Free Markets, Free People

Crime

UAVs, extrajudicial and targeted killings

If you haven’t wondered about the morality of this or its legality, I’d be surprised.

It’s easy to overlook, after all it’s the “good guys” doing it, right?

While I usually ignore most of what the UN says, I think there’s some substance here:

The US policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings presents a major challenge to the system of international law that has endured since the second world war, a United Nations investigator has said.

Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, told a conference in Geneva that President Obama’s attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, carried out by the CIA, would encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards.

In his strongest critique so far of drone strikes, Heyns suggested some may even constitute "war crimes". His comments come amid rising international unease over the surge in killings by remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

A lot of times I apply the “what if some other country was doing this to the US” standard to things we do.  Take Fast and Furious.  What if Mexico had run that operation on us?  We’d be “furious”.  We’d condemn them roundly.  We’d be seeking redress.  We’d be initiating some sort of action.

Now given, in certain of the cases with UAV’s, governments of countries effected are cooperating and, in some cases, even giving permission.  But that isn’t always the case as we well know.  In fact, many times this country just executes an extra-judicial and/or targeted killing without the knowledge or consent of the government of the state in which it takes place.

As you might expect, there’s a lot of death of innocents that is euphemistically waved away as “collateral damage”.

Certainly the use of UAVs as a military asset that can both gather intel and be used to attack legitimate enemies makes sense.  But we’re into a very gray moral area with “extra-judicial” and targeted killings in other countries. 

The irony, of course, is the administration that arrogantly condemned its predecessor for secret jails and military tribunals and insisted that the judicial system be used in the war on terror instead now acts as judge, jury and executioner in these UAV killings. 

I just wondered what we’d think if Pakistan began flying UAVs into the US and knocking off politicians who supported UAV strikes in Pakistan, calling them “war criminals” and all?

Think we’d find that outrageous, a violation of our sovereignty and international law and be whining to the UN about what was being done by that country (not to mention beating the war drums here at home)?

Yeah, me too.

Would we have a legal or moral leg to stand on?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

New tone: How culpable is the news media and the left in this crime? (Update)

I ask because I have found the coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting and death to be sensationalist and, many times, based in rumor later found to be incorrect.

Or, to put a finer point on it, the coverage of the case has been anything but objective and fact based.

For instance, the original reports that said the incident was a white on black killing.  In fact, Zimmerman isn’t white.  He’s Hispanic.  ABC then published a video from the police station claiming there was no evidence of injury.  A closer look revealed ample evidence of injury, but that meme had already traveled the world twice.  MSNBC, not to be out done, made the claim that Zimmerman uttered a racial slur that was caught on the 911 tape.  Again, when examined more closely, it appeared clear that it wasn’t a racial slur at all, but a comment on the weather.

Meanwhile, the race baiters, attracted to the killing like sharks to chum, had picked up on the story as presented by the media and converged on Sanford FL, the site of the killing, to seek “justice” for Trayvon Martin.

Well, apparently some of it was served yesterday … in Mobile, AL:

Mobile police need your help to catch a mob that beat Matthew Owens so badly that he’s in critical condition.

According to police, Owens fussed at some kids playing basketball in the middle of Delmar Drive about 8:30 Saturday night. They say the kids left and a group of adults returned, armed with everything but the kitchen sink.

Police tell News 5 the suspects used chairs, pipes and paint cans to beat Owens.

Owens’ sister, Ashley Parker, saw the attack. "It was the scariest thing I have ever witnessed." Parker says 20 people, all African American, attacked her brother on the front porch of his home, using "brass buckles, paint cans and anything they could get their hands on."

And, according to Ms. Parker, as they were leaving something else occurred:

What Parker says happened next could make the fallout from the brutal beating even worse. As the attackers walked away, leaving Owen bleeding on the ground, Parker says one of them said "Now that’s justice for Trayvon." Trayvon Martin is the unarmed teenager police say was shot and killed February 26 by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.

The left is fond of trying to blame the right for inciting incidents of violence.  The Gabby Gifford shooting is the most recent example. 

I have to wonder if the news media who sensationalized the Martin shooting and the race hustlers who inflamed the situation are willing to take the blame for this beating?

UPDATE: Ace points to two more beatings that appear to have been motivated by the Martin case.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and the digital lynch mob

I have to admit watching this “discussion” over the who, what, when, where and how of the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman with disgust.  I refrained from commenting on it when it first hit the news because I have learned enough over the years to recognize stories where one needs to let it develop a bit for all the facts to come out.

