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!


Eyes in the Sky

For anyone who is not persuaded that this country has made a significant U-turn in terms of privacy, civil liberties and what we used to quaintly refer to as ‘freedom,’ this You Tube report is for you.  Hat tip to Democratic Underground on this particular find.

Personally, these drones scare the bejesus out of me.  But any public official saying that ‘nothing is ruled out’ when it comes to drone application in the domestic arena is even more frightening. It should also remind us that this is what perpetual war and disaster capitalism creates–a security industry for profit wrapped in secrecy and the American flag.

The Eyes in the Sky will be watching.  All of us.

Later SDB Evening News Reads 112911: Eeeek…

Good Evening…

Everywhere you look it’s just terrible news…and to top it off, my internet is again giving me problems, this time it is the wireless router. So that is why the evening reads is late, and it will be a quick one, so here it goes.

Iranian protesters storm British diplomatic compounds | Reuters

The latest on the problems in Iran, like RalphB said earlier in the comments, for those of us who remember the time when it was the US Embassy…and the result was the Iran hostage crisis, this latest “attack” on the British Embassy is bringing back some scary memories.

Iranian protesters stormed two British diplomatic compounds in Tehran on Tuesday, smashing windows, torching a car and burning the British flag in protest against new sanctions imposed by London.

Britain said it was outraged and warned of “serious consequences.” The U.N. Security Council condemned the attacks “in the strongest terms.” U.S. President Barack Obama said he was disturbed by the incident and called on Iran to hold those responsible to account.

The attacks come at a time of rising diplomatic tension between Iran and Western nations who last week imposed fresh sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program, which they believe is aimed at achieving the capability of making an atomic bomb.

I don’t know if anyone has made this connection but it seems the timing is perfect to get our attention away from the explosions that have occurred in Iran the past week.

Several dozen protesters broke away from a crowd of a few hundred outside the main British embassy compound in downtown Tehran, scaled the gates, broke the locks and went inside.

Protesters pulled down the British flag, burned it, and put up the Iranian flag, Iranian news agencies and news pictures showed. Inside, the demonstrators smashed windows of office and residential quarters and set a car ablaze, news pictures showed.

One took a framed picture of Queen Elizabeth, state TV showed. Others carried the royal crest out through the embassy gate as police stood by, pictures carried by the semi-official Fars news agency showed.

All embassy personnel were accounted for, a British diplomat told Reuters in Washington, saying Britain did not believe that any sensitive materials had been seized.

You can see images of the protesters overrunning the security here:

Protesters storm British embassy | Reuters.com

In Pakistan:

Pakistan Announces Boycott of Afghanistan Conference | Asia | English

Pakistan says it will boycott a major Afghanistan reconciliation conference next week in Germany to protest NATO’s recent airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s decision to boycott the Afghanistan conference in Bonn, Germany, comes despite an appeal by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to reconsider.

And because certain Afghan militant groups have ties to Pakistan’s security forces, Pakistan’s engagement is considered crucial to any future Afghan stability effort.

U.S.-led NATO combat forces are scheduled to depart in 2014, meaning the window of time to negotiate a secure peace framework is rapidly shrinking.

The CDC has some new numbers out, ready for it? Check out the amount of Americans who don’t know they have HIV. CDC: 240,000 Americans have HIV and don’t know it – HealthPop – CBS News

Once a death sentence, AIDS can now be managed so effectively that people with the disease can live almost as long as those without it – but that’s true only for those who get good medical care.

Unfortunately only one in four Americans with AIDS has the virus under control, according to a new CDC report.

PICTURES: AIDS hotspots: 15 states with most cases

“The big picture is we could do a lot better than we’re doing today,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC’s director.

Why is the treatment success rate so low? Partly because, of the 1.2 million Americans who have HIV – the infection that  causes AIDS – 20 percent don’t know they’re infected. That’s 240,000 people. People can have the infection for years without developing symptoms.

Another reason for the low success rate,  only about 40 percent of people with HIV are getting HIV-fighting medications regularly. Worse, only 28 percent have gotten the virus to low levels in their blood. That translates to roughly 850,000 Americans who don’t have the virus controlled, Frieden said.

Success rates were lowest in blacks and women, he said.

Sad to see this number of unknowing HIV infected American is so damn high.

“The fact that nearly three quarters of Americans living with HIV still have the virus circulating in their bodies, damaging their brains and immune systems and putting their sexual partner at risk is something we think we can do a lot about,” Frieden told Reuters.

The report – published Tuesday on the CDC’s website – was based on surveys and surveillance reports from 2010 and a study that focused on medical care for people with HIV.

I don’t know, it seems like AIDS/HIV is the old boring news…

Tonsil Trouble (Season 12, Episode 1) – Full Episode Player – South Park Studios

For a quick clip:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Boston Boomer sent me these next two links today:

How Zuccotti Park Became Zuccotti Prison: Creeping American Police State | Occupy Wall Street | AlterNet

Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s police assault on the park, OWS has largely decamped for spaces unknown and for the future.  Left behind was a grim tableau of our distinctly up-armored, post-9/11 American world.  To take an obvious example, the “police” who so notoriously pepper-sprayed non-violent, seated students at UC Davis were just campus cops, who in my college years, the 1960s, still generally wore civvies, carried no weapons, and were tasked with seeing whether students had broken curfew or locked themselves out of their rooms.  Now, around the country, they are armed with chemical weapons, Tasers, tear gas, side arms, you name it.  Meanwhile, some police departments, militarizing at a rapid rate, have tank-like vehicles, and the first police surveillance drones are taking to the air in field tests and capable of being weaponized.

