FROM WRONG-HOUSE RAIDS TO WRONG-CAR RAIDS: SWAT Team Rams Wrong Man’s Car. “Even after officers realized that he was not the suspect, he said, they kept him in handcuffs for half an hour while they questioned him and ran a warrant check that came up with nothing. Then they let him go.”
LAWS ARE FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE: “The Senate has severely scaled back the Stock Act, the law to stop members of Congress and their staff from trading on insider information, in an under-the-radar vote that has been sharply criticised by advocates of political transparency.”
A reader comments:
This is symptomatic of the bigger and very true point you make in the legal protection for 401ks post: behavior changes dramatically when we don’t expect growth. It’s a fight for share. Thus politicians fighting so hard to preserve their information advantage in the public markets.
Old ways to get rich:
Invent good stuff.
New ways to get rich:
Taxes and rents.
This is what politics becomes like in a society with narrow horizons. it’s not necessarily bad for those who excel at such maneuvering. For them, a dynamic society is limiting.
REPORT: Life Inside The Aaron Swartz Investigation. “I am a journalist of hackers. They are my beat and my friends, so I’d seen people harassed and persecuted. Some piece of research or conference presentation would suddenly become an investigation, phone calls and meetings with lawyers. We came to expect raids, surveillance, and threats from powerful men who couldn’t tell the good guys from the bad in my world.”
UPDATE: Reader Kristo Miettinen writes:
Thanks for all you do. The link to Quinn’s article on Swartz was very illuminating!
First, it confirms what I have pointed out before: this was mainly about breaking and entering, more than about open access to archived scholarly articles. Swartz himself put it that way initially to Quinn, and the open access manifesto wasn’t even known to prosecutors at the time that they offered, and Swartz refused, the plea deal. At that time Swartz was being prosecuted for his ways, not for his ends. It is his defense (especially posthumously) that wants to make this about ends in order to cast him in the most positive light.
Second, the article opens the lid on a world of emotional children with the power to make very adult decisions. Both Quinn and Swartz reveal that they need to do a lot of maturing (Swartz has since regrettably opted out of growing up). But I can’t help but look at these two and fear that they are
like Iranian Ayatollahs with nukes. Less crazy perhaps, and less physically dangerous, but still that same sort of combination of immaturity of judgment and capability to do harm.
To tie it all back to a strongly related but superficially different topic, this is why we raise children to handle weapons. It’s not for hunting, not even (we hope) for self-defense, it is for mastering power, for learning to be responsible as you develop great personal capability. I’ve been reading Jeff Cooper lately, and I feel that if Aaron Swartz had known more of Cooper’s philosophy, he would have stayed out of the wiring closet and would still be alive today.
Well, the Swartz case has to be read against MIT’s long-time culture of tolerated pranks and break-ins (they have, or had, intramural lockpicking, and there’s a famous MIT lockpicking guide on the Web). But the Cooper point is a good one.
When French and Malian forces captured the town of Kidal last week, Islamist militants lost control of the last major town in northern Mali. Yet the battle continues despite France’s success at capturing the cities as the militants have moved to the vast, empty mountains in the north. African and French forces have begun to push forward to flush the Islamists out of their last desert strongholds, but they’re discovering that fighting in this inhospitable terrain is considerably more difficult than the urban combat they’ve seen so far. . . .
The fun part of the Mali war is over, but the war itself has only just begun. The bombing raids that wipe out enemy formations, the fall of cities, the parades with the kisses and flowers: All that is pretty much over and done with, but the enemy survives and will be heard from again.
The Malian government remains a pathetic shambles; the Malian armed forces make Italy look like Prussia, and the French lack the will and the capacity for successful desert warfare in the high desert. Trying to work out a political settlement that gets the Tuareg on board against the religious nutcases is the best strategy, but neither the Malian government nor its neighbors welcome that prospect.
Also, cut off their money. But for that, you’d have to go after some rich Saudis.
HMM: David Petraeus was brought down after betrayal by vengeful CIA agents and his own bodyguards who made sure his affair was exposed, claims new book. “The book also claims that Petraeus and Ambassador Chris Stevens were caught off guard by Benghazi consulate attack because they weren’t briefed about on-going U.S. military operations in Libya. Webb and Murphy say Benghazi attack was a retaliation for secret raids authorized by Obama security adviser John Brennan.”
MENENDEZ UPDATE: Report: FBI raids office of Florida doctor linked to Sen. Menendez.
EUROPE: Desperate Spain Raids Pension Fund. “As more and more Spaniards retire, the government will have a major crisis on its hands as it attempts to pay pensioners through a fund composed mostly of its own debt.” Luckily, nothing like that could happen here.
RADLEY BALKO: In Which Harold And Kumar Go Into Hiding.
I was so very excited about all that sensible drug policy we were going to get out of President Obama in his second term. I mean sure, Obama had spent a good deal of his first term waging more raids on medical marijuana clinics in four years than Bush had waged in eight. And his administration defended DEA agents who point guns at the heads of children during drug raids. And his appointees continued to defend the carnage in Mexico as merely the consequence of good, sensible drug policy.
Sure. There was all of that. But there were also all of these progressive pundits who kept telling drug war reformers that they should go ahead and vote for Obama anyway . . . because they just knew, or at least they were pretty sure, or at least they had heard rumors, that maybe, possibly, Obama would turn the corner and show some leadership. . . .
You’d think that if Obama were going to “pivot,” simply leaving alone two states that overwhelmingly legalized pot and gave him their electoral votes would be the best place to start.
As for “bring some cases against low-level marijuana users….,” I think that means you, Harold and Kumar. Hope you guys aren’t dog people.
The Drug War is about control. Obama likes control.
WE NEED FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LEGISLATION IMPOSING STRICT LIABILITY FOR NO-KNOCK RAIDS: St. Paul Cops Shoot Dog in Wrong-Door Raid, Force Handcuffed Kids to Sit Near the Corpse.
David Bernstein comments: “The family has filed a $30 million lawsuit, but tar and feathers would be more appropriate.” The remedies are not mutually exclusive.
And actually, I think remedies involving public humiliation are particularly appropriate for this kind of official misconduct. Just be sure the supervisors are included.
ANOTHER WRONG-HOUSE NO-KNOCK RAID: Beauty Queen Dragged Out of Bed Naked by Deputies. “A former beauty queen is suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after she says deputies kicked down the wrong apartment door, pointed guns at her and her fiancee and watched as she got out of bed, naked. . . . Manos and her fiancee, Eric Otto Ryder, say deputies had a search warrant for apartment ‘C’ but entered their unit — clearly marked as apartment ‘A.’”
There should be strict liability for no-knock raids.
I FIND YOUR LACK OF PROFESSIONALISM DISTURBING: Confused By Wi-Fi, SWAT Team Raids Wrong House.
Imagine you’re sitting at home, comfortable on the couch, watching the Food Network, when all of a sudden a heavily armed SWAT team breaks down your door and storms into your living room.
That’s what happened to 18-year-old Stephanie Milan, who was watching TV in her family’s Evansville, Ind., home last Thursday (June 22), when a team of police officers broke down her storm door — the front door was already open — and tossed a flash-bang stun grenade into the room.
“The front door was open,” Ira Milan, Stephanie’s grandfather and the property owner, told the Evansvile Courier & Press. “To bring a whole SWAT team seems a little excessive.”
Turns out, however, that the SWAT team had the address wrong.
We should abolish official immunity for no-knock raids. Police are clearly unable to handle this function responsibly.
UPDATE: More here.
CHANGE: Megaupload Bombshell: Judge Rules Police Anti-Piracy Raids Illegal. This whole thing seems to have been royally botched.
AN IP ADDRESS IS NOT AN ACTUAL ADDRESS OR A PERSONAL IDENTIFIER: SWAT tries to take down Internet meanie; raids grandma instead.
Also, judges know this. Well, the smarter ones, anyway.
ANOTHER WRONG-HOUSE RAID: Ninth Circuit to DEA: Putting a Gun to an 11-Year-Old’s Head Is Not OK. No, but it’s standard operating procedure, apparently.
There should be no official immunity for no-knock raids.
Plus: “While this raid was conducted under President George W. Bush, the deputy administrator of the DEA at that time was Michele Leonhart. She is now the administrator of the DEA, thanks to an appointment by President Barack Obama. Furthermore, the Obama Administration could have declined to defend the DEA in this case. Instead, Obama’s Justice Department has decided to make the case that federal agents should be allowed to hold guns to the heads of children.” (Emphasis added.)
