Recruiters banned at RIT

ROCHESTER, N.Y.–Members of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) are celebrating a significant victory after the director for Campus Life issued the order to stop allowing military recruiters in the Student Alumni Union.

On January 15, CAN members were promoting an upcoming meeting calling for the U.S. to immediately withdraw from Afghanistan when an ally who works at the information desk told us that military recruiters were arriving in half an hour. An emergency message was immediately sent out to CAN members for a counter-recruitment action.

When two members of the National Guard arrived, one of them laid out their tablecloth and the other went to reserve a table. CAN members went over to one of the recruiters and asked him questions about Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. The recruiter portrayed the National Guard as “the good guys,” who “help out with Hurricane Katrina and stuff.” He also claimed that the National Guard is not deployed overseas, which is false.

When the other Guardsman returned, he said that they couldn’t have a table because of “something that happened before with the Marines or whatever.”

The recruiters may have been clueless about why they couldn’t have a table, but CAN members were very much aware. On October 24, CAN at RIT held a counter-recruitment action with over two dozen protesters, including members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Antiwar protesters chanting prevented recruiters from recruiting, and even talking. We forced them to pack up.

See also:

Army recruiting stand-down ordered after suicides

ACLU files suit to allow counter-recruiting

Feds Act Against Eureka, Arcata Over Voted Measures to Restrict Military Recruiter Access to Minors

“No Child Left Behind “: “Trojan Horse” for Pentagon Recruiters

Pentagon Targets Afro and Hispanic Youth to Fight Its Wars

America’s Child Soldiers: US Military Recruiting Children

New Army Recruiting Tactic: Obama will “Get Us Out of Iraq”

When the National Guard took off this time, our ally from the information desk told us that her supervisor told the National Guard recruiters that they and other branches of the military were not allowed to recruit in the building because the administration didn’t want “another riot.”

They may have been banned from the busiest place on campus, but they will find an alternative location to recruit. CAN has no problem with changing accommodations. We’ll keep fighting.

This victory for the CAN chapter is also one for the student antiwar movement because this is what it means when we say activism matters. Organizing matters. Educating ourselves matters. Protest certainly does matter because it’s the best weapon we have in combating budget cuts, recruiters, war profiteers, discrimination and any struggle that lies ahead.


Marine sentenced to 6 years in prison for rape

SAN DIEGO — A lance corporal at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar has been sentenced to six years in prison for rape.

Leland Kee pleaded guilty to two counts of rape, one count of breaking and entering and one count of attempting to destroy evidence. He pleaded on Jan. 5 and the Marines announced the sentence Friday.

Court documents show Kee was playing video games with the victim on Nov. 2 in his barracks room. She then returned to her room and fell asleep. Kee admitted sneaking into her room and raping her. The woman called military police to report the attack.

The San Diego Union-Tribune says Kee’s prison term was limited to 40 months because of a pretrial agreement with prosecutors. He will received a dishonorable discharge at the end of his sentence.


Suit filed in killing by deputy

ADELANTO - The family of a man shot and killed last year by a sheriff’s deputy during a desert struggle filed a $10 million civil lawsuit Friday in U.S. Federal District Court in Riverside.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Janowicz was following up on a theft case Jan. 17 when he drove down Topaz Drive into a rural area. It was there that he found 35-year-old Donald James Hottinger.

Officials say the father of three was “uncooperative,” providing a false name and date of birth. The attorney who filed the lawsuit said Hottinger hadn’t committed a crime and the deputy should not have tried to detain him.

The shooting “was unjustified and they’ve tried to come up with an excuse to explain it,” said attorney Dale K. Galipo. “It adds insult to injury that the Sheriff’s Department tried to fabricate evidence in the way it happened.”

Hottinger grabbed a gasoline can from his truck and doused himself and Janowicz, threatening to light them on fire, officials said.

Then “he grabbed onto the deputy’s arm, got into his car and took off, dragging the deputy with him,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Beavers. “At that point, the deputy’s life definitely was in danger.”

Janowicz opened fire, hitting Hottinger. The deputy fell to the ground and the truck continued rolling until it hit a pile of construction debris.

As per procedure, a sheriff’s homicide team investigated the shooting and turned their findings over to the District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors have not yet released a report on the incident so the details surrounding the shooting remain unknown.

“We think the evidence will show that he did not run the police officer over nor did he try to set him on fire,” Galipo said.

Hottinger’s family could not be reached for comment Friday. Sheriff’s officials said they cannot comment on lawsuits.

Police “High-Speed Chases:” Another Innocent Life Taken

A 67-year-old San Bernardino woman died early Saturday when a man fleeing police slammed into her car, police said.

Ruby Lene Johnson was driving a 1995 Toyota Camry west on Base Line at about 12:30 a.m. when a speeding 2007 Scion traveling north on Mount Vernon Avenue ran a red light and hit her car, authorities said. She was pronounced dead at the scene, the San Bernardino County coroner’s office said.

Jose Palacios, 20, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and failing to stop for police. Police said they believe Palacios, whose residence was unknown, was traveling more than 100 mph.

Police were chasing Palacios after another hit-and-run at Foothill Boulevard and Riverside Avenue in Rialto, said police Lt. Gwendolyn Waters.

Victims of that hit-and-run followed Palacios into San Bernardino and flagged down police, who tried to catch up with Palacios near Mount Vernon and Fifth Street, she said. Palacios initially slowed down, then accelerated and attempted to flee, she said.

After the Camry and Scion collided, both vehicles hit two other vehicles in the intersection of Base Line and Mount Vernon before coming to rest about 60 feet north of the intersection, police said. A driver and passenger in one of those other vehicles were injured and taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.

–David Olson



Wisconsin takes action to fight domestic abuse among cops

Editor’s note: Recently, a New York City police lieutenant stabbed and shot his wife to death, bringing up the important issue of acknowledging that police officers can be abusers or can be abused by another family member, regardless of age or gender. When Tyler Peterson killed his ex-girlfriend, along with five others, Force Science News consulted 3 prominent authorities on police psychology for their professional insights. Read the article here: Experts look at a young officer’s murderous rampage

MADISON, Wis. — Christmas has twice come and gone since Wayne Coulter last saw Lindsey Stahl alive.

The hurt hangs in his voice as he talks about life without the girl he helped raise since she was a toddler. Words of anger, frustration and sadness come next. They catch in his throat as he tries to rationalize how Lindsey’s life and the lives of five others were taken in Wisconsin’s most extreme, deadly case of officer-involved domestic violence.

Fourteen-year-old Lindsey died on Oct. 7, 2007, in the small, northern Wisconsin town of Crandon. Jarred by the news that his former girlfriend was seeing someone new, 20-year-old Tyler Peterson, an officer employed by the Crandon and Forest County departments, went to the home of his former girlfriend. Upon entering the apartment, he opened fire with an assault rifle on all seven people who were there for a pizza party. A standoff ensued between Peterson and his friends on the force. Peterson eventually killed himself with a pistol.

See related:

Some in Sheriff’s Department are cops gone wild

Ex-SoCal officer pleads guilty in violence case

Ex-deputy admits to sexual misconduct

Former Deputy Gets 16 Months for False Imprisonment (for Sex Crimes) by Fraud or Deceit

Sheriff’s deputy accused of death threats, gun charges returns to work

Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Arnulfo Moreno surrenders in attempted murder case

Retired SB Police Det. Blair “Chris” Christopher Hall

Lawsuit expected from woman shot by San Bernardino officer Ryan Thornburg

Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Raymond Cesar Vidales suspected of sexually assaulting teen

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy Matthew Linderman Sheriff’s Deputy Is A Stalker, Woman Says

Ex-Oklahoma Sheriff Convicted of Rape, Bribery

314 out of 315 ER Doctors Surveyed Agree: Police Brutality is Rampant

Now, the families of three of the six victims and the sole survivor of the shooting have filed a civil suit against the police departments that employed Peterson. The suit charges that the police chief and sheriff knew that Peterson had shown a pattern of domestic violence and abuse of authority but did nothing about it.

Before Forest County denied the initial claim that preceded the lawsuit. County Corporation Counsel Paul Payant told the Associated Press that the Sheriff’s Department had no way of knowing that Peterson was capable of such violence.

