Police State Awareness Day

I’ve found 2011’s list of Top MuckReads at ProPublica and wanted to highlight the investigative articles involving homeland security.  I have to admit that the patterns are ominous.  It seems that domestic surveillance is the new reality.

First up is an article that shows how NYPD sends spies to Mosques.

Highlights of AP’s probe into NYPD intelligence operations, Associated Press
“Mosque crawlers” who monitor sermons and “rakers” who embed themselves into minority neighborhoods are among the tactics the New York Police Department has used since 9/11. It was done with the assistance of the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans.

Next is one that shows that the FBI isn’t beyond setting folks up for fun and arrest numbers.

Terrorists for the FBI, Mother Jones
Almost all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings. The story details “how informants are recruited and used and how and why agents are pursuing these aggressive sting operations.”

Here’s an interesting one on the use of force by the Las Vegas Police.  This would make me rethink vacations plans.

Deadly Force: When Las Vegas police shoot, and kill, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Analyzing each police shooting in the region since 1990, the Review-Journal found “an insular department that is slow to weed out problem cops and is slower still to adopt policies and procedures that protect both its own officers and the citizens they serve.”

Here’s an interesting set of stories from the Center for Investigative Reporting  published as a project called “Under Suspicion”.  Basically, investigative reporters have looked at the reports of suspicious activity at The Mall of America and how the Homeland Security programs have worked. Ever visited the Mall of America?  You could wind up in counterterrorism reports!

On the week of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, the Center for Investigative Reporting and NPR published “Under Suspicion,” a joint yearlong investigation that looked at suspicious activity reports at the Mall of America and how the U.S. government has gathered intelligence since Sept. 11.

For CIR’s first live Behind the Story event, we teamed up with the San Francisco Film Society to give people a full look at how we put together an investigation in this digital age. “Under Suspicion” was published in print, broadcast, radio, as an animation and with multimedia components. Watch CIR reporters, producers and editors discuss their methodology and how they put together this innovative package.

There’s a lot of videos and interviews in the link.  You can check out NPR’s role in the investigation here.

Since Sept. 11, the nation’s leaders have warned that government agencies like the CIA and the FBI can’t protect the country on their own — private businesses and ordinary citizens have to look out for terrorists, too. So the Obama administration has been promoting programs like “See Something, Say Something” and the “Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative.

Under programs like these, public attractions such as sports stadiums, amusement parks and shopping malls report suspicious activities to law enforcement agencies. But an investigation by NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting suggests that at one of the nation’s largest shopping malls, these kinds of programs are disrupting innocent people’s lives.

One afternoon three years ago, Francis Van Asten drove to the Mall of America, near Minneapolis, and started recording. First he filmed driving to the mall. Then he filmed a plane landing at the nearby airport, and then he strolled inside the mall and kept recording as he walked. He says he was taking a video to send to his fiancee in Vietnam.

As he started filming, he didn’t realize that he was about to get caught up in America’s war on terrorism — the mall had formed its own private counterterrorism unit in 2005. And now, a security guard had been tailing Van Asten since before he entered the mall. Van Asten was first approached by a guard outside a clothing store.

“And he asked me what I was doing. And I said, ‘Oh, I’m making a video.’ And I said, ‘Are we allowed to make videos in Mall of America, and take pictures and stuff?’ He says, ‘Oh sure, nothing wrong with that,’ ” explains Van Asten. “So I turn to start walking away, and then he started asking me questions. Why am I making a video, what am I making a video of, what I did for a living, and he asked me, what’s my hobbies?”

The guard called another member of the mall’s security unit, and they questioned Van Asten for almost an hour before summoning two police officers from the Bloomington Police Department.

“I hadn’t done anything wrong. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, according to them even. I asked the policeman why I was being detained,” says Van Asten. “He said, ‘Listen, mister, we can do this any way you want: the easy way or the hard way.’ ”

And then, the police took Van Asten down to a police substation in the mall’s basement.

Oh, and let’s not forget this.

