Tagpolice

The Failure of the FBI’s Right-Wing Terrorist Infiltration Program

Long piece from Foreign Policy about the FBI’s attempted infiltration of the “Patriot Movement” during the 90s:

Despite the fact that PATCON was set up as an intelligence-gathering operation, no evidence has emerged to date that information from the operation came into play during the bombing investigation, despite the links between some of McVeigh’s contacts and the organizations targeted.

The dilemmas of PATCON point toward current debates over the use of infiltration, particularly in cases such as the NYPD’s monitoring of Muslim communities in New York, investigations predicated on the need to collect intelligence rather than build prosecutions on specific criminal activities. The value of the intelligence collected by PATCON is unclear in the final analysis. The only PATCON targets ever prosecuted were already under investigation by the Army, and none of the specific terrorist plots alleged in the FBI’s records ever came to fruition. Meanwhile, the perpetrator of the worst act of right-wing violence in U.S. history was in contact with several targets of the FBI’s investigation but apparently flew under the radar.

Foreign Policy: Patriot Games

(via Innovation Patterns)

See also:

The Paranoid Center

Democracy Now guests on right wing populism and Tiller

The Psychology of False Confessions

The New Yorks Times ran a story on the psychology of false confessions. Here’s an excerpt, but the whole thing is worth reading:

If you have never been tortured, or locked up and verbally threatened, you may find it hard to believe that anyone would confess to something he had not done. Intuition holds that the innocent do not make false confessions. What on earth could be the motive? To stop the abuse? To curry favor with the interrogator? To follow some fragile thread of imaginary hope that cooperation will bring freedom?

Yes, all of the above. Psychological studies of confessions that have proved false show an overrepresentation of children, the mentally ill and mentally retarded, and suspects who are drunk or high. They are susceptible to suggestion, eager to please authority figures, disconnected from reality or unable to defer gratification. Children often think, as Felix did, that they will be jailed if they keep up their denials and will get to go home if they go along with interrogators. Mature adults of normal intelligence have also confessed falsely after being manipulated. […]

In experiments and in interrogation rooms, adults who are told convincing fictions have become susceptible to memories of things that never happened. Rejecting their own recollections through what psychologists call “memory distrust syndrome,” they are tricked by phony evidence into accepting their own fabrications of guilt — an “internalized false confession.”

That is what happened to a shaken Martin Tankleff, and although he quickly recanted, as if coming out of a spell, he was convicted and drew 50 years to life. He spent 17 years in prison before winning an appeal based on new evidence that pointed to three ex-convicts. But they have never been tried. Whoever killed the Tankleffs remains at large.

New York Times: Why Do Innocent People Confess?

(via Social Physicist)

Holding a Gun Makes You Think Others Are Too

I wonder if this remains true even if the test subject is just carrying a gun, but not holding it in their hands (ie, if it applies to cops with holstered guns):

The researchers varied the situation in each experiment – such as the having the people in the images sometimes wear ski masks, changing the race of the person in the image or changing the reaction subjects were to have when they perceived the person in the image to hold a gun. Regardless of the situation the observers found themselves in, the study showed that responding with a gun biased observers to report “gun present” more than did responding with a ball. Thus, by virtue of affording the subject the opportunity to use a gun, he or she was more likely to classify objects in a scene as a gun and, as a result, to engage in threat-induced behavior, such as raising a firearm to shoot.

Science Daily: Holding a Gun Makes You Think Others Are Too, New Research Shows

I’ve seen some skeptical comments questioning whether firearm training would reduce this effect. But Scientific American reports in its coverage of this study that 1/4 of all police shooting involve unarmed suspects. Police receive more than a little (though some argue not enough) firearm training.

The AP also covered the story and notes: “Past research suggests that people can be more likely to perceive a poorly seen object as a gun if it’s held by a black person than by a white person, experts say.”

See also: Priming.

Undercover Cops Seduce High School Students and Entrap Them into Selling Weed

Last year in three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting and flirting with each other.

One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn’t smoke marijuana, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally, Justin was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn’t want the money — he got it for her as a present.

A short while later, the police did a big sweep and arrest 31 students — including Justin. Almost all were charged with selling a small amount of marijuana to the undercover cops. Now Justin has a felony hanging over his head.

Alternet: Sick: Young, Undercover Cops Flirted With Students to Trick Them Into Selling Pot

Not mentioned in the article is that not only does Justin have a felony hanging over his head, if he’s found guilty of a drug related crime he won’t be eligible for federally subsidized financial aid. So he’ll come out of prison at a remarkably young age with fewer job prospects, thanks to a felony record, and have a hard (perhaps impossible) time going to college or trade school to actually get any sort of degree or skills to help him get a job, increasing the chances that he’ll turn to a life of crime. The system if effectively turning otherwise bright kids into lifelong criminals.