Bitter feelings continue to swirl around the community, even toward the families of the victims. Coulter said they have anonymously been receiving “nasty letters saying we should drop the suit, and we should be hanging our heads in shame.

“It’s pretty rough living up here now.”

News of the crime in Crandon rang out far beyond the small town’s borders; even the Los Angeles Times reported on the story. The crime not only received national exposure, but put faces to a grim reality of the law enforcement community, a reality seldom discussed outside internal affairs offices or among officers themselves.

Yet those in the know — the officers, prosecutors and domestic violence advocates — have become increasingly aware of the higher prevalence of domestic violence in the families of law enforcement officers.

The National Center for Women and Policing cites two studies from the mid-1990s that have found at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, defined as verbal, psychological or physical abuse, in contrast to 10-20 percent of families in the general population. The studies are well-regarded and often cited by law enforcement and domestic violence advocates locally and nationally.

In the Madison area, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said two officers had been disciplined internally for domestic violence incidents in the past year, but no criminal charges were brought against them. They are still on the force. Following an open records request, the Madison Police Department reported that one officer has been fired or suspended for domestic violence in the past five years. That was Russell Henderson, who was fired in 2006.

In Wisconsin, nobody is keeping track of the problem. Unless an officer shoots or severely abuses someone, news about an incident will rarely make its way out of internal affairs, and no state agency collects the data.

But state law enforcement officials are concerned about the problem, and this summer, the Law Enforcement Standards Board approved a new policy and 99-page training manual. All new law enforcement recruits will now learn about how officer-involved domestic violence cases should be handled from the moment a call is received, on through how an allegation is vetted and potentially prosecuted in court. Current officers don’t have to take the training, but they can do so by attending a training seminar, one of which was held Tuesday in Green Bay. Another is being held in Oconomowoc on Thursday.

“This is no longer law enforcement’s dirty little secret,” said Michael Serpe, a board member of the Law Enforcement Standards Board since 2003 and the Door County administrator. “The research has been out there for years. Police officers are more inclined than other groups to be involved with domestic violence themselves. It is time to raise the public’s awareness on this issue.”

Reasons for the prevalence of domestic abuse among officers are numerous. Historically, police were reluctant to pursue domestic violence cases, seeing them more as lovers’ quarrels meant for social workers to handle rather than police officers. While this viewpoint has evolved over the years with the criminalization of domestic violence crimes, some officers remain reluctant to crack down on their own. Even the state’s own training manual reads: “Officers’ reluctance to consider officer-involved domestic violence as a crime remains the final obstacle to overcome.”

The reluctance may be a consequence of one of the central tenets of police culture.

“The first rule is a code of silence,” said Diane Wetendorf, an independent consultant on officer-involved domestic violence based in Arlington Heights, Ill. “They don’t rat on each other.”

There is a logical reason for the protective atmosphere. The culture not only builds trust and security among those in a department, but is necessary in a profession that can be extremely stressful and dangerous.

“Not all police officers are abusers. Nobody ever said they were,” said Dottie Davis, a deputy chief of the Fort Wayne, Ind., Police Department and keynote speaker at this week’s training sessions in Wisconsin. “But for those who are, we have to police our own and hold officers to the same standards as the average citizens.”

For those who do turn abusive, combat skills taught at the police academy can be used to grim effect at home.

Prosecutors say former Wausau police officer Chueng Lee used intimidation tactics and expertise he gained from investigating accidents in an attempt to kill his wife in a car crash on Sept. 18, 2007.

On that night, Lee, 47, dropped the speed of his truck down from the posted 55 mph limit to between 25 and 30 mph on a rural country road, Shawano County District Attorney Gregory Parker said in an interview. Lee then turned the car into one of only two concrete bridge abutments in Shawano County. Parker described the concentrated impact to the passenger-side headrest, where Lee’s wife was sitting, as “astounding.”

“He was a cop. He knew what he was doing and he knew how to drive that vehicle,” Parker said. “There were a lot of us — investigators and such — that thought that’s what was going on in relation to how he crashed the vehicle.”

Parker said he had officers within Lee’s jurisdiction set to testify at the jury trial. Had those officers had a chance to take the stand, they would have told of another incident in which Lee followed his wife and repeatedly nudged her car with his vehicle, Parker said.

“Officers had contacted him and told him he needed to cease this type of behavior or he would be charged,” Parker said. Several days later, Lee drove into the bridge.

Before those officers had a chance to testify, Lee accepted a plea deal. When he did, his wife recanted her story. She told the judge she still loved her husband and still wanted to be with him. She said she was joking when officers interviewed her about the incident and told the judge that Lee wasn’t trying to kill her, Parker said.

Despite that, Lee was sentenced to three years in prison followed by two years of extended supervision.

Having a victim recant is always a concern for prosecutors in domestic violence cases, but particularly so in cases involving police officers. A domestic violence conviction is a career killer for them. A misdemeanor or felony conviction means the officer can no longer use or own a firearm. No gun, no job. If money and financial security are issues for the abused, this reality may push a victim toward recanting their story.

“It is great to have a policy, but if the victim will suffer a financial toll, too often the victim is silenced,” said Margie Moore, director of the National Center for Women and Policing. “We really need to look at financial solutions for those who come forward.”

Wetendorf, who has worked with domestic violence victims for nearly 30 years, said the knowledge police officers have of how victims typically seek help also makes coming forward more difficult for victims. The advice she usually gives to victims — call the police, seek assistance at a shelter — doesn’t work. Officers know the locations of domestic abuse shelters. They know if a call is placed to police. If the officer works undercover, they are trained to deceive people, which helps them hide their abuse from others. Then there’s the credibility issue. Wetendorf said officers commonly warn their victims that it will be their word against the word of an officer.

“Domestic abuse is about power and control,” Wetendorf said. “And policing is about gaining and maintaining power and control. The skills that can make a competent police officer can make a dangerous abuser.”

In the early 1980s, Deputy Chief Davis of the Fort Wayne Police Department was in an abusive relationship with her husband. He was also a police officer. The two worked in different departments, which Davis never names in her frequent public lectures on officer-involved domestic violence.

In her case, the verbal and psychological abuse started when he began to tell her she was “wasting a man’s job.”

Tactics he had learned at the academy came next. He would sweep his leg under her to knock her to the floor and then pin her down. The move is used to bring someone under control quickly in the field and to leave no visible signs of injury. The tactics had the same effect on her.

But a female sergeant who worked with Davis recognized signs of domestic abuse. When confronted, Davis denied it. The female officer ordered her into counseling. Meanwhile, her husband was promoted. She stayed with her husband until the abuse turned toward their young daughter. Then she left him.

Because Davis called 911 on several occasions, she knew others were aware of the abuse. She never pressed charges and her ex-husband was never reprimanded or criminally charged. Davis said the police never wrote reports and that the dispatch reports, which at the time were paper cards, were destroyed by fellow officers.

“In other words, it never happened,” Davis said.

She feels safe to talk about her experience now because most of the officers connected to her ex-husband are either dead or retired.

While the incidents occurred some 25 years ago and awareness about domestic violence is greater, a perception in the community persists that law enforcement officers are not held to the same standards as private citizens when it comes to domestic violence. Even Wisconsin’s new training manual on officer-involved domestic violence references the belief, and some recent examples give it credence.

On Dec. 15, 2005, David Riedel, a former Sauk County deputy, attended a party with his girlfriend and other law enforcement officers in Wisconsin Dells. The night turned violent after Riedel’s girlfriend, former Stoughton police officer Sonya Flower, talked with other officers, court records say. After fighting in a hotel room, Riedel tried to leave. To prevent him from driving drunk, Flower laid down behind his truck and he drove over her.

He then shouted: “You crazy f—— b—-, move,” Flower told investigators.

Flower passed out for awhile. She then dragged herself to a nearby hotel where she received help. Her liver was cut and her ribs and arm were bruised.

The next morning, Riedel admitted to officers he had been drinking. According to court documents, he said he didn’t remember running over Flower.

At one point, Riedel faced a felony hit-and-run charge. These days, his record is clean, thanks to Columbia County District Attorney Jane Kohlwey and Riedel’s attorney, Bruce Rosen of Madison.

