Friday, August 29, 2014

Don't Fear ISIS Chemical Weapons

Foreign Policy has an article about an ISIS laptop found in Syria that among other documents, including jihadi speeches, contains
a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals.
Marcy Wheeler compares this laptop "discovery" to one in 2004 that later turned out to be a forgery that contained Iran's nuclear program information.  Marcy says about this source
Either Abu Ali is lying, or he’s lying.
I am going to look at the media's scare tactics, and in another post who we should really worry about with chemical weapons (it's not ISIS). 

First, the story from the Foreign Policy article.
...after hours upon hours of scrolling through the documents, it became clear that the ISIS laptop contains more than the typical propaganda and instruction manuals used by jihadists. The documents also suggest that the laptop's owner was teaching himself about the use of biological weaponry, in preparation for  
 a potential attack that would have shocked the world.
The information on the laptop makes clear that its owner is a Tunisian national named Muhammed S. who joined ISIS in Syria and who studied chemistry and physics at two universities in Tunisia's northeast. Even more disturbing is how he planned to use that education: The ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals.
As you read the article further you see that it debunks itself.

Even the follow-up article debunks the story, while still being able to scare people 

Really difficult yet really easy!
The real difficulty in all of these weapons ... [is] to actually have a workable distribution system that will kill a lot of people," said Magnus Ranstorp, research director of the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College. "But to produce quite scary weapons is certainly within [the Islamic State's] capabilities.
But the article still tries to scare us, but succeeds again only in debunking itself. (links are from the article)

"Al Qaeda has tried unsuccessfully for years to get such weapons"
Nothing on the ISIS laptop, of course, suggests that the jihadists already possess these dangerous weapons. And any jihadi organization contemplating a bioterrorist attack will face many difficulties: Al Qaeda tried unsuccessfully for years to get its hands on such weapons, and the United States has devoted massive resources to preventing terrorists from making just this sort of breakthrough. The material on this laptop, however, is a reminder that jihadists are also hard at work at acquiring the weapons that could allow them to kill thousands of people with one blow.
Yet with years of no success of acquiring chemical weapons, somehow they tested them on dogs in 2002
This isn't the first time that jihadists have attempted to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Even before the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda had experimented with a chemical weapons program in Afghanistan. In 2002, CNN obtained a tape showing al Qaeda members testing poison gas on three dogs, all of which died.
Even the original report tries to scare us, reporting that several experts said the video showed clear evidence of nerve agents, with similar language as the Foreign Policy article saying that Al Qaeda (now ISIS) had clear capabilities able to attack Americans with chemical weapons.  In the end however even this article debunks itself as it devolves from a nerve agent, to cyanide in gas form, to "something"

Scary Nerve Agent!
a sign, say some of the experts who were shown the tape by CNN, of a nerve agent.
a very powerful and quick-acting chemical that behaves like a nerve agent...such as sarin, which was used in the Tokyo subway terrorist attacks in the 1990s," said John Gilbert, a chemical weapons specialist for Science Applications International Corporation who advises the U.S. government.
David Kay (UN Iraq WMD inspector in Gulf War and 2003)
Kay said he was convinced "above a reasonable doubt" that the gas on the tape is a nerve agent, possibly an improvised nerve agent or possibly sarin. 
Jonathan Tucker, a chemical and bio-weapons specialist from the Monterey Institute, to examine the tape. He, too, said he was shocked by what he saw. But Tucker believes that the dog's reaction to the gas indicate a form of cyanide, not a nerve agent.
 Senior Bush Administration Official
The official, who has knowledge of chemical weapons issues, said the video of the chemical tests on the dogs suggest a very strong desire to acquire the capability to use such weapons "obviously against humans."
 Jonathon Tucker
Jonathan Tucker, a chemical and bio-weapons specialist from the Monterey Institute, to examine the tape. He, too, said he was shocked by what he saw. But Tucker believes that the dog's reaction to the gas indicate a form of cyanide, not a nerve agent.
"We saw visible fumes from the material that you would not see from a nerve agent, but it is consistent with production of crude hydrogen cyanide gas," Tucker said, adding that it appears to be a very crude binary weapon that terrorists would be attracted to because it is low-tech and safe to use.
Hard to tell what it is
Frederick Sidell...retired from the U.S. Army's Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, said evaluation of the chemical is very difficult.
"The most common medical agent is something called mustard, which is a blister agent. And it's certainly not that," he said, adding that it also did not seem to him to be a nerve agent or cyanide.

Whatever it is, BE AFRAID!
Whatever the substance may be, the implication of the laboratory tests was unmistakable for the experts consulted by CNN.
"The implication is that al Qaeda, or another terrorist group, could create a number of different ways of attacking people, for example, in an enclosed area, such as an airport lobby, or in a theater or a train or a bus," Gilbert said. "Another is that it could be used against individuals selectively, who are targeted for assassination."
"There are a lot more questions this tape leaves than answers, unfortunately," he said. "Well, the questions are really bad questions."

I'm much more afraid of the bad journalism being repeated every time a new group emerges than their abilities with chemical or biological weapons.

The Tan Suit also said some important things about some stuff....

President Obama gave a press conference today.

The Washington Post said
Obama wore a tan suit while talking about Ukraine, and political Twitter promptly went nuts.

