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Archive for the ‘Law Enforcement’ Category

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 Politics, Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary, Law Enforcement, Law, Military 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.

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.

“A TEAM PLAYER”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 9, 2014 at 12:01 am

In 1959,, J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI, declared war on the Mafia.

He set up a Top Hoodlum Program and encouraged his agents to use wiretapping and electronic surveillance (“bugging”) to make up for lost time and Intelligence.

But Hoover also imposed a series of restrictions that could destroy an agent’s professional and personal life.

William E. Roemer, Jr., assigned to the FBI’s Chicago field office, was one of the first agents to volunteer for such duty.

In his memoirs, Man Against the Mob, published in 1989, Roemer laid out the dangers that went with such work:

  1. If confronted by police or mobsters, agents were to try to escape without being identified.
  2. If caught by police, agents were not to identify themselves as FBI employees.
  3. They were to carry no badges, credentials or guns–or anything else connecting themselves with the FBI.
  4. If they were arrested by police and the truth emerged about their FBI employment, the Bureau would claim they were “rogue agents” acting on their own.
  5. Such agents were not to refute the FBI’s portrayal of them as “rogues.”

If he had been arrested by the Chicago Police Department and identified as an FBI agent, Roemer would have:

  1. Definitely been fired from his position as an FBI agent.
  2. Almost certainly been convicted for at least breaking and entering.
  3. Disbarred from the legal profession (Roemer was an attorney).
  4. Perhaps served a prison sentence.
  5. Been disgraced as a convicted felon.
  6. Been unable to serve in his chosen profession of law enforcement.

Given the huge risks involved, many agents, unsurprisingly, wanted nothing to do with “black bag jobs.”

The agents who took them on were so committed to penetrating the Mob that they willingly accepted Hoover’s dictates.

In 1989, Roemer speculated that former Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North had fallen victim to such a “Mission: Impossible” scenario: “The secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions….”

In 1986, Ronald Reagan’s “arms-for-hostages” deal known as Iran-Contra had been exposed.

To retrieve seven Americans taken hostage in Beirut, Lebanon, Reagan had secretly agreed to sell some of America’s most sophisticated missiles to Iran.

During this operation, several Reagan officials–including North–diverted proceeds from the sale of those missiles to fund Reagan’s illegal war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

In Roemer’s view: North had followed orders from his superiors without question.  But when the time came for those superiors to step forward and protect him, they didn’t.

They let him take the fall.

Roemer speculated that North had been led to believe he would be rescued from criminal prosecution.  Instead, in 1989, he was convicted for

  • accepting an illegal gratuity;
  • aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry; and
  • ordering the destruction of documents via his secretary, Fawn Hall.

That is how many employers expect their employees to act: To carry out whatever assignments they are given and take the blame if anything goes wrong.

Take the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the world’s biggest retailer.

In March, 2005, Wal-Mart escaped criminal charges when it agreed to pay $11 million to end a federal probe into its use of illegal aliens as janitors.

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided 60 Wal-Mart stores across 21 states in October, 2003.  The raids led to the arrest of 245 illegal aliens.

Federal authorities had uncovered the cases of an estimated 345 illegal aliens contracted as janitors at Wal-Mart stores.

Many of the workers worked seven days or nights a week without overtime pay or injury compensation. Those who worked nights were often locked in the store until the morning.

According to Federal officials, court-authorized wiretaps revealed that Wal-Mart executives knew their subcontractors hired illegal aliens.

Once the raids began, Federal agents invaded the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., seizing boxes of records from the office of a mid-level executive.

Click here: Wal-Mart Settles Illegal Immigrant Case for $11M | Fox News

Of course, Wal-Mart admitted no wrongdoing in the case.  Instead, it blamed its subcontractors for hiring illegal aliens and claiming that Wal-Mart hadn’t been aware of this.

Which, of course, is nonsense.

Just as the FBI would have had no compunctions about letting its agents take the fall for following orders right from the pen of J. Edgar Hoover, Wal-Mart meant to sacrifice its subcontractors for doing precisely what the company’s executives wanted them to do.