Rather than potentially stand trial on the charges, Riedel was offered a deferred prosecution agreement. Under Wisconsin law, a deferred prosecution agreement allows a person facing criminal charges to fulfill certain conditions in return for a dismissal of the charges against them. To be eligible, the offender, in this case Riedel, usually does not have a criminal record, must be willing to participate in the agreement and accepts responsibility for the crime.

An investigation by the Baraboo News Republic, a sister publication to The Capital Times, revealed that Kohlwey pledged to destroy documents that detailed what Riedel would do to get the charges against him dismissed. Meanwhile, Flower was kept in the dark.

Last August, the manner in which this case was handled caused the Crime Victims Rights Board, an independent agency with staff support from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, to reprimand Kohlwey for her handling of the case.

With no felony conviction, Riedel could continue to own and operate a gun. The deal saved his career.

In an interview with the News Republic in December, Kohlwey said saving Riedel’s career was not her intent and that entering into the “secret agreement” to keep the conditions of the deferred prosecution agreement confidential was a “serious judgment error.”

While the charges against Riedel still were pending, Hillsboro Police Chief Thomas Richardson needed to fill a part-time spot on his small staff, a staff that included himself, another full-time officer and two part-time officers. Richardson said when he called Riedel’s attorney and authorities in Sauk County, he was told the charges against Riedel were going to be dismissed. With no conviction pending, Richardson said he felt comfortable hiring Riedel as his third part-time officer.

“He is a very good officer, and therefore he is still working here,” Richardson said. “From what I understand, he got messed up with the wrong girl.”

Like Riedel, Henderson — the Madison officer who was fired — also received a deferred prosecution deal. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and making a telephone threat connected to an incident with his stepson and was terminated from the department in 2006, but the charges against him were dismissed after he completed the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement.

Henderson’s domestic violence issues came to light after he allegedly put his wife’s 15-year-old son in a headlock and slammed him into a door in 2004. His wife told officers investigating the incident with her son that she had twice called police to report domestic violence incidents, but when they arrived, she told them that nothing happened because she feared Henderson would lose his job. One incident allegedly occurred Nov. 3, 2003, when Henderson grabbed his wife by the hair and pulled her across the floor. She fell to the floor, then called police. The second incident occurred in May 2002 when Henderson allegedly shoved her to the ground with enough force to bruise her chest.

In Wisconsin Dells, the fallout from Riedel’s night out in Wisconsin Dells a little over three years ago continues.

On Dec. 11, 2008, Flower filed a civil suit in Sauk County against Riedel and several insurance companies. The lawsuit says Riedel caused pain and suffering as well as physical injury to Flower and should have to pay her medical expenses and lost wages.

With the civil suit now pending against Riedel and another one pending in Crandon, some departments are finding it may not be financially worth their while to keep quiet when it comes to officer-involved domestic violence.

The city of Tacoma, Wash., learned this lesson to the tune of a $75 million wrongful death suit when the city’s police chief shot himself and his wife on April 26, 2003. David Brame died instantly. His wife, Crystal Judson Brame, died a week later. The extremely public murder-suicide occurred a day after Tacoma city officials publicly stated they would not investigate Crystal’s claims of domestic abuse. On behalf of the couple’s two young children, Lane Judson, Crystal’s father, filed the suit.

Lane Judson said the secrecy had gone on long enough.

“It was never about the money,” Judson said. “It was meant to get their attention, and it did.”

The suit was settled for $12 million. In addition, the municipalities paid for the construction of the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center.

Lane Judson also pushed for the passage of a law in Washington that requires each police department to have an officer-involved domestic violence policy in place. Washington is the first and only state to have a mandated policy.

Wisconsin’s new policy differs in that departments do not have to adopt it. The number of police departments in Wisconsin that choose to adopt the policy remains to be seen.

On the national level, the Crystal Judson Brame Domestic Violence Protocol Program, an amendment to the federal Violence Against Women Act, provides access to upward of $180 million annually to law enforcement agencies to use in training their officers in the area of domestic violence. After reading Wisconsin’s policy, Lane Judson said Wisconsin was on the right track.

“They are making a heck of a good attempt to get something accomplished,” Judson said. “You can always improve on what you do.”

While some find fault with the policy, saying it doesn’t go far enough to protect the victims and has only been introduced for liability reasons, others see it as a first step toward increasing awareness on the issue.

“Is it the cure-all? No,” said Patti Seger, executive director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence and a member of the Law Enforcement Standards Board. “But instead of sitting and watching these tragedies happen over and over again, we took action.”

Recent examples of officer-involved domestic violence in Wisconsin

Ten days before Christmas, Thomas Hutchins, an off-duty Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputy, became upset when his girlfriend started disciplining their child. After striking his girlfriend in the face, Hutchins was asked to leave. When he refused, she started to call 911. Hutchins pulled the phone out of the wall, then pointed his handgun at her saying, “You take my job, I’ll take your life,” according to the criminal complaint.

Two shots were fired before his girlfriend ran to a nearby apartment. Hutchins then fired through the door. A 12-year-old girl was shot three times. Hutchins is now charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless injury and reckless use of a firearm. He has resigned from his job.

Robert E. Hietala, 36, a former Sheboygan Falls police sergeant, was off duty on Oct. 2, 2005, when a fight broke out between him and his wife.

Police were called to Hietala’s home after his son called 911 and told a dispatcher that Hietala was threatening his mother with a gun. The argument was about the working hours of Hietala’s wife. Hietala told his wife to leave the home, which she refused to do, police said. The former police sergeant told his wife if she didn’t leave “he would have no choice but to hit her and throw his cell phone at her,” the criminal complaint said.

Hietala resigned from the police department several days after he was charged on Oct. 3 with misdemeanor disorderly conduct/domestic abuse while armed. Hietala’s resignation came in the midst of an internal investigation. He was later found guilty of the crime.

In May 2005, Beloit police officer Sheldon Kroning, 27, was arrested and given a one-day suspension following an incident of domestic-related disorderly conduct.

The verbal fight occurred between Kroning and a live-in girlfriend.

According to court records, Kroning participated in a deferred prosecution agreement and charges against him were dismissed.

Galesville police officer James T. Brudos, 39, was put on administrative leave after he was found trespassing on a former girlfriend’s home in Jackson County. He was found guilty of disorderly conduct on April 16, 2004. Through a plea deal, the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office agreed to dismiss the domestic violence enhancer to the disorderly conduct and bail-jumping charges if Brudos stayed out of trouble for nine months and agreed to meet other conditions. Within a month, Brudos was reinstated to his job in law enforcement.

Creating Prisoners is a Booming Industry in Need of a Bust

In 2008, the United States passed a benchmark previously unheard of. For the first time in the nation’s history, every one in 100 adults was behind bars, making it no question that the USA is number one in the world when it comes to making people prisoners.

Since 1980, the overall prison population has seen a 400 percent surge.

For almost 30 years the people of this nation have watched blindly as state and federal legislatures composed hyperbolic crime-fighting schemes with euphemistic titles like: “tough on crime,” “truth in sentencing,” “three strikes,” or “The War on Drugs.”

We ate up the façade of security while they scaled back the evolution of the American justice system.

There exists, in this country, a prison industrial-complex.

An organized and systematic network of interest groups, lawyers, politicians, prison guard unions and construction companies, who form the cyclic mechanisms which hold the socially destructive machine in place.

They are the profiteers of imprisonment, bound not by the desire to correct or rehabilitate, but by the scent of big business.

See also:

Excellent Article on the Corrupt Prison-Industrial Complex

The Militarization of our Local Police

How you became the enemy

Prisoners In 2007: 1 in 31 American Adults Now in Prison, Jail or on Parole

Democracy’s Ghosts: How 5.3 Million Americans Have Lost The Right To Vote

November Coalition

We sat around and watched as they built them up, one by one. Big concrete blocks built to hold as many human bodies as they could.

In some cases private companies built their for-profit prisons before they had even received a contract from the government.

In one such case in 1997, a company called Corrections Corporation of America (a major contributor to the American Legislative Exchange Council) built a 2,000-bed facility in California at a cost of $80-$100 million with no contract from the California Department of Corrections.

“If we build it, they will come,” said one of the company officials.

They did come, and that is the problem.

The prison industry has seen a massive boom in last few decades, and when the industry that symbolizes crime-fighting sees a boom, we are led to believe that it is crime that suffers.

