Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* “WHY DID YOU SHOOT ME? I WAS READING A BOOK.” THE NEW WARRIOR COP IS OUT OF CONTROL
SWAT teams raiding poker games and trying to stop underage drinking? Overwhelming paramilitary force is on the rise
By Radley Balko, Salon
[…] On the Friday afternoon before the 2009 G-20 summit was to begin in Pittsburgh at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, a reader in the city sent me a photo he’d snapped moments earlier. The photo was of a police officer standing in the middle of an intersection. He was wearing a military-green top, camouflage pants, and combat boots. He had a gun strapped to his thigh and looked to be carrying another one. The camouflage in particular seemed odd—as it does whenever it’s worn by a police officer in an urban area. It was unclear why this cop would have wanted to hide, and even if he did, how camouflage would help him do so in the city. There seemed to be little purpose for it other than to mimic the military. In any case, it was a sign of what was to come.
This is how the country that gave the world the First Amendment now handles protest. There’s a disquieting ease now with which authorities are willing to crush dissent—and at the very sorts of events where the right to dissent is the entire purpose of protecting free speech—that is, events where influential policymakers meet to make high-level decisions with far-reaching consequences. In fact, the more important the policymakers and the more consequential the decisions they’ll be making, the more likely it is that police will use more force to keep protesters as far away as possible. As Norm Stamper said, this unfortunately was the lesson the country’s law enforcement agencies took from the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle.
A number of police departments from across the country had sent officers to Pittsburgh to help police the 2009 summit. Nearly all were dressed in similar paramilitary garb. In one widely circulated video from the summit, several police officers dressed entirely in camouflage emerged from an unmarked car, apprehended a young backpack-toting protester, stuffed him into the car, then drove off. It evoked the sort of “disappearance” you might envision happening in a Latin American country headed by a junta, or one of the countries of the Soviet bloc. Matt Drudge linked to the video with a headline describing the officers in it as members of the military. They weren’t, though it’s certainly easy to understand how someone might make that mistake.
As the summit went on, Twitter feeds and uploaded photos and videos claimed (and sometimes provided some evidence to prove) that police fired tear-gas canisters into dorm rooms, used sound cannons, and fired bean bags and rubber bullets. One man was arrested for posting the locations of riot police to his Twitter feed. The charges were later dropped.
Emily Tanner, a grad student at the University of Pittsburgh who described herself as a “capitalist” who didn’t agree with the general philosophy of the antiglobalization protesters, covered the summit, the protests, and the fallout on her blog. The most egregious police actions seemed to take place on the Friday evening before the summit, around the university, when police began ordering students who were in public spaces to disperse, despite the fact that they had broken no laws. Students who moved too slowly were arrested, as were students who were standing in front of the dormitories where they lived.
A University of Pittsburgh spokesman later said that the tactic was to break up crowds that “had the potential of disrupting normal activities, traffic flow, egress and the like. . . . Much of the arrests last night had to do with failure to disperse when ordered.” Note that no one needed to have broken any actual laws to get arrested. The potential to break a law was more than enough. That standard was essentially a license for the police to arrest anyone, anywhere in the city, at any time, for any reason.
Pennsylvania ACLU legal director Vic Walczak said the problem was that police didn’t bother to attempt to manage the protests. They simply suppressed them. In the process, they rounded up not only innocent protesters but innocent students who had nothing to do with the protests at all. In all, 190 people were arrested. One of the arrestees was a reporter from the left-leaning organization Indy-Media. When they apprehended her, the police took her camera. When they returned her camera, it was broken, and the police had deleted her photos and videos of the protests and police reaction. The police presence “seemed to focus almost exclusively on peaceful demonstrators,” Walczak said. “On [Friday] night they didn’t even have the excuse of property damage going on or any illegal activity. It’s really inexplicable.”
Inexcusable perhaps, but not inexplicable. Since Seattle, this had become the template. At the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, police conducted peremptory raids on the homes of protesters before the convention had even started. Police broke into the homes of people known to be activist rabble-rousers before they had any evidence of any actual crime. Journalists who inquired about the legitimacy of the raids and arrests made during the convention were also arrested. In all, 672 people were put in handcuffs. The arrest of Democracy Now journalist Amy Goodman was captured on a widely viewed video. She was charged with “conspiracy to riot.” That charge against Goodman was later dropped. So were the charges against most of the others arrested. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported the following February that charges were dropped or dismissed for 442 of the 672 people arrested.
There were similar problems at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Police in Denver showed up for the protests decked out in full riot gear. One particularly striking photo from Denver showed a sea of cops in shiny black armor, batons in hand, surrounding a small, vastly outnumbered group of protesters. The most volatile night of the convention featured one incident in which Jefferson County, Colorado, deputies unknowingly clashed with and then pepper-sprayed undercover Denver cops posing as violent protesters. The city later paid out $200,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that a Denver SWAT team was making indiscriminate arrests, rounding up protesters and bystanders alike.
Perhaps the best insight into the mentality the police brought to the DNC protests could be found on the T-shirts the Denver police union had printed up for the event. The shirts showed a menacing cop holding a baton. The caption: DNC 2008: WE GET UP EARLY, TO BEAT THE CROWDS. Police were spotted wearing similar shirts at the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago. At the 1996 DNC convention in Chicago, cops were seen wearing shirts that read: WE KICKED YOUR FATHER’S ASS IN 1968 . . . WAIT ’TIL YOU SEE WHAT WE DO TO YOU! […]
* WHEN PRIVACY JUMPED THE SHARK
By Frank Rich
Note to Edward Snowden and his worrywarts in the press: Spying is only spying when the subject doesn’t want to be watched.
