Tuesday, November 30, 2010

From G-Men to Pig-Men: The FBI's Stalinist Homeland Security Theater

Paramilitary "Security Organs": An FBI recruitment ad.

"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which." 

-- George Orwell, Animal Farm

A few days after bombs ripped apart two apartment buildings Moscow, residents of Ryazan -- a town 100 miles southeast of the Capital City -- were alarmed to find several suspicious-looking figures loitering near a 13-story apartment complex. After police arrived on the scene they extracted three large sugar sacks from the high-rise. An examination of the sacks found that they contained hexagen -- the same high-yield explosive that had been used in the Moscow terrorist bombings just a few days earlier.

The police arrested two of the mysterious strangers, who immediately produced credentials issued by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB. Within a few hours high-ranking FSB officials intervened to free their operatives, claiming that they had been involved in an innocuous "training exercise."

"This was not a bomb," insisted then-FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev. "The exercise may not have been carried out well, but it was only a test, and the so-called explosive was only sacks of sugar."

There was at least one lapse in efficiency on the part of the FSB: The agency neglected to retrieve the detonator, which remained in the custody of the local police. Leaving aside the fact that tests had confirmed the presence of hexagen inside the "dummy" bomb, Patrushev didn't explain why the FSB would attach a genuine detonator to phony explosives. Nor did he explain why the Security Organs insisted on collecting the "sugar sacks" and keeping them under armed guard at a nearby military base.

Patrushev's account didn't satisfy one of the paratroopers given that peculiar assignment. The soldier smuggled a small sample collected from one of the sacks to a laboratory, and the resulting analysis confirmed that the substance was hexagen, not sucrose.

Devil in the details: The Ryazan detonator.

The Ryazan "training exercise" took place on September 22, 1999. During the previous two weeks, hundreds of people had died in the Moscow apartment bombings. The FSB, acting with what could charitably be called indecent haste, destroyed both of those crime scenes before critical evidence could be collected.  

Shortly thereafter, six Chechen separatists (five of them in absentia) were accused of plotting the terrorist rampage. Invoking the need to avenge the innocent dead, Moscow carried out a punitive invasion of Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim province whose population has long sought independence from Russia.

This series of events struck many in Russia as bit too tidy. In a house editorial published the day before the "training exercise" in Ryazan, the Moscow Times observed that "the bombed-out shell of the apartment block on Ulitsa Guryanova was destroyed in a controlled implosion, reducing to rubble the remains of the building and irreparably buying beneath it any remaining traces of evidence  -- just ten days after the explosion. Workers at Kashirskoye Shosse, meanwhile, began clearing the rubble from the site as early as September 13 -- the day of the bombing."

As the Times pointed out, the FSB's insistence that the case had been "solved" was impossible to reconcile with the fact that "untold traces of chemical residue, fingerprints, technical fragments, [and] hair and DNA samples that were present at the [bombing] sites are now irrevocably lost."

False Flag in Moscow: The FSB demolishes the evidence.

"Is this ignorance?" asked the Times. "In the capital city of a country where the current Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, was once its top security official, the assumption sells the FSB short. The Federal Security Service has the equipment, the know-how and political clout required to perform a proper investigation."

Imputing guilt to shadowy Chechen separatists "has proved both viable and convenient for federal authorities," the Times observed. "Are they playing it safe and making sure no other options show up?"

The case made by the Moscow Times was skeletal and circumstantial; the discovery of the FSB's abortive apartment bombing -cum -"training exercise" on the following day put some substantive flesh on the bones of that theory. A few months later the "theory" was fleshed out even further when former Russian Prime Minister (and career KGB officer) Sergei Stepashin disclosed that the invasion of Chechnya that took place subsequent to the bombings "had been worked out in March," and that the military campaign "had to happen even if there were no explosions in Moscow." 

The London Independent, which published Stepashin's accusations, noted that they were an admission against interest, since the former Russian Prime Minister "played a central role in organizing the military build-up before the invasion" -- and would thus be morally and legally liable for his role in the criminal conspiracy. 

When we review those events in Russia from more than a decade ago, it's difficult not to see parallels to the federally controlled "terrorist plots" that figure so prominently in the official narrative of the Homeland Security State ruling America today.

There are at least two significant differences, however. First, the FSB prefers to plant real bombs, rather than the dummy devices favored by its American counterpart, the FBI. Second, at least some local police and media organs in post-Soviet Russia, unlike their counterparts in America, have achieved a measure of independence from central government control. Although they are ruled by a gangster state, many Russians display an admirable cynicism regarding official fictions, an attitude Americans must acquire in a hurry if we want to arrest our descent into unalloyed totalitarianism. 

Six years before he blew the whistle on the FSB's false flag bombing campaign in Moscow, Sergei Stepashin played a significant role in a key event in the development of America's police state apparatus: On July 4, 1994, while Stepashin was head of the FSB, he signed a cooperation pact with FBI Director Louis Freeh. 

The agreement, which was signed at the Lubyanka Square headquarters of the KGB, envisioned close collaboration between Russian and American secret police in combating terrorism and international organized crime -- that is, unsanctioned use of the same criminal means employed by the political elites that control those security organs. Thus it should hardly come as a surprise to see a strong similarity in the priorities that govern those secret police agencies, or the methods they employ in the service of official fictions. This family resemblance has been displayed to good advantage by two recent terrorism-related cases in the state of Oregon. 

Stalin's regime made an official hero out of Pavlik Morozov, the Ukrainian child who betrayed his father to the secret police. In the case of Mohamad Mohamud, the Somali-born U.S. citizen cast as the patsy in the FBI's most recent pseudo-terrorism plot, the roles were reversed, with the father of the 19-year-old Oregon resident calling the political police to express concerns about his son's political and religious views. 

At the time, Mohamud hadn't done anything that could be defined as a criminal act by even the most emancipated definition. This changed after the young man was radicalized by two specialists from the FBI's vast and experienced corps of professional provocateurs, who successfully engineered a supposed terrorist plot and manipulated Mohamud into triggering what he was told was a powerful explosive device at a Christmas tree lighting in Portland

The FSB: Is it the "ex"-KGB, or Russia's FBI? Yes.
“Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale,” intoned FBI Special Agent Arthur Balizan, who gets the "Producer" credit for the most recent Homeland Security melodrama. “At the same time, I want to reassure the people of this community that, at every turn, we denied him the ability to actually carry out the attack."

