Archives For Constitutional Rights
Back in July, there were several local police and cooperating law enforcement raids on Northwest activists with suspected anarchist ties in Washington and Oregon. In what appears to be a crack down on political beliefs, and purported Black Bloc activities, a third activist in Portland has been jailed for refusing to testify to a grand jury over a July 25th raid on her home.
The Washington Post recently reported on the Pentagon suspending Program 1033, and likely the 1122 Procurement Program, which authorizes military equipment to U.S. police departments for free or significantly reduced prices. Interesting that the writers failed to identify the program by name.
1033 law enforcement recipients take in millions worth of military gear, aircraft, vehicles and arms every year. The sister program, 1122, provides recipients with access to equipment specifically for counter-drug activities. In an ever increasing militarization of police departments, requests for such equipment is a growing trend.
No surprise both the 1033 and 1122 programs were created through National Defense Authorization Acts in the 90s. Under President Clinton, these programs were hyped as a way to save tax payer dollars, when in fact, they’ve bloated into an annual 2.6 billion exchange, not including the costs to staff and operate.
The Pentagon concern over this Santa Claus weapons wish-list is whether or not agencies are following government guidelines, including proper inventory records, and red flags, such as altering the equipment without approval, or selling equipment. This halt is being enforced nationwide, and although it’s being played in the press as a proactive accountability measure, the truth is this program has already shown signs of trouble. The fact that most agencies only keep paper records, and nothing electronically, is also a problem. Agencies rack up man hours to physically review documents, wasting time and money.
The February 2012 newsletter from the Department of Defense’s Law Enforcement Support Office makes note that several agencies were suspended for failure to conduct an annual inventory, and several others were being terminated. This halt also comes after reports that agencies have been selling weapons equipment to non law-enforcement agencies, for profit.
All of this fuels growing citizen concern over the very concept of militarizing civilian police, the enormous funds associated with these programs, and the continued failure of government accountability.
Last December, Democracy Now covered these concerns in light of the new domestic drone programs, which will include police use.
U.S. District Judge, Katherine Forrest has found NDAA constitutional and issued a preliminary injunction preventing the government from administering section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which allows for indefinite detention of Americans with alleged terrorist ties.
A step in the right direction.
Chicago police conducted raid on Bridgeport neighborhood complex ahead of the weekend NATO Summit. The National Lawyers guild is reporting apartment dwellers were met with guns drawn, and handcuffed on the floor for two hours before a warrant was produced, reportedly without a judge’s signature. Excessive force and derogatory language by officers is also reported, which is no surprise if you’re familiar with no-knock warrantless raids.
If you’ve followed H.R. 347, it’s no surprise the NATO Summit is being considered a NSEE by the Department of Homeland Security. H.R. 347 expanded a 1971 trespass statute that criminalizes activity near areas restricted by the Secret Service. The most troubling part of the bill is that it changed the original phrasing from “willfully and knowingly” to just “knowingly.”
In the case of NSEE zones at the NATO Summit [as it's been interpreted by legal organizations, as the new law has yet to be applied] all that is required to charge you with a federal crime is to be in the area, you don’t need to know your actions are illegal.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Check out the ACLU’s recommendations here.
What H.R. 347 could mean for NATO protestors is if they are in a restricted area/zone doing any of the below activities, they can charged with a federal crime:
(1) Enter or remain in one of these zones without “lawful authority”;
(2) Engage in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” in or near one of these zones that “impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government activities or official functions” (with intend to impede or disrupt those activities or functions);
(3) Block or otherwise impede an entrance or exit to one of these zones (with intend to disrupt government activities or official functions); or
(4) Engage in any act of physical violence against person or property in any restricted zone.
Here’s the kicker that isn’t discussed much – “or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be punished.”
Conspire, that’s a broad word.
So, how will you know if you’re in a restricted area?
“The term ‘restricted buildings or grounds’ means any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area– of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting; or of a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”
Theoretically, these areas will have posted notices and/or be blocked off. Lake Michigan will be a restricted area, hopefully boat owners are aware of this. As will McCormick Place (site of the summit) and large areas around, and intermittent times for Kennedy Expressway, Lake Shore Drive, parts of South Side, Solider Field, Art Institute, and so on. If you see groups of heavily armed troops, or large men in flawless suits with black sunglasses, find another route.
If you were considering a protest outside the President’s hotel, you should probably reconsider. And given that broad ‘conspire to do so’ part, you should probably not communicate any intent to do so, even jokingly. Remember those Brits that were detained over Twitter jokes?
Use common sense, be aware of your surroundings, and stay with crowds. Saying a Hail Mary or two wouldn’t hurt either, given the lack of clarity about if, or how, H.R. 347 will be enforced during the summit.
Bottom line – be smart.