Judge: 'Flash bang' grenade unnecessary

MOUNT HOLLY — A Superior Court judge has ruled that the use of a "flash bang" grenade during a commando-style police raid on a Burlington Township home was unreasonable.

A Burlington County prosecutor protested the ruling, saying the decision could have wider implications on the use of the grenades by police in future raids.

"This is a matter of some import and could have some impact on how search warrants are executed throughout the state," said assistant county prosecutor Michael Luciano.

Defense lawyer Kevin Walker said the submachine-gun toting police turned the raided home into a "war zone," calling the grenades dangerous because they can ignite fires and even cause bodily harm.

"The ruling tells the law enforcement community that these devices will be subject to judicial review. They (police) can't descend on a house and blindly toss these devices," said Walker, the deputy public defender in charge of the state's public defender's office in the county.

Superior Court Judge James Morley concluded that state police who led the raid with other law enforcement agencies in 2003 had no justification to throw two of the incendiary devices, which cause a loud noise and a flash of light to startle occupants and to give police time to act.

Morley said there was no indication the homeowner possessed any weapons or would be armed and dangerous when police obtained a search warrant. The owner was not home and police found only a sleeping teenager.

"This was a commando raid-like scenario . . . and my decision was based on the overall way they (police) approached the case -- at 5 a.m. with 29 police officers in commando gear and pointing a weapon at a sleeping 17-year-old," Morley said.

The judge suppressed prosecution use of the drug evidence collected at the scene against the father, Michael R. Fanelle of Pinewald Lane, Burlington Township, and overturned his conviction.

Fanelle had pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and was sentenced to serve probation, but in 2006 a state appeals court ordered a trial judge to hold a hearing on the use of the grenades. Morley held that hearing over several days this summer.

The drug, found in a bedroom safe that Fanelle opened for police after he arrived home at 6 a.m. the day of the raid, was described by defense lawyer Kevin Walker as a "minuscule" amount of methamphetamine consistent with personal use.

Morley said the police would have found the drug without the use of the devices because the owner opened the safe for them.

Walker said the grenades caused "substantial" damage to the home, burning a blast hole in the rug, a television screen and ruining TV speakers.

He also said a Burlington Township police officer made many misrepresentations about Fanelle in an affidavit to obtain the search warrant even though he knew Fanelle and had never known him to possess weapons or pose a violent threat to police.

Assistant prosecutor Michael Luciano said his office is exploring a possible appeal of Morley's ruling.

"Any time police enter a building with a search warrant, it can be a dangerous situation," he said.

No decision has yet been made by the prosecutor or the judge on possible dismissal of all charges against Fanelle.

Reach Carol Comegno at (609) 267-9486 or ccomegno@courierpostonline.com

New Spy Software Coming On-Line: "Surveillance in a Box" Makes its Debut

You've heard of the FBI's "Quantico Circuit" and were outraged by illegal warrantless wiretapping by Bushist minions. To no avail, you flooded Congress with emails and phone calls, angered by the bipartisan "FISA Amendments Act of 2008" and the swell party thrown by AT&T for "Blue Dog" Democrats in Denver this week for the convention.

But just in time for a new administration (and the bundles of cash always at the ready for the expanding homeland security market), comes a complete "surveillance in a box" system called the Intelligence Platform!

According to New Scientist, German electronics giant Siemens has developed software allegedly capable of integrating

...tasks typically done by separate surveillance teams or machines, pooling data from sources such as telephone calls, email and internet activity, bank transactions and insurance records. It then sorts through this mountain of information using software that Siemens dubs "intelligence modules". (Laura Margottini, "Surveillance Made Easy," New Scientist, 23 August 2008)

New Scientist reports that the firm has sold the system to some 60 countries in Europe and Asia. Which countries? Well, Siemens won't say.

However, privacy and human rights advocates say the system bears a remarkable resemblance to China's "Golden Shield," a massive surveillance network that integrates huge information databases, internet and email monitoring, speech and facial recognition platforms in combination with CCTV monitoring.

Designed specifically for "fusion centers" or their European/Asian equivalents, the Intelligence Platform promises to provide "real-time" high-tech tools to foil terrorist plots before they're hatched (or keep tabs on antiwar/antiglobalization activists).

