Later On

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Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Seattle Cops Bring Lawsuit Claiming They Have A Constitutional Right To Use Excessive Force

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Not surprising: they want protection for how they plan to act. It’s sort of the same courtesy extended by the CIA to its torturers, destroying all video records of the torture sessions. From the article:

. . .their lawsuit does shed light on the sort of resistance officials and police chiefs face as they seek to make their policies more humane. The lawsuit employs rhetoric hostile to the idea of treating vulnerable suspects such as the mentally ill differently, and calls DOJ’s findings on excessive force “highly suspect.” It also embodies a Stand Your Ground-ification of self-defense attitudes in asserting that officers have a right not to de-escalate the situation before turning to deadly force, asserting that their force is protected “regardless of whether or not there existed less intrusive means, or alternatives to self-defense or defense of others, such as inflicting a less serious injury to, retreating from, or containing, or negotiating with a suspect.” (some version of this could be a defense to criminal charges against police, but not to Department policies). . .

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Doesn’t this count as yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater?

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And given that exception, shut down the site and fine the owners substantial sums.

UPDATE: This post must have been quite confusing: I used the wrong link in the original post (the link that’s still there). I’m leaving that link in place because Big Chrono’s comment is relevant to the matter at that link (which is a story about how the NYPD has set its own course and is ignoring the Mayor’s direction).

This is the link that should have been used, and the reference in the title refers to circumstances under which the First Amendment right to free speech does not apply. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., noted: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 4:54 pm

Two videos showing lack of control and accountability for prosecutors

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Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:

The first is from Anthony Fischer at Reason.tv. It includes just about every drug war excess imaginable, including a militarized police raid for a nonviolent crime, vaguely written drug laws, prosecutorial misconduct, the coercive use of bond, abuse of conspiracy charges, abuse of the plea bargain and the intimidation of media and witnesses to duck transparency.

The second video is from the conservative criminal justice reform group Right on Crime. It’s about prosecutorial discretion and the criminalization of environmental law. The couple in the video were forbidden from building on a parcel of land they had purchased when, after they had purchased it, it was designated a “wetland,” apparently because a backed-up drainage system had caused some standing water . . .

Continue reading.

You know, regarding the first video, I’ve seen police aggression exactly like this in movies, but generally it’s Cold War East German movies, or Soviet-spy thrillers set in Moscow: such police actions and tactics were viewed as a sign of a bad government, a government that was starting to oppress its citizens. It’s a pretty familiar pattern, and I’m sorry to see it underway in the US.

Another example, from a NY Times article by Jim Dwyer today:

. . . When Bill de Blasio was running for mayor last year, he noted that marijuana arrests, which fall most heavily on black and Latino males, “have disastrous consequences,” and pledged to curtail the practice of ratcheting up what should be a minor violation of the law into a misdemeanor.

This week, a report showed that such arrests were continuing at about the same pace as last year; the de Blasio mayoralty had not appreciably changed the number of such cases. The Legal Aid Society has a roster of clients across the city who face misdemeanor charges for possession of minuscule amounts of pot because, it was charged, they were “openly displaying” it. About 75 percent of those charged had no prior criminal convictions, and more than 80 percent were black or Latino, according to the report, from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance. . .

Think about it: the NYPD no longer heeds the mayor. The NYPD is an independent entity with no controlling authority—well, no authority that can in fact exert control.

Police departments in this country are starting to seem like military emplacements to control the citizenry—at least in places (cf. Ferguson MO).

And the above raid was done with the support and participation of Federal law enforcement. It’s a little too Kristallnachtish for my taste. If you say, “Well, that’s only one case” (or three, depending on how you count), I would point out that each case is only one case—and moreover, don’t we want to take vigorous action to nip this kind of police work in the bud?

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 2:46 pm

A story from the Blackwater massacre of Iraqi civilians

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This article by Jeremy Scahill in The Intercept includes a good description of what happened the day of the massacre. From the article:

. . . The incident for which the men were tried was the single largest known massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of private U.S. security contractors. Known as “Baghdad’s bloody Sunday,” operatives from Blackwater gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians at a crowded intersection at Nisour Square on September 16, 2007. The company, founded by secretive right-wing Christian supremacist Erik Prince, pictured above, had deep ties to the Bush Administration and served as a sort of neoconservative Praetorian Guard for a borderless war launched in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

While Barack Obama pledged to reign in mercenary forces when he was a senator, once he became president he continued to employ a massive shadow army of private contractors. Blackwater — despite numerous scandals, congressional investigations, FBI probes and documented killings of civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan — remained a central part of the Obama administration’s global war machine throughout his first term in office.

Just as with the systematic torture at Abu Ghraib, it is only the low level foot-soldiers of Blackwater that are being held accountable. Prince and other top Blackwater executives continue to reap profits from the mercenary and private intelligence industries. Prince now has a new company, Frontier Services Group, which he founded with substantial investment from Chinese enterprises and which focuses on opportunities in Africa. Prince recently suggested that his forces at Blackwater could have confronted Ebola and ISIS. “If the administration cannot rally the political nerve or funding to send adequate active duty ground forces to answer the call, let the private sector finish the job,” he wrote.

