Justice

Magonia on Right-Wing Tories and UFOs

Going through a stack of old copies of the small press UFO magazine, Magonia, yesterday evening I came across a couple of articles, which mentioned the bizarre attitudes of two right-wing Tory MPs. One of these was a humorous piece about the Eurosceptic politico Teddy Taylor, who was beating his drum against the EU because they wanted to set up a commission to study UFOs. The article was in Magonia 48 for January 1994, titled ‘Watch the skies – and your wallets’ and ran

According to newspaper reports, Eurosceptic Tory MP Teddy Taylor has been looking into a potentially profitable new gravy-train for clued-up ufologists. In a Parliamentary question to Trade and Industry Secretary Michael Heseltine about “unidentified flying objects and aliens in the asteroid belt”, and their “implications for public policy” he has been trying to shake loose information on a ‘fact-finding tour’ (i.e. publically funded bunfight) about UFOs by Euro MPs. Taylor fumes: “These MEPs have been swanning around Europe asking people if they’ve seen one. They’ve come to the staggering conclusion that aliens might exist, but that you can’t be certain.” Amazingly, it appears the European parliament is considering setting up a Euro UFO Observation Centre as an official European Institution. “This may sound fun, but it makes me angry. My constituents have lost jobs because of the EC’s incompetence and nuttery.”

It makes us angry too – if the EC (sorry, EU) is throwing money at UFOs, why is none of it coming our way? We are investigating. You have not heard the last of this. Brussels, be warned!

The second is more serious, and comes from a review of Nick Redfern’s On the Trail of the Saucer Spies: UFOs and Government Surveillance (Anomalist Books 2006) In Magonia 92, June 2006, p. 18. Redfern’s book also claims that various extreme right-wing groups have tried to infiltrate Ufology. This comes from an anonymous individual, who claims that he was a member of Special Branch tasked with combating such infiltration. This is highly debatable, as the extreme right-wing group involved was APEN, which was a hoax perpetrated by a student at Cambridge University. The supposed whistleblower also doesn’t mention real instances of right-wing infiltration, like a conference on conspiracies set up in the 1990s that gave a platform to anti-Semites and Nazis like Eustace Mullins, or how some of them also joined the ‘Witness Support Group’. This was supposed to be a group to support people, who had witnessed UFOs or been abducted by aliens. Its newsletter, Rapport, contained some extremely nasty anti-immigrant ravings by a member of the BNP, who put all his hate into sub-Kiplingesque poetry. The group ended in tragedy when one its members committed suicide after some moron told them they were under CIA surveillance.

But the Magonians also pointed out in the review that one of the leaders of the big British UFO organisation, BUFORA, Patrick Wall, also had very extreme right-wing views and deeply unsavoury connections.

And if we are going on about the far right connections of ufology, then what about BUFORA’s one time President Patrick Wall, often regarded as the most racist and reactionary of all post-War Tory MPs. Wall was associated with a shadowy ‘anti-communist’ movement, the World Anti-Communist League, said to be financed by Saudi Arabia and Taiwan (then under the dictatorship of Chiang Kai Shek), and involved in channelling funds to all sorts of extreme right organisations, and used to channel money for the CIA to help set up the Provisional IRA.

With friends like that, who needs to do any infiltrating?

Actually, if Teddy Taylor was worried about politicians with weird views about UFOs wasting public money, he needn’t have gone as far as the EU. One was much closer to home in the shape of the Earl of Clancarty, otherwise known as Brinsley Le Poer Trench. Trench was a market gardener, who inherited a place in the House of Lords as he was a cousin of an Anglo-Irish lord. He was very racist, anti-immigrant, and a supporter of Ian Smith’s Whites-only government in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He also believed in UFOs, ancient astronauts and that the Earth was hollow and inhabited by subterranean civilisations. In 1979 he organised a debate in the House on UFOs, in which he also asked questions about what the government knew about alien bases in the asteroid belt. Uncovered Editions published the documents from the debate as a book in the 1990s. Trench’s debate was notorious at the time, and one of the countercultural presses published a piece about it, calling it ‘a most visionary and loony debate’.

Finally, why the EU was certainly flawed, membership in it is far preferable to the chaos and economic destruction that’s going to hit this country if the Eurosceptics like Taylor get their way. MEPs spending public money to ask people if they’ve seen alien spacecraft is a small price to pay for jobs, proper funding for industry, access to the single market and working migrants and students bringing their skills and hard work to this country.

How the FBI Increased Its Power After 9/11 and Helped Put Trump in Office

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/09/2019 - 9:50pm in

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Mike German, a former FBI special agent, had four years on the job when he took an assignment that would change his life forever. It was 1992. A jury in Simi Valley, California, had just acquitted a group of mostly white Los Angeles police officers for the videotaped beating of a black construction worker named Rodney King. Decades of pent-up anger directed at one of the nation’s most notoriously racist police departments spilled out on city streets in a six-day convulsion that left more than 60 people dead. Amid the unrest, white supremacists in southern California saw an opportunity, believing that the riots could be used as cover to launch a race war.

The FBI’s Los Angeles office got wind of the plans, and when his supervisor floated the idea of infiltrating the groups, German, who was in his late 20s at the time, enthusiastically volunteered. For more than a year, German lived undercover, embedded in a network of neo-Nazi skinheads plotting the bombing of a popular African-American church and the assassination of prominent Jewish and black figures, including King himself.

German’s investigation led to multiple prosecutions on federal weapons and bomb-making charges and marked the beginning of a series of undercover operations inside the world of far-right American extremists that spanned more than 12 years. It was a critical time for the FBI, with the trifecta of Ruby Ridge in 1992, Waco in 1993, and Oklahoma City in 1995 having called into serious question the bureau’s domestic counterterrorism tactics and the blowback they had incurred. By the time the new century rolled around, it seemed that the FBI was on track for critical reforms.

A bright, clear morning in September 2001 changed that.

German was assigned to the FBI’s Atlanta office when the planes hit the Twin Towers. Three years later, he was a civilian, having resigned from the FBI after he blew the whistle on a terror investigation gone wrong and became the target of an internal retaliation campaign. In the decade and half since, he has emerged as a critical voice in the post-9/11 era, challenging the war on terror at home and abroad.

Former FBI agent and Michael German photographed near Wall Street downtown Manhattan on September 13, 2019. Sasha Maslov for the Intercept

Former FBI agent and writer Michael German photographed near Wall Street, in downtown Manhattan, on September 13, 2019.

Photo: Sasha Maslov for The Intercept

“The idea of using the law to protect the most vulnerable in society is what drew me to the FBI.”

As a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, German has been a go-to source for journalists (The Intercept included) on the civil liberties beat, consistently providing nuanced analysis on matters of law enforcement and justice, often as they pertain to his old employer. In his new book, “Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy,” German brings his insights to a wider audience, telling the story of how FBI leadership capitalized on the September 11 attacks, escaping a much-needed internal reckoning to become the most powerful and secretive domestic intelligence agency the country has ever known.

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Image: Courtesy of The New Press

In an interview with The Intercept, German explained that the idea for the project began taking shape years ago, as he grew increasingly concerned about the media’s coverage of the FBI. “It was very sporadic,” German told me. “An abuse here, an abuse there.” Nobody seemed to be digging into the structural problems in the FBI. If they did, German explained, they would see that these seemingly one-off events were indicative of patterns linked to the bureau’s institutional history, its self-perception and attitude following September 11, and the demographic composition of its workforce.

While his personal experiences are deployed as needed, the real story in “Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide” is German’s methodical and damning account of a powerful American institution chronically failing to live up to its mission. The book comes at a critical moment. Driven by a series of high-profile attacks and the president’s ties to white nationalism, the FBI’s relationship to German’s old beat — domestic counterterrorism investigations involving white supremacists — has returned to the media spotlight. At the same time, former FBI directors Robert Mueller and James Comey, who ran the FBI during its troubled post-9/11 years, have ascended to near god-like status in some liberal corners for their respective roles in the Russia investigation affair.

“We live at an interesting time where there’s such polarization over every issue but particularly over the FBI and what role it plays in our society, where liberals who previously had been skeptical of the FBI now are sort of champions of the FBI, and conservatives who were full supporters of empowering law enforcement are now skeptical,” German said. “I’m hopeful that a more nuanced view that isn’t influenced by the politics of either side, but is rather just presenting facts on how this agency actually works, and the problems that are created as a result, will be helpful to a larger effort to conduct a comprehensive examination of where we are almost 20 years after 9/11.”

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Demonstrators hold an upside down American flag as they stand in the street while protesting the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 22, 2014.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Targeting Political Dissent

As an army brat who came of age during the Vietnam War, German writes that he “had no illusion that the government always did the right thing, or did it well.” Still, from the time he was a kid, an FBI agent was all he ever wanted to be. German was moved by President Theodore Roosevelt’s original 1909 vision of a Department of Justice investigative agency established to “secure the conviction of the wealthiest and most formidable criminals” in the country, especially those protected by “wide political and social influence.” He writes: “The idea of using the law to protect the most vulnerable in society is what drew me to the FBI.”

At its heart, German’s book is about the FBI’s failure to reflect those principles.

He documents how in the wake of 9/11, FBI leadership embraced a discredited theory of radicalization that had the convenient side effect of ignoring the bureau’s own shortcomings in the run-up to the attacks, while simultaneously laying the groundwork for demands for expanded powers and authorities. The FBI also turned on its own, particularly in cases when agents raised concerns about the legality of operations or failed to match up with the bureau’s overwhelmingly white male demographics. In case after case, German offers examples of the FBI zeroing on agents, particularly Muslim agents and those of Asian descent, as potential threats and would-be turncoats, railroading promising careers without a whiff of evidence.

German chronicles the FBI’s shift from a law enforcement agency concerned with criminal investigations, to an intelligence agency primarily concerned with counterterrorism. He focuses heavily on the bureau’s impact in Muslim communities, where civil society groups were targeted as supporters of terrorism, precarious immigration status became a tool to push people into becoming informants, and agents used their expanded authorities to open “assessments” on individuals in the absence of suspected crimes. It was during this same period, German observes, that the FBI began accepting and integrating the discredited theories of an “Islamophobia network” in its official training materials, sending a message to bigots across the country that anti-Muslim hatred was a government-condoned philosophy.