The latest item in the emerging "intelligent" software niche market, Intelligence Platform has been "trained" on a large number of sample documents to zero in on names, phone numbers or places from generic text. "This means it can spot names or numbers that crop up alongside anyone already of interest to the authorities, and then catalogue any documents that contain such associates," New Scientist avers.

In the UK, the Home Office announced it plans to provide law enforcement, local councils and other public agencies access to the details of text messages, emails and internet browsing. This follows close on the heels of an announcement last May that New Labour was considering building a massive centralized database "as a tool to help the security services tackle crime and terrorism." According to The Guardian,

Local councils, health authorities and hundreds of other public bodies are to be given the power to access details of everyone's personal text, emails and internet use under Home Office proposals published yesterday.

Ministers want to make it mandatory for telephone and internet companies to keep details of all personal internet traffic for at least 12 months so it can be accessed for investigations into crime or other threats to public safety. ...

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats last night branded the measure a "snooper's charter". (Alan Travis, "'Snooper's charter' to check texts and email," The Guardian, Wednesday, August 13, 2008)

A blurb posted on Siemens' website claims that the "challenge" is "to foster the well-being of law-abiding citizens" and therefore, "authorized groups need to have direct access to communications between suspects, whether it is individuals, groups or organizations. Only then can they take appropriate action, detect, prevent and anticipate crimes and guarantee peace and security."

In other words, if you've got nothing to hide "trust us:" the shopworn mantra of securocrats everywhere. And in today's climate, this is an especially burdensome challenge for state security and corporate spies who demand "highly-sophisticated, multi-level voice and data recordings" in order to destroy our rights while transforming our respective societies into Orwellian police states. New Scientist reports,

Once a person is being monitored, pattern-recognition software first identifies their typical behaviour, such as repeated calls to certain numbers over a period of a few months. The software can then identify any deviations from the norm and flag up unusual activities, such as transactions with a foreign bank, or contact with someone who is also under surveillance, so that analysts can take a closer look.

But if the experience of U.S. Fusion Centers are any indication of the accuracy of the Siemens system, false positives will be endemic while thousands, if not millions, of perfectly innocent individuals are forever ensnared in the state's data driftnet. According to the American Civil Liberties Union,

The Justice Department's 2006 Guidelines envision fusion centers doing more than simply sharing legitimately acquired law enforcement information across different branches of our burgeoning security establishment. The Guidelines encourage compiling data "from nontraditional sources, such as public safety entities and private sector organizations" and fusing it with federal intelligence "to anticipate, identify, prevent, and/or monitor criminal and terrorist activity." This strongly implies the use of statistical dragnets that have come to be called data-mining. The inevitable result of a data-mining approach to fusion centers will be:

Many innocent individuals will be flagged, scrutinized, investigated, placed on watch lists, interrogated or arrested, and possibly suffer irreparable harm to their reputation, all because of a hidden machinery of data brokers, information aggregators and computer algorithms.

Law enforcement agencies will waste time and resources investing in high-tech computer boondoggles that leave them chasing false leads--while real threats go unaddressed and limited resources are sucked away from the basic, old-fashioned legwork that is the only way genuine terror plots have ever been foiled. (Michael German and Jay Staley, "What's Wrong with Fusion Centers," American Civil Liberties, December 2007)

But perhaps "high-tech computer boondoggles" are precisely the point!

After all, the Boeing Company and their sidekicks at SRI International (which describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit research institute") were recently criticized by a House Science and Technology Subcommittee for "irregularities" in the government's Railhead program, a suite of software "upgrades" to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), "a vast database of names that feeds the nation's terrorist watch list," the Associated Press reported.

Railhead was touted as a "fix" for a system built by Lockheed Martin in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. According to congressional investigators, the system provides data to all federal terrorist watch lists, including the "no-fly" list run by the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration and the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, a national clearinghouse for federal, state and local fusion centers.

