Militarizing our police

Travlin
By Travlin on Sun, Mar 10, 2013 - 5:57pm

Policing a civilian society is very different from destroying an enemy in battle.  But for years we have seen an accelerating trend of federal law enforcement agencies acquiring and using military equipment, training, tactics, uniforms, and attitudes.  They may not be soldiers, but some of them look and act like they are.

We see the same trend with local police.  One of the clearest examples is the vastly increased number and use of SWAT teams applying military weapons and tactics against civilians in their homes.  This may be justified against a hard core drug gang.  Unfortunately, there are too many stories where they appear to be SWATing a fly with a sledgehammer.  The results can be deadly to innocent people.
From that hotbed of radicalism Popular Mechanics  wink
Jasper, Fla., with 2000 inhabitants and two murders in the past 12 years--obtained seven M-16s from the federal government, leading an area newspaper to run a story with the subhead, "Three stoplights, seven M-16s.”

This approach, though, has led to problems both obvious and subtle. The obvious problem should be especially apparent to readers of this magazine: Once you've got a cool tool, you kind of want to use it. That's true whether it's a pneumatic drill, a laser level or an armored fighting vehicle. SWAT teams, designed to deal with rare events, wound up doing routine police work, like serving drug warrants.

The subtle effect is also real: Dress like a soldier and you think you're at war. And, in wartime, civil liberties--or possible innocence--of the people on "the other side" don't come up much. But the police aren't at war with the citizens they serve, or at least they're not supposed to be.

Here’s an example from Paragould Arkansas, population 26,000
"[Police are] going to be in SWAT gear and have AR-15s around their neck," Stovall said. "If you're out walking, we're going to stop you, ask why you're out walking, check for your ID."

Federal government agencies and local police are also conducting complex joint exercises to increase information sharing and improve coordination.  While this is claimed to enhance protection from terrorist attack, the effect is to give Washington greater influence.  Local police who accept money and equipment from the Department of Homeland Security will have a hard time saying no and walking away from the goodies.

From Huff Post
The Pentagon's 1033 program has also exploded under Obama. In the program's monthly newsletter (Motto: "From Warfighter to Crimefighter"), its director announced in October 2011 that his office had given away a record $500 million in military gear in fiscal year 2011, which he noted, "passes the previous mark by several hundred million dollars." He added, "I believe we can exceed that in FY 12.”

Then there are the Department of Homeland Security's anti-terrorism grants. The Center for Investigative Reporting found in a 2011 investigation that since 2001, DHS has given out more than $34 billion in grants to police departments across the country, many of which have been used to purchase military-grade guns, tanks, armor, and armored personnel carriers. The grants have gone to such unlikely terrorism targets as Fargo, N.D.; Canyon County, Idaho; and Tuscaloosa, Ala.

I can’t forget a remark I found online: It's devastating to me that in a supposedly free country we're expected to assume that the people breaking down our doors are police.”

What are your thoughts?

Travlin

Further reading
New York Times
The Daily Beast
Interactive map of botched raids  (This is incomplete.)
Google – Militarized police
Google – SWAT raids gone wrong

 

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35 Comments

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Thinking about Camden and Detroit

I think it says a lot that all this federal funding is going into high-tech equipment while budget cuts are decimating the ability of municipal police to actually perform their basic functions.  See these stories about Camden and Detroit

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Interesting side note

I know a police officer in a medium sized city who also owns a gun shop and trains his PD in all kinds of weapons use.  Shortly after Sandy Hook he got a flood of orders for ARs and similar 'tactical weapons.'  According to him, 90% of those orders were from other police officers.  As far as I know all those orders were for semi-auto guns legally sold to civilians.

At one point he looked into ordering military grade (fully auto) weapons for a swat team within his PD, but they decided against ordering them because fulfilling the regulatory requirements was too onerous.

Doug

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Good points

Steady
Interesting you mention Detroit.  It is a living example of the devolution Chris and others see as our possible future.  This photo essay of the ruins is amazing.

Doug
Your report doesn’t surprise me.  The job of police chief and sheriff is highly political, so they usually support gun control measures.  But the cops on the beat will frequently urge citizens to arm themselves.  The cops know they can’t protect people.  They just try to catch the criminal afterwards.

Travlin

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Why exactly would a local PD

Why exactly would a local PD need full-auto weaponry?  Hostage situation?  Single shot at range would probably be the solution there.  Horde of criminals overtaking the town?  I'd wager the citizenry- as force multipliers- would be available and willing, along with Nat. Guard. If full auto were practically legal, I'd probably want one just because, but why and how do the police justify having them?  "Spray and Pray" doesn't sound too good outside of the battlefield and in the neighborhood... Aloha, Steve.

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Travlin, I live in the

Travlin,

I live in the Detroit area.  Specifically in the city, while there are some bad areas, those photo's do a disservice to the entire community.  I could take 11 photos that show beautiful and still in use buildings.  I could probably take 11,000 photos.

Detroit proper needs help, and it looks like it is finally happening.

