Today we open our coverage with the ongoing tragedy in Missouri, with a particular focus on the transformation of America’s cops from officers on the beat into an occupying paramilitary.
First up, a major development from Canada’s National Post:
Security of Ferguson will be taken over by Highway Patrol after local and county police lose community trust
Captain Ron Johnson of Highway Patrol, will be leading the security efforts in Ferguson, Missouri, going forward after several nights of racially charged provocation has left residents feeling little trust in local and county police forces.
The St. Louis suburb has been the scene of violent protests since a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on Saturday.
Gov. Jay Nixon said the change is intended to make sure “that we allow peaceful and appropriate protests, that we use force only when necessary, that we step back a little bit and let some of the energy be felt in this region appropriately.”
Johnson, who is black, said he grew up in the community and “it means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of violence.”
And on to our primary focus, first from Businessweek:
A Federal Effort to Reuse Military Gear Turned Cops Into Commandos
The heavily militarized police force in a St. Louis suburb is hardly an anomaly. Local police departments across the country deploy not just military-style equipment but actual castoffs from the U.S. military.
Federal grant programs fund the police acquisition of military weapons and vehicles, and a U.S. law has sent more than $4 billion of surplus Pentagon gear to law enforcement over the past 17 years. Now protests following the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.—and the heavily armed response by local police—seem likely to spark a national debate on the militarization of law enforcement. Do local cops from from Maine to New Mexico need military rifles and armored personnel carriers to do their jobs?
“I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by images we’ve seen in the heartland of our country,” President Barack Obama said Thursday, urging calm amid the investigation of the Aug. 9 shooting. Police have said Brown fought with a police officer and tried to grab his service weapon, while witness have said the 18-year-old did not struggle with police and was surrendering when he was shot.
But Businessweek is somewhat disingenuous, as witness this from Pacific Standard:
How military-style policing became America’s new normal.
In the fascinating and sometimes terrifying Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, journalist Radley Balko traces the changes in American policing from colonial times to the present. His focus, though, is law enforcement’s increased reliance on military hardware and strategy in the last 45 years, especially in the form of SWAT (special weapons and tactics) teams.
As recently as 1969, the Los Angeles Police Department had one of the only SWAT teams in the country. Its first raid targeted a group of Black Panthers. Four police officers and four Panthers were shot and wounded. After hours of gunfire, the raid’s leader, Daryl Gates, called the mayor, who received permission from the Department of Defense to use a grenade launcher. “My words seemed unreal,” Gates would later remember. “Anytime you even talk about using military equipment in a civil action, it’s very serious business. You’re bridging an enormous gap.” The Panthers were charged with conspiracy to murder police officers, but acquitted on self-defense grounds. “Practically, logistically, and tactically,” Balko writes, “the raid was an utter disaster. But in terms of public relations, it was an enormous success.”
Paramilitary policing quickly spread across the country. Today there are more than 1,000 U.S. police forces with SWAT or SWAT-type units. In 1980, nationwide, they carried out an average of eight paramilitary raids a day; now there are well over 100. Balko attempts to explain why this happened, and why it matters.
Nextgov has some details:
The Pentagon Gave the Ferguson Police Department Military-Grade Weapons
According to Michelle McCaskill, media relations chief at the Defense Logistics Agency, the Ferguson Police Department is part of a federal program called 1033, in which the Department of Defense distributes hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment to civilian police forces across the U.S.
That surplus military equipment doesn’t just mean small items like pistols or automatic rifles; towns like Ferguson could become owners of heavy armored vehicles, including the MRAPs used in Afghanistan and Iraq. “In 2013 alone, $449,309,003.71 worth of property was transferred to law enforcement,” the agency’s website states.
All in all, it’s meant armored vehicles rolling down streets in Ferguson and police officers armed with short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters hovering near the citizens they’re meant to protect.