Even the Devil can cite scripture to his purpose, and even a Fed is capable of telling an isolated truth in the service of a larger lie. Balizan was entirely correct in saying that the FBI "denied" Mohamud the ability to carry out an attack, because the Bureau -- following a familiar and tiresome script -- supplied both the motivation and the means for this plot, once a suitable stooge had been identified.

Balizan insists that nobody was ever in danger as a result of the Bureau's most recent charade. While it's true that those who assembled in Pioneer Courthouse Square for the Christmas event were never in peril, the same can't be said for those who attend the Salman al-Farisi Islamic Center, where Mohamud occasionally joined in worship services. Shortly after the FBI closed the trap into which it had lured Mohamud, the Muslim house of worship was the target of an arson attack -- a bit of blow-back that was both eminently predictable and entirely useful to the FBI's purposes.

Blowback: Debris from an arson attack on a Corvallis mosque.

The evidence presented in the FBI affidavit offers no reason to believe that Mohamud intended to harm anyone before he fell under the influence of two undercover operatives from the Bureau's Homeland Security theater troupe. 

Court-authorized surveillance of the teenager's e-mail suggested that Mohamud was in touch with someone residing in northwest Pakistan, "an area known to harbor terrorists." The affiant, FBI Special Agent Ryan Dwyer, recounts that Mohamud and his correspondent "communicated regularly, and in December 2009 I believe, using coded language" -- presumably understood only by the wise and perceptive people employed by the Bureau --"they discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to prepare for violent jihad."

Mohamud allegedly tried to contact another Muslim radical to make travel plans, but sent his e-mails to an inoperative address. Shortly thereafter, an FBI undercover operative contacted Mohamud and did what a federal operative will always do in such cases: He acted as a "terrorism facilitator" (a term actually used by a federal prosecutor in an earlier FBI-orchestrated plot), carefully nourishing whatever spark of potential radicalism he found in his subject.

This is the same template from which the FBI has created dozens or scores of ersatz terrorist plots. There is one critical and telling detail in this case that distinguishes it from the others: Prior to being approached by the FBI's provocation squad, Mohamud attempted to travel to Alaska to work at a legitimate job, but was prevented from doing so when the Feds -- who had him under surveillance -- put him on a no-fly list. The teenager was then approached by a covert FBI operative who "hired" him to carry out a terrorist attack, providing the unemployed young man with $3,000 in cash

Attorney General Eric Holder insists that Mohamud "chose at every step to continue" with the bombing plot orchestrated by the Feds -- once other avenues of employment had been cut off, that is. And since the FBI's undercover operative conveniently "failed" to record the original contact with Mohamud -- which took place after he had been prevented from taking the job in Alaska -- there's no way to assess the extent to which the Bureau controlled his "steps" from the very beginning.

The confected bombing plot in Portland came just days after federal prosecutors sought a "terrorism enhancement" to the prison sentence given to Pete Seda, an Iranian-born resident of Ashland, Oregon who was convicted on tax evasion charges. Seda, an arborist and prominent peace activist, was president of the Oregon branch of the Al-Harimain Islamic Foundation, a Muslim charitable organization that has been accused of disbursing money to jihadist groups overseas. 

Informant: Gartstein-Ross.

Seda was accused of "laundering" a $150,000 donation from an Egyptian businessman, most of which was converted into traveler's checks and allegedly sent to Saudi Arabia. The Regime claims that the money ended up in the hands of Chechen rebels.

All of this allegedly took place in early 2000 -- shortly after Russia invaded Chechnya, slaughtering thousands and creating a humanitarian crisis that attracted understandable concern from Muslims world-wide. 

Aftermath of a massacre in Chechnya.

The key witness for the prosecution was an accountant named Thomas Wilcox, a former IRS employee who claims that Seda instructed him to falsify an important tax record in order to conceal the nature of the transaction. Wilcox also testified that in his opinion Seda was never "intentionally dishonest" in managing the charity's funds, but this testimony was suppressed during the criminal trial. 

Another witness against Seda was Daveed Gartstein-Ross, a former intern-turned-salaried employee at Al-Harimain. During his year with the foundation, Gartstein-Ross supervised the group's prison outreach program, which provided Korans and other religious literature to inmates. Seda, who is close to Gartsein-Ross's family, encouraged the young man to attend law school. 

Tree doctor, humanitarian -- terrorist? Pete Seda.
Seda wasn't aware that his helpful young protege was a paid federal informant, who would later testify that the foundation was using its literature program -- the same one he supervised, remember -- to promote a "harsh" and "militant" view of Islam. Even then, under cross-examination, Gartstein-Ross testified that Seda was opposed to terrorism as an offense to both his religion and to common human decency.

During Seda's criminal trial, the court disallowed "evidence" provided by the Russian FSB purportedly illustrating that the money sent to Saudi Arabia wound up in the hands of armed rebels. Yet the Feds were permitted to use essentially the same testimony in the sentencing phase of Seda's trial in order to demonstrate that he was "philosophically and financially" linked to Chechen terrorists.

FSB Lieutenant Colonel Sergey Nikolayevich Ignatchenko recorded his original testimony at Lubyanka Square on December 3, 2008, and provided it to the U.S. Justice Department for use at Seda's criminal trial. The deposition was taken according to the terms of the Russian Federal Criminal Procedural Code. Obviously, no defense counsel was permitted to cross-examine the witness during that deposition.

Citing communications intercepts and other intelligence sources, Ignatchenko accused the Al-Harimain foundation of funding people connected to Islamic insurgencies in the Balkans, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. However, he never mentioned Seda's name or the name of anyone directly connected to him, nor did he describe tangible institutional connections between Oregon's branch of the charity and those allegedly involved in jihadist activities overseas. 

When cross-examined via video feed during the November 23 sentencing hearing, Ignatchenko admitted that he no information directly connecting Seda to any terrorist group in Chechnya or anywhere else on the planet. "I never knew about him, I never heard of him," Ignatchenko told the court. Nor could he connect the funds received by Chechen rebels to Seda's charitable foundation in Oregon: "We didn't know which country it [the donation] came from." 

Under cross-examination, Ignatchenko was also forced to admit in open court something he had acknowledged in his original December 2008 deposition at KGB headquarters -- namely, that the evidence supporting the theory that Al Harimain had provided financial support to Chechen rebels doesn't exist. As he acknowledged near the end of his original deposition:

"I have to mention that according to Russian FSB standards that are currently in effect, recordings of various communications that were not used for preliminary or court hearings are erased after 5 years. Therefore, the communications I referred to are retained only as hard copies.... However, I have an audiotape of recordings made after 2001 and I can provide it to our American counterparts. I can assure you that the deciphered communications I mentioned in this interview are original and I quoted them almost verbatim."

So this key piece of recorded evidence isn't available, because it is more than five years old. However, the helpful man from the KGB (as the body that employed Ignatchenko was known during the first several years of his career) can provide recordings made a year after the crucial events allegedly occurred, because that recording -- which is also more than five years old -- somehow still exists. 

This leaves us with irrelevant hearsay testimony offered by a fellow who lists his home address as 2 Bolshaya Lubyanka -- that is, just down the street from KGB headquarters. But the Feds insist that this is good enough to establish Seda's connection to terrorism, you see, because Chekists are just as honest as their counterparts in the American FBI. Oddly enough, that last part is entirely true. 

Author's note: The original version of this story mistakenly referred to Corvallis -- where Mohamad Mohamud attended a mosque -- as the target of the FBI-orchestrated "bombing" plot, rather than Portland. That error, which I deeply regret, has been corrected above.

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Dum spiro, pugno!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stealing Camp Zoe: The Federal "Forfeiture" Gang Strikes

Kids terrorized, dogs killed, a family traumatized: Welcome to Missouri.

Mike Johnston's first hint that something unusual was happening at Camp Zoe was the presence of four police officers at Tiffany Hall, the campground's dining area.

"I wondered if the police might be looking for someone's missing kid," Mike recalled to Pro Libertate. "But as I walked through the camp I saw a couple more, and then a couple more -- and then I saw a bunch of guys in SWAT fatigues with assault rifles. One of them had a German Shepherd on a leash. All of them were doing their best to look intimidating."

The armed visitors who materialized at about 7:30 a.m. on November 1 were part of a multi-jurisdictional task force that invaded Camp Zoe, a popular outdoor music venue and campground in Missouri's Shannon County. The previous evening had brought the 2010 concert season to an end with the final night of the fall "Spookstock" festival. 

"Every letter of the alphabet was represented" in the raid, Mike's wife Joni wryly observes. "There were people from the DEA, the IRS, the Highway Patrol, from Homeland Security, the local police and country Sheriff's Office. There was a group from the Rolla Police Department, which is two counties away from here."

Mike and Joni were among those who had stayed overnight to help with custodial work and other housekeeping matters. Mike had slept in later than he had planned, so he may have still been a little groggy as he absorbed the shock of seeing SWAT operators prowling the grounds. While he tried to make sense of the spectacle, one of Mike's friends commented: "You haven't seen what's going on behind the bus."

In the open field behind the bus "there were three huge RVs surrounded by more than a dozen other vehicles from every local police department and several federal agencies," Mike recounted. "One of the RVs was a State Police SWAT command center, and another one was a communications center for the federal agencies. And there were dozens of cops and SWAT guys swarming everywhere."

According to multiple accounts, one camp staffer (who prefers not to be named) was briefly stopped by police on nearby Highway 19 as he was driving his children to school. He was separated from his wife and children at the point of an M-16 rifle. The detainee was taken into the camp and briefly questioned before being released.

Witnesses estimate that as many as 200 law enforcement officers took part in the assault on Camp Zoe. Given the size of that mobilization, some would expect that the police were dealing with a heavily armed gang that posed an imminent threat to public safety. Yet no criminal activity was found during the raid, and not a single person was led away in handcuffs.

This should come as a surprise only to those who persist in believing that "law enforcement" is connected in some way to the protection of life, liberty, and property. Those who invaded Camp Zoe didn't find criminal activity because they weren't looking for any. They weren't there to arrest criminals; they were preparing to steal the property in the name of "civil asset forfeiture." 

"From what I saw, it looked like the people from the IRS were in charge initially," Mike Johnston relates. "The original search warrant was for business records, and I saw the IRS personnel hauling off boxes full of papers, computer drives, and other materials of that kind. Apparently they didn't find what they were looking for right away, so the DEA guys were next in line."

Camp Zoe was placed under lock-down while the raiders rummaged through every corner of the campground, intimidating staff and visitors and seizing personal items (including cash). As this was going on another federal contingent was dispatched to clean out the personal and business accounts of Jimmy Tebeau, the musician and entrepreneur who owns and operates the campground.

The Feds "just siphoned away all of his money, and then filed a civil asset forfeiture lawsuit seeking to seize his property," protests attorney Dan Viets, who has volunteered to represent Tebeau. "This would mean that he wouldn't have the money needed to fight the seizure in court."

Camp Zoe was opened in 2004 by  Tebeau, who plays bass in The Schwag, a hugely popular Grateful Dead tribute band. Since coming together in 1992, The Schwag has developed a large regional following, playing an average of roughly 140 concerts a year in addition to the "Schwagstock" festival performances. By some accounts, the 330-acre Camp Zoe is Shannon County's largest employer, and Tebeau's entrepreneurial accomplishments were recognized in a resolution enacted by the Missouri legislature in July 2005

Counter-culture entrepreneur: Tebeau on stage.

Tebeau himself is not accused of a crime. Yet Camp Zoe has been seized and Tebeau's personal financial assets have been confiscated by a motley assortment of "law enforcement" groups.   