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Overkill

Travlin, 

I can wholeheartedly agree with your premise that the "militarizing" of our civilian law enforcers is overkill in many instances and an anxiety-provoking development when matched with the apparent growing disregard for Constitutional rights and safeguards.  Specifically, I agree:

1.  When an agency has military-type skills (e.g. dynamic entry of a structure where armed assailants are waiting) and equipment (e.g. armored vehicles and select fire rifles/submachine guns), it's often hard for the agency to restrict those skills and equipment to those unusual situations when they are clearly called for.  This is particularly true for agencies that rarely have a legitimate need for those skills/equipment, but have spent considerable time and money training and equipping for the worst-case-scenario (most of which have already happened elsewhere).  I haven't seen it where I work, but there are probably SWAT raids with all the bells and whistles that could've been handled without all the equipment and drama.  There are at least three reasons for this kind of overkill: a) just a plain eagerness to use everything you have, b) a desire to maintain skill levels in "real life" encounters, c) and a bureaucratic desire to justify the time and expense already spent (and occasionally to justify more).  What you don't mention is what happens FAR more frequently, especially in agencies that are overwhelmed by crime like mine: officers and detectives serving high-risk warrants (e.g. the drug gangs you referred to) or engaged in other high risk enforcement actions that go in without SWAT or any equipment that's not attached to their duty belt (handgun, baton, OC spray, etc).  Read the FBI reports of LEO's killed in the line of duty and you will see some that should've waited for SWAT.  If SWAT and specialized equipment is not available because they're on another assignment, the officers can choose to wait 2 hrs to 2 days for SWAT to become available or they can just do the best they can with what they've got.  Furthermore, what Joe Sixpack might think is an appropriate tactic or piece of equipment sitting on his couch, might look considerably different to the officers who have to be the ones who actually enter the building and hunt down a mass murderer.  Regardless, the whole thing is subject to non-police review and policy development.

2.  You didn't mention it, but SWAT serving warrants on the wrong house is NOT caused by military-looking uniforms and full auto AR15's.  SWAT, or any other unit, injuring or killing innocent people is also not caused by "militarization."  It's caused by human error, and the error is usually the fault of investigators and commanders (in regular police uniforms and equipment) who call SWAT in to do the dirty work once a warrant has been approved by a judge.  Imagine a scene in 1966 in which officers are gathered on the spur of the moment from street patrol to serve a warrant on a suspected bomb-maker's hideout.  The officers have no training in dynamic entry and surveillance.  They are armed with six-shot revolvers and a couple of shotguns between them.  At the direction of the investigating detectives, they bust down the front door and in the adrenaline rush shoot the family dog and the grandmother.  They have the wrong address (bomb-maker lives next door) and they bungled the whole thing even if they had had the right address.  They will be sued and lose in Federal court.  One of the outcomes of that court case will be a mandate from the judge to provide specialized training to a specialized unit that will have the appropriate skills and equipment to prevent these kinds of debacles in the future.  Federal judges haven't yet solved that human error thing yet though.  That's pretty much how we got SWAT units along with all the specialized skills and equipment.

3.  Likewise, law enforcement violation of citizens' Constitutional rights is not caused by militarization in uniforms, equipment and training.  It's caused by human error and is enforced in Federal courts in lawsuits against law enforcement agencies and individual officers.  This is a constant tension (effectively enforcing the law while respecting Constitutional protections) and pre-dates the militarization you're talking about.  There's a huge and constantly growing body of court precedents and rulings regarding this.  I think I'm on solid ground to guess that the great majority of the cases in which citizens' rights are violated they are violated not by SWAT officers engaged in SWAT duties, but by "regular" officers and agents engaged in routine actions and investigations.  SWAT type units WILL tend to attract "cowboy" types who should be rejected or supervised closely, but generally those units have the highest standards, the best supervisors and commanders, the best and most frequent training that drills out most errors, and the best track records on the street.

4.  Sometimes I too wonder what in the heck the Federal government is spending such large sums on low crime backwaters when actual high crime urban areas go begging.  It's all in the grant process, and I bet there are some very convincing, well-researched, well-connected grants written in places like Canyon County, Idaho.

