Government abuse: not surprising, not unexpected, but certainly something that needs to be stopped – now!
This has been in the news recently and now it is getting some Congressional attention. It has to do with possible illegal activities involving the NSA and DEA. As you know, the NSA’s job is to focus outside the US, not inside, and primarily on enemies of the United States, not it’s citizens:
Eight Democratic senators and congressmen have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to answer questions about a Reuters report that the National Security Agency supplies the Drug Enforcement Administration with intelligence information used to make non-terrorism cases against American citizens.
The August report revealed that a secretive DEA unit passes the NSA information to agents in the field, including those from the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and Homeland Security, with instructions to never disclose the original source, even in court. In most cases, the NSA tips involve drugs, money laundering and organized crime, not terrorism.
Five Democrats in the Senate and three senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee submitted questions to Holder about the NSA-DEA relationship, joining two prominent Republicans who have expressed concerns. The matter will be discussed during classified briefings scheduled for September, Republican and Democratic aides said.
“These allegations raise serious concerns that gaps in the policy and law are allowing overreach by the federal government’s intelligence gathering apparatus,” wrote the senators – Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
Why, other than the fact that the NSA has no charter or permission to pass its information about American citizens on to other agencies, is this important?
The Reuters reports cited internal documents that show how DEA’s Special Operations Division funnels information from overseas NSA intercepts, domestic wiretaps, informants and a large DEA database of telephone records to authorities nationwide to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
The documents show that agents have been trained to conceal how such investigations truly begin – to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up the original source of the information, raising questions about whether exculpatory information might be withheld from defendants at trial.
The internal documents describe the process of recreating the evidence trail to omit any reference to the Special Operations Division as “parallel construction.” For example, agents said in interviews, they act as if a drug investigation began with a traffic stop for speeding or a broken taillight, instead of a tip passed from the NSA. An IRS document describes a similar process for tax agency investigators.
Emphasis mine. So not only is passing such information to these agencies unauthorized, the government then instructs its agents on how to lie about the source of their information (a lie of omission). And, of course, it is also legitimate to ask whether or not exculpatory evidence could also have been available but not passed to these agencies.
Is this really the type government we want? One that spies on us, intercepts our electronic messages and phone calls and uses them secretly by passing what should be private to various other government agencies and then lies about it? Peggy Noonan addresses those questions quite directly today:
If the citizens of the United States don’t put up a halting hand, the government can’t be expected to. It is in the nature of security professionals to always want more, and since their mission is worthy they’re less likely to have constitutional qualms, to dwell on such abstractions as abuse of the Fourth Amendment and the impact of that abuse on the First.
If you assume all the information that can and will be gleaned will be confined to NSA and national security purposes, you are not sufficiently imaginative or informed. If you believe the information will never be used wrongly or recklessly, you are touchingly innocent.
If you assume you can trust the administration on this issue you are not following the bouncing ball, from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who told Congress under oath the NSA didn’t gather “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans” (he later had to apologize) to President Obama, who told Jay Leno: “We don’t have a domestic program.” What we do have, the president said, is “some mechanism that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack.”
Oh, we have more than that.
Almost every politician in America lives in fear of one big thing: a terrorist attack they can later be accused of not having done everything to stop. And so they’ll do anything. They are looking to preserve their political viability and historical standing. We, as citizens, must keep other things in mind, such as the rights we are born with as Americans, one of which is privacy.
Lord Acton nailed it when he said “Power corrupts …”. We’re currently in the midst of watching exactly that happen to an even greater degree than in the past. If you give government power, it will do everything it can to expand that power – whether legitimately or illegitimately. It is the nature of the beast. And we have to put up a hand to stop it.
If you’re wondering why the Tea Party is characterized in such nasty ways by the establishment of both parties, it is because it does indeed attempt to put up a hand to stop these sorts of abuses and remove power from the abusers. They threaten the very base of power the political establishment has worked so hard to build over the years.