According to the House committee the program is months behind schedule, millions over budget and "would actually be less capable than the U.S. government terrorist tracking system it is meant to replace." Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported,

When tested, the new system failed to find matches for terrorist-suspect names that were spelled slightly different from the name entered into the system, a common challenge when translating names from Arabic to English. It also could not perform basic searches of multiple words connected with terms such as "and" and "or." (Siobhan Gorman, "Flaws Found in Watch List for Terrorists, The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2008)

Leaving aside the racist presuppositions of the Journal, to wit, that Arab = terrorist (no small matter when dealing with nativist yahoos here in the "homeland" or elswehere), as Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) said in a statement, "the program appears to be on the brink of collapse after an estimated half-billion dollars in taxpayer funding has been spent on it." According to the committee,

The Railhead program had been undergoing an internal technical implosion for more than one year. But public statements and sworn public testimony to Congress from senior officials within the NCTC [National Counterterrorist Center] and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) never revealed the mounting technical troubles, poor contractor management or lax government oversight that appears to have been endemic throughout the program and has led to Railhead's colossal failure. Astoundingly, the Director of NCTC and the Director of National Intelligence have both specifically pointed to TIDE and NCTC Online as hallmarks of the government’s information sharing accomplishments. ("Technical Flaws Hinder Terrorist Watch List; Congress Calls for Investigation," Committee on Science and Technology, Press Release, August 21, 2008)

In a technical sense, the NCTC and the ODNI may be correct in touting TIDE and NCTC Online as "hallmarks of the government's information sharing accomplishments," if by "sharing accomplishments" they meant handing over unlimited bundles of taxpayer's hard-earned cash to enterprising contractors!

Gorman reports that in "recent weeks, the government has fired most of the 862 private contractors from dozens of companies working on the Railhead project, and only a skeleton crew remains." Boeing and SRI's response? According to the Journal, "calls to officials of Boeing and SRI were not immediately returned."

I bet they weren't! Especially since the committee said "Railhead insiders" allege that the government paid Boeing some $200 million to retrofit the company's Herndon, Virginia office with security upgrades so that top secret software work could be performed there. The government then leased the same office space from Boeing. How's that for hitting the old corporate "sweet spot."

None of this of course, should surprise anyone, least of all defense lobby dollar-addicted members of Congress who, like Captain Renault in Casablanca are "shocked, shocked" to find their corporate "partners" have failed to deliver--again.

According to Washington Technology's list of "2008 Top 100 Government Prime Contractors," Boeing clocked-in at No. 2 with $9,706,621,413 in taxpayer handouts. No slouches themselves, Siemens placed No. 79 with some $186,292,146 in prime government contracts across an array of defense and civilian agencies. With Railhead's imminent demise, perhaps the German electronics giant has a future in the U.S. "homeland security" market with its Intelligent Platform?

Then again, perhaps not. Computer security expert Bruce Schneier told New Scientist, "'currently there are no good patterns available to recognise terrorists,' he says, and questions whether Siemens has got around this." But since the business of government is business, maybe they do after all.

Meanwhile, the PRISE consortium of security technology and human rights experts funded by the European Union, called "for a moratorium on the development of fusion technologies, referring explicitly to the Siemens Intelligence Platform," Margottini reported.

According to New Scientist, PRISE analysts told the EU, "The efficiency and reliability of such tools is as yet unknown. More surveillance does not necessarily lead to a higher level of societal security. Hence there must be a thorough examination of whether the resulting massive constraints on human rights are proportionate and justified."

But here in the United States concern over trivial things such as "massive constraints on human rights," unlike state attacks against the "quaint" rights of the average citizen are, like the impeachment of a regime studded with war criminals, most definitely "off the table."

While the Democrats celebrate Barack Obama's coronation in Denver this week and the Republicans are poised to do the same for John McCain in the Twin Cities rest assured, administrations may change, but the corporate grift is eternal.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press.

Tom Burghardt is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Tom Burghardt


San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Facing Charges

INDIO, CA: Yesterday, Richard Charles Heverly, 41 of LaVerne, was arrested and booked into the Indio Jail on 4 felony charges: assault with a semi-automatic firearm, assault under the color of authority, making a criminal threat and false imprisonment, for his actions surrounding a big rig fire on the Interstate 10 freeway near Eagle Mountain on August 10, 2008.

A tow truck driver noticed an unsafe big rig fire on the side of the road and called the California Highway Patrol dispatch center to report the incident. While on the phone with the dispatcher he maneuvered his tow truck to block the freeway to keep people away from the burning truck until appropriate emergency response could arrive. Heverly, later identified as an off-duty San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy, approached the tow truck driver and flashed a law enforcement badge. Witness reports indicate that Heverly escalated the confrontation by unlawfully handcuffing and holding the tow truck driver at gunpoint.