While the September 11 attacks brought new powers, the FBI of the last two decades has also carried on its longstanding tradition of targeting leftists, anarchists, and environmental activists, German writes. So-called eco-terrorism, he points out, was for much of that time the FBI’s No. 1 domestic terrorism priority, despite the fact that the movement has never claimed a life. For German, that contradiction is precisely the point of the book. While the FBI has devoted enormous time, energy, and resources to filling unconstitutional watchlists with Muslim names and directing its agents to focus on bogus national security threats such as “black identity extremists,” important crimes that the bureau is supposed to enforce have fallen by the wayside.

War without end, the impotence of Congress, and the financial collapse have all contributed to Americans’ plummeting faith in the government, German notes, but the FBI’s post-9/11 evolution also deserves a place on that list. “I believe the FBI contributed to this breakdown of public trust in government institutions, not just by who it chose to target for disruption but, just as important, who it didn’t,” he writes.

Take the torture program. German writes that experienced FBI interrogators, who understood that torture produces unreliable information in addition to being illegal, were well-positioned to take the investigative lead following 9/11. Instead, the FBI took a back seat to the CIA, even as it became clear — at times through concerns raised by its own agents in the field — that the intelligence agency was breaking the law. But it’s not just the classified programs devised behind closed doors in Washington, D.C. The FBI has a mandate to enforce civil rights violations by police officers. According to German, if data on police killings and violence disproportionately impacting people of color says anything, it’s that the FBI could keep itself quite busy investigating police abuses — if that’s what FBI leadership wanted to do.

“The new FBI saw protecting the establishment as its mission and disrupting the political mobilization of dissident and disenfranchised communities as its most potent weapon.”

Instead, recent history has shown the FBI targeting Black Lives Matter and partnering with a private intelligence company that infiltrated the Standing Rock protests. In the case of Standing Rock specifically, German notes, it’s worth remembering that it’s also part of the FBI’s mandate to prosecute crimes against Native Americans on reservations — there, too, the bureau has fallen short. “Though too often ignored as crime victims,” German writes, “Native Americans draw unwarranted law enforcement attention when they protest government policies that negatively impact their communities.”

From Pine Ridge to Wall Street, the FBI’s prioritization problems run deep, German argues. In 2004, he writes, FBI headquarters received repeated warnings that mortgage fraud was an “epidemic” with the potential to trigger an economic crisis. As FBI director, Mueller had transferred hundreds of white-collar crimes investigators to counterterrorism. “Congress denied the FBI’s requests for more agents,” German writes, meanwhile, “Mueller refused to reprioritize his national security assets.” Even when there was evidence that financial institutions were engaged in actual criminal activity, German writes, executives didn’t go to prison.

“Like J. Edgar Hoover’s bureau,” he argues, “The new FBI saw protecting the establishment as its mission and disrupting the political mobilization of dissident and disenfranchised communities as its most potent weapon.”

The Rise of the Right

In 2016, German witnessed something disturbing. A Ku Klux Klan rally in Anaheim, California, was interrupted by a group of anti-racist protesters. Three protesters were stabbed by a Klansman. Initially, five Klansmen were arrested, though the police later released them, taking the position that they had acted in self-defense. Meanwhile, seven of the protesters were charged with a variety of crimes.

In years past, law enforcement would keep racist groups and anti-racists apart. In this case, they didn’t. As this pattern repeated itself again and again through the election and after Donald Trump’s inauguration, it became clear to journalists and researchers that the same far-right figures, some with records of serious criminal violence, were popping up again and again at the events. And yet the FBI appeared loath to take action. With scenes from Ferguson and Standing Rock still fresh in the public consciousness, German writes, “It was perplexing to watch convicted felons engaging in unpoliced violence at these white nationalist rallies and, rather than being arrested, becoming featured speakers at the next rally.”

In telling the story of the FBI’s failure to confront the threat of white supremacist violence, German argues that it’s not a lack of authorities, but an absence of institutional interest in recent years to take basic steps to understand the problem — let alone bring and close cases. “After 9/11, I noticed the FBI officially de-emphasizing white supremacist violence,” German writes, despite the fact that extremists typically described as part of the far right “kill more people in an average year than any other terrorist groups.”

During the Obama administration, which saw a surge in far-right group membership and activity, FBI analysts were reporting a decline in white supremacist violence even as outside researchers, like the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, were reporting the exact opposite. For German, the resurgence of far-right violence and Trump’s rise to power cannot be divorced the security politics and failures of post-9/11 America. “The Trump campaign grasped that fifteen years of political polarization and constant terror warnings had created an appetite for a strongman candidate, which he could whet with messages of fear and anger,” he writes.

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The operations floor at the National Counterterrorism Center in Tysons Corner, Virginia, June 8, 2011.

Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Bound up in the narrative of Trump’s ascent is, of course, one of the biggest FBI stories of all time: the Russia investigation. Here, German argues, the FBI’s running list of post-9/11 failures ascended to new heights. German’s assessment of former director Comey’s actions through this period is perhaps the most withering section of his book. Not unlike Trump, Comey had a tendency to take a blowtorch to the norms and obligations he was bound by. On top of that, German writes, “The available evidence suggests Comey’s FBI did not pursue allegations that Russia was illicitly supporting the Trump campaign with the necessary urgency, at least if you believe that a hostile foreign nation’s effort to influence a U.S. presidential election presents a national security threat of the highest dimension.”

In German’s view, the Russian government either successfully conspired with the Trump campaign to undermine the most important presidential election in modern American history, or it didn’t. “If it did, the FBI’s and its partner agencies’ inability to interdict the plot before a corrupted election elevated an illegitimate president to power is an intelligence failure of a magnitude rivaled only by the failure to quickly bring the conspirators to justice afterward,” he writes. “If not, the FBI and other intelligence agencies have used their covert intelligence powers to undermine a duly elected U.S. president and his administration in ways that would make J. Edgar Hoover blush. Either possibility suggests a significant part of our government has forfeited its legitimacy and is no longer serving in the public interest.”

As for Trump himself, German sees in the president a man whose entire life and business history, not to mention his associates, reeks of potential criminal liability. And still, he seemed to generate a considerable amount of wealth and obtain the most powerful position in the world without a serious look from the FBI along the way. “The practical immunity Trump and his retinue enjoyed as they amassed wealth and power also gives lie to his supporters’ contention that Mueller, Comey, and the FBI somehow had it in for Trump and manufactured a case against him,” German writes. “The failure to prioritize the economic crimes of the politically powerful left the nation vulnerable to a hostile foreign nation’s effort to delegitimize U.S. elections. This is exactly the sort of threat a domestic intelligence agency is supposed to protect against.”

German still believes in the FBI’s capacity to be a force for good. At the same time, he recognizes that many people in the advocacy community he’s become a part of in the last 15 years do not. “It’s easier for me to have more confidence in the ability to reform law enforcement institutions because I’m not the prime target of abusive law enforcement actions,” he acknowledged. German sees his role in building a more just future as discreet — he knows the FBI and has a deep understanding of where its problems come from. What members of civil society do with that information is up to them.

“We can’t work on effective solutions if we don’t really understand the problem,” German said. “My goal with this book was to make sure that we’re understanding the structural and attitudinal problems that allowed the FBI to be a threat to democracy rather than protective of it.”

The post How the FBI Increased Its Power After 9/11 and Helped Put Trump in Office appeared first on The Intercept.

An Asylum Officer Speaks Out Against the Trump Administration’s “Supervillain” Attacks on Immigrants

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/09/2019 - 2:30am in

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Asylum officers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, were reeling after John Lafferty, director of the asylum division, was replaced on Monday by Andrew Davidson, former deputy associate director for USCIS’s fraud detection and national security directorate. Then came the Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday reinstating the Trump administration’s “third-country” rule, which effectively denies asylum to all Central American immigrants if they passed through another country on the way to the U.S. border with Mexico. It has been a very bad week for defenders of political asylum in the United States.

Lafferty had previously worked as a lawyer at Catholic Charities, an immigrant legal services nonprofit, and the asylum officers who worked under him at USCIS have generally had similar backgrounds. Many are highly educated attorneys who have worked in nonprofits assisting immigrants with asylum claims rather than trying to deport them. Lafferty’s ousting and replacement by a fraud investigator is just the latest development in the Trump administration’s assault on the asylum system, according to a USCIS asylum officer who contacted The Intercept. The asylum officer’s name is being withheld to protect against retaliation.

In recent months, Customs and Border Protection agents have been conducting asylum screening interviews in place of asylum and refugee officers from USCIS. These interviews have been taking place in detention centers in border states. Perhaps more ominously, they are also happening with immigrants trapped in Mexico by the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP. Mexico is also where many immigrants will be dumped as the “third country” policy rolls out.

MPP forces asylum-seekers to live in dangerous Mexico border cities while awaiting intermittent court hearings in the U.S. As of this month, 42,000 men, women, and children are trapped in MPP. Many have been raped, robbed, and kidnapped in Mexico. They want desperately to escape the dangers they face, and many ask for what is called a “non-refoulement” interview so they can tell government officials about the violence they’ve suffered in Mexico, and their need to be removed from MPP and permitted to enter the U.S.

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Migrants have their documents checked by a Border Patrol agent after crossing the Rio Grande illegally outside of EL Paso, May 16, 2019.

Photo: Paul Ratje

Until recently, the officer said, such interviews were done exclusively by USCIS asylum officers, who undergo extensive, long-term training to conduct this kind of interview. Many are attorneys and have gone through at least 10 weeks of training. They are required to spend four hours a week on continuing education and legal policy and procedure. And even after training is completed, supervisors review the interviewers’ notes for mistakes and correct their findings if significant errors are found.

The asylum officer said that many of their colleagues and superiors have been troubled by new draconian requirements for MPP interviewees — requirements that have resulted in only about 5 percent of interviewed immigrants being removed from the program. The fact that someone has already been kidnapped or raped in Mexico is not enough for them to be removed from MPP. That is because passing the interview requires evidence not that the violence might happen again, but that it probably will reoccur.

The officer believes that MPP unconstitutionally deprives refugees of due process. That belief was the subject of an amicus brief filed by the officers’ union recently in the 9th Circuit, arguing that the government cannot force asylum officers to make illegal decisions. The officers have struggled to interpret MPP so that they can fulfill the spirit of the law: that people with legitimate claims deserve the chance to present their full claim before a judge.