ON THE OTHER HAND, most if not all of the militarized training and equipment someone might cite as overkill for local police has been acquired after some unfortunate law enforcement agency was caught flat-footed and woefully unprepared for an ultra-violent incident.  This goes all the way back to the Munich Olympics in which terrorists took hostages and had a blood bath for days on international television.  Study what happened with an eye toward police response.  I did, and it was shockingly poor and unprofessional.  Many deaths and injuries could've been avoided had German police and paramilitary had the training and equipment of any decent SWAT unit today.  The Munich Olympics planted the seed that led local agencies to establish, train and equip what we call SWAT units today.  Then there was the infamous North Hollywood bank robbery.  Google that if you haven't already.  That incident caught the famous LAPD woefully unprepared even though two passing officers observed the robbers ENTERING the bank with masks and rifles and immediately called for all available back up.  That incident, amongst other things, led agencies to start equipping police officers on patrol with semiautomatic rifles (they weren't just for SWAT anymore).  While SWAT was enroute, the officers who had the bank surrounded were impotent against two robbers with full-auto AK47's and head to toe body armor.  All they had were handguns and a few shotguns and neither were effective because the incoming rifle fire and body armor kept them at too great a distance.  That incident also caused many agencies to acquire at least one armored vehicle.  In North Hollywood, there were wounded civilians and officers laying in the street near death who couldn't be rescued and transported to the hospital because the rescuing officers couldn't get close enough (cars cannot reliable stop rifle rounds from going all the way through side to side or front to rear).  Eventually, officers were able to commandeer a passing armored car delivering money and use it to pick up some of the wounded.  Other officers simply risked their lives and rescued wounded people in patrol cars turned to Swiss cheese.  Then you could look at the terrorism incidents in Beslan and Mumbai and realize how many lessons law enforcement agencies have learned from them.  This especially true when you remember how terrorists are just like other criminals in learning from and copying other people's encounters with police.  No Mayor, Police Chief or individual officer wants to be caught off guard, unprepared and inadequately equipped when the next one of these things kicks off.  And none of this even addresses scenarios that the police can imagine that haven't actually been tried yet.  I have one of those in my mind regarding a juicy terrorist target where I work.  A well-equipped crew of four terrorists who knew exactly what to do and executed it perfectly, could cause as many as 160,000 casualties here if the wind was blowing in the prevailing direction at the average velocity.  

By the way, Steve, full auto weapons are very rare in police agencies and almost always restricted to use by highly trained SWAT officers.  And since those weapons are select-fire (can be fired semiautomatically or full auto), most of the time they are carried into a situation they're set on semiauto.  The actual discharge of weapons on full auto by police is exceedingly rare, and when it's done the situations are almost all exceedingly dangerous.  Of course, then there's that human error thing again.

I think the crux of the matter is HOW and WHY officers and agents are deployed, which is mostly a command-level decision and one that is watched over by political leaders and Federal courts.  That's where this battle is best fought.

Tom

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Yes, but
phecksel wrote:

Travlin,

I live in the Detroit area.  Specifically in the city, while there are some bad areas, those photo's do a disservice to the entire community.  I could take 11 photos that show beautiful and still in use buildings.  I could probably take 11,000 photos.

Detroit proper needs help, and it looks like it is finally happening.

Phecksel

No offense was intended.  What you say is undoubtedly true.  But the city government acknowledges 30,000 abandoned houses, and Mayor Bing said 70,000 buildings need to be taken down.  These were once vibrant neighborhoods.  Let’s veer back to the original topic of the discussion.

Travlin 

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Excellent post THC

THC0655

I was hoping you would enlighten us with your view as a veteran police officer.  I really appreciate the great effort you put into your post.  It is very insightful, thoughtful, and informative.  To keep my original post brief enough to attract readers, it had to be simple.  You have shown the complexity of the real world situation and provided a lot of material for discussion.  I’m glad you didn’t take offense with my premise.

THCO655 wrote:

I think the crux of the matter is HOW and WHY officers and agents are deployed, which is mostly a command-level decision and one that is watched over by political leaders and Federal courts.  That's where this battle is best fought.

I think your conclusion is sound.  This is the battle we seem to be losing steadily.

I have great respect for you and police officers in general.  It is a very difficult job and a critical one.  My concern is where law enforcement is heading.  The trends may be sweeping aside those within and without who object to some ominous practices.

Travlin

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VIPR team stops Chicago train

http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/03/15/video-feds-swoop-in-on-metra-trai...

I'm personally a little fuzzy on the legal foundations for TSA VIPR teams doing law enforcement outside of airports and train stations, but here's one where they stopped a Chicago commuter train at the station because their instruments detected an elevated radiation level.  Seems reasonable to me.  Once the agents narrowed their search down to a male passenger who had recently had a heart stress test which left him emitting radiation, they politely moved on and allowed the train and passengers to continue on their way.  If they had stumbled upon a terrorist transporting material for a "dirty bomb" then we would have all been impressed and grateful.

Actually, though, that kind of detection is a daily occurence in a big city.  The question for me is, "Was this something they do everyday, or did they head into the subway for an exercise knowing they would almost certainly 'get a hit' on somebody or something?"  I'm guessing they aren't this vigilant everyday, otherwise this would be a routine occurence not worthy of mentioning in the news.

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TSA can go anywhere
thc0655 wrote:

I'm personally a little fuzzy on the legal foundations for TSA VIPR teams doing law enforcement outside of airports and train stations ...

THC

Maybe those legal foundations are supposed to be “fuzzy” to give them the broadest scope – as in no practical limits at all.  It looks like the legal grounds are now in place so that we all may potentially be subjected to an intrusive “search”, without probable cause, anytime we leave our home.  After all, a terrorist can look like anyone.