The only reason Wal-Mart couldn’t make this work: The Feds had, for once, treated corporate executives like Mafia leaders and had tapped their phones.

Click here: Wal-Mart to review workers – Business – EVTNow

Which holds a lesson for how Federal law enforcement agencies should treat future corporate executives when their companies are found violating the law.

Instead of seeing CEOs as “captains of industry,” a far more realistic approach would be giving this term a new meaning: Corrupt Egotistical Oligarchs.

A smart investigator/prosecutor should always remember:

Widespread illegal and corrupt behavior cannot happen among the employees of a major government agency or private corporation unless:

  1. Those at the top have ordered it and are profiting from it; or
  2. Those at the top don’t want to know about it and have taken no steps to prevent or punish it.

“A TEAM PLAYER”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 8, 2014 at 12:15 am

Recruiters for corporate America routinely claim they’re looking for “a team player.”

This sounds great–as though the corporation is seeking people who will get along with their colleagues and work to achieve a worthwhile objective.

And, at times, that is precisely what is being sought in a potential employee.

But, altogether too often, what the corporation means by “a team player” is what the Mafia means by “a real standup guy.”

That is: Someone willing to commit any crime for the organization–and take the fall for its leaders if anything goes wrong.

Consider this classic example from the files of America’s premier law enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

On November 14, 1957, 70 top Mafia leaders from across the country gathered at the estate of a fellow gangster, Joseph Barbara, in Apalachin, a small village in upstate New York.

The presence of so many cars with out-of-state license plates converging on an isolated mansion caught the attention of Edgar Crosswell, a sergeant in the New York State Police.

Crosswell assembled as many troopers as he could find, set up roadblocks, and swooped down on the estate.

The mobsters, panicked, fled in all directions–many of them into the surrounding woods.  Even so, more than 60 underworld bosses were arrested and indicted following the raid.

Perhaps the most significant result of the raid was the effect it had on J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI.

J. Edgar Hoover

Up to that point, Hoover had vigorously and vocally denied the existence of a nationwide Mafia.  He had been happy to leave pursuit of international narcotics traffickers to his hated rival, Harry Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).

But he had been careful to keep his own agency well out of the war on organized crime.

Several theories have been advanced as to why.

  1. Hoover feared that his agents–long renowned for their incorruptibility–would fall prey to the bribes  of well-heeled mobsters.
  2. Hoover feared that his allegedly homosexual relationship with his longtime associate director, Clyde Tolson, would be exposed by the Mob.  Rumors still persist that mobster Meyer Lansky came into possession of a compromising photo of Hoover and Tolson engaged in flagrante delicto.
  3. Hoover knew of the ties between moneyed mobsters and their political allies in Congress.  Hoover feared losing the goodwill of Congress for future–and ever-larger–appropriations for the FBI.
  4. Hoover preferred flashy, easily-solved cases to those requiring huge investments of manpower and money.

Whatever the reason, Hoover had, from the time he assumed directorship of the FBI in 1924, kept his agents far from the frontlines of the war against organized crime.

Suddenly, however, that was no longer possible.

The arrests of more than 60 known members of the underworld–in what the news media called “a conclave of crime”–deeply embarrassed Hoover.

It was all the more embarrassing that while the FBI had virtually nothing in its files on the leading lights of the Mafia, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics had opened its voluminous files to the Senate Labor Rackets Committee.

Heading that committee as chief legal counsel was Robert F. Kennedy–a fierce opponent of organized crime who, in 1961, would become Attorney General of the United States.

So Hoover created the Top Hoodlum Program (THP) to identify and target selected Mafiosi across the country.

Since the FBI had no networks of informants operating within the Mafia, Hoover fell back on a technique that had worked wonders against the Communist Party U.S.A.

He would wiretap the mobsters’ phones and plant electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their meeting places.

The information gained from these techniques would arm the Bureau with evidence that could be used to strongarm mobsters into “rolling over” on their colleagues in exchange for leniency.

Hoover believed he had authority to install wiretaps because more than one Attorney General had authorized their use.