Under the Orwellian standards governing  federal "civil asset forfeiture," Tebeau's property has already been found "guilty" of involvement in a crime. The agencies that seized it will be permitted to keep and divide it among themselves unless Tebeau can prove a negative -- namely, that he did not knowingly permit the sale and use of proscribed substances by others. 

Missouri state law dictates that forfeiture proceeds be given to the School Building Revolving Fund, which is administered by the state's Department of Revenue and subject to official audits. However, this isn't the case when the assets are seized as part of a joint (or "hybrid") operation with the Feds.

The Justice Department's manual on asset forfeiture describes this as "equitable sharing" of revenue proceeds, and explains that it is intended  "to increase or supplement the resources of the receiving state or local law enforcement agency" and can be used by the recipient "for any permissible purpose as long as shared funds increase the entire law enforcement budget."
This helps explain why practically every federal agency represented by an acronym -- as well as every local police agency -- joined the Gadarene rush to invade and occupy Camp Zoe.

If, on the other hand, the raid had been a purely local affair, it could have been "adopted" by the Feds after the fact. In congressional testimony, former deputy assistant attorney general Joe Whitley described how such an "adoption" takes place: "We receive a case which is in every aspect a local case, been worked on pretty much by the local agencies all the way from beginning to end, and we put our cover on it."

Under either approach,police agencies are typically permitted to keep at least eighty percent of the haul. The objective "is to reward the help we get from our brother and sister law enforcement" agencies, explained former Justice Department official Jerry McDowell in 2000. 

Since these "rewards" are doled out in explicit and willful defiance of state forfeiture laws, what McDowell is describing is a criminal syndicate, one far larger than any of the private criminal gangs whose depredations supposedly justify the forfeiture racket. Steve Kessler, a former prosecutor and recognized expert on forfeiture laws, has described the practice of asset forfeiture as "unquestionably the largest, most lucrative business in the United States."

Much of the money subject to federal forfeiture through "equitable sharing" is never reported to state governments. In Missouri, notes Eapen Thampy of Americans for Forfeiture Reform, a non-profit civil liberties group, "prosecutors and law enforcement have been able to systematically dodge requirements on how forfeited property is reported and recorded." 

In many instances, Thampy reports, civil forfeitures are filed as such "until prosecutors can convince defendants to not contest the claim, at which point the forfeiture action can be re-filed as an administrative forfeiture because the property is now abandoned or unclaimed."

Furthermore, "prosecutors around the state routinely send in incomplete records that detail only a small fraction of the total forfeitures around the state," Thampy continues. Most of the recorded forfeiture proceedings "are marked `pending' in the year they are audited," and prosecutors seldom if ever revise the records to reflect whether or not the seizure was connected to an actual criminal conviction, as state law requires.  

Highway robbery: Texas state police swarm a vehicle in search of loot.

As a result, literally millions of dollars harvested through asset forfeiture in Missouri are diverted from their legal use and funneled into the coffers of law enforcement agencies. The same racket is operating in practically every other state. 

In northern Texas, reports the Amarillo Globe-News, officers in the State Department of Public Safety have hauled in at least $14.6 million through asset forfeiture over the past five-and-a-half years. However, "only about 6.4 percent -- or roughly $935,000 -- of those seizures have remained in the area to benefit regional law enforcement agencies and taxpayers"; the state police simply chooses "to bypass Panhandle state courts in exchange for Amarillo's federal court when the largest amounts of money are at stake."

Predictably, this "has left some I-40 district attorneys frustrated and raised concerns the federal court route gives DPS an easier and larger payday at the expense of local counties and taxpayers," observes the paper. Which is to say that the "problem" isn't the fact that the DPS is plundering people in defiance of the law, but rather that the State Police insist on Bogarting the booty.

The federal forfeiture racket has turned I-40 into huge revenue stream for police and prosecutors. That stretch of highway is just one of several coveted forfeiture corridors. The municipal government that afflicts Tenaha, a one-stoplight town located on U.S. Highway 59, has profited immensely from shakedowns carried out by local police:  Any driver stopped by police for any reason can expect to be relieved of anything of value in his possession. 

Should a "suspicious" amount of cash be found during the traffic stop, the motorist and any passengers will be placed under arrest for "money laundering" or drug-related charges, and given an ultimatum: Sign away the loot, or face prosecution. 

This form of extortion-robbery works best when the victim is carrying an unusual but relatively small amount of cash -- say, less than $5,000 -- that wouldn't be enough to compensate for the hassle and expense of mounting a legal defense.

In one of the cases described in a federal lawsuit, an individual named Danny Green who works as an investigator for the Shelby County Prosecutor's Office threatened to kidnap a couple's children (by turning them over to the state's corrupt and frequently lethal child "protection" bureaucracy) if they didn't immediately sign a document surrendering about $6,000 in cash.

It is in the neighborhood of "impossible" to define a moral distinction between institutional corruption of the kind displayed by those Texas law enforcement agencies, and the variety frequently encountered on the other side of the border with Mexico. 

Granted, the squabbling over lucrative forfeiture corridors hasn't degenerated (yet) into open warfare -- but bear in mind that the ongoing depression is still young, and official corruption will most likely take on a much cruder aspect as existing revenue streams evaporate. 

To plunder and suppress: A Utah state trooper grabs the loot.

It's important to recognize that the civil forfeiture racket involves calculated bribery and subterfuge on the part of the Feds. 

In 1990, the Missouri State Supreme Court ruled that forfeiture proceeds had to be used to fund the school system. The ink was barely dry on that ruling when Jean Paul Bradshaw, U.S. attorney for the state's Western District, wrote a letter suborning state and local police agencies to defy both the court and the state legislature by inviting the Feds to take part in forfeiture operations.

"I know all of you in law enforcement are in desperate need for additional financial resources," wrote Bradshaw. "As most of you know, the money we share through our forfeiture program goes directly to the state or local law enforcement agency."

One year earlier, a DEA agent teaching a training session on civil forfeiture for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol found little enthusiasm on the part of his audience -- until he explained that collaboration with the Feds meant that the police got to keep most of the take. 

"Then everybody's eyes lit up," recalled one participant in that meeting in later congressional testimony.