Politicians gawk at the chance to rubber stamp their name on anything that will equate to positive crime-fighting statistics.

Yet, is it logical to believe that the true path to achieving a society less rampant with crime is to lock up one of every 100 citizens?

The state of California has been a prison playground for this past boom in corrections.

However, with the economy $41 billion in the hole, and prison overcrowding increasing faster than they can build prisons, it is incredibly imperative that action be made to twinge the machine rightward.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to eliminate parole for all offenders not convicted of violent or sex-related crimes, reducing the parole population by about 70,000.

He also wants to divert more petty criminals to county jails and grant early release to more inmates - steps that could trim the prison population by 15,000 over the next 18 months.

These actions may very well represent the light at the end of a tunnel, an indirect chance for Legislature to stop concurring with those out to make money in the “prison business” and a chance to bring the cogs of the complex to a complete stop.

If Schwarzenegger makes these changes then there is hope.

Our fiscal troubles as a state put us in a position to stand up to those lobbying for the imprisonment of more and more Americans in order to tell them that the expense will no longer be paid.

One of 100 is a number that will not be accepted, no one has that many criminals.

SB County violates Brown Act

San Bernardino County is being accused of violating the Brown Act, California’s open-meeting law, as it challenges the state’s medical marijuana user program.

San Bernardino County joined San Diego County three years ago in challenging the program, which requires it to issue medical-marijuana identification cards to patients.

The counties petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case last week. The courts have so far ruled against them, upholding the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1996.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a national marijuana policy reform organization, said Wednesday that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has failed to keep the public informed of its decisions to appeal.

See also:

County Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Erase State’s Medical Marijuana Law

Lawsuit filed over refusal to issue medical marijuana card

County no friend to medical pot patients

The group filed a complaint with the district attorney’s office in September after an Aug. 26 meeting where the board discussed the lawsuit in closed session but made no announcement of any action taken.

That same day, a sheriff’s spokeswoman announced that the county was appealing the case to the California Supreme Court.

Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said his group has been stymied in its attempts to find out the status of the case.

“They seem to have a certain arrogance where they feel like they can flout any state law, including the open-meeting laws,” he said.

The county counsel’s office was given the authority to pursue the case as far as necessary when the county joined the lawsuit in January 2006, county spokesman David Wert said.

No announcement was necessary at the Aug. 26 meeting because no action was taken, he said.

Terry Franke, general counsel for Californians Aware, an open government advocacy group, said the board must report on any decisions made in closed session about whether to pursue the appeals.

The district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit is reviewing the complaint, said spokeswoman Susan Mickey.

Reach Imran Ghori at 951-368-9558 or ighori@PE.com

Malmstrom airman found guilty of larceny

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A Malmstrom Air Force Base airman has pleaded guilty in a military court martial to bilking friends out of more than $53,000 and participating in a scam to overcharge the federal government in purchases from a sporting goods store.

Sgt. Jonathan Harpole used the money to pay off gambling debts at local casinos, according to a news release issued by Malmstrom.

Base officials say Harpole pleaded guilty to 19 charges related to larceny and obtaining loans under false pretenses. He was sentenced to 18 months in confinement, given a bad-conduct discharge and his rank was reduced to airman basic.

The Malmstrom release says Harpole got loans from 11 military members by lying about illnesses and financial hardships in his family. He also shared in the money obtained when employees of a sporting goods store overcharged the government for purchases.


Someone else is spying on YOU. And it isn’t the NSA. Fusion Centers.

Daily Kos
January 22, 2009

Ever hear of a Fusion Center?

They are run by the Department of Homeland Security and are locally based across the country.

A fusion center is an effective and efficient mechanism to exchange information and intelligence, maximize resources, streamline operations, and improve the ability to fight crime and terrorism by merging data from a variety of sources.

At first blush this sounds good. After 9/11 discussions were had about how to streamline communication between local and federal law enforcement agencies.

From the Department of Homeland Security website:

Many states and larger cities have created state and local fusion centers to share information and intelligence within their jurisdictions as well as with the federal government. The Department, through the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, provides personnel with operational and intelligence skills to the fusion centers. This support is tailored to the unique needs of the locality and serves to:

help the classified and unclassified information flow,
provide expertise,
coordinate with local law enforcement and other agencies, and
provide local awareness and access.

But, it is being alleged that something has gone wrong along the way. Fusion centers have now come under the scrutinizing eye of the ACLU, and for good reasons.

Who is spying in your neighborhood?

These centers have been placed in our neighborhoods. Our local fusion center is located on Bataan Boulevard in Santa Fe, New Mexico. You can find the fusion center nearest you by clicking on this interactive map. The ACLU has also set up a site that tracks camera surveillance. Video surveillance is nothing new, but:

Video surveillance is not a new phenomenon, but the amount of attention that the federal government has been paying is. In the past five years, the Department of Homeland Security has awarded $300 million in grants to state and local governments, all in the name of public video surveillance.

From the same article:

Meanwhile, a timely University of California study has found that San Francisco’s $700,000 ‘Crime Camera’ program has had no impact on violent crime since its 2005 installation. The study also states that robberies dropped significantly within each camera’s radius, but notes that this finding is inconclusive.

These two paragraphs beg some further discussion. Is the surveillance arm of the Department of Homeland Security working in conjunction with the fusion center in this California neighborhood? If surveillance cameras aren’t reducing crime significantly, what other purposes are they serving?

From California again:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of California have filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI and local authorities over the seizure and search of two organizations’ computers, they jointly announced Wednesday.

On August 27, 2008, the University of California Police, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI took part in a raid of the Berkeley offices of two politically active groups, Long Haul Infoshop and East Bay Prisoner Support Group (EBPS), seizing every computer in the building, even those behind locked doors, which were opened by force. The raid was conducted despite no allegations of wrongdoing on the part of either organization or any of their members, and the complaint questions the legality of the warrant obtained by authorities.

Why search and seize at the Long Haul Infoshop or the East Bay Prisoner Support Group? Was the FBI working in conjunction with the local fusion center? More questions.

The neighborhood spying isn’t limited to California.

From the Washington Post:

Organizational meetings, public forums, prison vigils, rallies outside the State House in Annapolis and e-mail group lists were infiltrated by police posing as peace activists and death penalty opponents, the records show. The surveillance continued even though the logs contained no reports of illegal activity and consistently indicated that the activists were not planning violent protests.

The records show that undercover agents collectively spent 288 hours on surveillance activities over 14 months from March 2005 until May 2006.

The fusion center in New Mexico is known as a "cut and paste" shop. Analysts peruse media, in all forms (print and electronic), clipping information that they feel is "important" or "questionable." It is also alleged that they peruse the internet. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were reading this diary, now.

Their peering eyes are looking into the private sector:

A new institution is emerging in American life: Fusion Centers. These state, local and regional institutions were originally created to improve the sharing of anti-terrorism intelligence among different state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. Though they developed independently and remain quite different from one another, for many the scope of their mission has quickly expanded - with the support and encouragement of the federal government - to cover "all crimes and all hazards." The types of information they seek for analysis has also broadened over time to include not just criminal intelligence, but public and private sector data, and participation in these centers has grown to include not just law enforcement, but other government entities, the military and even select members of the private sector.

Legislation has been drafted, and will be presented to the New Mexico State Legislature, addressing concerns over the fusion center in Santa Fe.

A draft of the ACLU legislation, sponsored by Rep. Antonio "Mo" Maestas, D-Albuquerque, would prohibit a law enforcement agency from collecting, maintaining and sharing "with any other law enforcement agency, information about the political, religious or social associations, views or activities of a person unless" they are suspected of committing a crime.

That is the kicker…they aren’t watching American citizens who are suspected of committing crimes. They are watching whoever they want to.

A quick summary:

But in a democracy, the collection and sharing of intelligence information - especially information about American citizens and other residents - need to be carried out with the utmost care. That is because more and more, the amount of information available on each one of us is enough to assemble a very detailed portrait of our lives. And because security agencies are moving toward using such portraits to profile how "suspicious" we look.

American citizens aren’t being spied on just by the NSA. They are being spied on by the fusion center office around the corner.

Pinal County, AZ, shelves speed-camera program

Pinal County supervisors Wednesday bid goodbye to photo enforcement.

