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NYPD confirms CIA officer works at department
Aug 25, 2011
WASHINGTON (AP) -- New York's police commissioner confirmed Thursday that a CIA officer is working out of police headquarters there, after an Associated Press investigation revealed an unusual partnership with the CIA that has blurred the line between foreign and domestic spying. But he and the CIA said the spy agency's role at the department is an advisory one.
Speaking to reporters in New York, commissioner Raymond Kelly acknowledged that the CIA trains NYPD officers on "trade craft issues," meaning espionage techniques, and advises police about events happening overseas. Kelly also said he was unaware of any other U.S. police department with a similar relationship with the CIA.
"They are involved in providing us with information, usually coming from perhaps overseas and providing it to us for, you know, just for our purposes," Kelly said.
CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said the agency does not spy inside the United States and also described the relationship with the NYPD as collaborative.
"Our cooperation, in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is exactly what the American people deserve and have come to expect following 9/11," she said.
A months-long investigation by the AP, published Wednesday, revealed that the NYPD has dispatched teams of undercover officers, known as "rakers," into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They've monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as "mosque crawlers," to monitor sermons, even when there's no evidence of wrongdoing. NYPD officials have scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims.
Many of the operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD's intelligence unit after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The NYPD denied that it trolls ethnic neighborhoods and said it only follows leads. The mayor on Thursday defended the police department's efforts.
"In the end the NYPD's first job is prevention, and I think they've done a very good job of that," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said when asked about the police practices. "The law is pretty clear about what's the requirement, and I think they've followed the law."
Also Thursday, New York City Councilman Brad Lander said the city council should conduct an oversight hearing on the NYPD's programs, but Lander is not in a leadership position to enforce that such hearings take place.
"We must be sure that the NYPD's intelligence gathering does not violate civil liberties, target and profile our city's diverse ethnic and religious communities," Lander said.
City Councilman Peter Vallone, chairman of the panel that oversees the police department, said the council already had scheduled two NYPD oversight hearings during which these issues could be raised.
The disclosures about the NYPD's activities provoked exasperation in the city's Muslim neighborhoods, where government officials have sought to build relationships in Muslim communities and pledged to ensure that Muslims aren't targeted for discrimination.
"The NYPD's credibility is bankrupt in our communities," Fahd Ahmed, legal and policy director of the Desis Rising Up & Moving group, said in a statement Thursday. "We need accountability, transparency and an overhaul of tactics and policies."
Government outreach programs have operated in Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, Portland, Ore., and Washington - all cities with large Muslim communities - even as law enforcement around the country has stepped up investigative efforts to stave off attacks.
But the inherent tensions caused by this duality of missions is perhaps most visible in New York. It is the only U.S. city that al-Qaida has successfully attacked twice and continues to be the target of terror plots. New York also is home to the country's most aggressive local police department investigating counterterrorism.
"It seems to many of the leadership here, there are two kinds of authorities they are playing - one is in the forefront which is very cooperative," said Zaheer Uddin of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York. "And there is another authority, which is playing against Islam and Muslims, going against the First Amendment and the security of this country."
Uddin asked, "Are we partners, or are we a suspicious community?"
On Wednesday, the Justice Department said it will review a request by a Muslim advocacy group to investigate.
"These revelations send the message to American Muslims that they are being viewed as a suspect community and that their constitutional rights may be violated with impunity," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which asked for the investigation. "The Justice Department must initiate an immediate investigation of the civil rights implications of this spy program and the legality of its links to the CIA."
The Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, an umbrella organization of New York Muslim groups, on Thursday also called for an investigation.
In the decade since the September 2001 attacks, government officials in New York also have met with Muslim leaders and exchanged cellphone numbers. They've attended religious services, dinners and teas, and spoken at community meetings. The FBI recently hosted an event for 500 young Muslims in Brooklyn to build trust and get to know federal law enforcement, with a bomb-sniffing dog, scuba boat and helicopter on display.
"I go and visit mosques on a regular basis," Kelly previously told the AP, adding that he also holds question-and-answer sessions and planned to attend several dinners with members of the Muslim community during the holy month of Ramadan this year.