In 2000, following five years of hearings on abuses of civil asset forfeiture, Congress enacted a largely useless measure to "reform" the practice. The late Henry Hyde, who at the time was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had proposed an amendment (sometimes called the "Missouri provision") intended to end the federal kick-back scheme. Hyde's office was immediately "swamped by faxes from law enforcement protesting the provision," reported the Kansas City Star. Janet Reno's Justice Department pressured Congress into removing the amendment, which mysteriously fell prey to a "glitch" when the measure was presented for a vote.

While an emasculated version of the forfeiture "reform" bill worked its way through Congress, the issue was a hot topic at the July, 2000 National Conference of State Legislatures in Chicago. Ballot measures demanding substantive reform of civil asset forfeiture were passed by overwhelming majorities in several states. This prompted the institutional equivalent of a smirk and a shrug from the federal "Justice" Department, which continued to play Fagin to its growing network of state and local plunderers.

The overt thuggishness displayed by some police unions during the debate over forfeiture reform a decade ago suggests a capacity for undisguised criminal violence on the part of our supposed protectors that we ignore at our peril. In its detailed series examining forfeiture, the Star pointed out that in many states "public officials shrink from angering police." Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation observed that it is "dangerous" when "non-police public officials feel sufficiently threatened that they will not challenge police lawlessness."

Police unions in Utah organized a show of force perfectly suitable to late Weimar-era Germany.

"Last year when we had a hearing on forfeitures, they brought in 200 officers in uniform and just intimidated everybody," recalled Utah state representative Bill Wright in 2000. "As a matter of fact, I had two ladies who said they were scared to death. I have never been more intimidated in my life to look out there and see 200 officers in uniform with guns on their hips, staring me down." 

It may be hyperbole -- then again, it may not -- to compare the scene Wright described to the intimidation tactics employed by the uniformed enforcement arm of Germany's National Socialist Party during the March 23, 1933 Reichstag debate over Hitler's "Enabling Act."

Despite the Brownshirt-style intimidation of the state legislature and a taxpayer-subsidized propaganda campaign depicting the asset reform ballot measure as the work of a purported "drug legalization lobby," the measure was enacted with nearly seventy percent of the vote -- and immediately fell into desuetude, thanks to federal intervention.

The Institute for Justice notes that county prosecutors simply ignored the law and used forfeiture assets as they saw fit, until a federal lawsuit forced them to stop. In 2004, Utah's police unions induced the legislature to overturn the forfeiture reform measure; accordingly, "one hundred percent of proceeds once again go to police and prosecutors" through the federal Crime Reduction Assistance Program (or, appropriately, CRAP). Thus police in Utah are once again empowered to steal any large amounts of cash they happen to find, even when no criminal charges are involved.

When it examined the practice of civil asset forfeiture a decade ago, the Kansas City Star confirmed that the federal kick-back scheme was operating in at least half of the states -- that is, in every state the paper had time and assets to investigate. This corrupt arrangement has, in principle, federalized every state and local police agency involved therein: The police can seize any money or other valuable property they can find and use it fund their operations in defiance of any limits imposed on them by the population to which they should be accountable. 

"A lot of state agencies, like the GBI [Georgia Bureau of Investigation], prefer to work federal cases because we know it will go directly into our asset forfeiture bank," admitted GBI official Mark Jackson. The same is true of any other state or local police agency. And this arrangement results in skewed and potentially dangerous priorities: Why should police focus on offenses against person and property, rather than on low-risk, high-yield federal forfeiture raids?

One ironic but eminently predictable result of this corrupt arrangement is the growing trend toward tardy enforcement of narcotics warrants. 

"There's been a pattern of SWAT raids and other drug enforcement actions in which the police were very late in executing a narcotics-related warrant," Eapen Thampy of Americans for Forfeiture Reform pointed out to Pro Libertate. "This makes sense if the real objective
is to `forfeit' money believed to be the proceeds of a drug transaction. If the police had arrived on time, they might have prevented a sale, but then they'd be stuck with the product, rather than the proceeds. So they wait until after the deal is supposed to have gone down, then they carry out their SWAT raid and take the money instead."  

This is a double-decker sandwich of official dishonesty: The police insist that SWAT teams
must be sent to serve "no-knock" drug warrants in order to prevent the destruction of evidence -- and then they wait until the evidence is gone so that they can grab the cash. The contraband ends up in the street, and the money (less the amount skimmed by the Feds) ends up in the hands of police and prosecutors. 

The ongoing effort to confiscate Camp Zoe follows this formula perfectly. The paramilitary force arrived long after any alleged criminal behavior took place. Because of the involvement of multiple federal agencies, a criminal conviction isn't necessary in order for the forfeiture to be consummated. And proceeds from the sale of the property -- as well as the money stolen from Jimmy Tebeau's bank accounts -- would go directly into the coffers of state and local law enforcement, after the Feds take their cut. 

According to the forfeiture complaint, both local and federal law enforcement officials spent four years building a narcotics investigation at Camp Zoe. The document claims that Tebeau both permitted and "profited" from the sale of drugs on his property. At least some of those sales allegedly involved undercover police operatives, in their familiar role of breaking the laws they're supposedly enforcing.

Under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the equivalent provisions in the Missouri state constitution, the criminal allegations against Tebeau must be proven in court before his property can be taken. The civil forfeiture complaint against Camp Zoe is intended to permit the police to profit from alleged criminal behavior without proving that Tebeau ever committed a crime.

Can't we all just get along?
"If they succeed in seizing Camp Zoe, we can expect the same tactics to be used against music venues nation-wide," Dan Viets told Pro Libertate. "This is a major test case that is being watched very carefully by people who hold music festivals and other large events, and who might find their property and profits subject to seizure without even being accused of a crime, let alone convicted of one."

 Those seeking to steal Camp Zoe -- and their stenographers in the local press -- are betting heavily that the mainstream public won't rally to the defense of a counter-culture outpost owned by an bass-playing entrepreneur in dreadlocks. 