Of course that didn’t at all stop the usual suspects from pouncing on what seemed a perfect story with which they could push their favorite racial themes (Jesse Jackson’s “Blacks are under attack” for instance) and for others to involve themselves in something that they really have no business involving themselves in.

It has laid bare the polarization within this country and how extreme it has become.

The story, if you’ve taken time to research it, is nothing like the cut and dried “whitey killed a black man because he was black” meme the race baiters are pushing.   In fact, if you’ve bothered to research the story, it appears that race had little if anything to do with this tragedy.  It is not a racial issue, even if it has been portrayed as such by the Al Sharptons, Jesse Jacksons and Louis Farrakhans of this world. 

George Zimmerman, if anything, appears to have been an overzealous neighborhood watch person with a history of calling in suspicious activities he saw in his neighborhood.  Treyvan Martin, who lived 250 miles away from that neighborhood, was apparently acting suspiciously (rummaging through garbage cans, etc.) when Zimmerman spotted him.  I doubt that Zimmerman cared one whit what Martin’s skin color was at the time.   Apparently somewhere during that time, a confrontation took place, a fight ensued and Zimmerman killed Martin with a shot to the chest.

A witness has come forward saying he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman punching him in the face. Martin, aged 17 and 6 foot 3, was not the innocent “child” the media has tried to portray.   He was a probably bigger than Zimmerman and was on a 10 day suspension from school.  Obviously that doesn’t justify killing him but it sheds a little different light on the situation.

I can’t get inside the heads of either of these people but is it reasonable to assume, given the situation, that Zimmerman might have feared for his life?   Possibly.  I don’t know – and neither does anyone else.

Does that justify the shooting.  Again, I don’t know.

But of course all the race pimps do. Just ask them.  And so they’ve essentially initiated a vendetta against George Zimmerman, who, by the way, isn’t white even though that assumption was immediately made by many given his name.  Zimmerman’s mother is Peruvian and of Indian stock. 

An example of the thoughtless incitement that is going on can be found with none other than Spike Lee who, uninformed jerk that he is, published Zimmerman’s address on Twitter.    Numerous threats to Zimmerman have been published on Twitter as well.  The New Black Panthers have put a $10,000 bounty on Zimmerman’s head.  Louis Farrakhan tweeted that the “law of retribution may soon be applied”, a not-so-veiled threat against Zimmerman.

The irony, of course, is this is a typical lynch mob mentality being stirred up here.  These are calls for violence outside the law. 

No one is claiming that George Zimmerman isn’t at fault here.  He may very well be. We don’t know yet.   That’s for a court of his peers to decide.  Certainly not a marginally informed and inflamed mob.  If something happens to Zimmerman before his day in court, you can most likely look to the digital lynch mob for the source.  I’ve always considered the racist white lynch mobs of the past to be one of the most horrific and disgusting manifestations of the racism of the past.  I find what is happening now no less horrific or disgusting.

There’s also another reason this is on the national radar.  And it has nothing to do with race.  I’ll let my favorite leftist hack columnist at the New York Times lay it out for you:

Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy — and it is. And it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.

If you are inclined to want to see guns controlled or banned and citizens required to flee any sort of confrontation vs. defending themselves, Paul Krugman is right there with you and has the goods on this now “infamous” law.

Except, as usual, it is a mish-mash of half-truths and innuendo cobbled together to make you think that corporate America is actually the villain in all of this.

We talked about this case on the podcast last night.  What is going on right now is all too predictable.  And it again points out how polarized this country is.  And it isn’t getting less polarized.

Final thought.  As I recall, President Obama was supposed to be the “post-racial” President, or that was his claim.  Yet he has inserted himself in two local incidents that I know of (the Skip Gates incident being the first) and inflamed the incidents with his remarks.  That, my friends, is not leadership. 

But then, he’s not a leader, and those of us who have actually been in leadership positions in our lives have known that from the beginning.   Instead he has difficulty denying his liberal roots and not succumbing to their siren call.

He’s an agitator.  And, as usual, he’s stepped in on something he should have stayed out of and made it far worse.  Inserting himself has given impetus, cover and justification for the Frarrakhans, Lees, Jacksons, Sharptons and the New Black Panthers to do what they’re doing.  Instead of calming the waters and talking about trusting the legal system and letting it do its work, he’s done exactly the opposite.

Congrats, Mr. Prez.  If anything happens to Zimmerman, you’re on the hook too as far as I’m concerned.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

More Law vs. Constitutional Rights

Interesting case.  And I lean toward the side which says doing what is ordered amounts to self-incrimination which the 5th Amendment is designed to prevent.

American citizens can be ordered to decrypt their PGP-scrambled hard drives for police to peruse for incriminating files, a federal judge in Colorado ruled today in what could become a precedent-setting case.

