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Civil Rights / Liberties
Remember the guy who dressed up in a blue shirt, khaki pants, and blue gloves and impersonated a TSA agent in San Francisco last month? He succeeded in leading two victims into a curtained booth and groped at least one of them. Well, we don't know exactly what he did, since he was hidden. We only know that he got away with it, and that if he had been an actual TSA clerk, whatever he did, including sexual molestation, would've been legal.
This is what it takes to get answers from the TSA and DHS: you have to sue them. And even then you'll be stonewalled.
GUEST: David Swanson, author, activist, and blogger. His books includes Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union and War is a Lie and When the World Outlawed War. Follow him on Twitter.
TOPIC: David reacts to the events in Ferguson, Missouri and the related militarization of law enforcement and drug war.
ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Thursday, August 21, 2014.
By John Grant
There was a moment during MSNBC's live coverage of Ferguson, Missouri, Monday night through 2AM Tuesday morning when Chris Hayes and one of his guests conceded the police (now augmented by National Guard troops said to be guarding a police command center) begrudgingly deserved a good grade because -- unlike riots in Newark and Los Angeles -- no one had been killed. This was after cops had "barked" at Hayes and threatened him with macing if he and his camera crew dared again venture "in front of" the police.
By John Grant
On Monday, I decided to spend my evenings flipping back-and-forth between Fox News and MSNBC as the two cable channels dealt with the dueling stories of the United States tiptoeing into a third war in Iraq and the sudden appearance of what appeared to be a police state in a little town outside St Louis. From Monday to Friday, the Ferguson, Missouri story has gone from that of a bizarre and dangerous war zone to one of a relief-filled carnival in the streets.
“Groups on the ground in St. Louis are calling for nationwide solidarity actions in support of Justice for Mike Brown and the end of police and extrajudicial killings everywhere.”
As they should. And we should all join in.
But “nationwide” and “everywhere” are odd terms to equate when discussing police militarization. Are we against extrajudicial killings (otherwise known as murder) by U.S. government employees and U.S. weapons in Pakistan? Yemen? Iraq? Gaza? And literally everywhere they occur? The militarization of local police in the United States is related to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which has now reached the point that bombing and “doing nothing” are generally conceived as the only two choices available. Local police are being militarized as a result of these factors:
- A culture glorifying militarization and justifying it as global policing.
- A federal government that directs roughly $1 trillion every year into the U.S. military, depriving virtually everything else of needed resources.
- A federal government that still manages to find resources to offer free military weapons to local police in the U.S. and elsewhere.
- Weapons profiteers that eat up local subsidies as well as federal contracts while funding election campaigns, threatening job elimination in Congressional districts, and pushing for the unloading of weapons by the U.S. military on local police as one means of creating the demand for more.
- The use of permanent wartime fears to justify the removal of citizens’ rights, gradually allowing local police to begin viewing the people they were supposed to protect as low-level threats, potential terrorists, and enemies of law and order in particular when they exercise their former rights to speech and assembly. Police “excesses” like war “excesses” are not apologized for, as one does not apologize to an enemy.
- The further funding of abusive policing through asset forfeitures and SWAT raids.
- The further conflation of military and police through the militarization of borders, especially the Mexican border, the combined efforts of federal and local forces in fusion centers, the military’s engagement in “exercises” in the U.S., and the growth of the drone industry with the military, among others, flying drones in U.S. skies and piloting drones abroad from U.S. land.
- The growth of the profit-driven prison industry and mass incarceration, which dehumanize people in the minds of participants just as boot camp and the nightly news do to war targets.
- Economically driven disproportionate participation in, and therefore identification with, the military by the very communities most suffering from its destruction of resources, rights, and lives.
But policing is not the only thing militarized by what President Eisenhower called the “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” of the military industrial complex. Our morality is militarized, our entertainment is militarized, our natural world is militarized, and our education system is militarized. “Unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” is not easily opposed while maintaining the military industrial complex. When Congress Members lend their support to a new war in Iraq while proposing that the U.S. Post Office and a dozen other decent things not be defunded, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. The United States cannot live like other wealthy nations while dumping $1 trillion a year into a killing machine.
The way out of this cycle of madness in which we spend more just on recruiting someone into the military or on locking them up behind bars than we spend on educating them is to confront in a unified and coherent manner what Martin Luther King Jr. called the evils of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the local police. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to weapons testing sites. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the people of Honduras causing them to flee to a land that then welcomes them with an attitude of militarism. Not any of these partial steps alone, but the whole package of interlocking evils of attitude and mindset.