He waited until New Year’s Eve to do it…but he did it. While expressing “serious reservations” about the bill, President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve signed legislation that cements into law two highly controversial tenets of the war on terror: indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without charge, and the jailing of American citizens without trial. It also takes terrorism-related cases out of the hands of the FBI and the civilian court system and hands them over to the military.
Obama approved the bill (known as the National Defense Authorization Act), but at the same time, in a signing statement, claimed his administration would not allow the military to detain Americans indefinitely.
Civil libertarians were nonetheless outraged by Obama’s approval of the legislation. They claim that Obama is taking a “Trust me; I won’t do it” position. However, even if he does refrain from abusing the law, there is no guarantee that future presidents won’t imprison Americans and others indefinitely without trial or even without charge.
Next time, they just might disappear you!



SDB Evening News Reads 010212: Obama? Same old thing…

Good Evening…

It is freezing here in Banjoville, the wind is howling and we are expecting single digits tonight.  I hope everyone is warm and cozy…these storms are bringing cold temps all across the U.S.

I just have a few links for you tonight, but they are juicy ones.

There was a report on RT.com, a Russian news website, that included an interview with Noam Chomsky that I think you will find very interesting. Obama’s change: From kidnapping and torture to assassination

The promise to scrap his predecessor’s hardliner war-on-terror policies, which helped Barack Obama win presidential election, is apparently off the table. The political reality is that the current administration is doing quite the opposite thing.

Long before he became US president or the winner of a Noble Peace Prize, Barack Obama was a constitutional law professor. During his election campaign he vowed to reverse the abuses and policies of his predecessor George W. Bush.

Three years later, many civil rights advocates, who once cheered “yes, we can,” are finding themselves disillusioned.

“Not only has the Obama administration blocked torture accountability and refused to investigate and prosecute. He has basically maintained indefinite detention. He has revived military commissions. As well he has expanded targeted killings – they’ve increased under the Obama administration manifold, and he’s even authorized the killing of a US citizen,” explains Maria LaHood from the Center for Constitutional Rights.

World-renowned author and scholar Noam Chomsky believes the Obama administration has changed gears and accelerated illegal practices into overdrive.

“There is a shift between Bush’s policies and the Obama’s on this. Bush’s policy was to kidnap people, take them to Guantanamo or Bagram or some other torture chamber and try to extract some information from them. Obama’s policy is just to kill them. They’re killing them all over the world. And the Bin Laden assassination was a case point,” he told RT.

Video at the link, take a look at it.

There is also another interview at this link with Sarah Flounders about indefinite detention…

Sara Flounders, from the International Action Center, told RT that the new bill violates basic the democratic rights the US claims to fight for around the world.

“There is the threat of mass detention without trial, without charges, being held by the US military, who previously could not legally operate within the US, only around the world.”

Video for this interview at the bottom of the same RT link. Please take ten minutes of your time to watch both of the clips.

Did you see the recent news regarding the Obama Administration selling  F15s and arms to Saudi Arabia?  You may have missed it because it happened during Christmas. Obama Makes Arms Sales A Key Tool Of U.S. Foreign Policy

In a striking departure from the ideological preferences of the post-Vietnam Democratic Party, President Barack Obama has made overseas arms sales a pillar of U.S. foreign policy.  The President and his advisors apparently have decided that well-armed allies are the next best thing to U.S. “boots on the ground” when it comes to advancing America’s global security interests.

A case in point was the Christmas Eve disclosure that the administration would sell $30 billion in fighter jets, munitions, spare parts and support services to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  In the past, some Democrats in Congress might have questioned the propriety of selling high-tech weapons to a government noted for its conservative social policies.  But administration officials described the deal as a pragmatic solution to regional security needs, one that would provide the world’s preeminent oil producer with the means to deter Iranian aggression without compromising Israel’s defense.  Having already approved a $60 billion package of arms sales with the kingdom — of which the fighter deal is only one part — Congress is sure to accept White House reasoning.