Yes the suit was different, and Twitter did go a little nuts, and the article highlights some of the fun.  But as always we were not just making fun of the suit. 

@philipaklein  made a "bypass Congress" joke
This is what happens when Obama bypasses Congress to purchase a suit.

@john_dingell  didn't know what all the fuss was about
I see no problem with the suit.

We also asked some tough questions. The Tan Suit said some important things.

The media likes to distract us.  We cannot let them do that.  The policy is too important.  We can have our fun and then must get back to work.

Here are some of the issues raised by the speech.

Washington Post

"We don't have a strategy yet"
President Obama made bluntly clear Thursday why he has not yet implemented a comprehensive U.S. response to the Islamist insurgency that is rapidly spreading across the Middle East.

“We don’t have a strategy yet,” Obama said
 Our allies in the Middle East are nervous
When a superpower, the superpower, is reluctant in developing policy, it’s not only about leadership, it’s about having a coherent approach to crises,” said another regional official.
“The ball is in the U.S. court,” said a third.
Senior officials from four Middle Eastern states spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid public indications of disquiet with Obama.
Some Arab states are not that worried about ISIS (since many of them fund ISIS against Iran-backed Syria and the Assad regime), and some of our allies in Europe are not eager to join another "coalition of the willing" due to the debacle that was the previous Iraq War.
Two U.S. allies in the Arab world – Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – have shown their priorities by carrying out airstrikes not against ISIS but against targets in a different war zone: Libya. And for Persian Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, some analysts argue, ISIS is scary, but the far more mainstream Muslim Brotherhood is still considered a broader, long-term political threat to the region’s kings and autocrats.
The real way to defeat ISIS is to persuade our "allies" in the region to stop funding them.  They deny funding ISIS directly, but experts point to indirect funding as well as supporting fundamentalism as fueling the rise and growth of ISIS.
Tarek Masoud, who teaches at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and has written extensively about Islamist movements, said the Jordanians are “spooked” by ISIS and that the Egyptians would be game for any action that weakens Islamists, the arch-enemies of the military regime in Cairo. Still, he said, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar were far more crucial to any anti-ISIS effort.

“I can see the three tightening up controls on fund raising for ISIS,”
It has also been argued by some that Assad himself let radical groups grow as a way to prove that he is necessary in power to keep radical groups at bay.
The least useful way is to pretend that there is no dilemma, and that, whatever each might say, the interests of Assad and ISIS are aligned. The basis for this argument is that Assad has, in the course of the war, strategically picked his battles with various rebel factions, first going after the ones that he believed to be domestic political threats, which in turn allowed ISISto grow stronger. (Another theory is that Assad wanted ISIS to be powerful because it made the opposition as a whole look bad.) But at best this is a short-term perspective. Assad and many in his circle are Alawites, whom ISIS regards as apostates; the group is a real threat to Assad and to his base.  
Here is Lawrence Wright documenting the birth and growth of ISIS
In 2000, Zarqawi, a Jordanian who had been a convicted thief and sex criminal before turning to radical Islam, created his own group, drawing from his country and the region known in Arabic as al-Sham, or the Levant—that is, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. He called his force at that time the Army of the Sham.
Zarqawi had a different goal in mind. He hoped to provoke an Islamic civil war, and, for his purposes, there was no better venue than the fractured state of Iraq, which sits astride the Sunni-Shiite fault line.
Kerry is going back to the Middle East after the NATO summit next week
Next week, he said, he will consult NATO allies on larger plans for Syria, Iraq and the Islamic State at an alliance summit in Wales, Obama said. Immediately afterward, he is sending Secretary of State John F. Kerry to the region to meet with Middle Eastern leaders.
Obama's contentious relationship with Congress (yes the Republicans are also to blame) is affecting the Contitution (see Executive Orders and War Powers Act)
He rejected criticism from some lawmakers for not seeking congressional approval for the limited Iraq operation. “As commander in chief, I have the authorities to engage in the acts that we are conducting currently,” Obama said.
Congress is divided, but not clearly on bipartisan lines
This time, with the midterm elections just over two months away, lawmakers may be even less inclined to take a politically risky vote on military action.
“I see no reason to come to Congress because, if he does, it'll just become a circus,” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said this week.
Still, some lawmakers are calling for Obama to put military action in Syria to a vote. Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, a frequent critic of the administration’s foreign policy, has said Congress should “certainly” authorize such steps. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and White House ally, has also called for a vote on the president’s broader strategy for going after the Islamic State.

Read more here:
Again, the media is playing partisanship, but it's not about "it's nice to be asked to go to war" it's the law after 60 days (the President is given some authority to start on his own under Article 2 of the Constitution
Unlike the partisan lines along which they have split on other issues, Congress has been divided on Syria, with many Democrats opposed to any return to war in the Middle East. Some Republicans have shared that concern, while others have pressed for more military action.

But both Republicans and Democrats agree that they want to be asked.
Obama did not call Russian invasion an invasion
Although he said he expected to impose additional sanctions, he declined to call Russia’s latest moves an invasion, as Ukraine and others have, saying they were “not really a shift” but just “a little more overt” form of longstanding Russian violations of Ukrainian sovereignty.
 So in the end yes Obama wore a tan suit that looked a little weird.  Twitter erupted just like it does over everything that happens anywhere, no matter how trivial or important.  We can have our fun, but we must also not allow the media to distract us.  We must pay attention to the policies as well.