But no Attorney General had given permission to install bugs–which involved breaking into the places where they were to be placed.  Such assignments were referred to within the Bureau as “black bag jobs.”

So, in making clear to his agent-force that he wanted an unprecedented war against organized crime, Hoover also made clear the following:

Before agents could install electronic surveillance (an ELSUR, in FBI-speak) devices in Mob hangouts, agents had to first request authority for a survey.  This would have to establish:

  1. That this was truly a strategic location;
  2. That the agents had a plan of attack that the Bureau could see was logical and potentially successful; and, most importantly of all
  3. That it could be done without any “embarrassment to the Bureau.”

According to former FBI agent William E. Roemer, Jr., who carried out many of these “black bag” assignments:

“The [last requirement] was always Mr. Hoover’s greatest concern: ‘Do the job, by God, but don’t ever let anything happen that might embarrass the Bureau.”

THE FIRST RULE OF BUREAUCRACIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 3, 2014 at 12:09 am

After spending years of his life sexually abusing boys entrusted into his care, Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life as a prison inmate.

On October 9, 2012, a Pennsylvania judge sentenced the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach  to at least 30 years in prison.  And he may spend as many as 60 years behind bars.

Following his conviction on June 22, 2012, he had faced a maximum of 400 years’ imprisonment for his sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Jerry Sandusky (middle) in police custody

After the sentencing decision was announced, Penn State University President Rodney Erickson released a statement:

“Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse.

“While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery.”

No doubt Erickson–and the rest of Penn State–wants to move on from this shameful page in the university’s history.  And the university has desperately tried to sweep the sordid scandal out of sight of the ticket-paying public–and of history:

  • It fired Joe Paterno, the legendary head football coach who had led Penn State to a staggering 112 victories.
  • It ousted Graham Spanier, the university’s longtime president.
  • And it removed the iconic statue of Paterno–long held in worshipful esteem by almost everyone at the football-obsessed institution.

So what remains to be learned from this sordid affair?

A great deal, it turns out.

To begin at the beginning:

In 2002, assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a Penn State graduate assistant, walked in on Sandusky anally raping a 10-year-old boy.  The next day, McQueary reported the incident to head coach Paterno.

“You did what you had to do,” said Paterno.  “It is my job now to figure out what we want to do.”

Paterno’s idea of “what we want to do” consisted of reporting the incident to three other top Penn State officials:

Their idea of “what we want to do” was to close ranks around Sandusky and engage in a diabolical “code of silence.”

As former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh summed up in an internal investigative report compiled at the request of Penn State and released on July 12:

“Four of the most powerful people at the Pennsylvania State University–President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno–failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.

“These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the board of trustees, the university community and authorities.

Louis Freeh

Louis J. Freeh

“They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.

“… In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University….repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.

“The avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity is the most significant, but not the only, cause for this failure to protect child victims and report to authorities.”

If there is a fundamental truth to be learned from this sordid affair, it is this: The first rule of any and every bureaucracy is:

ABOVE ALL ELSE, THE INSTITUTION MUST BE PROTECTED.

And this holds true:

  • At the level of local / state / Federal government;
  • For-profit organizations;
  • Non-profit organizations; or
  • Religious institutions

During the 48-year reign of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, agents had their own version of this: Do not embarrass the Bureau.

Thus we have seen countless Catholic priests abusing young boys entrusted to their protection–only to be repeatedly protected by high-ranking authorities within the Catholic Church.

We have seen whistleblowers who report rampant safety violations in nuclear power plants ignored by the very regulatory agencies the public counts on to prevent catastrophic accidents.

Imperfect institutions staffed by perfect men obsessed with power, money and fame–and fearful of losing one or all of these–can never be expected to act otherwise.

And those who do expect ordinary mortals to behave like extraordinary saints will be forever disappointed.

So how can we at least minimize such outrages in the future?

“Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom,” warned Thomas Jefferson.  And it remains as true today as it did more than 200 years ago.

Add to this the more recent adage: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

The more we know about how our institutions actually work–as opposed to how they want us to believe they work–the more chance we have to control their behavior.  And to check their abuses when they occur.

Which they will.

AVOIDING THE BUMS’ RUSH

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 24, 2014 at 12:37 am

Almost one year ago–on May 24, 2013–Californians dodged a bum’s rush.

That was when the California Legislature refused to make the streets safe for DDMBs.

Or Druggies, Drunks, Mentals and Bums, as they’re known to many of the paramedics and police who must deal with them.

Or as “the homeless,” to those of Politically Correct persuasion.

A measure introduced in April, 2013, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) would have legally allowed DDMBs to sleep and sit in public places and accost hard-working citizens for unearned money.

The bill had already passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a 7-2 vote, but fatally stalled in the Assembly Apporpriations Committee on May 24, 2013.

Titled ”The Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act,” it was first introduced on December 5, 2012.

Among the “rights” the bill would have created

  • “The right to rest in a public space in the same manner as any other person without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel….because he or she is homeless, as long as that rest does not maliciously or substantially obstruct a passageway.”
  • “The right to decline admittance to a public or private shelter or any other accommodation, including social services programs, for any reason he or she sees fit, without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest from law enforcement, public or private security personnel….”
  • “The right to assistance of counsel if a county chooses to initiate judicial proceedings under any law set forth in Section 53.5….  The county where the citation was issued shall pay the cost of providing counsel….”

  • Every local government and disadvantaged unincorporated community within the state shall have sufficient health and hygiene centers available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for use by homeless people. These facilities may be part of the Neighborhood Health Center Program.”
  • “The right to solicit donations in public spaces in the same manner as any other person without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel…because he or she is homeless.”
  • “‘Harassment’ [of DDMBs] means a knowing and willful course of conduct by law enforcement, public or private security personnel…directed at a specific person that a reasonable person would consider as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing a person.”

“Seriously alarming” and “seriously annoying” behavior by DDMBs–such as aggressively demanding money from passersby–would, of course, not have been considered illegal.

The bill further stated: “Any person whose rights have been violated under this part may enforce those rights in a civil action.

“The court may award appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief, restitution for loss of property or personal effects and belongings, actual damages, compensatory damages, exemplary damages, statutory damages of one thousand dollars ($1,000) per violation, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff.”

In short, the aim of the bill was three-fold:

  1. To arm society’s undesirables with the full force of law to demand unearned monies from those who actually work for a living;
  2. To arm them with the right to infest, with their psychotic behavior, drug/alcohol addiction and often disease-carrying belongings, any public place they choose; and
  3. To put hard-working, law-abiding “squares” on the defensive in protecting themselves against the filth, aggressiveness and risk of injury from such DDMBs.

In recent years, several cities concerned about the number of undesirables occupying public spaces have passed local ordinances banning them from sitting and lying on streets and sidewalks.

These include Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Palo Alto and San Francisco (where it is unenforced).

Ammiano’s bill would have forbidden police from enforcing ordinances regarding resting in public places unless a county has provided sufficient support to such undesirables.

The legislation received little attention from the media.

To fully understand what passage of such legislation would have meant for California, it’s necessary only to look at Ammiano’s own city, San Francisco.

This city:

  • Doles out cash payments to virtually anyone with no residency requirement.
  • Spends $200 million a year on “honeless” services.
  • Has a “homeless” population between 7,000 and 10,000.
  • Of these, 3,000 to 5,000 refuse shelter.

But the true realities of this problem can only be seen at the street level.

One of these realities is Suzie Wong, 66, who goes by the name Ling Ling.  A resident of the Nob Hill District, Wong daily alights from the 27 Bryant bus from the Mission and halts at the nearby bus stop.

There she drops her drawers to leave a yellow or brown deposit on the sidewalk, then heads to her usual spot to panhandle.

Residents have lodged scores of complaints with the city about Wong’s repeated defecations.  The Department of Public Works sent crews to clean up her messes at least 44 times in a six-month period.

Police have repeatedly arrested Wong for a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold at San Francisco General Hospital.  But doctors usually release her before the cops even get back to the station.

Ammiano’s legislation would have legalized such behavior throughout California.

So the upcoming anniversary of its defeat is well worth celebrating.

WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR PISTORIUS–AND SOUTH AFRICA

In Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on March 6, 2014 at 12:25 am

He’s the O.J. Simpson of South Africa–a gifted athlete charged with cold-blooded murder.

For Oscar Pistorius, life began as a struggle, on November 22, 1986.  Born with fibular hemimelia (congenital absence of the fibula) in both legs, at 11 months old, he was forced to undergo the amputation of both legs below the knee.

But still he persisted to lead an active–even an extraordinary–life.  As a child and teenager, he played rugby union, water polo and tennis, and took part in Olympic wrestling.

After a serious rugby knee injury, Pistorius was introduced to running in January, 2004, while undergoing rehabilitation at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre.

Fitted with racing blades, he has been dubbed “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man with no legs.”   He took part in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and came in third in the 100-metere event.

In summer, 2012, he became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics, winning  gold medals in the men’s 400-metre race and the 4 X 100 metres relay.

Oscar Pistorius

And then, having achieved so much against so much adversity, he found himself facing trial for a ghastly crime:

The February 14, 2013 murder of his 29-year-old girlfriend, model and paralegal Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot three times through a locked bathroom door.

Reeva Steenkamp

Pistorius claims he thought Steenkamp was a nighttime intruder. The state alleges that he and his girlfriend  argued before her death and he intentionally killed her.

His trial opened on March 3 in Pretoria, South Africa.  A conviction on the murder charge in South Africa would carry a mandatory life sentence.

Throughout South Africa, women believe the odds are high that Pistorius will escape justice for murder owing to his sports celebrity status.  And they may well turn out to be right.

Consider:

  • According to one study, South Africa has “the highest rate [of violence against women] ever reported in research anywhere in the world.”
  • Statistically, a woman gets raped in South Africa every four minutes. Only 66,196 incidents were reported to police in 2012 and their investigations led to only 4,500 convictions.
  • The murder of Pistorius’ girlfriend happened one day before she planned to wear black in a “Black Friday” protest against the country’s disgracefully high number of rapes.
  • “If data for all violent assaults, rapes and other sexual assaults against women are taken into account, then approximately 200,000 adult women are reported as being attacked in South Africa every year,” said Lerato Moloi of the South African Institute for Race Relations.
  • The real figure is considerably higher, she said, since most cases never are reported.

The rate of murders of women in South Africa is equally appalling:

  • A woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours in South Africa.
  • No perpetrator is identified in 20 percent of killings, according to a study published by the South African Medical Research Council.
  • That is double the rate of such murders in the United States.

In assessing what’s at stake in the Pistorius trial, Niccolo Machiavelli sounds a warning:

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Discourses, his seminal work on how to preserve freedom within a republic, Machiavelli warns: “Well-ordered republics establish punishments and rewards for their citizens, but never set off one against the other.”

The soldier, Horatious, he writes, had saved ancient Rome from the Curatti.  But when he murdered his sister, he was put on trial for his life.

While Rome might seem guilty of ingratitude, writes Machiavelli, “the people were to blame rather for the acquittal of Horatius than for having him tried.

“And the reason for this is, that no well-ordered republic should ever cancel the crimes of its citizens by their merits….

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

A state that adheres to this principle will retain its liberty; a state that doesn’t will quickly be destroyed.

For if a citizen who has rendered eminent service to the nation becomes convinced that he can 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,” writes Machiavelli.

Americans learned the truth of this after the 1995 acquittal of O.J. Simpson for the slasher-murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and a waiter-eyewitness, Ronald Goldman.

In September, 2007, he led a group of men into a hotel room at the Palace Station casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and, at gunpoint, seized sports memorabilia which he claimed had been stolen from him.

He was arrested and eventually convicted for criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.

On December 5, 2008, Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison with the chance of parole in  nine years, in 2017.

MEXICO: WHERE CORRUPTION IS KING

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2014 at 12:00 am

The photo says it all.

Taken on February 22, it shows Joaquin Guzman, the widely-feared kingpin of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, in the custody of Mexican Marines.

The Marines had launched a surprise, early-morning raid on the condominium where he was staying in Mazatlan, Sinaloa.