The scandal that is the DoJ’s “Fast and Furious” debacle continues to enable crimes and murders in Mexico:
Three more weapons from Fast and Furious have turned up at crime scenes in Mexico, CBS News has learned, as the toll from the controversial federal operation grows.
According to Justice Department tracing documents obtained by CBS News, all three guns are WASR-10 762-caliber Romanian rifles. Two were purchased by Fast and Furious suspect Uriel Patino in May and July of 2010. Sean Steward, who was convicted on gun charges in July 2012, purchased a third. The rifles were traced yesterday to the Lone Wolf gun shop in Glendale, Ariz.
During Fast and Furious and similar operations, federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) encouraged the Lone Wolf and other gun stores to sell massive amounts of weapons to questionable purchasers who allegedly trafficked them Mexican drug cartels.
Patino is said to have purchased 700 guns while under ATF’s watch. Ever since, a steady stream of the guns have been recovered at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S. But the Justice Department has refused repeated requests from Congress and CBS News to provide a full accounting. An estimated 1,400 guns are still on the street or unaccounted for.
What I find interesting about this is what happened in the immediate aftermath of the revelation that this operation had been so badly bungled. Remember the reaction from the administration when this began to become public knowledge?
Denial. The attempt to pin the blame on some “rogue agents” in Phoenix.
Ring any bells? What was their reaction to Benghazi? To try to pin the blame on some video producer.
IRS? I believe it was rogue agents in Cincinnati.
Name your scandal and the results are almost uniformly the same.
And the real result in every case? None of the initial spin had any credence whatsoever. None. Not once.
In fact, all were traced back to high level failures on the part of various executive agencies.
And they wonder why trust in government is at an all time low.
It really is that simple. And you don’t need a PhD to figure that out. It is a “Human Nature 101″ course. If there’s no incentive for you to behave correctly and every incentive not to (i.e. no punishment), then why behave correctly?
Now, consider the government we have today and all the various scandals. Who is the last person who blatantly violated the public trust that you’ve seen frog-marched to jail? Hmmm. But it takes a bunch of academics to again remind us that human nature still rules:
In a new study, Stern School of Business assistant professor of economics Vasiliki Skreta and co-authors, Karthik Reddy of Harvard Law School and Moritz Schularick of the University of Bonn, examine statutory immunity provisions that obstruct or limit the criminal liability of politicians, and which exist throughout much of the modern democratic world.
…The researchers quantified the strength of immunity protection in 74 democracies and verified that immunity is strongly associated with corruption on an aggregate level. They also developed a theoretical model that demonstrated how stronger immunity protection can lead to higher corruption. The model suggested that unaccountable politicians under immunity protection can enhance their chance of re-election by using illegal means, namely supporting interest groups through lax law enforcement, non-collection of taxes, and other forms of favoritism that will go unpunished.
Where’s Charley Rangel? Chris Dodd? Barney Frank? Oh, enjoying retirement. Turbo Tax Tim Geithner? Well, not in jail.
And how about Lois Lerner? From what does she want immunity? Well in reality, she wants immunity from accountability. There’s no other reason to seek immunity otherwise.
Unfortunately, she’ll probably get it and we’ll watch the level of corruption within government continue to grow, and grow and grow.
You want to know why people don’t trust government?
I’m always a little taken aback that normally intelligent people just don’t seem to get the fact that for the most part, without government, there can be no “blackmarket”:
Indiana’s cigarette tax is relatively low. Chicago has been complaining for some time that people will go to the Hoosier State, buy a few cartons, then come back to Chicago and sell them at prices undercutting Illinois rates, but still make money. Kentucky, though its tax isn’t too high, also finds its citizens crossing into Indiana to buy their tobacco to sell them cheaper back home. It’s called the black market and high tobacco taxes foster this criminal enterprise.
Now California wants to hike taxes to some of the highest rates in the country.