The police department in 2006 hired Sidique Wai, an African immigrant and member of the New York Muslim community, to coordinate the NYPD's citywide community outreach program. He said the interaction and outreach between the community and police is unprecedented.
"The majority of the faith-based - particularly the Muslim leaders throughout the city - are absolutely appreciative of the unprecedented relationship with the police department," Wai said. "I'm not aware of a deliberate effort on the part of NYPD to profile people."
Hamptons Hurricane: A Bankers' Katrina
August 26, 2011
Don't worry: the bankers are safe. The sub-prime sharks, derivatives divas, media mavens and their hairdressers, their trophy wives and their trophies' personal trainers, the movers and shakers and money-makers, are all out of danger. Despite the warning that in a couple of days Hurricane Irene could well hit The Hamptons, the beach of the best of the ruling class will not lose a tan line.
I made sure they're safe. A couple of decades ago, I worked on an emergency evacuation plan for the county of Suffolk, New York, home of the Hamptons. It's the wealthiest county in the United States.
The Hamptons' hurricane plan is six volumes thick. The police and the politicians, the fire department and the first responders have their copies, their orders, their equipment and they are ready to roll before a single fake-blonde curl is ruffled by untoward weather.
The last hurricane to hit Long Island, far fiercer than Katrina, took two lives, not 2,000.
But then, the Hamptons isn't New Orleans, is it?
In 1992, a big storm washed into 190 houses on West Hampton Dunes, getting many grade-B film scripts very wet. The federal government, with your tax dollars, rebuilt every single home on the beach (average value then, $2 million each)and even rebuilt the beach with an endless samba line of trucks filled with sand, care of the Army Corps of Engineers.
There's a photo of one, in case you'd like to move in. (Shouldn't we each get at least a weekend in the surf for our money?)
Now look at Patricia Thomas' home in the Lafitte Housing Project in New Orleans. I met her a year after the city flooded; she and her cousin and her cousin's two kids, just off the bus from refugee centers in Texas, were told that if they returned to their homes, they would be arrested. It's been six years and they still are not allowed back in. Doesn't matter: three years ago, their houses were torn down to make way for yuppie condos, for the nouvelle carpetbaggers who will enjoy Lafitte's locale near the French Quarter.
Last year, a judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government were completely responsible for the flooding of Lafitte and half the city. [See the film 'Big Easy to Big Empty.']
Under the Constitution, the President and Congress must authorize payment to flood victims, as they did for the Westhampton luvvies. But for the Thomas family, Obama requested, and Congress, appropriated ... absolutely nothing.
What about the New Orleans evacuation plan? Where were their six volumes? When I watched the chaos in August 2005, I immediately called FEMA to ask for a copy of the plan. Why were there no busses to take out those without cars? The number of deaths should have been ZERO.
The answer: the New Orleans plan couldn't be found. The company paid to draft it, Innovative Emergency Management, couldn't find a copy either. Long after 2,000 drowned, I found the "plan": no provision at all for the 27,000 residents without cars. That's not surprising: the hurricane evacuation contractor had zero experience in hurricane evacuation. Rather, IEM's chief did have lots of experience in donating to the Republican Party.
This week marks the sixth anniversary of the biggest ethnic cleansing in America since the Indian wars of the 19th Century: the flooding of New Orleans. We will celebrate this weekend, by worrying that Hurricane Irene will make the President and his donors on Martha's Vineyard spill their daiquiris.
I met Patricia's cousin five years ago today when, as dusk fell, she was in tears, wondering where she was going to stay with her kids that night. "That's what I want to know, Mister, where we going to?"
Well, I know of some usually-empty and quite nice federal housing units on Westhampton Dunes....
Greg Palast's investigative report, Big Easy to Big Empty: the Untold Story of How the White House Drowned New Orleans is available as a free download at www.GregPalast.com, provided by the Palast Investigative Fund, a 501(c)3 charitable trust, on the Sixth Anniversary of the New Orleans' flood.
Palast's continuing investigation of the flood and its connection to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, filmed for Channel 4 Dispatches UK, will be published in November by Penguin USA.
The Inexplicable War on Lemonade Stands
E.D. Kain, Contributor
I write about politics, criminal justice reform, and pop culture.
Robalini's Note: Too bad state regulators don't investigate and punish banks like they do lemonade stands run by kids...
I'm beginning to think that there's a nation-wide government conspiracy against either lemonade or children, because these lemonade stand shutdowns seem to be getting more and more common. If you set up a stand for your kids, just be prepared for a visit from the cops.
In Coralville, Iowa police shut down 4-year-old Abigail Krstinger's lemonade stand after it had been up for half an hour. Dustin Krustinger told reporters that his daughter was selling lemonade at 25 cents a cup during the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Race Across Iowa (or RAGBRAI), and couldn't have made more than five dollars, adding "If the line is drawn to the point where a four-year-old eight blocks away can't sell a couple glasses of lemonade for 25 cents, than I think the line has been drawn at the wrong spot."
Nearby, mother Bobbie Nelson had her kids' lemonade stand shutdown as well. Police informed her that a permit would cost $400.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, police shutdown a lemonade stand run by three girls who were saving money to go to a water park. Police said the girls needed a business license, a peddler's permit, and a food permit to operate the stand, which cost $50 per day or $180 per year each, sums that would quickly cut into any possible profit-margin.
In Appleton, Wisconsin the city council recently passed an ordinance preventing vendors from selling products within two blocks of local events including kids who want to sell lemonade or cookies.
These are hardly isolated incidents. From slapping parents with $500 fines for letting their kids run unlicensed lemonade stands (though this was later waived after public outcry), to government officials calling the cops on kids selling cupcakes, the list goes on and on and on.
Nor does it stop with kids. Food Trucks are also under the gun of regulators and city governments across the country. This isn't to say that food trucks don't need any regulations at all, but many of the regulations that come down the pipeline are pushed by brick-and-mortar competitors who want to keep competition at a minimum.
But it's the shutdown of lemonade stands that I find so inexplicable. Who stands to lose from a couple of six-year-olds selling lemonade? Who stands to gain from shutting them down? Do local governments really think parents are going to pay for $400 vendor permits, or that kids can scrape together the money for food permits? Are there any actual safety risks? Kids have been selling lemonade for decades without permits of any sort. They often set the stands up just for fun, but many lemonade stands (or bake sales) are used to raise money for schools, cancer, or sick pets. Lemonade stands represent the most innocent, optimistic side of capitalism out there.
Fortunately, August 20th is now unofficially National Lemonade Freedom Day, because when life gives you overbearing government regulations... make lemonade, or something.
Reason TV: Battle for the California Desert
Forbidden Knowledge TV
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August 23, 2011
Why is the Government Driving Folks off Their Land?
The Antelope Valley is a vast patch of desert on the outskirts of Los Angeles County, and a segment of the few rugged individualists who live out there are increasingly finding themselves the targets of armed raids from local code enforcement agents, who've assembled into task forces called Nuisance Abatement Teams (NATs).
The plight of the Valley's desert dwellers made regional headlines when county officials ordered the destruction of "Phonehenge": a towering, colorful castle constructed out of telephone poles by retired phone technician Kim Fahey. Fahey was imprisoned and charged with several misdemeanors.
But Fahey is just one of many who've been targeted by the NATs, which were assembled at the request of County Supervisor Mike Antonovich in 2006. LA Weekly reporter Mars Melnicoff wrote an in-depth article in which she exposed the County's tactic of badgering residents with minor, but costly, code violations until they face little choice but to vacate the land altogether.
"They're picking on the the people who are the most defenseless and have the least resources," says Melnicoff.
Reason.tv collaborated with Melnicoff to talk with some of the NAT's targets, such as retired veteran Joey Gallo, who might face homelessness if he's forced to leave his house, and local pastor Oscar Castaneda, who says he's already given up the fight and is in the process of moving off the land he and his wife have lived on for 22 years. And, while Antonovich declined an interview, we did catch up with him at a public meeting in order to ask the big question at the center of all this: Why the sudden enforcement of these codes against people living in the middle of the desert, who seemingly are affecting no one?
Writer-Producers: Zach Weissmueller and Tim Cavanaugh. Associate Producer: Mars Melnicoff. Camera: Alex Manning and Weissmueller; edited by Weissmueller.
Music by Audionautix.com.
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