Judge Robert Blackburn ordered a Peyton, Colo., woman to decrypt the hard drive of a Toshiba laptop computer no later than February 21–or face the consequences including contempt of court.

I’m not sure, in her case, what they’re looking for, not that it matters particularly.  We again have technology in the focus and its use being ruled on by the court.  The question is, does such an order violate the defendants right to refuse self-incrimination by unlocking data which has the possibility of incriminating her.

Today’s ruling from Blackburn sided with the U.S. Department of Justice, which argued, as CNET reported last summer, that Americans’ Fifth Amendment right to remain silent doesn’t apply to their encryption passphrases. Federal prosecutors, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment this afternoon, claimed in a brief that:

Public interests will be harmed absent requiring defendants to make available unencrypted contents in circumstances like these. Failing to compel Ms. Fricosu amounts to a concession to her and potential criminals (be it in child exploitation, national security, terrorism, financial crimes or drug trafficking cases) that encrypting all inculpatory digital evidence will serve to defeat the efforts of law enforcement officers to obtain such evidence through judicially authorized search warrants, and thus make their prosecution impossible.

I certainly understand the import of that claim.  And it is a valid point.  But is it something which over rides the protection of the 5th Amendment?  In my opinion, this is not at all as clear as the 4th Amendment case below.  I’m not sure, however, one explains away the fact that decryption may indeed incriminate the person required to do the decrypting. 

For instance:

[A] Vermont federal judge concluded that Sebastien Boucher, who a border guard claims had child porn on his Alienware laptop, did not have a Fifth Amendment right to keep the files encrypted. Boucher eventually complied and was convicted.

On the other hand:

In March 2010, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that Thomas Kirschner, facing charges of receiving child pornography, would not have to give up his password. That’s "protecting his invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination," the court ruled (PDF).

The government argues:

Prosecutors tend to view PGP passphrases as akin to someone possessing a key to a safe filled with incriminating documents. That person can, in general, be legally compelled to hand over the key. Other examples include the U.S. Supreme Court saying that defendants can be forced to provide fingerprints, blood samples, or voice recordings.

The defense argues:

On the other hand are civil libertarians citing other Supreme Court cases that conclude Americans can’t be forced to give "compelled testimonial communications" and extending the legal shield of the Fifth Amendment to encryption passphrases. Courts already have ruled that that such protection extends to the contents of a defendant’s minds, the argument goes, so why shouldn’t a passphrase be shielded as well?

There you have it.

Opinions?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

What part of the 4th Amendment does law enforcement not understand?

I don’t know about you, but this seems such a clear thing to me.  If law enforcement is going to put any sort of a tracking device on a citizen’s vehicle, they need to obtain a warrant first.  See 4th Amendment:

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled unanimously that the police violated the Constitution when they placed a Global Positioning System tracking device on a suspect’s car and monitored its movements for 28 days.

[…]

Walter Dellinger, a lawyer for the defendant in the case and a former acting United States solicitor general, said the decision was “a signal event in Fourth Amendment history.”

“Law enforcement is now on notice,” Mr. Dellinger said, “that almost any use of GPS electronic surveillance of a citizen’s movement will be legally questionable unless a warrant is obtained in advance.”

Specifically:

“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search,’ ” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor joined the majority opinion.

“It is important to be clear about what occurred in this case,” Justice Scalia went on. “The government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information. We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a ‘search’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when it was adopted.”

The government, in this case, had put a GPS device on the target’s vehicle without a warrant, monitored it for 28 days and then used that information at his trial (he was convicted on cocaine trafficking charges and given a life sentence).

The reason I think this should have been a no-brainer for LEOs is the fact that the SCOTUS decision was unanimous. 

When the case was argued in November, a lawyer for the federal government said the number of times the federal authorities used GPS devices to track suspects was “in the low thousands annually.”

Vernon Herron, a former Maryland state trooper now on the staff of the University of Maryland’s Center for Health and Homeland Security, said state and local law enforcement officials used GPS and similar devices “all the time,” adding that “this type of technology is very useful for narcotics and terrorism investigations.”

Monday’s decision thus places a significant burden on widely used law enforcement surveillance techniques, though the authorities remain free to seek warrants from judges authorizing the surveillance.

Ok, get a freaking warrant first. 

What this decision does is uphold a Constitutional right that has been under assault for quite some times.   The “envelope stretching” that is not uncommon as new technology offers new methods of surveillance and monitoring.  The watchword for LEOs should be “when in doubt, get a warrant”.  And live by the document you’ve sworn to uphold and defend.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Who is robbing whom here?

