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New information reveals ATF sold guns directly to Mexican drug cartels

Information about Operation Fast and Furious – the US government run gun running operation that turned over thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels – is coming fast and furious now.  The newest revelation:

Not only did U.S. officials approve, allow and assist in the sale of more than 2,000 guns to the Sinaloa cartel — the federal government used taxpayer money to buy semi-automatic weapons, sold them to criminals and then watched as the guns disappeared.

This disclosure, revealed in documents obtained by Fox News, could undermine the Department of Justice’s previous defense that Operation Fast and Furious was a "botched" operation where agents simply "lost track" of weapons as they were transferred from one illegal buyer to another. Instead, it heightens the culpability of the federal government as Mexico, according to sources, has opened two criminal investigations into the operation that flooded their country with illegal weapons.

Yes, it’s not just about allowing drug cartel members to buy guns from US dealers and move them into Mexico, apparently the ATF also bought guns and resold them to the drug cartels with the same result.  Or said another way, they used your money to actively participate in this bone-headed plan and sure enough, got the expected results.  But then they lost track of the weapons – on purpose.

Apparently there was a little office politics involved in the stupidity:

In June 2010, however, the ATF dramatically upped the ante, making the U.S. government the actual "seller" of guns.

According to documents obtained by Fox News, Agent John Dodson was ordered to buy six semi-automatic Draco pistols — two of those were purchased at the Lone Wolf gun store in Peoria, Ariz. An unusual sale, Dodson was sent to the store with a letter of approval from David Voth, an ATF group supervisor.

Dodson then sold the weapons to known illegal buyers, while fellow agents watched from their cars nearby.

This was not a "buy-bust" or a sting operation, where police sell to a buyer and then arrest them immediately afterward. In this case, agents were "ordered" to let the sale go through and follow the weapons to a stash house.

According to sources directly involved in the case, Dodson felt strongly that the weapons should not be abandoned and the stash house should remain under 24-hour surveillance. However, Voth disagreed and ordered the surveillance team to return to the office. Dodson refused, and for six days in the desert heat kept the house under watch, defying direct orders from Voth.

A week later, a second vehicle showed up to transfer the weapons. Dodson called for an interdiction team to move in, make the arrest and seize the weapons. Voth refused and the guns disappeared with no surveillance.

According to a story posted Sunday on a website dedicated to covering Fast and Furious, Voth gave Dodson the assignment to "dirty him up," since Dodson had become the most vocal critic of the operation.

"I think Dodson demanded the letter from Voth to cover both himself and the FFL (Federal Firearm Licensee). He didn’t want to be hung out to dry by Voth," a source told the website "Sipsey Street Irregulars."

Your government at work, carefully looking out for your best interests.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


What part of “freedom of assembly” don’t San Juan Capistrano officials understand?

I swear this country gets more and more totalitarian as the days go by.  Try this one on for size:

An Orange County couple has been ordered to stop holding a Bible study in their home on the grounds that the meeting violates a city ordinance as a “church” and not as a private gathering.

Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.

That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple’s legal representation.

The Fromms also reportedly face subsequent fines of $500 per meeting for any further “religious gatherings” in their home, according to PJI.

“We’re just gathering and enjoying each other’s company and fellowship. And we enjoy studying God’s word.” Stephanie Fromm told CBS2.

A) What freaking business is it of  the city’s to begin with?

B) It doesn’t matter if they gather every day.  If it is voluntary, in a private home and they’re not disturbing anyone or violating anyone’s rights, what business is it of the city?

C) Where does the city get off requiring permits to gather at a private residence?

D) In case you missed it in A, what freaking business of the city, especially in light of the 1st Amendment guarantee?

Who someone chooses to peacefully assemble – especially in a private home – is none of the damn city’s business.  Does this make the weekly poker game an event that requires permits.  How about the weekly gathering at the neighbor with the big screen tv to watch football?

This is utter nonsense on a extraordinarily intrusive scale.  It isn’t about what they’re doing (bible study, poker, football) but that the city has taken it upon itself to invent some permitting nonsense that puts them in jeopardy legally.

Absurd – but there it is.

You have to wonder what part of this the folks in city government don’t understand:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Seems pretty clear to me.  And yes, I recognize we’re not talking about Congress here, but this is a right that has since been incorporated so that we all have it and government in general is prohibited from violating these rights.

