Free Markets, Free People
Those of us on the libertarian-ish end if things support, at the very least, a return of government size and scope to its constitutionally defined bounds. As part of that, the last thing we generally want is more Federal laws about most things. We’re supposed to support a more federal system, and decry most Federal pre-emption of state laws. But I’ve been thinking lately there there are a few Federal laws I’d like to see that do pre-empt local and state laws.
In several states, photographers and videographers have been arrested and charged under various wiretapping statutes for filming police officers and other public officials in public. Just yesterday, I wrote about a young woman who was prosecuted for surreptitiously making an audio recording of police officers who were urging her to drop an official complaint against another officer. Whether you are an elected official or a DMV clerk, your duties should be completely open to public audit—except for some rather obvious and narrow military or national security exemptions—and you should have no expectation of privacy in the performance of your duties. Anybody should be able to film or record you at any time you are performing those duties.
There should be some system whereby any private citizen who has performed federal military or law enforcement service can obtain a federal concealed weapons permit that is valid in every place in the United States, irrespective of any state or local laws to the contrary. Those eligible should have completed at least one term of service with an honorable discharge or its equivalent, have no criminal record, and no history of mental illness.
There have been a troubling number of incidents where police officials have served warrants in the wrong locations, often late at night, resulting in armed confrontations with homeowners. Sometimes, the homeowner is shot and killed. Sometimes, as in the Corey Maye case, a police officer is shot and killed, and the homeowner faces a terrible legal ordeal. That’s just wrong. If the police serve a warrant at the wrong location, for any reason, they forfeit the right to charge the homeowner for any unfortunate gunplay that results. As the police are solely responsible for creating the situation, they should be solely responsible for the outcome, as well as any damages that might accrue from their mistake. This should include prosecution for animal cruelty for a police officer who commits puppycide during these raids. I hate it when they do that, and they seem to do it a lot.
You might notice that all my laws place burdens on the government, not the citizens. Maybe you could suggest some other liberty-friendly laws.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Steven Segal have apparently teamed up to give Segal’s reality show about law enforcement some umph. It has led to a pretty bizarre and dangerous bust. But not “dangerous” in the way you might think.
Apparently Arpaio called out just about everything with a badge to bust a, wait for it, suspected cockfighting entrepreneur.
Of course Crooks and Liars, where the vid comes from had to sensationalize even further an already outrageous story by saying a “tank” was used.
It wasn’t a tank. It was an armored car (and an ancient one at that).
But to take down a suspected cock fighter, it took Arpaio, tens of deputies, a SWAT team, bomb robot and armored car? Oh, and a film crew — don’t forget the film crew.
This is the point Radley Balko makes constantly about the militarization of the police in this country. If they have it, they want to use it. And when you use things like armored cars and SWAT teams, bad things can happen.
One of the things police don’t seem to do very well is due diligence intelligence work. Had they spent any time whatsoever watching the place they felt compelled to use the armored car and SWAT team on, they’d have discovered that the owner was there alone, unarmed and … asleep.
Guys like Arpaio scare the living crap out me. Good police work doesn’t require “overwhelming force” the vast majority of the time. And this was obviously one of them. It makes sense in military doctrine when you attack an enemy. Police, on the other hand, enforce the law. They should be trained and required to use only the force necessary to do that. The opportunity for something to go horribly wrong are increased every time an operation like this is mounted.
It obviously wasn’t necessary to destroy property like Arpaio did here to arrest this man. But then, it wouldn’t be much of a show for Segal if all that happened was a couple of deputies knocking on the door and arresting a sleepy man for suspected cock fighting would it?
The tail, in this case, is wagging a very dangerous dog.
In recent testimony before Congress, Timothy Healy, the head of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, explained the unit’s “reasonable suspicion” standard in answer to a question from a member of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s Homeland Security Committee:
“Reasonable suspicion requires ‘articulable’ facts which, taken together with rational inferences, reasonably warrant a determination that an individual is known or suspected to be or has been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to, terrorism and terrorist activities, and is based on the totality of the circumstances. Mere guesses or inarticulate ‘hunches’ are not enough to constitute reasonable suspicion.”
Uh, ok … in that swarm of legalese, I see “engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to, terrorism and terrorist activities…”. Got it.
So you’d need come “articulable facts” which could “reasonably warrant a determination” that the guy may be a terrorist based on his behavior. And one assumes his behavior would have to catch the attention of the authorities, correct?.
Well let’s see.
- His dad, a former minister in Nigeria, informed the US embassy there that his son had been radicalized (the dad obviously had a reason for concern).
- US intelligence had been following him for a while, dubbing him “the Nigerian” (one assumes there was a reason).
- He was on a watch list (one assumes there was a reason).
- He had been banned from Britain (yup, one assumes there was a reason).
- The British intelligence service had identified him to our intelligence agencies in 2008 as a potential threat (sigh, uh, yeah, reason).
- He’d just visited Yemen, an al Qaeda hotbed (given the first 5, one can reasonably guess at the reason).
- He bought a one-way ticket to the United States in Africa through Europe (red flag 1).
- He paid cash (red flag 2).
- He checked no luggage (red flag 3).
- Just wow.
OK, forget 10, but are those or are those not “articulable facts” which should have “reasonably warranted a determination” that this guy fit the profile of someone who is usually up too no good? No?
Well, let’s review – Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, bought a one-way ticket to the US, using cash and checked no luggage. 8 years ago. So, as Jon Stewart ask recently on the Daily Report, what other than the location of the explosives changed in those 8 years?
Nada. Our lack of security sure hasn’t changed, has it, when the same MO used 8 years before succeeds again. All that changed after Reid was we had to take our shoes off for screening. Is our underwear next?
Not one, but two systems broke down in this little debacle. The intelligence system which apparently still keeps its dots separate from each other (or simply doesn’t find them compelling enough to check out) and makes watch lists it doesn’t watch (it’s called complacency and incompetence, folks). It certainly was all there wasn’t it? Or at least a bunch of “articulable facts” that should have “reasonably warranted a determination” that this guy might be a bad guy worth tracking, no?
And the second system which failed was the airline security system which should have picked up on the fact that they had a guy traveling out of Nigeria on a one-way ticket paid for in cash and with no checked luggage. This is an automated system which shares info, no?
I mean how hard is it to design software to constantly peruse passenger info and when it gets a 3 category hit like that, alert someone? Sound a siren. Pop out in little red flags. Something. But apparently must be very hard to do, because the same problem exists now as when Richard Reid tried it lo those many years ago. This most recent bomber should never have made it out of Amsterdam. No, he should never have been allowed on the plane in Nigeria, given those three indicators alone, without a full body search.
So good job FBI – you’ve got your legalese down pat but couldn’t catch a crotch bomber if he wore a sign. And good work CIA and National Terrorism Center for connecting the dots and passing the info along. And good job airline security – nary a clue the guy was a possible threat even though information should have been available that would have draped him in red flags. Heck, the ticket agent should have picked up on this.
If you’re wondering, then, why people are angry about this, it’s because after all the money and all the assurances that security was better than before, we have “Richard Reid Jr.” using precisely the same MO used 8 years before and almost pulling it off again. You might be able to shrug this off as luck and happenstance if this guy had some entirely new way of getting on the plane (credit card, round trip ticket, checked bag – I mean how hard is it, really?), but he didn’t. That’s the problem. And that’s also why people are angry!
Meanwhile, the comedy we call “security” continues.