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SAFETY LOSES, TERRARABISM WINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2014 at 12:00 am

Since 1993, New York City–as the financial capital of the nation–has been Target Number Two for Islamic extremists.

Only Washington, D.C.–the nation’s political capital–outranks it as the city Islamic terrorists most want to destroy.

But for large numbers of New York’s Islamic community, this is unimportant.  What is important, to them, is their being viewed with distrust by the NYPD.

“The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” said Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York.

‘Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries.

“They were able to see [our] entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”

But that’s entirely the point of having an effective Intelligence unit: To disrupt “the psyche” of those who plan acts of violence against a community.

In 1964, the FBI launched such a counterintelligence program–in Bureau-speak, a COINTELPRO–against the Ku Klux Klan.

Up to that point, Klansmen had shot, lynched and bombed their way across the Deep South, especially in Alabama and Mississippi.  Many Southern sheriffs and police chiefs were Klan sympathizers, if not outright members and accomplices.

Ku Klux Klansmen in a meeting

The FBI’s covert action program aimed to “expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize” Ku Klux Klan groups through a wide range of legal and extra-legal methods.

FBI Special Agents:

  • Planted electronic surveillance devices in Klan meeting places.
  • Carried out “black bag jobs”–burglaries–to steal Klan membership lists.
  • Contacted the news media to publicize arrests and identify Klan leaders.
  • Informed the employers of known Klansmen of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them.
  • Developed informants within Klans and sewed a climate of distrust and fear among Klansmen.
  • Beat and harassed Klansmen who threatened and harassed them.

“They were dirty, rough fellows,” recalled William C. Sullivan, who headed the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division in the 1960s.  “And we went after them with rough, tough methods.

William C. Sullivan

“When the Klan reached 14,000 in the mid-sixties, I asked to take over the investigation of the Klan.  When I left the Bureau in 1971, the Klan was down to a completely disorganized 4,300.  It was broken.”

Click here: The Bureau My Thirty Years in Hoover’s FBI: William C Sullivan, Sam Sloan, Bill Brown: 9784871873383: Amazon.com:

And for more than a decade, the Demographics Unit of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division worked diligently to prevent another major terrorist attack on New York City.

Agent at NYPD Counterterrorism Division Center

Then, in 2013, New York City voters elected Democrat Bill de Blazio as Michael Bloomberg’s successor as mayor.

For de Blasio, scoring Politically Correct points with New York’s uber-liberal community was more important than supporting a proven deterrent to terrorism.

Click here: New York Drops Unit That Spied on Muslims – NYTimes.com

De Blazio promised to give new Yorkers “a police force that keeps our city safe, but that is also respectful and fair.

“This reform [disbanding the Demographics Unit] is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys,” he claimed.

In Washington, 34 members of Congress demanded an FBI investigation into the NYPD’s covert surveillance program.

Attorney General Eric Holder said he found reports about the operations disturbing.  The Department of Justice said it was reviewing complaints received from Muslims and their supporters.

All of this contradicted the warning provided by a Federal judge on February 20, 2014.

U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, N.J., threw out a suit brought against the NYPD by eight New Jersey Muslims.

They claimed that the NYPD’s surveillance of mosques, restaurants and schools in the state since 2002 was unconstitutional because Muslims were being targeted solely on the basis of their religion.

In his ruling, however, Martini disagreed:

“The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.

“The motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.”

Both NYPD Cmmissioner Raymond Kelly and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen chose to retire in 2013.

The Demographics Unit of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division was officially disbanded on April 15.  Detectives that had been assigned to it were transferred to other duties within the Intelligence Division.

Jawad Rasul, one of the students on the whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York, was enraged when he learned that his name was included in the police report.

“It forces me to look around wherever I am now,” Rasul said.

So now he knows how Americans feel when they spot Muslim women wearing chadors that hide their faces from view, or even burqas that cover their entire bodies (and any explosive devices they might be carrying).

Political Correctness mavens might laugh or sneer at such a warning.  But Al Qaeda has used exactly that tactic repeatedly–and successfully–against Afghan military forces.

Osama bin Laden was forced to spend his last years in a Pakistani house watching movies on TV. But that didn’t stop him from continuing to plot further acts of destruction against “infidel Crusaders.”

Among the plots he sought to unleash was the assassination of President Barack Obama.

It was simply America’s good fortune that the Navy SEALS got him first.

–30–

SAFETY LOSES, TERRARABISM WINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2014 at 12:02 am

In creating the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division, David Cohen had a secret weapon: The latent resources of the NYPD.  Many of its officers were foreign-born, making them ideal espionage operatives

His Afghan- or Pakistan-born linguists could easily monitor chat rooms in Kabul or Peshawar, looking for Islamics seeking to carry out attacks on New York City.

The FBI, on the other hand, fearing divided loyalties, usually rejected hiring foreign-born applicants: “Oooh, [you] grew up in Pakistan,” mocked Cohen. “We can’t use you.”

Cohen realized that some analysts made better report-writers than streetwise detectives.  And some detectives were better at unearthing criminal secrets than desk-bound analysts.

So Cohen decided to pair Ivy-league-educated analysts with veteran detectives.  Together, they could pool their talents and compensate for each other’s weaknesses.

Perhaps most importantly, Cohen’s unit was not judged by the number of arrests or convictions generated by its activities.

Its purpose was to disrupt terror cells and prevent terrorist acts, not to prosecute individuals after they had unleashed destruction.

Agents of NYPD’s Counterterrorism Unit

Meanwhile, the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency watched with growing anger as the NYPD trespassed on their jealously guarded turf.

What right did a mere local police department–even one of 33,000 sworn officers–have to conduct overseas Intelligence operations?

Cohen, in turn, was not shy in answering: We relied on you Feds to protect us in 1993 and 2001–and look at what happened.

And events soon proved the need for such a stepped-up anti-terrorism effort.

Since September 11, 2001, there have been 16 known terrorist plots against New York City.  Among these:

  • In 2002, Iyman Faris, a U.S.-based al-Qaeda operative, planned to cut the Brooklyn Bridge’s support cables.  But due to NYPD anti-terrorism efforts, Faris called off the plot, telling al-Qaeda leaders that “the weather is too hot.”  He was arrested, pled guilty, and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.
  • In 2006, Dhiren Barot was sentenced to life in prison by a United Kingdom court for planning to attack  targets both in the UK and the United States.  These included the New York Stock Exchange and, Citigroup’s headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.
  • Shahawar Matin Siraj and James Elshafay plotted in 2004 to place bombs in the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan. Elshafay had already chosen potential targets before he met an NYPD informant in early 2004.  Both men were arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison.
  • In 2006, four men plotted to detonate the jet-fuel storage tanks and supply lines for John F. Kennedy Airport in order to cause wide-scale destruction and economic disruption.   All four were arrested and sentenced to prison–three of them for life.
  • In September 2009, the New York City subway system was targeted by three men who planned to set off bombs in the subway during rush hour shortly after the eighth anniversary of 9/11.  All three were arrested.  Two pled guilty and await sentencing; the third has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-American residing in Connecticut, tried but failed to set explode a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010.  Cooperation between NYPD and the FBI led to his identification and arrest 53 hours after the attempt, as he tried to flee the country. Shahzad pled guilty to all charges against him and was sentenced to life in prison.

All of these plots were foiled by the NYPD, the FBI, or by a combination of these agencies.

Then, after more than a decade’s successes in foiling a series of Islamic plots against New York City, disaster struck the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division.

On February 18, 2012, the Associated Press (AP) broke the news that the NYPD had monitored Muslim college students far more broadly than previously known.

According to the AP:

  • The NYPD conducted surveillance at schools far removed from New York.
  • These included Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Detectives daily tracked Muslim student websites and recorded the names of professors and students.

  • The NYPD, with CIA help, monitored Muslims where they ate, shopped and worshiped.
  • The NYPD placed undercover officers at Muslim student associations in colleges within New York City.
  • In one NYPD operation, an undercover officer accompanied 18 Muslim City College students on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York. He noted the names of those who were officers of the Muslim Student Association.

To put this act of journalistic treachery into historical context: Imagine the New York Times leaking the exact timetable for the D-Day invasion to agents of Nazi Germany.

New York’s Islamic community had long accused the NYPD of “profiling” its members.  Armed with the AP’s revelations, Islamics rushed to capitalize on them.

“I see a violation of civil rights here,” said Tanweer Haq, chaplain of the Muslim Student Association at Syracuse University, upon learning of the AP’s revelations.

“Nobody wants to be on the list of the FBI or the NYPD or whatever. Muslim students want to have their own lives, their own privacy and enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that everybody else has.”

That’s true. But no other nationality has so often attacked Americans within the last 35 years–nor continues to pose so great a threat to this country.

END OF PART TWO

SAFETY LOSES, TERRARABISM WINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2014 at 12:01 am

There is a famous joke about racial profiling that’s long made the rounds of the Internet. It appears in the guise of a “history test,” and offers such multiple-choice questions as:

In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:

  • Olga Corbett
  • Sitting Bull
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:

  • Lost Norwegians
  • Elvis
  • A tour bus full of 80-year-old women
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

During the 1980s a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:

  • John Dillinger
  • The King of Sweden
  • The Boy Scouts
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:

  • A pizza delivery boy
  • Pee Wee Herman
  • Geraldo Rivera
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1985, the cruise ship Achille Lauro was highjacked and a 70-year-old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by:

  • The Smurfs
  • Davy Jones
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by:

  • Scooby Doo
  • The Tooth Fairy
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

On September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked. Two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Center; one crashed into the Pentagon; and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by:

  • Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd
  • The Supreme Court of Florida
  • Mr. Bean
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

Do you see a pattern here to justify profiling?

To ensure that we Americans never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on killing us, airport security screeners should not profile certain people.

They must conduct random searches of 80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, Secret Service agents of the President’s security detail, 85-year-old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winner-winning and former Governor Joe Foss.

But they should leave Muslim males between the ages of 17 and 40 alone because profiling is not Politically Correct.

When are we going to wake up to reality?

* * * * *

It’s well to remember the bitter truth behind this joke, especially in light of the April 15 headline on the National Public Radio website:

NYPD SHUTS DOWN

CONTROVERSIAL UNIT

THAT SPIED ON MUSLIMS

Click here: NYPD Shuts Down Controversial Unit That Spied On Muslims : The Two-Way : NPR

Yes, on April 15, the New York Police Department said it would disband a special unit charged with carrying out secret surveillance of Muslim groups.