The Intercept asked USCIS if asylum officers were being pressured by the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security to break the law. A spokesperson responded that that DHS policies and regulations such as for MPP and the third country rule “are carefully drafted and reviewed not only by agency counsel, but also by DHS counsel and DOJ to ensure legal sufficiency and compliance with existing immigration laws.”

But Customs and Border Protection officers who conduct the interviews have different training and a different agenda, the asylum officer said.

The officer said that CBP agents with no legal background are receiving as little as two weeks of training. As a result — or maybe deliberately — they commit errors.

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Migrants are asked questions by Border Patrol agents about their origins after having crossed into the U.S. near the Paso del Norte International Bridge, June 10, 2019.

Photo: Paul Ratje

The officer recalled an incorrect decision by a CBP agent. The agent finished the interview and wrote a report. Reading it, a USCIS asylum officer who had been sitting in noticed that the CBP agent had neglected to classify the immigrant as a member of an oppressed group in their home country. That is clear grounds for an asylum claim, and the USCIS employee’s interview notes clearly identified the immigrant as a member of that group. The CBP officer’s report did not. Whether the omission “was on purpose or by accident, we can’t know,” the asylum officer said. “But it’s not a good sign.”

The officer suspects malfeasance, however, because “CBP officers routinely fake paperwork. Several times a week I would speak to someone whose interview notes with CBP were wildly inaccurate, either intentionally or unintentionally.”

For example, the officer described speaking with many immigrants who, according to CBP, had signed a sworn affidavit saying they were not afraid to return to their country — yet the immigrants denied ever having been asked the question.

“The most obvious fake thing I see on paperwork these days,” the officer added, “is ‘Subject claims to fluently speak Spanish.’” In fact, the officer said, “They know 10 words of Spanish because they’re from the mountains of Guatemala and only speak an obscure Mayan language.”

CBP now has at least 75 officers who can do the MPP non-refoulement interview, the asylum officer said, and these days border agents are doing many, if not most, of the interviews. Almost everyone interviewed receives a negative determination and is sent back to Mexico. “I think their end goal,” the asylum officer said of the Trump administration, “is to have all CBP stations have CBP officers do these interviews because then they are no longer being kicked up to us. CBP hates sending stuff to us. Our positive rates are very high and CBP hates that.”

The Intercept asked CBP to respond to the officer’s claims that its agents make mistakes, possibly deliberately. A CBP spokesperson did not respond to that question but stated that “in addition to the training that is received at the Border Patrol Academy, Border Patrol Agents in the Pilot Program receive 5 weeks of training under U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services lesson plans to conduct Credible Fear interviews.”

The asylum officer is also troubled that no attorneys are allowed to accompany immigrants to MPP interviews; the immigrants need attorneys. “These people are extremely confused. There’s all sorts of reasons why someone wouldn’t be able to tell you what happened to them, where an attorney is able to find out, if nothing else because they have more than the 30 to 60 minutes we have to do an interview.”

For now, USCIS supervisors are still reviewing MPP decisions, including those done by CBP agents, but the asylum officer is concerned that even that safeguard could be eliminated. When asylum and refugee officers do other types of interviews, they are required to write substantial narratives justifying their findings. That does not happen with MPP. “The scary part is that the officer doesn’t have to justify their decision. They just check a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ So you can’t know what the quality of their analysis was.”

As for the new third country policy, interviewers — whether they are asylum officers or CBP agents — are being ordered to automatically disqualify all immigrants except for those who show that they were trafficked or were denied asylum in other countries, or can prove that they are more likely than not to be persecuted or tortured in their home country. The bar is extremely high, and for anyone who does pass the interview, the asylum officer said, the government “can always return them to Mexico under MPP. It’s a supervillain plan.”

The government’s goal now is to turn everyone away, the officer said. That will empty currently crowded detention centers to make room for immigrants who have been picked up in the U.S. interior rather than at the border.

The officer described feeling horrified, even physically sickened, by these new policies under Trump, and by what the asylum interview process has become. Still, USCIS officers are trying to do their interviews comprehensively and correctly. For instance, the officer said, it’s important to ask immigrants if they were trafficked or if they were compelled to have sex with their smugglers, or were otherwise forced to remain with or work for smugglers who demanded higher fees than were previously agreed upon. These are common instances of trafficking. Yet the officer already knows of one case where a CBP agent paid no attention to a girl who repeatedly described being trafficked.

The officer could leave USCIS and get another job, but stays on. “I’m doing harm reduction with my own government. It’s insane. The alternative is, who’s going to come in and take my place?”

Update: September 13, 2019, 3 p.m.

This article has been updated with a statement from Customs and Border Protection that was received after publication.

The post An Asylum Officer Speaks Out Against the Trump Administration’s “Supervillain” Attacks on Immigrants appeared first on The Intercept.

With Trump in Office, Newspapers Increasingly Quoted Anti-Immigrant Groups Without Explaining Who They Were

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/09/2019 - 1:52am in

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The Center for Immigration Studies, a far-right, anti-immigrant group, was frequently cited by major U.S. newspapers in the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency — without mention of the group’s deep ties to the Trump administration, according to a report released Thursday.

Ninety percent of news articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today that cited the Center for Immigration Studies from 2014 to 2017 did not mention “the extremist nature of the group or its ties with the Trump administration,” according to “The Language of Immigration Reporting: Normalizing vs. Watchdogging in a Nativist Age.” The report, which was produced by researchers at Define American, a nonprofit media and culture organization, and Media Cloud, a project of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab and Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, focuses on immigration reporting in those outlets over a four-year period starting in 2014.

The researchers found that the Center for Immigration Studies — which was founded by the late John Tanton, a white nationalist considered to be the father of the modern anti-immigrant movement — was often cited as a neutral authority in providing expert opinion or data. In 2018, the news outlets did a slightly better job of identifying the group, with context missing only 82 percent of the time, and negative sentiment expressed in 13 percent of references.

“Basic standards of journalistic integrity are that these organizations be properly contextualized as the white nationalist organizations that they are.”

Hassan Ahmad, a Virginia-based immigration lawyer who has sued the University of Michigan for the release of Tanton’s archives housed there, said it’s important for news organizations to explain what these Tanton-linked groups are. Such context is necessary, he said, because the groups’ ideology, which he described as “camouflaged white nationalism,” has become enmeshed in the national conversation.

“When it affects our discourse — or infects our discourse — on immigration so deeply, then it’s hard for even Democrats to stay away from it,” Ahmad said. “And that’s why it’s so important for there to be proper contextualization whenever these organizations speak.”

Ahmad added, “Quite frankly, these organizations, they are not legitimate opposition voice in the immigration debate. They’re a white nationalist voice. If people want to give them airtime, that’s their thing. But I think basic standards of journalistic integrity are that these organizations be properly contextualized as the white nationalist organizations that they are.”

The Define American report also noted that Trump’s rise brought with it an overall increase in immigration coverage. At the same time, however, the study noted that the news outlets under review increasingly used dehumanizing language, such as “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens.”

Image: Courtesy of Define American

The terms often appeared in direct quotes from Trump or his political allies, an indication that the bump was more a consequence of newsmakers using those terms with increasing frequency, rather than a stylistic shift by the news outlets. Still, the Define American authors say, reporters and editors who choose to repeat such terminology in their work have a responsibility to contextualize it.

“Ideally, we could see a 500 percent increase in immigration stories and zero increase in dehumanizing terms used,” said Kristian Ramos, communications director at Define American and an author of the report.

“This type of reporting is not occurring in a vacuum: White supremacists are killing Latinos in Walmarts to stop an ‘invasion’ of Hispanics into Texas,” Ramos added, referring to the manifesto believed to have been written by the suspect in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, last month. “The words reporters are using matter. Just because there is more immigration reporting overall does not require reporters to fall into old tropes, outdated language, and dehumanization.”

A Nativist Godfather

Dr. John Tanton, an ophthalmologist by training, poses in his Petoskey, Michigan, office, February 1989.

Photo: Alan R. Kamuda/Detroit Free Press via ZUMA Wire

John Tanton, who died in July, spent the last four decades of his life building an anti-immigrant movement rooted in white nationalism. An ophthalmologist by training, his interest in immigration was spurred by his concern over population growth — there were too many people competing for too few resources. The solution, in Tanton’s mind, was to restrict immigration by overturning the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, a law that eliminated the racist quota system that had virtually excluded everyone who wasn’t a white European from immigrating to the U.S.

In 1979, Tanton launched the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR. He also founded the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA. The “big three,” as the groups are collectively known, went on to become the intellectual backbone of the nativist movement in the United States.

Tanton’s groups argued that unchecked immigration brought with it unemployment, high crime rates, and other social ills. Their ideas were, for many years, infrequently cited in the mainstream media, where they were considered on the fringe of the immigration debate. Though they are still not widely cited, there has been a noticeable increase in references to these groups since Trump’s rise to political power.

Image: Courtesy of Define American

“John Tanton walked in, eyes wide open, and embraced white nationalism as a motivating factor, injecting it into our immigration policy,” said Ahmad. In a bid to make more information about this controversial figure available, Ahmad set out in 2016 to win the release of Tanton’s files, which were to be released by the University of Michigan in 2035. A Michigan appellate court ruling in Ahmad’s favor in June, but the university is in the process of appealing the decision.

Ahmad said Tanton’s long view and network of groups allowed his message to spread far and wide. “It might have ended with him, but he was so influential in creating this entire framework,” he said. “He wasn’t thinking about policies for the next five years or 10 years; he was thinking 100 years. Fear of an ‘invasion,’ ‘Latin onslaught,’ ‘America being less white,’ appealed to — and is in a sick, symbiotic relationship with — bona fide white nationalists.”

The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda runs parallel to the agendas of the Tanton-linked groups. In 2016, Trump cited a study by the Center of Immigration Studies in a campaign ad that fearmongered about immigrants, accusing them of “collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line.”

That influence has moved into the halls of power with Trump. A number of individuals formerly employed by groups in the Tanton network now work on immigration at Trump’s Department of Homeland Security. Julie Kirchner, who was the executive director of FAIR from 2007 to 2015, is the ombudsperson of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at DHS. Robert Law, who was the government relations director at FAIR from 2013 to 2017, has been a senior policy adviser at USCIS since October 2017. Elizabeth Jacobs, another senior adviser at USCIS, was also a lobbyist for FAIR, where she advocated for ending Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans and reducing refugee admissions. Jon Feere, who was a legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, joined U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2017 as a policy adviser.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, has leveraged the revolving door between the Tanton organizations to try to get easy access to information. “Do you know if an actual person I can call at E-Verify for statistics (or maybe in your shop)?” Krikorian wrote to Law, the USCIS adviser, in December 2017, according to a record obtained by American Oversight through a public records request. “I’m trying to go through public affairs, but that may take a while and there’s some problems with the numbers at the E-Verify site, and a PR person isn’t going to know what I’m talking about.”

With the ascent of a fellow traveler into the White House and, with him, a gaggle of former employees from Tanton-linked groups into key policymaking positions, the groups have increasingly been cited as sources in mainstream immigration coverage. These citations are almost always in neutral terms that do not provide context about the groups’ agendas.

Once the researchers working on the Define American report identified instances in which the Center for Immigration Studies, FAIR, and NumbersUSA were cited, two coders manually studied the data to determine whether any context was provided, according to Ethan Zuckerman, a report author and the director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media.

“They looked at each of the mentions, and they looked to see if things were mentioned in any critical terms,” Zuckerman explained. “The theory behind that is that this group of think tanks is a pretty heavily agendaed group of organizations — groups that have been really sort of leading the anti-immigrant movement — and there’s a great deal of a relationship between them. And they’re far from a neutral provider of research and data. So, what we were looking for in that was, was there a caveat that says, you know, ‘This center, which has a track record of advocating against immigration’ or ‘This center, which takes a strong stand against immigration’?” Zuckerman added, “When we’re saying that we don’t find that, that means they’re simply just being cited as a source.”

Mainstreaming Hatemongers’ Words

The Washington Post consistently used what the Define American researchers considered denigrating language more frequently than the other outlets; along with the New York Times, it had a higher percentage of stories with degrading terms as compared to a sample collection of 227 national news sources, as well as collections of news sources that lean left or center-left. Right and center-right sources consistently used denigrating language more frequently than other news outlets.

Despite a 56 percent increase in the use of denigrating terms in the pages of the Los Angeles Times over the four-year period, it had the lowest overall percentage of stories that included such language — even though it had the highest overall increase in immigration coverage.

Zuckerman said the Los Angeles Times stands out as a newsroom that appears to have made a deliberate decision to avoid normalizing language that dehumanizes immigrants.

“They’ve made some very conscious newsroom choices that they don’t want to normalize this language, even by putting it in quotes.”

“We see evidence from our study of the LA Times that they handled it differently,” Zuckerman said. “They’ve been very reluctant to use that denigrating language, and in fact, even after it ticked up for a bit, they’ve brought it back. What that indicates to me is that they’ve made some very conscious newsroom choices that they don’t want to normalize this language, even by putting it in quotes.” He added, “We find that really interesting because that creates clearly an alternative way to handle this language.”

The Los Angeles Times’s style guide allows for the use of “illegal immigration” to describe entry or residence into a country in violation of the law, but it encourages writers to avoid “illegal immigrant” or “undocumented immigrant,” unless it appears in a direct quote. “We know that migration and immigrant communities are essential parts of day-to-day life in Los Angeles and across our region, and we have worked diligently to expand our coverage in recent years,” the paper’s managing editor, Scott Kraft, said in a statement to The Intercept. “Our language and style guidelines for immigration-related topics are fairly strict. They’re based on the expertise of our staff and are intended to help reflect our diverse city.”

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the New York Times shared the paper’s stylebook entry for “immigration status,” which notes that “the language of the immigration debate is often politically charged” and cautions reporters to “be as specific as possible in describing immigration situations.”

Illegal immigrant remains accurate and acceptable, but be aware that some people view it as loaded or offensive. (Illegal immigration, because it describes the issue rather than an individual, is less likely to be seen as troubling.) Undocumented, the term preferred by many immigrants and their advocates, is also acceptable, though using that term exclusively may be seen as one-sided. Unauthorized is also accurate and may be perceived as more neutral than other descriptions.

Consider other alternatives whenever possible to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions: who crossed the border illegally; who overstayed a visa; who is not authorized to work in the United States.

Take particular care in describing people whose immigration status is complex or subject to change — for example, young people brought to this country as children, many of whom received temporary reprieves from deportation under federal policies adopted in 2012. The common colloquial term Dreamers may be used sparingly for this group, but avoid making it the routine description, which may seem tendentious.

Do not use illegal as a noun, and avoid the sinister-sounding alien.

USA Today did not respond to a request for comment. The Washington Post did not provide a comment in time for publication.

The Define American report authors posit that U.S. newsrooms face a distinct challenge when reporting on immigration in the age of Trump. “Do they adopt terms used by public figures and use them throughout their coverage?” the report asks. “Do they acknowledge denigrating terminology but parrot the language, separating themselves by using quotation marks to make clear they do not endorse the framing? Or do they resist denigrating language by simply avoiding it, choosing instead to omit or rephrase?”

At present, news outlets are often choosing the middle path. The Define American researchers suggest that journalists think more deliberately about the language of immigration reporting. They offer five basic ethical standards of reporting, including focusing on the people most impacted by policy prescriptions, setting high standards for when it’s necessary to quote newsmakers using denigrating terms, not quoting nativist groups without context about their history and ties to the government, continuing to work toward diversifying newsrooms, and establishing these standards in public style guides.

“This study creates an important opportunity for self-reflection by major news organizations in deciding whether to purge denigrating phraseology in their style guidelines,” Peter Perl, the former assistant managing editor of the Washington Post who oversaw the newspaper’s guidelines, said in a written statement. The use of big data gives journalists “an unprecedented insight into the impact of their language choices and their selection of information sources,” added Perl, who sits on the board of Define American. “We hope they will use this chance to provide a fairer, more balanced presentation of the U.S. immigration debate to better serve their millions of readers worldwide.”

The post With Trump in Office, Newspapers Increasingly Quoted Anti-Immigrant Groups Without Explaining Who They Were appeared first on The Intercept.

John Mann Joins Tories – Real Labour Members and Supporters Celebrate

It’s finally happened then. John Mann has finally done what he should have done long ago and crossed the floor to join the Conservatives. One of the leaders of so-called ‘moderates’ – in reality Thatcherite entryists – who flung false accusations of anti-Semitism at socialists and genuine anti-racists in the party, has gone off to be BoJob’s ‘anti-Semitism Tsar’. One of Mann’s stunts was to turn up with a camera crew to accuse Ken Livingstone of anti-Semitism. Red Ken had committed the horrible crime of actually knowing some Zionist history. It was the kind the fanatics of the Zionist right really hate, and so they misquoted Leninspart and fabricated an utterly fake accusation of anti-Semitism.

The Trotskyite newt-fancier and bane of Tony Blair had said that Hitler initially supported Zionism. He did. The Nazis and the German Zionists had reached an arrangement – the Haavara agreement by which they would work together to smuggle Jews into Palestine, then under the British mandate. It was an utterly cynical arrangement. The Nazis merely wanted to get Jews out of Germany, while the Zionists wanted to get colonists for the embryonic Jewish state. It didn’t last long either. The Agreement was short-lived as the Nazis moved from the simply forcing Jews to emigration to the horror of the infamous ‘Final Solution’. Unable to countenance genuine history, Mann and his fellow bullies claimed instead that Leninspart had said that Hitler was a Zionist. He was therefore brought before one of the witch-hunters’ kangaroo courts and expelled. And the accusation that he was an anti-Semite was parroted by the British media, who can’t stand historical truth either.

The title of ‘anti-Semitism tsar’ is an infelicitous one, putting it mildly. The tsars viciously persecuted the Jews. They were forbidden to live anywhere else in the Russian Empire except in the area of the Jewish Pale. Legislation was passed limiting the jobs they could do, and they were the victims of pogroms and forced conscription into the Russian army. This was a form of forced conversion, as it was believed that the bullying and victimisation in the Russian military would encourage them to convert. Additionally, the last tsar, Nicholas II, was a full-on believer in the notorious Jewish Blood Libel. That is the murderous myth that Jews kill Christians to use their blood in the matzo bread eaten at Passover. Nicholas was so convinced of this, that he was determined to prosecute an innocent man, Beilis, against all the evidence to the contrary. This was one of the many acts that discredited the regime, and was an embarrassment even to the tsar’s anti-Semitic supporters.

As for Mann himself, while he himself is keen to fling accusations of anti-Semitism around, he has found it difficult to substantiate them. Tim Fenton has put up on his article about this the court judgement from the case when he and MacShane accused a university and college lecturers’ union of anti-Semitism, because it supported the BDS campaign. The judgement noted that while Mann eagerly denounced the campaign as anti-Semitic, he couldn’t say why. Of course he can’t. Because it isn’t. The BDS campaign is not against Jews or Jewish businesses per se, nor even against Israel. It is again Israeli goods produced in the Occupied Territories. It is an attack on apartheid and colonialism, just as the sanctions campaign against apartheid South Africa was. The only difference is that Israeli is a Jewish state, though that is not the reason for the sanctions.

Mann also is in absolutely no position to accuse anyone whatsoever of racism. He was behind a pamphlet published in 2016 which had a passage on Travellers, informing its readers that the police had the power to remove them and any vehicles or property in cases of trespass. Ben Bennett, a Gypsy, referred this to the police complaining that it was racist in that it singled out Travellers specifically. And the Rozzers concurred. They wrote back to Bennett stating that they had advised Mann that if the booklet was reprinted, that section would have to be revised and called it ‘a hate incident’.

Mann was also a mate of Phil Woolas, another Labour ‘moderate’, who stoked up racism during his local election campaign. Woolas had produced a pamphlet claiming that the Lib Dems were ‘soft on immigration’ and smearing Muslims as supporters of terrorism. He was also disappointed in the timing of his defection. He had arranged it so that it would coincide with the 10 O’clock news. Unfortunately for him, Amber Rudd chose to walk out of BoJob’s cabinet, and this overshadowed his attempt to grab a bit of publicity. It also says much about him – and nothing complimentary – that just when every decent Tory was walking out on Johnson, Mann was running towards him.

The Sunset Times, a newspaper with a proud future behind it, claimed that Mann’s defection had sparked civil war in Labour. Er, no. Not a bit. Instead of hand-wringing and recrimination, the general mood was wild celebration. See Mike’s piece about all this, which reproduces various tweets from people up and down the country rejoicing that Mann, a racist, bigot, and islamophobe, had finally gone and joined the Tories. At last the people of his constituency could look forward to getting a real socialist to represent them.

