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Border Patrol Terrorizes a Mom and Her Two Kids

See also:

Woman’s Lawsuit Alleges Horrifying Abuse By Border Officers, Including Cavity Searches And Forced Bowel Movements

 

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April 2, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Legal Residents Claim They are Punished for Living Near Mexican Border

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | January 23, 2014

A leading civil rights group has accused Border Patrol agents of abusing the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens and legal residents living in southern Arizona.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is demanding a government investigation of those guarding the border with Mexico.

“Border Patrol checkpoints today bear little resemblance to those authorized by the Supreme Court. Many Border Patrol officials do not understand—or simply ignore—the legal limits of their authority at checkpoints,” James Lyall, an attorney with the ACLU of Arizona, said in an administrative complaint (pdf) sent to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General and Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

The ACLU also forwarded its complaint to Arizona’s congressional representatives, the U.S. Department of Justice and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

At least 15 American citizens have been subjected to unlawful acts by Border Patrol agents at checkpoints in Arizona, the ACLU claims.

“Residents often experience extended interrogation and detention not related to establishing citizenship, unwarranted searches, racial profiling, verbal harassment, and physical assault, among other abuses,” the letter said.

In one instance, a Border Patrol agent drew his gun at a driver, pulled him from his car and handcuffed him for 45 minutes after the individual declined to answer questions unrelated to citizenship.

Another incident saw Border Patrol agents order a driver and passenger from their vehicle, and place them in wire cages while their car was searched—and all because a service dog detected something in another car.

A third case involved a mother of twin six-year-old children being threatened and assaulted by agents for lawfully attempting to record a search of her vehicle following a false canine alert.

All of the aforementioned individuals, as well as others mentioned in the ACLU complaint, were released and never charged with violating immigration or other laws. The ACLU wants the incidents it documented to be investigated.

The group previously filed two other complaints (in April 2012 and October 2013) alleging abuses by Border Patrol agents. To date, it has not received a response from the government about them.

“The ACLU believes the lack of response to widespread civil rights abuses by the nation’s largest federal law enforcement agency is symptomatic of broader oversight failures within CBP and DHS,” it said in a press release.

To Learn More:

Border Patrol Checkpoints in Southern Arizona Violate the Constitutional Rights of Border Residents, ACLU of Arizona Demands Investigation (American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona)

Complaint and Request for Investigation of Abuses at U.S. Border Patrol Interior Checkpoints in Southern Arizona, including Unlawful Search and Seizure, Excessive Force, and Racial Profiling (American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and American Civil Liberties Union Border Litigation Project) (pdf)

Federal Judge Rules that Border Patrol Does Not Need Reasonable Suspicion to Confiscate Laptops and Phones (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

10 Lawsuits Filed against Border Patrol for Abuse (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

January 23, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Court Says Border Searches Of Your Computer Are Okay Because You Shouldn’t Keep Important Info On Your Computer

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | December 31, 2013

This one is hardly a surprise, given how many (though not all) courts have ruled concerning searches of computing devices at the border. The government’s general theory is that there is no 4th Amendment right at the border, and thus customs officials can search anything. The argument that they’re trying to prevent “bad stuff” from getting into the country really doesn’t make much sense though. If bad stuff is “on a computer” it could easily be sent digitally across the border with no intervention from a customs official. Furthermore, making border searches of laptops and phones even more troubling is the nature of how information is stored. When we pack for a trip we deliberately choose what to include in our suitcase — so we know what’s coming with us. However, on our electronic devices, we pretty much store absolutely everything. Arguing that these are subject to a full search seems problematic — but many courts have found otherwise.

And, now there’s another one. A judge in NY has dismissed a challenge to the searches brought by the ACLU. The judge, Edward Korman, repeatedly quotes former head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who now makes money by hyping up the threats the country faces, so it’s not like he’s the most unbiased of folks to be relying on for how important these border searches really are. Judge Korman claims that the defendants have no standing to bring the case in the first place. There is one individual (a PhD. student) who actually had his computer searched, and then some professional organizations who worried about their members having their computers searched. The judge is simply not impressed by their arguments… at all. He notes that Customs and Border Patrol appears to search so few laptops that it’s highly unlikely that any individual will have theirs searched — and thus these groups can’t really allege a likely harm. He points out that it’s wrong to use a declaratory judgment case to address “a claim of alleged injury based on speculation as to conduct which may or may not occur at some unspecified future date.”

As for the one guy, Pascal Abidor, who did have his laptop searched, Judge Korman is also not impressed, noting that he’s not suing over that particular search, but the possibility of future searches. The judge seems a bit perplexed by this decision, but notes that it takes away his ability to get standing:

Abidor could have established standing in this case by adding a cause of action for damages based on his claim that he was subject to an unreasonable search. Such a cause of action would have provided the occasion for a trial or a motion for summary judgment that would have fully developed the record with respect to both the initial quick look search and subsequent forensic search. No such action is alleged.

But, as Judge Korman notes, if he can’t show any real likelihood of future harm, he can’t show standing.

