Posts Tagged ‘police state USSA’

Surveillance companies like Axon hope to turn every law enforcement officer into a data-gathering drone for a bodycam surveillance database they privately control. Now ShotSpotter, a listening technology that triangulates gunfire in “urban, high-crime areas,” announced a planned IPO.

Above: ShotSpotter mobile app integrated with Google data, showing Oakland California.
They are also expanding from “urban” neighborhoods to a college campus near you. From the submission:
Our solutions consist of our highly-specialized, cloud-based software integrated with our proprietary, internet-enabled sensors and communication networks. When a potential gunfire incident is detected by our sensors, our software analyzes and validates the data and precisely locates where the incident occurred. An alert containing a location on a map and critical information about the incident is transmitted directly to law enforcement or security personnel through any internet-connected computer and to iPhone® or Android mobile devices.
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November 02, 2016

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. —The Rutherford Institute has asked a federal appeals court to safeguard the right of citizens and journalists to record police in public without fear of retaliation. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that the First Amendment protects the right of citizens to make audio or video recordings of public law enforcement activities.

The brief was filed in a consolidated appeal of two cases in which a federal district court ruled that police and the City of Philadelphia could not be sued by persons who were arrested or physically assaulted by officers allegedly because they had made video recordings of police engaged in quelling disturbances.

“Police body cameras will never serve as an effective check on police misconduct as long the cameras can be turned on and off at will and the footage remains inaccessible to the public. However, technology makes it possible for Americans to record their own interactions with police and they have every right to do so without fear of arrest or physical assault,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People.  “The ability to record police interactions in public provides for greater accountability when it comes to police interactions with the citizenry and should be preserved as a necessary right of the people.”

In September 2012, Amanda Geraci, a legal observer who monitors police interactions with citizens at protests or demonstrations, attended a protest against fracking at the convention center in Philadelphia. When police arrested one of the protesters, Geraci moved to a spot where she could better observe and make a video recording of the incident. According to Geraci, a city police officer subsequently attacked her by physically restraining her against a pillar and preventing her from videotaping the arrest.

In a separate incident, Temple University student Richard Fields was walking on Broad Street in Philadelphia when he saw about 20 police officers standing outside a house that was hosting a party. Fields took a photograph of the scene with his cell phone. An officer then approached Fields, asked if Fields “likes taking pictures of grown men,” and ordered him to leave. When Fields refused, the officer handcuffed and arrested him, searched his belongings, and charged him with obstructing a public passage. That charge was eventually dropped. Both Geraci and Fields filed lawsuits asserting that the police retaliated against them for exercising their First Amendment right to record police activities in public.

In ruling on the lawsuits, a federal district court declared that there was no clearly established right under the First Amendment to record police activities and that a person only has the right to record police in public if they can assert there was some “expressive” purpose for the recording. In weighing in on the cases before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Rutherford Institute attorneys point out that the district court’s decision conflicts with numerous rulings from other courts that have affirmed a First Amendment right to collect information about government activities, and specifically to record police carrying out their duties in public.

In ruling on the lawsuits, a federal district court declared that there was no clearly established right under the First Amendment to record police activities and that a person only has the right to record police in public if they can assert there was some “expressive” purpose for the recording. In weighing in on the cases before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Rutherford Institute attorneys point out that the district court’s decision conflicts with numerous rulings from other courts that have affirmed a First Amendment right to collect information about government activities, and specifically to record police carrying out their duties in public.

Affiliate attorneys Jason P. Gosselin and Christopher F. Moriarty assisted The Rutherford Institute advancing the arguments in the Fields and Geraci brief.

Via The Rutherford Institute here

REUTERS

Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified

Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

According to two of the former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc.

“Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” the company said in a brief statement in response to Reuters questions about the demand. Yahoo declined any further comment.

Through a Facebook spokesman, Stamos declined a request for an interview.

The NSA referred questions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which declined to comment.

The request to search Yahoo Mail accounts came in the form of a classified edict sent to the company’s legal team, according to the three people familiar with the matter.

U.S. phone and Internet companies are known to have handed over bulk customer data to intelligence agencies. But some former government officials and private surveillance experts said they had not previously seen either such a broad demand for real-time Web collection or one that required the creation of a new computer program.

“I’ve never seen that, a wiretap in real time on a ‘selector,'” said Albert Gidari, a lawyer who represented phone and Internet companies on surveillance issues for 20 years before moving to Stanford University this year. A selector refers to a type of search term used to zero in on specific information.

“It would be really difficult for a provider to do that,” he added.

Experts said it was likely that the NSA or FBI had approached other Internet companies with the same demand, since they evidently did not know what email accounts were being used by the target. The NSA usually makes requests for domestic surveillance through the FBI, so it is hard to know which agency is seeking the information.

Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, two major U.S. email service providers, separately said on Tuesday that they had not conducted such email searches.

“We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘No way’,” a spokesman for Google said in a statement.

A Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement, “We have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo.” The company declined to comment on whether it had received such a request.

CHALLENGING THE NSA

Under laws including the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, intelligence agencies can ask U.S. phone and Internet companies to provide customer data to aid foreign intelligence-gathering efforts for a variety of reasons, including prevention of terrorist attacks.

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others have exposed the extent of electronic surveillance and led U.S. authorities to modestly scale back some of the programs, in part to protect privacy rights.

Companies including Yahoo have challenged some classified surveillance before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret tribunal.

Some FISA experts said Yahoo could have tried to fight last year’s demand on at least two grounds: the breadth of the directive and the necessity of writing a special program to search all customers’ emails in transit.

Apple Inc made a similar argument earlier this year when it refused to create a special program to break into an encrypted iPhone used in the 2015 San Bernardino massacre. The FBI dropped the case after it unlocked the phone with the help of a third party, so no precedent was set.

“It is deeply disappointing that Yahoo declined to challenge this sweeping surveillance order, because customers are counting on technology companies to stand up to novel spying demands in court,” Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

Some FISA experts defended Yahoo’s decision to comply, saying nothing prohibited the surveillance court from ordering a search for a specific term instead of a specific account. So-called “upstream” bulk collection from phone carriers based on content was found to be legal, they said, and the same logic could apply to Web companies’ mail.

As tech companies become better at encrypting data, they are likely to face more such requests from spy agencies.

Former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker said email providers “have the power to encrypt it all, and with that comes added responsibility to do some of the work that had been done by the intelligence agencies.”

SECRET SIPHONING PROGRAM

Mayer and other executives ultimately decided to comply with the directive last year rather than fight it, in part because they thought they would lose, said the people familiar with the matter.

Yahoo in 2007 had fought a FISA demand that it conduct searches on specific email accounts without a court-approved warrant. Details of the case remain sealed, but a partially redacted published opinion showed Yahoo’s challenge was unsuccessful.

Some Yahoo employees were upset about the decision not to contest the more recent edict and thought the company could have prevailed, the sources said.

They were also upset that Mayer and Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell did not involve the company’s security team in the process, instead asking Yahoo’s email engineers to write a program to siphon off messages containing the character string the spies sought and store them for remote retrieval, according to the sources.

The sources said the program was discovered by Yahoo’s security team in May 2015, within weeks of its installation. The security team initially thought hackers had broken in.

When Stamos found out that Mayer had authorized the program, he resigned as chief information security officer and told his subordinates that he had been left out of a decision that hurt users’ security, the sources said. Due to a programming flaw, he told them hackers could have accessed the stored emails.

Stamos’s announcement in June 2015 that he had joined Facebook did not mention any problems with Yahoo. (bit.ly/2dL003k)

In a separate incident, Yahoo last month said “state-sponsored” hackers had gained access to 500 million customer accounts in 2014. The revelations have brought new scrutiny to Yahoo’s security practices as the company tries to complete a deal to sell its core business to Verizon Communications Inc for $4.8 billion.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Tiffany Wu)

source

 

Via THE RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE

PORTLAND, Oregon — Citing a lack of evidence, federal prosecutors have dismissed the government’s conspiracy charge against radio shock jock Pete Santilli, a new media journalist who was arrested and charged in connection with his reporting on the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon. The dismissal came on the eve of Santilli’s trial.

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute advised Santilli’s court-appointed attorney, Thomas Coan, on the First Amendment protections for Santilli’s activities as a journalist. Santilli is the only journalist among those who were charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers from discharging their duties by use of force, intimidation, or threats. However, Santilli was charged solely as a reporter of information and not as an accomplice to any criminal activity.

In coming to Santilli’s defense, Institute attorneys warned that Santilli’s case followed a pattern by the government of intimidating journalists whose reporting portrays the government in a negative light or encourages citizens to challenge government injustice and wrongdoing.

The Rutherford Institute’s memorandum on the First Amendment rights of journalists and the government’s complaint regarding Santilli are available at www.rutherford.org.

“The FBI’s prosecution of this radio shock jock has been consistent with the government’s ongoing attempts to intimidate members of the press who portray the government in a less than favorable light,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “This is not a new tactic. During the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, numerous journalists were arrested while covering the regions’ civil unrest and the conditions that spawned that unrest. These attempts to muzzle the press were clearly concerted, top-down efforts to restrict the fundamental First Amendment rights of the public and the press. Not only does this tactic silence individual journalists, but it has a chilling effect on the press as a whole, signaling that they will become the target of the government if they report on these events with a perspective that casts the government in a bad light.”