(via Boing Boing)

ATF Creates Fictional Hip Hop Label to Make Drug and Gun Busts

Ally Walker

AllHipHopNews reports:

Over $7.2 million in drugs and 161 weapons were confiscated after a year long investigation by the Washington D.C. Police and the Bureau the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which operated as fictional rap label.

According to the Washington Post, D.C. police and ATF agents acted as undercover officers and “music industry insiders” during the year-long sting.

The police created the “Manic Enterprisess” studio in Northeast Washington, for fictional rap artist Richie Valdez in November of 2010.

Agents then told the underground world and black market that they were seeking to purchase weapons and drugs.

Over the course of the year, agents confiscated 161 firearms (including a rocket launcher), 29 assault weapons, 80 pounds of methamphetamine, 21 pounds of cocaine, 1.25 gallons of PCP, 24 pounds of marijuana, heroin and Ecstasy.

AllHipHopNews: ATF and D.C. Police Impersonate Rap Label; Arrest 70 in Year Long Guns and Drug Sting

(via Hump Jones)

Update/Correction to Naomi Wolf Post

I originally posted this as an update to my earlier post, but I think it’s worth its own post:

I’d been avoiding posting anything about speculation that the Department of Homeland Security had anything to do with coordinating the police raids on occupy until there was some real evidence. I thought Wolf had some new sources but, as Kenneth Huey points out in the comments, it turns out Wolf’s sources rely on that same old anonymously sourced Examiner story. But there is currently no evidence that Congress or the White House ordered or coordinated the raids, and the White House has specifically denied this. If anyone knows of any particular mayor or police chief denying DHS involvement, please let me know.

There are many other problems with Wolf’s account of the story, as detailed here. That The Guardian is still running this story from Wolf without any updates or corrections is disappointing.

It’s worth noting that another source of national coordination regarding the Occupy movement has emerged. Wes Unruh pointed me towards this story in the San Francisco Bay Guardian which reveals that the international non-governmental organization The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) coordinated raids nationally. Police chiefs in several major cities participated in a series of conference calls distinct from the 18 mayor call mentioned by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. PERF has also been involved in coordinating crackdowns on anti-globalization protests. The executive director of PERF, Chuck Wexler, is also on the advisory council of DHS, leading some to refer to the organization as “having ties to” DHS (including the San Francisco Bay Guardian), but I wouldn’t (yet) read too much into this relationship.

It might also be worth mentioning that according to Tom Henderson DHS vehicles were spotted at the Occupy Portland eviction, but as Tom notes the Occupy Portland spilled into federal park, so we can’t read too much into that.

One final note on the potential federal involvement in the Occupy crackdown. I’ve noticed that Portland Mayor Sam Adams almost always mentions drug use in the camp when explaining why he flip-flopped from supporting Occupy Portland to ordering its eviction. Since 1981 there has been an ongoing erosion of military and civilian law enforcement, particularly with regards to drug law enforcement. Here’s an excerpt from Diane Cecilia Weber’s paper Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments:

In 1981 Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Officials Act. That law amended the Posse Comitatus Act insofar as it authorized the military to “assist” civilian police in the enforcement of drug laws. The act encouraged the military to (a) make available equipment, military bases, and research facilities to federal, state, and local police; (b) train and advise civilian police on the use of the equipment; and (c) assist law enforcement personnel in keeping drugs from entering the country. The act also authorized the military to share information acquired during military operations with civilian law enforcement agencies.

The overlap between civilian and military law enforcement was furthered in 1986 when President Reagan issued a National Security Decision Directive declaring illegal drugs a threat to national security. You can find more on this in Radley Balko’s book/white paper Overkill.

The possibility of federal involvement remains speculative, but returning to the line about drugs again and again could be a tactic to justify the invovlement of the feds, at least at the level of funding.

Using Speech Patterns to Detect Psychopaths

Hannibal

With regard to psychopaths, “We think the ‘uhs’ and ‘ums’ are about putting the mask of sanity on,” Hancock told LiveScience.

Psychopaths appear to view the world and others instrumentally, as theirs for the taking, the team, which also included Stephen Porter from the University of British Columbia, wrote.

As they expected, the psychopaths’ language contained more words known as subordinating conjunctions. These words, including “because” and “so that,” are associated with cause-and-effect statements.

“This pattern suggested that psychopaths were more likely to view the crime as the logical outcome of a plan (something that ‘had’ to be done to achieve a goal),” the authors write.