On a serious note, one of the tweeters posted this, which included this monument to Sinti and Roma – the European Travellers – murdered by the Nazis in the Porajmos, the term for the Nazi extermination of their people.

View image on Twitter

Mann claimed that he was leaving Labour because racism always started with the persecution of the Jews. This is massively hypocritical, considering his own history of racism. The Nazi extermination of the Roma – the Gypsies – was a development of the anti-Traveller racism of people like him. And the methods the Nazis used for the extermination of the Jews – killing them with cyanide gas – was first used against the disabled. Just as the Tories have murdered tens of thousands of disabled people through starvation and deprivation after throwing them off benefits through the fitness to work tests.

Mann is a racist hypocrite, a Thatcherite, who gone off to join a racist, hypocritical Thatcherite party. Labour is better off without him. 

For further info, see

Celebrations in Labour as Mann quits to become Tory anti-Semitism ‘tsar’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/john-mann-anti-semitism-non-expert.html

The Right to a Future — With Naomi Klein and Greta Thunberg

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/09/2019 - 12:38am in

The Intercept invites you to watch a special event in New York City hosted by Intercept senior correspondent Naomi Klein, author of the forthcoming book “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal,” and headlined by trailblazing climate activist Greta Thunberg, author of “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.”

Together with youth leaders Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Xiye Bastida, and Vic Barrett, as well as Indigenous Amazon leader Tuntiak Katan, Thunberg and Klein helped us envision a just and sustainable future, confront our climate emergency, and discuss the emerging cross-generational, transnational movement — including people of all races, classes, and backgrounds — that is our best hope for a sustainable planet.

Both a celebration of youth activism and a reflection on how to break through the political and economic barriers preventing meaningful climate action, “The Right to a Future” brought together a singular group of environmental leaders who are on the forefront of the battle to secure a thriving future for many generations to come.

“The Right to a Future” kicks off a week of climate coverage, starting September 15, by Intercept reporters working across our beats. The effort is part of Covering Climate Now, a project co-founded by The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review, in partnership with The Guardian, that “aims to convene and inform a conversation among journalists about how all news outlets can do justice to the defining story of our time.”

This event took place ahead of the Global Climate Strike starting September 20 and the U.N. Climate Action Summit on September 23.

Naomi Klein, Intercept senior correspondent


Naomi Klein is a senior correspondent at The Intercept and the inaugural Gloria Steinem endowed chair in media, culture, and feminist studies at Rutgers University. She is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author, most recently of “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.” She has also written “The Battle for Paradise,” “No Is Not Enough,” “This Changes Everything,” “The Shock Doctrine,” and “No Logo.”

Greta Thunberg, climate activist


Born in 2003, Greta Thunberg is a Swedish student who raised further global awareness of the problems posed by climate change specifically by holding politicians to account for their lack of action. She is the author of “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.”

 

 

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, climate activist, hip-hop artist


Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is the youth director for Earth Guardians, a hip-hop artist, and a plaintiff in Juliana v. United States, a constitutional climate lawsuit against the government. He is of Indigenous Mexican heritage and a descendent of Mexica Aztec people.

 

 

Vic Barrett, climate activist


Vic Barrett is also a plaintiff in Juliana v. United States and a fellow with the Alliance for Climate Education. He’s a Honduran American of Garifuna descent and was 11 years old when Superstorm Sandy devastated his hometown of New York.

 

 

Xiye Bastida, climate activist


Xiye Bastida is a 17-year-old Indigenous Mexican-American climate activist in New York. She is a recipient of the Spirit of the United Nations Award, an organizer with Fridays for Future, and a member of Peoples Climate Movement-NY’s core committee.

 

 

Tuntiak Katan, Indigenous leader from Ecuadorian Amazon


Tuntiak Katan was born in the Tuutinentsa Shuar community, Morona Santiago Province, in the Amazonian region of Ecuador. Since 2000, he has worked on social, cultural, and environmental projects among the different cultures in the Amazon basin. He is vice coordinator of COICA, or Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin, and general coordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities.

The post The Right to a Future — With Naomi Klein and Greta Thunberg appeared first on The Intercept.

Secret Terrorism Watchlist Found Unconstitutional in Historic Decision

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/09/2019 - 11:14pm in

In the dark, nearly two-decade long history of America’s war on terror certain initiatives stand out. The rendition and torture of suspected terrorists around the world. Drone warfare. Warrantless surveillance of private citizens. And the creation of watchlists, shadowy and opaque in their construction, with devastating consequences for communities caught in the dragnet.

In the summer of 2014, The Intercept published the secret rulebook behind those lists. The 166-page “Watchlisting Guidance” detailed the process by which the U.S. national security apparatus adds individuals to the Terrorist Screening Database, or TSDB, better known as “the watchlist” from which other lists — such as the no-fly list — are built.

The document revealed a staggeringly due process-free system in which the government was routinely affixing the word “terrorist” to an individual’s name and disseminating that information to a sprawling network of foreign and private partners, with virtually no evidence required to support the claim.

In a post-9/11 world, this murky system disproportionately impacted Muslims, though U.S. lawmakers and infants were also caught in the mix. Armed with the government’s own rulebook, and the firsthand experiences of nearly two dozen plaintiffs, lawyers at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, began a multiyear challenge to the secretive system. On Wednesday, the attorneys were rewarded a historic ruling, with a federal judge finding that the watchlisting process had violated their clients’ rights.

“I’ve literally never been so happy,” Hassan Shibly, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and attorney at CAIR’s Florida office, said at a press conference Thursday. “For the last 15 years, I, and millions of American citizens like me, have been treated like second-class citizens by the government, and yesterday the court vindicated us. The court said what we’ve been saying all along, what I’ve personally been saying to DHS and CBP and the White House and Congress for the last 15 years: that how DHS has been treating Muslim Americans when they travel, it’s unconstitutional. It’s un-American. It’s unjust. It’s oppressive.”

Hassan Shibly, attorney for Hoda Muthana, the Alabama woman who left home to join the Islamic State group in Syria, speaks on a phone before a news conference Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be allowed to return to the United States. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Attorney Hassan Shibly speaks on the phone before a news conference on Feb. 20, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.

The 32-page decision, written by Judge Anthony J. Trenga of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, detailed how individuals can be “nominated” to the watchlist as “known or suspected terrorists” even if there is no evidence the person is engaged in criminal activity, committed a crime, or is expected to commit a crime in the future. Having noted that the watchlist included roughly 1.2 million people as of 2017, among them about 4,600 U.S. citizens or green card holders, Trenga wrote that when it comes to due process, inclusion on the watchlist carries “an inherent, substantial risk of erroneous deprivation.”

The 23 plaintiffs involved in CAIR’s suit are American citizens who, though they do not believe they are on the no-fly list, have experienced intensive screenings at airports and other U.S. ports of entry (a subset of the TSDB known as the “Selectee List” requires precisely those types of screenings). The plaintiffs described hourslong interrogations and in several instances said they had been arrested at gunpoint as a result of their inclusion on the government’s secret lists. Some described serious psychological harm resulting from the experiences and a fear of traveling at home and abroad.

“The general right of free movement is a long recognized, fundamental liberty,” Trenga observed. “While inclusion in the TSDB does not constitute a total ban on international travel in the same way that inclusion on the No Fly List does, the wide-ranging consequences of an individual’s watchlist status render it more closely analogous to the No Fly List than to the types of regulations that courts have found to be reasonable regulations that still facilitated access and use of means of travel.”

Being added to a watchlist can seriously damage a person’s reputation, Trenga went on to write, describing the cascading effects inclusion on such a list can have on an individual’s interactions with important, often powerful, institutions. When a person is placed on the watchlist (typically unknowingly and frequently without suspicion of links to criminal activity), the judge wrote, that information is shared with more than “18,000 state, local, county, city, university and college, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies,” not to mention an additional “533 private entities” and foreign governments.

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A printed version of the “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance.”

Photo Illustration: The Intercept; Photo: Josh Begley

“These private entities include the police and security forces of private railroads, colleges, universities, hospitals, prisons, as well as animal welfare organizations; information technology, fingerprint databases, and forensic analysis providers, and private probation and pretrial services,” the judge wrote. “The dissemination of an individual’s TSDB status to these entities would reasonably be expected to affect any interaction an individual on the Watchlist has with law enforcement agencies and private entities that use TSDB information to screen individuals they encounter in traffic stops, field interviews, house visits, municipal permit processes, firearm purchases, certain licensing applications, and other scenarios.”

In other words, Trenga wrote, inclusion on such a widely shared, yet secret and potentially consequential list, raised the possibility that the traumatizing experiences the plaintiffs had at the border and the ports — “being surrounded by police, handcuffed in front of their families, and detained for many hours” — could be replicated in the interior of the country as well. “In short,” he wrote, “placement on the TSDB triggers an understandable response by law enforcement in even the most routine encounters with someone on the Watchlist that substantially increases the risk faced by that individual from the encounter.”

Since The Intercept published the government’s watchlisting guidance five years ago, advocacy groups have steadily chipped away at the system, often in proceedings before Trenga, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2008. In 2015, Trenga found that the government’s redress system for getting off of its no-fly list — which is almost as opaque as the system for getting on the list — was constitutionally inadequate. Trenga’s ruling on Wednesday built on those proceedings, which had previously found that the government’s watchlisting category of “suspected terrorists” was “based to a large extent on subjective judgments.”

“There is no evidence, or contention, that any of these plaintiffs satisfy the definition of a ’known terrorist,” Trenga wrote. “None have been convicted, charged or indicted for any criminal offense related to terrorism, or otherwise.” They were instead designated “suspected terrorists,” he wrote, and given the shakiness of that category, they were at a “grave risk” of seeing their rights erroneously deprived.

Ruling that the watchlist “fails to provide constitutionally sufficient due process,” Trenga ordered attorneys for the plaintiffs and the government to file briefings in the coming weeks aimed at providing a remedy that will “protect a citizen’s constitutional rights while not unduly compromising public safety or national security.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, whose organization has leveled its own challenges to the government’s watchlisting enterprise, applauded Trenga’s ruling. “This important decision is exactly right,” Shamsi said in an email to The Intercept. “The government watchlist stigmatizes people as terrorism suspects based on a vague and error-prone standard and secret evidence, and causes real harms. It violates due process. There must be a fair and meaningful process for people to challenge wrongful placement on the watchlist and clear their names.”

Though the task ahead is weighty, with the judge essentially asking the two sides to settle a fundamental question of the post-9/11 era, CAIR is celebrating the ruling as a “complete victory.”

At Wednesday’s press conference, Shibly, who has described being detained more than two dozen times by authorities since turning 18, beamed as he reflected on the personal significance of Trenga’s ruling.

It was his encounters with the watchlisting system, Shibly explained, that inspired him to become an attorney. “Just about every Muslim American that I know is either on the watchlist or knows somebody on the watchlist,” he said. “When we, as American Muslims, are targeted because of our religion, that undermines the freedom for all Americans. So yesterday’s victory was not just one of the greatest victories in the history of the United States for the American Muslim community, but it was in fact one of the greatest victories for all Americans.”

“Yesterday’s victory,” he added, “makes me proud to be an American.”

The post Secret Terrorism Watchlist Found Unconstitutional in Historic Decision appeared first on The Intercept.

DEA Agents Ambush Amtrak Passengers With Controversial Searches and Seizures

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 31/08/2019 - 9:00pm in

Tags 

Justice

Afew hours characteristically behind schedule, Amtrak’s Southwest Chief rolls into Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the small station that it shares with the Greyhound bus service on the edge of downtown.

Most people step off to stretch their legs or have a cigarette during the layover, the longest smoke break in the entire trip. That’s when two plainclothes agents come aboard the train on a rainy day in March 2019.

One agent walks to the back of the aisle in the first coach car and waits, quietly observing. The other is tasked with getting people to talk and open their bags. His name is Jarrell, or Jay, Perry, and he’s done it hundreds of times before.

Today, he seems confident that he will find someone on board carrying drugs — or at least a substantial amount of money. He flashes a smile and a badge. A young, disheveled man in a seat by the entrance to the car agrees to let Perry search his three bags. The agent flips through the man’s luggage with tactical speed

Perry is white and looks like he’s in his fifties. He’s bald and slightly overweight, with a weightlifter’s build to compensate, and he’s dressed in a baseball cap, a gray sweatshirt, and jeans. He’s not carrying a visible warrant or a train ticket and has no drug dog with him. When passengers reboard, they seem oblivious to his presence.

“Thank you, sir, I appreciate it, have a good trip,” Perry tells the young man after he concludes the search, walking away empty-handed.

DEA Agent Perry boards the Southwest Chief in ABQ to question Passengers and search luggage.

DEA Agent Jay Perry boards the Southwest Chief in Albuquerque to question passengers and search luggage on March 15, 2019.

Photo: Harris Mizrahi

A previous International Narcotics Interdiction Association’s Agent/Officer of the Year, Special Agent Perry with the Drug Enforcement Administration is behind as many as 1,600 criminal cases against drug couriers, according to court documents touting his credibility as a star government witness. His secret weapons are a train and bus depot in his district that seem to attract an inordinate amount of drug trafficking, and a capacious interpretation of the Constitution’s tolerance for stops and searches.

His secret weapons are a train station in his district that seem to attract an inordinate amount of drug trafficking, and a capacious interpretation of the Constitution’s tolerance for stops and searches.

When Perry approaches, it’s hard for passengers to say no.

“Because he told me he was an officer,” the young passenger in Albuquerque later said, explaining why he agreed to the search.

It’s legal for Perry to search people without probable cause, a warrant, or a dog because travelers supposedly realize that they have the right to decline to submit to his searches. Perry and others in his interdiction unit have testified that they receive manifests ahead of time listing the passengers who will be arriving in Albuquerque. The courts have ruled this is also legal — functioning like a helpful tip sheet on whom to question.

More problematically, Perry has been captured on surveillance footage boarding empty Greyhound buses and pulling bags out of the checked luggage bin. One clip captures him pressing on a bag so aggressively that he appears to be tackling it. But he stops short of opening the bag, which would be blatantly unconstitutional. Several people that Perry has seized cash from insist that they are not drug couriers and, in fact, were never criminally charged as such, though that didn’t help them get their money back.

Perry is not the only cop riding the rails. His tactics offer a case study in how law enforcement targets mass transit in the war on drugs, generating thousands of busts and a steady stream of revenue from seized assets.

Amtrak Southwest Chief stops to pick up passengers. Those already on board have a short time to disembark fior a cigerette or some fresh air.

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief stops to pick up passengers. Those already on board have a short time to disembark for a cigarette or some fresh air.

Photo: Harris Mizrahi

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is the third-longest passenger rail line in the United States, taking about 327,000 people between Chicago and Los Angeles in 2018. The train leaves every day in both directions, passing through the same rural route once crossed by traders in the 1800s. The ride is peaceful, with no Wi-Fi to pass the time, the security seemingly nonexistent. Amtrak has its own modest-sized police department, but they rarely check bags before people board. That’s part of the appeal.

Harboring the false idea that security was lax, Richard McKenzie boarded the Southwest Chief in Flagstaff, Arizona, with 3 1/2 kilograms of cocaine in his luggage in 2008. That was the kind of work he did for a living. He loved selling illegal drugs — negotiating, talking to people, the “art of the deal,” as he described it. “My circumstances aren’t different than any other entrepreneur,” he said.

He still remembers how his mind was blown by the views of Native American reservations on the way from Arizona to New Mexico, and how he couldn’t help chiming in when he overheard some kids in the dining car complain to their grandmother that they were bored. “‘You don’t understand the opportunity that you have,” he told the kids. “‘Right now, you’re traveling across the United States.”

The ride is peaceful, with no Wi-Fi to pass the time, the security seemingly nonexistent.

The pleasant trip ended at approximately 12:30 p.m. on July 7, 2008, when DEA Special Agent Mark Hyland and Stephen Surprenant de Garcia, an officer assigned to the DEA’s local interdiction task force, approached McKenzie as he smoked a cigarette in Albuquerque. Without realizing that the agents had already flagged his itinerary as suspicious, McKenzie opened his Louis Vuitton bag, revealing a cereal box at the bottom that the agents noticed was unusually heavy.

There are “a lot of people traveling on the train with something they don’t want the government knowing about,” McKenzie said in an interview with The Intercept, and law enforcement all along the route are aware of this fact as well.

At Chicago’s Union Station, the final destination for the eastbound Southwest Chief and a hub for other long distance lines, a Chicago interdiction task force group, made of DEA agents and officers from the Chicago and Amtrak police departments, are routinely on the hunt for what they call “drug proceed couriers,” or in other words, people carrying large sums of cash. An Amtrak Police Department canine in Chicago named Gander has detected the smell of narcotics on luggage that turned out to be carrying anywhere from a modest $20,040 to a whopping $830,000, according to asset forfeiture suits filed by the U.S. government within the past year and a half.

“Los Angeles is a known source city for illegal narcotics,” DEA Special Agent Ryan Marriott wrote in an arrest affidavit in January 2019, describing how he found a courier on the Southwest Chief in Kansas City, Missouri. The man was allegedly trying to smuggle crystal meth in size 18 shoes for someone he knew only as Big Pun. “Members of our squad have made numerous narcotic arrests and seizures from this train route,” Marriott wrote.

In Kansas City, DEA agents and local officers with the Missouri Western Interdiction and Narcotics Task Force await passengers on the train heading east. And in Galesburg, Illinois, population 32,193, officers from the Galesburg Police Department and the Knox County Sheriff’s Department have reportedly seized 191 pounds of cannabis from Amtrak passengers over a period of six years, in addition to some harder drugs. They’ve made the arrests in the short amount of time that the Southwest Chief is stopped at the station.

“I would say less than five minutes,” Knox County Detective Greg Jennings told the Register-Mail newspaper last year.

passengers-1567202544

Dominic Jones, bottom left, and Megan, top right, are two of the roughly 327,000 people who ride the Southwest Chief in a year. Most of the passengers have no idea that DEA agents also often come aboard. Jones, 33, from Peori, Ariz., took the Southwest Chief to Kansas City to visit his mother for the first time in 20 years. Megan, photographed in Flagstaff, was returning from visiting her daughter in California.

Photos: Harris Mizrahi

Word apparently hasn’t reached the drug mules that their presence on the Southwest Chief and other passenger Amtrak trains is a known phenomenon that goes back decades, or at least back to the mid-1990s. That’s when an unknown DEA agent first approached an Amtrak secretary for information about the itinerary of a passenger who was under arrest.

The Amtrak secretary started using his access to Amtrak’s reservation system to regularly look for people who “might be planning to transport illegal drugs or money,” based solely on subtle clues like one-way itineraries for private bedrooms, trips booked on short notice, trips booked by third parties, and trips paid in cash. For each drug bust or cash seizure that the DEA made thanks to this information, the Amtrak secretary was rewarded a cut of the proceeds.

The person who recruited the Amtrak secretary as a DEA snitch described him to Department of Justice auditors in 2015 as “one of the most valuable interdiction informants the DEA has ever known.” Amtrak itineraries were a “goldmine,” the person added, “responsible for the seizure of millions of dollars.”

The Amtrak secretary had amassed $854,460 from the DEA for his work snitching on riders.

The Amtrak Police Department learned about the arrangement in 2014, and by that time, the Amtrak secretary had amassed $854,460 from the DEA for his work snitching on riders. Amtrak police were unhappy because they were cut out of the deal. They alerted the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General, which determined in an investigation that the payments were “wasting substantial government funds,” according to a heavily redacted copy of the OIG report obtained by The Intercept via a Freedom of Information Act request.

By 2016, the DEA said it would stop using Amtrak employees as paid informants, after the OIG uncovered “improper” relationships between the law enforcement agency and nearly three dozen other Amtrak sources.

Cops patrolling train stations are typically using a tactic that law enforcement calls the “cold consent encounter,” so named because they approach people cold, on thin evidence they are drug couriers, and passengers consent to the searches, at least according to the officers’ versions of events.

It’s a legal loophole of sorts, commonly used by DEA agents working mass transit to get around the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects people from unreasonable searches. (Travelers can’t decline a search once a drug dog makes a positive hit, however.)

The American Civil Liberties Union has described cold consent encounters as “definitely cold, not so consensual.” And the ACLU of New Mexico criticized Amtrak in particular for its “insidious alliance” with the DEA, after some information about the DEA’s monitoring of train travelers came out in a drug trafficking trial in 2001.

ACLU New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson said that travelers who are approached on the train or other mass transit often don’t know that they have the right to refuse police searches. Especially troubling to him is research showing that police, when acting on hunches rather than hard evidence, are more likely to let subconscious racial bias creep into their work.

The fact that it might be easy to find drug couriers on trains isn’t a compelling argument to him. “Law enforcement’s job would be much, much easier if they didn’t have to comport with any constitutional restrictions and could simply arrest people at will,” he said.

Albuquerque Amtrak and Greyhound Bus Terminal.

A man stands in front of the Amtrak station and Greyhound bus terminal in Albuquerque.

Photo: Harris Mizrahi

The Southwest Chief makes a daily 25-minute maintenance stop in Albuquerque in both directions. Special Agent Perry sometimes tells the people he searches that he’s at the station for security purposes, but the line between protecting travelers and intimidating them has been the subject of debate at this station.

In 2006, an Armenian couple described officers growing belligerent during a trip on the Southwest Chief the previous year when the couple was hesitant to agree to a bag search at Albuquerque. The couple said that the agents then pulled out Diana Arutinova’s bras and underwear from her bag, while making jokes, and threw clothing and shoes from her luggage onto the floor. Edgar Manukian demanded the officers’ names.

“You want my name? What are you gonna do about it, asshole?” Perry allegedly responded. Arutinova stepped between the men and said Perry then grabbed her by the arm and shook her so hard that her head struck the wall several times, not letting go until she screamed. Her arm was bruised from where he grabbed her, she later claimed in federal court. The ACLU of New Mexico that year helped the couple file a lawsuit against the United States government, Perry, and two other cops. (The ACLU of New Mexico’s Simonson says they later reached an out-of court settlement with the DEA.)

In 2008, a drug defendant accused Perry of perjury, prompting the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to release an opinion stating that judges were “troubled” by the allegations and noting inconsistencies in Perry’s account of how he linked a suitcase with drugs to the suspect in question. But the defendant agreed to a plea deal shortly after the opinion was published, ending further inquiry into the matter. “No district court has ever found that Special Agent Perry was ever dishonest with the Court,” a federal prosecutor reminded a defense attorney trying to poke holes in a 2014 case — and so Perry is still at work.

Joseph Rivers, a rap musician from Detroit who performs as Joe Kush, boarded the Southwest Chief in Chicago in 2015, when he was 22, hoping to get his music career off the ground in Los Angeles.

He remembers a man asking every passenger in his car in Albuquerque if they would consent to have their bags searched for contraband.

Rivers responded yes, just like everyone else had, and the agent took him up on it. Special Agent Perry quickly found bundles of cash in Rivers’s bag totaling $16,000. Rivers said it was all the money he had, that he had gotten it from his mother, and that he was using it to film a music video. Perry listened to his story and then explained that the DEA would be seizing the cash.

DEA officer and colleague leaving Albuquerque Amtrak and Greyhound Terminal after searching bags on Amtrak Southwest Chief

Special Agent Perry and a colleague leaving the Albuquerque Amtrak terminal after searching bags on the Southwest Chief.

Photo: Harris Mizrahi

Rivers said he was stunned. He and other witnesses recalled him being the only black person in his coach car. And though he did have a prior criminal record, for possessing marijuana and allegedly delivering and manufacturing it, as well as a felony gun possession charge that was later dismissed, the DEA wasn’t actually arresting him or charging him with a crime. They were simply taking his money. Rivers later learned that this was all legal under civil forfeiture, the quirk of the American criminal justice system in which a person’s property can be seized even if they are not convicted, or even accused, of a crime.

“We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty,” Sean Waite, the agent in charge at the DEA’s Albuquerque office, told the Albuquerque Journal at the time. “It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.”

Three years later, in February 2018, a woman called Beth boarded the Southwest Chief in Chicago, heading west. She was returning home to California after a business trip; what type of business, she doesn’t want to say.

“There are industries that are on the fringes, but not actually illegal,” she said in an interview. (Beth is a pseudonym; The Intercept agreed to withhold the woman’s real name because she was not criminally charged.)

This was all legal under civil forfeiture, the quirk of the American criminal justice system under which a person’s property can be seized even if they are not convicted, or even accused, of a crime.

The man who appeared outside her sleeper car in Albuquerque was charming, Beth remembered, but persistent. She initially declined to let Special Agent Perry search her room, after letting him search two of her smaller bags. She later saw him interviewing other passengers.

“He was mostly doing it to Latina people, doing the immigration thing maybe or something?” Beth said. “I wasn’t sure. ‘Who is this guy, why is he harassing these people?’” She interrupted Perry while he interviewed a group of Hispanic women downstairs, asking to see his credentials.

“OK. I noticed that you’re pretty nervous. Can you tell me why you’re nervous?” Perry responded.

Beth, not wanting to start a fight with a police officer, agreed to let him follow her back upstairs to her sleeper car. With Beth’s permission, Perry opened a suitcase she had stowed away in her room. It was filled with nothing but bundles of cash wrapped in tissue paper.

As Perry explained to her, “the only money I’ve ever seen rubber banded up in increments like that is drug money.” He and his partner left the train with the cash packed away in plastic evidence bags.

The U.S. government later sued to keep what they said was nearly $70,000 that Beth had been carrying. Beth hired a lawyer and pulled the transcripts from Perry’s recorder, arguing that that the search wasn’t consensual. But in March 2019, Beth signed a document agreeing to forfeit the cash rather than testify under oath about where it came from.

“I’m not a drug courier,” Beth told The Intercept. “They were just so bent on making their narrative fit that.”

Albuquerque Federal Courthouse Building

The Albuquerque Federal Courthouse building on March 18, 2019.

Photo: Harris Mizrahi

McKenzie, the drug dealer, also unsuccessfully fought his case on the basis that the search of his property on an Amtrak train was unconstitutional. As he told a judge at a hearing in 2011, “I want to go to trial, because I want to see who the government puts on this stand as this person who is credible, who sends the information.” In an earlier hearing, over objections from the U.S. attorney’s office, a DEA agent had testified that he received McKenzie’s itinerary from an informant in one of Amtrak’s ticketing offices, who had been trained to look for drug couriers by Perry and an Amtrak Police Department officer. The Amtrak employee received an unknown monetary reward based on the information they sent over.

McKenzie fit the profile of a drug courier, the DEA, argued, because he had been traveling from a “source” city (Flagstaff, Arizona) to a “destination” (New York) on a one-way ticket that cost $1,836. In court, McKenzie said that he had called Amtrak’s corporate headquarters himself and was told by an attorney there that Amtrak’s policy is to only send information about suspicious passengers to Amtrak police, not outside law enforcement agencies. McKenzie argued that Amtrak shouldn’t be sharing passenger itineraries at all and questioned whether there really even was an informant, as the DEA claimed. He implied that agents had obtained information about him, possibly illegally, in some other way that they weren’t being truthful about, which would have been grounds to get all the evidence they had on him tossed.

Last year, Greyhound tried to kick the DEA out of its Albuquerque station.

But prior defendants in Albuquerque had tried similar arguments, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals had determined in 2004 that it wasn’t illegal for law enforcement to access Amtrak passenger records because they weren’t the sole basis of arrests; the consensual encounters were.

When McKenzie’s case went before a jury in 2011, they could only rule on whether he was carrying a mixture containing a minimum of 500 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute. They found him guilty. McKenzie’s previous criminal record and his attempt to flee — by running in a semi-circle around officers, jumping 10 feet out of the train window, then scaling a fence at the edge of the station topped with concertina wire — meant that prosecutors could recommend a lengthy sentence. He’s currently serving 262 months in New Jersey. From prison, McKenzie sent me documents from his case, marking several pages with Post-its, including a note that a juror wrote. The juror misspelled his name, but it’s the sentiment expressed that matters to McKenzie.

“Why was Mr. Mckenzi approached?” the juror asked.

Passengers luggage stored on The Southwest Chief

Passengers’ luggage stored on the Southwest Chief.

Photo: Harris Mizrahi

In response to questions from The Intercept, the DEA said that they cannot discuss their investigative tactics, and Amtrak would only say that they work with numerous outside law enforcement agencies, including DEA agents in Albuquerque. Perry did not respond to a request for an interview.

“Amtrak cooperates fully with federal authorities and federal law,” Amtrak’s press team wrote in a prepared statement.

Greyhound bus service declined to address the allegations that Perry or other DEA agents had touched or opened passengers’ bags, but added that the company does not provide passenger manifests to outside law enforcement “unless it is an immediate life endangerment issue.” The statement directly contradicts testimony that Perry gave in March 2019, describing how he receives, via email from a confidential source, the record of passengers coming to Albuquerque on the Greyhound almost every day.

“I used to ask for them [the Greyhound passenger lists], but then they just started sending them to me, because that was kind of a general practice,” he testified. A spokesperson for Greyhound, Crystal Booker, said in an email that “the actions of the referenced anonymous source do not reflect the company’s policy and were done outside of the company’s knowledge.”

An email uncovered in a federal drug trafficking case from last year showed that Greyhound tried to kick the DEA out of its Albuquerque station. David Streiff, head of security for all of Greyhound North America, said in a June 2018 email to DEA Special Agent Jeff Armijo that he was “respectfully rescinding” the DEA’s access to the Albuquerque station, “effectively immediately.” Greyhound declined to comment about the email or what has happened since.

Albequerque Amtrak and Greyhound Terminal

The Albuquerque Amtrak and Greyhound terminal in March 2019.

Photo: Harris Mizrahi

When I encounter Perry on the Southwest Chief in mid-March, he moves slowly along the coach car, interviewing a few of the passengers returning to their seats. He keeps his voice low to maintain the element of surprise, though he doesn’t search most of the bags. An older woman with brown skin looks caught off-guard when Perry reveals his badge. Then she appears to open her purse for him.

Perry is running out of time before the train will have to continue without him, and possibly without a passenger or two, 70 miles northeast to Lamy, New Mexico. He hasn’t found any drugs or cash yet, and he’s getting increasingly irritated at me for recording him.

Perry “has the easiest job in the world because he is catching the lowest-level couriers.”

“You know how unsafe it is for me to put my name in a piece of paperwork? All over the country for everybody to read? You know how unsafe that is for my safety? You don’t care,” he says.