In early January 2016, a group of armed activists, reportedly protesting the federal government’s management of federal lands and its prosecution of two local ranchers convicted of arson, staged an act of civil disobedience by occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon. Broadcaster Pete Santilli, who has covered such protests in the past, including the April 2014 standoff in Nevada between the Bundy ranching family and the federal government over grazing rights, described himself as an embedded journalist reporting on the occupation in Burns. Santilli did not participate in the takeover of the refuge, nor did he reside on the grounds of the refuge.

However, as a self-described “shock jock” who uses “colorful language,” Santilli was vocal about his commitment to exercising his First Amendment rights in a nonviolent, peaceful fashion and the need for others to do so as well. When asked to clarify his role in relation to the occupation, Santilli declared, “My role is the same here that it was at the Bundy ranch. To talk about the constitutional implications of what is going on here. The Constitution cannot be negotiated.” Santilli also took pains to emphasize during his broadcasts that the only weapon he is using is the First Amendment: “I’m not armed. I am armed with my mouth. I’m armed with my live stream. I’m armed with a coalition of like-minded individuals who sit at home and on YouTube watch this.” In the wake of a roadblock that resulted in the arrests of several key leaders of the occupation and the killing of another, Santilli was arrested and eventually indicted with conspiracy to impede federal officers.

This press release is also available at www.rutherford.org.

The Aging Rebel has covered this clusterfuck from day 1,he even wrote a book about it.

This case is .gov/police state abuse of power run amok,there’s so much wrong with the case that it’s insanity that those arrested the day of the police state instigated and committed the “Waco Biker Massacre”,or “Outlaw Biker Gang War” or whatever bullshit MSM name that’s been bandied around about this clusterfuck,have not yet had their day in court.

(How’s that for a run on sentence?)

“The great mystery of this case has always been who the federal agents were who contrived this intelligence gathering Mongolian Charlie Fox. Someone other than the witnesses who were arrested conspired to manufacture the confrontation at the Twin Peaks. Somebody thought quarantining the area with militarized police and surrounding the restaurant with video cameras might help ongoing federal investigations into both the Bandidos and Cossacks Motorcycle Clubs.

The most important thing about Sparks’ ruling Tuesday may be that now no one will ever know who that was.”

RTWT @ The Aging Rebel here

 

“Some criminal in the upper midwest is still running around with the selective-fire M4 that an ATF agent left in his G-ride while doing the horizontal bop with another ATF agent, unbeknownst to either’s spouse. No ATF employee was ever investigated on that case, either. Brandon’s answer? More power to the lawless agents that released that firearm into the wild.”

RTWT @ Weaponsman here

 

By John W. Whitehead
June 28, 2016

“Our carceral state banishes American citizens to a gray wasteland far beyond the promises and protections the government grants its other citizens… When the doors finally close and one finds oneself facing banishment to the carceral state—the years, the walls, the rules, the guards, the inmates—reactions vary. Some experience an intense sickening feeling. Others, a strong desire to sleep. Visions of suicide. A deep shame. A rage directed toward guards and other inmates. Utter disbelief. The incarcerated attempt to hold on to family and old social ties through phone calls and visitations. At first, friends and family do their best to keep up. But phone calls to prison are expensive, and many prisons are located far from one’s hometown… As the visits and phone calls diminish, the incarcerated begins to adjust to the fact that he or she is, indeed, a prisoner. New social ties are cultivated. New rules must be understood.”—Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

In a carceral state—a.k.a. a prison state or a police state—there is no Fourth Amendment to protect you from the overreaches, abuses, searches and probing eyes of government overlords.

In a 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.

With every new law enacted by federal and state legislatures, every new ruling handed down by government courts, and every new military weapon, invasive tactic and egregious protocol employed by government agents, “we the people”—the prisoners of the American police state—are being pushed that much further into a corner, our backs against the prison wall.

This concept of a carceral state in which we possess no rights except for that which the government grants on an as-needed basis is the only way I can begin to comprehend, let alone articulate, the irrational, surreal, topsy-turvy, through-the-looking-glass state of affairs that is being imposed upon us in America today.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we who pretend we are free are no different from those who spend their lives behind bars.

Indeed, we are experiencing much the same phenomenon that journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates ascribes to those who are banished to a “gray wasteland far beyond the promises and protections the government grants its other citizens” : a sickening feeling, a desire to sleep, hopelessness, shame, rage, disbelief, clinginess to the past and that which is familiar, and then eventually resignation and acceptance of our new “normal.”