Democrat State Senator Kevin De Leon has introduced a plan to hike cigarette taxes (SB 768 ) in order to pay for more state spending. But this idea is nothing new and has been defeated several times before. Even law enforcement has been against these tax hikes because such plans embolden dangerous criminals
States with high tobacco taxes like New York have reported higher levels of black-market smuggling, a big source of money for gangs and organized crime. By one 2011 estimate three of every five cigarettes smoked in the Empire State was purchased illegally.
If government doesn’t a) make something “illegal” or b) tax it to the point that other sources of a wanted commodity from states which tax it less become attractive, how would a blackmarket form among voluntary traders?
It’s just an inconvenient truth that they don’t want anyone to be aware of at the moment – i.e. you are your own best self-defense and you should be equipped to handle that responsibility. This happened last year. Did you hear about it? The MSM is invested on the side which says “guns are bad”:
A citizen with a gun stopped a knife wielding man as he began stabbing people Thursday evening at the downtown Salt Lake City Smith’s store.
Police say the suspect purchased a knife inside the store and then turned it into a weapon. Smith’s employee Dorothy Espinoza says, “He pulled it out and stood outside the Smiths in the foyer. And just started stabbing people and yelling you killed my people. You killed my people.”
Espinoza says, the knife wielding man seriously injured two people. “There is blood all over. One got stabbed in the stomach and got stabbed in the head and held his hands and got stabbed all over the arms.”
Then, before the suspect could find another victim – a citizen with a gun stopped the madness. “A guy pulled gun on him and told him to drop his weapon or he would shoot him. So, he dropped his weapon and the people from Smith’s grabbed him.”
Whoa, that can’t be right can it? Guns kill people. Guns are dangerous. Guns should be banned. Guns are terrible.
Anyone want to guess what those who were threatened and stabbed in this particular instance might say about the gun wielding man?
Maybe, “thank you?”
By the time officers arrived the suspect had been subdued by employees and shoppers. Police had high praise for gun carrying man who ended the hysteria. Lt. Brian Purvis said, “This was a volatile situation that could have gotten worse. We can only assume from what we saw it could have gotten worse. He was definitely in the right place at the right time.”
Key phrase: “By the time officers arrived …” It could have ended with “the man had stabbed a dozen people” or “had killed 3″ or, well, any of a number of much worse endings huh?
But, you know, you can’t be trusted with guns.
Deranged serial killer, Christopher Dorner, may be blossoming into a cause celebre of the moronic and ill-informed, but the official manhunt leading up to his alleged death is spawning plenty of conspiracy. There’s plenty of overlap to be sure. However, one aspect of this case that spurs skepticism is that Dorner’s wallet was found in three different places: San Diego’s Lindbergh Field; the San Ysidro Point of Entry near the US-Mexico border; and in the rubble of the cabin he apparently burned to death in.
So how could this be? Cord Jefferson at the Gawker hazards a guess:
Though he botched a number of things in the course of his warpath—a bungled boat robbery, wrecking his truck and smashing its axle, etc.—Dorner seemed better prepared than most spree killers, which might explain why he had multiple wallets and multiple IDs (perhaps he was trying to throw authorities off his track). Another possibility is that press outlets made mistakes during their reporting, thus leading the public to wrongly believe that Dorner’s wallet was in three places at once.
That sort of seems plausible, except if you’re going to go through the trouble of manufacturing several ID’s and carrying several wallets, why would you have all of them bear the same name, much less your own name? Carrying an ID for “Christopher Dorner” during this manhunt would not be much of an advantage, would it?
No, the more simple explanation (also suggested by Jefferson) is that the media screwed up.
First of all, the only official mention of Dorner’s ID and wallet being found is in the criminal complaint and affidavit filed by the US Marshal Service (see paragraph 7(b)):
“Detective Anschick later found DORNER’s personal belongings, including his wallet and identification cards, near the U.S./Mexico border at the San Ysidro Point of Entry.”
Yet, according to the most recent reports from the scene of the final conflagration, after being cornered in a cabin near Big Bear Lake, California:
He never emerged from the ruins and hours later a charred body was found in the basement of the burned cabin along with a wallet and personal items, including a California driver’s license with the name Christopher Dorner, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Did you notice that this info was from an anonymous source? Again, the only official report about a wallet and/or ID being found is the one cited in the federal complaint.