Heverly was booked into the Riverside County Jail and was released on $150,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in court on October 29, 2008.

For Immediate Release
August 19 , 2008
Contact: Michael Jeandron 951/955.9215


Ex-drugs policy director calls for legalisation

A former senior civil servant who was responsible for coordinating the government's anti-drugs policy now believes that legalisation would be less harmful than the current strategy. Julian Critchley, the former director of the Cabinet Office's anti-drugs unit, also said that his views were shared by the "overwhelming majority" of professionals in the field, including police officers, health workers and members of the government.

He also claimed that New Labour's policy on drugs was based on what was thought would play well with the Daily Mail readership, regardless of evidence of what worked. Downing Street policy advisers were said to have suggested stunts such as sending boats down the Thames to catch smugglers to coincide with policy announcements.

Critchley - not be to be confused with the late Tory MP of the same name - was director of the UK Anti-Drug Coordination Unit in the Cabinet Office, with the job of coordinating government policy across departments and supporting the then drugs Tsar, Keith Hellawell. In a contribution to the debate on the "war on drugs" on a BBC website, Critchley spelled out his reasons for now supporting legalisation and claimed the government's position is hypocritical. Yesterday Critchley, who is now a teacher, confirmed that the blog posting accurately conveyed his views.

"I joined the unit more or less agnostic on drugs policy, being personally opposed to drug use, but open-minded about the best way to deal with the problem," he wrote on the blog. "I was certainly not inclined to decriminalise. However, during my time in the unit, as I saw more and more evidence of 'what works', to quote New Labour's mantra of the time, it became apparent to me that ... enforcement and supply-side interventions were largely pointless. They have no significant, lasting impact on the availability, affordability or use of drugs."

He said that his views were widely held in the government but rarely expressed in public. "I think what was truly depressing about my time in UKADCU was that the overwhelming majority of professionals I met, including those from the police, the health service, the government and voluntary sectors held the same view: the illegality of drugs causes far more problems for society and the individual than it solves. Yet publicly, all those intelligent, knowledgeable people were forced to repeat the nonsensical mantra that the government would be 'tough on drugs', even though they all knew the government's policy was actually causing harm."

Critchley believed that the benefits to society of the fall in crime as a result of legalisation would be dramatic. "Tobacco is a legal drug, whose use is declining, and precisely because it is legal, its users are far more amenable to government control, education programmes and taxation." Anyone who wished to purchase the drug of their choice could already do so. "The idea that many people are holding back solely because of a law which they know is already unenforceable is simply ridiculous."

His intervention was welcomed yesterday by drugs law reformers. "Julian Critchley is one of the brave few to tell the truth about the failure of prohibition and the need to replace it with a system of regulation," said Danny Kushlick, of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. "It is truly shameful that there are so many more who know that the war on drugs is overwhelmingly counterproductive, and yet continue to remain silent, tacitly endorsing a policy that they know creates misery, degradation and death for millions across the globe."


Judge declines to reduce bail despite San Bernardino officer's allegation

SAN BERNARDINO - An allegation from a San Bernardino police sergeant that his own department is illegally holding suspects "on ice" will likely re-emerge in court later this month.

At an explosive Friday hearing, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge John Martin said he expects several attorneys to address in August whether Sgt. Bradley Lawrence illegally detained two gang suspects, then connected to an ongoing investigation, at a July 2 traffic stop.

Five others suspected of belonging to the same gang were arrested the same day after a San Bernardino narcotics team later obtained and executed a search warrant on an apartment in the 3200 block of East 21st Street, court records say.

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The illegal-detention issue arose during a bail-reduction hearing meant to reduce the bail for all seven defendants from $1 million each. Police have identified the seven as gang members, and each has been charged with possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana for sale and street terrorism.

"People want to see San Bernardino cleaned out," said Deputy Public Defender David Menezes, among the many attorneys who watched the hearing from the audience. "But it has to be in a constitutional manner."

Deputy Public Defender Samuel Knudsen, who represents 27-year-old Carl Edward Alexander, said in court that he expects his client isn't the only suspect San Bernardino police have illegally detained.