And keep in mind, when it comes to that pepper-spraying incident, we’re talking about sleepy Davis, California, and a campus once renowned for its agronomy school.  Al-Qaeda?  I don’t think so.

And this link about the drought it Texas:

Texas Drought Is Revealing Secrets of the Deep – NYTimes.com

For more than three years, the lake on Jack Mewbourn’s ranch here held a secret at its murky bottom: A 1999 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. His grandson was the first one to notice the top of the car peeking out of the water. It wasn’t luck, or even fate. It was drought.

The water level in the seven-acre lake has dropped about five feet from a lack of rain. Stand on the grass lining the lake’s edge today, and in any other year you would be standing nearly waist-deep in water.

On a recent Saturday, Mr. Mewbourn, a longtime rancher in this rural unincorporated community about 90 minutes southeast of Dallas, took a boat to the middle of the lake with two of his grandsons. They confirmed that the small object they thought at first might be a barrel was indeed a car. Mr. Mewbourn called a local constable, and with the help of a diver and a tow truck, the vehicle was slowly dragged out. Inside, still buckled into the driver’s seat, were the remains of Brenda Kay Oliver, who had been missing since July 2008.

But finding missing people is not all that is starting to show up in lakes and ponds that are drying out.

The historic drought that has devastated crops and forced millions of Texans in small towns and large cities to abide by mandatory water restrictions has had at least one benefit: As lake levels have dropped around the state, objects of all kinds that had been submerged for years, decades and even centuries are being revealed. Some of the discovered items are common debris like computer monitors, tires and sunken boats. But much of it has attracted the attention of historians, anthropologists, criminal investigators and, in one case, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Long-submerged marble tombstones from the 1880s have become visible in the receding waters of Lake Buchanan in Central Texas. Near the Texas-Louisiana border, the grave sites from an early 19th-century cemetery have turned up at one drought-stricken lake. Pat Mercado-Allinger, the director of the Texas Historical Commission’s archaeology division, said one water authority estimated having roughly 200 previously unreported archaeological sites resulting from lowered lake levels.

Take a look at both of these links, they are very interesting…

I’m sorry this is such a pathetic evening news reads, but I wanted to get this post up before my router completely goes kaput…

Saturday Night in Police State Amerika

I know most of you have seen this video or one like it from UC Davis yesterday. This is the most shocking version I’ve seen so far:

For the past couple of months, we’ve been watching Occupy Wall Street grow from a few thousand protesters in New York City to hundreds of thousands of protesters in cities and towns all over this country. One interesting side effect of the Occupy movement is that the militarization of police forces since 9/11 has been put on full display. Police departments have reacted to peaceful protesters as if they were dangerous terrorists. All those billions poured into “homeland security” have created a monster. And now we can see it plainly. We live in a police state.

Earlier this week, Digby wrote an excellent piece on how this happened: Militarizing the Police: How the Drug War and 9/11 Led to Battle-Dressed Cops Cracking Down on Peaceful Protests. Basically, she wrote, if you build it…it will be used.

The US has actually been militarising much of its police agencies for the better part of three decades, mostly in the name of the drug war. But 9/11 put that programme on steroids.

Recall that six short weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the US congress passed the PATRIOT Act, a sweeping expansion of domestic and foreign intelligence-gathering capabilities. This

legislation gave the government the ability to easily search all forms of communication, eased restrictions on foreign intelligence-gathering at home, gave itself greater power to monitor financial transactions and created entirely new categories of domestic terrorism to which the PATRIOT Act’s expanded powers to police could be applied.

It was one of the greatest expansions of government police power in history, an expansion which, after some tweaking, has been mostly validated by the congress and reaffirmed by the courts.

I already linked to her article in one of my morning posts, but if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, please do.

The American ruling class has become more and more powerful and less and less accountable to the rest of us. For a long time I’ve thought that our best hope is that they will become so arrogant and drunk with power that they overreach and reveal the truth–we are no longer free and the goal is to turn us all into cowering serfs.

So far the iron fist has mostly been concealed under a velvet glove, but now we are seeing the price we’ll pay if we demand our rights and freedoms back. I salute the protesters–young, old, and in-between for the courage they are showing in putting their bodies on the line.

As our President blithely gallivants around the world and our “representatives” fight over the spoils in Washington, we are beginning to see clearly the structure that Bush built and Obama has accepted–a domestic military force to protect the elites from the people whose homes and jobs and retirement savings they have stolen. A police state.

I fear if the push for austerity and the inaction on jobs continues, we are going to see riots in the streets that will make 1968 look tame in comparison. There a so many of us in the 99%. They can’t jail or kill all of us. Fortunately they are making the stupid mistake of showing us what is going to happen to anyone who resists. The more violence and cruelty they display, the angrier many Americans will get and the more backlash there will be.

Americans don’t like to be pushed around. Somewhere deep inside of each of us is a burning desire for freedom and the willingness to fight for it. In the end we will win, but it won’t be easy. We need to stick together.