I sent out some thoughts as well

We don't have a strategy

this statement must have Republicans screaming "Benghazi" at their TVs
here  and here  (and some on the right did take notice @slone)
It is not just part of my responsibility, but it is a sacred duty for me as Commander-in-Chief to protect the American people.  And that requires me to act fast, based on information I receive, if an embassy of ours or a consulate of ours is being threatened.

(Not a tweet) 
So our strategy is not to defeat ISIL? (emphasis mine)
in some of the media reports the suggestion seems to have been that we’re about to go full scale on an elaborate strategy for defeating ISIL, and the suggestion, I guess, has been that we’ll start moving forward imminently and somehow Congress -- still out of town -- is going to be left in the dark.  That’s not what’s going to happen.

Here are just a few of the tweets I saw today.

Something missing from Obama's speech....Pakistan
Not one comment or question to Obama today on Pakistan, where elected gov asked army to step into political crisis NYT

@bungdan wrote
As soon as we have an Iraqi government in place, the likelihood of Iraqi forces being more effective significantly increases." - Obama today
@emptywheel responded
@bungdan One of those details no one will notice bc of the suit.

Marcy Wheeler @emptywheel also noticed that the tan suit would distract some journalists from covering the important issues
Tan suit: A good way to distract journalists from turning Constitution into "making sure their voices are heard."

There was also the #NoStrategyEmptySuit hashtag

There were also many tweets complaining that news coverage was about the suit, and mocking the criticizm of Obama but not other presidents.

You actually *didn't* have to run an article about the tan suit.
 And several "how dare a President wear a tan suit" outrage clarifications

Breaking News: a non black president has worn a tan suit and everyone was okay with it.


WHAT KIND OF PRESIDENT WEARS A TAN SUIT?!?!?! (or does he not count because he was never ELECTED…?) #TanSuitGate


And with almost everything Obama does or doesn't do, there's Jimmy Carter

And finally, there was this non-tan suit gem

A message from the State Department

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Israel's Reaction to ISIS in the Golan

The cease-fire that has ended the current war in Gaza is holding for now. (pay attention to the disgusting way this article was written) 
The cease-fire was still holding Wednesday, and that was good news in a conflict beset by breaches by Hamas and the other militant resistance groups operating in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli drones could still be heard flying circles overhead, but there was no rocket or missile fire. In Gaza, fishermen went further out to sea than they have in years, and farmers were allowed to work fields close to the Israel fence line.
After seven weeks of intense fighting that's killed more than 2,000 people, Hamas and Israel have announced a long-term cease-fire deal.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made the announcement in Ramallah on Tuesday, saying both sides will return to the negotiating table to deal with other demands. Abbas suggested he wanted an outcome that ends the cycle of war in the region.
 Hamas, Israel reach long term cease-fire deal
The BBC reports "Palestinian negotiators said "Israel had agreed to ease its blockade of Gaza to allow in aid supplies and building materials."
Haaretz reports that the terms do not include "a seaport, an airport" nor "the release of prisoners."

NPR's Emily Harris reports that a senior Israeli official says the big difference between this cease-fire and others is that this one is open-ended.

The official said if the cease-fire is respected, Israel will reconsider its blockade. Broader peace talks, the official said, will restart "pretty quickly" in Cairo. Once there, an Israeli delegation will talk about demilitarizing Gaza.

It's important to remember that other cease-fire deals have quickly dissipated. In fact, minutes after the cease-fire was supposed to begin, Al Jazeera reported that rocket alarms were still sounding in Israel.

Let's compare the Israeli government's reaction to  

A) Hamas (after the collapse of peace talks, the formation of the unity Palestinian government, the kidnapping and murder of 3 Israeli teens, and the rockets fired into Israel) which led to a nearly 2 month long bombing campaign, ground invasion, and killing over 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza (the West Bank was mostly ignored in the media after the war started)

B) with news this week that ISIS (some report it was not ISIS but another Syrian rebel group) had captured a border crossing in the Golan Heights.

Syrian Rebels Take Control of Crossing in the Golan
Islamist opposition fighters in Syria, including members of an Al Qaeda affiliate, took control of the Quneitra crossing point on the demarcation line with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, activists said on Wednesday. [August 27]
The move could bring Islamist forces within 200 yards of territory controlled by Israel.
The Israeli military said one soldier and an Israeli civilian were wounded by “errant fire” from the clashes at Quneitra on Wednesday, prompting an artillery barrage against two Syrian Army positions in the Golan Heights — the latest of several occasions when Syria’s civil war has spilled into Israel, prompting retaliation. Israel has said it has no interest in further involvement in the fighting. (emphasis mine)
Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser, said reports of the Nusra Front taking control of the Quneitra crossing could be “very significant” if the group managed to link that position to its stronghold in Dara’a, in southern Syria, and other areas.

But Mr. Amidror, who served under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel should not interfere in the conflict and should respond only if attacked or to provide humanitarian assistance to wounded people on the demarcation line.