Their vote to terminate their contract with Redflex, the company that operates the cameras, came at the recommendation of the county's top law-enforcement official, new Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

"I'm against photo speed enforcement completely," Babeu said, walking the three-member panel through a detailed PowerPoint presentation. "Here in Pinal, it's failed miserably."

Babeu said speed cameras created dangerous road conditions and offered little financial benefit for the county. He plans to boost traffic enforcement through additional manpower.

Although Pinal County's contract with Redflex wasn't set to expire until Feb. 20, two mobile speed cameras have not been in operation on Pinal roads since Babeu took office Jan. 1.

The speed vans had been roadside in some of Pinal's most populous areas, including Apache Junction, Gold Canyon and unincorporated areas near Queen Creek, since mid-2007.

The county's program is separate from the one operated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety on freeways statewide.

The supervisors two weeks ago had tabled a vote on the Redflex contract because they wanted Babeu to prepare a report on camera enforcement in Pinal, including the financial impact on the county.

He reported Wednesday that the two cameras were activated 11,416 times from September 2007 through last month. Of those activations, 7,290 resulted in citations, but only 3,711 were paid.

Babeu said most of the total $134,199.43 in fines and fees from the paid citations covered administrative and operational costs, leaving the county with a net profit of $12,391.58 that Babeu dismissed as paltry.

Moreover, Babeu said, total motor-vehicle accidents increased by 16 percent in the same time period, and fatal collisions in the Queen Creek area doubled from three to six.

The sheriff said he couldn't be certain that speed cameras were to blame for the crashes, but he believes they were a factor.

Collisions were said to be the reason Redflex was implemented on county roads. Former Sheriff Chris Vasquez initiated the contract to minimize an increasing number of crashes on Hunt Highway, the main thoroughfare connecting north-central Pinal County with Maricopa County.

Babeu thinks that putting more deputies on patrol offers the best way to improve safety, instead of relying on cameras that "can't catch drunk drivers" or stop motorists involved in illegal or dangerous activities.

The sheriff has increased his traffic-enforcement unit from two to four deputies, and a fifth will join the team soon. Babeu said the changes were made at no county cost as part of a departmentwide reorganization.

Babeu estimated that the volume of citations issued annually by the Sheriff's Office would increase sharply as a result of having more deputies on the streets. He said the five-member team alone could generate 10,400 to 20,800 citations a year.

Supervisor Bryan Martyn, whose district was the primary operating area for the speed vans, said he received a number of letters from residents who favored speed-camera enforcement, but he "doesn't presume to tell the sheriff how to do his job."

"He believes he has a better solution to this public-safety concern," Martyn said. "What he's proposing is prudent and seems to make sense. If it goes as sold, you may be praying for photo radar again."

Babeu may answer those prayers in a different way. He wants to bring red-light cameras to the county.

Speedball Beer Facing Sales Ban


HEY! I wanted drugs, not beer…

A beer called Speedball has been criticised amid claims it promotes the drugs mix that killed actors John Belushi and River Phoenix. Speedballing is the name given to combining heroin and cocaine.

A complaint has been upheld against Fraserburgh’s BrewDog under the drinks industry watchdog the Portman Group’s code of practice.

However, a BrewDog spokesman said Speedball was “for those who enjoy a quality beer responsibly”.

David Poley, Portman Group chief executive, said the marketing was grossly irresponsible.

He said: “The blurring of alcohol and illicit drugs fosters unhealthy attitudes to drinking and trivialises drug misuse.

“BrewDog is profiteering from the scourge of illegal drugs, mocking the misery caused by misuse

But is the beer any good?

Breathalyzer Source Code Required for Use as Evidence

Posted on: January 21, 2009 9:30 AM, by Ed Brayton

Here's a very interesting case from Florida, where an appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that threw out evidence from a breathalyzer test in a drunk driving case because the manufacturer of the device refused to release the source code and allow defense experts to analyze the accuracy of the machines.

The results of breath tests in more than 100 local drunken-driving cases will not be allowed at trial, a judge announced Tuesday.

The validity of those breathalyzer tests has been challenged for more than three years because of the Intoxilyzer 5000, a machine that uses a breath sample to measure a person's blood-alcohol content.

Manatee County Judge Doug Henderson ruled two years ago that any Intoxilyzer 5000 tests were inadmissible in trial, but prosecutors appealed. On Tuesday, Henderson told lawyers that his ruling had been affirmed by the Second District Court of Appeal and Circuit Court.

Breath analysis machines are notoriously inaccurate and this has been a problem for a very long time. Dr. David Hanson, a sociologist who has written on this issue for decades, writes:

Breath analyzers (Breathalyzer, Intoxilyzer, Alcosensor, Alcoscan and BAC Datamaster are common brand names) don't actually test blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which requires the analysis of a blood sample. Instead, they estimate BAC indirectly. Different types of machine use different techniqes and larger machines generally yield better estimates than do hand-held models. Therefore, some states don't permit data or "readings" from hand-held machines to be presented as evidence in court. South Dakota does not even permit evidence from any type or size breath tester but relies entirely on blood tests to ensure accuracy and protect the innocent.

A major problem with some machines is that they not only identify the ethyl alcohol (or ethanol) found in alcohol beverages, but also other substances similar in molecular structure. Those machines identify any compound containing the methyl group structure. Over one hundred compounds can be found in the human breath at any one time and 70 to 80 percent of them contain methyl group structure and will be incorrectly detected as ethyl alcohol. Important is the fact that the more different ethyl group substances the machine detects, the higher will be the false BAC estimate.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that dieters and diabetics can have acetone levels hundreds and even thousand of times higher than that in others. Acetone is one of the many substances that can be falsely identified as ethyl alcohol by some breath machines.

One investigator has reported that alcohol-free subjects can generate BAC readings of about .05 after eating various types of bread products.

Substances in the environment can also lead to false BAC readings. For example, an alcohol-free subject was asked to apply a pint of contact cement to a piece of plywood and then to apply a gallon of oil-base paint to a wall. The total activity lasted about an hour. Twenty minutes later the subject was tested on an Intoxilyzer, which registered a BAC of .12 percent. This level is 50% higher than a BAC of .08, which constitutes legal intoxication in many states.

Similarly, a painter with a protective mask spray painted a room for 20 minutes. Although a blood test showed no alcohol, an Intoxilyzer falsely reported his BAC as .075.

Any number of other products found in the environment can cause erroneous BAC results. These include compounds found in lacquers, paint removers, celluloid, gasoline, and cleaning fluids.

Other common things that can cause false BAC levels are alcohol, blood or vomit in the subject's mouth, electrical interference from cell phones and police radios, tobacco smoke, dirt, and moisture.

Breath testers can be very sensitive to temperature and will give false reasings if not adjusted or recalibrated to account for ambient or surrounding air temperatures. The temperature of the subject is also very important. Each one degree of body temperature above normal will cause a substantial elevation (about 8%) in apparent BAC.

Many breath testing machines asume a 2,100-to-1 ratio in converting alcohol in the breath to estimates of alcohol in the blood. However, this ratio varies from 1,900 to 2,400 among people and also within a person over time. This variation will lead to false BAC readings.

Physical activity and hyperventilation can lower apparent BAC levels. One study found that the BAC readings of subjects decreased 11 to 14% after running up one flight of stairs and 22-25% after doing so twice. Another study found a 15% decrease in BAC readings after vigorous exercise or hyperventilaion.

Some breath analysis machinnes assume a hematocrit (cell volume of blood) of 47%. However, hematocrit values range from 42 to 52% in men and from 37 to 47% in women. A person with a lower hematocrit will have a falsely high BAC reading.

It's about time a judge took a stand on this issue.

Ex-NSA analyst: Agency spied on news organizations

A former National Security Agency analyst told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann Wednesday night that the Bush Administration targeted and eavesdropped on the conversations of American journalists.

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Russell Tice, one of the sources who revealed the secret NSA warrantless wiretapping program to The New York Times in 2005, gave harrowing details about the NSA’s wiretapping program in an interview less than 24 hours after President George Bush left office.

