Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism’

Money from the U.S. Federal government may have helped pay for the guns and ammunition used by James Holmes to murder a dozen people and wound scores of others in the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., July 20.

This startling news was reported in the July 23 New York Times—but it was buried deep within the paper, halfway through a story about President Obama’s visit to Aurora.

In the story, the Times reports: “The police believe that Mr. Holmes began planning his rampage for months, when he began acquiring the materials that he would use in both the shooting and to rig his apartment.”

The article goes on to say:

“There were also clues as to how Mr. Holmes might have paid for the weapons and other materials he acquired. He was receiving a $26,000 stipend, in monthly installments of $2,166, for a National Institutes of Health neuroscience training grant for the graduate program he was enrolled in at the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, a spokeswoman said.”

In a front-page article in the same edition of the newspaper, the Times reports that Holmes “ordered 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for an assault rifle, and 35 shells for a 12-gauge shotgun—an amount of firepower that costs roughly $3,000 at the online sites—in the four months before the shooting.”

There is no reason to believe—as of yet—that anyone within any Federal agency was directing Holmes to buy firearms or ammunition. There is no hard evidence to suggest the involvement of any government agency in the incident in any way. But the fact remains that federal dollars were likely used to pay for the weapons and ammunition.

“Oh, what a stretch!” some might exclaim. But is it? How would the Federal government itself view a situation in which an individual funneled $2,000 per month to someone who used that money to buy weapons and ammunition to commit a domestic atrocity against civilians? Would the Federal government be at all interested in looking into the matter to determine whether the funds were transferred with the intent to bankroll terrorism?

If the Patriot Act and the United States Code are any guide, then the Federal government would be very interested indeed. In fact, Federal law provides for prison terms of up to 15 years for anyone who provides “material support” of terrorism and life imprisonment if such support results in loss of life.

Under Title IV, Subtitle B of the Patriot Act, the phrase “to engage in terrorist activity” is given numerous definitions, including this one:

. . . to commit an act that the actor knows, or reasonably should know, affords material support, including a safe house, transportation, communications, funds, transfer of funds or other material financial benefit, false documentation or identification, weapons (including chemical, biological, or radiological weapons), explosives, or training . . .

[emphasis added]

Under 18 USC § 2339A of the United States Code, anyone who provides “material support or resources or conceals or disguises the nature, location, source, or ownership of material support or resources, knowing or intending that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out” certain terrorist acts may be “imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”

Material support of terrorists is defined in the same section of the United States Code as, among other things, “currency or monetary instruments or financial securities.”

Should this transfer of Federal money to a man who bought arms and ammunition to commit an atrocity not at least be examined? Or is the Federal government above being held to its own standards of scrutiny?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A federal protection that comes with exemptions is no protection at all. Note that the feds do not vouch for the accuracy of the information they secretly keep. This is a formula for gross abuse.

Last Friday, the federal government’s new anti-terror database, the Terror Screening Watchlist Service, went live. The database is loaded with an unknown amount of personal information, including names, photographs and biometric data. In a new turn that has civil liberties advocates crying foul, the Department of Homeland Security is claiming all information contained in the watchlist is confidential.

Earlier today, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several other groups filed a formal complaint with DHS about the blanket exemptions to the Privacy Act.

Under DHS’ rules guidelines for the Terror Watch Lists, individuals “do not have an opportunity to decline to provide information” for the database, and cannot obtain the relevant information through the Federal Privacy Act. The Privacy Act is one of the milestone reforms passed in the wake of the Watergate spying scandal. It permits individuals to obtain law enforcement files about them by the government, with the intent of correcting incorrect information.

Read the rest at KALW News.

Read Full Post »

As people in the U.S. expresses outrage over last weekend’s mass shooting in Tucson, we might well ask ourselves: Where’s the outrage over this?

LAHORE: Of the 1,184 persons killed by the American drones in 124 attacks in 2010, around 59 percent were innocent civilians while the remaining 41 percent were terrorists belonging to numerous militant groups based in the Pak-Afghan tribal belt.