William Jon Cox, a former prosecutor and police sergeant, points out that the current War on Drugs grew out of cynical political calculations of this kind. For reasons rooted in sheer political opportunism, the Nixon administration devised the drug war as a cultural conflict pitting the "Silent Majority" against the "Damn Dirty Hippies." 

Nixon enjoyed an immediate (albeit short-lived) political benefit. The impact on the culture of law enforcement was much more dramatic and enduring: The federalization and militarization of "local" police is almost entirely an outgrowth of the War on Drugs, which now poses a potentially lethal threat to the very concept of due process and property rights. This is why everybody who claims to cherish individual liberty protected by law -- whether they are Dead-Heads or Ditto-Heads -- should support Jimmy Tebeau's effort to save Camp Zoe from the federal forfeiture gang.

(A fund has been established for those interested in helping Tebeau pay his legal bills.) 

(Publisher's note: This version of the essay is updated to include a revised estimate of the number of officers who took part in the raid on Camp Zoe, and clarified with respect to other pertinent details.)

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Practicing Airport Security Without A License

Dude looks like a lady: Kristina Ross is a MAN, baby!

My first question is this: How on earth did this person dream up the pseudonym "Berlyn Aussieahshowna"?
My second question is: Why isn't this person employed by the TSA?

A few weeks ago police were contacted by the staff of a local cosmetic surgeon who complained that they had received numerous phone calls asking for a "Dr. Berlyn Aussieahshowna." 

The memorably named specialist had supposedly offered to perform various cosmetic enhancements on women whose breasts she had examined during conversations in local nightclubs. 

It turns out that "Dr. Aussieahshowna" is actually an individual named Kristina B. Ross, who is not a doctor of any kind. The story is complicated even further by the fact that Ross is actually a man, albeit one who "identifies" as a woman. Following a 2003 conviction for aggravated battery, Ross served four years in a men's prison, although he (assuming that the pronoun fits) was not housed in the general population. 

As Judge Kevin Swain observes, Ross -- who is not a physician -- was "a male touching women's breasts under the guise of being a female doctor." On at least one occasion, Ross allegedly persuaded a victim to disrobe in order for him to "examine" her, supposedly to evaluate her suitability for cosmetic surgery. Others were reportedly felt up through their clothing. All of this was done on a pretext by someone seeking to gratify prurient interests, albeit of a convoluted variety.

Ross is accused of practicing medicine without a license, which is a felony. However, if authorities are at all interested in applying the law equitably, the police should conduct wholesale arrests at Boise Airport, where scores of TSA employees are physically molesting innocent people, while forcing others to be virtually disrobed by way of backscatter scanning devices.   

None of these federal employees is a licensed physician. All of them are committing sexual battery of some variety. It's reasonable to believe -- especially in light of the grimy institutional history of the agency that employs them -- that the desire to satisfy prurient interests explains the presence of least some of the people palpating the intimate anatomy of strangers.

Either the Boise Police should be dispatched to arrest every member of the local TSA molester squad, or the charges against Ross should be reduced to "practicing airport security without a license." 

The widespread and growing revulsion over the practice of airport molestation is an encouraging development, if only because it illustrates that the public retains at least some semblance of a moral gag reflex. It hasn't taken long for the War Party and its minions to co-opt this sentiment, however. Now we're being told that we should blame the besetting threat posed by distant, fuzzy-faced Mohammedans for the ritual humiliation suffered by Americans every time they attempt to board an airplane

How in heaven's name can this be right?

The GOP-dominated element of the Tea Party was produced through the political equivalent of genetic engineering. It is a recombinant political organism that blends facile populist hostility toward "Big Government" with unqualified support for militarism -- which is Big Government denuded of any humanitarian pretense.   

From the highest minarets of Fox News to the retail-level muezzins in Republican-aligned talk radio, the War Party is singing the praises of ethnic/religious profiling as a substitute for subjecting everyone to ritualized humiliation at airport checkpoints. 

This assumes, of course, that the TSA is interested in enhancing the security of air passengers. It isn't. The objective of the policy is to make Mundanes submit to their supposed betters, not to protect them from terrorism. 

As former Customs inspector-turned-whistleblower Diane Klienman pointed out in a June 2007 interview with Pro Libertate, the most serious airport security breach in recent history was actually facilitated by the same Homeland Security apparatus that supposedly protects us. 

Russell DeFreitas, a former “baggage handler” at JFK who was accused of involvement in a plot to blow up that airport, was previously employed as a baggage handler and/or a “trainee supervisor” in the employ of Evergreen International Airlines, a CIA front company based in McMinnville, Oregon.

Evergreen is a direct descendant of the infamous Air America, a CIA proprietary airline that was deeply involved in narcotics smuggling, arms trafficking, and other charming enterprises. One  former Evergreen pilot has testified under oath that the CIA used the airline to supply both sides in various Cold War-era regional conflicts. More recently, Evergreen played a central role in the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, supplying planes used as  “torture taxis” to convey detainees to various CIA-operated dungeons around the world.

DeFreitas left Evergreen's employ in May 2001, and details are sketchy regarding his job history from that point until his June 2007 arrest. He was employed at JFK in the 1990s, and Klieman told me that DeFreitas's background with Evergreen means "only one thing -- he was working at JFK doing drug smuggling.”

Diane Klieman testifying before a legislative committee.
The CIA has always been involved in drug smuggling, and Evergreen or Air America has played a big role in it,” Klieman elaborated. “When I was working Customs at JFK, we had this huge problem with airline personnel using their secure keys to give unauthorized access to `sterile corridors' that bypassed Customs inspection. Quite often this involved drug smuggling, and I've got ample reason to believe that Evergreen and other CIA assets were involved in it.”

To her disgust and horror, Klieman discovered that the federalized security system at JFK was incurably corrupt and thoroughly politicized. While passengers had to suffer manifold indignities in order to board an airliner, the planes themselves were entirely accessible to criminals and potential terrorists -- both those on the CIA's payroll and those who might be rogue elements. Among the unsettling discoveries she made was that it was possible for unidentified personnel to drive unmarked vehicles right up to the loading ramps at JFK without attracting the interest of security personnel.