Says the city:

“The Fromm case further involves regular meetings on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons with up to 50 people, with impacts on the residential neighborhood on street access and parking,” City Attorney Omar Sandoval said.

Oh, I see.  That is all it takes to abrogate the 1st Amendment guarantee.  Temporarily impacting “on street access and parking”.  Yup, inconvenience others and you’re guaranteed rights are kaput.  Gone.  Out the window, or to use today’s favorite phrase, under the bus.

Of course the fact that it is an invented excuse only adds to the nature of the folly:

Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI.

Or, as one can conclude, it’s a naked show of power by the city to exert control in something they have no freaking business being involved.

The little totalitarians are as dangerous as the big ones.  It is from the little ones – who are able to get away with this sort of nonsense – that the big one’s grow.  We need to stomp them out (metaphorically speaking) when they’re small.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Mexican officials learned of “Gunwalker” from news reports

How about setting up an operation that allows illegal guns to be “walked” into another sovereign nation – a friendly nation — and see them tied to hundreds of murders.  If you were that friendly nation, and had to find out about this violation of your sovereignty via the news media, would you be happy?

Of course not.  And neither is Mexico.  The entire “Gunwalker” fiasco was done without consulting Mexico a single time. Marisela Morales, Mexico’s Attorney General, is understandably unhappy about that.

Marisela Morales, Mexico’s attorney general and a longtime favorite of American law enforcement agents in Mexico, told The Times that she first learned about Fast and Furious from news reports. And to this day, she said, U.S. officials have not briefed her on the operation gone awry, nor have they apologized.

"At no time did we know or were we made aware that there might have been arms trafficking permitted," Morales, Mexico’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, said in a recent interview. "In no way would we have allowed it, because it is an attack on the safety of Mexicans."

Morales said she did not want to draw conclusions before the outcome of U.S. investigations, but that deliberately letting weapons "walk" into Mexico — with the intention of tracing the guns to drug cartels — would represent a "betrayal" of a country enduring a drug war that has killed more than 40,000 people. U.S. agents lost track of hundreds of weapons under the program.

How could they apologize, Ms. Morales – according to them, none of the top guys knew this was even going on (/sarc).

But the point is clear – this is either the most inept operation ever conceived and executed, or there’s some other ulterior motive to be assigned.  Or perhaps both.  Things like this unwillingness to notify Mexico or bring them in on the operation tend to have one consider that there might have been an alternate agenda, even if one isn’t inclined to be very open to conspiracy theories.

Anyway, back to Mexico:

Atty. Gen. Morales said it was not until January that the Mexican government was told of the existence of an undercover program that turned out to be Fast and Furious. At the time, Morales said, Mexico was not provided details.

U.S. officials gave their Mexican counterparts access to information involving a group of 20 suspects arrested in Arizona. These arrests would lead to the only indictment to emerge from Fast and Furious.

"It was then that we learned of that case, of the arms trafficking," Morales told The Times. "They haven’t admitted to us that there might have been permitted trafficking. Until now, they continue denying it to us."

Mexico is the beneficiary of the Obama open hand approach to foreign policy – a slap in the face.  And that famous transparency is evident as well.

Shoe on the other foot time.  How do you suppose we would react if Mexico did the same sort of thing to us?  Any inkling of what would be going on now if they were letting guns walk into the US and then finding them at murder scenes?

Yeah, no arrogance to be found here.

In June, Canino, the ATF attache, was finally allowed to say something to Atty. Gen. Morales about the weapons used by Mario Gonzalez’s captors, thought to be members of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

"I wanted her to find out from me, because she is an ally of the U.S. government," he testified.

Canino later told congressional investigators that Morales was shocked.

"Hijole!" he recalled her saying, an expression that roughly means, "Oh no!"

Canino testified that Fast and Furious guns showed up at nearly 200 crime scenes.

Mexican Congressman Humberto Benitez Trevino, who heads the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, said the number of people killed or wounded by the weapons had probably doubled to 300 since March, when he said confidential information held by Mexican security authorities put the figure at 150. The higher number, he said, was his own estimate.

A former attorney general, Benitez labeled the operation a "failure," but said it did not spell a collapse of the two nations’ shared fight against organized crime groups.