Shelling on the Golan Heights: Syria Testing Israel’s Resolve? Fierce fighting across the border around Quneitra; the crossing may now be in rebel hands. Bad news for Israel?
Although an open-ended cease-fire is in force with Gaza, two people were wounded in northern Israel on Wednesday in the course of three shelling attacks from Syria.
emphasis mine
It was the third attack in a single day, the most intensive shelling from Syria in months. No one was physically injured and no property damage was reported in the attack.
Hours earlier, in the morning, an IDF officer was moderately wounded and two Israeli vehicles were damaged in a similar attack. A barrage of Syrian mortar shells was fired from across the border – again, from the Quneitra area.
The IDF attacked two Syrian positions in response to the mortar fire. IDF officials said Jerusalem holds the Syrian army responsible for maintaining order on the Syrian side of the border.
At least two of the three opposition factions involved in the war have vowed to dedicate themselves to Israel’s destruction when they have ‘completed their task’ in Syria. One of those is the Islamic State, or ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.)
The IDF has ordered farmers and civilians to stay away from the border and part of the area has been closed to civilians as a precaution.

It is an understatement to say that the reaction is different.

Hamas builds tunnels and forms a unity government and is accused of kidnapping 3 Israeli teens?
  • Israel kills more than 2,000 people in Gaza (as well as arrests and injuries in the West Bank)
Syrian rebels, possibly Al Qaeda-linked capture a border crossing in Syria along the border with Israel?
  • Israel closes the border and tells farmers to stay away.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

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He Knew the Name James Foley

Few Americans knew the name Bowe Bergdahl before he was released in May after being held for 5 years as a prisoner of war, and then all of a sudden everyone was an expert.  Everyone would have done things differently, sooner, cheaper, better than Obama did.  Everyone had their opinions, and suddenly everyone knew what laws Obama had broken or not broken, and everyone knew that Obama was right, wrong, should be impeached, should be praised, etc.

Now that the controversy has largely (but not entirely) fizzled, (see Taliban Swap Broke Law) there is a new focus, the murder of American journalist James Foley by ISIS.

Few have realized (or have not mentioned) that the final statement that ISIS made James say echoes Bowe's email to his parents.

There are still many hostages still in captivity, some are Americans, many are not.  They are journalists, soldiers, civilians, terrorists.

Below are some links to some of those who are not free.

POW/MIA since Iraq War
The current number of personnel missing from operations in Iraq and the Persian Gulf being actively pursued by DPMO is five - two service members from Desert Storm, and three DoD contractors from Iraqi Freedom.
According to police statistics, nearly 2,000 people worldwide have been taken hostage
during the last 10 years. However, the actual number of cases could be several times higher.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, since 2013 there are 211 journalists that are imprisoned and more that remain missing who's status is unknown.

When most of the world first met Robert Bergdahl after his son was released, almost everyone jumped on him for something.  Everyone saw him, judged him, called him and his family traitors.  Everyone shared this tweet.  That tweet is real.  That tweet is about justice.  Robert knows how the families of those who are held hostage feel.  Robert cares about everyone who is held in captivity.  Yes he is raising awareness and fighting to free those who are held hostage, American or not.  He knows what it means to wonder about a loved ones' safety.  He knew what it felt like to wonder if he would ever see Bowe again.

While Americans mocked Robert, he remembered and raised awareness about others who were still imprisoned.

Robert Bergdahl Video "Nobody Can Relate to Guantánamo Prisoners More Than Our Family"

Robert is lucky.  Bowe is alive and home.  We pray for the Foleys and we pray and hope that those who are still not free will be free one day soon.

RIP James

We miss you and love you.

Follow Robert Bergdahl on Twitter

The Police Cannot Handle.....

It now appears for the time-being that I have fallen into documenting police shootings and other forms of police misconduct (see here and here)

We are well aware that we have a problem with police shootings, especially of unarmed black men.  But there are other cases that police do not handle well and need attention paid as well.

So, besides unarmed black men, here are some other situations that police have some issues with:
  • peaceful protestors
  • jaywalkers
  • mental illness
  • babies

Assault/Knocked Unconscious
An 84-year-old Manhattan man is suing the NYPD for $5 million over an alleged jaywalking incident gone terribly awry.  Kang Chun Wong, who was suspected of jaywalking, was allegedly ambushed by a swarm of NYPD officers, knocked unconscious on the street, and handcuffed in a hospital emergency room.
 At least we're not sexually assaulting people like other cops do
Amanda Jo Stephen, 24, was arrested in Austin, Tex. after cops caught her jaywalking while she jogged near the University of Texas.
Florida police said they followed procedure when they Tasered accused jaywalker Zikomo Peurifoy three times when he refused to provide identification after police stopped him for allegedly jaywalking.
The video....may now be shown to officers as an example of how to properly handle an uncooperative suspect.

"Jump-out" Stops (similar to Stop and Frisk) Michigan ACLU (emphasis mine)
So-called "jump-out" stops, which have been widely reported in the media in Saginaw. The stops include officers from various agencies staking out certain communities of color and descending upon individuals who are allegedly violating city ordinances or state laws, including minor infractions such as jaywalking.
The police officers use these minor infractions as an excuse to search the individual, ask for identification and question the individual about other crimes in the area. The ACLU of Michigan asks the DOJ to investigate whether the Saginaw stops are similar to the unconstitutional New York-style stop-and-frisk program and how neighborhoods become "target areas" and whether race-based presumptions may drive those decisions.