The items below are from my recent thread/discussion on the TSA.

From the TSA VIPR web site – “Under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) and the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, TSA has broad responsibility to enhance security in all modes of transportation nationwide. “ 

Now you can find them at trains, buses, subways, trolleys, ferries, ports, tunnels, rest areas, even sporting events or while driving down the highway.

TSA stands for Transportation Security Administration.  Any form of transportation is fair game to them.  They have already conducted operations on highways as they are a form of transportation.  By that reasoning, so are city streets and even sidewalks, though I am not aware of them saying this – yet.  Think about it.  Any time you leave your house you are using some form of “transportation”.

Travlin

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VIPR legal foundations

Travlin,

I'm not a lawyer but I'd like to hear from one who has actually read the empowering federal legislation for the TSA. Until I hear otherwise, my belief is that the TSA cannot do anything on their own outside of airports.  In fact, even IN airports TSA doesn't make arrests!  Local law enforcement does the actual police work (arresting offenders).  This is for two reasons.

First, everything I have read (admittedly not a lot) seems to indicate TSA VIPR teams only operate outside airports when they are "cooperating" with other law enforcement agencies with bona fide jurisdiction over that particular location.  For instance, at the TSA VIPR  web site you provided the link to (thanks!) one sentence says: TSA VIPR teams can be deployed at random locations and times in cooperation with local authorities to deter and defeat terrorist activity; or teams may be deployed to provide additional law enforcement or security presence at transportation venues during specific alert periods or in support of special events.  TSA routinely conducts thousands of VIPR operations each year in transportation systems nationwide.  See the phrase "in cooperation with local authorities"? So, if the Houston PD wants to swoop in on a bus station they can invite TSA to assist under the HPD's jurisdiction.  This is a common type of interagency cooperation and mutual support, and it was happening long before TSA existed.  However, more likely (behind the scenes) the TSA would approach HPD and ask if they'd like to participate in a joint action at a bus station.  Then this is described for PR purposes as an HPD initiative supported by TSA.

Second, I have yet to read or hear about a TSA VIPR action where there was absolutely no local or state law enforcement presence.  This would be consistent with the above.

But the larger issue is: to what extent can the TSA say it's activities outside of airports has contributed in any concrete way to the deterrence and apprehension of TERRORISTS?!  I don't know about you, but I have never heard of ANY TSA activity away from an airport that could remotely be claimed to have legitimately contributed to the deterrence or apprehension of terrorists.  Not one arrest.  Not one plot disrupted.  Absolutely no weapons or materials (eg. bomb making materials) have ever been interdicted.  At least at airports, the TSA can brag that it has confiscated X number of firearms, knives and narcotics in carry on luggage or on the persons of travellers.  (However, the TSA's own system-testing efforts with their own undercover agents are still able to get an alarming percentage of items through the screening system.)  I'd bet my left arm that the "results" the VIPR teams can brag about when working with local law enforcement in bus stations, highway rest stops and the like are the kinds of crimes and criminals local law enforcement could've snagged on their own if they had the manpower to put, say, 20 agents/officers in a bus station for eight hours with no other demands on their time: persons with open arrest warrants, possession of narcotics, an occasional illegal weapon, public intoxication, recovered missing persons (i.e. runaways), possession of stolen property, etc.  If that's all they're going to do, then a Federal block grant to hire more local cops might be a better way of doing it.

My suspicion is that like some other law enforcement agencies that have more money than crime, the mid-level managers at TSA are asked by their superiors to account for how they've spent their oceans of funds and what results they have to show for them.  So, rather than just sit around with nothing to do, those mid-level managers have created work for themselves (and justification for their budgets) by "partnering" with local law enforcement in "transportation venues" outside of airports.  If that's the dynamic, that sure seems like a huge waste of precious funds.  On the other hand, if the Federal government can just print as much money as it wants, someone might argue that how could it be a waste.  But if we ever wanted to balance the Federal budget, this might be a great place to cut.

And finally, if there are 20-person VIPR teams itching for something to do in cooperation with local law enforcement, why not throw them in local police patrol cars in large urban areas being overwhelmed with gun violence?!  How about putting one VIPR agent in every police car that can only be staffed with one local officer in Camden, NJ or the South Side of Chicago?  Now that doesn't have any more to do with terrorism than rousting people at a bus depot, but it might actually contribute to  a reduction in violent crime in places like that. I sure hope it hasn't been done because VIPR teams are a little afraid of that kind of action, because they are portrayed as an elite squad of crime fighters. wink  If I was offered the use of VIPR agents for this kind of work, I'd snap them up in a flash.

Tom

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Violation by “regular” officers verses SWAT

THC

I agree there is a legitimate need for SWAT teams if they are only applied in a small number of special circumstances.  You made that case well, as did the two articles I linked.  But you also explained to us how the use of military equipment, training, tactics, and federal money, fosters a mindset that coupled with bureaucratic imperatives tends to get out of control.