All that we are experiencing—the sense of dread at what is coming down the pike, the desperation, the apathy about government corruption, the deeply divided partisanship, the carnivalesque political spectacles, the public displays of violence, the nostalgia for the past—are part of the dying refrain of an America that is fading fast.

No longer must the government obey the law.

Likewise, “we the people” are no longer shielded by the rule of law.

While the First Amendment—which gives us a voice—is being muzzled, the Fourth Amendment—which protects us from being bullied, badgered, beaten, broken and spied on by government agents—is being disemboweled.

For instance, in a recent 5-3 ruling in Utah v. Strieff, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for police to stop, arrest and search citizens without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, effectively giving police a green light to embark on a fishing expedition of one’s person and property, rendering Americans completely vulnerable to the whims of any cop on the beat.

In a blistering dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor blasted the court for holding “that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.” Sotomayor continued:

This Court has allowed an officer to stop you for whatever reason he wants—so long as he can point to a pretextual justification after the fact. That justification must provide specific reasons why the officer suspected you were breaking the law, but it may factor in your ethnicity, where you live, what you were wearing, and how you behaved. The officer does not even need to know which law you might have broken so long as he can later point to any possible infraction—even one that is minor, unrelated, or ambiguous.

The indignity of the stop is not limited to an officer telling you that you look like a criminal. The officer may next ask for your “consent” to inspect your bag or purse without telling you that you can decline. Regardless of your answer, he may order you to stand “helpless, perhaps facing a wall with [your] hands raised.” If the officer thinks you might be dangerous, he may then “frisk” you for weapons. This involves more than just a pat down. As onlookers pass by, the officer may “‘feel with sensitive fingers every portion of [your] body. A thorough search [may] be made of [your] arms and armpits, waistline and back, the groin and area about the testicles, and entire surface of the legs down to the feet.’”

If you still can’t read the writing on the wall, Sotomayor breaks it down further: “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong… So long as the target is one of the many millions of people in this country with an outstanding arrest warrant, anything the officer finds in a search is fair game for use in a criminal prosecution. The officer’s incentive to violate the Constitution thus increases…”

Just consider some of the many other ways in which the Fourth Amendment—which ensures that the government can’t harass you, let alone even investigate you, without probable cause—has been weakened and undermined by the courts, the legislatures and various government agencies and operatives.

Breath tests, blood draws: Americans have no protection against mandatory breathalyzer tests at a police checkpoint, although mandatory blood draws violate the Fourth Amendment (Birchfield v. North Dakota).

Ignorance of the law is defensible if you work for the government: Police officers who violate the law can be granted qualified immunity if they claim ignorance of the law (Heien v. North Carolina). That rationale was also applied to police who clearly used excessive force when they repeatedly tasered a pregnant woman during a routine traffic stop and were granted immunity from prosecution (Brooks v. City of Seattle).

Highspeed car chases: Police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits (Plumhoff v. Rickard).

Noknock raids: Police can perform a “no-knock” as long as they have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile or give occupants a chance to destroy evidence of a crime (Richards v. Wisconsin). Legal ownership of a firearm is also enough to justify a no-knock raid by police (Quinn v. Texas).

Warrantless searches by police: Police can carry out warrantless searches on our homes based on a “reasonable” concern by police that a suspect (or occupant) might be attempting to destroy evidence, fleeing or hurt, even if it’s the wrong house (Kentucky v. King). Police can also, without a warrant, search anyone who has been lawfully arrested (United States v. Robinson) as well as their property post-arrest (Colorado v. Bertine) and their vehicle (New York v. Belton), search a car they suspect might contain evidence of a crime (Chambers v. Maroney), and search a home when the arrest is made on its premises (Maryland v. Buie).

Forced DNA extractions: Police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime. Innocent or not, your DNA will then be stored in the national FBI database (Maryland v. King).

Strip searches: Police can subject Americans to virtual strip searches, no matter the “offense” (Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington). This “license to probe” is now being extended to roadside stops, as police officers throughout the country have begun performing roadside strip searches—some involving anal and vaginal probes—without any evidence of wrongdoing and without a warrant.

Seizures: For all intents and purposes, you’re “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment from the moment an officer stops you (Brendlin v. California).

Search warrants on a leash: Police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes,” justifying any and all police searches of vehicles stopped on the roadside (Florida v. Harris), but the use of a K-9 unit after a reasonable amount of time has passed during a stop does violate the Fourth Amendment (Rodriguez v. United States).

Police and DUI Checkpoints: Police can conduct sobriety and “information-seeking” checkpoints (Illinois v. Lidster and Mich. Dept of State Police v. Sitz).

Interrogating public transit passengers: Police officers are free to board a bus, question passengers, and ask for consent to search without notifying them of their right to refuse (U.S v. Drayton).