Here’s one dirty little secret about the revelations of domestic spying at the National Security Agency: Had Edward Snowden not embarked on a madcap escape that mashed up plot elements from Catch Me If You Can, The Fugitive, the O.J. Bronco chase, and “Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?,” the story would be over. The leaker’s flight path, with the Feds and the press in farcical flat-footed pursuit, captured far more of the public’s attention than the substance of his leaks. That’s not his fault. The public was not much interested in the leaks in the first place. It was already moving on to Paula Deen.
At first blush, the NSA story seemed like a bigger deal. The early June scoops in the Guardian and the Washington Post were hailed universally as “bombshells” and “blockbusters” by the networks. America’s right and left flanks were unified in hyperventilating about their significance: Rand Paul and The Nation, Glenn Beck and Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh and the Times editorial page all agreed that President Obama had presided over an extraordinary abuse of executive power. But even as Daniel Ellsberg hailed the second coming of the Pentagon Papers, the public was not marching behind him or anyone else. The NSA scandal didn’t even burn bright enough to earn the distinction of a “-gate” suffix. Though Americans were being told in no uncertain terms that their government was spying on them, it quickly became evident that, for all the tumult in the media-political Establishment, many just didn’t give a damn.
Only 36 percent of the country felt that government snooping had “gone too far,” according to CBS News. A Pew–Washington Post survey found that 62 percent (including 69 percent of Democrats) deemed fighting terrorism a higher priority than protecting privacy. Most telling was a National Journal survey conducted days before the NSA stories broke: Some 85 percent of Americans assumed that their “communications history, like phone calls, e-mails, and Internet use,” was “available for businesses, government, individuals, and other groups to access” without their consent. No wonder the bombshell landed with a thud, rather than as a shock. What was the news except that a 29-year-old high-school dropout was making monkeys of the authorities with a bravado to rival Clyde Barrow?
An ACLU official argued that the so-what poll numbers were misleading: “If terrorism was left out, it would change the polling results dramatically.” In other words, blame the public’s passivity on the post-9/11 cultural signposts of 24 and Homeland, which have inured Americans to a bipartisan Patriot Act regimen in which a ticking terrorist time bomb always trumps the Constitution. Obama, a Homeland fan himself, hit the point hard to deflect criticism. “You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said when alluding to the terrorist plots NSA spying had disrupted. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
The virtue of this rationale is that it casts not just the domestic eavesdroppers in a patriotic light but also the citizenry that valiantly sacrifices its Fourth Amendment rights to the greater good of stopping the evildoers. But that’s letting everyone off easy and is hardly the whole story of the choices Americans have made “as a society”—and that were made before Obama or, for that matter, George W. Bush took office. Many of those choices predate 9/11 and have nothing to do with fighting terrorism at all.
The truth is that privacy jumped the shark in America long ago. Many of us not only don’t care about having our privacy invaded but surrender more and more of our personal data, family secrets, and intimate yearnings with open eyes and full hearts to anyone who asks and many who don’t, from the servers of Fortune 500 corporations to the casting directors of reality-television shows to our 1.1 billion potential friends on Facebook. Indeed, there’s a considerable constituency in this country—always present and now arguably larger than ever—that’s begging for its privacy to be invaded and, God willing, to be exposed in every gory detail before the largest audience possible. We don’t like the government to be watching as well—many Americans don’t like government, period—but most of us are willing to give such surveillance a pass rather than forsake the pleasures and rewards of self-exposure, convenience, and consumerism. […]
* MY CREEPING CONCERN THAT NSA LEAKER EDWARD SNOWDEN IS NOT WHO HE PURPORTS TO BE …
By Naomi Wolf, Global Research
I hate to do this but I feel obligated to share, as the story unfolds, my creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be, and that the motivations involved in the story may be more complex than they appear to be.
This is in no way to detract from the great courage of Glenn Greenwald in reporting the story, and the gutsiness of the Guardian in showcasing this kind of reporting, which is a service to America that US media is not performing at all.
It is just to raise some cautions as the story unfolds, and to raise some questions about how it is unfolding, based on my experience with high-level political messaging.
Some of Snowden’s emphases seem to serve an intelligence/police state objective, rather than to challenge them.
a) He is super-organized, for a whistleblower, in terms of what candidates, the White House, the State Dept. et al call ‘message discipline.’ He insisted on publishing a power point in the newspapers that ran his initial revelations. I gather that he arranged for a talented filmmaker to shoot the Greenwald interview. These two steps – which are evidence of great media training, really ‘PR 101′ – are virtually never done (to my great distress) by other whistleblowers, or by progressive activists involved in breaking news, or by real courageous people who are under stress and getting the word out. They are always done, though, by high-level political surrogates.
b) In the Greenwald video interview, I was concerned about the way Snowden conveys his message. He is not struggling for words, or thinking hard, as even bright, articulate whistleblowers under stress will do. Rather he appears to be transmitting whole paragraphs smoothly, without stumbling. To me this reads as someone who has learned his talking points – again the way that political campaigns train surrogates to transmit talking points.
c) He keeps saying things like, “If you are a journalist and they think you are the transmission point of this info, they will certainly kill you.” Or: “I fully expect to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.” He also keeps stressing what he will lose: his $200,000 salary, his girlfriend, his house in Hawaii. These are the kinds of messages that the police state would LIKE journalists to take away; a real whistleblower also does not put out potential legal penalties as options, and almost always by this point has a lawyer by his/her side who would PROHIBIT him/her from saying, ‘come get me under the Espionage Act.” Finally in my experience, real whistleblowers are completely focused on their act of public service and trying to manage the jeopardy to themselves and their loved ones; they don’t tend ever to call attention to their own self-sacrifice. That is why they are heroes, among other reasons. But a police state would like us all to think about everything we would lose by standing up against it. […]
* THE TRUTH SEEKER: OBAMA’S ARREST, BUSH’S TRIAL