When Klieman complained about this state of affairs, she received the standard whistle-blower treatment: She was abused by her supervisors (one of whom referred to her as a "Jew bitch") and fired without cause.

Any terrorist worth worrying about wouldn't try to smuggle explosives onto an airplane on his or her person; instead, the terrorist in question would be part of a cell that had infiltrated the security team at a targeted airport, thereby gaining direct access to the airplanes themselves. And as Diane Klieman can testify from first-hand experience, terrorists of that description would be getting inside help (for reasons of personal corruption or political opportunism) from people inside the federal system that supposedly protects us

What this means, of course, is that the entire rationale behind the TSA's cop-a-feel security protocol is as phony as "Beryln Aussieahshowna"'s medical credentials. 

It should be remembered that we live under a Regime in which the president supposedly has the authority to order the sexual torture of children, and whose interrogators can use the threat of prison rape to extract a confession from a child soldier for use in a Stalinist show trial. Why, then, should be be surprised that the same Regime would institutionalize the public sexual humiliation of its subjects?

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Daedalus Shrugged: The Mounting Resistance to the TSA's Grope Gauntlet

The function of any "security" checkpoint, as Richard Ben Cramer observes in his valuable book How Israel Lost, "is to show who's boss."

"I know of one school headmaster, a dignified older man, who passed the same checkpoint every morning, and was made to undress -- not once but often -- and stand naked while his students passed by," relates Cramer. "This was richly humorous -- that old man was (formerly) so conscious of the honor of his position." 

 The elderly man's residual sense of dignity made him an irresistible target for the power-intoxicated armed bullies he confronted while traveling to and from work. 

During one of his visits to Israel, Cramer asked a checkpoint guard (a recent arrival from Russia) why such humiliation was inflicted on elderly and obviously harmless people.

"Because [of] the bad attitude -- you know?" replied the thug. "If they are acting like they are good, [then] we are the bad one. Then, you must show them control."

You must show them control.

You must make them submit.

Or, as one TSA commissarina repeatedly bellowed when 71-year-old Robert Perry complained about his mistreatment at an airport checkpoint: "I have power! I have power!" That outburst was triggered when Perry -- who, like the elderly Palestinian described above, had been forced to disrobe in public -- plaintively asked to speak with the supervisor of the tax-devouring chair-moistener who had abused him.


Each time a TSA drone places hands on a captive, he is committing an act of criminal assault. This was proven, in principle, when a victim of TSA-inflicted sexual molestation retaliated in kind against her assailant.

In 2004, 62-year-old Appleton, Wisconsin resident Phyllis Dintenfass was singled out for "secondary screening" when something she wore set off the metal detector at the Outagamie County Regional Airport. Mrs. Dintenfass put up no resistance as TSA supervisor Anita Gostisha used an electronic "wand" to scan for metal objects. But she understandably rebelled when Gostisha used the back of her hands to check the area beneath Dintenfass's breasts. 

According to Dintenfass, her reaction was to mimic the unwanted and uninvited physical contact while exclaiming, "How would you like it if I did that to you?"

Gostisha's version of the event is much more melodramatic. She claims that the middle-aged woman -- described by all who knew her as mild and not prone to violence  -- "slammed her against the wall." Leaving aside the fact that this would be an entirely justified response to a sexual assault, Gostisha's version was disputed by her victim and not corroborated by any other witnesses.

However, since Gostisha is a member of the Regime's punitive caste, her person -- unlike that of her victim -- is sacred. Accordingly,  Dintenfass was arrested and charged with "assaulting" a federal official. She was found guilty of that purported crime and sentenced to a year of probation and 100 hours of "community service."

Victorious federal prosecutor Tim Funnell insisted  that Mrs. Dintenfass "punished Anita Gostisha for doing her job." U.S. Attorney Steven Bispukic piled on, protesting that TSA officers, who perform a "vital function,"are "entitled to protection from assault" -- that is, they're entitled to "protection" from the same treatment they inflict on their betters. It's difficult to find a better illustration of the principle that government is simply a criminal syndicate that has achieved impunity. 

At the time Mrs. Dintenfass was molested in Appleton, the treatment she endured was exceptional. As of October 29, it is the norm. The new pat-down procedures bear the ominous adjective "enhanced," an overtaxed official euphemism last pressed into service to normalize torture. TSA functionaries are now instructed to use open hands and fingers "to go over one's body, including the genital area and breasts," explains a protest letter filed on behalf of a group of airline pilots disgusted with the expanded checkpoint ritual. 

The TSA insists that "security" considerations prevent them from telling potential victims what to expect next time they're sentenced to commercial air travel. Capt. Mike Cleary, head of the US Airways pilots union, was able to summarize the new molestation protocol on the basis of conversations he had with TSA personnel. 

"Security" drones are now instructed "to run their hand up the inside of your leg until they meet resistance" -- ideally in the form of a right cross, but I suspect the expected "resistance" would be anatomical in nature. "In addition," continues Cleary's description, "they are to use a circular pat-down routine from the small of the stomach, around through a person's crotch, and up into the small of the back."

Some comedian -- most likely the perceptive and much-missed George Carlin -- once speculated that football may be an elaborate ruse to justify the action of one man putting his hands between the legs of another. While that isn't true of football, a similar principle might well be at work in the TSA's new guidelines for airport molestation. After all, the fetid, Stygian talent pool from which the Homeland Security apparatus skims its population of peepers and gropers abounds in people of the sort who shouldn't be permitted to place hands on others under any circumstances.

Exhibit A is a former TSA employee known as Robert Joe Harrison Jr. who was a TSA security screener in Ketchum, Idaho.

In April 2006, Harrison was arrested by the local police after he had brought home a 10-year-old boy whom he had enticed into his pickup truck. After they arrived at Harrison's home, the adult put in a movie and left the room. The youngster quite sensibly bolted the premises, fled to his home and and described the incident to his mother, who called the police.

When police searched Harrison's apartment, they found (in the words of an MSNBC report) found "four additional Social Security numbers and documents showing four other dates of birth." The TSA hired Harrison (as I'll call him for the sake of convenience) without even establishing his actual name and identity.