And why aren’t the names of all the agents published? They should be publicly shamed for their error, and their behavior. From the opinion: “At the time the warrant was issued, DEA Agents believed that a vehicle belonging to suspected drug trafficker Luis Alvarez was registered at the Avina residence. After executing the search warrant on January 20, 2007, the agents discovered they had inadvertently written down a license number of a vehicle belonging to Thomas Avina instead of a vehicle belonging to Luis Alvarez.”
No ordinary citizen who made such an error, and then threatened children with guns, would enjoy anonymity.
Contrary to the impression one might get from some recent headlines, a new Indiana self-defense law does not authorize Hoosiers to wantonly open fire on police officers.
The Week ran the headline “The Indiana law that lets citizens shoot cops.”
The Russian cable news network site RT went with “Indiana legalizes shooting cops.” Bloomberg News was only slightly less sensational with its headline: “NRA-Backed Law Spells Out When Indianans May Open Fire On Police.” . . .
Fortunately, the law does nothing of the kind.
The changes to the law resulted from a widely criticized Indiana State Supreme Court ruling, Barnes v. State, in May 2011. The situation that triggered the court case (an appeal of a criminal conviction) resulted from an 2007 incident in which police responded to a 911 call about possible domestic violence.
After Richard Barnes had a verbal altercation with police, his wife pleaded with him to let officers into their home. Barnes refused. The police entered anyway. Barnes responded by shoving an officer to prevent him from coming inside. Barnes was arrested, charged and convicted of battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He appealed, arguing that because the officers’ entry into his home was illegal, he was permitted to use force to prevent them from coming inside.
The Indiana Supreme Court could have simply ruled that as a result of the call, Barnes’ state of mind and his wife’s pleas provided exigent circumstances for police to enter the Barnes’ home legally. Instead, the court went much further, finding that “there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.” The court even acknowledged that this unraveled hundreds of years of common law precedent.
The ruling effectively barred anyone accused of using force against a police officer, for any reason, from arguing self-defense or the defense of others at a trial. At the time, critics pointed out that with the ruling, a man who uses force against a police officer who is raping his wife would not be allowed to argue in court that he was defending his family. The battered spouse of a police officer who fends off her husband could in theory be arrested and, under the ruling, wouldn’t be permitted to argue self-defense.
While those scenarios may seem far-fetched, a bad prosecutor sympathetic to a wayward officer could easily make them a reality. . . . The Castle Doctrine law says that if someone has entered or is attempting to enter your home without your consent, you’re legally permitted to use a reasonable amount of force to expel the intruder from your residence. If you reasonably believe your life or members of your family are in danger, you can use lethal force. The revision to Indiana’s law simply states that public servants aren’t exempt from such treatment. . . . So why are Indiana’s police officials so worried? Like any interest group, police organizations are designed to support policies that benefit their members. If you have a state court ruling that says citizens can never use force against police officers even when one flagrantly violates the law, it isn’t difficult to see why police groups would aggressively oppose any legislation to override that ruling. . . . In seven years of reporting on paramilitary-style drug raids, I’ve reviewed cases where police officers have shot and killed innocent people after mistaking a blue cup or a glinting wristwatch for a gun. In nearly all of these situations the officers were cleared because prosecutors determined that given all the circumstances, the officers had made a reasonable error in judgment. Now in Indiana, the citizens on the receiving end of these raids will be given the same consideration.
Police should not enjoy any special privileges in the use of force, or in the unlawful entry to private property. In my opinion, they shouldn’t even enjoy official immunity, a doctrine that is as clear an example of judicial activism as anything in the law. Well, except maybe judicial immunity.
MICHAEL WALSH: “Solyndra! Solyndra!” “Axelrod is a charter member of Obama’s Chicago mafia, the man behind the curtain, and to send him out where he could be humiliated was a dreadful blunder. What, Bill Clinton wasn’t available? Oh, wait . . . The Romney camp has already shown itself to be an adept counter-puncher, but now seems to be moving toward a more aggressive, offensive posture. Yesterday was a series of Doolittle Raids, to test the enemy’s reactions.”
MORE ON THOSE UNDERFUNDED / OVER-GENEROUS PUBLIC PENSION PLANS: How Retirement Benefits May Sink the States.
Government retiree costs are likely to play an increasing role in the competition among states for business and people, because these liabilities are not evenly distributed. Some states have enormous retiree obligations that they will somehow have to pay; others have enacted significant reforms, or never made lofty promises to their workers in the first place.
Indiana’s debt for unfunded retiree health-care benefits, for example, amounts to just $81 per person. Neighboring Illinois’s accumulated obligations for the same benefit average $3,399 per person. Illinois is an object lesson in why firms are starting to pay more attention to the long-term fiscal prospects of communities. Early last year, the state imposed $7 billion in new taxes on residents and business, pledging to use the money to eliminate its deficit and pay down a backlog of unpaid bills (to Medicaid providers, state vendors and delayed tax refunds to businesses). But more than a year later, the state is in worse fiscal shape, with its total deficit expected to increase to $5 billion from $4.6 billion, according to an estimate by the Civic Federation of Chicago.
Rising pension costs will eat up much of the tax increase. Illinois borrowed money in the last two years to make contributions to its public pension funds. This year, under pressure to stop adding to its debt, the legislature must make its pension contributions out of tax money. That will cost $4.1 billion plus an additional $1.6 billion in interest payments on previous pension borrowings.
Business leaders are now speaking openly about Illinois’ fiscal failures.
Let’s just be thankful that the folks running our national budget don’t think the same way as . . . uh oh.
See, the thing is, some people say that people aren’t clever enough to plan for their own retirement. But what makes anyone believe that people can then be clever enough to plan for other people’s retirements?
Or as one commenter says:
So Nocera made bad, costly decision after bad, costly decision, and his conclusion is “The 401(K) is a failed experiment”?
Let me guess: the solution is a government-funded retirement for everyone. Yes, that’ll work out just fine. Nocera can retire, and I can pay for his retirement with my tax money.
Only if politicians value buying his vote more than yours.
UPDATE: Reader Joe Glandorf writes:
Nocera doesn’t seem to notice that defined benefit plans, both public and private, have failed and (for the public sector) are on the verge of failing, massively. Does he not know that all these beneficiaries will get downgraded from what they were “promised”? Yes, as recently as 20 years ago, managing a 401-k or IRA was expensive as well as challenging. Today, however, a complete investment novice can go on-line and quickly find a low cost, highly diversified, automatically re-balancing investment program from a number of sound investment firms (I use Vanguard) for one’s IRA if not an employer’s 401-k. These will, essentially, duplicate what any pension fund has historically done. The difference is that the beneficiary will know each step of the way where they REALLY stand and can control their spending and expectations accordingly. But that would take most people about 30 hours to do some thorough research. Apparently, this is too much for the Nocera’s of the world to expect from anyone; actually do some work understanding how to provide for your own financial security.
Of course, that won’t help you if you raid the fund to pay for new granite countertops. But then, that’s what our political leaders have been doing on a national scale for years.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes: “One recurring theme that I’ve noticed with 50-60 something NY Times columnists, and indeed men of that age in general, is that their financial woes involve a messy divorce earlier in their life. For people who are wondering why young men don’t ‘man up’ and marry, they may want to consider the effect of one example of divorce-induced financial ruin after another.” Well, that’s what the Insta-Wife’s forthcoming book is about.
And reader Jeff Randles emails: “If I raid my 401k then I’ve got the granite counter tops. If the government raids my 401k, then somebody else gets the granite counter tops.”
MORE: A reader who asks for anonymity comments: “Just wanted to point out that Teresa Ghilarducci was the Democrat operative that proposed the GRA to a congressional committee as a replacement for the 401K. That was what triggered the blogosphere backlash and the subsequent backpedaling of Democrats when it was suggested that they were trying to seize peoples’ 401K and IRA accounts. So having Joe Nocera quote her in his article about his 401K is a bit telling, don’t you think?”
MORE STILL: Reader Theodore Simon spots an irony:
‘What, then, will people do when they retire? I asked Ghilarducci. “Their retirement plan is faith based,” she replied. “They have faith that it will somehow work out.” ‘
Isn’t that precisely what Congressional Democrats always offer as their excuse for doing nothing to ensure the long-term viability of Social Security and Medicare, that in the end, it will “somehow work out”?
As I say, if people are too dumb to plan for their own retirements, they’re probably too dumb to plan for other people’s, too. And certainly there’s no evidence that the folks in Washington are any less dumb than the public at large.