How about the claim that his wallet was found at Lindbergh Field? Well, that seems to come from this NBC San Diego report:
An LAPD badge and a wallet with the suspect’s personal identification were discovered Thursday by an airport shuttle driver near San Diego’s Lindbergh Field.
This particular nugget of info is unsourced, and doesn’t really make much sense. Would a cop who was fired in 2008 still have a badge in 2013?
Even if he did, there is still only one official report of Dorner’s ID/wallet being found, and that’s contained in the federal complaint filed on February 7th.
Ergo, the flowering conspiracy theories are almost entirely fed with media fertilizer. Once again, our intrepid press, with its professional journalists and layers upon layers of fact checkers, have proven themselves the modern equivalent of a sewing circle.
I wonder what Martin Luther King would say on the day a black president is sworn in for his second term – a day that also celebrates King’s birth. You hope he’d be pleased. But my guess is, since he was more concerned with the content of your character than the color of your skin, that might not be the case.
Why? Because of the ongoing assault on our rights. For instance the gun control distraction that involves an Attorney General who is possibly the greatest hypocrite and biggest criminal in Washington.
Attorney General Eric Holder and his Department of Justice have asked a federal court to indefinitely delay a lawsuit brought by watchdog group Judicial Watch. The lawsuit seeks the enforcement of open records requests relating to Operation Fast and Furious, as required by law.
Judicial Watch had filed, on June 22, 2012, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking all documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious and “specifically [a]ll records subject to the claim of executive privilege invoked by President Barack Obama on or about June 20, 2012.”
The administration has refused to comply with Judicial Watch’s FOIA request, and in mid-September the group filed a lawsuit challenging Holder’s denial. That lawsuit remains ongoing but within the past week President Barack Obama’s administration filed what’s called a “motion to stay” the suit. Such a motion is something that if granted would delay the lawsuit indefinitely.
I don’t care what anyone says what happened with Fast and Furious was criminal. And the ongoing cover-up is also criminal. The “most transparant administration ever” is, in fact, the most opaque.
As for the hypocrisy, well that’s easy, especially given Fast and Furious.
Attorney General Eric Holder said today that the government will consider “imposing tough penalties on gun traffickers who help funnel weapons to dangerous criminals” while talking about gun control to U.S. mayors.
ERIC HOLDER: And to consider a series of new federal laws imposing tough penalties on gun traffickers who help funnel weapons to dangerous criminals.
Who is the biggest “gun trafficker” we know of?
We’ve been told for some time that violent crime in America is actually at its lowest point since the 1970s.
But we’re also being told by a certain element that gun deaths are out of hand and we need to reconsider tightening our gun laws.
So lets take one of those “perspective” looks shall we?
First a chart that takes us through 2004 showing murders by firearms:
As an aside, the Assault Weapons ban was in effect from 1994 to 2004. Assault weapons would be found under “other guns”. You’ll note that “other methods” and knives, for the most part, were involved in more murders than “assault weapons” (further note that not all “other guns” were “Assault Weapons”, but may have been hunting rifles or shotguns). Rifles of any sort just aren’t the usual weapon of choice for murders.
Also note that murders of all types have been trending down over the years. If you hit the link in the first sentence, it will show you that in 2004 the number of violent crimes per 100,000 was 463.2 and in 2010 it had fallen to 403.6.
If you add handguns and “other guns” from the chart in 2004, you see approximately 10,500 to 11,000 murders by firearms.
The most recent FBI figures show just 358 of the 8,775 murders by firearm in 2010 involved rifles of any type.
By the way, the article that was pulled from noted that in 2010, more people were beaten to death by fists (758) than were killed by “other guns”, aka rifles of any sort.
Michael Wade does the math:
So, based on these two sites (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_households_are_in_the_US)(http://www.gallup.com/poll/150353/self-reported-gun-ownership-highest-1993.aspx) there were approximately 115 million households in 2010, and between 41% and 49% (depending on how you do the numbers) had firearms in them.