Taken without a shot being fired, Guzman was paraded before photographers.  Yet, even with his hands cuffed behind his back, the fear generated by his name was such that all the Marines in the photo wore black masks over their faces.

His nickname might be “El Chapo”, or “Shorty,” owing to his 5’6″ height.  But there is nothing aborted about the extent of his power.

Guzman became Mexico’s top drug kingpin in 2003 after the arrest of his rival, Osiel Cardenas, head of the Gulf Cartel.  Since then, he has been considered the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world” by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

High-ranking officials in the U.S. Department of Justice hailed the arrest and announced they would seek Guzman’s extradition to the United States for trial.

There were two solid reasons for doing this:

  1. Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Columbia through Mexico to the United States–the world’s top consumer.
  2. Arrested in 1993 and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, Guzman lived like a king in prison–until he bribed his guards to smuggle him out in a laundry cart.  In Mexico, such treatment for drug kingpins is typical.

But even if Guzman spends the rest of his life in prison, his drug empire will go profitably rolling on.

Anyone who doubts this need only read Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields.

Written by Investigative Reporter Charles Bowden and published in 2010, Murder City offers a terrifying, and almost lethally depressing, portrait of what happens when a city–and a country–disintegrates.

Ciudad Juárez lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. A once-thriving border town, it now resembles a failed state. Notorious as the place where women disappear, its murder rate exceeds that of Baghdad or Mogadishu.

It’s so overwhelmed with the violence of drug trafficking that its leading citizens—police, politicians, even the drug lords—find it safer to live in El Paso.

Hundreds of millions of narco-dollars flow into Juárez each week, and the violence and corruption that follow yield 200 to 300 murders each year.

Among the casualties of that violence:

  • A reporter–who has dared to expose cartel-corrupted members of the Mexican Army–is forced to flee to the United States with his young son.
  • A beautiful woman who became the mistress of one drug cartel leader is gang-raped by members of a rival cartel.
  • A teenage killer for the cartels is now being hunted for having run afoul of his murderous bosses.

This is a city–and a country–where virtually no one is safe.

  • Mexican police pay big bribes to be assigned to narcotics enforcement squads.  The reason: Not to suppress the rampant drug trafficking but to enrich themselves by seizing and selling those narcotics.
  • Residents awaken at dawn to find bodies of the drug cartels’ latest victims dumped on streets–their hands, feet and mouths bound with silver and gray duct tape.
  • Mexican policewomen are often snatched off the streets and raped–by members of the Mexican Army.
  • Honest policemen–and even police chiefs–are routinely gunned down by cartel members.

If there is any one story in Murder City that symbolizes the total corruption of a society awash with drugs and the profits they produce, it is this:

A Mexican priest serves as confessor to drug lords.  They, in turn, believe their confessions to be safe, as they are supposed to be heard only by the priest and God.

But one of the drug lords wears a large gold crucifix, which the priest secretly covets.

So he turns from drug lord confessor to police informer–and the Mexican police raid the next drug lord gathering and confiscate a large quantity of narcotics.

The police don’t intend to turn in the seized narcotics.  Instead, they will sell these for their own profit.

And as a reward for his cooperation, the priest is given the large gold crucifix–which he blesses and consecrates to his God.

Who, exactly, is behind all these killings?

And why?

And who, if anyone, is in charge of Juárez–or Mexico?

Bowden states it is difficult to answer such questions because the Mexican press has been thoroughly corrupted by drug cartel monies or terrorized by drug cartel hit squads.  Reporters have been murdered–by the cartels and the army–for writing anything about killings, the army or the cartels.

The world of Murder City is a nightmarish one:

  • Members of drug cartels live like kings.
  • Their bribes and violence have corrupted all branches of the Mexican government, military and police forces.
  • Ordinary Mexicans live in grinding poverty, thanks to American factories paying starvation wages

When you leave its pages, you are grateful that you can safely put its evil behind you–unlike the residents of Juarez who remain trapped in its web.

For residents of this failed nation-state called Mexico, it’s too late.  Such endemic corruption can never be fought successfully.

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