STILL MORE: Reader John Primmer writes:
Professor Reynolds: Isn’t it telling that when a 60 year old NYT columnist wakes up to the fact that he has messed up his retirement plans, he turns to a “behavioral economist at the New School.” And the advice he gets is “OMG this is truly a mess. We must devise a new system to fix it.” As another reader observed, you can go online and have access to gobs of information that can help you make sound investment decisions. Or you can call on financial consultants employed by dozens of low-cost brokers/custodians, such as Schwab, Fidelity, T Rowe Price, E Trade, et al. In contrast to most politicians, reputable financial advisors realize that their advice has consequences and they will be judged on their performance.
SO WHAT MAKES BARACK OBAMA A “COOL KID,” EXACTLY?
The raids on marijuana clinics?
The opposition to gay marriage?
The drone attacks?
The Mom Jeans?
Just wondering. . . .
UPDATE: A reader emails: “My theory is Obama represents the supremacy (however short-lived) of the beta-male. The only people who think he’s a hep-cat are hipster betas and 60′s radical-nostalgia dopes (also perennial personal-risk-averse betas who never did anything bold on their own). It’s all projection, much like the rest of the way that demographic operates.”
CORRUPTION IN L.A. GOVERNMENT? Ex-appraiser says he cut values in hopes of donations to assessor. “A former county appraiser who secretly and improperly slashed tens of millions of dollars from the taxable values of Westside properties in late 2010 said he did it in the hope that wealthy homeowners receiving the reductions would contribute money to Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez.”
And now: Raids in 2 states expand corruption probe of L.A. County assessor. “Boxes of evidence are taken from the home of Assessor John Noguez, who is the focus of an influence-peddling probe. The Phoenix-area home of a campaign donor who has secured large tax reductions for clients is also raided.”
KICKSTARTING Meryl Yourish’s Nephew’s band trip.
NANNY STATE UPDATE: Health department raids community picnic and destroys all food with bleach.
MICHAEL YON: Our Weak Government Must Stop Apologizing for Criminal Behavior of Others. “Noticeably absent from the airwaves is a definitive apology from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and a vow to fight this treachery committed by his troops. Instead, we are likely to hear Karzai whining about night raids that his own troops help conduct every night.”
Back when he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama insisted that medical marijuana was an issue best left to state and local governments. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” he vowed, promising an end to the Bush administration’s high-profile raids on providers of medical pot, which is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multiagency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush.
You f*cked up — you trusted him.
ANOTHER DRUG RAID FAILURE: FBI Raids Wrong House, Enters Using Chain Saw. There should be no official immunity for no-knock raids.
HERSCHEL SMITH ON NO-KNOCK RAIDS: “Do SWAT teams want to play soldier so badly that they are willing to endanger the public, and are judges concerned enough about a ‘small amount of marijuana’ that they are willing to see military tactics used against U.S. citizens?” Yes. Next question?
Meanwhile, Vox Day achieves an almost-Steynian degree of pessimism, while others go farther. I, on the other hand, think America will not only survive, but flourish in the coming decades, most likely without hanging even a single politician from a lamppost. But I’m just one of those Pollyannas.
Meanwhile, one day I’m going to have to actually read Pollyanna. It’s one of those books that nobody reads, but that has become an expression. I’ve never even seen the movie, which as a Disney item likely took liberties. The popular usage is probably unfair. On the other hand, I’m pretty well-known for my sunny disposition. . . .
OF COURSE, NOBODY WILL GO TO JAIL: Botched raid costs Minneapolis $1 million.
The Minneapolis City Council approved a $1 million settlement Friday after a botched drug raid in 2010 in which an officer threw a “flash-bang” grenade into a south Minneapolis apartment burning the flesh off a woman’s leg.
The payout to Rickia Russell, who suffered permanent injuries, was the third largest payout for alleged Minneapolis police misconduct on record.
Flash grenades are intended to distract and intimidate, not to injure people, but during the raid the device rolled under the legs of Russell, who was seated on a sofa, and exploded. The police were looking that day for a drug dealer, narcotics and a firearm, but found nothing.
Russell, now 31, suffered third- and fourth-degree burns that caused a deep indentation on the back of one leg, requiring skin grafts from her scalp. She is still undergoing physical therapy.
“What happened in this case was an accident,” Minneapolis city attorney Susan Segal said in a statement. “It’s very unfortunate that Ms. Russell suffered serious injuries, however, accidents like this are rare.”
Yet incidents of fires, injuries and even deaths caused by the devices have led to costly settlements and policy changes in cities nationwide, including Minneapolis, where a 1989 fire started by a police grenade killed two people.
You throw a grenade, there had better be a credible threat to someone’s life, not just some bullshit drug raid. The supervisors on this raid should be in jail for reckless endangerment.
And note this: “In what Bennett called ‘a cascading series of errors,’ a Minneapolis police SWAT team smashed down the door with a battering ram without warning, when the search warrant police had obtained required officers to announce themselves before entering.”
Jail time and bankruptcy should be the result, not just a civil judgment against the city. And there should be no official immunity for no-knock raids.
CHANGE SAME: Obama’s ’08 rhetoric backfires. “Barack Obama’s crusade against political apathy, which helped drive voters to the polls in 2008, is backfiring four years later as Americans grow increasingly frustrated with the sputtering economy and gridlock in Washington.. . . A growing number of Obama’s 2008 supporters now feel the president has failed them, analysts said. Americans’ trust in the political system has never been lower and more voters than ever feel their voices aren’t being heard in Washington. When the president once again admonished a predominantly black audience to ‘put on [their] marching shoes’ in September, members of the Congressional Black Caucus reacted angrily.”
In general, I find this sort of appeal to the Establishment depressing, but especially in this case. If the Occupy movement, like Fairey, sees Obama as a “potential ally” then what does it say about the way that the president has in fact governed? Like Sen. John McCain, Candidate Obama cast a vote in favor of bailing out the big banks and financial institutions while running for president. He then upped the ante and has shown absolutely zero ability to conjure up an economic recovery plan that does not rely on fixes that were rusted-out by the time Richard Nixon took that final flight to San Clemente back in the 1970s.
Obama’s record on civil liberties and foreign interventions is indistinguishable from George W. Bush’s, whose exit calendar from Iraq he is fulfilling. Except that Obama has managed to lower the bar when it comes to killing American citizens and committing American resources without even the fig leaf of congressional approval. Who wants to support the Solyndra-style crony capitalism, or bizarre gun-running operations such as Fast and Furious? What part of record numbers of deportations of poor Mexicans and raids of legal-under-state-law medical marijuana dispensaries in California does Fairey and Occupants not understand? . . . But for god’s sake, who the hell is Fairey kidding? Obama as Guy Fawkes, a minority Catholic plotting to blow up the government who is only remembered in contemporary America because of a graphic novel and rotten movie that was a stupid anti-Thatcher allegory? Obama isn’t the solution, in part or in whole. Every bit as much as George W. Bush, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, you name it, he’s the problem.
All of it.
FRANK J. FLEMING TAKES ON the biggest “Fat Cat” of all: Uncle Sam.
It wouldn’t be so bad if Uncle Sam earned his money, but he doesn’t. He’s never produced anything — he gets all his money through deception.
For instance, he said he was going to provide retirement savings for everyone, but the whole thing is a Ponzi scheme in which Uncle Sam constantly raids the funds while giving people a horrible return on their investments. He’s bilked people out of trillions with that scam; Bernie Madoff is a shoplifter by comparison.
He’s always looking for more ways to scam people, hiding fees everywhere. He even grabs money out of our paychecks and then gives us a small fraction back once a year as a “rebate” and expects us to be grateful.
You almost have to admire his shamelessness; he mugs you and expects you to thank him because he gave you back a dollar.
Uncle Sam has absolutely no appreciation for his unearned wealth and just spends it lavishly and pointlessly. A while back, people were criticizing how much he was spending on public-radio stations no one listens to, and his defense was that it was only $100 million. Only $100 million. Can you even imagine being so wealthy that $100 million is an inconsequential sum?
This guy is completely disconnected from the financial reality we’re all in. Unlike responsible rich people who have savings and investments, Uncle Sam is hugely in debt. No matter how much money he has, Princess Sam thinks he deserves to spend more.
Read the whole thing. It’s like he’s channeling Iain Murray or something.
MIKE RIGGS: Update on Wrong-House Raid in Alameda: “I remember the guns pointing at my face when I look at my front door. Every. Single. Time.” There should be no official immunity for no-knock raids. Get the wrong house, and you’re naked.
UPDATE: Reader Ron Shrewsbury corrects me, noting that this was a wrong-house raid, but that they did pound on the door according to the report, adding: “It’s not clear if he answered the door or if they then broke in. The real question in this story is whether or not it’s proper to have firearms drawn and ready to use when conducting an arrest of someone who ‘…made bail after being arrested in August in connection with an indoor marijuana-growing operation….’” And who wasn’t there, which they could have discovered with a little basic pre-raid research.