"They're scooping people off the street and holding then without phone calls, and without charges, for hours," Knudsen said outside the courtroom. "It's a misdemeanor to do that."

Previously, The Press-Enterprise had obtained an e-mail from Sgt. Mike Desrochers saying Lawrence had a history of detaining suspects without charges and leaving them in jail overnight.

Another document shows suspect Greg Parker in a San Bernardino police log as being "on ice" and held on unknown charges. That department's jail is separate from the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

On Friday, Martin spent a significant portion of the three-hour hearing sorting through and clarifying questions. The hearing was filled with contradictions, confusion and "faces."

"There's no reason to make faces at all," Martin told attorney Joe Hopkins, who represents 29-year-old Donald Joseph Mackson, the other suspect who allegedly was detained. "We're in a courtroom."

The other five suspects are identified in court records as: Toriano Jerome Houston, 37; Maurice Lynell Lockett, 27; McKinley Tarpley, 32; Marquis Antoine Ware, 22; and Frederick Edward Williams, 29.

Like the other six attorneys, Hopkins wanted Martin to reduce the bail of $1 million to $130,000. He stressed the July 3 declaration to increase bail was based on bogus information from Lawrence.

"There's no basis for a $1 million bail whatsoever," Hopkins said.

The declaration to increase bail said the defendants were documented criminal gang members who had been arrested in connection with drug trafficking. It said small amounts of cocaine, marijuana and ammunition were found during a search warrant at the 21st Street apartment.

Martin ruled against reducing the bail on any of the seven. He said he found nothing inconsistent in the testimony Lawrence gave Friday.

"Certainly, there were a lot of suspicious things that happened," Martin said.

Martin also criticized the traffic-stop detention of Alexander and Mackson as possibly a "chicken thing to do." He did not elaborate.

Martin scheduled several mid-August court dates for the defendants, several of whom are attempting to withdraw plea agreements.

He said he expects attorneys will raise the illegal detention issue Aug. 14, when at least four are set for a preliminary hearing.

Lawrence declined to comment as he left the courtroom.

"This judge felt he was not dishonest," Deputy District Attorney James Hoffman said, referring to Lawrence.

Reach John F. Berry at 909-806-3058 or jberry@PE.com

Part of ex-officer’s suit against city allowed to move forward

BARSTOW — A federal judge dismissed some of the allegations in a lawsuit brought against the City of Barstow by a former Barstow Police Department officer, while allowing others to go forward.

United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips struck down a claim that former officer Peter Holm was wrongfully terminated and dismissed one of his claims that the city retaliated against him for acting as a whistleblower by reporting what he believed to be misconduct by his superiors.

But the judge did not dismiss an allegation that the department violated Holm’s First Amendment right to free speech, and she upheld a second claim that the department retaliated against him for whistleblowing, under a different section of the law. Those allegations can go forward, either to a jury trial or to a possible out-of-court settlement. A trial scheduling conference is scheduled for Sept. 29.

Holm, who worked as a police officer in Barstow from June 2001 to April 2007, quit after an incident in which he claimed superiors pressured him to alter a traffic collision report that put then-Chief Caleb L. Gibson’s son-in-law at fault. After Holm refused to change the report, now-retired Lt. Rudy Alcantara and Sgt. Keith Libby, who is still employed as a detective for the department, prepared their own supplemental report putting the other driver at fault, according to the order issued by Phillips Tuesday. Holm filed an internal complaint with the city in March 2007.

Holm’s suit alleged that the defendants retaliated against him for protesting the altered traffic report by making threats, forcing him to leave a briefing session, and denying him choice assignments, ultimately leading him to resign in April 2007.

He filed a complaint in the San Bernardino County Superior Court in February, but it was removed to the federal court by the defendants’ request. Alcantara, Gibson, and Libby are named individually as defendants, along with the city.

Art Meneses, an attorney for the defendants, said that the parties have been authorized to mediate the case, but called an out-of-court settlement unlikely.

“The odds of convening that conference and resolving the case between now and the 29th of September are probably not great, but I guess it’s possible,” he said.

Holm declined to comment, citing the advice of his attorney. His attorney did not return a call for comment.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or abby_sewell@link.freedom.com