Warrantless arrests for minor criminal offenses: Police can arrest you for minor criminal offenses, such as a misdemeanor seatbelt violation, punishable only by a fine (Atwater v. City of Lago Vista).

Stop and identify: Refusing to answer when a policeman asks “What’s your name?” can rightfully be considered a crime. No longer do Americans, even those not charged with any crime, have the right to remain altogether silent when stopped and questioned by a police officer (Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada).

Traffic stops: As long as police have reasonable cause to believe that a traffic violation occurred, they may stop any vehicle (Whren v. U.S.). If probable cause justifies a vehicle search, then every part of the vehicle can be searched (U.S. v. Ross). A vehicle can be stopped even if the driver has not committed a traffic offense (U.S. v. Cortez).

Anonymous tips, careful driving, rigid posture and acne: Police officers can stop cars based only on “anonymous” tips (Navarette v. California). Police can also pull you over if you are driving too carefully, with a rigid posture, taking a scenic route, and have acne (U.S. v. Westhoven).

What many Americans fail to understand is the devastating amount of damage that can be done to one’s freedoms long before a case ever makes its way to court by government agents who are violating the Fourth Amendment at every turn. This is how freedoms, long undermined, can give way to tyranny through constant erosion and become part of the fabric of the police state through constant use.

Phone and email surveillance, databases for dissidents, threat assessments, terror watch lists, militarized police, SWAT team raids, security checkpoints, lockdowns, roadside strip searches: there was a time when any one of these encroachments on our Fourth Amendment rights would have roused the public to outrage. Today, such violations are shrugged off matter-of-factly by Americans who have been assiduously groomed to accept the intrusions of the police state into their private lives.

So when you hear about the FBI hacking into Americans’ computers without a warrant with the blessing of the courts, or states assembling and making public terror watch lists containing the names of those who are merely deemed suspicious, or the police knocking on the doors of activists in advance of political gatherings to ascertain their plans for future protests, or administrative government agencies (such as the FDA, Small Business Administration, Smithsonian, Social Security, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Mint, and Department of Education) spending millions on guns and ammunition, don’t just matter-of-factly file it away in that part of your brain reserved for things you may not like but over which you have no control.

It’s true that there may be little the average person can do to push back against the police state on a national level, but there remains some hope at the local level as long as we retain a speck of our independence and individuality—as long as we can resist the defeatist sense of double-consciousness (a phrase coined by W. E. B. Du Bois in which we view ourselves as inferior through the prism of our oppressors)—as long as we continue to cry out for justice for ourselves and those around us—as long as we refuse to be shackled and made prisoners—and as long as we continue to recognize that the only way the police state can truly acquire and retain power is if we relinquish it through our negligence, complacence and ignorance.

Unfortunately, we have been utterly brainwashed into believing the government’s propaganda and lies. Americans actually celebrate with perfect sincerity the anniversary of our independence from Great Britain without ever owning up to the fact that we are as oppressed now—more so, perhaps, thanks to advances in technology—than we ever were when Redcoats stormed through doorways and subjected colonists to the vagaries of a police state.

You see, by gradually whittling away at our freedoms—free speech, assembly, due process, privacy, etc.—the government has, in effect, liberated itself from its contractual agreement to respect our constitutional rights while resetting the calendar back to a time when we had no Bill of Rights to protect us from the long arm of the government.

Aided and abetted by the legislatures, the courts and Corporate America, the government has been busily rewriting the contract (a.k.a. the Constitution) that establishes the citizenry as the masters and agents of the government as the servants. We are now only as good as we are useful, and our usefulness is calculated on an economic scale by how much we are worth—in terms of profit and resale value—to our “owners.”

Under the new terms of this one-sided agreement, the government and its many operatives have all the privileges and rights and “we the prisoners” have none.

As Sotomayor concluded in her ringing dissent in Utah v. Strieff:

By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged. We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.

This commentary is also
available at www.rutherford.org.

fbi-terrorist-plotBy William N. Grigg

The FBI once again appears to have averted a terrorist plot of its own manufacture by arresting 57-year-old William Keebler, a man from Stockton, Utah described in press accounts as a militia organizer exhibiting an “extreme hatred” for the federal government. A vociferous critic of the federal Bureau of Land Management who was present during the April 2014 standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, Keebler was a close friend of the late LaVoy Finicum. FBI agents arrested  Keebler in Nephi, Utah Wednesday morning after he allegedly attempted to bomb a vacant cabin owned by the BLM.