Formed in 2003, the Demographics Unit had sent plainclothes detectives to secretly listen in on Islamic sermons in mosques, infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods and spy on individuals and groups.

The goal: To unearth terror cells before they could launch deadly attacks against New York City residents.

The unit had been established–as part of a worldwide Intelligence network operated by the NYPD–during the Mayorship of Republican/Independent Michael Bloomberg.

Commanding the NYPD was Raymond Kelly, a veteran of 47 years in the agency.  Kelly had served in 25 different commands and as Police Commissioner from 1992 to 1994.  Reappointed in 2002, he retired from the NYPD in 2013.

A lifelong New Yorker, Kelly had seen his city twice targeted by Islamic extremists in eight years.

The first attack had come in 1993, with the unsuccessful bombing attempt on the World Trade Center.  The second–and this time successful–attack on the Center had come eight years later, on September 11, 2001.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

With 2,977 New Yorkers obliterated in less than two hours, Kelly knew his city could no longer rely on the FBI and CIA to safeguard its residents.

He decided to borrow a page from the FBI’s own history.

Decades ago, the Bureau had created legal attaches–“Legats,” in Bureau-speak–in police departments around the world.  These contacts had provided the FBI with invaluable Intelligence on wanted fugitives and imminent acts of criminality.

Now the NYPD would arm itself with the same weapon.

Through these liaisons, the NYPD would tap into the Intelligence resources of police departments and espionage agencies throughout the world.

The NYPD greatly expanded the ranks of its Counterterrorism Division. More than 600 officers and operatives both stateside and worldwide now stood guard over New York City.

Click here: Amazon.com: Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force–The NYPD eBook: Christopher Dickey: Book 

Heading this division was David Cohen as Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence.  He had previously served as Deputy Director for Operations at the CIA, overseeing domestic missions in the 1980s and overseas assignments in the 1990s.

Given the full backing of Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, Cohen soon had twice as many fluent Arabic speakers on his staff as the entire FBI.

His agents spoke some 50 languages and dialects, which matched the reported linguistic capabilities of the CIA.

END OF PART ONE

DOGS VS. JACKALS

In History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 25, 2014 at 12:01 am

There’s a scene in the classic 1956 Western, The Searchers, that counterterror experts should study closely.

John Wayne–in the role of Indian-hating Ethan Edwards–and a party of Texas Rangers discover the corpse of a Comanche killed during a raid on a nearby farmhouse.

One of the Rangers–a teenager enraged by the Indians’ killing of his family–picks up a rock and bashes in the head of the dead Indian.

Wayne, sitting astride his horse, asks: “Why don’t you finish the job?”  He draws his revolver and fires two shots, taking out the eyes of the dead Comanche–although the mutilation is not depicted onscreen.

The leader of the Rangers, a part-time minister, asks: ”What good did that do?”

“By what you preach, none,” says Wayne/Edwards.  “But what that Comanche believes–ain’t got no eyes, he can’t enter the Spirit land.  Has to wander forever between the winds.  You get it, Reverend.”

Now, fast forward to May 1, 2011: U.S. Navy SEALS descend on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and kill Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda chieftain.

Among the details of the raid that most titillates the media and public: The commandos were accompanied by a bomb-sniffing dog, a Belgian Malinois.

The canine was strapped to a member of the SEAL team as he lowered himself and the dog to the ground from a hovering helicopter near the compound.

Heavily armored dogs–equipped with infrared night-sight cameras –have been used in the past by the top-secret unit.

The cameras on their heads beam live TV pictures back to the troops, providing them with critical information and warning of ambushes.

The war dogs wear ballistic body armor that is said to withstand damage from single and double-edged knives, as well as protective gear which shields them from shrapnel and gunfire.

Some dogs are trained to silently locate booby traps and concealed enemies such as snipers. The dog’s keen senses of smell and hearing makes him far more effective at detecting these dangers than humans.

The animals will attack anyone carrying a weapon and have become a pivotal part of special operations as they crawl unnoticed into tunnels or rooms to hunt for enemy combatants.

Which brings us to the ultimate of ironies: Osama bin Laden may have been killed through the aid of an animal Muslims fear and despise.

Muslims generally cast dogs in a negative light because of their ritual impurity.  Muhammad did not like dogs according to Sunni tradition, and most practicing Muslims do not have dogs as pets.

It is said that angels do not enter a house which contains a dog. Though dogs are not allowed for pets, they are allowed to be kept if used for work, such as guarding the house or farm, or when used for hunting.

Because Islam considers dogs in general to be unclean, many Muslim taxi drivers and store owners have refused to accommodate customers who have guide dogs.

In 2003, the Islamic Sharia Council, based in the United Kingdom, ruled that the ban on dogs does not apply to those used for guide work.

But many Muslims continue to refuse access, and see the pressure to allow the dogs as an attack upon their religious beliefs.

Counterterror specialists have learned that Muslims’ dread of dogs can be turned into a potent weapon against Islamic suicide bombers.