He told Olbermann that the NSA collected all communications from various U.S. groups, many of which had nothing to do with terrorism:

Tice: Now, what I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7, and you know, 365 days a year, and it made no sense. And that's -- I started to investigate that. That's about the time when they came after me, to fire me. But an organization that was collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists.

Olbermann: To what purpose? I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every e-mail sent by all the reporters at the "New York Times?" Is there a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York? Is it like that?

Tice: If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything. Yes. It would be everything.

When Bush defended the secret wiretapping program after it became public a little more than three years ago, he said that only international communications were monitored as a way to collect terrorism intelligence. But Tice said that was not true.

“The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications, faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And that doesn't -- it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, you know, in the middle of the country, and you never made a communication -- foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications,” he said.

Additionally Tice told Olbermann that "the agency would tailor some of their briefings to try to be deceptive” to congressional committees so that no one would know exactly what the NSA was collecting.

Olbermann asked Tice if President Barack Obama could, and would, stop the NSA from continuing to spy on Americans. Tice responded that he had tried to reach out to the Obama Administration and was still hoping he could work with the White House on intelligence issues.

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the NSA wiretapping program, as legalized by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, in federal court in Manhattan. The Reporters Committee filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Amnesty International v. McConnell, arguing that the law violates the First Amendment rights of journalist to conduct interviews with their sources.

Samantha Fredrickson, 3:48 pm · Comments: 0

Intelligence Agencies' Databases Set to Be Linked

WASHINGTON -- U.S. spy agencies' sensitive data should soon be linked by Google-like search systems, nearly five years after the intelligence community was rebuked by the 9/11 Commission for failing to "connect the dots" and detect the attack.

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has launched a sweeping technology program to knit together the thousands of databases across all 16 spy agencies. After years of bureaucratic snafus, intelligence analysts will be able to search through secret intelligence files the same way they can search public data on the Internet.

Mr. McConnell's new technology program is also addressing a more basic problem: Spies often have trouble emailing colleagues in other U.S. intelligence agencies, because email addresses aren't readily accessible, and messages sometimes get eaten by security filters. Mr. McConnell aims to solve that by uniting the agencies' email systems into a single system with a full directory that links names, expertise and addresses.

Linking up the 16 agencies is the challenge at the heart of the job of director of national intelligence, created after 9/11. Dennis Blair, nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed Mr. McConnell, faces a confirmation hearing Thursday where senators are likely to ask how he will make agencies with different histories and missions work together.

The new information program also is designed to include Facebook-like social-networking programs and classified news feeds. It includes enhanced security measures to ensure that only appropriately cleared people can access the network. The price tag is expected to be in the billions of dollars, but much of that money will be reallocated from existing technology programs.

The impact for analysts, Mr. McConnell says, "will be staggering." Not only will analysts have vastly more data to examine, potentially inaccurate intelligence will stand out more clearly, he said.

Today, an analyst's query might scan only 5% of the total intelligence data in the U.S. government, said a senior intelligence official. Even when analysts find documents, they sometimes can't read them without protracted negotiations to gain access. Under the new system, an analyst would likely search about 95% of the data, the official said.

Several similar efforts have been aborted in the past decade, because cultural divides couldn't be bridged between rival agencies. Some of those efforts predated 9/11, and many intelligence agencies have botched their own technology programs since 2001.

Mr. McConnell's team says this effort, called the Information Integration Program, has experienced officials working on it full-time and is designed to deliver tangible products every few months. "There really is a very different spirit about doing all these things than there was, I think, in the past," said Prescott Winter, a senior National Security Agency official who is directing the program for Mr. McConnell.

The program is likely to get a review from Mr. Blair. The new administration is expected to make sure it is adequately funded, effective and protects privacy.

The initiative grew out of discussions more than a year ago between the Pentagon's intelligence chief and Mr. McConnell's top deputy, who were concerned that military and civilian intelligence data couldn't be easily tapped. They asked the chief information officers at the six largest intelligence agencies to develop a solution.

Over the summer, the officers began to sketch out the technology and policy problems to be solved, including protecting sources and connecting systems at different levels of classification. They also assembled case studies, which showed that the typical analyst is using technology that is about a decade old, a senior intelligence official said.

In September, all 16 agencies agreed to the goal of creating one searchable data and email system, and Mr. McConnell borrowed Mr. Winter from the NSA to get the program under way.

The first stage of the initiative is to merge the email systems of the six largest intelligence agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the NSA. Mr. Winter said that is on track to be largely completed by the end of the month. Then, they will expand to the other 10 agencies. By 2010, the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon would have a single email system.

With the Google-like system, intelligence officials would like to connect the bulk of the databases by the end of the year, though no firm date has been set. The system would search all intelligence data, and quickly determine which data an analyst is permitted to see. Someone focused on one corner of the world may be allowed to see everything available on the countries in the region, but not other regions.

Currently, an analyst might run a search but not be able to open a document without negotiating for access. "You don't want to sort of have to play Twenty Questions to figure out where it is hidden," Mr. Winter said.

Write to Siobhan Gorman at siobhan.gorman@wsj.com

U.S. Must Back Down on Iranian Uranium Enrichment

There’s really only one solution. Only one way for Obama to get himself out of the box his predecessor Bush, Dick Cheney and the neocons have put him in. He has to affirm Iran’s inalienable right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium.

Somewhere along the road American public opinion, which history shows can be easily persuaded of things that just aren’t true, has bought several highly questionable propositions:

1. Iran has a nuclear weapons program.

2. Iran’s nuclear program can have only one purpose, the production of nuclear weapons.

3. The Iranian leadership wishes to, and has threatened to, wipe Israel off the face of the map.

4. Given all of the above, Iran’s progress towards nuclear enrichment must be stopped in order to prevent a second, “nuclear” Holocaust.

These propositions — Big Lies that that become better established with each retelling — are in fact easily refutable.

1. The U.S. intelligence community itself doesn’t believe that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program. In November 2007 all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies produced a National Intelligence Estimate that declared “with high confidence” that Iran had suspended any such program as of 2003. Dick Cheney’s office tried to suppress that report and with George Bush told the chagrined Israeli government he would ignore it. (Recall that Cheney and the neocons surrounding him insisted with equal vigor in opposition to IAEA evidence to the contrary that Iraq had an active nuclear program in 2001 that could produce a “mushroom cloud over New York City”?)

We’re not talking about some liberal blogs challenging the Bush-Cheney claims here. We’re talking about the Central Intelligence Agency, Army Military Intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency, etc. Highly trained, professional, critically-thinking researchers whose best judgment is: Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program.

Repeat (because this is so important): U.S. intelligence doesn’t believe Iran has a nuclear weapons program.

2. Cheney on many occasions insisted that Iran, with its vast petroleum wealth, could only have one reason to seek nuclear power. But successive U.S. administrations from the 1960s urged Iran, when it was ruled by the Shah (whom the CIA had placed in power), to develop a nuclear energy program. U.S. corporations such as General Electric were deeply invested in that program.

3. Iran has rarely attacked another country in the last thousand years, and never in modern times. On the contrary it has been the victim of aggression, most notably in the Iran-Iraq War, when Saddam Hussein, attacked in 1980. The U.S. supported Iraq; Donald Rumsfeld visited Saddam twice, offered aid including satellite intelligence crucial to the Iraqi war effort. The idea that Iran aspires to initiate war with a country a thousand miles away because of ingrained anti-Semitism among the leadership is very questionable. Iran has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel, with representation in the Parliament (Majlis). Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not called for Israel to be “wiped of the map” but once quoted Ayatollah Khomeini (who died in 1989) as stating that “this regime occupying Jerusalem must [vanish from] from the page of time.” As Professor Juan Cole explains, “Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope — that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah’s government.” The claim that Iran has “repeatedly stated its intention to destroy the state of Israel” is pure alarmist propaganda peddled by those calling openly for the bombing of Iran!

4. Iran’s advancement towards nuclear enrichment is a progress towards something realized not only by countries with nuclear weapons (including, one must emphasize, Israel, which unlike Iran never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty) but by Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands. Again: nuclear enrichment is not a crime but an inalienable right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty whereby nations agree not to produce nuclear weapons in exchange for assistance in developing peaceful nuclear programs under carefully monitored conditions. The rules allow them control over the entire “nuclear fuel cycle” under IAEA inspections.