Even after dismissing for lack of standing, the judge decides to take on the issue anyway, and this is where he starts to get really insulting to anyone who thinks that perhaps they should have some privacy rights at the border. He openly mocks the plaintiffs for arguing for the need for a “reasonable suspicion” standard for searches, noting that this bar is so low that it’s not like they’d get much more privacy out if it anyway:

Plaintiffs must be drinking the Kool-Aid if they think that a reasonable suspicion threshold of this kind will enable them to “guarantee” confidentiality to their sources.

He goes on to suggest that since traveling internationally involves going into other countries, these same people would probably have even less privacy over their data, since other countries may be even more willing to search their computers. He even cites the situation of David Miranda having his electronics searched in the UK.

Surely, Pascal Abidor cannot be so naive to expect that when he crosses the Syrian or Lebanese border that the contents of his computer will be immune from searches and seizures at the whim of those who work for Bassar al-Assad or Hassan Nasrallah. Indeed, the New York Times recently reported on the saga of David Michael Miranda who was detained for nine hours by British authorities “while on a stop in London’s Heathrow airport during a trip from Germany to Brazil.”

While the judge’s point is correct that other countries are unlikely to protect the privacy of travelers as well, and that means that any information on a laptop may be inherently unsafe, it seems like a bit of a weak copout to argue that since other countries have no respect for your electronic privacy, that the US shouldn’t either.

He goes even further, arguing that because there’s a “special need” at the border to stop bad people, that it’s perfectly fine to ignore things like probable cause or reasonable suspicion — again quoting Michael Chertoff to suggest that border laptop searches have stopped “bad people” from entering the US.

But then he argues that since everyone knows they may be searched at the border, there isn’t really an invasion of privacy:

The invasion of privacy occasioned by such a border search, however, like the search of luggage, briefcases, and even clothing worn by a person entering the United States, is mitigated by other factors….. As Professor LaFave observes, because “the individual crossing a border is on notice that certain types of searchers are likely to be made, his privacy is less invaded by those searches.” …. Thus, “[t]he individual traveler determines the time and place of the search by his own actions, and he thus has ample opportunity to diminish the impact of that search by limiting the nature and character of the effects which he brings with him.”… Indeed, because of the large number of laptop computers (close to a million per year) that are lost by travelers–numbers that far exceed the comparative handful of laptops that are searched at the border–the sensible advice to all travelers is to “[t]hink twice about the information you carry on your laptop,” and to ask themselves: “Is it really necessary to have so much information accessible to you on your computer.”

This seems problematic on multiple levels. First, if we go by the idea that there’s less of a privacy violation because you know it’s coming, then that gives the government the right to ignore the 4th Amendment so long as it tells you ahead of time that it’s going to ignore the 4th Amendment. Even the Supreme Court in Smith v. Maryland — the infamous case concerning the 3rd party doctrine — states that such a scenario is ridiculous, and that just because you know that you’re going to be searched, it doesn’t automatically make the search reasonable.

As for the suggestion that you shouldn’t store stuff on your computers, I’m sure that’s great in theory, but I’d like judges to make decisions based in reality. This suggestion is basically “don’t use your computer for what it’s designed for, because we might search it.” That’s not exactly compelling.

Again, given past precedents, and the specific facts of this case, it’s not entirely surprising. That doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing to see yet another middle finger given to the 4th Amendment to close out the year.

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Border Patrol Set to Weaponize Drones

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov |July 07, 2013

When Customs and Border Protection (CPB) first got its drones, the rationale for the acquisition was that the unmanned aircraft would help improve monitoring and surveillance along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But now, CPB may be thinking about arming its Predator drones with “non-lethal weapons.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) obtained a report produced by CPB in 2010 that shows the agency has considered equipping its Predators with “non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize” targets of interest. Given the date of the report, it is possible that the weaponization has already taken place.

Predators were first developed for the U.S. military in the 1990s, and are designed to fire missiles, such as the Hellfire. It is unclear at this time what kind of weaponization CPB has in mind for the drones.

Whatever their plans are, “CBP needs to assure the public that it will not equip its Predators with any weapons—lethal or otherwise,” wrote EFF’s Jennifer Lynch. If it doesn’t, Congress should halt the expansion of CBP’s Predator drone program, EFF argues.

July 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Immigration Reform Bill Gives Big Money Straight to Largest Defense Contractors

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | July 3, 2013

If the U.S. Senate’s version of the immigration reform bill becomes law, the nation’s largest defense contractors will be quite pleased.

Included in the legislation designed to clear the way for millions of illegal immigrants to become citizens are pricey upgrades for improving security along the U.S.-Mexico border. These upgrades consist of specific purchases that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must make, as written into the proposed law.

For starters, six airborne radar systems made by Northrop Grumman will be purchased, at a cost of $9.3 million a piece.

Helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky will benefit, too, from the legislation, through the Border Patrol buying 15 Black Hawks at $17 million each.

The government even has to buy 17 UH-1N helicopters from Bell Helicopter, even though the company no longer makes that particular model.

Watchdog groups say that these forced purchases prevent competition and constitute an end-run around the bidding process.

The spending requirements—which critics say resemble the old and now abolished practice of earmarks—are part of $46 billion in border security improvements that were folded into the Senate bill to win over Republican votes.