"It was a bad business that got out of hand," he said in an interview.

Many Mexican politicians responded angrily when the existence of the program became known in March, with several saying it amounted to a breach of Mexican sovereignty. But much of that anger has subsided, possibly in the interest of not aggravating the bilateral relationship. For Mexico, the U.S. gun problem goes far beyond the Fast and Furious program. Of weapons used in crimes and traced, more than 75% come from the U.S.

"Yes, it was bad and wrong, and you have to ask yourself, what were they thinking?" a senior official in Calderon’s administration said, referring to Fast and Furious. "But, given the river of weapons that flows into Mexico from the U.S., do a few more make a big difference?"

Still, Mexican leaders are under pressure to answer questions from their citizens, with very little to go on.

"The evidence is over there [north of the border]," Morales said. "I can’t put a pistol to their heads and say, ‘Now give it to me or else.’ I can’t."

You have to love the pistol analogy, given the circumstances, don’t you?

The official reason for not notifying Mexico that the US had decided to violate its sovereignty with this operation was ostensibly fear of corruption and that the details of the operation would be leaked to the drug cartels.   OK, understood, but still it doesn’t excuse what we wouldn’t tolerate if the tables were turned.   You either have a cooperative working relationship with law enforcement officials in Mexico (including all the attendant risks that entails) or you don’t.  You can’t selectively choose when and when not to share information if you expect to maintain a reciprocal and meaningful relationship.

This operation has obviously done more than put guns at the scene of 200 Mexican crime scenes.  It has damaged relations with a close and friendly neighboring state. 

Brilliant.

~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


Feds drop charges against man who defended his children against grizzly bear

You may remember the story from last week about the Idaho man who shot and killed a grizzly bear in his yard because he feared it would injure or kill his children (also somewhere in the yard).  He reported the killing to fish and wildlife officials and that’s when his troubles began.  Although the local and regional fish and wildlife people recommended no charges based on their investigation (they considered it a justified kill), federal officials decided to proceed, leveling federal misdemeanor charges against Jeremy Hill.

There was an outcry not only from the local population, but on blogs all across the land.   It put the spotlight on the story and pressure on the U.S. Attorney’s Office to justify their decision.  Obviously, they couldn’t.  So, assuming a face-saving ploy, they’ve decided they’ll simply reduce the charges to a “citation” and a fine Hill $1,000.

Becky Kramer, writing for the Coeur d’Alene Spokesman-Review tells us the story:

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has dropped misdemeanor charges against a Porthill, Idaho, man who shot and killed a grizzly bear in his yard.

Instead, Jeremy M. Hill was issued a citation for the May 8 shooting of the male grizzly, and paid a $1,000 fine.

A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that state and federal wildlife officials were unable to establish the location of Hill’s children when three grizzly bears were first sighted in the yard, about forty yards from the Hill home. Hill told law enforcement officers that he last saw his children outside playing basketball in front of their home, but that he didn’t know where his children were when he saw the three grizzly bears near his pig pen. The two other bears ran off after Hill shot the 2-year-old male.

U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson said that dismissal of the criminal charge was based in part on Hill’s prompt notification of the shooting to Idaho Fish & Game officials.

“The United States Attorney’s Office well understands Mr. Hill is a concerned husband and father who wants to protect his family,” said Olson. “Anyone who observes or hears of a grizzly bear near campsites or residences must immediately contact fish and wildlife officials.”

If that last bit of drivel isn’t a laugh I don’t know what is.  He was charged by the feds after he notified the proper authorities.  It wasn’t his “prompt notification” which caused the U.S. Attorney to drop the charges, it was public outcry and them looking like asses.  The man should never have been charged in the first place as the fish and wildlife officials in the area recommended.  And now they want to paper it over with the nonsense above after Hill has had to go to the time and expense of defending himself.

In reality, he’d have been much better off not notifying the authorities, but instead quietly disposing of the remains instead.  And the authorities know it.  Thus the fabricated reason for dropping the charges.

~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


Man who kills grizzly while protecting his family is charged by Feds

Jeremy M. Hill was outside his home in Porthill, ID when 3 grizzly bears, a female and her two cubs, entered the yard.  Hill’s children were playing in the area and, unsurprisingly, Hill believed the bears to be a threat to his family.   So he shot and killed the female.  Then he notified the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.  That’s where he made his mistake. He’s now being charged federal court with one count of killing a protected species.  Apparently his children don’t rate that distinction.