FOLLOW THE MONEY: FBI Raids Solar Firm Solyndra. “Solyndra is a solar-panel manufacturer once touted by President Barack Obama as a beneficiary of his administration’s economic policies. It announced last week that it was laying off 1,100 workers and filing for bankruptcy. The company was held up as the model for government investment in green technology. In addition to the $535 million loan guarantee, it received visits from the president and other state and federal officials.”
More here. “Solargate?”
PUSHING BACK TWICE AS HARD: Gibson goes on the offensive: Guitar maker’s CEO vows fight, says feds’ raids went too far.
AUDIO: Gibson CEO on Federal Raids.
BRYAN PRESTON ON THE GIBSON RAIDS: Is It Really That Simple?
MORE ON THE GIBSON RAID: “Why would the government use armed agents to attack one of the few major manufacturers of anything remaining in the United States?” It’s like they don’t want to see the economy recover or something.
UPDATE: What a coincidence! CEO of Gibson Guitar a Republican Donor. And their Democratic-donating competitor, Martin, uses the same wood but wasn’t raided. Well, when you’ve got a President who jokes about tax audits as revenge for a personal slight, it’s hard not to be suspicious, isn’t it?
ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.
MORE: On the joking-about-audits front: “This is why an astute President never jokes about such things. But this is not a very astute President.”
GIBSON GUITAR CEO ON RAIDS: “We’re being persecuted.”
AN OBAMA ADMINISTRATION MARIJUANA FLIPFLOP: “The Department of Justice sent out a memo Wednesday instructing the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and leading officials in the U.S. Attorneys Office to treat medical marijuana shops as top priorities for prosecutors and drug investigators. . . . The memo, authored by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, ‘clarifies’ a memo released in 2009 that declared medical marijuana sales in states that have legalized it to be a low priority for law enforcement and prosecutors.”
More here. “Some will argue that the administration has no choice but to enforce these laws. However, prosecutorial discretion gives the executive the power to decide not to pursue these cases if the president so chooses. Indeed, the federal government can only prosecute a small fraction of the numerous violations of today’s overbloated federal criminal law. The average American commits about three federal felonies every day. Every administration must inevitably prioritize some federal laws over others. There is no legal obstacle preventing the president from keeping his campaign promise. The problem is lack of political will. The hesitation is remarkable in light of the fact that polls show that some 81 percent of the public supports legalization of medical marijuana.”
DAVE HARDY: More SWAT-type raids on nonviolent charges.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION SENDS S.W.A.T. TEAM TO WRONG HOUSE over defaulted student loans. Everyone involved should be tarred and feathered. But in fact, there will be no consequences to speak of.
On the other hand, if Congressional Republicans are looking for some budget cuts, how about a rider banning any funding for armed agents at the Department of Education?
UPDATE: Education Department says it wasn’t about a student loan. But they won’t say what it is about. I agree with this commentary:
This will certainly come as a relief to Millenial deadbeats, but the notion that “bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student aid funds” is all it takes to get a paramilitary squad to bang down your door at 6 a.m, handcuff you in your boxers, and throw your three pre-teen children into the back seat of a squad car, all in the service of a warrant aimed at someone who no longer lives in your home, is frankly every bit as terrifying.
Unless and until we hear that this “criminal investigation” involves some kind of imminent threat of violence, there will be no margin of excuse for it, only new opportunities for bureaucrats and commentators to demonstrate that they are perfectly content living in and even contributing to a police state.
Tar. Feathers. And defunding.
ROGER SIMON: Forget the Osama photo, release the Osama porn! “Think I’m kidding? No, I’m not. The kind of pornography a man looks at it gives us a certain insight into him. I can’t even begin to guess what excited bin Laden’s twisted brain. It could be something quite banal or something, shall we say, rather outré. I leave that to your imagination. But whatever it is, it would be interesting. . . . I guess this is all of a piece with the old bird dying his hair and keeping a stash of herbal Viagra. Three wives weren’t enough for him.”
Plus this: “The discovery of pornography taken during raids on Islamic militants is not uncommon, officials told Reuters.”
WHAT? LIBYA? OH, RIGHT: Libya raids not aimed at killing Kadhafi: French FM.
International forces are seeking to weaken but not to kill Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi by bombarding his strategic sites, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday.
“Our aim is not to kill Kadhafi,” Juppe said on news channel France 24, describing as “collateral damage” the death of one of the ruler’s sons in a recent NATO air strike.
“We are targeting military sites in Tripoli” in an attempt to weaken Kadhafi’s regime, which is in a fierce fight against rebels who are recognised by France.
“There is no question of getting bogged down in Libya,” he added. “I hope that will last no longer than a few weeks, a few months at the most. But it is premature to talk of getting bogged down.”
Well, okay then. Related: Qaddafi’s Forces Bombard Rebel Cities as Allies Prepare for Rome Meeting.
FBI RAIDS ACTOR’S APARTMENT for suspicion of uploading a movie.
I agree that we should be discussing the topic. But the boomer-era left shouldn’t be able to turn on a dime after nearly a half-century of endlessly mocking nuclear war preparations to suddenly embracing the idea overnight without at least a few raised eyebrows. It’s very much akin to the way Bill Clinton suddenly waxed nostalgic for the Cold War era shortly after its conclusion helped to propel him into office. As Howard Dean once said, “I will use whatever position I have in order to root out hypocrisy;” there seems to megatons worth on this topic on his side of the aisle.
Meanwhile, Moe Lane wants the end of history back:
What’s depressing is that I grew up in the tail end of the Cold War, and I remember well drawing overlapping circles on a map of the tri-State area and concluding that there wasn’t a chance in Hell that I could get far enough from the primary blast zones if the balloon ever went up**. I did not mind in the slightest when history appeared to end in 1991.
But history doesn’t end, dammit. And we need to address our lack of a Civil Defense program.
And Michael Lotus emails about the Duck and Cover film:
That video makes me proud to be an American. Seriously. I had never actually watched it before. It was made by people who were not cynics or pussies. They had just finished destroying Japan and Germany by aerial bombing. They knew it could happen to us. They acted like grownups about it. Getting under cover to avoid burns, flying glass and debris, was good advice then and it is good advice now. Thanks for posting.
Yeah, you watch those 1950 civil-defense films and you realize the pipe-smoking dad stockpiling supplies in the basement is probably a World War II vet who just a few years before had most likely either dropped bombs or had them dropped on him (or both). Kind of puts a different color on it.
UPDATE: Jim Bennett emails: “Glenn, you are right. I’m sure the Air Raids Precaution drills people in London had to go through in 1939 seemed absurd to many, but they soon were very useful indeed. Few people today can put themselves in the place of Civil Defense planners in 1950, and we forget how close WWII was to them. 9-11 is coming up on its tenth anniversary this year and I can still recall watching the Pentagon burn three miles away from me, very vividly. Mike got it right; the A-bomb of 1950 was just another damned thing to deal with to these guys.”
Plus, reader John Brunemeier writes: “My dad dropped bombs on Germany from a B-17, and yes I grew up in a home with a very well stocked bomb shelter. Our family of 6 could have stayed in it for six months without coming out. It even had a toilet.”
THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR JOHN MCCAIN, THE COUNTRY WOULD BE SPLIT OVER THE WAR AND INTERNAL SECURITY — AND THEY WERE RIGHT! Hundreds protest FBI raids on anti-war activists. I guess I should’ve voted for a conciliatory, post-partisan figure . . . .
WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Tea Party Raids McConnell’s Kitchen Cabinet.
WHEN SECONDS COUNT, THE POLICE ARE ONLY MINUTES AWAY: “The District police department policy on forcible entry caused a ‘deadly delay’ as officers waited for a supervisor outside an apartment while a mother and her two young sons were being stabbed to death inside, according to a lawsuit filed by the woman’s family.” Breaking down doors for drug raids is bad. Breaking down doors to prevent murder is good. Guess which one the cops hold back on . . . .
POLICE: MORE MILITARIZED THAN THE MILITARY? Radley Balko has a letter from a military officer:
I am a US Army officer, currently serving in Afghanistan. My first thought on reading this story is this: Most American police SWAT teams probably have fewer restrictions on conducting forced entry raids than do US forces in Afghanistan.
For our troops over here to conduct any kind of forced entry, day or night, they have to meet one of two conditions: have a bad guy (or guys) inside actively shooting at them; or obtain permission from a 2-star general, who must be convinced by available intelligence (evidence) that the person or persons they’re after is present at the location, and that it’s too dangerous to try less coercive methods. The general can be pretty tough to convince, too. (I’m a staff liason, and one of my jobs is to present these briefings to obtain the required permission.)