According to a federal charging document, for the past several months FBI undercover operatives have been members of Keebler’s militia, the Patriots Defense Force, which met at his home in Stockton, Utah. On many occasions, he expressed the entirely reasonable view that “the BLM was overreaching their authority to implement grazing restrictions on ranchers” and insisted that state and local governments, rather than Washington, should be in charge of public lands in the western States.

Predicting that future confrontations with the Feds might make violent resistance necessary, Keebler reportedly conducted training exercises and “talked about gathering intelligence on potential targets,” such as the BLM office in Salt Lake City. He made it clear, however, that “he didn’t plan on blowing people up for now”; the federal probable cause affidavit characterizes Keebler’s attitude as wanting his group “to be prepared to escalate things, and take people out if necessary.”

Last April, a federal informant “tasked with building Keebler an explosive device” — the charging document, significantly, doesn’t specify by whom the informant had been “tasked” — showed the subject a video of “a 6-inch pipe bomb blowing up some abandoned furniture in the mountains of southern Utah.” That overt act, which was carried out by a federal asset without (as far as the available evidence shows) Keebler’s approval, advance knowledge, or involvement, is described as an act in which he “maliciously damage[d]” and “destroy[ed] … personal or real property.

A few weeks later, Keebler allegedly selected the abandoned BLM cabin in Arizona as a target. The FBI-controlled informant produced what he described as two pipe bombs — one to be placed at the target and detonated via remote control, the other “was to be used against law enforcement” in the event this was necessary. Late Tuesday night (June 21), someone — the document doesn’t specify who it was — placed “an inert explosive device … against the door of one of the BLM cabins in Mount Turnbull. After the device was placed against the door, Keebler was handed a remote detonation device. Keebler then pushed the detonator button multiple times in order to remotely detonate the inert explosive.” He then departed for Utah, where FBI agents arrested him several hours later.

Keebler spent 13 days in Bunkerville and spent time in the company of the late LaVoy Finicum, whose funeral he attended in Kanab, Utah last February. Significantly, Keebler and several members of his militia were in attendance at an April 1 event in Orem, Utah featuring speeches by Finicum’s widow and Shawna Cox, who was an eyewitness to Finicum’s killing. That event was attended by hundreds of people whom the Feds would characterize as “anti-government extremists.”

“Some people who were with [Keebler] were videotaping all of the speakers with very expensive, professional-grade equipment,” a Utah broadcaster who attended the event told The Free Thought Project. “They were walking the room taking note of everybody who was there.”

According to the timeline described sketchily in the federal probable cause affidavit, it was at about this time that the FBI’s Homeland Security Theater Troupe was finishing its scheme to snare Keebler in a bogus bombing plot.

One likely purpose of this FBI-scripted operation is to depict the late LaVoy Finicum — who has emerged as a folk hero for many residents of the rural West — as a would-be terrorist bomber. The arrest affidavit takes great care to accuse Finicum of scouting out the location eventually used in the FBI-controlled false flag attack. That allegation, which Finicum is no longer alive to dispute, is already being retailed by some progressive media outlets.

One’s personal feelings on the unfoldings in Oregon earlier this year are irrelevant when considering the reality of the situation. This attempted ‘bombing,’ like the overwhelming majority of FBI-foiled terror plots, was little more than a staged scene with easily manipulated actors — being entirely scripted, directed, and produced by the federal government. Though this was theater on a virtually fictional scale, the fruits of the federal government’s success in thwarting their own scheme will be the loss of liberty for all — in spite of the current target only being ‘preppers’ and ‘anti-government constitutionalists.’

William N. Grigg writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com, where this article first appeared.

Since December 2010 the government program known as Operation Fast and Furious has morphed into a program that could be accurately labeled as Operation Slow and Tedious. The objective is to delay exposure of the truth until that exposure has no political or personal impact on the various players involved.

Efforts to get at the truth of the scandal got a boost in January when an Obama-appointed federal judge ruled that thousands of documents subpoenaed by congressional investigators could not be withheld under claims of executive privilege. In keeping with the Slow and Tedious strategy, the Department of Justice finally released a large block of the documents three months later on a Friday afternoon in April but continues to withhold many others.

The recent document dump supports speculation that then-Attorney General Eric Holder knew more about the ill-conceived gunwalking operation than he has claimed, and that he and other high-level DOJ officials actively worked to conceal details of the operation from Congress and the public. Emails released earlier in the investigation indicate that White House adviser Valerie Jarrett gave guidance in the coverup, but so far, none of the recent documents provide a direct link to the White House. What they do show is a concerted effort to keep the details of the operation under wraps for political purposes.

