Friday, March 23, 2012

Nomad's News Roundup- FBI Tactics against Terror in Question and Oakland Police Costing the City

by Nomad
There are so many interesting news stories out there that sometimes it feels impossible to keep up with them all. Reading and taking time to absorb or comment on them seems next to impossible. (I think Twitter is making us wonderful at finding stories to read but less wonderful at actually reading them. I know it is true for me, anyway.)

So, I wanted to take a moment every now and then to stop writing and researching and tweeting in order to highlight some particularly valuable news for readers. A moment to stop and smell the journalistic flowers. 

This first blossom comes from Business Insider:

Americans Are Getting Tired Of Trumped Up Terrorism Charges Against Their Innocent Neighbors

Writers Jana Kasperkevic and Robert Johnson report on the questionable methods used by the FBI to hunt down terrorists threats inside the US. The use of informants planted within a targeted community has been standard practice for a long time, of course, yet the tactics used in the search for would-be plotters seems to have crossed a line somewhere. 
According to Fordham Law professor Karen Greenbergwho specializes in studying the new FBI tactics:
“There is the common usage, where a citizen might see FBI operations as deliberate traps manipulating unwary people who otherwise were unlikely to become terrorists. Then there is the legal definition of entrapment, where the prosecution merely has to show a subject was predisposed to carry out the actions they later are accused of.”
The article reveals how poor communities are essentially being bribed by informants in order to lure them into phony terror plots.
Often, informants will bribe impoverished targets with material goods they could never otherwise afford, if only they'll say OK to a terror plot. When they do, the government is quick to file charges and trot out another "terrorist," plucked from our midst.Alicia McWilliams, aunt of one of the alleged terrorists of Newburgh Four, told AOL News that the FBI offered to pay for her other nephew's liver transplant if his brother agreed to take part in the terrorist plot. 
If terrorists are motivated by ideology then there should- at least, in theory- be as many wealthy and middle-class terrorists. (The motivations could be different, of course. Bid Laden was from a very rich family in Saudi Arabia, for example.)

So why are impoverished areas being targeted any more than any other community? The answers are clear but I'll let you make up your own mind as to the reasons.
It's a very interesting article and I encourage you to take a moment to check out the link. 

Another (somewhat related) article which caught my eye this morning was this:
According to the article, The city of Oakland, California is being forced to pay big time for the excesses of its police force, related to an incident in which two men were detained and searched.

A judge found that Officer Ingo Mayer pulled the men's Cadillac over in December 2005 for no apparent reason and then handcuffed and detained Lucas.
Mayer then undid Lucas's belt buckle, causing his pants to fall down to his ankles and shook his boxers against his genitals after pulling them down half way, as he asked Lucas whether he had drugs, according to U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's findings. Bradshaw experienced similar treatment. 
Lucas testified that a small crowd gathered while his pants were down.
The pair were later arrested on non-related charges. (I am surprised that it was not for indecent exposure.) 
The judge in the case was certainly unimpressed by the officer's methods. She ordered the city to pay $105,000 in compensatory damages to Lucas and $100,000 to Bradshaw.  Additionally the judge ordered the Mayer to pay $25,000 to Lucas and $15,000 to Bradshaw. Finally, the legals fees for the pair's attorney's cost the city $832,000, according to  San Francisco Chronicle. Special thanks to  of the Chronicle for the information.

In a definitely related (though not particularly late-breaking) story, there's this:
(Written by Associated Press on January 27, 2012)

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan who has come under fire from all directions about her clumsy handling of the Occupy protests promised a federal court judge to move more swiftly on reforms to the "scandal-plagued" Oakland Police Department.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said he “remains in disbelief” that the department has failed to adopt the reforms... Henderson said he will consider proceedings to appoint a federal receiver to run the department if the monitor submits a report this summer showing little improvement.
Although the term "scandal-plagued" could be cliche, it seems to apply pretty well in this case. 

Back in 2003, the judge had to appoint a third party monitor to make sure the city complied with the terms of a $10.5 million dollar settlement. Victims of police brutality charged that a group of renegade officers, known as "The Riders" had beaten and framed suspects in the West Oakland area for years. (For details of the settlement click here.) 

Allegations against the four officers included false arrest, planting evidence, excessive use of force, falsification of police reports, and assault and battery.
One officer was acquitted at trial and criminal charges against two former officers were dismissed after two trials ended in hung juries. A fourth former officer remains a fugitive who disappeared after charged were filed in 2000. 
As part of the settlement, the city agreed to make necessary reforms and yet since that time, the police department failed to make the 51 reforms cited in the terms of the settlement. Eight years is an awfully long time to dither and back in 2003, the officials announced, “This has been a bleak chapter in Oakland’s history. Now a page is being turned."

All this comes on the heels of charges by Occupy protesters that police used excessive force and improper tactics. These included tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades on the unarmed demonstrators. 
We all witnessed the targeting of a peace protester and Iraq war veteran, Scott Olsen, leaving him with a fractured skull. (Olsen was a victim of a grenade fired by an officer less than 30 feet away. He too has filed a claim against the city of Oakland "seeking unspecified monetary damages for medical expenses for treatment of injuries that also included a fractured vertebrae and hemorrhaging of the brain.")

Judge Henderson was adamant in his criticism of the city's failure to make the necessary reforms. Words and promises are not enough, Henderson said.

Because of its inability to control its police, the city of Oakland has already paid a lot in terms of reputation, tourism dollars and city funds.

What do you think about the stories? Feel free to leave a comment and tell me your opinions. If you think the stories are noteworthy, be sure to tweet them out. Thanks.