Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Operation "Wagon Train" Sorts People By Skin Color

From the Salt Lake Tribune, this article describing how ICE agents acted when they raided the Swift Plant in Hyrum, Utah as part of ICE's "Operation Wagon Train" Raid on suspected undocumented workers:

"If only for a few minutes, Maria felt like an ''illegal alien'' in her homeland - the United States of America. She thought she was going on break from her job at the Swift & Co. meat processing plant here on Tuesday, but instead she and others were forced to stand in a line by U.S. immigration agents. Non-Latinos and people with lighter skin were plucked out of line and given blue bracelets. The rest, mostly Latinos with brown skin, waited until they were ''cleared'' or arrested by ''la migra,'' the popular name in Spanish for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), employees said."

Later, the article quotes Maria saying "she hopes the authorities are not targeting Latinos."

Gee, ya think just because they put the whites in one line and gave them blue bracelets and the latinos in another without any bracelets that they might have been targeting latinos?

Speaking of targeting latinos, how nice that the Washington Post now says this of Augusto Pinochet, who died earlier this week:

"It's hard not to notice, however, that [Pinochet] the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.

Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success..."


"In 'Dictatorships and Double Standards,' a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, [Jeanne] Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.
In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right."

So Pinochet came to power in a U.S. backed military coup to unseat a democratically elected President and was later responsible for the deaths of two to three thousand dissidents, and was implicated in a car bombing in Washington D.C. that also led to the killing of an innocent American civilian. That's o.k., according to the Post, because "his" policies ultimately led to the creation of South America's most economically successful state.

In short, the Post's logic is that "so you killed a few thousand, your policies led to the economic prosperity of millions, so we'll forgive you." How "liberal" is it to say that right wing dictators are "less malign than communist rulers" because liberal democracies are more likely to follow dictatorships?.

Remember this the next time you hear the media derided as "liberal." The paper that brought about the downfall of Nixon through thorough, necessary reporting is now editorializing about how a mass murderer isn't so bad after all. Thousands died, but millions now live better, so all is forgiven.

And these people are charged with keeping us informed about the dangers of governmental power run amok?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gingrich: "Free speech should not be... cover for people who are planning to kill... people who have inalienable rights of their own"

I'm guilty of parroting Glenn Greenwald's posts a lot lately, but the stories he picks up on are so important, and so invisible in the mainstream media, that I feel the need to spread the word.

Today, Greenwald points out this article from Newt Gingrich in which Gingrich states:

"[F]ree speech should not be an acceptable cover for people who are planning to kill other people who have inalienable rights of their own."

Gingrich further comments that:

"We need an expeditious review of current domestic law to see what changes can be made within the protections of the 1st Amendment to ensure that free speech protection claims are not used to protect the advocacy of terrorism, violent conduct or the killing of innocents."

The article, which Gingrich authored, is a follow up to his speech given on 11/27/06, in which he said,

"This is a serious long term war, and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country, that will lead us to learn how to close down every website that is dangerous, and it will lead us to a very severe approach to people who advocate the killing of Americans and advocate the use of nuclear of biological weapons.

"And, my prediction to you is that either before we lose a city, or if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us.

"This is a serious problem that will lead to a serious debate about the first amendment, but I think that the national security threat of losing an American city to a nuclear weapon, or losing several million Americans to a biological attack is so real that we need to proactively, now, develop the appropriate rules of engagement."

Steve Earle once appropriately said, "It just gets tougher every day, to sit around and watch it while it slips away."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Observer: ICE Agents recorded their informant committing 13 murders, Left him on the payroll

Today Glenn Greenwald recommends this article from the British newspaper The Observer.

To summarize the facts, I cut and pasted from Greenwald's narrative below...

- "Although the subject of the investigation (the U.S. Government's conduct as part of its "war on drugs") receives little attention in the U.S., the incident reported by the Observer powerfully highlights exactly what the Bush administration is and how its "Homeland Security" Department operates."