There is a no-fly-zone over Ferguson, Missouri, because people in the U.S. government view the people of the United States increasingly as they view the people of other countries: as best controlled from the air. Notes the War Resister League,
“Vigils and protests in Ferguson – a community facing persistent racist profiling and police brutality – have been attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, police in fully-armored SWAT gear, and tank-like personnel carriers. This underscores not only the dangers of being young, Black, and male in the US, but also the fear of mobilization and rebellion from within racialized communities facing the violence of austerity and criminalization.
“The parallels between the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the Indian police in Kashmir, the array of oppressive armed forces in Iraq, and the LAPD in Skid Row could not be any clearer. . . .
“This is not happening by accident. What is growing the capacity of local police agencies to exercise this force are police militarization programs explicitly designed to do so. As St. Louis writer Jamala Rogers wrote in an article on the militarization of St. Louis Police this past April, ‘It became clear that SWAT was designed as a response to the social unrest of the 1960s, particularly the anti-war and black liberation movements.’ Federal programs such as DoD 1033 and 1122, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), in which St. Louis Police are active participants, provide weapons and training to police departments across the country, directly from the Pentagon. Commenting on the ominous growth of the phenomenon, Rogers continues: ‘and now, Police Chief [of St. Louis Police] Sam Dotson wants to add drones to his arsenal.’
“The events in Ferguson over these last few days demonstrate that the violence of policing and militarism are inextricably bound. To realize justice and freedom as a condition for peace, we must work together to end police militarization and violence.”
The War Resisters League is organizing against Urban Shield, an expo of military weapons for police and training event planned for Oakland, Calif., this September 4-8. The Week of Education and Action will take place in Oakland from August 30-September 5. Read all about it here.
David Swanson is a member of the National Committee of the War Resisters League and wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
In many US communities, cops are the ‘terrorists’: Police Need to Be Demilitarized and Remade as ‘Peace Officers’
By Dave Lindorff
The apparent murder by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, of Mike Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black youth who was shot a number of times while he was allegedly on his knees with his hands up in the air, pleading “Don’t shoot, I’m not armed,” is exposing everything that is wrong with policing in the US today.
By Alfredo Lopez
The recent news that Russian hackers have the usernames and passwords for over a billion users as well as a half billion email accounts wraps up a week of Internet craziness.
Democracy...going, going gone: Leaving Brennan as CIA Director Means the Triumph of Secret Government
By Dave Lindorff
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says that John Brennan, the director of the CIA who has finally admitted that he lied when he angrily and repeatedly insisted that the agency did not spy on staff members of the Senate committee charged with oversight US intelligence agencies, “has a lot of work to do,” before she can forgive him for lying to and spying on her committee.
Originally posted at PopularResistance.org
Jason Leopold, in the clip from the full-length Acronym TV episode, How Americans Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Guantanamo Prison, discusses the Obstacles President Obama faces in keeping his campaign promise to restore habeas corpus, shut down Guantanamo Prison, and restore America’s moral stature in the world. If President Obama’s true intention s are as described above, what can he do alone, and what does need cooperation from Congress to do?
We’ve written about Shoshana Hebshi twice and about the hideous, Kafka-esque injustice she suffered at the hands of the United States government, via our friendly abusers at the TSA, Frontier Airlines, and law enforcement, aka the police.
Read the rest at ABombazine.
It doesn’t take many brain cells to figure out that the TSA, institutionally and individually, holds us in contempt. In their eyes, we’re all potential terrorists. Also peons who have to be put in their place. Never mind that we pay their salaries, every penny of their $8-billion-a-year budget, and that they are supposed to facilitate flying, not impede it.
‘Strident’ reporting at the Times: Already Abused by Cop, DA and Court, Occupy Protester Now Trashed by NY’s Leading Paper
By Dave Lindorff
When a journalist in a news article refers to a woman as “strident,” you know what you’re reading is a hit piece, not a dispassionate report, and that’s what the New York Times offered up to readers in today’s piece about a court appearance yesterday by Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan.
Unbroken and out to expose US prison system: Exclusive Interview with Police Abuse Victim and Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan
By Dave Lindorff
In an exclusive intervew on the Progressive Radio Network’s “This Can’t Be Happening!” program, Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan, just released after two months of a three-month sentence to the Women’s Prison on Riker’s Island, talks about her conviction on a trumped-up charge of felony assault of a New York Police Officer.
Ah, I love waking up to stories like this! It's like living in absurdist theater, only the people running the theater are too stupid to see it for what it is.
What’s a little espionage among friends?: Station Chief Ousted as CIA Spies Found in German Parliament and Spy Agency
By Dave Lindorff
Munich -- You have to wonder how much more the German public will take of the country’s ongoing humiliation by the United States and its extensive program of secretly spying on what nominally is one of America’s most reliable allies.
The case of a woman who was raped -- repeatedly -- by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and by medical personnel at the University Medical Center of El Paso has been partially settled.
I first wrote about the case here. Though this kind of thing goes on all the time at borders (and in prisons and detention centers), this particular case was so egregious that even the mainstream media reported on it.
Well, I'm finally back from three weeks away. Judging by the lack of posts at TSA News, the civil liberties watchdog site I run, I guess it was a quiet time on the TSA front.
Though not anymore.
On KPFA's 'Project Censored' program: Discussing Homeland Security's Labeling of ThisCantBeHappening! as a 'Threat'
By Dave Lindorff
Dave Lindorff is interviewed by Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips of Project Censored on their June 27 program on San Francisco public radio station KPFA. Lindorff tells Huff and Phillips about how TCBH! learned, from a Department of Homeland Security document obtained recently thanks to a Freedom of Information Act filing by the Partnership for Civil Justice, that ThisCantBeHappening! had been labeled a "threat" by the DHS.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Since the first major oil-by-rail explosion occurred on July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, citizens in communities across the U.S. have risen up when they've learned their communities are destinations for volatile oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin.
By Alfredo Lopez
How does the news on the Internet make you feel?
By Alfredo Lopez
As bad as things get for our movement in this country, we are not yet feeling the full throttle of repression and, if one needs a reminder of that and perhaps a profile of what's in store for us if we don't organize now, the situation facing Internet activists in the Middle East provides it.
Labeling Latino Kids as Gangsters: DA says Speaking Spanish in Public and Wearing Sportswear Signify Gangsterism
By Kathy Swift
Santa Barbara, CA -- What can we learn from the medieval church about biometric identification? Quite a lot it turns out, at least according to Santa Barbara city officials.
By Dave Lindorff
The staff of the ThisCantBeHappening! collective have just learned that our little news organization was listed, in an alert fired off to all 78 Fusion Centers by Kelly Wilson, Director of the Washington DC Fusion Center's Regional Threat and Assessment Center, as a potential threat.
Anybody who thinks the Supreme Court will protect us from the TSA is dreaming. More accurately, he has his head somewhere other than above his shoulders. People keep claiming in comments here at TSA News that (paraphrasing): "We just need a case to make it all the way to the Supreme Court. Then the 4th Amendment can be upheld."
Rutland, MA has passed the Rutland Restoring Constitutional Governance Resolution (RCGR) by a unanimous margin. This resolution provides inhabitants of Rutland their first legal defense against indefinite detentions since passage of the 2012 NDAA.
The overwhelming support for Rutland RCGR once again tells elected officials throughout Worcester County and all of Massachusetts that the citizens here in the cradle of liberty will never give up their cherished civil rights.
Every juvenile prison must be immediately closed and all of its prisoners freed.
Oh. Oh. Oh! That sounds too drastic and simplistic and revolutionary.
We talk about being reformist or revolutionary as if it were a personality choice. Yet we also talk about being scientific, about being reality-based. Unlike reactionary climate-denying racist creationists we claim, most of us, to recognize such phenomena as climate change and to act on them (leave aside for the moment whether we're really acting appropriately on that one).
The science has long been crystal clear: juvenile prisons are worse than nothing. They increase rather than reducing crime. In our failure to abolish them, we -- and not the children we torture -- are the seemingly hopeless recidivists.
We spend in the United States $88,000 on average per year to lock a child up, compared to $10,652 to educate a child. We have over 66,000 children locked up, 87% of them boys, and our police arrest 2 million juveniles each year.
A recent longitudinal study of 35,000 young offenders found that those who are locked up are over twice as likely to be locked up as adults compared to those who committed similar offenses and came from similar backgrounds but were given an alternative penalty or were just not arrested. In some states over 80% of those locked up as kids will be convicted of later crimes. Studies have found that, more than family difficulties or gang membership or any other factor, the best predictor of criminality is whether someone has been imprisoned in what amount to factories for crime.
Well, but then, isn't the best predictor the initial commission of a crime that led to the initial incarceration? Actually, no. Eighty to 90% of teenagers in the United States commit illegal acts that could land them behind bars. Most of those put behind bars are put there for minor, nonviolent offenses. A third of all teenagers have even committed a somewhat serious crime, but most are never arrested, much less imprisoned. Almost all grow out of it.
If the minority of young people whose lives are ruined by prison were selected randomly, we might be a bit more likely to do something about it. Anyone who is a parent and finds out what happens in juvenile prisons must be highly unlikely to tolerate their continued existence unless convinced that only other people's children will be locked up. And in fact, it is highly disproportionately kids from poor neighborhoods and with darker skin who get locked up. A non-white child is far more likely to be arrested for the same act than a white child, far more likely to be charged and detained, far more likely to be sentenced to prison, and far more likely to be given a longer sentence.