 “Harrison” -- who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jim Bonnick, a small-time con-man from the TV series “Magnum, PI” -- was one of several suspected pederasts discovered within the span of a few weeks in 2006. It makes me wonder how many of the Department's officials belong to the department's “Aqualung Club.”

 Harrison's arrest -- and the presence of other degenerates on the TSA's payroll -- shouldn't lead people to make unfortunate generalizations about the agency, insisted Dough Melvin, Federal Security Director for Idaho.

“TSA is a large organization with a large workforce, [and] unfortunately we have an individual who does things that are truly inappropriate, things that are intolerable for TSA,” insisted Melvin, who assured the public that the agency had a “zero tolerance” policy for behavior of this type. He didn't explain how a suspected pederast with five aliases and sets of personal ID could pass a federal background check. We simply had to take his word on the matter. After all, he was a clean-cut, respectable sort. 

As it happens, less than a year after Harrison's arrest, Mr. Melvin was forced to resign as a result of his own public sexual misconduct.

“The now former Director of the Transportation Security Administration in Boise was arrested last week at an Idaho Falls hotel,” reported Boise's CBS affiliate KBCI on February 27, 2007. “Doug Melvin was busted after staff and hotel guests say they saw him walking around naked.” 

The police report on the incident recorded that “Melvin entered the swimming area and removed his clothing before walking around, exposing himself.... Melvin was also reportedly masturbating while in front of the windows directly in view of the main elevator.”

Melvin -- whose surname is one of God's little practical jokes --is not the only significant Homeland Security figure who publicly indulged in the behavior made famous in Philip Roth's most significant novel.

Frank Figueroa, the former head of a federal anti-molester initiative called “Operation Predator,” was arrested at an Orlando shopping mall on October 25, 2005. He was charged with exposing himself to a 16-year-old girl while, ah, manipulating himself. 

Confronted by mall security as he tried to flee the scene, Figueroa whipped out something else he was unduly proud of: The badge identifying him as the special agent in charge of the Tampa office of the Department of Immigration and Customs enforcement – one of the main appendages, as it were, of the DHS.

Figueroa was a repeat offender: He was hired by the DHS and given specific responsibility to deal with child sexual predators despite a 1977 arrest on a charge of public sexual misconduct in Buffalo. Thanks to an incredibly generous deal struck with an inexplicably lenient judge, Figueroa was given a year's probation and a withheld judgment -- meaning that there is no record of his conviction.

It's worthy of mention that Figueroa's "punishment" for preying on an underage girl was less severe than that inflicted on Phyllis Dintenfass for reciprocating the supposedly innocuous behavior of the TSA agent who felt her up.

Today, as millions of productive people struggle to feed and shelter their families, Figueroa continues to receive a taxpayer-subsidized pension.

Given Figueroa's area of responsibility in the federal hierarchy, and his private inclination toward the very behavior he was assigned to investigate, I find myself wondering if he had any personal or professional dealings with former Homeland Security honcho J. Brian Doyle.

The same week that "Robert J. Harrison" was arrested in Idaho, Doyle was arrested in Silver Spring, Maryland. For several weeks Doyle had been conversing by way of an internet a chatroom with someone he believed to be a cancer-stricken pre-adolescent girl. Eventually he tried to arrange a sexual liaison with his correspondent, unaware that he was being set up by a detective from the Polk County, Florida Sheriff's Office.

At the time, Doyle was the second-highest ranking official in the Homeland Security Department's propaganda directorate. He did nothing to disguise his identity while making overtures to what he believed was a potential victim; in fact, he even used his position at Homeland Security as a come-on.

“What has this nation come to if bragging about being a spokesman for a federal agency can supposedly help a guy get laid?” asked the redoubtable James Bovard after the Brian Doyle story broke. While there have been “gross abuses in some previous online porn stings,” Bovard notes, there is reason to believe that “Mr. Doyle could be on the other end of the wand for a long time.” Given Doyle's behavior in an official capacity, it's difficult to feel so much as a particle of sympathy for him.
 “After air marshals gunned down Rigoberto Alpizar outside of a plane in Miami [in] December [2005], Doyle justified the killing to the media: `He threatened that he had a bomb in his backpack,” Bovard recalls. “Other TSA spokesmen claimed that Alpizar had shouted that he had a bomb as he ran up and down the plane aisle. None of the passengers on the plane heard Alpizar say anything about a bomb.”
 None of this was true: Alpizar, who suffered from bipolar disorder, simply bolted from the plane in a moment of panic and was murdered by the TSA's armed goons. Of course, as Bovard wryly comments, “false statements by federal spokesmen are a public service, not a federal crime.”

 TSA personnel tend to be heavy-handed in conducting airport checkpoint molestations while being light-fingered in dealing with the personal effects of their victims. From its inception, the agency offered secure, well-compensated employment for people with criminal backgrounds. This shouldn't be surprising; after all, we're dealing with an element of what were called the "Security Organs" in the Soviet Union -- the sword and shield of the Regime. In any society, the political police attracts people from the  most degenerate elements of society.

"This organization is rotten to the core," observed Bolshevik official Serafina Gopner in a March 22, 1919 letter to Lenin complaining about the Cheka, the ancestor of the KGB. The Chekists were "common criminals and the dregs of society, men armed to the teeth.... They steal, loot, rape ... practice extortion and blackmail, and will let anyone go in exchange for huge sums of money."

"The Cheka are looting and arresting everyone indiscriminately," reported a Bolshevik regional secretary in Yaroslavl on September 26th of the same year (in a letter cited -- as was Gopner's protest -- in the authoritative Black Book of Communism). "Safe in the knowledge that they cannot be punished, they have transformed the Cheka headquarters into a huge brothel.... Drunkenness is rife. Cocaine is being used quite widely among the supervisors."

In policy, practice, and the proclivities of much of its personnel, the TSA -- like the department that spawned it -- is distant but unmistakable kindred to the Cheka.  The growing rebellion against the agency's new airport molestation protocols is among the most heartening developments in recent memory -- assuming, of course, that it doesn't evaporate in the immediate aftermath of the next false flag or blowback-induced terrorist incident.

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