I agree that “regular” police offices probably account for more civil rights violations.  The issue is the intensity and consequences.  Let’s compare two scenarios.

Scenario 1 – You are sitting in your living room in the evening, with your wife in her home office, and your two kids in their bedrooms.  Your dog growls.  Two officers in standard uniforms ring your door bell.  When you answer they present a warrant to search your house.  You read this, step aside, and they enter.  After a while they realize they have the wrong address and leave.  No a pleasant experience, but it was done in accordance with the constitution so you can let it go.

Scenario 2 – You are sitting in your living room in the evening, with your wife in her home office, and your two kids in their bedrooms.  Your dog growls.  You hear a muffled shout.  Bang!  Your door bursts open.  Boom!  A flash bang grenade explodes and you are blinded, deafened, and completely disoriented.  Five screaming figures waving guns storm in, clad in armor from head to toe, some with shields and rifles.  They look like Imperial Storm Troopers from Star Wars but in black not white.  Your loyal family dog goes nuts barking.  Bang!  You hear a shot as it is killed.  They charge into every room yelling orders.  They drag in your wife and two kids, screaming and shaking in terror.  You are surrounded by armed figures with guns they will instantly point at you if you move.  After a while they realize they have the wrong address – and that they are in big trouble.  They will try desperately to find a “crime” to cover themselves.  A long time later they leave.  Your whole family is severely traumatized and will never be the same.  Your dog is dead, and you’re just glad no one else is.  If you had resisted in any way you probably would be too.

That is the difference with the militarization of police.  Examples of scenario 2 happens far too frequently and are well documented.  Use of this level of force demands a very high level of due diligence that can easily get lost in the press of the daily world.  In some cases an address is targeted on the word of a confidential informant, who is a career criminal and lying weasel.  Time was not taken to get corroboration or observe the location.  Some very obvious mistakes have been made by careless use of very deadly force.

As the number of SWAT teams grows, and they are used more for routine police work, we can expect problems to grow.  Here are excerpts from the Huff Post link in my original post.

Huff Post wrote:

Throughout those early years, SWAT teams were generally used as Gates had intended. They deployed when there was a suspect, gunman or escaped fugitive who posed an immediate threat to the public, using force to defuse an already violent situation.

By 1995, however, nearly 90 percent of cities with 50,000 or more people had a SWAT team -- and many had several …

Even in smaller towns -- municipalities with 25,000 to 50,000 people -- Kraska found that the number of SWAT teams increased by more than 300 percent between 1984 and 1995. By 2000, 75 percent of those towns also had their own SWAT team.

Kraska estimates that total number of SWAT raids in America jumped from just a few hundred per year in the 1970s, to a few thousand by the early 1980s, to around 50,000 by the mid-2000s.

"After the law was passed," he continued, "we found out that there are ZIP codes in Maryland where every search warrant is served by a SWAT team. I mean, even if you don't care about civil liberties, in some places less than half of these raids result in so much as a single arrest. So you're conducting these dangerous, volatile raids, you're terrifying people and putting them at risk, and you're serving no law enforcement purpose."

I think the problem is much broader than SWAT teams, but they are the most obvious example.

I have not lead a sheltered life.  I do understand how vicious people can be.  I realize the bad guys have gotten more dangerous.  I think most cops deserve better pay and a lot more respect.  I know they want to go home to their families in the evening too, and deserve the tools to do that.  But at what point do police transmute into an occupying army?  As a law abiding citizen I should NOT have to assume the armed people invading my home are police.  But if I resist I will be shot and probably killed.  That is not the America I grew up in.  And I will never call that right.

Travlin

PS – I see you made another long post while I was composing this one!  And I was planning to have a beer and watch a video. smiley  I appreciate your discussion of this matter, especially with your perspective from the inside.

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thc0655 wrote: I have one of
thc0655 wrote:

I have one of those in my mind regarding a juicy terrorist target where I work.  A well-equipped crew of four terrorists who knew exactly what to do and executed it perfectly, could cause as many as 160,000 casualties here if the wind was blowing in the prevailing direction at the average velocity.  

Tom,

A little aside here.  I've often wondered about the above type of scenario.  As a single individual, if I were intent on causing terrorism, I could create havoc in any number of situations.  With a team of six armed with legally procurable weapons and other supplies, I could envision a number of scenarios where one could create absolute bedlam of epic proportions.  All of which makes me wonder.  If foreign terrorists (or domestic, for that matter), especially jihadists or others of that ilk who willing to die, are as intent on wreaking destruction here as the MSM and government would have us believe, why haven't they been successful in the past 10 or so years?  They would have to be imbeciles to have been prevented from doing so ... OR the threat isn't what it's commonly presented to be. 

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Where are all the terrorists?

AO said,  If foreign terrorists (or domestic, for that matter), especially jihadists or others of that ilk who willing to die, are as intent on wreaking destruction here as the MSM and government would have us believe, why haven't they been successful in the past 10 or so years?  They would have to be imbeciles to have been prevented from doing so ... OR the threat isn't what it's commonly presented to be. 

I've been puzzling on that very question since 9/11.  After a year, the theory I came up with goes like this, "The terrorists used up their best 19 guys on 9/11!"  Have you listened to the actual recorded conversations between the Mumbai terrorists and their handlers back in Pakistan?  (The handlers were in constant phone contact with the terrorists for hours and hours, and gave them directions and encouragement - to be sure to kill themselves and collect their 72 virgins - to keep the attack on track.)  It was pitiful.  It's like they found 10 Gomer Pyles and Forrest Gumps in the godforsaken corners of Pakistan and signed them up for this tragic assignment, using flattery and religious fanaticism to seal the deal. What a horrible, evil way to take advantage of low intelligence, lost souls looking for direction in life!!  Another thing working in our favor is that it is apparently not as easy as the jihadists would love for us to believe to recruit people for suicide missions (as opposed to dangerous, life threatening missions).  And don't underestimate the role of greed and delusions of grandeur in the jihadi leaders:  It's not enough that they kill 20 people and terrorize a whole city.  No.  They have to pull off a mission that brings them world-wide fame in the jihadist world by being bigger and flashier than anything that's gone before.  They don't settle for what could rather easily be accomplished to further their aims -- to satisfy their egos they have to put on a Hollywood-level production. All that being said, the threat is DEFINITELY much, much less than we've been led to believe.

Travlin,

To tell you the truth, I don't know how cops and their commanders get away with the stuff I read and hear about (like the stuff you referenced).  But I KNOW why we don't pull that kind of crap here and it's a feature of our republic and it's division of powers: lawsuits!  When we first moved here in the late 80's I heard a startling statistic that may have changed in absolute numbers in the meantime but I bet the percentage is close to the same.  Back then, I was told there were 30,000 lawyers practicing in the state of Pennsylvania, and 16,000 of those in the City of Philadelphia alone.  Our Dept is absolutely focused on preventing lawsuits in the future and paying for the ones in the past.  Policies are written and refined over and over again to address issues raised by previous lawsuits (which we lost) and future lawsuits we want to avoid.  "Litigious society" I believe was first coined about Philadelphia smiley.  Now I believe that dynamic has been carried too far and has warped the way things should be done, but it certainly has allowed citizens to limit the powers of the executive branch (law enforcement) through review by the judicial branch.  I think this is why big cities where there are lots of hungry lawyers willing to work on commission is where you will see the most professional and restrained police departments.  Any where else where they haven't lost some big lawsuits and/or haven't had to be monitored by Federal courts for years and decades is where police run amok.  A couple of 10 million dollar lawsuits tightens things up real quick!  And that's what would happen here after BOTH of your scenarios above.  

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That’s what worries me
thc0655 wrote:

All that being said, the threat is DEFINITELY much, much less than we've been led to believe.

THC

I find your professional assessment of the likelihood of a terror attack reassuring.  Until I think about it.  Then I find it very scary.

Does this mean the federal government is exaggerating this threat as an excuse to undermine civil liberties and exert much tighter control?  Is this an excuse to build  federal police and paramilitary forces to compel us to accept that control against our will?  What do they foresee that makes them think this is necessary?

Or does this mean they are trying to reassure the nervous sheep that they are being kept safe?  And a lot of people are buying it?

I expect it is a combination of both points, but it keeps getting harder to discount that first one.

Here’s what I can’t get over.  This huge strong nation, with a 237 year tradition of liberty, suffered one surprise attack by a handful of people.  In absolute terms the results were not significant compared to what many nations have faced.  But they scared us so badly we are doing the job for them.  They slapped our face and now we are destroying ourselves.  Were they really so clever they tricked us into doing their bidding?  Or are we that weak?

Travlin

PS -- It's really beer time now.  I'll get back to you on that VIPR question later. cheeky

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Travlin, one of the most eye

Travlin,

one of the most eye opening books I have read is Glenn Beck's the overton window.  I'm not a Beck fan, thinks he's too much of a chicken little for my tastes and beliefs, but that book made a huge impact.

While everything may look like a nail to a hammer, I'm more worried if some of the activities are intentional.  IDK, if it's happening, it's game over for everybody.

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That’s interesting

Phecksel

I’d never heard of The Overton Window.  Turns out Beck’s title comes from, “a political theory that describes as a narrow "window" the range of ideas that the public will find acceptable … “  The book was widely panned by reviewers, but made the New York Times Best Seller List.  I’m not a Beck fan either, but I appreciate leaning something new.  Thanks.

I’ll add a third reason to my list above.  Bureaucratic empire building.  There are a lot of government jobs and contracts created by scaring people.  A lot of folks want to get in on that gravy train.

Travlin

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Let’s switch threads

THC

I composed a detailed reply to your post 11 above.  You’ll find it in post 19 in the thread TSA – Not just for airports anymore.  I want people interested in TSA to see our discussion.