The idea that Iran is a special exception to the rules is an obvious conceit of the Bush-Cheney era propaganda. The idea that if normal rules apply, and Iran proceeds as usual and gets its nuclear reactors online, nukes will forthwith rain down on Israel (with its 200 warheads) and produce a second Holocaust (frying Israeli Jews and Palestinian alike) is wild, paranoid fantasy.

So let Obama say, unequivocally: We recognize and respect Iran’s right to have a peaceful nuclear program monitored by the IAEA, to enrich uranium, to master the nuclear cycle—just like any other normal nation.

Should he not do so, the burden is on him to explain why, as the candidate of “change” and “hope,” who on Inauguration Day told the Muslim world he would seek “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect” he continues the Bush-Cheney policy of vilification, insinuation, and Zionist pandering in connection with this issue.

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu. Read other articles by Gary.

Riverside County DA: 4 Marines accused of killing sergeant, wife in Winchester could face death penalty

10:00 PM PST on Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The Press-Enterprise

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for four Marines charged with the execution-style slaying of their sergeant and his wife inside their Winchester home.

District Attorney Rod Pacheco said Wednesday that he considers many factors in deciding when to seek the death penalty. What stood out in this case was the love between Sgt. Jan Pietrzak and Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak and the heinousness of the crime.

"How innocent they were and you compare and contrast that with the butchery that occurred that night in their very home," Pacheco said. "That kind of stands out."

Newlyweds Pietrzak, 24, and Jenkins-Pietrzak, 26, were found bound, gagged and shot in the head inside their two story home in a quiet neighborhood in southwest Riverside County on Oct. 15. The house had been ransacked, she had been sexually abused and the intruders had set a fire to destroy evidence.

When reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Quiana's mother, Glenda Jenkins, said she was at the cemetery and did not comment further.

Each of the four defendants is charged with two counts of murder: Lance Cpl. Tyrone Miller, 21, Lance Cpl. Emrys Justin John, 19, , Pvt. Kevin Darnell Cox, 21, and Lance Cpl. Kesaun K. Sykes, 21, The defendants were stationed at Camp Pendleton where Miller and John were assigned to Pietrzak's unit, according to court records. Jenkins-Pietrzak worked for the Riverside County Department of Health.

All four defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorneys for two defendants said they were disappointed.

"My client did not kill anyone," said Jeff Zimel, attorney for Miller.

Defense attorneys have the opportunity to present reasons to prosecutors why a defendant shouldn't get death. Sykes' attorney, Pete Morreale, said he did not make a presentation to the prosecutor's office on behalf of his client.

"Knowing our DA's office, anything I would have said would have fallen on deaf ears," said Morreale, adding that he wasn't surprised by Pacheco's decision.

"I knew it would go death. I just wish they would look at this -- these are kids, these are Marines," the defense attorney said. "This case is horrific, but seeking death on a bunch of kids ... I'm very disappointed."

Since taking office in 2007, Pacheco has pursued the death penalty in 36 other cases and life in prison without parole in 52, according to data from January 2007 to Dec. 4, 2008, provided by the prosecutor's office.

Of 677 inmates on California's death row, 64 were sentenced in Riverside County, according to a state Department of Corrections report dated Dec. 31, 2008.

John's defense attorney, Mark Johnson, said his client, the youngest of the group, has no prior criminal record.

Prosecutors allege that John fired the fatal gunshots. He is the only defendant charged with using a gun, the court records show.

Riverside County sheriff's deputies were sent to the Pietrzaks' Bermuda Street home after Camp Pendleton officials reported that he didn't show up for duty, according to authorities.

All the defendants except for John said they went to the Pietrzaks' home to rob them, according to court records. Once they arrived, Miller and John discussed killing the couple and John pulled the trigger, according to court records quoting Miller.

The defendants are scheduled to appear Feb. 2 for a hearing at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.

Reach Tammy J. McCoy at 951-375-3729 or tmccoy@PE.com

S.B. County accused of violating Brown Act

10:00 PM PST on Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino County is being accused of violating the Brown Act, California's open-meeting law, as it challenges the state's medical marijuana user program.

San Bernardino County joined San Diego County three years ago in challenging the program, which requires it to issue medical-marijuana identification cards to patients.

The counties petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case last week. The courts have so far ruled against them, upholding the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1996.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a national marijuana policy reform organization, said Wednesday that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has failed to keep the public informed of its decisions to appeal.

The group filed a complaint with the district attorney's office in September after an Aug. 26 meeting where the board discussed the lawsuit in closed session but made no announcement of any action taken.

That same day, a sheriff's spokeswoman announced that the county was appealing the case to the California Supreme Court.

Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said his group has been stymied in its attempts to find out the status of the case.

"They seem to have a certain arrogance where they feel like they can flout any state law, including the open-meeting laws," he said.

The county counsel's office was given the authority to pursue the case as far as necessary when the county joined the lawsuit in January 2006, county spokesman David Wert said.

No announcement was necessary at the Aug. 26 meeting because no action was taken, he said.

Terry Franke, general counsel for Californians Aware, an open government advocacy group, said the board must report on any decisions made in closed session about whether to pursue the appeals.

The district attorney's Public Integrity Unit is reviewing the complaint, said spokeswoman Susan Mickey.

Reach Imran Ghori at 951-368-9558 or ighori@PE.com

Leonard Peltier beaten in prison

By Brenda Norrell


CANAAN, Penn. -- Leonard Peltier was jumped and beaten after being transferred from a prison in Lewisburg to Canaan on January 13. The family, however, was not notified by the prison and received the information by way of a letter from Peltier. Peltier, 64, was placed in solitary confinement and it is not known if he has received medical attention.

"Once Mr. Peltier arrived at the Canaan prison facility, he was jumped by younger inmates, severely beaten, put in solitary confinement and placed upon meal restrictions despite his having diabetes and other medical conditions," the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee said in a statement ."The family has requested copies of the video tapes of that incident to no avail. It is as if the whole scenario was contrived to detract from the fact that Mr. Peltier has been a model prisoner having more than enough points to qualify for parole," LPDOC said.

Recently, the amount of hate mail circulated on the Internet regarding Peltier and appeals for his release has increased and could have played a role in the attack on Peltier.

The LPDOC said, "Retired, former and actively employed FBI agents have taken action against the release and parole of Leonard Peltier time and again. While it is their right to speak their opinion, it is not right to do so on federal time and at the taxpayer’s expense. Their letters, writings, articles, books, protests, outcries and interviews concerning Mr. Peltier, are a conflict of interest and tip the scales against him unfairly. In addition, it is certainly questionable as to the timing of a letter written by a former FBI Agent to Representative John Conyers and the beating Mr. Peltier received at Canaan."

The LPDOC said the attack on Peltier comes on the heels of the FBI's recent letter, prompting this attack by FBI supporters as an attempt to discredit Peltier as a model prisoner. "Anyone who has been in the prison system knows well that if you refuse to name your attackers or file charges against them, then you lose your status as a victim and/or given points against your possible parole and labeled as a perpetrator. It is not uncommon, in fact is quite common for the government to use Indian against Indian and they still operate under the old adage "it takes an Indian to catch an Indian," LPDOC said.

In 1978, the US government made an attempt to assassinate Peltier, offering another Indian inmate at Marion prison with Leonard Peltier, a chance at freedom. The man was Standing Deer. Standing Deer befriended Peltier in prison and exposed the plot to assassinate him. Standing Deer was murdered in Houston after his release from prison.

LPDOC said, "Standing Deer chose to reveal the plot to him instead of taking his life in exchange for a chance at freedom. When Standing Deer was released in 2001, he joined the former Leonard Peltier Defense Committee as a board member. He also began to speak on Leonard's behalf until his murder six years ago today. Prior to his murder, Standing Deer confided with close friends and associates that the same man who visited him in Marion to assassinate Peltier, had came to Houston and told him that he had better stay away from Peltier and anything to do with him," the LDPOC said. (An interview with Ben Carnes on Standing Deer and Peltier can be heard at Censored News Blog Radio or at Earthcycles on Longest Walk.)