Glenn Greenwald offers a specific focus at The Intercept:
The Militarization of U.S. Police: Finally Dragged Into the Light by the Horrors of Ferguson
The intensive militarization of America’s police forces is a serious menace about which a small number of people have been loudly warning for years, with little attention or traction. In a 2007 paper on “the blurring distinctions between the police and military institutions and between war and law enforcement,” the criminal justice professor Peter Kraska defined “police militarization” as “the process whereby civilian police increasingly draw from, and pattern themselves around, the tenets of militarism and the military model.”
The harrowing events of the last week in Ferguson, Missouri – the fatal police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager, Mike Brown, and the blatantly excessive and thuggish response to ensuing community protests from a police force that resembles an occupying army – have shocked the U.S. media class and millions of Americans. But none of this is aberrational.
It is the destructive by-product of several decades of deliberate militarization of American policing, a trend that received a sustained (and ongoing) steroid injection in the form of a still-flowing, post-9/11 federal funding bonanza, all justified in the name of “homeland security.” This has resulted in a domestic police force that looks, thinks, and acts more like an invading and occupying military than a community-based force to protect the public.
And one hopeful response, via BuzzFeed:
Democratic Congressman Will Introduce Police Demilitarization Bill
- Rep. Hank Johnson pivots off Ferguson to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act”
Amid growing criticism of the military-style equipment and tactics deployed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, a Democrat from Georgia plans to introduce the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act” in Congress next month.
Rep. Hank Johnson asked his all his colleagues Thursday to join him in supporting the bill, which he said in a letter “will end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for.”
Images of assault rifle-carrying camouflaged police riding through Ferguson on military vehicles similar to the IED-resistant equipment used by American armed forces in combat have proven to be a jolt of energy for a long-simmering debate about police militarization.
While the Independent makes a telling point:
America is one nation, still divided: Protests over the shooting of a black teenager could have erupted in any number of US cities
While Ferguson is the latest flashpoint in America’s struggle to overcome a legacy of racial tension going back to slavery, it could just as easily have been somewhere else; Los Angeles, where 24-year-old Ezell Ford, also black, was shot and killed by a police officer on Monday, or perhaps New York, where the death of Eric Garner while in custody, after an officer held him in an illegal chokehold last month, is still fuelling anger.
The grievances still felt by many African-Americans are rooted in the life experiences of many of them, particularly young men, which are also reflected in the sometimes shocking statistics. Statistics just from Ferguson are startling but by no means unique to the town, which, on the edge of downtown St Louis, became majority black after whites fled decades ago to escape rising violence and sinking schools.
Until last weekend, few beyond Ferguson will have known that only three of its 53 police officers are black, even if the community is overwhelmingly more black than white. Or that 483 blacks were arrested in town last year but only 36 whites. Or that blacks, who make up less than two thirds of the driving-age population, account for 86 per cent of all traffic stops by police.
From International Business Times, an intersection of two threads:
Anonymous Twitter Suspended Amid St. Louis Police Hack; Other Anon Accounts Decry Naming Officer
The St. Louis County Police confirmed to multiple outlets Thursday that the department has been hit by a cyberattack, with the agency’s website and emails down since Wednesday. Word of the hack came at the same time Twitter suspended the account of the Anonymous hacker collective, who’ve been feuding with the police online over details withheld in the Mike Brown shooting.
The confirmation also comes after the Ferguson, Missouri, police reported their system was infiltrated, with Anonymous claiming responsibility for briefly rendering the department’s phones and computers useless.
More from The Wire:
Anonymous Stops Releasing Information on Alleged Officer Who Shot Michael Brown
The online activist group Anonymous has threatened to reveal the identity and other personal information of the police officer they say is responsible for the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. However, they have called that effort (for now) after denials from St. Louis area police that they had the right person, and after Twitter suspended one of their accounts. No other media outlets have been able to verify whether their information is correct or not. Read below for the latest updates…
1:21 p.m.: After switching to a secondary account (@TheAnonMessage), the group that named the alleged shooter says they won’t be releasing any more information for the time being.