According to data gathered by The News primarily from local and international news sources, 703 of those who were perished by the US drones between January 1 and December 31, 2010, were civilians, including women and children, while 481 others were commanders, fighters and activists of different militant groups. The drones hit three types of targets in the tribal belt – terrorists’ compounds, houses sheltering terrorists and vehicles carrying terrorists.

Of the 124 drone strikes, the largest number – 53 (or 43 percent of the total drone attacks) – were directed at alleged terrorists’ compounds, followed by 41 strikes (or 33 percent of the total attacks) targeting houses allegedly sheltering terrorists while the remaining 187 attacks (or 24 percent of the total strikes) were directed at vehicles which were allegedly carrying terrorists. As the velocity of the American drones has increased enormously under the Obama administration, they are now hitting their targets with precision.

Read the rest at The News International.

Read Full Post »

The author of this column claims that the sole purpose of the Dept. of Homeland security is to provide bonanzas for favored congressional districts. Its purpose goes further than that: To maintain a constant mood of low-level fear so the people will continue going along with government abuses of power.

Hardly anyone has seriously scrutinized either the priorities or the spending patterns of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its junior partner, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), since their hurried creation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Sure, they get criticized plenty. But year in, year out, they continue to grow faster and cost more — presumably because Americans think they are being protected from terrorism by all that spending. Yet there is no evidence whatsoever that the agencies are making Americans any safer.

DHS serves only one clear purpose: to provide unimaginable bonanzas for favored congressional districts around the United States, most of which face no statistically significant security threat at all. One thinks of the $436,504 that the Blackfeet Nation of Montana received in fiscal 2010 “to help strengthen the nation against risks associated with potential terrorist attacks”; the $1,000,000 that the village of Poynette, Wisconsin (pop. 2,266) received in fiscal 2009 for an “emergency operations center”; or the $67,000 worth of surveillance equipment purchased by Marin County, California, and discovered, still in its original packaging, four years later. And indeed, every U.S. state, no matter how landlocked or underpopulated, receives, by law, a fixed percentage of homeland security spending every year.

As for the TSA, I am not aware of a single bomber or bomb plot stopped by its time-wasting procedures. In fact, TSA screeners consistently fail to spot the majority of fake “bombs” and bomb parts the agency periodically plants to test their skills. In Los Angeles, whose airport was targeted by the “millennium plot” on New Year’s 2000, screeners failed some 75 percent of these tests.

Read the rest at Foreign Policy.

Read Full Post »

In May 2008, before he became president, I wrote to the junior senator from my state, Barack Obama, with a direct question:

“Why is Congress doing nothing about the crimes committed by the current administration? In particular, why are you and your colleagues doing nothing in response to the abduction and outsourced torture of foreign nationals and the broad surveillance of U.S. citizens in flagrant violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?”

Sen. Obama had nothing to say on the subject of abducting foreign nationals, but he–or anyway his office–had a few things to say about the Bush administration’s criminal violations of FISA. Two years into the Obama presidency, it’s interesting to reread what Obama had to say back then and to ask ourselves if his administration is doing things any differently—or indeed is merely accelerating the wholesale violations of privacy and liberty that had begun in earnest during the Bush administration.

Thank you for contacting me concerning the President’s domestic surveillance program. I appreciate hearing from you.

Providing any President with the flexibility necessary to fight terrorism without compromising our constitutional rights can be a delicate balance. I agree that technological advances and changes in the nature of the threat our nation faces may require that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), enacted in 1978, be updated to reflect the reality of the post 9/11 world. But that does not absolve the President of the responsibility to fully brief Congress on the new security challenge and to work cooperatively with Congress to address it.

As you know, Congress has been considering the issue of domestic surveillance since last year. The debate continues, but the shift in party control on Capitol Hill has clearly had an impact on this critical discussion over the balance of power in our system of government. On January 17, 2007, after conducting its wiretapping program without court approval for over 5 years, the Justice Department announced that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court had approved its program to listen to communications between people in the U.S. and other countries if there is probable cause to believe one or the other is involved in terrorism. Then, in early February, the Justice Department announced that it would give the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees of both chambers of Congress access to previously withheld documents on the NSA program. The congressional committees with jurisdiction over this issue hailed the agreement as a step in the right direction.

However, there is still significant work to be done. Just before the August recess in 2007, Congress passed hastily crafted legislation to expand the authority of the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to conduct surveillance of suspected foreign terrorists without a warrant or real oversight, even if the targets are communicating with someone in the United States. This legislation was signed into law by the President on August 5, 2007, and expires after six months.

As you are aware, Congress is working on reforms to the FISA bill to be enacted before the expiration of the current legislation. On November 15, 2007, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3773, the Responsible Electronic Surveillance That is Overseen, Reviewed, and Effective Act of 2007 (RESTORE Act) by a vote of 227-189. The House bill does not provide retroactive immunity for private companies that may have participated in the illegal collection of personal information, nor does it provide immunity for Administration officials who may have acted illegally.

On February 12, 2008, the Senate passed S. 2248, making its own reforms to FISA. I am disappointed that S. 2248, if signed into law, will grant an unprecedented level of immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the President’s warrantless wiretapping program. I was proud to cosponsor several amendments, including the Dodd-Feingold amendment to strike the immunity provision, which would have enhanced privacy protections while maintaining the tools to fight terrorism. However, with the defeat of this amendment, telecom companies will not be held accountable even if it could be proven that they clearly and knowingly broke the law and nullified the privacy rights of Americans. I am frustrated by the President’s decision to play politics by threatening to veto any legislation not containing immunity. Why the President continues to try to hold this important legislation captive to that special interest provision defies explanation. The House and Senate must reconcile differences between the two versions of the bill before being signed into law.

The American people understand that new threats require flexible responses to keep them safe, and that our intelligence gathering capability needs to be improved. What they do not want is for the President or the Congress to use these imperatives as a pretext for promoting policies that not only go further than necessary to meet a real threat, but also violate some of the most basic tenets of our democracy. Like most members of Congress, I continue to believe that the essential objective of conducting effective domestic surveillance in the War on Terror can be achieved without discarding our constitutionally protected civil liberties.

Thank you again for writing. Please stay in touch as this debate continues.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

United States Senator

Read Full Post »

People continue to express shock at the abuse they’re subjected to at the hands of security agents at airports. How much more obvious could it be that the federal government is out to humiliate the people, to keep us in our place? Is there still anyone who believes that this activity is intended to protect us from “terrorists”?

The holiday brought bittersweet news: unless the Transportation Security Authority disbands, I’ll never see a certain friend of mine again. His long-term unemployment finally ended, and next month, he starts a great new job. But it’s in Texas, too far to drive; from my place in Connecticut to his new home in San Antonio is 2,000 miles – 500 more than separates London from Moscow.

As an American – that is, someone considered lucky to get seven consecutive days off work – the only way I could possibly travel such distance is to fly. But flying includes the legal obligation I submit to having my genitalia groped by some TSA thug wearing the same latex gloves already shoved down nine dozen other strangers’ underwear. There’s only two ways an American flyer can reliably avoid this: be rich enough to buy your own plane, or a high-ranking congressman or other VIP exempt from the indignities they inflict upon ordinary citizens.

The ACLU maintains an ever-growing database of these indignities, many so graphic they’re illegal to broadcast over public airwaves. Actions that violate FCC standards are embraced by the TSA. “Mary in Texas” reported:

“The TSA agent used her hands to feel under and between my breasts. She then rammed her hand up into my crotch until it jammed into my pubic bone … I was touched in the pubic region in between my labia … She then moved her hand across my pubic region and down the inner part of my upper thigh to the floor. She repeated this procedure on the other side. I was shocked and broke into tears.”

Read more at The Guardian.

Read Full Post »

Forget about due process, forget about the rights of children. Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.

“Kill them…including the children.”

That’s how to solve the threat of militant Muslims?

This quote is from what one official involved in homeland security said was the theme of a speech by Walid Shoebat at an anti-terrorism training in Las Vegas in October 2010.

Our source had turned around after Shoebat’s speech and asked the woman in the chair behind them at the conference what she thought was the solution offered by Shoebat.

“Kill them…including the children…you heard him,” was the full response.

Shoebat’s Las Vegas speech was described by our source as “frightening.”

Read more at The Huffington Post.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »