April 3, 2012
By Madison Ruppert
“Here we go again. Another cop goes berserk over two guys filming shopping carts outside of a WalMart. They were doing nothing wrong and the cop almost tazes the men. Talk about a police state.” –KTRN
In the United States there is a marked and quite disturbing trend of law-abiding Americans being arrested, beaten or harassed by police simply for exercising their legal right to film a police officer in the course of their public duties.
Thankfully, as of late there has been some justice in the ruling of an Illinois judge who found their wiretapping legislation unconstitutional as well as a relatively small-scale victory in the case of Steve Horrigan.
Unfortunately, yet another example of this trend has emerged in a video posted on March 30, 2012, which you can see below (note: there is explicit language in the video).
Columbia Daily Tribune
By Brennan David
A $200,000 COPS — or Community Oriented Policing Services — technology grant will fund license plate and iris scanners for patrol vehicles and the Boone County Jail. The grant is a small chunk of a $1.45 million grant awarded to the Central Missouri Criminal Justice Information System, which will receive a total of $4 million in grants by 2012. The system is made up of seven Mid-Missouri counties that in 2009 began receiving federal grant money through the U.S. Department of Justice to upgrade information technology systems.
David Severson, Osage Beach police chief and system organizer, said upgrading systems will better equip officers to fight crime.
“If a guy was working the road in Osage Beach and he saw a suspicious vehicle, he needs information on that vehicle,” Severson said. “That vehicle could have been involved in a St. Louis murder earlier that day. He needs to have that information while in his car, not later.”
The grant calls for the sheriff’s department and Columbia police to each receive two license plate scanners to attach to patrol vehicles and portable and tethered iris scanners. A permanent iris scanner will be placed at the Boone County Jail so scanning can become part of the booking process, building a database.
“It’s not here to replace fingerprints but to complement it,” said Mike Southard of Sure Scan Technology of Jefferson City.
The iris scan takes a photo of the eye and uses 240 identifiable points of an eye to create a file. The portable device will be used on occasions when identifying a suspect is difficult, Boone County sheriff’s Capt. Chad Martin said, as well as during booking.
Information collected will be stored on a Boone County sheriff’s server and also will be available to law enforcement departments statewide that can access the Missouri Data Exchange. The goal is to get all Missouri counties to create databases to share, Severson said.
In terms of data sharing, the same will apply for the Mobile Plate Hunter 900 Series cameras. The system includes two cameras mounted on a patrol car that automatically scan and process license plate numbers of vehicles parked or driving nearby. A computer instantaneously cross-references the license plate numbers against a database containing license plate numbers of wanted vehicles or suspects linked to those vehicles.
The database is updated at least twice a day by the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, as well as law enforcement agencies that enter the license plate numbers of stolen vehicles or vehicles whose owners have outstanding warrants or are linked to a missing-person case.
A match sounds an alarm in the patrol car that alerts the officer, said Matthew Maxwell of ELSAG North America, the license plate manufacturer. The system can scan more than 3,000 license plates per day and is only limited by an officer’s ability to drive through areas where cars are plentiful.
“This item increases the officer’s safety,” he said. “It keeps both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”
The sheriff’s department and Columbia police tested the scanner for a 60-day period in 2009. The sheriff’s department netted six arrests and discovered five vehicles with stolen license plates. Columbia police reported 10 arrests and the recovery of a stolen vehicle.
Los Angeles Times
By Sebastian Rotella
Reporting from Washington – U.S. border security officials learned of the alleged extremist links of the suspect in the Christmas Day jetliner bombing attempt as he was airborne from Amsterdam to Detroit and had decided to question him when he landed, officials disclosed Wednesday.
The new information shows that border enforcement officials discovered the suspected extremist ties involving the Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in a database despite intelligence failures that have been criticized by President Obama.
“The people in Detroit were prepared to look at him in secondary inspection,” a senior law enforcement official said. “The decision had been made. The [database] had picked up the State Department concern about this guy — that this guy may have been involved with extremist elements in Yemen.”
If the intelligence had been detected sooner, it could have resulted in the interrogation and search of Abdulmutallab at the airport in Amsterdam, according to senior law enforcement officials, all of whom requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
“They could have made the decision on whether to stop him from getting on the plane,” the senior law enforcement official said.
But an administration official said late Wednesday that the information would not have resulted in further scrutiny before the suspect departed. Abdulmutallab was in a database containing half a million names of people with suspected extremist links but who are not considered threats. Therefore, border security officials would have sought only to question him upon arrival in the U.S., the administration official said.
Nonetheless, the disclosure shows the complexity of the intelligence and passenger screening systems that are the subject of comprehensive reviews that the administration will release today.
The threshold for requiring a foreign visitor to undergo special scrutiny upon arrival in the U.S. is considerably lower than criteria for stopping a passenger’s departure overseas, according to current and former law enforcement officials. That is why border security agencies rely heavily on terrorism watch lists of suspects seen as urgent threats, officials said.
“The public isn’t aware how many people are allowed to travel through the U.S., who are linked, who intersect with bad guys or alleged bad guys,” a national security official said. “It makes sense from an intelligence perspective. If they are not considered dangerous, it provides intelligence on where they go, who they meet with.”
Moreover, the window for identifying a passenger overseas as a potential threat is limited, a senior homeland security official said.
U.S. border enforcement officials have access to passenger data based on lists of those who have made flight reservations. But the in-depth vetting only begins once a comprehensive list, known as a flight manifest, has been generated, just a few hours before takeoff, the homeland security official said.
Customs and Border Protection personnel based at the National Targeting Center in Washington came across the intelligence about Abdulmutallab — which was based on a tip from the suspect’s father to U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria — during an in-depth review of the manifest after the plane was en route to Detroit, the other law enforcement officials said.
The administration’s review of screening procedures now underway includes an effort to make more information accessible to inspectors further in advance of flights, the senior law enforcement official said. The sheer number of passengers who must be screened and the potential slowdown for air travel posed by more scrutiny remains an impediment, however, officials said.
In contrast, once foreign visitors arrive in the U.S., border inspectors armed with additional screening data can refer them to secondary inspection, which involves more extensive questioning and searches, for reasons including suspected immigration problems or criminal activity.
Customs and Border Protection spokesmen declined to comment because the investigation is still open.
Abdulmutallab, after flying in from Nigeria, boarded the nine-hour flight to Detroit at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, one of nine airports around the world where foreign governments permit the presence of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in an advisory capacity.
The U.S. border officials work with foreign counterparts and Washington-based American officials to compare passenger lists to law enforcement and intelligence databases. The Americans can ask foreign law enforcement officials to conduct interrogations and searches of passengers who are not U.S. citizens or residents and, in rare instances, question passengers themselves, officials said.
Reservation lists that are generated a few days before flights allow some preliminary screening, officials said. But that information is limited by privacy laws, especially in Europe, and by the vagaries of reporting by airlines, so passenger manifests created with passport information once the flight is closed are a much stronger tool.
Homeland security officials declined to discuss what information reached the U.S. border officials in Amsterdam on Christmas Day or the actions of those officials related to Northwest Airlines Flight 253.
But they asserted that the likelihood of Abdulmutallab being intercepted in Amsterdam was low because he was not on the no-fly list, which contains about 4,000 names, or a separate terrorism watch “selectee” list that contains fewer than 20,000 names. Instead, the Nigerian was on the larger database.
October 26, 2009
By David Gutierrez
Florida has become the nation’s capital for illegal acquisition of prescription medication, according to local and federal law enforcement officials.
“Broward County has become the Colombia for pharmaceutically diverted drugs,” said Hollywood police Capt. Allen Siegel, who directs a narcotics task force. “We’re supplying everywhere.”
Florida’s state laws have led to a thriving industry of clinics offering narcotic painkillers and other prescription drugs to anyone who walks in off the street, even from out of state. Some clinics advertise on bus benches, billboards or in weekly newspapers, while others offer incentives like coupons or even gasoline vouchers. Their patients come from all across the country, officials say.
“This medicine is about profit-making,” said Mark Trouville, special agent in charge of the Miami office for the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). “I hate to call them doctors. These people are just out to make money.”
The DEA has opened up two units devoted entirely to South Florida pain clinics.
Florida’s lax regulations not only allow walk-in prescriptions, they also allow doctors to distribute pills directly to patients, do not provide for tracking of prescriptions, and do not take away prescribing rights from doctors who have been convicted of crimes.
In the last six months of 2008, Broward County pain clinics alone distributed more than 6.5 million oxycodone pills, or nearly four for every county resident. The county is home to 33 of the top oxycodone prescribers in the country, and the top 50 are all in Florida. The state is the biggest distributor of the drug in the United States, beating out California (which has twice the population) by 40 percent.
Officials believe that the Florida clinics have contributed significantly to the state’s recent surge in deaths from prescription-drug overdoses. The number of these deaths increased by 107 percent between 2005 and 2007, and has continued to rise since then.
October 19, 2009
By Devlin Barrett
Federal drug agents won’t pursue pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers in states that allow medical marijuana, under new legal guidelines to be issued Monday by the Obama administration.
Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.
The guidelines to be issued by the department do, however, make it clear that agents will go after people whose marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes, the officials said.
The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.
Fourteen states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
California is unique among those for the widespread presence of dispensaries – businesses that sell marijuana and even advertise their services. Colorado also has several dispensaries, and Rhode Island and New Mexico are in the process of licensing providers, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that promotes the decriminalization of marijuana use.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in March that he wanted federal law enforcement officials to pursue those who violate both federal and state law, but it has not been clear how that goal would be put into practice.
A three-page memo spelling out the policy is expected to be sent Monday to federal prosecutors in the 14 states, and also to top officials at the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.
The memo, the officials said, emphasizes that prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and says it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the legal guidance before it is issued.
“This is a major step forward,” said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This change in policy moves the federal government dramatically toward respecting scientific and practical reality.”
At the same time, the officials said, the government will still prosecute those who use medical marijuana as a cover for other illegal activity. The memo particularly warns that some suspects may hide old-fashioned drug dealing or other crimes behind a medical marijuana business.
In particular, the memo urges prosecutors to pursue marijuana cases which involve violence, the illegal use of firearms, selling pot to minors, money laundering or involvement in other crimes.
And while the policy memo describes a change in priorities away from prosecuting medical marijuana cases, it does not rule out the possibility that the federal government could still prosecute someone whose activities are allowed under state law.
The memo, officials said, is designed to give a sense of prosecutorial priorities to U.S. attorneys in the states that allow medical marijuana. It notes that pot sales in the United States are the largest source of money for violent Mexican drug cartels, but adds that federal law enforcement agencies have limited resources.
Medical marijuana advocates have been anxious to see exactly how the administration would implement candidate Barack Obama’s repeated promises to change the policy in situations in which state laws allow the use of medical marijuana.
Soon after Obama took office, DEA agents raided four dispensaries in Los Angeles, prompting confusion about the government’s plans.