Had these documents been made public when they were originally subpoenaed, they could have had a serious negative impact on Obama’s re-election campaign and might have prevented implementation of new regulations requiring gun dealers in border states to report information about purchasers of semi-auto rifles. By delaying the release until now, those political consequences have been avoided, but there are other potential consequences the administration is continuing to try and avoid. Recent criminal charges filed against government officials in the Flint, Michigan, water scandal are a reminder that politicians and bureaucrats might not be beyond the reach of the law. So far, no one has paid a significant price for their roles in Fast and Furious, and the administration clearly wants to keep it that way.

It has been more than five years since the tragic death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry at the hands of Mexican bandits. The bandits were armed with guns acquired with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – the agency tasked with enforcement of federal gun control laws. In January of 2011, just one month after Agent Terry’s death, I asked the question in this column whether the Obama administration had intentionally allowed guns to be smuggled to Mexican drug gangs as a way of boosting the administration’s gun control agenda. That column was based on the investigative reporting of citizen-journalists David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh, who developed the story from sources within the BATF and worked tirelessly to bring it to the attention of Congress and “mainstream” reporters. The WND column was the first mention of the scandal in a major national media outlet. That was followed in late February with a report by Cheryl Atkisson on CBS News in which she interviewed one of Codrea and Vanderboegh’s BATF sources. After that, other reporters slowly started mentioning the growing scandal, and Congress intensified its investigation.

Fast and Furious was the codename given to a still-unexplained program under which the BATF instructed certain gun dealers to go ahead with firearm and ammunition sales to suspected Mexican arms traffickers. Once the sales were made, BATF agents were ordered to break off surveillance of the suspects, and no effort of any kind was made to track the suspects or the guns they possessed. BATF officials – and the media – continue to refer to the program as a “botched sting,” or a “failed attempt to track guns to Mexican drug cartels,” but those labels don’t come close to fitting the program. The only monitoring that was done – or even possible under the plan – was to trace serial numbers of guns found at crime scenes.

That information provides no actionable intelligence, and only marginally enhances the prosecution of low-level, straw buyers. When Agent Terry was killed, both guns recovered at the scene turned out to have come from the Fast and Furious program. That resulted in the program being quickly shut down and swept under the rug. Had it not been for Vanderboegh noticing an off-hand comment on a BATF employee gripe site, and following up on the comment, the whole Fast and Furious debacle might have never been made public.

Codrea and Vanderboegh never got the credit they deserved for breaking the story, but they weren’t in it for the notoriety; they just wanted the truth to be known. Vanderboegh, a prolific blogger and rabble-rouser, is currently dealing with serious health issues and is sadly not expected to be with us much longer. As cantankerous and disagreeable as he can be, he has done the republic a great service by challenging authority and exposing the threads of truth in this case. Readers are encouraged to remember him and his family in their current struggles.

After the story started gaining legs in 2011, the administration, the Department of Justice and the BATF hierarchy disavowed any knowledge of the program. They pointed fingers at local agents and made some superficial changes. The acting head of BATF was laterally transferred to a new position, as were the supervisory agents in charge of the operation. A politically connected federal prosecutor in Arizona and a DOJ deputy resigned, and the agents who blew the whistle on the operation faced career-ending retribution. No other consequences have resulted from the ill-conceived program except hundreds of dead and injured in Mexico.

For now, Operation Slow and Tedious drags on. Attorneys for Congress continue to battle attorneys for the administration over release of the remaining documents, but the public’s interest is waning, and the trail is growing cold. Slow and tedious is once again proving to be a successful strategy for consequence avoidance in Washington.

©2016 The Firearms Coalition, all rights reserved. Reprinting, posting, and distributing permitted with inclusion of this copyright statement. www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

By Thomas S. Neuberger
April 7, 2016

In July 2015, I reported on and analyzed the FBI’s Communities Against Terrorism Program and concluded that it made every adult citizen a terrorism suspect. In January 2016, the FBI announced that it wants to make every high school teacher, administrator and student in America a spy to report to it or local State police suspicious words or activity by any teenager attending our schools. The FBI was not satisfied with its 2012 Communities Against Terrorism Program which asks our neighbors to read any of 25 widely circulated posters and then to report us if we act in certain suspicious ways. Now the FBI has widened its net to over 15 million teenagers in our high schools.

As I explained previously, the dangerous speech which the FBI wanted our neighbors to report included, for example, (1) posting anti-government or environmental slogans, banners, or signs that imply violence; (2) spraying anti-government graffiti; (3) downloading material of an extreme or radical nature with violent themes, or preoccupation with press coverage of terrorist attacks; (4) making unusual anti‑U.S. comments; or (5) making extreme racist or religious statements coupled with sentiments which appear to condone violence. As can be seen from this list of overbroad, vague and legally protected activities or speech which the FBI claims are red flags for terrorism, the FBI has little concern for our Bill of Rights, such as the right to speak freely or to read what we want.

