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!

 

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