- "In 2000, agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (ICE)... recruited Guillermo Ramirez Peyro, known as "Lalo," to work as an informant for ICE as part of its investigation into a Mexican drug cartel... and they paid "Lalo" more than $220,000 to work as a spy for them, including the wearing of a wire."

- "In August, 2003, Lalo's cartel boss ordered him to participate in the murder of a Mexican lawyer. Lalo participated in the murder -- which was extremely brutal -- while wearing the wire supplied to him by ICE. "

- "After the initial murder, the ICE agents sought permission to continue using Lalo as their informant. Permission was given by high-level Justice Department officials in both Texas and Washington, including several Texans who are very close associates of both George Bush and Alberto Gonzales..."

- "Permission was given by Homeland Security and the DOJ to continue to work with Lalo. Over the course of the next six months, Lalo directly participated in the murder of 13 different Mexicans, usually extremely brutal murders, and all with the knowledge of ICE. Despite one murder after the next being perpetrated by their paid informant, they never intervened.

- "On January 14, 2004, Lalo kidnapped Luis Padilla in El Paso, Texas, drove him across the Mexican border, and then murdered him along with two other Mexicans, all while wearing an ICE wire. It was later revealed that Padilla -- who had lived in the U.S. (legally) since childhood and at the time with living (legally) in Texas with his wife and three children -- had nothing to do with any cartels and was abducted by Lalo as a matter of mistaken identity.

- "[A]round the same time, members of Lalo's cartel-- the cartel which ICE knowingly allowed to go on murdering -- went to the home of an undercover DEA agent in order to kill him (they obtained his identity and home address by torturing an informant). The DEA agent barely escaped with his wife and daughters, through sheer luck.

- The DEA had not known about ICE's ongoing work with Lalo. They thought, naturally, that ICE severed its connection to him once he began murdering people while wearing an ICE wire. But after the DEA's agent and immediate family were almost murdered by the cartel, they found out that ICE was still working with Lalo and they reacted with extreme anger.

- "Once the DEA's Gonzalez put these accusations in writing, the Bush Justice Department responded boldly and vigorously . . . by attacking, threatening and ultimately forcing the retirement of the DEA's Gonzales -- the whistleblower who brought this to light -- for the crime of complaining about it and putting it in writing, thereby risking discovery of what ICE had done (with the permission of the DOJ). Not only was no action taken against the perpetrators, but they were actively protected."

As Greenwald notes, the whole article truly needs to be read, but here is an excerpt...

"Janet Padilla's first inkling that something might be wrong came when she phoned her husband at lunchtime. His mobile phone was switched off. On 14 January, 2004, Luis had, as usual, left for work at 6am, and when he did not answer the first call Janet made, after taking the children to school, she assumed he was busy. Two weeks later she would learn the truth.
'It was love at first sight for Luis and me, and that's how it stayed, after two years dating at school and eight years of marriage,' says Janet. 'We always spoke a couple of times during the day and he always kept his phone on. So I called my dad, who owns the truckyard where he worked and he told me, "he hasn't been here". I called my in-laws and they hadn't seen him either, and they were already worried because his car was outside their house with the windows open and the keys in the ignition. He would never normally leave it like that.'

"Luis Padilla, 29, father of three, had been kidnapped, driven across the Mexican border from El Paso, Texas, to a house in Ciudad Juarez, the lawless city ruled by drug lords that lies across the Rio Grande. As his wife tried frantically to locate him, he was being stripped, tortured and buried in a mass grave in the garden - what the people of Juarez call a narco-fossa, a narco-smugglers' tomb.
Just another casualty of Mexico's drug wars? Perhaps. But Padilla had no connection with the drugs trade; he seems to have been the victim of a case of mistaken identity.

"Now, as a result of documents disclosed in three separate court cases, it is becoming clear that his murder, along with at least 11 further brutal killings, at the Juarez 'House of Death', is part of a gruesome scandal, a web of connivance and cover-up stretching from the wild Texas borderland to top Washington officials close to President Bush."

Will we see the story on the news tonight, or is news of government agents doing nothing while an informant repeatedly murders people, while wearing a wire, not enough to draw national media attention?

Will Olbermann take notice? You can comment on his website by clicking here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Jose Padilla - "What does [the case] say about our country?"

In an article titled "Video Is a Window Into a Terror Suspect’s Isolation," the New York Times today reports that Jose Padilla's attorneys have obtained a videotape of Mr. Padilla being transported from his cell to the dentist to undergo a root canal.

Padilla is an American citizen was accused by then attorney General John Ashcroft of being involved in the detonation of a "dirty bomb" as well as a plot to blow up apartment buildings. However, as the article notes...

"Mr. Padilla’s status was abruptly changed to criminal defendant from enemy combatant last fall. At the time, the Supreme Court was weighing whether to take up the legality of his military detention — and thus the issue of the president’s authority to seize an American citizen on American soil and hold him indefinitely without charges — when the Bush administration pre-empted its decision by filing criminal charges against Mr. Padilla.

Mr. Padilla was added as a defendant in a terrorism conspiracy case already under way in Miami. The strong public accusations made during his military detention — about the dirty bomb, Al Qaeda connections and supposed plans to set off natural gas explosions in apartment buildings — appear nowhere in the indictment against him. The indictment does not allege any specific violent plot against America."

Several months ago, Judge Marcia G. Cooke of United States District Court in Miami dismissed the most serious charge, conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country, "saying that it replicated accusations in the other counts and could lead to multiple punishments for a single crime."

Now that Mr. Padilla's public defenders have obtained the videotape, they allege that he is unfit to stand trial. According to the article, his lawyers:

"argue that he has been so damaged by his interrogations and prolonged isolation that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is unable to assist in his own defense. His interrogations they say, included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of “truth serums.”

The article quotes former Navy JAG officer Philip D. Cave:

"There’s nothing comparable in terms of severity of confinement, in terms of how Padilla was held, especially considering that this was pretrial confinement."

The article also quotes Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y., who examined Padilla in June and September, and who, in an affidavit filed by the defense on Friday, said that Padilla:

"lacks the capacity to assist in his own defense... It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation."

In another affidavit filed by the defense, one of his public defenders, Andrew Patel, said:

"Mr. Padilla remains unsure if I and the other attorneys working on his case are actually his attorneys or another component of the government’s interrogation scheme... During questioning, he often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body... The contortions are particularly poignant since he is usually manacled and bound by a belly chain when he has meetings with counsel."

According the article, Orlando do Campo, another of Padilla's attorneys...

"...said that Mr. Padilla was not incommunicative, and that he expressed curiosity about what was going on in the world, liked to talk about sports and demonstrated particularly keen interest in the Chicago Bears. But the defense lawyers’ questions often echo the questions interrogators have asked Mr. Padilla, and when that happens, he gets jumpy and shuts down."

Here is a roundup of bloggers' comments on the revelations of this latest filing.

First Glenn Greenwald writes in this article that:

"As I have said many times, the most astounding and disturbing fact over the last five years -- and there is a very stiff competition for that title -- is that we have collectively really just sat by while the U.S. Government arrests and detains people, including U.S. citizens, and then imprisons them for years without any charges of any kind. What does it say about our country that not only does our Government do that, but that we don't really seem to mind much?"

Check out the whole article. Greenwald is one of the most insightful political commentators out there right now. While many lawyers have never even bothered to learn the details and implications of Jose Padilla case, he's been laboring for years, trying to hold the administration's feet to the fire for actions like this. I've even approached him about attending TLC as he's got the warrior part down pat.

Digby points out, via a link at TalkLeft, that

"I know that all the tough guys on the right will say that Padilla is just being a typical whining malcontent but I have a feeling that most of them would crumble into blubbering babies after five minutes in his position. This treatment is extremely inhumane. They basically blinded, deafened and then isolated him, essentially destroying his mind. There is no reason on earth to put those goggles and earphones on him to go to the dentist in the prison in South Carolina except to keep him from ever feeling like a normal human being, part of the natural world. It's sick."

And here is a link to University of Miami law professor Michael Froomkin's take on the case. In a nutshell, Froomkin summarizes the Government's response to this motion by the defense, alleging that the Government's case against Padilla should be dismissed because of "outrageous governmental conduct."

"We deny everything. And even if it's all true the remedy is to sue us, not dismiss this case."

You can view the Government's response to this defense motion here.

Sadly, when I asked another public defender about the Padilla case today, she didn't know who he was. It's not her fault. She is a hard working public defender who has very little free time. She depends on the media to tell her when important things are happening in this country. But, while the New York Times article is insightful, most people have no idea who Padilla is or, if they do, they remember him as the "dirty bomber" as if Ashcroft's allegations, which were never even charged, were somehow true.

But how can we expect average Americans to take note of Padilla's case- which has immensely dangerous implications for all of us- when people like Jules Crittendon, columnist for the Boston Herald, writes today that...

"I Think We're Supposed to Feel Bad About This... Padilla...[y]ou may recall he is the gentleman from Chicago who converted to Islam, hobnobbed with al Qaeda, and, our government has alleged, came back here with a plan to blow up apartment buildings, and now apparently lives in a state of virtual sensory deprivation while awaiting trial on charges of providing support to terrorists."

Once again, the government, via John Ashcroft, accused Padilla in the press of plotting to detonate dirty bombs and with blowing apartment buildings, but never charged Padilla with any such thing!

But accusation has become akin to conviction in post 9/11 America.

It is very likely that Padilla will never stand trial based on the fact that the evidence against him, which was obtained via torture, will either be suppressed because its gathering violated the Constitution or will be so unreliable that a jury won't buy it.

So the chances are great that an American citizen, who was convicted in the court of public opinion, but who may not be convicted in the real courts at all, will have to be cut loose, back onto the streets of his own country, convicted by the media but rightfully and lawfully acquitted in court.

We are left, sadly, with the system we ultimately deserve. I'll probably end up on a watch list for this last statement, but we truly have a choice: Exercise our First Amendment Rights now or risk losing more of the rest of the Bill of Rights later.

Do we go out with a bang or a whimper? If you view the Padilla case as a legitimate exercise of governmental power, you deserve the goverment you have right now. If not, we better all get off our asses and exercise our rights before they vanish, just like Padilla's did.

This case is beyond sickening and yet what do we hear from most of the institutions who are supposed to be informing us about this case's implications on the rest of our liberties? Crickets, followed immediately by Brittney Spears updates.

God help us... The precious rights our ancestors fought and died for, and thoughtfully preserved in the Bill of Rights, are being taken away, right before our eyes, and no one seems to even notice.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Spence / Mayfield Settle Suit for $2 million

It's old news by now, but here are some things you might have missed regarding Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield and his attorney, Gerry Spence, agreeing to a settlement of $2 million in his civil case against the government for wrongfully holding him as a "material witness" for 14 days following the Madrid train bombings.

(1) Do You Fit The Sun's "Terrorist Profile:" , Glenn Greenwald has an excellent post describing the "typical breathless television report at the time" of Mayfield's arrest. The worst example is from the New York Sun in June, 2004. The Sun editorialized that:

"Mr. Mayfield 's political profile fits that of many disaffected, America-hating terrorists: he strongly opposes the Patriot Act, inveighs against American foreign policy related to Muslim countries, and is "particularly angered," according to his brother Kent, by close U.S. relations with Israel. Mr. Mayfield speculates that the Bush administration knew in advance about 9/11 but chose to let the attacks go ahead so as to justify going to war. And on his release from custody, he compared the U.S. federal government to Nazi Germany.