Whether a police officer’s mistake of law can provide the individualized suspicion that the Fourth Amendment requires to justify a traffic stop.
Page 17 (PDF pg. 25)
Citizens who wish to engage in activities that are highly regulated or otherwise likely to attract police attention may face state intrusion even if they carefully research when, where, and how they are permitted to conduct their desired activity. Even more casual activities, though legal, may form the basis for stops, searches, and seizures:
A man is lawfully walking down a street that has no sidewalk. An officer mistakenly believes
that walking in the street violates an ordinance prohibiting jaywalking. The man is stopped and searched.
 ACLU Report, The War on Marijuana in Black and White

Case Study: DeMarcus Sanders, Waterloo, Iowa

emphasis mine
Mr. Sanders feels like being an African American in Waterloo makes him a target
for the police. Mr. Sanders was arrested for marijuana possession again last July. Two
plainclothes police officers stopped him one night for crossing the street in downtown
Waterloo against the light. They said his jaywalking had nearly caused an accident. Mr. Sanders said he was in the crosswalk, and there were no cars or other pedestrians at that hour.


SWAT shoot mother and 14 month old black boy

emphasis mine
A SWAT team arrived at Ms. Wilson’s rented house in the Southside neighborhood early in the evening of Jan. 4 to arrest her companion, Anthony Terry, on suspicion of drug dealing, said Greg Garlock, Lima’s police chief. Officers bashed in the front door and entered with guns drawn, said neighbors who saw the raid.
Moments later, the police opened fire, killing Ms. Wilson, 26, and wounding her 14-month-old son, Sincere, Chief Garlock said. One officer involved in the raid, Sgt. Joseph Chavalia, a 31-year veteran, has been placed on paid administrative leave.
 Woman in Missouri sues police after miscarriage
A woman who lost her premature baby a day after she was thrown in jail is suing the police department and two arresting officers who repeatedly ignored her pleas for medical help.
 The officers stopped Salva after they saw her placing a fake temporary tag on the back window of her car. 
 The tape shows Salva telling the officers she is having a miscarriage and is bleeding. On the tape, an officer identified as Schnell, who has worked for the department for less than two years, walks away from the car and tells his partner: “She just gave me a line of excuses. She said she’s bleeding. She said you can check her.”
SWAT team throws flash-bang grenade into baby's crib ACLU Report (See also 124 violent SWAT raids a day)
 One of the officers threw a flashbang grenade into the room. It landed in Baby Bou Bou’s crib.
The 19-month-old had been taken to an intensive burn unit and placed into a medically induced coma. When the flashbang grenade exploded, it blew a hole in 19-month-old Bou Bou’s face and chest. The chest wound was so deep it exposed his ribs. The blast covered Bou Bou’s body in third degree burns.
 The SWAT team was executing a “no knock” warrant to search for someone who did not live in the home that was raided: Bounkahm’s nephew, who was suspected of making a $50 drug sale. 
SWAT Team Throws Flashbang into Home of Pregnant Woman (from same ACLU report)
Knowing there would likely be a pregnant woman inside, a SWAT team still opted to break down the door of a home and throw a flashbang grenade inside in order to execute a search warrant in a drug case. Once inside the home, SWAT officers found one man, one pregnant woman, and a four-year-old child.
The ACLU report on the Militarization of the police has many other situations.  Read the report when you have a chance.

Flash-bang burns 12 year old girl with 1st and 2nd degree burns
Police in Montana were preparing to raid a home at (address) looking for drugs. Before entering an officer deployed a stun grenade, which is meant to disorient by emitting a bright flash. To achieve this, the police dropped the grenade through a window, which landed inches next to a sleeping child.
The officer, unaware that the grenades have a time delayed detonation, and thinking his was a dud, went to deploy a second. It was in this moment that the first grenade ignited, making contact with the sleeping pre-teen girl's flesh..."She has first- and second-degree burns down the left side of her body and on her arms."
While [Police Chief] St. John's statement is touching, his rhetoric is lacking. The police department has yet to offer to pay for the young victim's medical bills.

A recent report from Kevin Gosztola on the story of Joseph Jennings,  killed by police in Kansas

In Kansas, Ottawa police shot and killed Joseph Jennings, an 18-year-old who was mentally ill, on August 23. At least two officers on the scene were well aware that he suffered from seizures and had responded to a call one day ago to take him to the hospital.
"He just got out of the hospital. He’s suicidal. Don’t shoot. Please don’t shoot." Both Smith and her husband attempted to help the officers so this did not end so tragically.  “I went over there trying to assist them. I had guns in my face.”
Police decided to use a taser, but Smith asked the officers not to use the weapon because Jennings suffered from seizures and had heart problems. So, police decided to fire beanbag rounds at him instead.
Never did he reach for a weapon. They beanbagged him two more times. He lost his balance. They beanbagged him again. He was getting ready to go down. His arm came up a little, and they opened fire on him—24 rounds.”
Ottawa police have claimed 8 officers were involved. Smith maintained that it was at least 14 police officers, who participated in the shooting incident.
Smith is upset with what police officers on the scene did, but she wanted it to be clear she has no “vendetta” against police.
“We are not angry toward the police department,” Smith explained. “We understand they had policies and procedures in place to protect and serve the community. However, those same two officers that were here that night when they assisted in taking him to the hospital and had his stomach pumped knew him, knew his mental state. That’s what gets me and rips my heart out the most.”