Micheal Kuzma, an attorney for Leonard Peltier's defense, described the attack on Peltier in prison, during an interview with American Indian Airwaves on Wednesday, Jan. 21. Kuzma said Peltier's sister Betty Peltier-Solano, executive coordinator of the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee,
received a letter from Peltier, but was never notified by prison officials of the attack. Peltier was transferred from Lewisburg to Canaan prison during the week of Jan. 12th and attacked on the 13th, by other inmates.

Kuzma said, "According to the letter, he thinks he might have a concussion. His middle finger on his left hand is either broken or badly injured. He has a large bump near his right wrist. The right side of his rib cage and chest are in pain. He also has a bruise on the right side of his chest. He also has a bruise on his left knee, and is suffering from headaches. These headaches are a direct result of the Jan. 13 beating."
Listen (last 20 minutes of program) on Jan. 21 at:

AIM West plans a protest in solidarity with Peltier to draw attention to the attack and call for his release on Friday in San Francisco. http://www.aimwest.info/

For more information: LPDOC: http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/

Updates at Censored News: http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com

The Freedom of Information Act is Back Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

By Barack Obama
President of the United States

January 21, 2009

Publisher’s note: This newspaper, like all investigative journalists, has utilized the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), begun under President Johnson and amended by Presidents Clinton and Bush, to obtain many government documents that have exposed official wrongdoing. In particular, journalist Bill Conroy’s reports on corruption in US law enforcement agencies along the US-Mexico border have made many such documents available to the public for the first time. At our Schools of Authentic Journalism in Mexico and Bolivia, journalist Jeremy Bigwood trained others in the vital tools of how to utilize FOIA.

But in recent years, US government agencies have often delayed, denied and otherwise stonewalled our requests under this law.

Today’s official memorandum signed by US President Barack Obama brings a long overdue and welcome sea change to our work and that of all investigative journalists. Concretely, it means that in the coming months and years, you, the reader, are going to gain access through the FOIA requests we will now be able to submit to uncover many hidden US government activites related to Latin America, the so-called “war on drugs,” official corruption in US agencies, and interventions in the affairs of other nations.

The ground, indeed, has been moved under our feet, and in the most positive way.

We publish the President’s memorandum today so that all journalists and citizens can have access to this landmark executive order.

-Al Giordano

January 21, 2009


SUBJECT: Freedom of Information Act

A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike.

The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

I direct the Attorney General to issue new guidelines governing the FOIA to the heads of executive departments and agencies, reaffirming the commitment to accountability and transparency, and to publish such guidelines in the Federal Register. In doing so, the Attorney General should review FOIA reports produced by the agencies under Executive Order 13392 of December 14, 2005. I also direct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to update guidance to the agencies to increase and improve information dissemination to the public, including through the use of new technologies, and to publish such guidance in the Federal Register.

This memorandum does not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.


Mexican Drug War Violence Is Going off the Charts

President-elect Barack Obama met Monday with Mexican President Felipe Calderón to discuss bilateral issues of major importance for the two countries. In addition to NAFTA and immigration policy, Mexico's ongoing plague of prohibition-related violence was high on the agenda.

More than 5,400 people were killed in the violence last year, and more than 8,000 in the two years since Calderón ratcheted up Mexico's drug war by sending thousands of troops into the fray. The multi-sided conflict pits rival trafficking groups -- the so-called cartels -- against each and the Mexican state, but has also seen pitched battles between rival law enforcement units where one group or the other is in the pay of the traffickers.

The Obama-Calderón meeting comes as the violence in Mexico is creating increasing concern among US policy and defense analysts. Last month, the National Drug Intelligence Center warned in its National Drug Threat Assessment 2009 that "Mexico drug trafficking organizations represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States."

In a December report to the US Military Academy at West Point, former drug czar retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey warned dramatically that even the $1.4 billion, three-year anti-drug assistance plan approved by Congress and the Bush administration last year was barely a drop in the bucket, noting that it was only a tiny fraction of the money spent on the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The stakes in Mexico are enormous," McCaffrey warned. "We cannot afford to have a narco state as a neighbor. Mexico is not confronting dangerous criminality -- it is fighting for its survival against narco-terrorism."

The consequences of US failure to act decisively in support of Calderón's drug war would be dire, McCaffrey warned. "A failure by the Mexican political system to curtail lawlessness and violence could result in a surge of millions of refugees crossing the US border to escape the domestic misery of violence ... and the mindless cruelty and injustice of a criminal state."

This week, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff jumped on the bandwagon. In their report, The Joint Operating Environment 2008, which examines global threats to the US, the Joint Chiefs warned that Mexico was one of the two countries most in danger of becoming a failed state. The other was Pakistan.

"The Mexican possibility may seem less likely," the report noted, "but the government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone."

But for all the dire warnings of doom, the incoming president gave little sign that he would do anything other than stay the course. Nor did he suggest in any way that he would make a radical break with US drug policy on the border. Obama has stated publicly that he supports the Mérida Initiative aid package, and Monday he limited his public remarks to generalities.

Noting the "extraordinary relationship" between the US and Mexico, Obama added: "Not only did we talk about security along the border regions, how the United States can be helpful in Mexico's efforts, we talked about immigration and how we can have a comprehensive and thoughtful strategy that ultimately strengthens both countries."

Despite taking his first meeting with a head of foreign state with President Calderón and pledging renewed cooperation, and despite the chorus of cassandras crying for more action, analysts consulted by the Drug War Chronicle said that given the raft of serious problems, foreign and domestic, facing the Obama administration, Mexico and its drug war are likely to remain second-tier issues. Nor is the Mérida Initiative going to be much help, they suggested.

"Obama is busy with other pressing issues," said Sanho Tree, drug policy analyst for the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington, DC-based think tank. "He just doesn't have the space and will to take on this other fight in Mexico."

On the other hand, the border violence frightening US policy makers is largely "a self-inflicted wound," Tree said. "Mix together high domestic demand here, prohibition economics, and a tough law and order approach, shake vigorously, and you have a disaster cocktail. It's not like we didn't warn them," he said.

Also, Tree noted, despite the rising alarm in Washington, there is little interest in opening a new front on the southern border. "Who has the stomach to take this on right now?" he asked. "Who is clamoring for this outside of institutional actors who want to protect their budgets? There is a lot of war-weariness and budget shock in this city, and that might leave some openings" for reform, he said.

"Probably not much will come of that meeting," said Tomás Ayuso, Mexico analyst for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "Calderón was pleading for Obama to put Mexico at the top of his list of priorities, but given what Obama is facing, the Mexican drug war is not at the top of his agenda."

Still, the situation in Mexico is serious and could get worse, Ayuso said. "If this isn't addressed now, Mexico could really descend into chaos. The drug cartels have virtually unlimited funding, their coffers are overflowing. The shadow economy in which they operate is booming, their operatives are armed to the teeth, and the next step is to set up a shadow government. It's very easy for them to influence people. They say: 'Accept our bribes or we'll kill you and your family.'" Ayuso said. "It's pretty effective."

"This meeting looked mostly like generalities, but Obama has said repeatedly during the campaign that he supports the Mérida Initiative, and that will most likely continue during his administration," said Maureen Meyer, Mexico analyst for the Washington Office on Latin America. "With more and more reports lately painting Mexico as a security crisis, we are seeing a recognition by the new administration that this is a priority, and it will continue cooperating with Mexico."

But the looming crisis on the border and in Mexico could provide openings for reform, Meyer said. "We hope to have more openings to reopen the debate on US drug policy internationally, and Mexico could give us the opportunity to look at what has and has not worked in the Andean region and Mexico as well," she said.

That debate could include modifications to the Mérida Initiative, which is heavily weighted toward military and law enforcement equipment and training, said Meyer. "Congress has reiterated its support for the Mérida Initiative, but we've also seen a tendency to redirect funding toward arms trafficking going south and demand here in the US. The Congress will also, we hope, start to look away from sending more equipment and toward more support for institutional reforms. Helicopters aren't going to have any impact on Mexico's underlying problems," she said.

The violence in Mexico could help further weaken already eroding support for US drug policy in the hemisphere as a whole, said Ayuso. "In Latin America, where most of the suffering is happening, many countries are asking whether the Washington-led war on drugs is the answer," he said. "That's something Calderón himself has brought up, but Obama is probably not going to budge on that. Still, the chorus is growing. More and more people want to re-evaluate the drug war."