That’s a minimum of 57.5 million arms (if we assume one firearm per household, which we know isn’t even close to the right number).
If we then assume that each of the 8,775 murders was committed by a separate firearm from a different household each time (again, an assumption we know is wrong but increases the number of households involved), then approximately 0.015% of American households who owned guns were involved with murder by firearm in 2010.
Again, these assumptions make that percentage much higher than it actually is since (a) undoubtedly more households have firearms but don’t report them, (b) households with firearms will typically have more than just one, and may have several, (c) one firearm likely accounted for more than one of the 8,775 murders, and (d) the vast majority of the murders were likely committed with firearms that were illegally possessed!
Even so, slightly more than one one-thousandth of one percent of gun owners is the highest amount you are going to be able to implicate in murder by firearm, despite all the generous assumptions made in favor of the gun control side.
That does not speak to a winning argument IMHO.
No it sure doesn’t, not that they won’t try anyway. Additionally, when you do the math about chances of being a victim of firearm murder, the figure 312.8 million is what you need to divide into the 8,775 yielding a terrifying 0.000028% chance of being a victim of a firearm murder in 2010 (if you’re a gambler, though, move to Chicago and you can quickly reduce the odds).
In fact, you’re much more likely to die from one of these causes than a gunshot murder:
Chance of dying from any kind of injury during the next year: 1 in 1,820
Chance of dying from intentional self-harm: 1 in 9,380
Chance of dying from an assault: 1 in 16,421
Chance of dying from a car accident: 1 in 18,585
Chance of dying from any kind of fall: 1 in 20,666
Chance of dying from accidental drowning: 1 in 79,065
Chance of dying from exposure to smoke, fire, and flames: 1 in 81,524
Chance of dying in an explosion: 1 in 107,787
Life is perilous, but for the most part, not because of guns.
As someone recently said, we don’t need gun control, we need idiot control. Not sure how we control the idiots, but I’m sympathetic to the idea. Statistically though, the number of firearm murders per year simply doesn’t justify any renewed call for banning or restricting the sale or possession of firearms.
At this point, I see it as mostly rumor, but I wonder how the left will react if this is true:
As speculation mounts about the motive behind the mass shooting, one private investigator has claimed that Holmes may have been part of Occupy Wall Street’s most violent faction Occupy Black Bloc.
Bill Warner told how the Batman movie portrays the OWS crowd in a negative vein, leading him to believe that may have been a cause behind the shooting.
Again, note the word “speculation”. We’ll learn more as the investigation continues. Interesting that I read this first in the foreign press.
I have to wonder, then, if this indeed turns out to be true, whether authorities will continue to state that he had no ties to known terrorist groups.
That said, my profound sympathies to the families of the victims of this kook’s madness.
UPDATE: Interesting little back and forth on Twitter about this post among friends and colleagues essentially trying to convince me that I shouldn’t “go there”.
I disagree. The possibility exists and this being a news source which clearly identifies the point as “speculation” based on what it gathered from one “private investigator”, I see nothing wrong with posting it. They obviously found something credible in what the investigator said, credible enough to include it in the story (but obviously not willing to cast it beyond “speculation” until they can find a corroborating source). I present it as they have.
Never said or directly implied in the back and forth was the “sensitivity” of the recent massacre or the apparent assumed time one must let pass before “speculating”. We speculate about motive all the time on really fresh crimes (see recent bus bombing in Bulgaria). The size of this one is the only real difference. It was a heinous act – agreed. Got it. So are green-on-blue murders in Afghanistan, be we don’t assume a waiting period on those. We discuss them. We speculate on motive, etc. Talking about it or what may have motivated the crime won’t make it any less heinous.
Should the source choose to retract, I’ll note that. Other than that, this is something to be considered in the mass murders this yahoo perpetrated. Call it what you will, I see it as news. And if you don’t believe this should be “politicized”, that ship sailed hours ago.
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?