New York Times Article Headline: Police Confront Rising Number of Mentally Ill

The article headline is noticeably different in the article than the link to the article.
Police Shootings of Mentally Ill Suspects are on the Upswing

Schizophrenic boy killed by police--previous calls to police had helped child--death leads to new training of police

She asked her husband to call 911. Two officers arrived, she said, and started calmly speaking with the 18-year-old. Then, she said a third officer from another police force showed up and escalated the situation, which quickly spiraled out of control. Less than a minute later, Keith had been tased and was struggling with the first two officers to arrive.
“Then, I heard the gun go off and saw my son start bleeding,” she said.
Fired but not arrested
The Dallas police officer who shot a mentally ill man in a disputed incident caught on tape was fired Thursday.

Police Chief David Brown also announced Officer Cardan Spencer would be charged with first degree aggravated assault. But a judge reportedly refused to sign the arrest warrant and now the case will be referred to a grand jury.
Mentally ill black woman killed after threatening police, but new investigation demanded since Ferguson
Officers were serving an emergency court order to take the 50-year-old woman to a mental health care facility, police said.
 The investigation comes amid protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the Aug. 9 killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.
 Phoenix police said Cusseaux, who is black, confronted them when she opened her front door just as officers had got through a security door. She then raised the hammer and went at the officers, police said.
 Mentally ill man shot in the back
After shooting their mentally ill son in the back, the Tampa Police Department assured the dead man's parents that officers would get specialized crisis intervention team training.

An 8 On Your Side investigation learned that five years later, TPD walked away from that promise.
"He needed to go to the hospital where he could be understood, where he could be appropriately treated," Stan Skipper said of his son, David.

"They shot five times, three of them hitting David. He had turned to go back into his apartment and they hit him in the back," David's mother, Carol Skipper remembers.
The Skippers called Tampa Police the night of November 9, 1998 to help them take their paranoid schizophrenic son, David to the hospital. They had successfully Baker Acted  David on 19 other occasions.
Maine Press Herald series, Police deadly force and the mentally ill
Five separate fatal shootings of mentally ill people by Maine police in 2011 prompted the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram to examine law enforcement's use of deadly force. Since 1990, police have fired on 101 people, many of them mentally ill, and in every case the state attorney general ruled that the shooting was justified.
LAPD chief faces tense crowd over shooting of mentally ill man
Conflicting accounts about Ford's death have emerged. An LAPD statement, citing a preliminary investigation, said Ford tackled one of two gang officers who approached him on West 65th Street and reached for the officer's gun, prompting both officers to open fire. But a friend of Ford's family told The Times that she witnessed part of the incident and saw no struggle between the officers and Ford.
The killing occurred days after another police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., that left an 18-year-old, unarmed black man dead and sparked violent protests that have intensified national scrutiny of police conduct. By contrast, the Los Angeles protests following Ford's death have been peaceful.

Peaceful Protestors

Ferguson, Missouri

 New Report documents worldwide crackdown on dissent and protest October 2013 (emphasis mine)
In a major new report, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations details a global crackdown on peaceful protests through excessive police force and the criminalization of dissent. The report, "Take Back the Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World," warns of a growing tendency to perceive individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right — the right to protest — as a threat requiring a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report show how governments have reacted to peaceful protests in the United States, Israel, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Britain.
The report’s name comes from a police report filed in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to nonviolently protest the G-20 summit. A senior Toronto police commander responded to the protests by issuing an order to "take back the streets." Within a span of 36 hours, more than 1,000 people — peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents — were arrested and placed in detention.

Anti-Fracking protest in Canada turns violent after police advanced on peaceful protestors
What started as a peaceful protest by the Mi’kmaq First Nation in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick against a shale gas project has now spun violently out of control. After the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) advanced on the anti-fracking protest, demonstrators clashed with police, chemical agents were deployed and at least half a dozen police vehicles were destroyed by Molotov cocktails.
Turkey, Taksim Square, Gezi Park
Turkish youth began peacefully protesting the redevelopment plans this morning with singing and book readings in the public space, but as more people congregated, the protest (while still peaceful) began to take on more of an anti-Erdogan theme. And that’s when the police arrived, turning a peaceful protest into what is already being termed Bloody Friday.
Police retaliation against the peaceful protestors was violent, brutal, unnecessary, and inhumane. They were clearly aiming not to diffuse the large crowds, but to hurt as many protestors as possible. Police attacked the large crowds with tear gas grenades, water cannons, and rubber bullets, aiming directly for individuals. Many have been reported to have lost sight, been grievously injured, had brain damage, and even died as a result of these supposed “crowd control” techniques.

Eyewitness account of police riot against peaceful Muslim protest in Australia

The three phases of Egypt’s popular protests

creeping violence:

The new wave of protests has reignited the old debate about violent and nonviolent protests. Many protest movements started peacefully and then slowly turned to violent confrontations. Failure to achieve the aspired outcomes can tempt some protesters to push the boundaries of peacefulness under the slogan of “resisting the police” and “reject submission.”

In Ukraine, after weeks of responding peacefully to police brutality, a group of protesters decided to take the fight to the police, including members of the far-right party Svoboda. In Venezuela, a group of academics and politicians have written a letter deploring what they describe as “a wave of violence from minority and extremist sections of Venezuela’s opposition,” citing physical assaults on government institutions, including gunshots and Molotov cocktail attacks on the state TV channel and a state governor's residence. Egypt also had its share of violent confrontations. The rise of mysterious groups like the Molotov movement, which regularly claim responsibility for violent attacks on the police, signals a new turn toward violence by the “anti-coup movements,” particularly after the ruthless, forced end of the Islamists’ sit-ins in Cairo in August 2013.

Anger is a natural human response to brutality; it can lead to irrationality and emotional response. However, it is counterproductive and self-defeating. Police brutality is not just aimed at restoring order but also, after triggering violence, it is used as a pretext for more brutality. Revising the history of protests helps increase understanding of the deeper impact of violent protest on the strength of the state. In her book Why Civil Resistance Works, Erica Chenoweth found that violent resistance movements, even if they succeed, can create a lot of long-term problems.

Losing peacefulness is like banging on the wall after losing the door key. It will either drain one’s energy or break the wall, but both are futile and potentially destructive, and can ruin the state that the protesters initially aim to salvage.

Occupy Wall Street

Most recently the case of Cecily McMillan made headlines Sparrow media

The Nation
Two years ago, a young activist named Cecily McMillan attended a protest at Zuccotti Park marking the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. When police moved in to clear the demonstrators, a cop roughly grabbed her breast—photos show an ugly bruise—and she ended up being injured so badly that she had a seizure and ended up in the hospital. In a just world, she would be getting restitution from the City.
Interview with Cecily McMillan on Democracy Now!

Scott Olsen Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen interview on Democracy Now!
Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old former U.S. Marine who served two tours in the Iraq War, was critically wounded after being shot in the head by a police projectile at Occupy Oakland.
Just over two months ago, on October 25th, the 24-year-old Iraq war veteran was taking part in a protest in defense of the Occupy Oakland encampment. By the time the night ended, Olsen was hospitalized in critical condition with a fractured skull and brain swelling. He had been shot in the head by a police projectile while the police were firing bean bags and tear gas to clear the Occupy protesters.
At the time of the shooting Olsen, who served two deployments in Iraq, was wearing military fatigues and a Veterans for Peace T-shirt. Moments after he was shot, police fired a bright flash grenade at a group of Occupy protesters who attempted to help treat him. Soon after that, the protesters carried him away as blood streamed down his face.

** side note Scott Olsen talks Chelsea Manning and Wikileaks
AMY GOODMAN: Scott, as we travel around the country to Occupy encampments, there are veterans everywhere in these encampments. One of the Iraq War vets that you have been standing up for, speaking out for, is Bradley Manning. You, too, were interested in computers. Can you talk about whether you knew him, why Bradley Manning is important to you, who is now facing a court-martial, facing life in prison, possibly death, accused for leaking documents and videos when he was in Iraq, uploading them to WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website?
SCOTT OLSEN: Yeah. Bradley Manning, I didn’t know him until he hit the news. And as soon as I heard about him, as soon as I saw the documents that he leaked, or allegedly leaked, I could see myself almost in his shoes, because I—you know, I, when I was in the Marine Corps, I had access to many of the same types of files. And, you know, if I wanted to, I could have gone up and got them, and—but I didn’t see any that, you know, were particularly—pointed to any particular crimes. But he came across a lot. And what he did is—that’s true heroism. I mean, he faced up against a real enemy. And I think that those documents also tie in with what we are seeing today with this global awakening, with all this information, has been another pile on top of the tinder that’s sparked Occupy, that’s sparked the Arab Spring. It’s played into that, as well.

14 Specific Allegations of NYPD Brutality During Occupy Wall Street Atlantic Magazine
An investigation undertaken by law clinics at NYU, Fordham, Harvard, and Stanford has concluded, after eight months of study, that the NYPD abused Occupy Wall Street protesters and violated their rights on numerous occasions during the 2011 protests that radiated out from Zuccotti Park.
Here is the full report and reports of police brutality start on pages 71 and 72
Reports, videos, and allegations of unjustifiably aggressive and excessive police force against bystanders, protesters, legal observers, and journalists have been a constant and persistent feature of the Occupy protests. Witnesses and victims have reported allegations of such incidents frequently since Occupy started.
The most frequent form of force allegedly used by police against protesters, bystanders, and journalists is bodily force, including through:
• Pushing;
• Shoving, tackling, or throwing forcefully backwards, to the ground, or against a wall;
• Dragging along the ground;
• Hair pulling;
• Hitting or punching, including to the head and face; and
• Kicking, including to the head and face.  

Wikipedia Law Enforcement and the Occupy Movement

The Huffington Post has its own collection of articles about police brutality and the Occupy movement.