And finally, while most of us respond to higher-level needs, such as family, religion or spirituality, and self-esteem, psychopaths remain occupied with those needs associated with a more basic existence.

MSNBC: How to spot psychopaths: Speech patterns give them away

Bruce Schneier writes: “I worry about people being judged by these criteria. Psychopaths make up about 1% of the population, so even a small false-positive rate can be a significant problem.”

See also: The Rise of Predictive Policing: Police Using Statistics to Predict Crime

Majority in the U.S. Supported the Shooting of Kent State Shooters in 1970

Kent State massacre

It’s not the case that nobody sides with the National Guard at Kent State — terrible people abound — but it’s definitely true that history condemns them. We can’t reconcile the massacre of protesters, even less-than-peaceful protesters, with our idea of democracy. We do not condone it when soldiers slaughter unarmed teenagers on US soil. We ‘re not willing to be that country.

We were then.

A Gallup poll conducted after the shootings showed that 58 percent of respondents blamed the students for the massacre. Nixon’s prepared statement said that the protesters’ behavior “invite[d] tragedy” — in other words, they were asking for it. You can bet your ass that if there had been Internet comments sections in 1970, they would have been full of misspelled missives about how those hippies only got what they deserved. Since there weren’t, those people sent hate mail to the victims’ mothers instead.

xojane: For Some Reason UC David Did Make Me Give Up On Humanity

(via Alexis Madrigal)

Former Police Chief: Riot Cops Make Things Worse

Occupy Portland

Above: Pepper spray incident at Occupy Portland. Below: The now infamous UC Davis pepper spray abuse incident.

Occupy UC Davis pepper spray

Former Madison, WI police chief David Couper runs a blog about improving policing. A recent post covers how police can better handle crowds and large protests. Alex Pang sums it up the advise: “Milspec gear, tear gas- bad ideas unless you WANT a riot,” but those are Alex’s words, not Couper’s.

Couper cites some research in Britain on crowd control at football (soccer) games:

“’[L]arge-scale disorder tended to emerge and escalate because indiscriminate, heavy-handed policing generated a group mentality among large numbers of fans that was based on shared perceptions that the police action was illegitimate. This had the effect of drawing ordinary fans into conflict with the police’.

“The finding here is that when a crowd perceives the police as overreacting or being heavy-handed, crowd members have a tendency to stop observing and start taking action. To prevent this from happening, Stott advocates using what he calls a ‘softly, softly’ approach—a low-key approach in which officers mix with and relate to crowd members on the basis of their behavior, rather than their reputation. If police approach a crowd with the expectation that its members are going to make trouble, it often turns out that way. This will not be unfamiliar to Madison residents or their police.”

Couper offers various bits of practical advise for the police, including:

Be able to protect officers working with the crowd. If the situation warrants it, we have a tactical unit (with full protective equipment) on standby in a location near the demonstration but out of sight. They are available as an emergency response to protect or rescue officers in or others in danger of being harmed. Their mission is to protect people first and property second. Deploying the emergency response team is a last-ditch tactic and will indicate that we have not been effective in managing the crowd with softer methods.

Improving Police: Crowds, Protest and Police

West Memphis Three Go Free – But At What Cost?

ABC News reports that West Memphis Three are being released today after a special hearing in which the three men made an Alford plea. According to Wikipedia, an Alford plea is: “A guilty plea in criminal court, where the defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence. Under the Alford plea, the defendant admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

What this means is that the WM3 will not be able to sue the state for wrongful prosecution, or profit financially from book, movie or speaking deals based on the ordeal. Or, in other words, it means that those responsible for railroading these kids in 1993 and putting them in prison for nearly two decades (while the real killer(s) remained free) will never be brought to justice, and the WM3 will never be compensated in any way for the years of their lives that they lost.

It’s a surprise move to those of us following the case. In 2007 new DNA evidence placed two men, including one of the victim’s stepfathers, at the scene of the crime, but provided no evidence that the WM3 were at the scene. I should emphasize that this doesn’t in and of itself exonerate the WM3, nor does it necessarily implicate the stepfather in the case. However, it was widely believed this DNA evidence would be enough to get the WM3 a new trial, and, given the lack of evidence in the first trial, would likely result in the three being exonerated.

I don’t know why the WM3 decided to take this plea, and I don’t blame them for taking an opportunity to go free after 18 years in prison. If they and their counsel believed this was the best option, then it probably was. But it’s extremely disappointing that the individuals – including David Burnett, Brent Davis and Dale Griffis – who railroaded the WM3 to advance their own careers will never be held accountable for their crimes.

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