“Jeremy did the right thing, he called Fish and Game,” Keough said. “I think that prosecuting this case really sets back the grizzly bear recovery effort. … People are saying, ‘Boy, if that happened to me, there’s no way that I’d report it.’ That’s a human reaction.”

Exactly.  My guess is if he had it to do over again, he’d just quietly bury the bear and be done with it. 

Additionally, the charges are being brought despite the recommendations against such charges by the state and US local Game and Fish representatives:

They also issued a news release, saying that Idaho Fish and Game officials had recommended against filing charges in the case, and that local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials had concurred.

Chip Corsi, Idaho Fish and Game’s regional manager, declined to comment on his agency’s stance on charges, but said: “He had three grizzly bears in close proximity to his kids, family and livestock. He had reason to believe there was a threat.”

But, as with most faceless bureaucracies, a decision to prosecute was made over the recommendation of the local representatives by a person far removed from the reality of the situation:

Joan Jewett, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Portland, said she couldn’t comment on the case specifically. In general, however, “we do an investigation and turn over our information and evidence to the U.S. Attorney’s office and the U.S. Attorney makes the decision on whether to prosecute or not.”

And that’s precisely what has happened.  Hill is charged with killing the bear and of course now has to now defend himself against the charges.  As you might imagine, that’s an expensive proposition.  However, outraged neighbors are stepping up to help:

Community members raised $19,558 for the Hill family last week at a 4-H animal sale in Bonners Ferry. Hill’s 14-year-old daughter, Jasmine, was selling a pig she raised named Regina. Bidders bought and sold Regina 15 times, with the final bidder giving the pig back to Jasmine Hill, saving it from a trip to the butcher.

“It was a statement – we’re with you, Jeremy,” said Rob Pluid, of Bonners Ferry, who helped organize the continuous bidding.

Accounts for the family have been set up at Mountain West Bank, Wells Fargo and Panhandle State Bank, said Donna Capurso, chairwoman of the Boundary County Republican Central Committee.

Meanwhile, Hill has a court date of October 4th.   A strange and wonderful thing happened at his arraignment:

So many friends and family members showed up to support Jeremy M. Hill at his arraignment that the hearing was forced to move into a larger room at the U.S. Courthouse in Coeur d’Alene.

This is another example of an absurd waste of taxpayers money, not to mention prosecutorial stupidity.  Justice isn’t the unthinking enforcement of laws.  Extenuating and mitigating circumstances are certainly something which are considered in every case.  There are things which happen, such as in this case, which any thinking person should understand mitigate the law’s enforcement.  Threats to one’s family fall in that category. 

Additionally, when you have agents in the field and charged with enforcing those laws in agreement that no charges should be filed based on the circumstances of the case, you’d better have a damn good reason for proceeding.  If I were the judge, the first question I’d ask the prosecution is why they chose to proceed.   And if I didn’t get a good answer I’d dismiss the charges.   “It’s the law” isn’t a good answer.

Oh, and even if it does go to trial, good luck empaneling a jury that will convict the man. 

We’ll watch and report.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


All the trappings of a police state

Imagine living in a place where the authorities can record everything you say or do without your consent, however if you do the same – for your own protection – that’s a felony punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

Sound like a place you’d want to live?

In fact, that’s precisely the case in Illinois. Watch this illuminating 15 minute video. If it doesn’t make you furious, then you simply don’t care about your Constitutionally guaranteed rights. And you’re perfectly fine with the creeping fascism that seems to be infecting parts of our country:

 

Recording conversations and events pertinent to your legal situation, standing and rights, especially when dealing with public officials in their official capacity, should not be in question.  Ever.  Wanting a record makes perfect sense and, as you might imagine, has a tendency to keep conversations and actions in line with the law and on a much more polite and civil level.

Most importantly, it is something you must have every a right to do.  Why is it they get a legal right to privacy (i.e. can deny consent) when the citizen doesn’t enjoy the same right?   That’s not how I understand the purpose of the Constitution and the rights it guarantees the citizens.  It is government it prohibits from violating the rights of citizens not the other way around.