Bay Citizen Video shows officers dragging a professor and a student to the ground by their hair
A video showing police at the University of California, Berkeley, dragging two protesters, including a professor, to the ground by their hair during an Occupy protest earlier this week has stoked outrage among some faculty and legal experts.
UC Davis pepper spray incident  YouTube

Police use of pepper spray to disperse “occupy” demonstrators at UC Davis has set off a firestorm of protest, the suspension of two officers, and calls for the school’s chancellor to resign.
Video of the incident at the University of California campus, showing demonstrators sitting peacefully on a sidewalk as officers sprayed them with a red mist of pepper spray at very close range, quickly went viral.

Mass surveillance of Occupy Protest Movements

Occupy Wall Street and the broader Occupy movement was not only subjected to physical police brutality, but was under mass surveillance too as we learned later, the FBI monitored the Occupy movement using counter-terrorism agents and tactics.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation used counterterrorism agents to investigate the Occupy Wall Street movement, including its communications and planning, according to newly disclosed agency records.The F.B.I. records show that as early as September 2011, an agent from a counterterrorism task force in New York notified officials of two landmarks in Lower Manhattan —Federal Hall and the Museum of American Finance — “that their building was identified as a point of interest for the Occupy Wall Street.”
An October 2011 memo from the bureau’s Jacksonville, Fla., field office was titled Domain Program Management Domestic Terrorist.
The F.B.I. was concerned that the movement would provide “an outlet for a lone offender exploiting the movement for reasons associated with general government dissatisfaction.”
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the F.B.I. has come under criticism for deploying counterterrorism agents to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence on organizations active in environmental, animal-cruelty and poverty issues.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Crowdsourcing Police Shootings--We Need Your Help

Last night in a discussion on Twitter I was given a link to a list of police shootings since 2009.  I wrote about the list here, and did a quick search of the list in order to get an idea of the state breakdown.  The numbers are awful.  California is the worst with 350, and New York and Texas are tied at 163.  I am assuming this is because of population size, but there are real problems that are well documented with police in New York and California.

During the Twitter discussion it was said that the number does not include prison deaths, and I point out that it does not include injuries or Border Patrol.  I do not think that Stand Your Ground laws apply here or I would have identified those states in the list.  Just to include them anyway here they are. 

What I've Learned from Two Years Collecting Data on Police Killings by D. Brian Burghart

emphasis mine

The biggest thing I've taken away from this project is something I'll never be able to prove, but I'm convinced to my core: The lack of such a database is intentional. No government—not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force—wants you to know how many people it kills and why.

In attempting to collect this information, I was lied to and delayed by the FBI, even when I was only trying to find out the addresses of police departments to make public records requests. The government collects millions of bits of data annually about law enforcement in its Uniform Crime Report, but it doesn't collect information about the most consequential act a law enforcer can do.
 I've been lied to and delayed by state, county and local law enforcement agencies—almost every time. They've blatantly broken public records laws, and then thumbed their authoritarian noses at the temerity of a citizen asking for information that might embarrass the agency. And these are the people in charge of enforcing the law.
bad journalism colludes with police to hide this information. The primary reason for this is that police will cut off information to reporters who tell tales. And a reporter can't work if he or she can't talk to sources.


We Are Compiling a List of Every Police Shooting in America

Fatal Encounters Website

Fatal Encounters on Twitter

Police Shootings by State

"No one knows how many Americans the police kill each year" but since 2008 around 400 "justifiable homicides" occur each year according to FBI statistics.

Here is a breakdown from a 2011 blog post similar (but more extensive) than I am trying to do here.

Thanks to @blacktalkradio for this list of people killed by cops from Jauary 1st 2009 to July 28, 2014 

2,235 killed in 5 years is more than the 2,329 that were killed fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in our longest war in Afghanistan.

I wanted to examine the numbers state by state.

It is important to realize a few things while looking at this list.  It is only a partial list, and it is only a list of those killed by police, and does not include any injuries by gun or other weapon.  I am also assuming that Border Patrol numbers are not included as "police" in this list.  It was also mentioned that the list does not include anyone killed in prisons, again not mentioning injuries in prison either. 

See also 

Here is my count of police shootings by state since 2009

Alabama 36

Alaska 8

Arizona 69 (I am assuming that this list does not include Customs and Border Patrol for border states)

Arkansas 20

California 350

Jim Fisher found California to be the deadliest state in his 2011 survey as well KQED
California was the most deadly state in his findings, with 102 fatal police shootings. California cities took seven out of 17 places in Fisher’s list of cities with the highest number of officer-involved shootings per capita. And almost every case was closed without charges by police internal investigations and district attorney reviews. (emphasis mine)

Colorado 70

Connecticut 19

Delaware 5

Florida 144

Georgia 128

Hawaii 5

Idaho 25

Illinois 63

Indiana 40

Iowa 9

Kansas 45

Kentucky 16

Louisiana 35

Maine 19

Maryland 58

Massachusetts 26

Michigan 39

Minnesota 21

Mississippi 16

Missouri 32

Montana 11

Nebraska 3

Nevada 86

New Hampshire 6

New Jersey 51

New Mexico 43

New York 163

North Carolina 53

North Dakota 1

Ohio 60

Oklahoma 40

Oregon 43

Pennsylvania 61

Rhode Island 1

South Carolina 27

South Dakota 2

Tennessee 48

Texas 163

Utah 22

Vermont 6

Virginia 47

Washington (includes State and DC) 142

Washington DC 13

West Virginia 10

Wisconsin 22

Wyoming 1