And now, with a little sugar coating and Orwellian new speak, there is a dire warning that without this new program a student out there may detonate a “weapon of mass destruction” on all of us. So in January the FBI went after all our high school students when it issued its Preventing Violent Extremism In Schools Guidelines. Specifically, the FBI wants its spies to report any “statements or actions” which “cause concern.” “Schools should focus on a student’s behaviors and communications,” such as supporting “domestic extremist movements,” international terrorist organizations or hate crimes.

Within its category of “domestic terrorists,” the FBI identifies several violent extremism movements, “including but not limited to animal rights and eco‑terrorists, and anti‑government or radical separatist groups.” There it is again, “anti-government” speech, just like in the widely circulated FBI posters. The FBI puts such domestic groups right up there with ISIS and Al Qa’ida, as those who “decry western policies” or mistrust the government. Indeed, the FBI also identifies as needing watching teenagers with unacceptable “religious or cultural biases” after being raised in families outside the mainstream of society.

Now to keep a classmate from eventually using that ever useful propaganda tool known as a “weapon of mass destruction,” what will your average non-lawyer teachers do when “anti-government” words come out of the mouth of a student who opposes an oil pipeline or wants to “save the whales”?  Call the FBI, of course.  Will they err on the side of safety or let youthful exuberance slide?

The core problem here is that “the FBI defines violent extremism as encouraging, condoning, justifying, or supporting the commission of a violent act to achieve political, ideological, religious, social or economic goals.” But its premise is wrong that suspicious comments against government or vague or cryptic warnings that suggest or appear to endorse the use of violence in support of a cause are grounds to consider someone a potential terrorist. Remember Patrick Henry’s Revolutionary War cry – “Give me liberty or give me death.” If ever there was a statement endorsing violence, this is it, but he was a patriot. And I emphasize that the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that government, and this includes the FBI, cannot “forbid or prescribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Brandenburg v. Ohio  (1969). So reporting students for “encouraging, supporting or justifying” violence as a means to social goals is clearly illegal. In a classic case, this must lead to the investigation of students reading about or discussing revolution, Marxism, Communism or whatever failed doctrine is still out there, even the radical theories behind the American Revolution in 1776 or the French Revolution a few years later.

Writing for the Rutherford Institute, constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead has pointed out the conflict here with our own early history: “Try suggesting, as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin did, that Americans should not only take up arms but be prepared to shed blood in order to protect their liberties, and you might find yourself placed on a terrorist watch list and vulnerable to being rounded up by government agents,” he notes. Declared Jefferson, “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.” Observed Franklin, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well‑armed lamb contesting the vote!” So what if a well-read student suggests in class, as Thomas Paine, Marquis de Lafayette, and John Adams did, that Americans should, if necessary, defend themselves against the government if it violates their rights.  He or she may be labeled a domestic extremist for such “anti-government” sentiments.

So if our public, private or religious schools anywhere in the United States give in and spy on over 15 million students, do the new Guidelines say anything about protecting the freedoms our fathers in World War II died to preserve? Buried in 28 pages we do find a paragraph containing a long mouthful of legalese which claims to recognize the “difference between protected speech and illegal incitement” and concedes that “espousing anti‑U.S. sentiment or extremist rhetoric is not a crime.” Educators are advised that “the issue is not if the individual voiced his/her support, but rather has advocated imminent violence in support of an extremist organization and that violence is likely to occur as a result.” For example, students consuming “violent propaganda” may result “in a strengthening of beliefs and aid development of radical views or a willingness to use violence in support of an ideology.” Again, what will a non-lawyer administrator do in light of these long equivocating statements and the possible threat of mass destruction? He or she will err on the side of safety which, I expect, is the real purpose behind the FBI’s Guidelines.

And this will take us one step further down the road to a police state with our neighbors, teachers and others monitoring our thoughts, speech and communications for disfavored ideas.  And then there will be the knock at the door demanding to question our son or daughter because someone has turned them in to have their thoughts, tweets, Facebook posts,  reading material or speech reviewed before federal or local police.

The FBI is making us into a nation of spies and informers at the cost of our heritage and freedoms. It is behaving as the feared Stasi in Communist East Germany, the secret police in Stalin’s Soviet Russia, or Hitler’s dreaded Gestapo, turning every neighbor into a spy on the other.  For the FBI most of us incorrectly fit the bill as extremists or terrorists. But again, recall our Colonial ancestor Patrick Henry, who argued about the value of potential violence in 1788, “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.” The FBI wants to question every student voicing similar sentiments.

That is plainly un-American and should not be permitted in any public, private or religious school.

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