It doesn’t hurt that such sales create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.  Boeing assembles the F-15 fighters at the center of the deal in Missouri, and General Electric will build the engines in Ohio.  Both are swing states whose electoral-college votes could determine the outcome of the 2012 presidential race.  Many additional jobs will be created at the sprawling Raytheon missile complex in Arizona, a state already poised to benefit from an earlier Saudi buy of 36 Boeing Apache tank-killer helicopters.  Raytheon’s radar facility in Massachusetts should also be a big beneficiary.

What the president and his advisors have figured out is that, unlike sending troops to fight overseas, there is almost no downside to sending weapons.  They allow partners such as Saudi Arabia to meet more of their own security needs indigenously rather than relying on an overstretched U.S. military, and they stimulate economic activity in America’s industrial heartland at a time when well-paying, unionized manufacturing jobs are hard to come by.  So the Obama Administration has abandoned any pretense of limiting overseas arms sales, and embraced the reality that America is likely to remain the world’s biggest weapons merchant for many years to come.

Yes, make the US a one stop shop for weapons and big dollar arms deals…

So lets just take all this news in for a moment…as Dakinikat wrote this morning, we have the Obama Administration turning back the “do not call” list, which is a minor thing compared to his unconstitutional moves against US Citizens. Remember, his high numbers of deportations, record numbers in fact. Obama’s non-prosecution of Wall Street crooks and fraudulent CEO’s “business” practices…coupled with the lack of any real help for people facing foreclosure and long-term unemployment. No matter what he may say…his mortgage assistance programs don’t help anyone…and there are no stipulations for the mortgage companies to approve modifications to get their payouts and payoffs. And, lets not forget all the women he has thrown under the bus, with his ridiculous women’s health and reproductive care policies. Add to all this the sale of arms and weapons to the highest bidder, and what does it remind you of?

So many have mentioned police state tactics becoming the standard here in the US…it sounds more like some kind of Wall Street/Banana Republic Oligarchy government rule…if you get my meaning.

Just a side note…about a connection to a police state, I just read Peggy Sue’s post Frank Rizzo and a Militarized Police Force « Sky Dancing…check it out.

I guess what bothers me the most about all this, is that Obama is getting away with it…the US press is not holding him accountable. (They aren’t holding the GOP nuts accountable either.)

This next article discusses the similarities between Ryan’s Medicare plan and Obama’s: 2012 Medicare debate is all about the baby boomers

Baby boomers take note: Medicare as your parents have known it is headed for big changes no matter who wins the White House in 2012. You may not like it, but you might have to accept it.

Dial down the partisan rhetoric and surprising similarities emerge from competing policy prescriptions by President Barack Obama and leading Republicans such as Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.


…what administration officials don’t say is that Obama’s health care law already puts in place one of Ryan’s main goals by limiting future increases in Medicare spending.

Ryan would do it with a fixed payment for health insurance, adjusted to allow some growth. In theory that compels consumers and medical providers to be more cost-conscious. Obama does it with a powerful board that can force Medicare cuts to service providers if costs rise beyond certain levels and Congress fails to act.


The White House wants to keep the existing structure of Medicare while “twisting the dials” to control spending, said a current Medicare trustee, economist Robert Reischauer of the Urban Institute think tank.

Ryan’s latest approach is arguably an evolution of the current Medicare Advantage private insurance program, not a radical change, Reischauer said. That’s particularly so if traditional Medicare remains an option.

“In the hot and heavy political debate we are in, participants are exaggerating the difference between the proposals,” he said.

During failed budget negotiations with Republicans last summer, Obama indicated a willingness to make more major changes to Medicare, including gradually raising the age of eligibility to 67, increasing premiums for many beneficiaries, revamping co-payments and deductibles in ways that would raise costs for retirees, and cutting payments to drugmakers and other providers.

“I was surprised by how much the president was willing to offer in terms of Medicare changes without a more thorough vetting and discussion,” said  health economist Marilyn Moon. Obama says he will veto any plan to cut Medicare benefits without raising taxes on the wealthy.