Generally, our troops, including the special ops guys, use what we call “cordon and knock”: they set up a perimeter around the target location to keep people from moving in or out,and then announce their presence and give the target an opportunity to surrender. In the majority of cases, even if the perimeter is established at night, the call out or knock on the gate doesn’t happen until after the sun comes up.
Oh, and all of the bad guys we’re going after are closely tied to killing and maiming people.
What might be amazing to American cops is that the vast majority of our targets surrender when called out.
I don’t have a clear picture of the resources available to most police departments, but even so, I don’t see any reason why they can’t use similar methods.
Quite different from using door-busting tactics to serve warrants on nonviolent drug offenders. Of course, one difference is that we care about winning the hearts and minds of people in Afghanistan . . . .
RADLEY BALKO: A DRUG RAID GOES VIRAL. A violent drug raid posted to YouTube catches fire online. But the only thing unusual about the raid is that it was caught on video.
As of this morning, the video had garnered 950,000 views on YouTube. It has lit up message boards, blogs, and discussion groups around the Web, unleashing anger, resentment and even, regrettably, calls for violence against the police officers who conducted the raid. I’ve been writing about and researching these raids for about five years, including raids that claimed the lives of innocent children, grandmothers, college students, and bystanders. Innocent families have been terrorized by cops who raided on bad information, or who raided the wrong home due to some careless mistake. There’s never been a reaction like this one.
But despite all the anger the raid has inspired, the only thing unusual thing here is that the raid was captured on video, and that the video was subsequently released to the press. Everything else was routine. Save for the outrage coming from Columbia residents themselves, therefore, the mass anger directed at the Columbia Police Department over the last week is misdirected. Raids just like the one captured in the video happen 100-150 times every day in America. Those angered by that video should probably look to their own communities. Odds are pretty good that your local police department is doing the same thing.
Read the whole thing. And note the attempted cover up by the police. Plus this: “We’ve seen about a 1,500 percent increase in SWAT deployments in this country since the early 1980s. The vast majority of that increase has been to serve search warrants on people suspected of nonviolent drug crimes.”
QUOTE OF THE YEAR: “Do we really want to live in a country where when someone busts into your house at night you’re supposed to assume they might be cops?”
I’d rather live in a country where you get a bounty for shooting people who bust into your house illegally — one that’s doubled if they’re cops. Apparently, though, I’m more likely to get the former. And to those who want to criticize my approach to illegal breakins: Why are you so soft on criminals?
UPDATE: Reader J.A. Lyons thinks a bounty is rather drastic. Well, yes. I’d be happy with stripping official immunity in no-knock raids, so that police — and, more significantly, supervising officials — would become liable for anything that goes wrong. No-knock raids should be extraordinary measures, only used when there is imminent threat of death or great bodily harm. That’s not the case in the vast, vast majority of no-knock raids. And illegal breakins are . . . illegal. They don’t become less so, somehow, when engaged in by those sworn to uphold the law.
Meanwhile, to see what I’m talking about, watch this video.
Federal authorities touted the arrests of nine members of a Michigan militia as a pre-emptive strike against homegrown terrorists, declaring at an initial court hearing that the suspects with “dark hearts and evil intent” wanted to go to war against the government.
Five weeks later, prosecutors are scrambling to regroup after a judge questioned the strength of their evidence by ordering the so-called rebels released until trial and saying they had a right to “engage in hate-filled, venomous speech.”
“The government is falling short,” said David Griem, a former federal prosecutor who’s not involved in the case. “The message that’s been sent to the community is there are problems with this case.”
THE TIMING APPEARS CONVENIENT: FBI stages domestic raids.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Lawprof Tom Smith senses a media spin campaign: “Just wait for the MSM to associate them with ‘tea baggers’ and anybody not wild about health care. It could be something else but it looks like a plausible rumor at this stage. I am not hopeful that any distinctions will be made by our opinion leaders between those who think the Illuminati and the Joooz are running the world and those who think we should not create a debt that is half the size of our GDP. I hope the FBI understands the difference.”
MORE: According to this report, it’s got nothing to do with the Michigan Militia: “The group Hutaree, which has absolutely no connection to the Michigan Militia at all, has gotten into some serious trouble. From what my source has told me, this group was actually making threats towards Islamic groups.” Well, stay tuned. As has been noted here before, early reports on stuff like this are often wrong.
IDIOTS: Computer glitch blamed for years of police raids on elderly Brooklyn couple’s home. “A computer database glitch has sent police to the home of an elderly Brooklyn couple more than 50 times since 2002, sheepish cops admitted today. Walter and Rose Martin endured the most recent raid on Tuesday, when four cops showed up looking for a suspect. Two officers broke a window in the back of their Marine Park home. Police are still investigating why the couples’ address shows up in their database when some suspects’ names are keyed in.”
The Martins should be entitled to randomly break down the doors of 50 elected officials in New York in recompense. Or maybe 150, as treble damages.
LAW ENFORCEMENT PRIORITIES IN PHILADELPHIA: Troopers raid popular bars for unlicensed beers: Dozens of gallons seized after ‘citizen complaint.’
More than a dozen armed State Police officers conducted simultaneous raids last week on three popular Philadelphia bars known for their wide beer selections. The cops confiscated hundreds of bottles of expensive ales and lagers, now in State Police custody at an undisclosed location.
The alleged offense: Although the bar owners had bought the beer legally from licensed Pennsylvania distributors and had paid all the necessary taxes, the police claimed that nobody had registered the precise names of the beers with the state Liquor Control Board – a process that requires the brewers or their importers to pay a $75 registration fee for each product they want to sell in Pennsylvania.
Based on a complaint from someone the State Police refuse to identify, three teams of officers converged last Thursday on the three bars.
I’ll bet we’ll learn that this anonymous complainant is more than just a “concerned citizen.” And, really, this is ridiculous.
THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: The taint in the Toyota probe.
UPDATE: Related? FBI Raids Toyota Supplier Denso in Antitrust Probe. It might be a coincidence, and not a coordinated attack on a Government Motors competitor and non-UAW shop. But in an era of state-crony capitalism, all motives become suspect . . . .
NEITHER HOPE NOR CHANGE: Obama’s DEA Raids Another Medical Pot Dispensary. I know a lot of libertarians had hopes for Obama on the medical-marijuana front, but I was never one of them.
Plus, from the comments: “This is Bush’s fault. I inherited this pot dispensary raid from Bush.”
“JESUS CODES” OR JESUS! CODES? ABC Raids Message Boards to ‘Break’ a Decades-Old Story. “The manufacturer of gun sights used by the U.S. military inscribes references to New Testament passages on them, a fact known to the public for 23 years.”
UPDATE: A reader emails:
The Office I work in is having a good laugh at the idea this is a SECRET Code. Hey, I’m a Catholic and we don’t do Bible references that way, but even I know what is going on as I look at something like “2COR 4:6” inscribed on a tool or someone’s desk nametag, tee shirt etc. I suppose it is a secret if you work in an environment where there are no Protestant Christians, and you aren’t one yourself. (Which is an odd situation given that 30% or so of the US is.) Although I’m sure it wasn’t their intent, this tells me more about the ABC newsroom and editorial staff than about Trijicon.
I hear each scope is equipped with “cross” hairs, too. Will these Christianists never stop?
HMM: F.B.I. Raid Kills Islamic Group Leader in Michigan. “Federal agents on Wednesday fatally shot a man they described as the leader of a violent Sunni Muslim separatist group in Detroit. The 53-year-old leader, Luqman Ameen Abdullah, was killed in one of three raids conducted in and around the city, in which six followers of his were taken into custody. . . . Mr. Abdullah, the authorities said, led a faction of a group called the Ummah, meaning the Brotherhood, which advocates the establishment of a separate nation within the United States governed by Islamic laws. He was one of 11 men from Detroit and Ontario whom the authorities had charged with conspiracy to commit federal crimes.” Is it just me, or are there an awful lot of domestic counterterror operations going on these days?
WRONG-DOOR RAIDS AND INJUSTICE IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM: I talk with Radley Balko about the Cory Maye case, SWAT raids gone wrong, and more. Now if they’ll just let me out of this cage . . . .