In Israel, use of bomb-sniffing dogs has proven highly effective—but not simply because of the dogs’ ability to detect explosives through their highly-developed sense of smell.

Muslim suicide-bombers fear that if they blow themselves up near a dog, they might kill the animal—and its unclean blood might be mingled with their own.  This would make them unworthy to ascend to Heaven and claim those 72 willing virgins.

Similarly, news in 2009 that bomb-sniffing dogs might soon be patrolling Metro Vancouver’s buses and SkyTrains as a prelude to the 2010 Olympics touched off Muslims’ alarms.

“If I am going to the mosque and pray, and I have this saliva on my body, I have to go and change or clean,” said Shawket Hassan, vice president of the British Columbia Muslim Association.

What are the lessons to be learned from all this?  They are two-fold:

  1. Only timely tactical intelligence will reveal Al Qaeda’s latest plans for destruction.
  2. But no matter how adept Islamic terrorists prove at concealing their momentary aims, they cannot conceal the attributes and long-term objectives of the religion, history and culture which have scarred and molded them.

American police, Intelligence and military operatives must constantly ask themselves: “How can we turn Islamic religion, Islamic history and islamic culture into weapons against the terrorists we face?”

These institutions must become intimately knowledgeable about the mindset of our Islamic enemies, just as the best frontier Army scouts and officers became knowledgeable about the mindset of the Indians they fought.

And then they must ruthlessly apply that knowledge against the weaknesses of those sworn enemies.

“FAT MAN” AND BUREAUCRACY WARS

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2014 at 12:00 am

The 1989 movie, Fat Man and Little Boy, provides useful insights into the real-life workings of bureaucracies.

In it, the brilliant and ambitious physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Dwight Schultz) comes–too late–to realize he’s made a deal with the devil.

The same proved true for the J. Robert Oppenhiemer of history.

Dwight Schultz as J. Robert Oppenheimer and Paul Newman as General Leslie Groves

Hired by Army General Leslie Groves (played by Paul Newman) to ramrod construction of an atomic bomb, Oppenheimer has no qualms about using it against Nazi Germany.

It’s believed, after all, that German scientists are furiously pursuing work on such a weapon.

The full horror of the extermination camps has not yet been revealed.  But “Oppie” and many other Jewish scientists working on the Manhattan Project can easily imagine the fate of Jews trapped within the borders of the Third Reich.

But then something unforeseen happens. On May 8, 1945, the Third Reich collapses and signs unconditional surrender terms.

Almost at the same time, the U.S. military learns that although some German physicists had tried to make an atomic bomb, they never even got close to producing one.

So Oppenheimer finds himself still working to build the most devastating weapon in history–but now lacking the enemy he had originally signed on to destroy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government has invested nearly $2 billion in the Manhattan Project–at a time when $2 billion truly meant the equivalent of $1 trillion today. Is all that money to go for nothing?

What to do?

Oppenheimer doesn’t have to make that decision. It’s made for him—by Groves, by Groves’ superiors in the Army, and ultimately by the new President, Harry S. Truman.

The bomb will be used, after all. It will just be turned against the Japanese, who are even more hated by most Americans than the Germans.

It doesn’t matter that:

  • The Japanese lack the technological skill of the Germans to produce an atomic bomb.
  • They are rapidly being pushed across the Pacific to their home islands.
  • American bombers are incinerating Japanese cities at wil.
  • The Japanese are desperately trying to find a way to surrender without losing face.

What matters is that Pearl Harbor is still fresh in the minds of Americans generally and of the American military in particular.

And that now that the Japanese are being pushed back into their home islands, they are fighting ever more fanatically to hold off certain defeat.

General Douglas MacArthur, who is scheduled to command the invasion of Japan, has estimated a million American casualties if this goes forward.

Oppenheimer, who has taught physics at the University of California at Berkeley, now finds himself being taught a lesson:

That, once set in motion, bureaucracies–like objects–continue to move forward unless something intervenes to stop them. And, in this case, there is no one willing to say: Stop.

So, on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber drops “Little Boy” on Hiroshima.

An estimated 80,000 people die instantly.  By the end of the year, injury and radiation bring total casualties to 90,000-140,000.

On August 9, it’s the turn of Nagasaki.

Casualty estimates for the dropping of “Fat Man” range from 40,000 to 73,884, with another 74,909 injured, and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying due to fallout and other illness caused by radiation.

For Oppenheimer, the three years he has devoted to creating an atomic bomb will prove the pivotal event of his life. He will be praised and damned as an “American Prometheus,” who brought atomic fire to man.

Countless Americans–especially those who would have been ordered to invade Japan–will revere him as the man who brought the war to a quick end.

And countless Americans–and non-Americans–will condemn him as a man whose arrogance and ambition led him to arm mankind with the means of its own destruction.

Upon witnessing the first successful atomic explosion near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer had been stunned by the sheer magnitude of destructiveness he had helped unleash.

Quoting the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, he murmured: “Now I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.”

Faced with the massive toll of lives taken by the device he had created, Oppenheimer became convinced that the only hope for humanity lay in abolishing nuclear weapons.

He vigorously opposed the creation of a “super” hydrogen bomb. His advice was overruled, however, and construction of this went forward at the same pace that Oppenheimer had once driven others to create the atomic bomb.