It is all enough to make me cringe when I think about the next four years…whoever gets the White House, it feels like both parties are heading in the same direction. Where does that leave us?

Let’s end with something different: Nappy Barbie to promote self-esteem

In Columbus, Georgia, a group of women began a campaign to donate 40 plus black Barbies to young black girls at a local Girls, Inc chapter.  Before donating them, they treated the Barbies’ hair with pipe cleaners and boiling water to create “nappy headed” Barbies, or “natural ‘fros” on the dolls.

They are doing this to aid the self esteem of young black women who are lacking images of themselves in the media.  The organization is called Frolific and appears to be a Meet-up group whose purpose is to “provide encouragement and support to sistas who are natural, transitioning, or considering going natural.”

Their purpose in providing these Barbies is let young women know that they are okay the way that they were born. They do not need whitening and straightening.  The goal is to let a doll better represent natural hair to help the young women develop a sense of pride in themselves.

I think the Frolific program is great…if only the toy manufacturers would make these dolls a bit more realistic all around.  Some of you may remember this image from last year: Life-size Barbie gets real women talking 

Galia Slayen made a Barbie doll that stands about 6 feet tall with a 39″ bust, 18″ waist, and 33″ hips.
That is all I can muster for you tonight, it is very cold, and my fingers are frozen and stiff.
Have a great evening, and be sure to let us know what you are doing and thinking about tonight.

Indefinite Detention without Trial Open Thread

Today President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which, among other things, gives the President the power to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial. It also enshrines in law the ability of the government to use the military against American citizens.

At the same time, Obama issued a signing statement in which he says he will not use on the indefinite detention authority. As we know from three years experience, the President is a liar. Furthermore, the power will be passed on to future Presidents, and they may be less hesitant to use it. Here is the text of the signing statement (PDF), via the Washington Post. Some exerpts:

The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Over the last several years, my Administration has developed an effective, sustainable framework for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists that allows us to maximize both our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals in rapidly developing situations, and the results we have achieved are undeniable. Our success against al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents has derived in significant measure from providing our counterterrorism professionals with the clarity and flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances and to utilize whichever authorities best protect the American people, and our accomplishments have respected the values that make our country an example for the world….

Section 1021 affirms the executive branch’s authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541

This section breaks no new ground and is unnecessary. The authority it describes was included in the 2001 AUMF, as recognized by the Supreme Court and confirmed through lower court decisions since then. Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not “limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any “existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” My Administration strongly supported the inclusion of these limitations in order to make clear beyond doubt that the legislation does nothing more than confirm authorities that the Federal courts have recognized as lawful under the 2001 AUMF. Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

In other words, Obama already had the power to detain American citizens, but because he is a great and magnanimous leader he will not act on the power, so we shouldn’t worry our pretty heads about it. Habeas Corpus is available only if granted by our benign and glorious leader.

Here’s the statement released by the ACLU on the President’s decision to sign the bill into law.

President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law today. The statute contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA, and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations. The White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill.

“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield. The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.”


“We are incredibly disappointed that President Obama signed this new law even though his administration had already claimed overly broad detention authority in court,” said Romero. “Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today.

There’s more at the link.

World War III Alert

Another dangerous portion of this new law imposes sanctions on Iran’s central bank. From the National Journal article cited above:

The bill also sets in motion strong sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, in an attempt to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program, by impeding Iran’s ability to process payments for the roughly $90 billion in oil and gas it sells each year. The measures, which would penalize any foreign financial institution that does business with the central bank, sparked threats by Iranian officials to cut off access to the Strait of Hormuz, which could block transportation of most oil exports from the Persian Gulf.

The administration retains a national security waiver for the sanctions – and one to waive the petroleum sanctions if it determines there isn’t enough global supply to offset the lost Iranian oil – but has said it opposes being held to a timeline that could fragment to the international coalition working to isolate Iran or potentially spike oil prices.

Please discuss the NDAA, the signing statement, or any other topics that are on your mind.