We’ve been treated to stories of “greed” and supposed corporate misbehavior by the OWS crowd, but here’s a story that ought to make you furious, especially if you’re an Illinois taxpayer:

Two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience were allowed to count their years as union employees toward a state teacher pension once they served a single day of subbing in 2007, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation has found.

Steven Preckwinkle, the political director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and fellow union lobbyist David Piccioli were the only people who took advantage of a small window opened by lawmakers a few months earlier.

Obviously any number of people are culpable.  The lawmakers, of course.  But the two who took advantage of this legal loophole are simply morally reprehensible people who took advantage of the system for personal gain without earning what they will receive.

The legislation enabled union officials to get into the state teachers pension fund and count their previous years as union employees after quickly obtaining teaching certificates and working in a classroom. They just had to do it before the bill was signed into law.

So seeing an opportunity to cash in without actually having to do any real teaching, they quickly got teaching certificates and substitute taught for one day.   One day.  They were paid $93 for the day.

The result from that day?  Probably over $100,000 a year in pension payments:

Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.

His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.

Meanwhile, as you might guess, the pension fund is horribly underfunded and teachers who’ve spent a career in the classroom stand to get less than half what these two will get.

The union finds no real problem with what its two paid lobbyists did:

A spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers emphasized that the lobbyists’ actions were legal and that they made "individual decisions."

Even so, union President Dan Montgomery said the deal Preckwinkle and Piccioli landed "should never be allowed again." But the union, which provides its employees with a private 401(k)-type plan, is standing by the lobbyists’ right to have access to the public pension.

"They entered TRS under the law and are participating members of TRS. As a TRS employer, the IFT is required to make the payments to TRS," the union said in a statement.

Of course we all know that legal and moral are only the same by coincidence.  These two scoundrels knew precisely what they were doing and did what they did with malice aforethought.  This was a bid to cash in while doing nothing.  And of course, cheats like them are more than happy – along with the union – to stand behind the façade of legality.

And oh, by the way, it should never happen again because the law was changed after these two grifters cashed in.

Always looking out for the little guy and making sure he gets a square deal, those union guys.

HT: Duane Lester

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Joe Biden: Scaring the little people in flyover land

In another version of the “pushing granny over the cliff” scare which typified the resistance mounted by Democrats to Social Security reform, VP Joe Biden is out there trying to scare the people about crime in order to spend more on shoring up the Democratic base (more political cronyism) to be found in teacher’s and public servant’s unions:

“Murder will continue to rise, rape will continue to rise, all crimes will continue to rise,” if the Democrats agenda isn’t passed, he added.

Because, you know, there’s a direct correlation between murder, rape and the number of cops on the beat.

Except both murder and rape stats have been in a downward trend since 2006.  In 2006 the murder rate per 100,000 was 5.7, rape 30.9.

In 2010 the rate for murder was 4.8 and rape 27.5.  In the two intervening years, those numbers continued to fall.  And we all know we’ve been in the recession for at least 3 years and there have been cutbacks in police during that time.

So, unsurprisingly Biden is wrong and is pushing a myth (they’ll “continue rising”) when in fact, the stats show a steady drop for the past 4 years.

But he’s shameless in his fact free attack:

Then in the same speech he wished Republicans were themselves rape victims.  “I wish they had some notion of what it was like to be on the other side of a gun, or [to have] a 200-pound man standing over you, telling you to submit.”

Amazing.  Vice President of the US and trying to pull this political hackery complete with the usual scare tactics off.  Of course, look at his boss.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Third “Gunwalker” weapon evidence withheld by FBI?

More developments in the fiasco that is known as Operation Fast and Furious.

There appears to have been a third “Gunwalker” weapon at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry which hasn’t been in evidence, suggesting it has been withheld.  Audio recordings reveal the mention of a third gun that until now has been unknown.  The conversation is between ATF Agent Hope MacAllister and Glendale, AZ gun shop owner Andre Howard:

Agent: Well there was two.

Dealer: There’s three weapons.

Agent: There’s three weapons.

Dealer: I know that.

Agent: And yes, there’s serial numbers for all three.

Dealer: That’s correct.

Agent: Two of them came from this store.

Dealer: I understand that.

Agent: There’s an SKS that I don’t think came from…. Dallas or Texas or something like that.

Dealer: I know. talking about the AK’s

Agent: The two AK’s came from this store.

Dealer: I know that.

Agent: Ok.

Dealer: I did the Goddamned trace

Agent: Third weapon is the SKS has nothing to do with it.

Dealer: That didn’t come from me.

Agent: No and there is that’s my knowledge. and I spoke to someone who would know those are the only ones they have. So this is the agent who’s working the case, all I can go by is what she told me.