He walks away, his partner following, and exits the train. I’m left with the impression that Perry is unwilling to make a bust if someone is recording him.

The next month, in an arrest celebrated by the U.S. attorney’s office, Perry will recover 18 pounds of fentanyl from a 21-year-old woman riding the Southwest Chief in coach. He simply “asked for and received permission” to search her suitcase. She later admitted that she was transporting the drugs in exchange for $2,500.

Brian Pori, a longtime attorney with the federal public defender’s office in Albuquerque, has represented numerous couriers caught at the train station. He argues that these raids do nothing to stop the flow of illegal drugs.

Perry, he said, “has the easiest job in the world because he is catching the lowest-level couriers.”

The post DEA Agents Ambush Amtrak Passengers With Controversial Searches and Seizures appeared first on The Intercept.

In Secretive Court Hearing, NYPD Cops Who Raped Brooklyn Teen in Custody Get No Jail Time

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 31/08/2019 - 2:40am in

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Justice

Anna Chambers, 19, walks in a park near the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Anna Chambers at a park near the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., on Jan. 27, 2018.

Photo: Nicole Craine

The young woman who goes by Anna Chambers on social media had just a few short words for the public on Thursday evening. “Fuck the criminal justice system,” she tweeted. Earlier that day, through a call from her lawyer, Chambers learned that the two former New York Police Department officers who had raped her while on duty would serve no jail time.

Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, the cops who resigned after the incident involving the then-18-year-old Chambers, were sentenced to five years of probation after they pleaded guilty to 11 charges, including bribery and misconduct. Both men admitted to having sex with the teenage girl while she was held in their custody in 2017, an act that, thanks to Chambers’s case, now constitutes rape under the law (and always constituted rape under any moral reading of the word).

“They admitted on the record to having sex with her in their van. No jail time is just outrageous. Anna is hysterical.”

The pleas and the light sentences — handed down in a secretive court hearing — come at the same moment that NYPD officers and their belligerent union are protesting the long-overdue firing of Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who choked Eric Garner to death. Together with the closure of the criminal case surrounding Chambers’s ordeal, it could not be more clear the extent to which police impunity continues to rein.

“It’s completely outrageous,” Chambers’s attorney, Michael David, told me on the phone Thursday night. “They admitted on the record to having sex with her in their van. No jail time is just outrageous. Anna is hysterical.”

Chambers’s case should have been clear-cut from the moment in September 2017 that a hospital rape kit found semen matching Martins’s and Hall’s DNA inside the teenager’s body. The young woman had been detained, handcuffed, and taken into the officers’ unmarked van, having been found in possession of a small amount of drugs. Chambers performed oral sex on both officers and had vaginal sex with Martins. Then the cops left her on a corner.

At the time, state law did not assert the most obvious of facts: that a person in police custody cannot consent to sex. The egregious legal loophole has since been closed, but it was too late to benefit Chambers — or to stop Martins and Hall from getting away with rape. All rape charges against the officers were dropped in March as prosecutors questioned Chambers’s credibility — an issue that should have had no bearing in a case with such clear-cut facts.

Chambers’s attorney told me that he and his client had not been made aware in advance of Thursday’s hearing, having expected the officers’ next court date to be on September 9. Indeed, Chambers tweeted 10 days ago, “I’ll be in court Sept 9th!” David, the attorney, said, “They did it secretly, it wasn’t even on the court calendar.” David only learned about the officers’ plea deals when he was called by a New York Post court reporter, who in turn had been tipped off by a court clerk. The secretive hearing was the latest insult poured upon Chambers’s injurious criminal justice ordeal.

What’s more, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun handed down a sentence more lenient than even the prosecution recommended.

“For the record, your honor, we do oppose a non-jail sentence,” Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Frank DeGaetano stated during Thursday’s brief hearing, according to the court transcript. The district attorney’s office recommended one to three years in jail on a plea, for charges that could carry a seven-year sentence.

The judge laid culpability at Chambers’s feet for her role in the so-called bribery — that is, her rape at the hands of armed, uniformed police officers.

In response, the judge accounted for his leniency in an abrupt monologue, peppered with victim-blaming. “The credibility of the victim, or the complainant,” said Chun, in a notable replacement of words, “was seriously, seriously questionable, at best.” Chun, proceeding to refer to the victim only as “the complainant,” added that “there are criminal activities on both sides.” He thereby laid culpability at Chambers’s feet for her role in the so-called bribery — that is, her rape at the hands of armed, uniformed police officers.

This was not Chun’s first high-profile turn at enforcing NYPD impunity. In 2016, in a rare instance of a criminal conviction for a killer cop, former Officer Peter Liang was found guilty by a jury for the manslaughter of an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley. Liang had his gun drawn, finger on trigger, while carrying out a vertical patrol in a darkened stairwell in Brooklyn’s Pink Houses. The cop heard a noise and fired, his bullet ricocheted off a wall and struck Gurley in the heart. Neither Liang nor his partner carried out CPR. Chun deemed a sentence of five-years’ probation as appropriate in that instance too.

Chambers’s attorney told me that he will be writing again to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, seeking to pursue a federal civil rights violation against Hall and Martins. His first letter, sent earlier this year, was not answered, and he is pessimistic about the possibility of justice on a federal level. “With this president? They won’t go after police,” said David. “When it comes to police sexual misconduct, there is no ‘Me Too.’”

Correction: August 30, 2019, 1:07 p.m.
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of the story said the two officers involved in Anna Chambers’s ordeal were fired after the incident. The story has been updated to reflect that they resigned. The story has also been updated to reflect that the charges the officers pleaded to could carry seven-year, not 11-year, sentences.

The post In Secretive Court Hearing, NYPD Cops Who Raped Brooklyn Teen in Custody Get No Jail Time appeared first on The Intercept.

Backlash against the Queen for Allowing Johnson Dictatorship

Mike’s also put up today a piece about the rising resentment towards the Queen for agreeing to Johnson’s demand to prorogue parliament. The Queen, as our hereditary monarch, is unelected. Boris Johnson is unelected: he was installed by a clique, that happened to form a majority in the Tory party at the time. The Tories are a minuscule part of the British people, and aren’t even the largest political party anymore. They’ve been massively eclipsed by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. The only people in this sordid affair, who did have a democratic mandate were our MPs. They have been elected by us, and it is to prevent them continuing to represent the will of their constituents and block Johnson’s no deal Brexit, that the Blonde Beast sought the Queen’s permission to rule without parliament for a set period. He has thus demonstrated his contempt for parliament. And arguably, so has the Queen.

Mike states that the monarchy is now desperately trying to backpeddle from this mess. Nicholas Witchell, the Beeb’s royal correspondent, has said that she has never refused to accept the advice of her ministers, and always follows precedent. Mike also quotes the oleaginous hominid stick insect, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who asked the Queen to do this on BoJob’s behalf, as saying that the Queen now feels ‘Boxed in’. Rees-Mogg said

“She and her advisors, I have little doubt, will be frankly resentful of the way this has been done and will be concerned at the headlines which say ‘Queen suspends Parliament.”

Mike comments

Rightly so – because, as current slang has it, the optics are terrible.

People are saying democracy has been denied by an unelected monarch acting on the wish of an unelected prime minister.

And they know she could have stopped him.

He then follows this with a selection of comments from twitter. These are by the QC Chris Daw, the comedian Nish Kumar, the Labour and Co-op MP for Edmonton, Kate Osamor, and ordinary people like Isobel and Lin#CorbynOutrider.

Chris Daw in his tweet states that the first thing they teach at law school is that it is the Queen in parliament, who is sovereign.

Not the Government, not the Prime Minister, and no, not the public via a referendum.

What has happened today rips up centuries of stable government.

It’s an outrage.

This relationship between crown and parliament has been at the heart of the British constitution since at least the days of Queen Elizabeth. It was set down in the 17th century in the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, although this codifies the constitutional view of earlier generations. It is this relationship which has prevented Britain from becoming an absolute, autocratic monarchy, as happened in France.

Isobel’s tweets express the anger and bewilderment of no doubt all too many other Brits, who wonder why the Queen has allowed this to happen. They now see her as rich, remote and isolated from the poverty the Tories have inflicted, content to see the country reduced to a mess. She tweeted

If she is resentful why did she allow it to happen? she knew it would cause a constitutional crisis whilst she carries on with her holiday in Balmoral the country is falling apart because SHE said YES.. she has lost any credibility she hAD she is happy to see UK in a mess.

perhaps the Queen+her family would like to go and live in a Tory Container for the Homeless, shall we demand the Royal Gravy train is cut off – when Boris gives Buck house to Trump.. he will do anything for the fool will she be happy in a Container like the homeless have to be?

I’ll give the Queen the benefit of the doubt here. I really don’t think that she thought that she did have a choice, as Johnson is the leader of the government. But she could have withheld her consent. This reminds me of the time the Australian Tories petitioned he in the ’70s to get rid of the-then Aussie Prime Minister, Gough ‘Wocker’ Whitlam. Because Whitlam was a Labour MP, and was doing too much to empower the working men and women, who have built that great Pacific nation. One of the priests at my local church is rather left-wing, and spent several years out in Oz, working with the poor, homeless and marginalised, including the indigenous people. He said to me one day that he wondered how long it would be, if Corbyn got in, before the Tories petitioned her to do to him what they did to Whitlam. By this example, not long. Not long at all.

Lin#CorbynOutrider tweeted that the Queen didn’t care less until she saw #abolishthe monarchy trending.

Mike concludes

That’s the nub of the matter, isn’t it?

And when this crisis is all over, with Dictator Johnson and his cronies banished to the waste-bin of history, it seems likely the people will want to seek assurances that this can never happen again.

We will need checks and balances to ensure that no unelected head of state can ever again deny us our right to representation.

It seems that, with a few penstrokes, the Queen may have put an end to the British Royalty.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/29/abolishthemonarchy-backlash-against-queen-for-meekly-rubber-stamping-johnsons-parliamentary-shutdown/

Mike’s article was based on a piece in the garden. But the I also published a similar piece about how there was now a backlash against the monarchy. Not just from this, but also from Andrew’s relationship with convicted paedophile Epstein.

The Tories under Cameron and Johnson are wrecking this country. They are actively causing the break up of the UK and riding roughshod over the British unwritten constitution, for their own selfish, personal and party interest. And they and their Yellow enablers in the Lib Dems dare to claim that Corbyn is a threat!

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