If those are the qualifications for a terrorist profile, we're in big trouble.

(2) FBI: "Not Enough Evidence": , (h/t sysprog in comments at Unclaimed Territory) here is an a probable reason for the $2 million settlement amount. According to an unclassified FBI email (link to original) from May 5, 2004, FBI agent Elizabeth Steele, emailed another agent (whose name was blacked out) that...

"I left you a voice mail this morning, but I figured this was a more secure way to leave the details for you.

There is a man living in the Portland area who has been tied to the Madrid bombings by a fingerprint found at the scene. His name is Brandon Mayfield, Muslim convert and attorney.

Earlier this week, an LA Times reporter in the Paris Bureau called the Legat in Spain, Ed Sanchez, to ask about information the reporter had heard that there was an American tied to the Madrid bombings. At that time, we don't think he had the name or location or the fact that the evidence is a fingerprint.

The problem is there is not enough evidence to arrest him on a criminal charge. There is a plan to arrest him as a material witness if and when he gets outed by the media.

Neither the National Press Office nor the Portland Division has received any media calls as of this morning, and *BLACKED OUT* thought is that, at some point; LA may receive a call from the Times trying to nail this down. If you do receive this call, we would ask that you confirm nothing and try to get out of them how much they have and whether or not publication is imminent. The powers that be are trying to hold off as long as possible on any arrest, but they want to make sure an arrest happens before anything hits the media.

To complicate things, the Legat just notified Portland that he received an inquiry from a Spanish publication about the same thing, and it had the details about the evidence that it said it planned to publish "soon".

Thanks for your help,
Beth Anne Steele / FBI Portland"

The AP article quoted Gerry Spence's take on this email: "The e-mail says that there wasn't enough evidence to arrest him on a criminal charge. I don't know if that makes your hair stand on end or what... Here the government is saying we don't have any grounds to hold him criminally, but if the media outs him then we are going to hold him as a material witness. It becomes a race to see if the government could arrest Mr. Mayfield before some member of the press outed him."

Yes, Mr. Spence, that does make my hair stand on end. My favorite part of the settlement, however, is not the amount but the fact that Mr. Mayfield (Mr. Spence) retained the right to contest the constitutionality of the PATRIOT Act. The patriotic defense lawyer (who beat a prosecutor named Giuliani in defending Imelda Marcos and who sucessfully defended Randy Weaver and who has never lost a criminal case) still gets a chance to strike down the unpatriotic, draconian provisions of the so called "Patriot Act." It's a good day to be a Warrior, in other words, and the case isn't over.

(3) "A Lot More Mayfields Out There?: , the LA Times reports that "a report on the Mayfield case in January, the Office of the Inspector General, the Justice Department's internal watchdog, said FBI experts had overlooked "important differences" between Mayfield's prints and those of the Algerian man, and had essentially ignored information from Spanish police that pointed to the other suspect."

The same article quotes Michael Cherry, president of Cherry Biometrics, an identification-technology company, stating that "misidentification problems could grow worse as the U.S. and other governments add more fingerprints to their databases." Mr. Cherry is quoted as saying,

"I really believe there are a lot more Mayfields out there," Cherry said. "We just don't know about these cases because the Spanish police don't always get to oversee them. We simply don't have an identification standard that fits with today's times."

According to the Bush administration, we don't have a Constitution that fits with today's times. Like the Geneva Conventions, they see it as quaint, and that attitude trickles down to FBI agents who play with people's liberty like toy soldiers in a spoiled child's game.

Just wait, however. The settlement amount will be used as a call for tort reform rather than as an admission of wrongdoing by a government who lied on an affidavit seeking a "sneak and peek" warrant. And the corporately owned and controlled media who reports it this shoddy, incomplete manner will be chastised as being "liberally biased."

Oh well, as one of Gerry's clients once said after hearing the words not guilty, and as Brandon Mayfield may well be saying now: "Fuck 'em. I'm free."