The McClatchy Washington Bureau takes us to another scene of conflict and a triumphant declaration:
U.S. declares Yazidi intervention a success, says rescue mission unneeded
The United States military has concluded that there are too few Yazidi refugees still trapped in the mountains of northern Iraq to warrant mounting a potentially risky rescue, the Pentagon said late Wednesday.
Military advisers who earlier in the day visited the Sinjar mountains, where as many as 30,000 people were thought to still be trapped, said that they found “far fewer” Yazidis than expected and that those who were there were in better condition than anticipated. Food and water dropped in recent days have reached those who remain, the Pentagon statement said.
The Pentagon said the visit proved that the actions the United States had taken in recent days had succeeded in preventing the Islamic State from capturing and executing the Yazidis, members of a religious sect that Sunni extremists view as heretics. It said the assessment team encountered no hostile forces during its visit and “did not engage in combat operations.”
While the Guardian foreshadows:
British SAS sent to Iraq on ‘intelligence’ mission before airlift of Yazidi refugees
- Deployment to Mt Sinjar ahead of US-led rescue of civilians follows plan for RAF to deliver arms to Kurds fighting jihadists
British SAS soldiers have been deployed to northern Iraq to “gather intelligence” ahead of any potential rescue operation, led by the US, to airlift thousands of Yazidi refugees from Mount Sinjar.
In the most dramatic sign of Britain’s growing involvement in the Iraqi crisis, the SAS soldiers have moved to the region near Mount Sinjar where US special forces are coordinating the rescue effort.
Last night, a small team from the US landed on Mount Sinjar to assess the situation, and said that an evacuation mission was less likely as “there are far fewer Yazidis on Mount Sinjar than previously feared”, according to Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby.
Deutsche Welle covers a related development:
Morocco breaks up recruitment cell for ‘Islamic State’
- Moroccan police have dismantled a jihadist network suspected of recruiting volunteers to fight with the radical “Islamic State” group in Iraq and Syria. The operation was carried out with help from authorities in Spain.
The Moroccan Interior Ministry said on Thursday that it had broken up a network that was used to recruit and send volunteers to fight with the “Islamic State” (IS) in Iraq and Syria.
“The operation, based on detailed investigations carried out in close collaboration with Spain, stems from a proactive security approach aimed at battling terrorist threats,” a ministry statement said.
According to Moroccan police, the group was operating in the Moroccan cities of Fez and Tetouan, as well as the town of Fnideq, close to the Spanish exclave of Ceuta.
On to rampant Orwellianism, first with the New York Times:
Reagan-Era Order on Surveillance Violates Rights, Says Departing Aide
After President Obama delivered a speech in January endorsing changes to surveillance policies, including an end to the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ domestic calling records, John Napier Tye was disillusioned.
A State Department official, Mr. Tye worked on Internet freedom issues and had top-secret clearance. He knew the Obama administration had also considered a proposal to impose what an internal White House document, obtained by The New York Times, portrayed as “significant changes” to rules for handling Americans’ data the N.S.A. collects from fiber-optic networks abroad. But Mr. Obama said nothing about that in his speech.
So in April, as Mr. Tye was leaving the State Department, he filed a whistle-blower complaint arguing that the N.S.A.’s practices abroad violated Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. He also met with staff members for the House and Senate intelligence committees. Last month, he went public with those concerns, which have attracted growing attention.
While Techdirt notes another development:
Newly Released Documents Show NSA Abused Its Discontinued Internet Metadata Program Just Like It Abused Everything Else
- from the so,-more-of-the-same,-then? dept
James Clapper’s office (ODNI) has released a large batch of declassified documents, most of which deal with the NSA’s discontinued Section 402 program. What this program did was re-read pen register/trap and trace (PR/TT) statutes to cover internet metadata, including sender/receiver information contained in email and instant messages. (Not to be confused with the Section 702 program, which is still active and harvests internet communications.)
Notably, this marks only the second time that the ODNI has acknowledged the document release has been compelled by a FOIA lawsuit.
Following a declassification review by the Executive Branch, the Department of Justice released on August 6, 2014, in redacted form, 38 documents relating to the now-discontinued NSA program to collect bulk electronic communications metadata pursuant to Section 402 of the FISA (“PRTT provision”). These documents are also responsive to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
As EPIC’s site notes (and the ODNI’s doesn’t), the program was authorized in 2004, but no legal justification was provided to Congressional oversight until a half-decade later
And Nextgov adds a touch of the Kafkaesque:
Watchdog: The FBI Spied on the Wrong People Because of Typos
The FBI unintentionally spied on the communications data of some Americans who were not targets of investigations because of typographical errors, according to a government watchdog.
The Justice Department’s inspector general concluded in a report Thursday that the FBI has improved its overall handling of national security letters, which permit the agency to collect telephone and Internet data of suspects believed to be tied to a national security investigation.
But the inspector general identified a number of areas that “require additional effort and attention,” such as a tendency to collect data on the wrong person because of routine mistakes.
From The Hill, another bizarre revelation:
IRS wrongly allowed contractors access to sensitive data
IRS contractors without background checks had access to sensitive information, potentially putting confidential taxpayer data at risk, according to a federal audit.
The Treasury inspector general for tax administration found more than a dozen cases in which the IRS awarded contracts that required access to taxpayer information without background investigations or before those checks were completed.
Under IRS policy, background checks are mandatory for contractors who work with that kind of data.
More from Nextgov:
IRS Gave Sensitive Data to Convict Sentenced to 21 Years
At the IRS, contractors hired for courier, printing, document recovery, and sign language and interpreter services who accessed sensitive information had not undergone investigations, which is a policy violation.
A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report released today details several situations where employees had ample opportunity to steal data.
In one, a courier who daily delivered IRS documents and mail to post offices and other locations had previously served 21 years in prison for arson, retaliation and attempted escape.
The Intercept takes action:
Five Muslim-Americans Sue Feds Over Watchlisting
Relying in part on recent Intercept reporting on the vast breadth of the government’s watchlisting system, several Muslim Americans filed a complaint in a Michigan federal court today, arguing that they have been wrongly ensnared in an unaccountable system without any opportunity to defend themselves.
Citing “recent media accounts,” including secret government documents published exclusively by The Intercept, the complaint claims that the plaintiffs—five men on the terror watchlist—have been falsely stigmatized and punished without trial by a system motivated by “bigotry and misguided, counterproductive zeal.”
“This lawsuit is an expression of anger grounded in law,” the 28-page complaint begins. “Our federal government is imposing an injustice of historic proportions upon the Americans who have filed this action, as well as thousands of others.”
From the London Telegraph, a fascinating tale:
Google removes Telegraph stories about explosives arrests
- Google has removed links to two Telegraph articles, each more than a decade old, describing arrests for possession of explosives after receiving requests under the EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’
Google has removed links to two Telegraph articles from certain search results describing arrests for possession of explosives after receiving requests under the EU’s ‘right to be forgotten’.
The first story is a news article from June 2001 reporting that three men had appeared in court after being arrested when explosives were found in a Dublin apartment.
The three men had been seen looking at something in a car, then refused to stop when police later attempted to pull them over. Inside the car were balaclavas and plastic boxes with switches attached to them, which “could be used as incendiary devices”.
Follow-up searches of a number of homes found explosives and similar equipment to that found in the car.
The second story is a collection of brief articles, one of which refers to the case above.
On to the hacking front, first with the National Post:
Several rallies planned to support alleged hacker Matt DeHart before his Canadian refugee hearing
The bizarre case of a former U.S. airman seeking asylum in Canada — claiming he was tortured by U.S. authorities probing his links to the shadowy Anonymous hacker collective — is sparking protest rallies and an international day of action.
Matt DeHart, 30, is in prison in Ontario awaiting an Aug. 20 refugee hearing in Toronto during which he will argue his claim for refugee protection.
“It is a very serious case that could set a lot of dangerous precedents for activists, hacktivists whistleblowers and journalists,” said Stacie Te Korako, director of #FreeMattDeHart, a support group based in New Orleans.
SecurityWeek covers another front:
Ukrainian Hackers Claim Attack on Polish Websites
Ukrainian hackers hostile to the government claimed Thursday to have launched a cyber attack against the websites of Poland’s presidency and the Warsaw Stock Exchange.
The hacker group Cyber Berkut said it blocked the sites, both down on Thursday afternoon, in response to what it said were Poland’s actions as “sponsors of fascism in Ukraine”.
“Our western neighbour on orders from Washington renders political, diplomatic and military assistance to nationalists and oligarchs who destabilise and wreck Ukraine,” the group alleged on its website.
SecurityWeek again, charting a hack attack whack:
Lockheed: Attackers Went Quiet After APT1 Report Exposed Chinese Hackers
Threat actors targeting Lockheed Martin immediately halted their cyberattacks against the defense contractor following the release of Mandiant’s APT1 report, Lockheed executives said Wednesday.
In February 2013, Mandiant released its bold, unprecedented report that made direct allegations and exposed a multi-year, massive cyber state-sponsored espionage campaign from a unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The threat actor group, dubbed APT1 by FireEye-owned Mandiant, is alleged to be one of the most persistent of China’s cyber threat actors, which the security firm claims has “systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data” from at least 141 organizations.
China Daily tracks another web crackdown that could make a reader Yelp!:
Micro-blogger in court charged with spreading rumors
A popular Chinese micro-blogger went on trial on Thursday for allegedly spreading rumors to attract followers and helping others delete posts for profit.
Yang Xiuyu, founder of Erma Co and with the online identity Lier Chaisi, was accused of illegal business operations after receiving 531,200 yuan ($86,312) for helping people remove Internet posts and publish rumors, according to Beijing Chaoyang District People’s Court.
Yang, 41, from Northeast China’s Jilin province, was charged with running the illegal operation between May 2012 and September 2013, the court said.
From the Independent, bids to cop a deal:
Chief Constable bombarded with offers for private contracts
One of Britain’s most senior police officers has repeatedly rebuffed attempts by former service colleagues to use their contacts to push for contracts on behalf of their new private sector employers.
Lynne Owens, the Chief Constable of Surrey Police, said that she had been “bombarded” with requests for meetings from people who used to work in policing to tap into the £2.3bn market in private police services.
Industry watchers say the approaches signal a new drive by security companies for deals with police forces after the political furore died down over the failure of the world’s biggest security company G4S to supply enough security staff for the 2012 Olympics. Under pressure from 20 per cent budget cuts, some police forces have done deals with outside companies for technology, human resources and detention services.
On the drone front, there’s this from Aviation Week & Space Technology:
France, U.K. Move Toward Joint UCAV
- UCAV feasiblity study renews French-British aerospace industry cooperation
New low-observable technologies, a highly reliable turbofan engine and multifunction radar are among the technologies that could be destined for an Anglo-French unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) in the 2030s.
A two-year feasibility study, signed by defense ministers from the two countries at the Farnborough air show last month, could mark the return to an era of close cooperation between the British and French aerospace industries not seen since the development of the Concorde in the 1960s.
Now more details have emerged of some of the ambitious capabilities and technologies being envisaged for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), which both nations hope will give them a leading edge in air power and defense exports in the coming decades.
After the jump, it’s off to Asia with an allegation of a seditious Like and a non-illegal ISIS fan club, tensions in Pakistan, and the latest in the Game of Zones, including Korean missiles and a papal plea, Chinese arms developments, another “comfort women” demand, Japanese protests, Russo-Japanese tensions, the real Men in Black, and much, much more. . . Continue reading