None of the U.S. officials from the Bush and Obama administrations who unleashed Blackwater and other mercenary forces across the globe are being forced to answer for their role in creating the conditions for the Nisour Square shootings and other deadly incidents involving private contractors. Just as the main architect of the CIA interrogation program, Jose Rodriguez, is on a book tour for his propagandistic love letter to torture, Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives, so too is Erik Prince pushing his own revisionist memoir, Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror.

While the Blackwater verdict is an important and rare moment of accountability in an overwhelmingly unaccountable private war industry, it does not erase the fact that those in power—the CEOs, the senior officials, the war profiteers—walk freely and will likely do so for the rest of their lives.

What is so seldom discussed in public discourse on the use of mercenaries are the stories of their victims. After the Nisour Square massacre, I met with Mohammed Kinani, whose 9-year-old son, Ali, was the youngest person killed by Blackwater operatives that day. As he and his family approached the square in their car:

“[T]hey saw one armored vehicle and then another, with men brandishing machine guns atop each one,” Mohammed recalls. The armored cars swiftly blocked off traffic. One of the gunners held both fists in the air, which Mohammed took as a gesture to stop. “Myself and all the cars before and behind me stopped,” Mohammed says. “We followed their orders. I thought they were some sort of unit belonging to the American military, or maybe just a military police unit. Any authority giving you an order to stop, you follow the order.” It turns out the men in the armored cars were neither U.S. military nor MPs. They were members of a Blackwater team code-named Raven 23.

As the family waited in traffic, two more Blackwater vehicles became visible. Mohammed noticed a family in a car next to his—a man, woman and child. The man was staring at Mohammed’s car, and Mohammed thought the man was eyeing Jenan. “I thought he was checking my sister out,” Mohammed remembers. “So I yelled at him and said, ‘What are you looking at?’” Mohammed noticed that the man looked frightened. “I think they shot the driver in the car in front of you,” the man told him.

Mohammed scanned the area and noticed that the back windshield of the white Kia sedan in front of him was shattered. The man in the car next to Mohammed began to panic and tried to turn his car around. He ended up bumping into a taxi, and an argument ensued. The taxi driver exited his car and began yelling. Mohammed tried to break up the argument, telling the taxi driver that a man had been shot and that he should back up so the other car could exit. The taxi driver refused and got back into his vehicle.

At that point, an Iraqi police officer, Ali Khalaf Salman, approached the Kia sedan, and it started to slowly drift. The driver had been shot, and the car was gliding in neutral toward a Blackwater armored car. Salman, in an interview, described how he tried to stop it by pushing backward. He saw a panicked woman inside the car; she was clutching a young man covered in blood who had been shot in the head. She was shrieking, “My son! My son! Help me, help me!” Salman remembered looking toward the Blackwater shooters. “I raised my left arm high in the air to try to signal to the convoy to stop the shooting.” He said he thought the men would cease fire, given that he was a clearly identified police officer.

“As the officer was waving, the men on the armored cars started shooting at that car,” Mohammed says. “And it wasn’t warning shots; they were shooting as in a battle. It was as though they were in a fighting field. I thought the police officer was killed. It was insane.” Officer Salman managed to dive out of the way as the bullets rained down. “I saw parts of the woman’s head flying in front of me,” recalled his colleague, Officer Sarhan Thiab. “They immediately opened heavy fire at us.”

That’s how the Nisour Square massacre began.

“What can I tell you?” Mohammed says, closing his eyes. “It was like the end of days.”

Mohammed would later learn that the first victims that day, in the white Kia, were a young Iraqi medical student, Ahmed Haithem Al Rubia’y, and his mother, Mahassin, a physician. Mohammed is crystal clear that the car posed no threat. “There was absolutely no shooting at the Blackwater men,” he says. “All of a sudden, they started shooting in all directions, and they shot at everyone in front of them. There was nothing left in that street that wasn’t shot: the ground, cars, poles, sidewalks; they shot everything in front of them.” As the Blackwater gunners shot up the Rubia’ys’ vehicle, Mohammed said, it soon looked like a sieve “due to how many bullet holes it had.” A Blackwater shooter later admitted that they also fired a grenade at the car, causing the car to explode. Mohammed says the Blackwater men then started firing across the square. “They were shooting in all directions,” he remembers. He describes the shooting as “random yet still concentrated. It was concentrated and focused on what they aimed at and still random as they shot in all directions.”

One of the Blackwater shooters was on top of an armored vehicle firing an automatic weapon, he says. “Every time he would finish his clip, he would throw it on the ground and would load another one in and would start shooting again, and finish the new one and replace it with another.” One young Iraqi man got out of his car to run, and as he fled, the Blackwater shooter gunned him down and continued firing into his body as it lay on the pavement, Mohammed says. “He was on the ground bleeding, and they’re shooting nonstop, and it wasn’t single bullets.” The Blackwater shooter, he says, would fire at other Iraqis and cars and then return to pump more bullets into the dead man on the ground. “He sank in his own blood, and every minute the [Blackwater shooter] would shoot left and right and then go back to shoot the dead man, and I could see that his body would shake with every bullet. He was already dead, but his body was still reacting to the bullets. [The shooter] would fire at someone else and then go back to shoot at this dead man.” Shaking his head slowly, Mohammed says somberly, “The guy is dead in a pool of blood. Why would you continue shooting him?”

In his vehicle, as the shooting intensified, Mohammed yelled for the kids to get down. He and his sister did the same. “My car was hit many times in different places. All I could hear from my car was the gun shots and the sound of glass shattering,” he remembers. Jenan was frantic. “Why are they shooting at us?” she asked him. Just then, a bullet pierced the windshield, hitting Jenan’s headrest. Mohammed shows me a photo of the bullet hole.

As gunfire rained on the SUV, Jenan grabbed Mohammed’s hair, yanked his head down and covered him with her body. “My young sister was trying to protect me by covering me with her body, so I forced myself out of her grip and covered her with my body to protect her. It was so horrific that my little sister, whom I’m supposed to protect, was trying to protect me.” Mohammed managed to slip his cellphone from his pocket and was going to call his father. “It’s customary that when in agony before death, you ask those close to you to look after your loved ones,” he says. Jenan demanded that Mohammed put down the phone, reminding him that their father had had two strokes already. “If he hears what’s happening, he’ll die immediately,” she said. “Maybe he’ll die before us.”

At that moment, bullets pierced the SUV through the front windshield. A bullet hit the rearview mirror, causing it to whack Mohammed in the face. “We imagined that in a few seconds everyone was going to die–everyone in the car, my sister and I and our children. We thought that every second that passed meant one of us dying.” He adds, “We remained still, my sister and I. I had her rest her head on my lap, and my body was on top of her. We’d sneak a peek from under the dashboard, and they continued shooting here and there, killing this one and that one.”

And then the shooting stopped.

Kinani thought his family had somehow miraculously survived the massacre. But then the silence of the aftermath was shattered by relatives in his car shouting, “Ali is shot! Ali is shot!”

Mohammed rushed around . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 1:36 pm

What if your own fate was decided by a court in a foreign land?

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Tim Johnson reports for McClatchy:

— Somewhere trapped in the earth below Francisco Pineda’s feet are an estimated 1.4 million ounces of gold, and he wants the ore to remain there.

He doesn’t want an Australian mining company to extract the metal.

“What will happen with the water? To separate the gold and silver, they’ll use cyanide. This will either filter into the water table or go into the river,” said Pineda, a stocky agronomist and environmental activist.

Those who share Pineda’s views don’t care if El Salvador remains the proverbial beggar seated on a bench of gold. They say their densely populated nation cannot absorb environmental distress from mining.

Yet the choice is not theirs.

The fate of the El Dorado gold mine won’t be resolved anywhere near this tiny Central American country. Rather, it’s being weighed by a three-judge tribunal on the fourth floor of the World Bank headquarters in Washington.

Last month, the obscure court heard eight days of arguments over whether an Australian firm,OceanaGold Corp., will get a green light for the El Dorado project, or in its lieu receive $301 million in compensation. Sometime early in 2015, the tribunal, known formally as the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, will issue its ruling.

The unusual jurisdiction is a sign of how international investment laws are empowering corporations to act against foreign governments that curtail their future profits, sometimes through policy flip-flops. Critics say it’s giving trade tribunals leverage over sovereign nations and elected leaders who presumably reflect the will of their people.

The lawsuit could put El Salvador in a dilemma: Either allow OceanaGold to mine or pay the $301 million the company says it would’ve earned from the gold.

“For us, it is very tough that three judges will be deciding this case. They’ve never been here. They’ve never asked us what we want. It is really ugly that someone is deciding our future without asking our opinion,” Pineda said.

Suspicions run deep over the project, which has spawned violence. Four mining opponents were killed from 2009 to 2011. None of the homicides has been fully resolved.

The company now at the center of the conflict, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Cop vindicated of sexual harassment claim because of his body camera

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Very interesting story. Video of newscast, which includes some of the body-cam footage (do we still call it “footage”?). From the story:

After failing the sobriety test, Griego was taken into the station for DWI. A breathalyzer detected a .13 blood alcohol level. [Legal limit in NM for people 21 and older is .08%. - LG]

Griego then asked the officer if she could use the restroom.

Officer Frazier then heard Griego speaking with someone while in the bathroom, asking, “How can I get this officer in trouble?”

Frazier then remembered Griego had slipped her cell phone into her bra at the beginning of the traffic stop, according to the report.

When Frazier ordered Griego to step out of the restroom, she began accusing him of sexual misconduct.

“[You were] inappropriately touching me while I was waiting in the car,” Griego can be heard saying in the video.

Frazier informed Griego that the entire stop had been recorded. Officers with the sex crimes division of the department later conducted a full investigation and cleared Frazier of any wrongdoing.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 11:10 am

Justice delayed arrives at last: Blackwater guards convicted for their massacre of Iraqi civilians

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At long last there is some accountability.

The Washington Post report and the NY Times report. The NY Times report notes that some of the men escaped murder charges only because of prosecutorial incompetence.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 10:37 am

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