The first test of this even more terrifying weapon occurred on November 1, 1952. By 1953, just as Oppenheimer had predicted, the Soviet Union had launched its own H-bomb test.

In a famous meeting with President Truman, Oppenheimer reportedly said, “Mr. President, I have blood on my hands.”

Truman later claimed that he had offered Oppenheimer a handkerchief, saying, “Here, this will wash it off.”

It didn’t.

Accused during the hysteria of the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts of being a Communist traitor, Oppenheimer found himself stripped of his government security clearance in 1954.

Unable to prevent the military bureaucracy from moving relentlessly to use the atomic bomb, he could not halt the political bureaucracy from its own rush into cowardice and the wrecking of others’ lives.

THE DANGERS OF TIMIDITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 23, 2014 at 1:00 am

President Barack Obama–or at least Neil Kornze, the director of the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM)–has some serious lessons to learn about the uses of power.

For more than 20 years, Cliven Bundy, a Nevada cattle rancher, has refused to pay fees for grazing cattle on public lands, some 80 miles north of Las Vegas.

BLM says Bundy now owes close to $1 million. He says his family has used the land since the 1870s and doesn’t recognize the federal government’s jurisdiction.

In 2013, a federal judge ordered Bundy to remove his livestock. He ignored the order, and in early April, 2014, BLM agents rounded up more than 400 of his cattle.

Over the weekend of April 12-13, armed militia members and states’ right protesters showed up to challenge the move.

Rather than risk violence, the BLM did an about-face and released the cattle.

Right-wing bloggers and commentators have portrayed the incident as a victory over Federal tyranny.

According to Alex Jones’ Infowars.com: “Historic!  Feds Forced to Surrender to American Citizens.”

Right-wingers have depicted Bundy as a put-upon Everyman being “squeeaed” by the dictatorial Federal government.

They have deliberately ignored a number of inconvenient truths–such as:

  • He claims that his grazing rights were established in 1880 when his ancestors settled the land where his ranch sits.
  • But the Nevada constitution–adopted in 1864 as a condition of statehood–contradicts Bundy’s right to operate as a law unto himself.
  • The constitution says: “The people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States.”
  • In 1934,  the Taylor Grazing Act gave existing ranchers permits allowing them to run their herds on federal land.
  • In turn, ranchers paid user fees, which were lower than what most private landowners would have charged.
  • In 1993, the Federal government launched an effort to protect the endangered desert tortoise.
  • Certain grasslands were placed off-limits for grazing, and the government bought out the permits of some ranchers.
  • Among others, Bundy refused to sell and kept grazing his cattle on restricted federal land without a permit.
  • Amidst mounting fees and fines, Bundy repeatedly slugged it out in court against government lawyers.  He lost.
  • In 1998, a federal judge permanently barred him from letting his cattle graze on protected federal land.
  • In early April, 2014, BLM agents–charged with overseeing grazing rights–began rounding up Bundy’s cattle to remove them from federal property.

Bundy’s family and other ranchers–backed up by a motley assortment of self-declared militiamen armed with rifles and pistols–confronted the agents.

Fearing another Waco–regarded by Right-wing Americans as a second Alamo–the BLM agents backed down and released Bundy’s cattle.  And then retreated.

While Right-wingers hail this as a victory for “states’ rights,” the truth is considerably different.

Bundy’s refusal to recognize the federal government’s jurisdiction amounts to: “I will recognize–and obey–only those laws that I happen to agree with.”

And the BLM’s performance offers a texbook lesson on how not to promote respect for the law–or for those who enforce it.

As Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science warned more than 500 years ago in The Prince:

[A ruler] is rendered despicable by being thought changeable, frivolous, effeminate, timid and irresolute—which [he] must guard against as a rock of danger…. 

[He] must contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity and fortitude. 

As to the government of his subjects, let his sentence be irrevocable, and let him adhere to his decisions so that no one may think of deceiving or cozening him.

In his master-work, The Discouorses, he outlines the consequences of allowing lawbreakers to go unpunished:

…Having established rewards for good actions and penalties for evil ones, and having rewarded a citizen for conduct who afterwards commits a wrong, he should be chastised for that without regard to his previous merits….

For if a citizen who has rendered some eminent service to the state should add to the reputation and influence which he has thereby acquired the confident audacity of being able to commit any wrong without fear of punishment, he will in a little while become so insolent and overbearing as to put an end to all power of the law.

The conduct of the agents of BLM has violated that sage counsel on all counts.

BLM agents should have expected trouble from Right-wing militia groups–and come fully prepared to deal with it.

The FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, for example, have created SWAT teams to deal with those who threaten  violence against the Federal Government.

Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman had a formula for dealing with domestic terrorists of his own time.

Writing to his commander, Ulysses S. Grant, about the best way to treat Confederate guerrillas, he advised:

General Willilam Tecumseh Sherman

“They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.  We cannot change the hearts of those people of the South.

“But we can make war so terrible that they will realize the fact that . . . they are still mortal and should exhaust all peaceful remedies before they fly to war.”

GOVERNMENT AS IT REALLY WORKS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2014 at 12:40 am

In 1972, 41 years before Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was spying on the Internet, David Halberstam issued a warning about government secrecy.

As a young reporter for the New York Times covering the early years of the Vietnam war, Halberstam had repeatedly confronted government duplicity and obstruction.

David Halberstam (on left)

Halberstam arrived in South Vietnam in 1962.  Almost at once he realized that the war was not going well for the United States Army and its supposed South Vietnamese allies.

The South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) was ill-trained and staffed with incompetent officers who sought to avoid military action.

Reports to military superiors were filled with career-boosting lies about “progress” being made against Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese soldiers.

“Screw up and move up” was the way Americans described the ARVN promotion system.

Halberstam soon learned that the phrase applied just as much to the American Army as well–for reasons of the same incompetence and duplicity.

Returning from Vietnam and resigning from the Times, Halberstam set to work on his landmark history of how the United States had become entangled in a militarily and economically unimportant country.

He would call it The Best and the Brightest, and the title would become a sarcastic reference to those men in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations whose arrogance and deceit plunged the United States into disaster.

Halberstam outlined how the culture of secrecy and unchecked power led American policymakers to play God with the lives of other nations.

Out of this grew a willingness to use covert operations.  And this meant keeping these secret from Americans generally and Congress in particular.

This ignorance allowed citizens to believe that America was a different country.  One that didn’t engage in the same brutalities and corruptions of other nations.

Thus, President Lyndon B. Johnson claimed to be the peace candidate during the 1964 election.  Meanwhile, he was secretly sending U.S. Navy ships to attack coastal cities in North Vietnam.

When North Vietnam responded militarily, Johnson feigned outrage and vowed that the United States would vigorously resist “Communist aggression.”

The history of covert operations has had its own in- and -out-of seasons:

  • During the Eisenhower Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency overthrew the governments of Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954).
  • During the Kennedy Administration, the CIA repeatedly tried to assassinate Cuba’s “Maximum Leader,” Fidel Castro.
  • During the Nixon Adminisdtration, the CIA plotted with right-wing army leaders to successfully overthrow Salvador Allende, the Leftist, legally-elected President of Chile (1973).
  • In 1975, the CIA’s history of assassination attempts became public through an expose by New York Times Investigative Reporter Seymour Hersh.
  • Following nationwide outrage, President Gerald Ford signed an executive order banning the agency from assassinating foreign leaders.

After 9/11, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney decided to “take off the gloves.”

The CIA drew up an ever-expanding list of targets and used killer drones and Special Operations troops (such as SEALs and Green Berets) to hunt them down.

Predator drone firing Hellfire missile

And when these weren’t enough, the CIA called on expensive mercenaries (such as Blackwater), untrustworthy foreign Intelligence services, proxy armies and mercurial dictators.

In his 2013 book, The Way of the Knife, New York Times national security correspondent Mark Mazzetti traces the origins of this high-tech, “surgical” approach to warfare.

Within the course of a decade, the CIA has moved largely from being an intelligence-gathering agency to being a “find-and-kill” one.

And this newfound lethality came at a price: The CIA would no longer be able to provide the crucial Intelligence Presidents need to make wise decisions in a dangerous world.

While the CIA sought to become a more discreet version of the Pentagon, the Pentagon began setting up its own Intelligence network in out-of-the-way Third World outposts.

And, ready to service America’s military and Intelligence agencies at a mercenary’s prices, are a host of private security and Intelligence companies.

Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel, warns of the potential for trouble: “There is an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie.  Do they lie with the flag?  Or do they lie with the bottom line?”

Mazzetti warns of the dark side of these new developments. On one hand, this high-tech approach to war has been embraced by Washington as a low-risk, low-cost alternative to huge troop commitments and quagmire occupations.

On the other hand, it’s created new enemies, fomented resentments among allies and fueled regional instability.  It has also created new weapons unbound by the normal rules of accountability in wartime.

Finally, it’s raised new and troubling ethical questions, such as:

  • What is the moral difference between blowing apart a man at a remote distance with a drone-fired missile and shooting him in the back of the head at close range?
  • Why is the first considered a legitimate act of war–and the second considered an illegal assassination?

In time, there will be answers to many of the uncertainties this new era of push-button and hired-soldier warfare  has unleashed.  And at least some of those answers may come at a high price.

GOVERNMENT AS IT REALLY WORKS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 21, 2014 at 1:03 am

Millions of Americans are outraged to find that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been running a program to spy on the Internet.

National Security Agency

Created in 1952, the NSA is the largest signals-intercepting and code-cracking agency in the world, using specially designed high-speed computers to analyze literally mountains of data.

Headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland, the NSA dwarfs the better-known Central Intelligence Agency in both its budget (which is classified) and number of employees (40,000).

NSA’s program–entitled PRISM–collects a wide range of data from nine Internet service providers, although the details vary by provider.

Here are the nine ISPs:

  • AOL
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Skype
  • Facebook
  • PalTalk
  • Apple
  • YouTube

And here is what we know (so far) they provide to the ever-probing eyes of America’s Intelligence community:

  • Email
  • Videos
  • Stored data
  • Photos
  • File transfers
  • Video conferencing
  • Notification of target activity (logins)
  • Online social networking details
  • VolP (Voice Over Internet Porocol)
  • Special requests

“Trailblazer,” NSA’s data-mining computer system

The program has been run by the NSA since 2007.  But its existence became front-page news only in early June, 2013, when a former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, leaked its capabilities to The Guardian, a British newspaper.

While millions of Americans were surprised at this massive electronic vacuuming of data, at least one man could not have been.

This was Neil Sheehan, the former New York Times reporter who, in 1971, broke the story of the Pentagon Papers.  A secret Pentagon study, it documented how the United States became entangled in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.

Its existence had been leaked by Daniel Ellsburg, a former defense analyst for the RAND corporation.

Among the Pentagon Papers’ embarrassing revelations:

  • Four Presidents–Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson–had misled the public about their intentions.
  • At least two Presidents–Kennedy and Johnson–committed increasing numbers of ground forces to Vietnam out of fear.  Not fear for the South Vietnamese but fear that they (JFK and LBJ) would be charged with being “soft on Communism” and thereby not re-elected.
  • Kennedy knew the South Vietnamese government to be thoroughly corrupt and inept, and plotted to overthrow its president, Ngo Dinh Diem, to “save” the war effort.
  • During the Presidential campaign of 1964, Johnson decided to expand the war but posed as a peacemaker.  He claimed that his Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, wanted to bomb North Vietnam and send thousands of American soldieers into an unnecessary war.

A memo from the Defense Department under the Johnson Administration summed up the duplicity behind the war.  It listed the real reasons for American involvement: “To avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat.”

  • 70% – To avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat.
  • 20% – To keep South Vietnam and the adjacent territory from Chinese hands.
  • 10% – To permit the people of South Vietnam to enjoy a better, freer way of life.
  • ALSO – To emerge from the crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used.
  • NOT – To ‘help a friend’.

The study implicated only the administrations of Democratic Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

But then-President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican, saw the release of the papers as a dangerous breach of national security.

After the New York Times began publishing the study, Nixon ordered the Justice Department to intervene.

For the first time in United States history, a federal judge legally forbade a newspaper to publish a story.

The Times frantically appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, the Washington Post (having gotten a second set of the documents from Ellsburg) rushed its own version of the story into print.

On June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court ruled, 6–3, that the government had failed to meet the burden of proof required for prior restraint of press freedom.

For Sheehan, reading the Papers was an eye-opener, a descent into a world he had never imagined possible.

As David Halberstam wrote in The Best and the Brightest, his best-selling 1972 account of how arrogance and deceit led the United States into disaster in Vietnam:

Sheehan came away with the overwhelming impression: that the government of the United States was not what he had thought it was.

Sheehan felt that he had discovered an inner U.S. government, highly centralized, and far more powerful than anything else.  And its enemy wass not simply the Communists but everything else–its own press, judiciary, Congress, foreign and friendly governments.

It had survived and perpetuated itself, often by using the issue of anti-Communism as a weapon against the other branches of government and the press.  And it served its own ends, rather than the good of the Republic.

This inner government used secrecy to protect itself–not from foreign governments but to keep its own citizens ignorant of its crimes and incompetence.

Each succeeding President was careful to not expose the faults of his predecessor.

Essentially the same people were running the government, wrote Halberstam, and so each new administration   faced virtually the same enemies.

THE TRUTH CAN MAKE US FREE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 18, 2014 at 12:15 am

Once in a while, a politician slips up.

He forgets the presence of his PR handlers.  He wanders off his carefully-prepared script.  He gets so angry at reporters that he does something he would never otherwise do.

He blurts out the truth–about what he actually intends to do, or how he actually feels about an issue.

For at least a few days, the news media converges on the politician–who rushes to the safety of his PR reps.

They, in turn, quickly issue press releases to “explain” what the politician “really meant to say”:

  • He was “misunderstood.”
  • He was “misquoted.”
  • He’s the victim of a press “vendetta.”

Perhaps the most famous such “here’s-what-I-meant-to-say” statement was issued by Ron Ziegler, press secretary for President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal.

Starting on June 17, 1972, the Washington Post had investigated a series of crimes committed by Nixon operatives to ensure his re-election.

For the next 10 months, Ziegler and other Nixon administration officials denied any wrongdoing–and viciously attacked the Post as waging a vendetta against Nixon.

Then, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler once again stood before the White House press corps to offer yet another prepared statement: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

Ron Ziegler

By which he meant: “The statement I’m making now is the truth.  All the previous statements were lies.”

In 2012, the Republican party once again faced a “truth-will-out” scandal.

On August 19, 2012, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) justified his opposition to abortion by claiming that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.

During a TV interview, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate was asked if he supported abortion in the case of rape.  He replied:

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

“But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Todd Akin

Akin won the Republican primary on August 7–but then lost to incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). in November, 2012.

McCaskill was quick to issue a response.

“It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.  The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive.”

This was not the first time Akin “misspoke” on abortion.

On August 8, 2012, he said during a radio interview: “As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country.”

But the firestorm of outrage that greeted his “legitimate rape” comment caught Akin by surprise.  So he did what politicians do when they’ve mistakenly told the truth.

With the help of his PR handlers, he “clarified” his previous statement:

“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.

“I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue.

“But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action.”

Mitt Romney, awaiting his nomination as the Republican Presidential candidate, also bitterly opposed abortion and wanted to make it illegal once again.