Travlin

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The Overton Window is an

The Overton Window is an awful fiction novel... However, I recommend it all the time.  There are two threads in the book, one is the concept of the overton window, which is a constant testing of limits and backing off.  The other thread is the concept of a group of super brokers that are attempting to control the worlds economy.  while the book is written as a fiction novel, there is a LOT of thought provoking ideas and concepts.  I won't give away the ending, but it's well worth the read.  Literally shook me to my core.

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Looking for inspiration, look no further.

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We Will Bankrupt Ourselves With all this "Protection"

Thanks for taking the lead on this important initiative Travelin', we all owe you a debt of gratitude.  I too am greatly concerned about the militarization of our police.  I live in a nice suburb of Houston which has never had any type of terrorism at all...I was shocked to see several armored military vehicles at our local Police station some months ago.  I also worry about simply the NUMBER of police vehicles (and homeland security, constables, school police, METRO police, sheriffs etc).  It seems like huge overkill and way too high a price to pay (who asked for all this anyway?  I dont remember this ever coming up for any type of vote or even being discussed).  I for one do not favor this much "protection" especially when we as a nation are already headed into bankruptcy with taxes that are already too high.  Whatever happened to individual responsibility and watching out for your neighbor?  It seems to me the few terrorist instances we have had in this country have provoked an "autoimmune response" by our government and its the autoimmune response that will kill us (not the disease).  That is probably the terrorists intent anyway (if so, it seems to be working just as they planned).

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The crux of the problem

Here, I believe, is the crux of the problem.  No one, including the POTUS and the AGOTUS, have the authority to violate our rights in the Constitution.  The Dept of Homeland Security cannot decide that they will violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution by giving themselves the power to do so or because they say they NEED that power to "protect us."

http://washington.cbslocal.com/2013/06/05/dept-of-homeland-security-lapt...

DHS has been doing this and I expect them to continue doing it until they are challenged in Federal Court by someone who was the victim of these kinds of illegal searches and seizures.  What I find incredible is that no one has sued DHS on Fourth Amendment grounds.  I do allow for the possibility that one or more lawsuits have been filed but not publicized by our lapdog MSM.  I'm so upset I feel like going to Canada this weekend and then returning and refusing to let them search or seize my electronic devices so I could file the lawsuit.  Anybody have $1 million for my legal fees and appeals?  I guarantee that these illegal searches and seizures would be shot down in a New York minute in any Federal Court in the country (even an ultra liberal one like the 9th Circuit).

And that brings up another point: Where's the ACLU and the MSM in all of this?  I could understand them turning a blind eye to Federal violations of the Second Amendment since they don't "believe in" that one themselves.  But this is the Fourth Amendment.  This, along with the First, is one of their two FAVORITE Amendments/rights.  Are they THAT enamored of the POTUS that they're willing to swallow all their integrity and let this go on?

Tom

"May the odds be ever in your favor."   Hunger Games

 

 

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I stand corrected

I stand corrected.  Insanity rules.  It's out of control.  And the whole Federal government is in on it.  I'm going to volunteer to that one way mission to Mars I've been hearing about.

http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/is-the-government-also-monitoring-...

 

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Time to go back to using paper

and talking privately on secluded stretches of beach....without your cell phone.

What alternatives do we have.

Lordie.

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Agree, use paper, don't carry cell phone.

Very good points VeganD.

To talk about a sensitive topic, we need to get the postal address and write it out by hand on paper.  

Even a letter that is not transmitted electonically, but is simply typed using a word processor on a computer that is hooked to the internet can be read remotely with the correct technology.  Deleting the letter afterwards is no help as it can be "retrieved."  And all firewall technology (like Norton or McAffee Internet Security) is built with a "backdoor" that allows access to the computer without the users knowledge or consent.  I'm sure that the NSA et. al. years ago requested Norton's code key for "national security" purposes.

And we need to not carry our cell phones to locations where we do not want to be tracked.  Some 700 demonstrators / rioters in London last year were prosecuted based on street camera facial identification information combined with the tracking information carried within their cell phones.  The cell phone GPS location log in your iPhone can be querried remotely without your consent or knowledge.  And the cell phone system knows each persons approximate location (+/- 50 feet) continuously.  And this location information is continuously recorded and logged.  <--See this video TED talk by German Green Party Activist, Malte Spitz who is shocked when he discovers the detailed location record that his cell phone company stored on him.

I am reminded of the prison design called the Panopticon.  

The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.

 

The Panopticon prison design ... was invoked by Michel Foucault (in Discipline and Punish) as metaphor for ... societies that use surveillance for the purpose of disciplinary power. "The Panopticon creates a consciousness of permanently being watched, where no bars, chains, and heavy locks are necessary for domination any more.[37]"

The sense that "we are being watched" creates tremendous psychological pressure to "be good" and a perpetual state of fear of punishement for some act that might be considered and infraction.  I experience this as a very powerful psychological force.  Do you??

