Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

No-knock raids like the one against Paul Manafort are more common than you think

with 6 comments

Radley Balko comments in a column:

The news Wednesday that the FBI waged a no-knock raid against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has generated discussion about these raids. The consensus in this case seems to be that the early-morning no-knock raid is a good indication that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has strong evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and that he feared Manafort might have destroyed some of that evidence if he had not sent FBI agents to retrieve it.

Unfortunately, the discussions have included broad generalizations that, although perhaps technically accurate, give a misleading impression of how no-knock raids are typically utilized. This CNN segment with legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is an example:

Around the 4:30 mark, Toobin says, “Magistrate judges don’t give authorizations for searches of people’s homes lightly. I mean, this is a big deal.”

Toobin’s comment is technically true, if you analyze it in the context of an investigation into someone such as Manafort — a wealthy politician who once held a powerful position. Those sorts of people aren’t typically subjected to early-morning no-knock raids. But lots of other people are. And these sorts of comments not only erase their experience, but they also give a false impression of how and against whom these tactics are used.

They’re used, for example, against people such as the woman and her 3-year-old daughter who were held at gunpoint after FBI agents entered her home by taking a chainsaw to her door. They were looking for a drug dealer who lived in the building. They had the wrong apartment. They’re used against families such as the three children in New Mexico injured by flash grenades when FBI agents conducted a no-knock raid on their father, who was suspected of being a street-level drug dealer. Or the Quincy, Mass., couple raided last year by FBI agents and local police who took a battering ram to their door and ransacked their home. The agents found nothing incriminating and left a search warrant that included only the home’s address.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also weighed in on the Manafort raid, with a series of tweets.

These tweets are technically true, provided you limit your pool of “targets” to people like Manafort. But again, that paints a misleading picture of how these tactics are used. They aren’t typically used against people like Manafort, and for most people against whom they are used, the target isn’t given a chance to cooperate. As for judges, I’ll let former federal prosecutor Ken White at Popehat elaborate:

In the federal system, federal agents present search warrant applications to United States Magistrate Judges for review. Magistrate Judges aren’t nominated by the President and confirmed by Congress like United States District Court judges — they are appointed by other federal judges for set terms, and have a reduced level of authority and responsibility. They do a lot of the unglamorous day-to-day work of the federal judiciary.

The magistrate judge reviews the search warrant application and, almost always, signs the warrant approving it . . .  I think that magistrates can be a little rubber-stampy at times. But probable cause is a pretty low bar.

Emphasis mine. “Almost always.” White adds that federal courts are generally better than state courts at scrutinizing warrants, and that federal prosecutors are typically better at reviewing warrants than district attorneys. But he adds that the most scrutinized warrants are in complex, white-collar cases. If Mueller does bring a case against Manafort, it will undoubtedly be complex. So again, in that context, comments such as those from Toobin and Blumenthal aren’t technically wrong, but they give the impression that all federal warrants for no-knock raids are carefully scrutinized and waged against only people for whom there is a significant amount of incriminating evidence. For most such warrants, that just isn’t true.

Move from the FBI to the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the problem only grows. From the mid-1990s through about 2010, the DEA conducted hundreds of full-on SWAT raids of medical marijuana clinics in states that have legalized the drug for medicinal purposes. These businesses were technically breaking federal law. But they weren’t heavily armed drug dealers. They were businesses licensed by the states in which they were operating. Through the 2000s, the DEA also sent SWAT teams to raid the offices of doctors whom drug cops suspected of over-prescribing opioid painkillers. Whatever you make of the current opioid crisis, these weren’t well-armed kingpins. They were doctors operating in the open.

But the more typical targets of a no-knock DEA raid aren’t doctors, medical marijuana clinics or kingpins. They’re people accused of low-level drug crimes. The evidence can be flimsy, or indiscriminate. The DEA will sometimes join state and local police to conduct multiple, even dozens of raids in a single city or neighborhood. Those raids might produce enough illicit drugs, cash or guns to make them seem worthwhile, but the sheer size of the operations can rope in innocent people, too. In one such case we covered here at The Watch, an elderly Detroit woman and her daughter were raided and roughed up by masked DEA agents during a massive sweep of the city’s Eight Mile neighborhood. The women never got their day in court because the DEA never revealed the identities of the masked agents.

A quick list of other incidents that come to mind:

  • DEA agents shot a New Hampshire woman through the arm as she was picking up her infant grandchild during a botched raid looking for diverted oxycodone. They had the wrong residence.
  • In 2011, DEA and San Francisco police raided a UC-Hastings law professor under the mistaken belief that he was growing marijuana.
  • In 2013, DEA agents and local officials raided an Illinois woman’s home based on evidence that she had shopped at a hydroponic store and that a substance in her trash came up positive for marijuana on a drug field test. Regular readers will know that such tests have notoriously high error rates.
  • In 2012, the DEA defended in federal court the practice of agents pointing their guns at children’s heads during drug raids. In that particular case, the agents had raided the wrong home, due to the sloppy recording of a license plate. Presumably, a federal magistrate signed off on the warrant.

Finally, most federal drug raids are also carried out not by a well-trained DEA or FBI SWAT team, but by multi-jurisdictional narcotics task forces, or local cops participating in the Justice Department’s adoption program.  . .

Continue reading.

There’s a lot more. The US is sliding toward being a police state.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2017 at 11:42 am

6 Responses

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  1. We all know that the Trump Russian collusion thing is a load of crap. Mueller knows that too. So what is Mueller really up to? Is it as mundane a matter as simply hating Trump? Or is Mueller protecting or covering for some people, maybe even himself? If so, who is he protecting and what for?

    Robert What?

    13 August 2017 at 4:50 pm

  2. No, there’s considerable evidence that the Russian collusion is real. Check out this timeline for some interesting connections. And here’s an even better timeline.

    I’ve seen nothing that indicates the Mueller has decided that the Russia investigation is baseless, and from the two timelines you can see that it is definitely worth investigating. To take only one example, it was Trump’s campaign that had the GOP remove from the platform the statement of support of the Ukraine.

    I think you have been misinformed or are jumping to unfounded conclusions. So far it seems very much as though Robert Mueller is simply investigating the Russian connection while Trump tries to stymie the investigation (e.g., by firing Comey).

    LeisureGuy

    13 August 2017 at 5:10 pm

  3. Ok, you are right: an international businessman doing business with the Russians? A beauty pageant in Moscow? Trump and Putin saying nice things about each other? There’s your proof that the Russians hacked into the US electronic voting system and switched Hillary votes to Trump votes. I stand corrected.

    Robert What?

    13 August 2017 at 5:25 pm

  4. No need for sarcasm, surely. You picked some of the innocuous ones, I imagine on purpose to bolster your position. But in case it is not clear, the timelines show all interactions that we know between Trump and Russia, including some that, as you point out, are innocuous.

    But I’m curious: where did you get the information the Mueller does not believe there is any possibility that Trump and Russia colluded? It is certainly obvious that Russia wanted to help Trump (the release of the hacked emails, to which Trump’s response was a public request for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s server). And certain Donald Trump Jr. leapt at the chance to meet with the Russians to discuss getting their help via oppo research in Hillary Clinton. Members of his campaign committee—indeed, his campaign manager—had very close ties to the Russians. And Trump seems loath to offer any criticism at all of Russia, including thanking Putin for expelling over 200 American diplomatic workers. (Trump later said he was joking, but it’s a very odd joke for a head of state to make in the face of that event—and Trump in fact has had no negative response to that act.)

    And of course Trump continues to deny that Russia did the hacking and release of data, despite all 16 US agencies saying that it was indeed Russia. Why is Trump so resistant to the unanimous findings of the US intelligence agencies?

    So I see enough smoke (including the non-innocuous parts of the timeline) to think that there may indeed be fire. I understand you see Trump as blameless in this, but I would think you could recognize that others have different views, and among those others is Robert Mueller.

    But if you’ve got information that Mueller thinks there’s no collusion, I’d very much like to read it, so do provide a link. I’m interested in the source of that information.

    LeisureGuy

    13 August 2017 at 5:38 pm

  5. Colluded on what? Hacking into the electronic voting system? Hacking the DNC emails? Other? Assuming you mean the DNC emails, Assange said the Russians had nothing to do with it. Based on all the people who have died around it, it was almost certainly an inside job. But who ever did do it did the American public an enormous favor by showing the utter corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels of the DNC and the previous administration. In my opinion this is what the show is all about: keeping the focus on the hack and off the contents of the emails.

    This is nothing but an attempted coup against a duly elected President. What we are witnessing are the death throes of the United States as a Constitutional Republic. I don’t know what comes next but it won’t be good.

    Robert What?

    13 August 2017 at 5:48 pm

  6. So you won’t provide the source of information from which you learned that Mueller thinks that the investigation is a sham. Sorry, this is not the kind of discussion that makes sense to me.

    I trust the 16 US intelligence agencies more than Assange, but obviously you place more trust in Assange.

    LeisureGuy

    13 August 2017 at 5:53 pm


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