But Romney also didn’t expect a firestorm to erupt over Akin’s truth-blurb.  Thus, on the day Akin revealed his true feelings about women, Romney’s spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, told the Huffington Post:

“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”

Clearly, Romney believed that would be enough.  The press would move on to another issue and he would be off the hook once again.

Only the press didn’t move on to another issue.

Akin’s comment obviously recalled to voters the libelous statements made earlier in 2012 by Rush Limbaugh against Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke.

Rush Limbaugh

In these, Limbaugh–America’s porcine version of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels–called Fluke a “slut” and “a prostitute”  because she had urged Congress to make insurance companies cover contraception expenses.

Desperate to make the issue go away, Romney told National Review Online: ”Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.

“Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”

What Romney and his fellow Republicans truly found offensive was this:  Akin’s statement threatened to deny them the power they sought to rule Americans’ lives.

And, on November 6, 2012, Aiken’s unintended truth-telling cost the Republicans the White House.

BE YOUR OWN AIR MARSHAL

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 17, 2014 at 12:05 am

On June 5, 2013, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) finally came face-to-face with reality.

It announced that it was abandoning its plan to let passengers carry small knives, baseball bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes, as it had originally intended.

But TSA didn’t drop this plan because it wanted to.  It did so only after fierce opposition from passengers, Congressional leaders and airline industry officials.

TSA Administrator John Pistole unveiled the proposal in March, 2013.

Said Pistole: Increased protective measures–such as hardened cockpit doors and armed off-duty pilots traveling on planes–made it impossible for terrorists to use small folding knives to highjack a plane.

He said that intercepting them takes time that would be better used searching for explosives and other more serious threats.

TSA screeners confiscate over 2,000 small folding knives a day from passengers.

The proposal would have permitted folding knives with blades that are 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) or less in length and are less than 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) wide.

The aim was to allow passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other knives.

Passengers also would also have been allowed to bring onboard novelty-sized baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs.

The United States has gradually eased airline security measures that took effect after 9/11.

In 2005, TSA said it would let passengers carry on small scissors, knitting needles, tweezers, nail clippers and up to four books of matches.

The agency began focusing on keeping explosives off planes, because intelligence officials believed that was the greatest threat to commercial aviation.

With regard to the use of edged weapons as terrorist tools:

  • The terrorists who highjacked four jetliners and turned them into flying bombs on September 11, 2001, used only boxcutters to cut the throats of stewards and stewardesses; and
  • They then either forced their way into the cockpits and overpowered and murdered the pilots, or lured the pilots to leave the cabins and murdered them.

And for all the publicity given the TSA’s “Air Marshal” program, it’s been airline passengers who have repeatedly been the ones to subdue unruly fliers.

Consider the following incidents:

  • On August 11, 2000, Jonathan Burton, a passenger aboard a Southwest Airlines flight tried to break into the cockpit was killed by other passengers who restrained him.
  • On May 9, 2011, crew members and passengers wrestled a 28-year-old man to the cabin floor after he began pounding on the cockpit door of a plane approaching San Francisco.
  • On February 21, 2012, passengers aboard a Continental Airlines flight from Portland to Houston rushed to aid a flight attendant subdue a Middle Eastern man who began shouting, “Allah is great!”
  • On March 27, 2012, a JetBlue flight from new York to Las Vegas was forced to land in Texas after the pilot started shouting about bombs and al-Qaeda and had to be subdued by passengers.
  • On January 9, 2013, passengers on board an international flight from Reykjavik to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport subdued an unruly passenger by tying him to his seat with duct tape and zip ties after he began screaming and hitting other passengers.
  • On May 27, 2013, a passenger aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage to Portland, Oregon, tried to open an airplane door in-flight and was subdued by passengers and crew members until the plane landed in Portland.

In every one of these incidents, it’s been passengers–not the vaunted Air Marshals–who have been the first and major line of defense against mentally unstable or terroristically inclined passengers.

In opposing TSA’s proposal to loosen security restrictions, skeptical lawmakers, airlines, labor unions and law enforcement groups argued that knives and other items could be used to injure or kill passengers and crew.

Such weapons would have increased the dangers posed by the above-cited passengers (and a pilot) who erupted in frightening behavior.

Prior to 9/11, commercial airline pilots and passengers were warned: If someone tries to highjack the plane, just stay calm and do what he says.

So many airplanes were directed by highjackers to land in Fidel Castro’s Cuba that these incidents became joke fodder for stand-up comedians.

And, up to 9/11, the advice to cooperate fully with highjackers and land the planes where they wanted worked.  No planes and no lives were lost.

But during 9/11, passengers and crew–with one exception–cooperated fully with the highjackers’ demands.

And all of them died horiffically when three of those jetliners were deliberately crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

World Trade Center under airplane attack

Only on United Flight 93 did the passengers and crew fight back. In doing so, they accomplished what security guards, soldiers, military pilots, the CIA and FBI could not.

They thwarted the terrorists, sacrificing their own lives and preventing the fourth plane from destroying the White House or the Capital Building.

Memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93

Since every airline passenger must now become his or her own Air Marshal, it seems only appropriate that the criminals they face be rendered as harmless as possible.

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