In fact, the idea that sub-human monsters, of whatever race, must be made to suffer and must be kept away from the rest of us, is the leading candidate as a major explanation of the continuation of juvenile imprisonment. If the goal were preventing crime, the prisons are worse than nothing. We've tried alternatives within the prison system, and found that reforms help but can only go so far. We've tried alternatives outside of the prison system, and found them far superior in results. We've even seen states shut down lots of juvenile prisons, primarily because of the financial cost, and seen the benefits in cost savings, in the lives of young people, and in reduced crime rates. But other states don't follow suit, and the states making the cuts need only see a rise in revenue to begin rebuilding the torture palaces.
The lessons are of course obtainable from abroad as well. The U.S. locks kids up at a higher rate than any other nation. The next closest is South Africa, which locks up children at one-fifth the rate of the U.S. While the United States slowly, reluctantly, begins to stop throwing away packaging, it remains intent on throwing away people. For many who accept disproven ways of thinking, setting those 66,000 children free would make us less safe, just as cutting the military or disbanding it would endanger us all. These are powerful myths, but the evidence overwhelmingly disproves them. If our rural communities went back to farming food instead of prisoners, we would all be better off.
Much of what is routinely done to tens of thousands of youths in the United States would be illegal if done to prisoners of war. Torture in these houses of "correction" is the norm, not the exception. Isolation is the central abuse, combined with food deprivation, assault, rape, temperature extremes, deprivation of medical care, deprivation of education, sadistic exercises in humiliation, forced nudity, stress positions, piling on, attacks by dogs, and of course indefinite detention without criminal conviction. These practices have been transferred to international prisoners after becoming routine for U.S. prisoners, including juveniles. And, while much of the abuse comes from other prisoners, most of it is committed by guards -- or, excuse me, "correctional officers."
This disastrous system seems in dire need of reform, and the idea that it can be reformed is quite tempting. Children's bodies are dug up behind an institution in Florida. A judge in Pennsylvania gets caught taking bribes to send more kids to hell. A sexual assault scandal in Texas gets big enough to make the news. Kids hog-tied and left outside in freezing weather in Arkansas create some waves. But the scandals are everywhere. A review found only 8 states where there was not conclusive evidence of system-wide mistreatment. And the scandals have been there for a century and a half. The reforms have been needed and been worked on since day one. They are not what's needed. Children need love and companionship, safety and trust, respect and encouragement. They are even worse equipped to survive imprisonment than adults. Locked up kids commit suicide at a far higher rate than others, nearly rivaling that of war veterans. These facts are continually reconfirmed by new science, but they and the failure of juvenile prisons have been known practically since the invention of juvenile prisons.
Solitary confinement greatly increases suicide rates, and yet is used as a punishment for the offense of being suicidal. This is not a nifty contradiction to be examined in a master's thesis. Rather, it is part of a process that fundamentally destroys our young people, a process which we pretend improves them.
Or do we? Polls suggest that we, the public, in fact understand the madness of government child-abuse currently engaged in to the tune of $5 billion. The public prefers rehabilitation and treatment and is willing to pay higher taxes for those approaches, even though they actually cost less. We test this, prove it, and then don't act on it -- or at least our government doesn't act on it. Oregon tried an experiment in Deschutes County, giving the county the money it would have taken to lock kids up and requiring the county to pay the bill for any kid that did end up locked up. The county spent the money on prevention, neighborhood programs, community services. In a year, the number of children sent into the fortresses of misery and horror dropped by 72%.
Everything I've just claimed, and much more, is documented in a new book by Nell Bernstein called Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison. This book includes numerous personal stories, countless examples, endless studies, and all the evidence anyone claiming to base policy on reality would need to become a "radical" when it comes to the malfunctioning of juvenile prisons. Bernstein looks at the worst and the best of the institutions. The best remains far from good enough. The best remains worse than nothing at all. Improving the mass abuse of children is not pragmatic; it's immoral. It's like being in favor of the war on Libya because the war on Iraq was worse; doing so requires averting one's eyes from the state Libya is in.
Burning Down the House should be taught in our schools. Maybe free young people would find the power to speak up on behalf of their imprisoned fellows, if they knew. Maybe parents, if sufficiently intent on discarding both sadism and racism, would act if they heard it from their children.
There is a hurdle to be overcome, however, higher than the false belief that injustice only happens to those who deserve it, or the corruption of our misrepresentative government by profiteers, or the cooption of the corporate media by the government. The hurdle is this: everything that's wrong with prisons for children is also wrong with prisons for adults. If we stop thinking about imprisoned children the way that we must think in order to allow their imprisonment, we'll be in danger of ceasing to think about imprisoned adults the way we must to allow their imprisonment. Are we willing to risk that danger? I certainly hope so.
Infographic by Katie Falkenberg, CODEPINK Denver