Thirty billion dollars will go towards hiring 19,000 more Border Patrol agents, a doubling of the current force which immigration experts claim—according to Matea Gold of The Washington Post—is both “wasteful and unnecessary.” An additional $7.5 billion will help build 350 miles of fencing along the border, and $4.5 billion will buy new border technology.

The plan provides a 60-day window for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to substitute “equivalent brands” for the items on the list of required defense industry purchases. But critics say that is unlikely, given that the product list is so specific.

“Lawmakers have put their thumb on the scale for particular products and technologies,” Steve Ellis, vice president of the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense, told the Post. “And that is hard for an agency to ignore.”

The parent companies of the products’ manufacturers have donated about $11.5 million to federal candidates and their political campaigns during the past four years, with half coming from Northrop Grumman, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

To Learn More:

Immigration Deal Would Boost Defense Manufacturers (by Matea Gold, Washington Post)

Virtual Border Fence May be Dead, but Spending on Surveillance Continues (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Defense Contractors Turn to Border Control for New Profits (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Texas Outsourcing Border Security (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Drug Trade and the Increasing Militarization of the Caribbean

By Kevin Edmonds | The Other Side of Paradise | February 8, 2013

Given the current controversy surrounding the extent of the U.S. drone program and targeted killings, it is important to revisit that in the summer of 2012, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency announced that unmanned drones would begin patrolling Caribbean airspace as an expansion of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). This is only one aspect of how the War on Drugs in the Caribbean is increasingly looking like the War on Terror.

The U.S.–Caribbean border is the often ignored “Third Border,” which the Department of Homeland Security has referred to as an “open door for drug traffickers and terrorists.” A recent study by the National Defence University has stated that “the region’s nexus to the United States uniquely positions it in the proximate U.S. geopolitical and strategic sphere. Thus, there is an incentive, if not an urgency, for the United States to proactively pursue security capacity-building measures in the Caribbean region.”

While the drones are unarmed for the time being, they will be primarily used to locate drug traffickers operating fishing boats, fast boats, and semi-submarines and would relay information to the Coast Guard, Navy or Caribbean authorities to carry out the interception and arrests. It has been revealed that the drones will be operating out of bases in Corpus Christi, Texas, Cocoa Beach, Florida and potentially the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

The shift towards the use of drones in the region is largely based off of an unconvincing pilot program carried out over 18 months in the Bahamas, in which “During more than 1,260 hours in the air off the southeastern coast of Florida, the Guardian (drones) assisted in only a handful of large-scale busts.” That said, the Caribbean governments increased militarization in the region when they implemented the never-ending War on Drugs without any public consultation or debate. This erosion of regional sovereignty may be a slippery slope to a dangerous future in which Caribbean nationals may very well find themselves on kill lists instead of facing a trial.

Such a conclusion is not baseless, as a November 2012 report by the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security recommended that Latin American drug cartels be classified as terrorist organizations “so there is increased ability to counter their threat to national security.” Furthermore, in 2009, the U.S. Military drew criticism for placing 50 suspected Afghani drug traffickers on a “kill list” as part of their ongoing efforts to cut off finance stream of the Taliban. The controversy arose due to the fact that drug traffickers (generally classified as civilians) had now been placed into the same legal category as the Taliban “insurgents” and thus became legitimate targets.

This is especially important in light of how the extradition of Jamaican kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke was handled. In September 2009, the United States requested his extradition to face drug trafficking charges, but Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding blocked the request due to his deep political connections with Coke. It was only after months of intense pressure that Golding caved in May 2010. Jamaican Police and the Jamaican Defense Forces led the bloody operation to arrest Coke, which resulted in the deaths of more than 70 civilians—the vast majority of which were unarmed.

The resulting scandal led to the downfall of Golding as Prime Minister but highlighted the power that drug traffickers and gang leaders have had in Jamaican government and politics. It has since been reinforced that the operation was “assisted by the U.S. government and carried out, to a large degree, at its behest.” Information has emerged which reveals that a U.S. spy plane participated in the raid of Coke’s stronghold of Tivoli Gardens, and a Freedom of Information Act action has recently been levied against the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) by a group of law students to reveal the extent of U.S. involvement.

To prevent such explosive outcomes in the future, there has been a call for closer integration between Caribbean police forces and the U.S. DEA in a clear escalation of the War on Drugs. A September 2012 Senate Report revealed that Jamaica has been floated as a target for a Sensitive Investigative Unit, which consists of a highly trained police that collaborate with the DEA. A similar program exists in Kandahar, where U.S. and British troops have created and participated in a task force made up of Afghan police officers and U.S. DEA agents to disrupt the drug trade and investigate corrupt Afghan officials.

According to a seemingly benign Department of Homeland Security (DHS) press release announcing the drone program, the “DHS is partnering with Caribbean nations to enhance border security in the region through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) . . . . The DHS is conducting border security training in conjunction with CBSI to increase partner nation capacity to secure their borders.” The problem with such statements is that there is always more shady business going on behind the scenes. Given the direction of U.S. policy in the region, it will only be a matter of time until the War on Drugs becomes eerily similar to the War on Terror.

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment