The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Canada facilitated NSA spying on 2010 G8 and G20 summits

The Harper Conservative government made the Toronto G20 summit the occasion for a vast state provocation, with police taking over much of the downtown of Canada’s largest city, and using violence and mass arrests to suppress protests. Last week we learned that in addition CSEC and NSA were jointly conducting a highly sensitive spying operation, thereby furthering a reactionary partnership that has placed the world’s communications under systematic surveillance of the type that the police states of the 20th century could only dream of.

Drones, Tanks, and Grenade Launchers: Coming Soon to a Police Department Near You

Why does a police department which hasn’t had an officer killed in the line of duty in over 125 years in a town of less than 20,000 people need tactical military vests like those used by soldiers in Afghanistan?  For that matter, why does a police department in a city of 35,000 people need a military-grade helicopter? And what possible use could police at Ohio State University have for acquiring a heavily-armored vehicle intended to withstand IED blasts?

Why are police departments across the country acquiring heavy-duty military equipment and weaponry? For the same reason that perfectly good roads get repaved, perfectly good equipment gets retired and replaced, and perfectly good employees spend their days twiddling their thumbs—and all of it at taxpayer expense. It’s called make-work programs, except in this case, instead of unnecessary busy work to keep people employed, communities across America are finding themselves “gifted” with drones, tanks, grenade launchers and other military equipment better suited to the battlefield. And as I document in my book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, it’s all being done through federal programs that allow the military to “gift” battlefield-appropriate weapons, vehicles and equipment to domestic police departments across the country.

It’s a Trojan Horse, of course, one that is sold to communities as a benefit, all the while the real purpose is to keep the defense industry churning out profits, bring police departments in line with the military, and establish a standing army. As journalists Andrew Becker and G. W. Schulz report in their insightful piece, “Local Cops Ready for War With Homeland Security-Funded Military Weapons,” federal grants provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have “transformed local police departments into small, army-like forces, and put intimidating equipment into the hands of civilian officers. And that is raising questions about whether the strategy has gone too far, creating a culture and capability that jeopardizes public safety and civil rights while creating an expensive false sense of security.” For example, note Becker and Schulz:

In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff’s department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone, like those used to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists in the remote tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer hasn’t died from gunfire in the line of duty in more than 125 years, police bought eight $1,500 tactical vests. Police in Des Moines, Iowa, bought two $180,000 bomb-disarming robots, while an Arizona sheriff is now the proud owner of a surplus Army tank. [continue]

Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidation | Glenn Greenwald

At 6:30 am this morning my time - 5:30 am on the East Coast of the US - I received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a “security official at Heathrow airport.” He told me that my partner, David Miranda, had been “detained” at the London airport “under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000.”

David had spent the last week in Berlin, where he stayed with Laura Poitras, the US filmmaker who has worked with me extensively on the NSA stories. A Brazilian citizen, he was returning to our home in Rio de Janeiro this morning on British Airways, flying first to London and then on to Rio. When he arrived in London this morning, he was detained.

At the time the “security official” called me, David had been detained for 3 hours. The security official told me that they had the right to detain him for up to 9 hours in order to question him, at which point they could either arrest and charge him or ask a court to extend the question time. The official - who refused to give his name but would only identify himself by his number: 203654 - said David was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor would they allow me to talk to him.

I immediately contacted the Guardian, which sent lawyers to the airport, as well various Brazilian officials I know. Within the hour, several senior Brazilian officials were engaged and expressing indignation over what was being done. …

Despite all that, five more hours went by and neither the Guardian’s lawyers nor Brazilian officials, including the Ambassador to the UK in London, were able to obtain any information about David. We spent most of that time contemplating the charges he would likely face once the 9-hour period elapsed.

According to a document published by the UK government about Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, “fewer than 3 people in every 10,000 are examined as they pass through UK borders” (David was not entering the UK but only transiting through to Rio). Moreover, “most examinations, over 97%, last under an hour.” An appendix to that document states that only .06% of all people detained are kept for more than 6 hours.

The stated purpose of this law, as the name suggests, is to question people about terrorism. The detention power, claims the UK government, is used “to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”

But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop “the terrorists”, and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.

Worse, they kept David detained right up until the last minute: for the full 9 hours, something they very rarely do. Only at the last minute did they finally release him. We spent all day - as every hour passed - worried that he would be arrested and charged under a terrorism statute. This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.

Before letting him go, they seized numerous possessions of his, including his laptop, his cellphone, various video game consuls, DVDs, USB sticks, and other materials. They did not say when they would return any of it, or if they would.

This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they feel threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.

If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world - when they prevent the Bolivian President’s plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today - all they do is helpfully underscore why it’s so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.

David was unable to call me because his phone and laptop are now with UK authorities. So I don’t yet know what they told him. But the Guardian’s lawyer was able to speak with him immediately upon his release, and told me that, while a bit distressed from the ordeal, he was in very good spirits and quite defiant, and he asked the lawyer to convey that defiance to me. I share it, as I’m certain US and UK authorities will soon see.

The infrastructure of a police state emerges in Europe | Peter Schwarz

The claim that this Orwellian surveillance apparatus is devoted to the struggle against terrorism is absurd. There is no need to monitor hundreds of millions of citizens in order to track down a handful of terrorists, who in many cases have their own links to the intelligence services.

The real target of the intelligence surveillance is the vast majority of the people. This is the real enemy identified by the ruling class. This is confirmed by any brief look at social statistics and the social counterrevolution currently taking place.

In the US, the richest ten percent of the population control more than half of all income and about three quarters of all private assets. At the bottom, the poorest 15 percent of the population live below the official poverty line of $22,300 annually for a family of four.

In Europe, austerity measures dictated by the EU have resulted in mass unemployment and social decline on an unprecedented scale. After five austerity budgets in Greece, 40 percent of the population are no longer covered by health insurance and therefore not entitled to health care.

The ruling class senses that popular opposition is growing and is responding by placing the entire population under surveillance. Such surveillance is not limited to passive observation. In the event of an escalation of the class struggle, as is currently occurring in Egypt, the profiles and addresses stored in the vast databases of the intelligence agencies would be mined to draw up lists of dissidents and political leaders for arrest and prosecution.

The ruthlessness of the ruling class is most clearly shown in the case of Edward Snowden. The 30-year-old must fear for his life and is being hunted across the planet because he had the courage to expose the criminal activities of the NSA. The forced landing of Bolivian President Evo Morales in Vienna made clear that even the elected leader of a sovereign state is not safe from the machinations of the US Secret Service and their European accomplices.

The intelligence agencies are also quite prepared to use provocations and acts of terror to further their ends. The secret NATO Gladio organization in Italy was infamous for carrying out such acts of provocation in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, is expected to resign today due to a similar case, the so-called “bomb-planting affair”. In Germany, meanwhile, new evidence is continually emerging on the involvement of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the racist murders conducted by the National Socialist Underground (NSU).

The case of Edward Snowden contains vital lessons. No confidence can be placed in any of the institutions of the capitalist state—the courts, the political parties, the legislatures, or the capitalist media—to defend basic democratic rights. The ruling elites disregard the most basic rights and are developing police-state methods to defend their wealth and privileges. The defense of democratic rights, along with the struggle against social cuts, can only be carried out on the basis of a mass movement of the working class aimed at overturning the capitalist system.

A Patriot Act History Lesson: How Prescient Warnings Were Mocked | Conor Friedersdorf

During the winter of 2006, the U.S. Senate was debating the re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act. The legislation would ultimately pass by a wide margin, and George W. Bush signed it into law. But before that could happen, civil libertarians led by then Senator Russ Feingold tried to amend the 2001 law. They warned that its overly broad language would permit government to pry into the privacy of innocent Americans, and warned about the likelihood of executive branch “fishing expeditions.”

Dismissive Senate colleagues scoffed at their concerns.

An exchange between Feingold and then Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona is illustrative of the way that civil libertarians warned of coming abuses, only to be dismissed as hysterics needlessly wasting Senate time.

The scene takes place on the Senate floor on February 16, 2006.

Feingold was trying to amend the PATRIOT Act, arguing that Section 215, a part of the law core to the NSA controversy, gives the government “extremely broad powers to secretly obtain people’s business records.”

Said Feingold:

The Senate bill would have required that the government prove to a judge that the records it sought had some link to suspected terrorists or spies or their activities. The conference report does not include this requirement. Now, the conference report does contain some improvements to Section 215, at least around the edges. It contains minimization requirements, meaning that the executive branch has to set rules for whether and how to retain and share information about U.S. citizens and permanent residents obtained from the records. And it requires clearance from a senior FBI official before the government can seek to obtain particularly sensitive records like library, gun and medical records.

But the core issue with Section 215 is the standard for obtaining these records in the first place. Neither the minimization procedures nor the high level signoff changes the fact that the government can still obtain sensitive business records of innocent, law-abiding Americans. The standard in the conference report - “relevance” — will still allow government fishing expeditions. That is unacceptable.

He went on:

Next, let me turn to judicial review of these Section 215 orders. After all, if we’re going to give the government such intrusive powers, we should at least people go to a judge to challenge the order. The conference report does provide for this judicial review. But it would require that the judicial review be conducted in secret, and that government submissions not be shared with the challenger under any circumstances, without regard for whether there are national security concerns in any particular case. This would make it very difficult for a challenger to get meaningful judicial review that comports with due process.

Today we know that Section 215 has been invoked by the government to obtain call data on all Verizon customers, and has very likely been used to collect data on tens or hundreds of millions of Americans who are customers of all the major telecom carriers. Feingold was exactly correct: the sensitive business records of innocent, law-abiding Americans were seized because the minimization standard, “relevance,” turns out not to minimize affected Americans at all. Additionally, it has so far proved not just very difficult, but impossible to get meaningful judicial review.

But back in 2006, when Feingold remained a lonely voice in opposition to PATRIOT Act re-authorization, look at how Senator Kyl, speaking on the same day, derisively dismissed his concerns.

Said Kyl, opposing Feingold’s suggested amendments:

“There is no basis for delaying the PATRIOT Act.”

… “What can be gained from this? Nothing at all except that we waste more time thus making it more likely that we will not have time to do other business of the Senate, especially as it gets toward adjournment later on in the year.”

… “I often wonder what Osama bin Laden is thinking. I suspect he is not getting live coverage, but he is probably getting reports somehow or other, and he must be shaking his head: I thought I was pretty clear, I am really making threats against these guys, and they are playing around. They are not taking my threats seriously.”

… “I wanted to examine a couple of amendments our colleague from Wisconsin would have offered to illustrate it is not something we should be wasting our time on… I thought I would take two of the amendments—we are not going to be debating the amendments, but this is the kind of thing raised as an objection to the PATRIOT Act—the kind of amendments that would be offered. It shows how unnecessary this approach is.”

… “This amendment would strip away the protections for classified information about suspected terrorists and terrorist organizations… The amendment not only risks revealing our level of knowledge of our data collection methods to those who would do us harm, but it also threatens to undermine our relations with allies who supply us with a lot of information in this war or terror…this particular amendment would allow classified information to be compromised during the challenge to a nondisclosure order for national security letters or a FISA business records order… It serves no substantial interest but, as I said, can be very damaging to our national security.”

So thus far, Kyl has literally asserted not just that Feingold’s amendments are, on balance, wrongheaded, but that they serve no purpose or interest at all — and has suggested that the very effort to amend the PATRIOT Act isn’t just purposeless, but also a sign that Feingold doesn’t take Bin Laden seriously, which is to say, the cheapest rhetorical trick in the Senate playbook.

Kyl goes on to state:

“This amendment would do serious harm to U.S. national security. And to what end? What powerful privacy interest or civil rights interest dictates a third party asked to produce business records in its possession must be allowed to disclose the existence of the investigation or must be given access to other classified information in order to plead that matter before the judge?

… The only other amendment I want to discuss is amendment No. 2892, blocking these section 215 orders even where relevance is shown. This amendment is highly problematic because it would bar antiterrorism investigators from obtaining some third party business records even where they can persuade a court that those records are relevant to a legitimate antiterrorism investigation. We all know the term “relevance.” It is a term that every court uses. It is the term for these kinds of orders that are used in every other situation in the country. Yet the author of the amendment argues that relevance is too low a standard for allowing investigators to subpoena records.

Consider the context. The relevance standard is exactly the standard employed for the issuance of discovery orders in civil litigation, grand jury subpoenas in a criminal investigation, and for each and every one of the 335 different administrative subpoenas currently authorized by the United States Code.

So Feingold says that the “relevance” standard, in the context of secret national security investigations, is extremely broad, and that his colleagues should recognize its implications for the privacy of innocent Americans — and Kyl retorts that “relevance” is the same standard used all the time, that we’re all familiar with it, and that it’s “exactly” the standard used in criminal investigations.

There’s no other way to put it: Feingold has been proved right, and Kyl wrong.

As the Wall Street Journal put it Monday, under the headline “Secret Court’s Redefinition of ‘Relevant’ Empowered Vast NSA Data-Gathering”:

The National Security Agency’s ability to gather phone data on millions of Americans hinges on the secret redefinition of the word “relevant.”

This change—which specifically enabled the surveillance recently revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden—was made by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a group of judges responsible for making decisions about government surveillance in national-security cases. In classified orders starting in the mid-2000s, the court accepted that “relevant” could be broadened to permit an entire database of records on millions of people, in contrast to a more conservative interpretation widely applied in criminal cases, in which only some of those records would likely be allowed, according to people familiar with the ruling.

The ‘relevant’ language was added to the Patriot Act when it came up for reauthorization; it was signed by President Bush in 2006.

The article goes on:

“Relevant” has long been a broad standard, but the way the court is interpreting it, to mean, in effect, “everything,” is new, says Mark Eckenwiler, a senior counsel at Perkins Coie LLP who, until December, was the Justice Department’s primary authority on federal criminal surveillance law.

“I think it’s a stretch” of previous federal legal interpretations, says Mr. Eckenwiler, who hasn’t seen the secret ruling. If a federal attorney “served a grand-jury subpoena for such a broad class of records in a criminal investigation, he or she would be laughed out of court.”

This is exactly how War on Terror hawks defeat civil libertarians: warnings that overly broad language will be twisted by the national security state are dismissed as paranoid time-wasting — why, relevance is the same standard used in all sorts of contexts, nothing worrisome to see here! Later, when the overly broad language is exploited in exactly the way civil libertarians anticipated, the same coalition that insisted such measures wouldn’t be permitted by the law suddenly claim that they’re perfectly legitimate legal interpretations of duly passed and signed legislation.

The decomposition of American democracy | Tom Carter

This flew in under the radar - the DoD put a new rule into effect on May 13th of this year, seemingly in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. No matter (cuz terror). A summary:

… Pursuant to military regulations already in place, the military is authorized to deploy itself within the US to suppress “civil disturbances” and “provide for the restoration of law and order in a specific State or locality.” The regulations define a civil disturbance as “[g]roup acts of violence and disorder prejudicial to public law and order.”

These regulations state that the military may be deployed within the US where “[d]uly constituted Federal, State, or local authorities are unable or decline to provide adequate protection…” In other words, the military expressly asserts the power to intervene with force and violence to put down what it has determined to be an unacceptable “civil disturbance,” including over the opposition of civilian federal, state or local agencies. The regulations even authorize military action in response to “large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances” where “prior authorization by the President is impossible.”

"Civil disturbance" is intentionally vague, of course - no need to clarify whether that protest you’re planning is included. Better not to protest anything at all, right?

[H]ere’s one further thought on the ‘counterterrorism’ efforts of the ever-watchful Guardians Of Our Nation (GOONs). If they really are so concerned about the ‘radicalization’ of young Muslims, then why do all the undercover agents they send into Muslim communities pose as extremists, sowing the most radical ideas possible, preying on any vulnerable or troubled soul they come across, egging them on to violence and hatred and often even arranging terrorists plots for them to take part in? If their real concern was to quell ‘radicalization,’ shouldn’t they be sending in people to talk up peace, tolerance, non-violence, etc.? (Leaving aside the quaint, barnacle-encrusted notion that the state should not be infiltrating any groups at all; I mean, get with the 21st century already, grandpa!) … Indeed, it’s almost as if they want to foment scarifying plots, keeping the public scared, obedient — even slavishly grateful — to their GOONs and (coincidentally, of course!) justifying an never-ending stream of loot and power flowing to their own noble selves and their institutions of domination, which have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world in the last decade and stripped away the last vestiges of personal liberty (and prosperity) from those they are meant to be ‘guarding.’ I wonder who radicalized them into such violent extremism? Radical Notions

Google’s Spymasters Are Now Worried About Your Secrets

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, “The Dark Side of the Digital Revolution,” makes for very scary reading. It is not so much because of what he and co-author Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas, have to say about how dictators can use new information technology to suppress dissent; we know those guys are evil. What is truly frightening is that the techniques of the totalitarian state are the same ones pioneered by so-called democracies where commercial companies, like Google, have made a hash of the individual’s constitutionally guaranteed right to be secure in his or her private space.

The dictators, mired in more technologically primitive societies, didn’t develop the fearsome new implements of control of the National Security State. Google and other leaders in this field of massively mined and shared information did. As the authors concede and expand on in their new book:

“Despite the expense, everything a regime would need to build an incredibly intimidating digital police state—including software that facilitates data mining and real-time monitoring of citizens—is commercially available right now. … Companies that sell data-mining software, surveillance cameras and other products will flaunt their work with one government to attract new business. It’s the digital analog to arms sales. …”

The Google execs have inadvertently let us in on the world that they inhabit, where the data mining of individual preferences—for such interests as sex and politics—can be cross filed and tabulated by supercomputers to be exploited for commercial gain. The drive for ever more detailed information on individual behavior is on with a vengeance in the profit-driven world of data mining, as anyone who observes the ads that mysteriously pop up during Internet browsing sessions well knows. But that invasive technology is now undergoing a massive revolutionary upgrade provided by the collection of vast numbers of biometric markers.

“Don’t think the data being collected by autocracies is limited to Facebook posts or Twitter comments,” Schmidt and Cohen warn. “The most important data they will collect in the future is biometric information, which can be used to identify individuals through their unique physical and biological attributes. Fingerprints, photographs and DNA testing are all familiar biometric data types today. … With cloud computing, it takes just seconds to compare millions of faces. … By indexing our biometric signatures, some governments will try to track our every move and word, both physically and digitally.” [++]

In a democracy, the legal system cannot be allowed to overextend itself by looking for ill-defined precursors of crime. If the state can hunt future terrorists that hunt will sooner or later also include opponents of the government — anyone whose alleged criminality is determined not by their behavior but by their ideas.

Searching for future terrorists… and unicorns

see also.

and, on cue, Thought crime time with Senator Lindsey Graham

The Marathon Bombings and the Lockdown of Boston: Was it really a Vindication of the Surveillance State? | Falguni Sheth and Robert Prasch

The past decade has seen Presidents, politicians — conservatives and liberals alike — champion pre-emptive policing laws such as the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA, NDAA 2012 and 2013, to TSA security practices and searches, to “See Something, Say Something” practices—all in service to fighting the War on Terror. As a cable-news talking head cooed Friday morning: “There are cameras and social media everywhere. There is nowhere to hide!” That statement seemed indisputable: store cameras, street cameras, private cellphone cameras and videos could be integrated to give an astonishingly wide record of the tens of thousands of people who were at last Monday’s event. Yet, the most important truth of that day seemed to be lost in the gush of self-congratulation: the explosion of the bombs confirmed that a massive extension of the surveillance-state did NOT protect people in Boston.

… [T]here was nearly no element of the recently reinforced surveillance state that contributed to the capture or killing these two suspects. As an example, let’s assume every detail of the attack is the same except that it occurred in 1977 (to pick a random date prior to our ubiquitous Counter-Terrorism surveillance state; remember how we used to have “bad guys” before September 11?). If the “bad guys” had put together such a plan in 1977, would events have unfolded any differently? Would there have been a lot of photography at the finish line of such a prominent public event? Yes, although in the pre-digital age, it would have taken a little longer to gather and sort through the pictures. Hence, this aspect of this past week’s outcome can’t be ascribed to the massive expenditures and “federalization” of “homeland security,” but rather to a change in consumer electronics.

Would the two brothers have been flushed out by the police response to a nearby and unrelated robbery that led to the tragic shooting of a MIT police officer, the carjacking and ensuing chase that ended with the shootout in Watertown? It is hard to credit this sequence of events, which were initiated by a mere coincidence, to the success of the modern surveillance state. Would the initial shootout in Watertown, the escape of one of the brothers, and the eventual spotting of blood on the side of a boat and the calling in of that observation have unfolded in more or less the same way in 1977? Probably.

Where is the added value? In what way have the massive expenditures, intrusive surveillance practices, and stripping away of our liberties been vindicated by the events of this past week? In fact, no one can truthfully say “Aha! This is where these new practices have made a difference! Thank goodness George W. Bush and Barack Obama have so little regard for the American Constitution or everything would have really gone badly at that particular point in these events.”

What we witnessed was a tragic — but sadly – too familiar sequence of events. In a nation of over 340 million, we have a few demented or damaged souls with real or imagined grievances that cause them to wish to harm people whom they do not know. We also have good, brave, and competent local and state police forces that are able and willing to solve these crimes. It was true back in 1977—and long before–and remains true today.

So what in fact did change? We now have a “War on Terror” that permeates every public news event and action. The immediate leap to the familiar “Terrorists In Our Midst” narrative is facilitated and amplified by a bovine mainstream media amped up by endless alerts issued by a Department of Homeland Security and two Presidential Administrations about insane foreigners here, there, and everywhere. In other words, what’s changed is the presence of a fear-mongering narrative of the War on Terror, along with the billions in expenditures that are used to justify it, that reframe a centuries old story about crime.

The events of the past week in Boston do not vindicate the rise of the Homeland Security bureaucracy and certainly do not vindicate the stripping of our liberties, the shutting down of a major city, or the instantiation of a police state. But they certainly affirm the future as it was perceived by George Orwell. [++]

Walmart security guard shoots 'shoplifting' mother dead in parking lot as she tries to escape with two young children

sinidentidades:

A 27-year-old mother of two has been fatally shot by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy after he suspected her of shoplifting at a Houston Walmart.

Harris County Sheriff’s deputies have said that victim Shelly Frey, Tisa Andrews and Yolanda Craig  were stealing when they were confronted by Louis Campbell a 26-year veteran of the force who works as a security guard at the store.

According to Campbell the women ran to their car and when he rushed to open the door, they accelerated away - at which point he fired the deadly shot into the car which hit Frey in the neck.

Security at the store on the 14000 block of the North Freeway had noticed the three women ‘stuffing items inside their purses’ and notified Campbell, who was working an extra job that evening.

Investigators with Harris County said the three women even attempted to pay for some small items to act as a cover for the shoplifted ones.

After chasing Frey and the other two women to their car, Campbell opened the door and commanded Frey to get out. But she refused, officials said.

Andrews began to drive away while the deputy was standing between the open door and the driver’s seat.

‘She threw it in reverse and tried to run over the deputy,’ said Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Deputy Thomas Gilliland.

‘He confronted the suspects at exit of the store before they left. One female wouldn’t stop, struck the deputy with her purse, ran off.’

‘I think it knocked him off balance and, in fear of his life and being ran over, he discharged his weapon at that point.’

‘Why couldn’t you just shoot the tire, shoot the window?’ said her mother Sharon Wilkerson. ‘Was it that serious?’

She added that even if her daughter had committed a crime, she did not deserve to die and she worries now for her two young grandchildren.

‘How do I tell these children she’s not coming back,’ said Sharon.

‘To me, it should never (have) happened. I wish the officer didn’t shoot her. I wish he shot her tires just to slow her down. That’s a mother you know. And now they have to figure out what to do with the kids,’ said Angel Gaines, a neighbor.

Kesha Sapp, a woman who knew Frey, agreed.

‘What that look like with him shooting with the darn kids in the car? There were kids in the car with them. Why is he shooting at the car? Come on now, that makes him look bad. That don’t even look right,’ said Sapp.

Both Andrews and Craig, the two other women allegedly involved, have been charged with shoplifting.

Tragically, Frey wasn’t even supposed to be at a Walmart that evening.

Earlier in the year she pleaded guilty to stealing shirts and a package of meat from another Walmart and as part of her plea arrangement she agreed to never enter Walmart stores again.

Deputy Campbell is on three days paid leave as is standard protocol. He’s been with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for 26 years. 

The Harris County Sheriff’s Homicide Unit, Office of the Inspector General and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office will investigate this incident. The case will be turned over to a grand jury.

I know that the media is going to spin this like she is some kind of “delinquent mother” or something to downplay this tragedy. What I see is a mom trying to care for her kids as best she can. It’s quite clear that she may have been having a hard time given one of her children’s medical condition and having to rebuild what was lost post-Katrina, and for a woman of color, that’s especially not easy. And that charge for stealing shirts and meat, yeah, that is enough evidence to show that she was stealing out of necessity, for survival. The officer was clearly in the wrong for even opening fire. Of course, he will likely be absolved for what he’s done while she will be painted as some kind of monster of a mother for resorting to stealing when all she was trying to do was what was necessary to support her children.

(via randomactsofchaos)

Domestic drones and their unique dangers | Glenn Greenwald

[…] What is most often ignored by drone proponents, or those who scoff at anti-drone activism, are the unique features of drones: the way they enable more warfare, more aggression, and more surveillance. Drones make war more likely precisely because they entail so little risk to the war-making country. Similarly, while the propensity of drones to kill innocent people receives the bulk of media attention, the way in which drones psychologically terrorize the population - simply by constantly hovering over them: unseen but heard - is usually ignored, because it’s not happening in the US, so few people care (see this AP report from yesterday on how the increasing use of drone attacks in Afghanistan is truly terrorizing local villagers). It remains to be seen how Americans will react to drones constantly hovering over their homes and their childrens’ schools, though by that point, their presence will be so institutionalized that it will be likely be too late to stop.

Notably, this may be one area where an actual bipartisan/trans-partisan alliance can meaningfully emerge, as most advocates working on these issues with whom I’ve spoken say that libertarian-minded GOP state legislators have been as responsive as more left-wing Democratic ones in working to impose some limits. One bill now pending in Congress would prohibit the use of surveillance drones on US soil in the absence of a specific search warrant, and has bipartisan support.

Only the most authoritarian among us will be incapable of understanding the multiple dangers posed by a domestic drone regime (particularly when their party is in control of the government and they are incapable of perceiving threats from increased state police power). But the proliferation of domestic drones affords a real opportunity to forge an enduring coalition in defense of core privacy and other rights that transcends partisan allegiance, by working toward meaningful limits on their use. Making people aware of exactly what these unique threats are from a domestic drone regime is the key first step in constructing that coalition.

DOJ Emails Show Feds Were Less Than "Explicit" With Judges On Cell Phone Tracking Tool | ACLU

A Justice Department document obtained by the ACLU of Northern California shows that federal investigators were routinely using a sophisticated cell phone tracking tool known as a “stingray,” but hiding that fact from federal magistrate judges when asking for permission to do so.

Stingrays and similar devices essentially impersonate cell phone towers, allowing them to pinpoint the precise location of targeted cell phones (even inside people’s homes) and intercept conversations. They also sweep up the data of innocent people who happen to be nearby. By withholding information about this technology from courts in applications for electronic surveillance orders, the federal government is essentially seeking to write its own search warrants. [++]