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sand_puppy wrote: The sense
sand_puppy wrote:

 

The sense that "we are being watched" creates tremendous psychological pressure to "be good" and a perpetual state of fear of punishement for some act that might be considered and infraction.  I experience this as a very powerful psychological force.  Do you??

Yes, and it is not winning my heart nor my mind.

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Deninger's take on NSA data mining

I couldn't say it better.

http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=221539

I'll tell you now, if local police where I'm at acted on this same principle (I'm violating your Fourth Amendment rights now by seizing something of yours without probable cause or a warrant because I MIGHT be able to use it later to solve a crime) such cops would be fired and hauled into Federal Court in a heart beat.  Apparently, the Fourth Amendment and the huge body of court precedents attached to it apply only to local police, not to Federal agencies.

"May the odds be ever in your favor."  Hunger Games

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NSA Data Mining not intended for court

My niece, who just finished law school, echos your impressions here, Tom.  (And Denninger's.) Data obtained via global societal surveillance methods would never hold up in court.

And that's the rub.

I fear that this information is probably NOT INTENDED to go to court.  When the government can classify a dissident as a "terrorist" and imprison him/her at will without charges or any legal process, those pesky legal concerns becomes moot.

This two page summary of The Birth of the Gestapo from The History Place shows many similar themes.  I am very discouraged about what comes next.

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Pardon Snowden WhiteHouse petition...

I signed the petition....

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/pardon-edward-snowden/Dp03vGYD

http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/06/10/the-pardon-edward-snowden-petiti...

Yesterday, someone created a “Pardon Edward Snowden” petition on Whitehouse.gov and I’ve never seen a petition get this many signatures this fast.  Recall, the Administration raised the threshold on these petitions from 25,000 to 100,000 back in January.  This threshold represents the amount needed to garner a White House response.  This petition already has 21,500 signatures in less than a day.  I’d like to see it get to one million. If it gets a massive amount of signatures it will be a major statement, media story and embarrassment to Obama.

 

 

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Thanks

Thanks for the link to the petition.  I signed it, but with disgust that we have to petition for this brave man who is upholding the principles of democracy to be pardoned for his patriotic act. 

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A Thank Snowden Petition

http://www.rootsaction.org/home

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Clean your yard and don't be too sustainable! A rant.

Begin Rant -

The following news piece has been making the rounds and for some reason it has been hitting a nerve more than usual with me.

Texas Police Hit Organic Farm With Massive SWAT Raid

From what most sites state, the SWAT team was used to raid an organic farm because they were suspected of growing Marijuana and had code violations for the condition of the 3.5 acre property.  Plants were destroyed and taken, building materials removed, and no evidence of drugs found.  One of the members of the farm was arrested for an outstanding parking ticket. Others were held for hours while a search was conducted.

Really?  Have we reached such a low point that we have to use our valuable resources on such things.  Do I need to worry about my wood pile being stacked properly for fear of my kids being held at gun point.  Is there no common sense or reasonable thought processes left with those who have positions of authority? Probably would send the National Guard out after they see my pile of pallets and hops plants growing. 

Really? Taking blueberry and tomatillo plants?  Cutting down native grasses? Do you think the police took the cardboard to the recycling center after they removed it from the property?  :)

I just have to shake my head. Negative thoughts cleared. Back to building a better future for my kids.  Maybe I can get them to go stack the wood.  :)

- End Rant

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I saw that too Jason...

I saw an article about that SWAT action linked via Michael Krieger;

http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/08/17/texas-swat-team-raids-organic-fa...

This kind of stuff pisses me off to no end.... Texas is not on my list of places to visit or live.   

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Creeping intrusion

My usual paths are through suburan and rural New England.  I try to avoid even our small cities.  Yesterday I had to run an errand in the city center.  I returned to my office via one of the poorer neighborhoods.  Waiting at a red light next to a bank branch, I noticed a figure standing in the doorway of the bank.  He was in full black para-military dress. He was wearing a holster belt with a number of items hanging from it. He had a badge on his chest. From a distance he looked like an armed police officer or national guardsman in battle gear.  The only thing missing was a helmet as he wore a military type cap instead. 

It seemed strange to have the police or national guard at a bank at midday on a weekday.   The light changed and I moved closer.  Now I could see that what I thought was a gun was just some sort of box attached to his belt.  He turned around and the back of his shirt revealed he was not police or national guard but worked for something called 'Bank Sec. Co.".  I have never seen such a security presence at any of the suburban branches, or even in the main offices down city.  Some branches do have security guards but they do not patrol the sidewalk in pseudo battle gear.

This was a branch of a large, too big to fail, national bank.  Apparently their consultants have caught onto the idea that a para military presence can keep the local population in line.  Folks were walking the sidewalk, leaving and entering the branch without so much as a glance at the security guard-soldier, so I assume his presence is a normal thing. I was taken aback.  Maybe my circles are too small, but I had not seen anything like this before.

Our whole country is being militarized without many of us paying attention to what is happening.  This is proceeding gradually enough that most citizens are not stopping to think about it or to realize the ramifications of living in a society policed by a military authority.

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