10 facts about the SWATification of the US

SWAT team raids in the US have gone up 25-fold since 1980. Time's recent article about the militarization of the police reports that "the federal government has funneled $4.3 billion of military property to law enforcement agencies since the late 1990s."

End of the American Dream has assembled 10 facts about SWAT teams:

  1. In 1980, there were approximately 3,000 SWAT raids in the United States. Now, there are more than 80,000 SWAT raids per year in this country.
  2. 79 percent of the time, SWAT teams are deployed to private homes.
  3. 50 percent of the victims of SWAT raids are either black or Latino.
  4. In 65 percent of SWAT deployments, “a battering ram, boot, or some sort of explosive device” is used to gain forced entry to a home.
  5. 62 percent of all SWAT raids involve a search for drugs.
  6. In at least 36 percent of all SWAT raids, “no contraband of any kind” is found by the police.
  7. In cases where it is suspected that there is a weapon in the home, police only find a weapon 35 percent of the time.
  8. More than 100 American families have their homes raided by SWAT teams every single day.
  9. Only 7 percent of all SWAT deployments are for “hostage, barricade or active-shooter scenarios”.
  10. Even small towns are getting SWAT teams now. 30 years ago, only 25.6 percent of communities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team. Now, that number has increased to 80 percent.

Albuquerque police chief OKs shooting of homeless man who ran from flash grenade

Still image from a video that shows officers assaulting and then killing a mentally ill man who was illegally camping

Travel tip for Albuquerque visitors: When a gang of police officers unleash their attack dog on you and startle you with a flash-bang grenade, stand very still. If you try to back away, Police Chief Gordon Eden has given the officers permission to shoot you on the spot.

The Albuquerque Police Department has been under federal review by the U.S. Department of Justice since 2012 when the agency’s record of shooting 25 suspect – 17 fatal – garnered national attention. The department has added 11 more shootings to that list since the end of 2012. Albuquerque officers have shot more persons than the NYPD, a department serving a city 16-times larger, since 2010.

Albuquerque cops assault and kill camping homeless man

Nevada deputy who took $50,000 from a man ordered to return it

In September 2013 Tan Nguyen was pulled over by Nevada Deputy Sgt. Lee Dove for driving 78 MPH in a 75 MPH zone. Deputy Dove asked Nguyen for permission to search the car and Nguyen consented to the search. (Big mistake. He should have done this instead.) Deputy Dove found $50,000 in Nguyen's briefcase and confiscated it. Deputy Dove did not charge Nguyen with any crime. Nguyen asked Deputy Dove not to take his money, which he said was casino winnings. According to Nguyen's lawsuit, Deputy Dove "threatened to seize and tow his car unless he 'got in his car and drove off and forgot this ever happened.'" This photo of Sgt. Dove with the money he took was posted to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department's Facebook page.

This story has a happy ending. Nguyen sued the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and got his $50,000 back, plus $10,000 to pay his lawyer. The Humboldt County District Attorney issued a laughably stupid statement that tried to deflect the blame from the sheriff's department over to the liberal media elite, which had "unfairly criticized the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office as the Sheriff's Office was acting in accordance with the law as they understood it and was not responsible for any procedural defects following the seizure of assets."

A Driver Had $50,000 Seized By A Nevada Cop, But Wasn't Charged With A Crime. Now He's Getting His Money Back

Militarized police kill 80-year-old man in his own bed. No meth found

Zach Weissmueller says:

A few years ago, I shared with you a video about the pattern of police raids on private property happening in California's Antelope Valley.

Well, a rather tragic and infuriating story brought me back to the desert. It's the story of Eugene Mallory, an 80-year-old retired engineer, whose home was raided by the LA County Sheriff's Dept. (which has been at the center of a number of scandals in recent years), in search of meth. No meth was found, but Eugene Mallory was shot dead in his own bedroom.

This video takes you inside Mallory's home, to the scene of the incident, and scrutinizes the Sheriff Department's official account. How was a warrant obtained, but not a single shred of evidence pointing to meth production found on the property? Why did deputies first claim Mallory was charging at them and then change their story? Why did one officer only yell "drop the gun" after he had already shot Mallory six times?

Police Shoot, Kill 80-Year-Old Man In His Own Bed, Don't Find the Drugs They Were Looking For

Ukraine slides into full-blown dictatorship with brutal new law


(click for full)

Despite the valiant efforts of the motley opposition in Ukraine, the tame Ukrainian Parliament has passed a brutal law that slides the country into full-on dictatorship. Forbidden under the new law on penalty of high fines and imprisonment: driving cars in columns that are more than five vehicles long; setting up an unauthorized sound system; distribution of "extremist opinion"; "mass disruptions" (10-15 years imprisonment!); collecting information on police or judges; and more.

The new law also demolishes the trappings of democracy: you can be convicted in absentia based on unsubstantiated hearsay; MPs can be arrested during plenary sessions; the state can order arbitrary Internet censorship; and legal service of documents now consists of signatures or "any other data."

Read the rest

Federal Court: No suspicion needed for laptop searches at border

A US Federal Court sided with the "DHS Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Impact Assessment of its electronics search policy, concluding that suspicionless searches do not violate the First or Fourth Amendments. The report said that a reasonable suspicion standard is inadvisable because it could lead to litigation and the forced divulgence of national security information, and would prevent border officers from acting on inchoate 'hunches,' a method that it says has sometimes proved fruitful," said the ACLU in a statement following the decision.

In other words, hunches, top secret secrets, and the fear of getting sued trump the Bill of Rights. I feel safer!

ACLU: Court Rules No Suspicion Needed for Laptop Searches at Border (Thanks, Matthew!)

Officer who forced dozens of anal cavity searches for fun gets only 2 years in prison

This gentleman violently inserted his finger into dozens of victims' anuses. Sometimes his friends held guns to the victims' heads to force them to comply. Why was he sentenced to just two years in prison? Because he was an officer with the Milwaukee police department!

Read the rest

Innocent caretaker of disabled child humiliated in botched sex sting

Ted Balaker says:

During an undercover pubic restroom sex sting, police in Manhattan Beach, California tackled, arrested, and interrogated an innocent man, seized his property without probable cause or a warrant, caused the man to withdraw from college (they held his computer for months, which contained all his coursework), and instead of quickly verifying that he was the caretaker of a disabled child and not the sex criminal they suspected, they held him in legal limbo with bogus charges, and humiliated him by releasing his mugshot to the media.

Read the rest

Two people jailed for a month while their soap was tested for drugs

Annadel Cruz and Alexander Bernstein spent one month in a Pennsylvania jail while their soap was tested for cocaine. They were released when the laboratory test results revealed the soap to be free of illegal drugs.

The trooper said he stopped the car on Interstate 78 because Cruz was driving five miles per hour above the posted speed limit and "hugging the side of the lane," as the Allentown Morning Call put it. Bernstein's lawyer thinks it is more likely that the trooper's suspicions were aroused by the sight of a young Latina driving a new Mercedes-Benz with out-of-state plates. After pulling over the car, in which Bernstein was a passenger, the trooper claimed to smell marijuana, and Cruz confessed she had smoked pot before leaving New York City. Then the trooper asked if he could search the car, and Cruz supposedly said yes.

What, no forced anal probes like they do in New Mexico and Texas?

One Month in Jail for Soap Possession

Sweden's telcos hand over mass spying powers to police, tax authority, customs and other agencies

Under a new, extra-legal voluntary arrangement, Swedish telcos will turn over detailed call records, location data, and billing information to a wide variety of government agencies, including the tax authorities, police, and customs. The data will also include codes necessary to bypass Swedes' SIM PINs and covertly activate them over the air. Because this is a voluntary arrangement, there is no legal framework for it -- it wasn't the result of a law or act of Parliament. It's just a cozy arrangement between Sweden's carriers and the Swedish state.

Read the rest

UK cops officially detained David Miranda for thoughtcrime

David Miranda is journalist Glenn Greenwald's boyfriend, but he's best known for being detained under the Section 7 of the UK Terrorism Act while changing planes at Heathrow. The cops held Miranda for nine hours, the maximum allowed under law, without access to counsel, using powers intended to allow the detention of people suspected of connections to terrorism. But it was clear to everyone that Miranda wasn't connected to terrorism -- rather, the UK establishment was attempting to intimidate people connected to the Snowden leaks through arbitrary detention and harassment.

Now that Miranda's lawyers are chasing down the people responsible, we're getting a more detailed picture of the process that led up to Miranda's detention. Before a Section 7 detention takes place, British cops have to file a form called a Port Circular Notice, and several drafts of the Notice used to detain Miranda have come to light.

The final draft argues that Miranda should be detained under terrorism law because "...the disclosure or threat of disclosure is designed to influence a government, and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism."

In other words: thoughtcrime.

Section 7 originated under the New Labour government, and was refined and perfected by the Tory/LibDem coalition.

Read the rest

Brown? In London? Papers please.


(Photo: NRBrizzle)

In London today, members of the UK Border Agency were stopping people of color at various tube stations and demanding that they show identity papers. Several eyewitnesses confirmed that the patrol officers were singling out brown people, that they were intimidating in demeanor, and that they threatened to arrest passers-by who asked what was going on. At least one officer is reported to have removed his badge number. This comes as the UKBA began to blitz London's neighbourhoods with vans threatening undocumented migrants with arrest and deportation and exhorting them to turn themselves in.

Read the rest

What happened to David Mery, the techy who was arrested as a terrorist in a London tube station because of his coat

[Editor's note: I mentioned the arrest of technology editor David Mery in my recent Guardian column on Prism; he wrote in to correct some details and explain the astounding circumstances of how Britain's absurd war on terror caught him in its mesh for the crime of wearing a coat in the summer -CD]


I was observed directly when I entered Southwark tube station and then on CCTV. All the time it was by Met police officers. To my knowledge no computer algorithms were involved. In Naked Citizen, Patrick Hafner mixes the interview he did with me and some CCTV recognition algorithms, but the two are not directly related. The Met police officers at the entrance of the station were those who found my behaviour suspicious and decided initially to stop and search me under s44 of the Terrorism Act.

Who exactly took the decision to arrest me and the choice of legislation is less clear, as it appears that initially officers wanted to arrest me under the Terrorism Act but were overruled and decided on Public Nuisance (which can still carry a life sentence).

The Met and IPCC investigation files are still retained (until 2015 and 2014) but my police national computer record was deleted as well as my fingerprints and DNA, and I eventually also got the photographs back. The short version of the whole story is here.

That I let a tube train pass by without boarding it is the only important dispute in the police version of events and mine. That's the police version. Mine is that I tried to board the first train that arrived, but was then stopped by the police.

Read the rest

Raytheon making social-network-mining software to help gov'ts spy on citizens

Raytheon's "RIOT" (Rapid Information Overlay Technology) is intended to help governments all over the world by providing a "Google for spies" that mines multiple online sources to build up detailed pictures of the personal activities of their citizens:

The sophisticated technology demonstrates how the same social networks that helped propel the Arab Spring revolutions can be transformed into a "Google for spies" and tapped as a means of monitoring and control.

Using Riot it is possible to gain an entire snapshot of a person's life – their friends, the places they visit charted on a map – in little more than a few clicks of a button.

In the video obtained by the Guardian, it is explained by Raytheon's "principal investigator" Brian Urch that photographs users post on social networks sometimes contain latitude and longitude details – automatically embedded by smartphones within so-called "exif header data."

Riot pulls out this information, showing not only the photographs posted onto social networks by individuals, but also the location at which the photographs were taken.

"We're going to track one of our own employees," Urch says in the video, before bringing up pictures of "Nick," a Raytheon staff member used as an example target. With information gathered from social networks, Riot quickly reveals Nick frequently visits Washington Nationals Park, where on one occasion he snapped a photograph of himself posing with a blonde haired woman.

"We know where Nick's going, we know what Nick looks like," Urch explains, "now we want to try to predict where he may be in the future."

Riot can display on a spider diagram the associations and relationships between individuals online by looking at who they have communicated with over Twitter. It can also mine data from Facebook and sift GPS location information from Foursquare, a mobile phone app used by more than 25 million people to alert friends of their whereabouts. The Foursquare data can be used to display, in graph form, the top 10 places visited by tracked individuals and the times at which they visited them.

The video shows that Nick, who posts his location regularly on Foursquare, visits a gym frequently at 6am early each week. Urch quips: "So if you ever did want to try to get hold of Nick, or maybe get hold of his laptop, you might want to visit the gym at 6am on a Monday."

The associated patent says that Raytheon believes that its software can judge whether its subjects constitute a "security risk"

Software that tracks people on social media created by defence firm [Guardian/Ryan Gallagher]

DHS watchdog: DHS can search all your devices within 100 mi of US border

The DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties -- a watchdog that's supposed to keep the DHS in check -- has concluded that it's fine for the DHS to stop anyone within 100 miles of the US border, without any suspicion or warrant, and search all the data on all their devices. But they won't say why:

“There should be a reasonable, articulate reason why the search of our electronic devices could lead to evidence of a crime,” Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney, said in a telephone interview. “That’s a low threshold.”

The DHS watchdog’s conclusion isn’t surprising, as the DHS is taking that position in litigation in which the ACLU is challenging the suspicionless, electronic-device searches and seizures along the nation’s borders. But that conclusion nevertheless is alarming considering it came from the DHS civil rights watchdog, which maintains its mission is “promoting respect for civil rights and civil liberties.”

“This is a civil liberties watchdog office. If it is doing its job property, it is supposed to objectively evaluate. It has the power to recommend safeguards to safeguard Americans’ rights,” Crump said. “The office has not done that and the public has the right to know why.”

Toward that goal, the ACLU on Friday filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding to see the full report that the executive summary discusses.

DHS Watchdog OKs ‘Suspicionless’ Seizure of Electronic Devices Along Border [David Kravets/Wired]