I can certainly understand the law saying one must inform a public official that he or she is being recorded (a simple, “hey, I’m recording this” would suffice), but beyond that, I see no requirement that they give obtain consent for that recording to continue, especially while the public official is acting within their official capacity and executing the duties of their office. 

What this gentleman is going through is simply an exercise in raw power designed to intimidate.  Obviously the law needs to be changed and changed expeditiously.  But if that doesn’t happen – and it appears it won’t – his best chance is a jury trial.   Most people with any sense are going to reject the government’s case as overbearing, a violation of a citizen’s rights and just plain old un-American.  And as you can see in the video, any attempt to solicit information about the case from public officials was ignored.  That should tell you a lot about how confident they are about the case.

Bottom line: This is an example of the creeping fascism that is infecting our country.  This is “let me see your papers” territory.   And it needs to be firmly and swiftly nipped in the bud.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


There oughtta be a law!

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.

~
Dale Franks
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Whatever happened to tar and feathers?

This is the story of 20 year-old Tiawanda Moore. It seems she was dissatisfied with a contact she’d had with a Chicago police officer.

Moore, of Hammond, Ind., was being interviewed at police headquarters about her complaint that a patrol officer had grabbed her breast and given her his phone number when he came to her boyfriend’s South Side apartment on a domestic disturbance call.

No doubt the officer, having Moore’s best interests in mind, thought he would be a much better boyfriend. Sadly, Moore took this concern for her well-being amiss, and decided to file a complaint against the officer. At police headquarters, the investigating officers—who similarly appeared to have only Moore’s best interests at heart—suggested an alternate method of dispute resolution, that is to say, to drop her complaint entirely, as they preferred not to conduct a formal investigation, which would, really, just be an inconvenience to everyone involved. At that time, Moore decided to record the remainder of the conversation.

On the muffled recording, which was played for the jury Tuesday, Internal Affairs Officer Luis Alejo can be heard explaining to Moore that if she dropped the complaint, they could “almost guarantee” that the harassment would not happen again. He also suggested that going that route might save her the time and aggravation of a full investigation.

Ah. You see, if she decided not to demand a formal investigation, the IA investigators could "almost guarantee" that the breast-grabbing officer would get the word to cool his jets. And, isn’t an "almost guarantee" good enough? Not for Moore, apparently, who decided to use her Blackberry to record the conversation, because she felt, for some incomprehensible reason, that the Chicago Police Department might be downplaying her complaint.

And that’s why this case is being heard by a jury, as the quote above indicates.

The officers, of course, are not being tried for corruption or dereliction of duty, of course. Tiawanda Moore is the defendant, on two counts of—I kid you not—eavesdropping on a public official. In response to questioning by Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Jo Murtaugh, Moore said:

“I was sure about what I wanted to do –I wanted him (the officer) to be at least fired from his job,” Moore testified. “I wanted justice, I wanted to be protected.”

But this is not the Chicago Way. The Chicago Way is to slap down hard any civilian peasant who presumes to record their politically-protected betters in a possible wrongdoing.

On the one hand, of course, we all know what the eventual result of an internal affairs investigation would be. The police would carefully investigate the police, and after due course would conclude that the police had done nothing wrong. And recording public officials without their knowledge when they are engaged in corrupt behavior might actually endanger their ability to engage in corruption.

On the other hand, all this could have been avoided by dropping her complaint in return for almost a guarantee that she won’t be bothered in the future.

But in Chicago, public officials, engaged in public duties on the public’s dime, have an expectation of privacy, and cannot be recorded without their consent. You, as a member of the public, can be recorded by the police at any time, with or without your consent, but you can never record them unless they graciously allow it.

The only possible reason for such a law, as far as I’m concerned, is to protect corrupt officials, and to prevent the public from exposing it.

We don’t drag public officials naked and screaming out of their offices to tar and feather them any more. Indeed, we can barely muster up the will to toss out incumbents who vote for such laws. But in a just world, , the Illinos Legislature, Internal Affairs Officer Luis Alejo and Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Jo Murtaugh would, even now, be sporting the sleek plumage of an Albatross from the Exxon Valdez.

UPDATE: A commenter informs me the jury appears to have done the right thing and acquitted Moore. Still, none of the other players are sporting a heavy layer of fine down, so the glass is only half full.

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Dale Franks
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