The tapes are several months old (mid March, 2011):

Law enforcement sources and others close to the Congressional investigation say the Justice Department’s Inspector General obtained the audio tapes several months ago as part of its investigation into Fast and Furious.

Then, the sources say for some reason the Inspector General passed the tapes along to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona: a subject in the investigation. It’s unclear why the Inspector General, who is supposed to investigate independently, would turn over evidence to an entity that is itself under investigation.

A spokesman from the Office of the Inspector General today said, "The OIG officially provided the United States Attorney’s Office with a copy of the recordings in question so that the USAO could consider them in connection with the government’s disclosure obligations in the pending criminal prosecutions of the gun traffickers. Prior to receiving the tapes, the OIG made clear that we would have to provide a copy of the recordings to the United States Attorney’s Office because they would need to review them to satisfy any legal disclosure obligations."

Uh, yeah.  And why has it taken this long for copies to be provided elsewhere?

Remember:

Court records have previously only mentioned two weapons: Romanian WASR "AK-47 type" assault rifles. Both were allegedly sold to suspects who were under ATF’s watch as part of Fast and Furious.

Per the agent in the transcript, the third weapon (SKS) came from “Dallas or Texas or something like that” and they had serial numbers for all three.

Why are we just finding out about the third weapon at the scene?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

More Fast and Furious revelations

Business Insider has the details.   As the probe widens, more and more of the botched and frankly stupid operation becomes known:

The WSJ reports today that federal authorities are now investigating why the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix — the same office that oversaw Fast and Furious — released Jean Baptiste Kingery after he confessed to providing military-style weapons to the now-defunct La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.

Kingery, who was arrested and released in June 2010, confessed to manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using grenade components from the U.S. He also admitted to helping the cartel convert semi-automatic rifles into machine guns.

Mexican criminal organizations are increasingly using these military-style weapons as the cartels’ escalate their wars against the government and one another.

Despite Kingery’s confession, and over loud protestations from the arresting ATF officers, the U.S. Attorney’s office let Kingery go within hours of his arrest.

This has led the Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s office to attempt to push back:

The Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s office denies that it declined to prosecute the case, saying that it wanted to continue surveillance. The office alternatively told investigators that ATF agents wanted to make Kingery an informant, but lost contact with him within weeks of his release.

Prosecutors involved in the case also accuse ATF agents of devising a failed sting that allowed Kingery to take hundreds of grenade parts across the border in the months about six months prior to his arrest.

Kingery had been hauled in by ATF agents and confronted with the evidence and the U.S. Attorney’s office thinks he’s going to go back to work and it’ll be business as usual?  Really?  I guess they figured out that wasn’t the case when they “lost contact with him within weeks of his release”.

Botched?  That’s being kind.  And notice too the attempt to distract by the U.S. Attorney with the “failed sting”.  It seems to me if that’s the case and six months later the agents had the goods on Kingery, it was probably a good arrest at that point.  But apparently the U.S. Attorney there knows better, huh?

This is Clown College stuff.  How badly can an organization screw up an operation that was absolutely stupid to begin with?   Obviously worse than we thought.  The level of stupidity, incompetence and outright dumb decisions wrapped up in this case are staggering.   It was a dumb idea to begin with and it was compounded with incompetence, poor execution and it inevitably ended up killing a US agent and untold Mexicans.

The question is, who at what level knew about this in the administration.  There are those who believe Eric Holder is certainly knew and there’s speculation that the man in the White House may have known and condoned the operation as well.

The Fast and the Furious case has escalated over the past weeks, with news that at least three White House national security officials knew about the gunrunning program.

Emails obtained by the Committee last week show contact between the head of the Phoenix ATF and Kevin O’Reilly, then-director of North American affairs, about the operation. The White House confirmed that O’Reilly briefed Dan Restrepo, senior director for the Western Hemisphere, and Greg Gatjanis, director of counterterrorism and narcotics.

The emails, first reported by the LA Times, do not indicate that the White House aides knew about the more controversial tactics of letting the guns "walk." There is also no indication that the information went beyond those three officials.

Yeah, that sort of stuff never makes it into security briefings for the President, does it?

And you can already see the attempt to limit the damage if it is finally proven the President was aware of the operation (and tacitly approved it) with the line that says the White House security aides didn’t know “about the more controversial tactics of letting the guns “walk.””   That was sort of the whole point of the operation, wasn’t it?

Lots of interesting revelations yet to come methinks.  Whether or not the press will cover it in any depth remains to be seen, but in my estimation, this is a large enough scandal that at least Eric Holder’s job ought to be in jeopardy.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO