have heard of in my entire lifetime. All of the cops who weren’t busy transporting and processing the voluntary arrestees lined up, blocking the stairs down into the plaza. They stood shoulder to shoulder. They kept calm and silent. They positioned the weapons on their belts out of sight. They crossed their hands low in front of them, in exactly the least provocative posture known to man. And they peacefully, silently, respectfully occupied the plaza, using exactly the same non-violent resistance techniques that the protesters themselves had been trained in.

As Forbes concluded, “This is a more humane, less costly, and ultimately more productive way to handle a protest. This is great proof that police can do it the old fashioned way—using their brains and common sense instead of tanks, SWAT teams, and pepper spray—and have better results.”

It can be done.

Police will not voluntarily give up their gadgets and war toys and combat tactics, however. Their training and inclination towards authoritarianism has become too ingrained.

If we are to have any hope of dismantling the police state, change must start locally, community by community. Citizens will have to demand that police de-escalate and de-militarize. And if the police don’t listen, contact your city councils and put the pressure on them.

Remember, they are supposed to work for us. They might not like hearing it—they certainly won’t like being reminded of it—but we pay their salaries with our hard-earned tax dollars.

“We the people” have got to stop accepting the lame excuses trotted out by police as justifications for their inexcusable behavior.

Either “we the people” believe in free speech or we don’t.

Either we live in a constitutional republic or a police state.

We have rights.

As Justice William O. Douglas advised in his dissent in Colten v. Kentucky, “we need not stay docile and quiet” in the face of authority.

The Constitution does not require Americans to be servile or even civil to government officials.

Neither does the Constitution require obedience (although it does insist on nonviolence).

This emphasis on nonviolence goes both ways. Somehow, the government keeps overlooking this important element in the equation.

There is nothing safe or secure or free about exercising your rights with a rifle pointed at you.

The police officer who has been trained to shoot first and ask questions later, oftentimes based only on their highly subjective “feeling” of being threatened, is just as much of a danger—if not more—as any violence that might erupt from a protest rally.

Compliance is no guarantee of safety.

Then again, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if we just cower before government agents and meekly obey, we may find ourselves following in the footsteps of those nations that eventually fell to tyranny.

The alternative involves standing up and speaking truth to power. Jesus Christ walked that road. So did Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and countless other freedom fighters whose actions changed the course of history.

Indeed, had Christ merely complied with the Roman police state, there would have been no crucifixion and no Christian religion. Had Gandhi meekly fallen in line with the British Empire’s dictates, the Indian people would never have won their independence.

Had Martin Luther King Jr. obeyed the laws of his day, there would have been no civil rights movement. And if the founding fathers had marched in lockstep with royal decrees, there would have been no American Revolution.

We must adopt a different mindset and follow a different path if we are to alter the outcome of these interactions with police.

The American dream was built on the idea that no one is above the law, that our rights are inalienable and cannot be taken away, and that our government and its appointed agents exist to serve us.

It may be that things are too far gone to save, but still we must try.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president ofThe Rutherford Institute. His book Battlefield America: The War on theAmerican People is available online at Whitehead can becontacted at Information about The Rutherford Institute isavailable at

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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👮 More Slayings at Parchman as Mississippi Confronts Prison Crisis
« Reply #418 on: January 23, 2020, 03:56:59 AM »

More Slayings at Parchman as Mississippi Confronts Prison Crisis

Several inmates have been killed in Mississippi prisons in the past month, a crisis that underscores the dangers of a system the state’s new governor has called a “catastrophe.”

Two more inmates were killed this week at the state penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., shortly after a burst of violence across the state that left five inmates dead.Credit...Andrea Morales for The New York Times

By Rick Rojas

    Jan. 21, 2020

ATLANTA — Prison officials in Mississippi said on Tuesday that two inmates were beaten to death at the state penitentiary in Parchman, coming after a burst of violence across the state that left five inmates dead and underscored the troubles facing a correctional system the new governor has called a “catastrophe.”

Parchman, a maximum-security prison notorious for its harsh conditions, has been on lockdown since a gang-fueled spate of violence and disorder several weeks ago. Critics have urged federal officials to investigate conditions they have condemned as unconstitutional and inhumane, and 29 inmates filed a lawsuit last week against state officials, casting the recent killings as the “culmination of years of severe understaffing and neglect.”

In a statement, prison officials disclosed few details about the circumstances surrounding the most recent killings. Heather Burton, the coroner for Sunflower County, Miss., said both inmates had been killed by blunt force trauma and were pronounced dead on Tuesday morning.

“It appears to be an isolated incident — not a continuation of the recent retaliatory killings,” the Department of Corrections said in the statement, referring to the previous violence that officials have attributed to warring gangs. “We are investigating further now.”

Separately, an inmate was found dead in his cell on Saturday night, officials said, in an apparent suicide. The inmate was being held in Unit 29, a section that officials have been trying to clear because it has fallen into disrepair.

The turmoil at Parchman — and in other state prisons across Mississippi — has become one of the most pressing issues confronting Gov. Tate Reeves, who took office last week. On Tuesday, he wrote on Twitter that there was “much more to be done here.”

Mr. Reeves has formed a search committee to find a new commissioner for the Department of Corrections, an agency gripped by crisis over the deteriorating state of its facilities and its struggle to hire corrections officers who are willing to work in dangerous environments for low pay.

All the prisons across Mississippi were locked down after the explosion of gang violence, but Parchman is the only facility still under those restrictions. While gangs have driven the unrest, activists and inmates have said that a severely underfunded and understaffed prison system has been a contributing factor.

In a letter calling for a federal investigation, a collection of civil rights groups and elected officials detailed a long record of violence, escapes, uprisings and inadequate health care, as well as “extreme” staff vacancies that have allowed the facilities to become a breeding ground for chaos.

Inmates using illegal cellphones have also illuminated the conditions inside by sending out photographs and videos showing wounds possibly caused by rubber bullets, meals without any protein, dead rodents and walls darkened by mold.

“These inhumane conditions are unconstitutional,” a group of inmates declared in a federal lawsuit filed last week. The legal effort is being backed by the rappers Jay-Z and Yo Gotti.

“Plaintiffs’ lives are in peril,” the lawsuit said, adding that inmates have died as a “direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights.”

The prison system has been among the most urgent matters facing the governor and lawmakers as they start a new legislative session. Mr. Reeves has asked a group of prosecutors and law enforcement officials, led by Mayor George Flaggs Jr. of Vicksburg, to find a replacement for Pelicia E. Hall, the former prison commissioner who announced her resignation in late December and stepped down last week to take a private sector job.

The agency is being led in the interim by Thomas Taylor, a former state lawmaker and mayor of Boyle, a town of roughly 600 people in the Mississippi Delta. Mr. Reeves said in a statement that he had also asked the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to assign an officer to Parchman to conduct an investigation and “bring order and root out the underlying issues.”

“Can we do more to provide for peace? I believe we can,” Mr. Reeves said. “To do so, we must get to the heart of the problem. And it starts with bringing order to Parchman.”
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