WOMEN SOLDIERS COME IN HANDY in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army and Marines found it useful to send a female soldier along on raids, as it was less disruptive to have a woman search the female civilians. There was no shortage of volunteers for this duty. The marines, as is their custom, saw more opportunities in this. Thus the marines began sending a team of women on such missions. . . . What the marines had also noticed was that the female marines tended to get useful information out of the women they searched. Iraqi women were surprised, and often awed, when they encountered these female soldiers and marines. The awe often turned into cooperation. Most Iraqi women are much less enthusiastic about fighting the Americans than their men folk (who die in large numbers when they do so.) Being a widow is much harder in the Arab world than it is in the West.
Read the whole thing.
RADLEY BALKO on problems with no-knock raids.
WIRED: FBI Defends Disruptive Raids on Texas Data Centers. “The FBI on Tuesday defended its raids on at least two data centers in Texas, in which agents carted out equipment and disrupted service to hundreds of businesses. The raids were part of an investigation prompted by complaints from AT&T and Verizon about unpaid bills allegedly owed by some data center customers, according to court records. One data center owner charges that the telecoms are using the FBI to collect debts that should be resolved in civil court. But on Tuesday, an FBI spokesman disputed that charge. . . . The raids are the result of complaints filed by AT&T and Verizon about small VoIP service providers whom the telecoms say owe them money for connectivity services. But instead of focusing the raid on those companies, Faulkner and others say the FBI vacuumed up equipment and data belonging to hundreds of unrelated businesses.”
CHANGE: DEA Raids Pot Dispensary in San Francisco. “Federal agents raided a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco Wednesday, a week after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signaled that the Obama administration would not prosecute distributors of pot used for medicinal purposes that operate under sanction of state law.”
ANOTHER BUSTED APPOINTMENT: Sanjay Gupta withdraws name for Sugeon General.
But wait, there’s more: Geithner’s choice for deputy secretary withdraws.
UPDATE: Ouch: “That makes … how many appointments to fail in the Greatest Transition Evah?” I’ve lost count. This morning, I forgot Zinni. It’s gotten so you can’t remember all the transition screw-ups without a cheatsheet.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Thomas Prewitt writes: “I am struggling to identify any area in which Obama has demonstrated competence since he became president. Seriously can you name one? Hell, he can’t even speak without using a teleprompter.” Hmm. Ending the medical marijuana raids was a good idea, but that’s not really about competence. Anybody got a suggestion?
MORE: Reader Fred Butzen writes:
Normally, I’d rather damn Obama than praise him. But since you ask, I think he’s shown a degree of competence in managing the war in Iraq. Retaining Gates, and maintaining continuity with the Bush administration policies that were working. He had to make a show of setting a deadline, I guess to keep his supporters happy, but he eased under the bus the “mad dash for the exits” strategy that he had trumpeted during the campaign.
Obama could have shown just a smidgen of grace and made a nod in the direction of his predecessor, who, despite the unwavering opposition of people like Senator Barack Obama, managed to pull victory from the jaws of defeat; but Barry doesn’t do magnanimity.
Nope, that’s the “graciousness deficit.” Born of insecurity, I’d say. But, yeah, he’s been better than I expected on Iraq.
GOOD FOR HIM: Holder Vows To End Raids On Medical Marijuana Clubs. Leave the guns and the ganja alone — go after terrorists and crooked Congressmen and law enforcement should have plenty to do . . . .
UPDATE: Moe Lane notices a Holder quip that I had missed.
HMM: FBI raids University of Florida nuclear power institute. Sounds like financial fraud, not espionage, but stay tuned.
A FOLLOWUP ON THE KATHRYN JOHNSTON DRUG-RAID BOTCH IN ATLANTA:
A federal judge who sent three fallen cops to prison for a notorious drug raid that left an elderly woman dead said Tuesday that Atlanta Police Department performance quotas unduly influenced the officers’ behavior.
“It is my fervent hope the Atlanta Police Department will take to heart what has happened here,” U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes said. At the close of an emotional two-day hearing, Carnes sentenced former officers Gregg Junnier, Jason R. Smith and Arthur Bruce Tesler to between 5 and 10 years in prison. At the hearing, Tesler’s lawyer provided examples of other Atlanta police officers breaking the rules or violating the law and said a disturbing culture of misconduct pervades the force.
Carnes imposed the most severe sentence — 10 years — on Smith, 36, who obtained the illegal, no-knock search warrant allowing officers to batter down 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston’s door.
These raids — and the law enforcement culture they embody — are a serious problem.
RADLEY BALKO: Maryland Bill Would Bring Transparency to Use of SWAT Teams. We need federal legislation limiting — and providing accountability for — no-knock raids. I’m told, though, that there’s no support, even from Democrats, for stripping sovereign immunity in the case of wrongful no-knock raids.
DOING THE RIGHT THING: Obama Says He’ll Stop DEA Medical Pot Raids. Good for him, though I’d also like to see him move to change federal law, and not just the enforcement thereof.
One answer—really the only answer—you hear about why we should treat criminals with more respect is that it’s the only way to make government respect the rights of the innocent. I’m all for respecting the rights of the innocent, and I think police should be required to follow strict rules, have warrants, and all the rest. But I don’t see why cops who break the rules intentionally or unintentionally should be “punished” by having objectively guilty criminals let loose on society.
Well, this is the classic argument against the exclusionary rule, and it’s a pretty good one. The other classic argument against the exclusionary rule is that if you’re actually innocent — if the police search you unreasonably and don’t find anything — the rule does you no good because you’ve got nothing to exclude anyway.
These are good arguments and I’d be happy to scrap the exclusionary rule and return to the framing-era approach that put the constable at risk for personal liability whenever there was an unreasonable search or arrest, unless he had a warrant, in which case the magistrate who issued the warrant might be at risk if the warrant was improperly issued. But modern doctrines of official immunity — which are basically judge-made, and a result of “judicial activism” of the first order — make that impossible. There’s no constitutional basis for immunity on the part of police or their supervisors; it’s just something judges think is a good idea. Nonetheless, it’s not going anywhere — as part of my efforts to get something done about no-knock raids, I was recently told that, even in the Democratic Congress, it’s not going to be possible to do anything about official immunity.
Meanwhile, if you reward negligence, by letting cops who are negligent arrest people they’d otherwise be unable to, the cops — and, more importantly, their superiors, who might otherwise look bad if a guilty person is allowed to go free — wind up incentivized to be negligent. That increases the risk that innocent people will be subjected to unreasonable searches. In this imperfect world, the exclusionary rule is pretty much all we’ve got. But hey, if Jonah wants to join me in a campaign to get official immunity abolished or cut back, I’m ready. (Bumped).
UPDATE: Jonah responds.
RADLEY BALKO ON S.W.A.T. RAIDS AND COLLATERAL DAMAGE.
The Mumbai attacks represent a scenario that few Western police and security forces have dared envision. Fewer still have prepared for it.
The basic strategy: use a large number of attackers to overwhelm a target city’s ability to respond, and then suddenly switch focus to high value targets and seize hostages.
Of course, if significant numbers of citizens were armed, the response would be much harder to overwhelm.
UPDATE: Reader Andrew Samet writes:
So you think that ordinary citizens armed with handguns would slow down a surprise attack by trained paramilitary forces armed with automatic weapons, grenades and who knows what else? I’m curious how you see that scenario playing out.
The way I see it, if terrorists such as these could rely on a “significant number” (and I don’t know what that means, exactly – 10 percent? 20 percent?) of their targets carrying guns, they wouldn’t bother taking hostages. They’d just slaughter everyone in sight. They might take a few hits, but they’d have planned for that, just like any army would.
Well, let’s see. There were about 25 terrorists in Mumbai, according to the reports I’ve seen. I’m not sure how many people were at the Taj hotel but it’s a big place. Say it’s 2000 and 10% are armed. That’s 200 vs. 25 (and it’s really better odds than that, since I don’t think there were 25 terrorists at the Taj, but rather 25 overall; these numbers will likely turn out to be wrong, but probably not wrong enough to affect this analysis.) Now the 25 terrorists were practiced at working together, and probably fairly proficient (though I saw an Indian commando saying they were skilled because “most people cannot operate an AK rifle or throw a grenade” which isn’t, by itself, a stirring tribute to their military skills). Nonetheless, 1-8 odds, even with a weapons and training advantage, aren’t great. Would they take hostages? It would probably be a lot harder. Would that prevent raids like this? Maybe not, but if you’re just out to kill people and not take hostages, why not just use a car-bomb? Plus, when your “victims” are shooting back at you and killing you, they’re not really victims any more, are they? Kinda undercuts the whole terrorism game.
Meanwhile, reader D.A. Rodgers emails:
You wrote, after excerpting Thompson:
“Of course, if significant numbers of citizens were armed, the response would be much harder to overwhelm.”
Thus, Texas will be last place to face this kind of terrorism.
Seriously, this reminds me very much of the situation after the Rodney King verdict. In L.A., where no law-abiding citizen (Korean-Americans excepted) carries (or even owns) a gun, the rioters were able to “use a large number of attackers to overwhelm a target city’s ability to respond.” In Houston, attempts were made to start a similar riot in response to the Rodney King verdict. Would-be rioters shot from the freeway into the neighborhoods. The residents shot back.
End result? No riot. Not even one Ranger.
We saw armed Houstonians patrolling their own streets after Hurricane Rita, too. I’ll note that it hasn’t been that long — only a few generations — since people expected to have to resist brigands, etc., in all sorts of situations. Back to the future?
ANOTHER UPDATE: According to Reuters, there were only ten terrorists. That would make the odds 20-1 in favor of the good guys in the hypothetical above, which would seem to be quite a burden for the terrorists to overcome. But Reuters calls them “militants.”
MORE: Reader Peter Sterne writes: ‘Your reader, Andrew Samet, expressed skepticism about an armed citizenry’s ability to successfully fight a trained paramilitary force. I kind of remember something about an armed citizenry successfully taking on a trained military very early in the history of this country … it’s not a perfect analogy with Mumbai, and everyone was much better acquainted with firearms back then, but, you know, I’m just sayin.’”
STILL MORE: Dave Hardy comments: “I really wouldn’t give ten men attacking a few thousand Tucsonans much of a chance. About 2% of Pima County has a CCW permit; others carry openly or have one in their car (you don’t need a permit to have a holstered gun in the glove compartment). So an attack on 2,000 people means an attack on *at least* forty who have a gun on them, and more who will have one available in seconds. A fair number of whom will be behind the attackers’ backs.”
No guarantees on how it turns out, of course — but from the attacker’s point of view, that’s the problem, isn’t it? Because when you attack a bunch of unarmed people, well, the guarantees are a lot closer to hand . . . .
FINALLY: Reader Drew Kelley comments: “It seems a lot of people need to be reminded why the Japanese were very reluctant to launch an invasion of the United States proper. And then, after assimilating that information, they need to refamiliarize themselves with the basics of being a rifleman, and pistol marksmanship. It seems we are surrounded by crocodile feeders.”
MEXICO: Worrying Signs from Border Raids, according to Stratfor. I hope that those troops we’ll soon be able to bring back from Iraq won’t have to put their counterinsurgency and urban-warfare skills to work closer to home . . .
THE EXAMINER: Stop Using SWAT Teams on Civilians:
The violent assault on Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvoâ€™s home late last month was certainly not the first bungled raid by a government SWAT team, but the bad publicity it generated should make it the last time these trigger-happy squads target innocent civilians. . . . Originally set up to handle volatile, high-risk situations involving snipers, hostage takers or prison escapees, militarized SWAT teams have been unleashed on civilians with predictably disastrous results â€” as the fatal shooting of unarmed optometrist Salvatore Culosi by a Fairfax County SWAT team two years ago illustrated all too well. . . . Itâ€™s long past time for law enforcement agencies to restrict SWAT teams for use only in situations where massive lethal force is their only remaining option.
SWAT raids should be used only where there’s an imminent risk of death or great bodily harm — since the raids themselves pose just such a risk. Here’s a column I wrote on the subject for Popular Mechanics a while back.
KATIE GRANJU looks at the raids on Texas polygamists and asks where is the ACLU?
SO IS THIS GOOD NEWS, OR BAD NEWS? LAPD Has a “Wrong Door” Team to Fix Botched SWAT Raids. “The fact that there’s a permanent unit in place to deal with wrong-door raids (and the reporter’s seeming nonchalance about it all) suggests that we’ve reached to the point where innocent people occasionally getting terrorizedâ€”and should they have the temerity to reach for a gun to defend themselvesâ€”possibly killed, is basically an understood and accepted consequence of fighting the drug war. That’s pretty unsettling.”
THE KIND OF JOURNALISM YOU OUGHT TO SEE IN NEWSPAPERS: Joel Rosenberg has a series on botched SWAT raids and demilitarizing the Minneapolis Police Department.
MORE WRONG-HOUSE RAIDS IN PHILADELPHIA: And the cops even admit that they weren’t sure they had the right house, and broke in anyway.
We need federal legislation stripping sovereign immunity in these cases.
TWO MORE WRONG-HOUSE NO-KNOCK RAIDS: There needs to be a much, much higher price for this sort of mistake.
MORE ON ONGOING GROUND COMBAT IN AFGHANISTAN: What? Not just air raids on civilians?
HEY, WAIT: I thought all we did in Afghanistan was stage air raids and bomb civilians. And yet: ” Hundreds of US-led troops have launched an offensive against al Qaida and Taliban militants in eastern Afghanistan . . . . The offensive involving ground troops and airstrikes in the Tora Bora region of eastern Nangarhar province is targeting ‘hundreds of foreign fighters’ who are using dug-in fighting positions, said coalition spokeswoman Capt Vanessa Bowman.” Ground troops? And we’re bombing “foreign fighters”? What, there were no civilians to target?
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON ON POLITICS:
Yet the universal human desire to be associated in the here and now with the assumed winning side â€” and to shun perceived defeat â€” trumps them all. Throughout this war, that natural urge explains most of the volatile and shifting views of our politicians, pundits and media as they scramble to readjust to the up-and-down daily news from Iraq.
And so it is with the latest positioning about the surge that to a variety of observers seems successful â€” at least for now.
A lot of people do seem kind of fickle that way. Related thoughts here: “To paraphrase John Kerry: Who wants to be the last person calling for the U.S. to surrender a war the Army is winning? Apparently not Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama or the New York Times, which just 5 weeks ago said genocide was better than having U.S. troops keep the peace in Iraq.”
And still more here.
UPDATE: Barack Obama’s latest Iraq strategy.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. The PJ Media item above links to this article on Obama from The Guardian, with this passage:
Answering a question on how he would refocus U.S. troops out of Iraq to better fight terrorism, he said, “We’ve to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.”
But if you read this version of the same AP story from Breitbart.com, the passage is different:
Asked whether he would move U.S. troops out of Iraq to better fight terrorism elsewhere, he brought up Afghanistan and said, “We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.”
I suspect that the Breitbart version is more accurate than the Guardian version, because when I read it originally in The Guardian I remember thinking that this would have been a marginally plausible criticism of Afghanistan policy (though the “killing civilians” bit is mostly Taliban propaganda) but was utterly nonsensical in the context of Iraq. I assumed Obama was conflating the two, but it appears that the error is the AP’s.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader D.G. Robertson sends this link to a report from the Nashua Telegraph, which has the Obama quote this way:
â€œNow you have narco drug lords who are helping to finance the Taliban, so weâ€™ve got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops that we are not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there,â€™â€™ Obama said.
Well, the narco drug lords are an issue — has he been reading StrategyPage? Actually, probably not, as here’s what StrategyPage says about air raids and “civilian casualties:”
Last week, U.S. forces detected a meeting of Taliban leaders in southern Afghanistan. Smart bombs hit the meeting, which had gathered over a hundred Taliban followers to witness the execution of two men suspected of passing information to the government. Over a hundred people were killed. The Taliban promptly claimed most of the dead were civilians. But they always do that, and no one believes them anymore.
No one but Obama, I guess. Robertson also notes that not long ago Obama was saying that the lives of U.S. troops killed in Iraq were “wasted.”
Meanwhile, also from the Nashua Telegraph, is this rather inflammatory quote:
Campaign spokesman Reid Cherlin said Obama was not endorsing the current Bush policy, which consists solely of air raids and bombing of civilians.
Really? Solely? Evidence that the Obama campaign remains unready for primetime, I’m afraid. Or another botched quote from the press, I guess . . . .
I tried to find an email for inquiries on Obama’s site, but the closest I could come to was an interview request form. If anybody from the campaign is reading this and wants to clarify, you can email me at pundit -at- pjmedia.com/instapundit.
MORE: Allah says I’m wrong about the civilian casualties, last week’s bogus reports notwithstanding. But he doesn’t address the Obama campaign’s charge that our strategy revolves around bombing civilians. Nor have I heard from the Obama campaign on that issue.
SOME FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS in the shooting of that Oakland journalist:
Firearms linked to the slaying of an Oakland journalist were seized during early morning raids Friday targeting members of a Black Muslim group that operates a chain of bakeries, police said.
Colleagues said Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey, 57, had been working on a story about Your Black Muslim Bakery before he was ambushed and killed Thursday morning in downtown Oakland.
Before dawn, officers raided the Muslim group’s headquarters at the bakery and three houses in Oakland. They arrested seven people on charges including homicide, robbery and assault, but it was unclear whether any of those charges were tied to Bailey’s slaying.
“The search warrant yielded several weapons and other evidence of value including evidence linking the murder of Chauncey Bailey to members of the Your Black Muslim Bakery,” Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan said, adding the raids were part of a yearlong investigation into a variety of violent crimes.
I think that shooting Bailey will turn out to be a serious mistake.
THE NIGHT SHIFT: From StrategyPage. “There’s a war going on in Iraq that you rarely hear about. It goes on at night, and has been very successful. While U.S. infantry and tank units make raids all over central Iraq, the other war, fought largely at night, by engineers and non-infantry troops (often artillerymen) serving as infantry, to catch and stop teams of terrorists trying to set up roadside bombs.”
MORE ON THE SURGE:
The surge has basically been chasing the terrorist and criminal gangs around the suburbs of Baghdad, or even into northern or western Iraq. This has taken its toll. Time spent in flight cannot be spent planting IEDs or killing people. Putting all these guys on the road, also makes them more susceptible to capture. A lot of important terrorists have been captured this way. The chief liaison between al Qaeda headquarters and al Qaeda in Iraq was nabbed, as well as many mid-level terrorist cell leaders.
What most of the troops, and Iraqi civilians, notice is the lower level of violence. Since the surge offensive began four months ago, Iraqi (military and civilian) deaths have declined by more than 50 percent, and American casualties are down by over a third. U.S. troops are still taking the lead in moving into hostile areas, and being exposed to ambush and IEDs. But U.S. tactics and training have made enemy efforts much less lethal. This has helped demoralize an increasing number of terrorists. Many are tired of killing Iraqi civilians, and the increasing difficulty at getting at American troops. Look at this from the Iraqi perspective. In a very good month, Iraqis make a hundred or more attacks a day on American troops, and kill, on average, about four of them. While the terrorists make a big deal out of every American killed, they know that most of their attacks were not only failures, but got a lot of their buddies killed. On average, 10-20 terrorists die for every American killed. This has been going on for years, and an increasing number of Iraqi fighters are demoralized and quitting. Many either become informers, or surrender and speak freely. This is resulting in fresher intelligence, and raids that are catching terrorist cells preparing for operations, and in possession of weapons, bombs and incriminating documents.
THIS IS WELCOME NEWS:
BAGHDAD — Iraqi civilian deaths in Baghdad dropped significantly in June, a possible indication that recent American military operations around the country and raids on car-bomb shops in the “belts” ringing the capital are starting to pay off.
But June also marked the end of the bloodiest quarter for U.S. troops since the war began in March 2003.
Unofficial figures compiled by McClatchy Newspapers’ show 189 Iraqis, including police and government security forces, were killed in the capital through Friday, a drop of almost two thirds since this year’s high in February, when 520 were killed. The average monthly death toll of Iraqis in Baghdad was 410 from December through May.
The downturn in civilian deaths in Baghdad, should the figures hold, could arm Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, with the kind of results he needs to forestall pressure to set timetables on troop withdrawals. He is scheduled to deliver a progress report on the war to Congress in September.
Of course, it’s a long-term project, not something to be acomplished in a month. Still, it will be interesting to see if this good news gets as much attention as the bad news does. (Via Dan Riehl).
You’d think that everyone in the chain of command in Atlanta would be looking for ways to prevent more botched raids and more unnecessary violence. Nope. It’s all ass-covering and buck-passing. . . . No question these cops were particularly dirty. But this is a systemic problem driven by bad policy. And if you don’t fix it, Mr. Fowler, you’re going to have more dead innocents, more dead nonviolent offenders, and more dead cops.
Meanwhile–and I really can’t believe this–the officers who killed Kathryn Johnston are worried about their pensions.
They ought to be worried about a lot more than that.
OMAR FADHIL REPORTS FROM BAGHDAD: “Violent incidents are still decreasing in number and impact in Baghdad. Yesterday for instance the only reported incident was the abduction of an adviser to the minister of defense by gunmen in western Baghdad. It was less than 24 hours until the security forces succeeded in freeing the abducted general and arresting 4 of his captors. . . . The Mehdi army is not responding to the raids with fire, but they are trying to undermine the security plan by spreading rumors about alleged crimes committed by US soldiers, specifically against the Shia.” Read the whole thing.
RECONSIDERING NO-KNOCK RAIDS, IN GEORGIA:
A group of lawmakers wants to make it harder for police to use “no-knock” warrants in the wake of a shootout that left an elderly woman dead after plainclothes officers stormed her home unannounced in a search for drugs.
The measure would allow judges to grant the warrants only if officers can prove a “significant and imminent danger to human life.”
The measure was prompted by the Nov. 21 shootout between Kathryn Johnston and three police officers during a no-knock search of her Atlanta home. When the officers entered without warning, police say that Johnston, 92, fired a handgun at them and that the officers returned fire, killing her. An autopsy concluded she was shot five or six times.
Narcotics officers said an informant had claimed there was cocaine in the home, but none was found.
Democratic Sen. Vincent Fort, a sponsor of the bill, said the case was a warning that it has become too easy to obtain “no-knock” warrants.
“Every citizen ought to be safe and secure in their homes,” Fort said. “A no-knock warrant should be a special warrant, not a standard. And that’s what it’s evolved into.”
As InstaPundit readers know, I agree. I’d like to see federal legislation along these lines, too.
Most people believe al Qaeda in Iraq is finished. After boasting last Fall that they would establish a safe zone in western Iraq, and failing to do anything close to that, the Islamic terrorists lost whatever credibility they had left. Most of the terrorist bombings these days are the work of Iraqi Sunni Arab organizations, who still believe that if you make the Iraqi Shia Arabs mad enough, they will get so nasty that neighboring Sunni Arab nations will feel compelled to invade. This plan has split the Sunni Arab nationalists, mainly because the invasion shows no sign of happening, and the brighter terrorists point out that the Saudi army is unlikely to win against the Americans. In a trend that began two years ago, Sunni Arab factions are continuing to battle each other. U.S. troops stand aside when they encounter “Red-on-Red” fighting, then deal with the winner.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Shia Arab militias, especially the Sadr forces (the Mahdi Army), have lost whatever unity and discipline they once had. Factionalism has taken over as several of Sadr’s lieutenants compete for popularity and territory by driving Sunni Arabs out of Baghdad neighborhoods. Most of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs have been chased from their homes since 2003, and that process has accelerated in the last year. The Iraqi Sunni Arabs are quite wealthy compared to Iraqi Shia, and the Shia gangs have been fighting each other over the loot, and the power. Gang war, literally, because many of the militiamen moonlight as gangsters (or vice versa).
While the number of terror bombings has been declining in the past year, the crime rate has not, and most people in central Iraq are looking forward to the “Battle for Baghdad.” Brigades of troops are arriving from the Kurdish north and Shia south, and more American troops can be seen on the streets. There are more raids in Baghdad. But all the average Iraqi wants is safer streets, fewer kidnappings and a little peace and quiet. Realizing that that kind of paradise is not likely to be found in the Middle East, Baghdad has been suffering a major brain drain in the past year, with the most educated fleeing for foreign countries. Europe and North America are preferred destinations, but any place with a lower crime rate will do.
Read the whole thing. Plus, a look at Ramadi.
BIRMINGHAM, England — Eight terror suspects accused of planning a kidnapping were arrested in pre-dawn raids Wednesday, police said.
Police would not comment on Sky News TV reports that part of the plan was to behead a hostage and post the act on the Internet, and neither the Home Office nor West Midlands police could not confirm details of the alleged plot.
Not much information there, but if that’s the plot I’m glad it was foiled.
UPDATE: A roundup on what’s going on from PJ Media.
HMM. I LIKE THE SOUND OF THIS: “BAGHDAD, Iraq – Mahdi Army fighters said Thursday they were under siege in their Sadr City stronghold as U.S. and Iraqi troops killed or seized key commanders in pinpoint nighttime raids. Two commanders of the Shiite militia said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting the group under pressure from Washington and threats from Sunni Muslim Arab governments.” Let’s see if it pans out.
The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington. . . .
Gordon D. Johndroe, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said two Iranian diplomats were among those initially detained in the raids. The two had papers showing that they were accredited to work in Iraq, and he said they were turned over to the Iraqi authorities and released. He confirmed that a group of other Iranians, including the military officials, remained in custody while an investigation continued, and he said, â€œWe continue to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees.â€
Or something else to be swept under the rug? That rug’s getting pretty lumpy by now.
Plus, the status of Syria.