August 22, 2011

“They’re creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror”

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 16:51

The folks at Mother Jones have been conducting some investigative journalism on the FBI’s unique way of fighting terrorists:

Over the past year, Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley have examined prosecutions of 508 defendants in terrorism-related cases, as defined by the Department of Justice. Our investigation found:

  • Nearly half the prosecutions involved the use of informants, many of them incentivized by money (operatives can be paid as much as $100,000 per assignment) or the need to work off criminal or immigration violations. (For more on the details of those 508 cases, see our charts page and searchable database.)
  • Sting operations resulted in prosecutions against 158 defendants. Of that total, 49 defendants participated in plots led by an agent provocateur — an FBI operative instigating terrorist action.
  • With three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings. (The exceptions are Najibullah Zazi, who came close to bombing the New York City subway system in September 2009; Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, an Egyptian who opened fire on the El-Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport; and failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.)
  • In many sting cases, key encounters between the informant and the target were not recorded — making it hard for defendants claiming entrapment to prove their case.
  • Terrorism-related charges are so difficult to beat in court, even when the evidence is thin, that defendants often don’t risk a trial.

“The problem with the cases we’re talking about is that defendants would not have done anything if not kicked in the ass by government agents,” says Martin Stolar, a lawyer who represented a man caught in a 2004 sting involving New York’s Herald Square subway station. “They’re creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror.” In the FBI’s defense, supporters argue that the bureau will only pursue a case when the target clearly is willing to participate in violent action. “If you’re doing a sting right, you’re offering the target multiple chances to back out,” says Peter Ahearn, a retired FBI special agent who directed the Western New York Joint Terrorism Task Force and oversaw the investigation of the Lackawanna Six, an alleged terror cell near Buffalo, New York. “Real people don’t say, ‘Yeah, let’s go bomb that place.’ Real people call the cops.”

Jeffrey Miron: Myths about capitalism

Filed under: Economics, Government, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 14:43

US government spending: “we’ll pay for it all by raffling off unicorn rides and following leprechauns to find pots of gold”

Filed under: Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:10

Steve Chapman notes the difficult transition from supporting spending cuts in general to supporting specific program cuts:

The good news is that the idea of serious spending restraint has more support than ever before. The bad news is that getting people to support the concept is easy. The hard part is getting beyond the concept, and there is no sign so far of doing that.

Several Republican presidential candidates, including Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum, have taken what sounds like an uncompromising stand. They’ve signed on to a plan sponsored by a group called Strong America Now to eliminate the federal deficit by 2017 without tax increases.

But the plan is not a plan. It’s a fantasy. As Strong America Now’s website explains, it is supposed to “detect and eliminate 25 percent of spending per year across the federal government.” Per year. Seriously.

Not only that, but those cuts are supposed to excise nothing but vast quantities of waste — rather than programs that actual people care about. And my impression is that we’ll pay for it all by raffling off unicorn rides and following leprechauns to find pots of gold.

[. . .]

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid soak up some 40 percent of the budget, and their share will expand as baby boomers sidle off into retirement. But in an April Economist/YouGov survey, only 7 percent of Americans — including just 9 percent of Republicans — favored lower funding for Social Security. Medicare? Also 7 percent, with 11 percent of Republicans agreeing.

Even the rise of the Tea Party and the fight over the debt ceiling have not caused people to come to grips with fiscal reality. An August Economist/YouGov poll found that 56 percent of Americans said we can bring spending under control without reductions in Social Security and Medicare. Only 24 percent admit what every fiscal expert knows.

Ontario town of Goderich hit by tornado

Filed under: Cancon, Environment — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:46

One man died and nearly 40 others were reported injured in the Sunday tornado which devastated the historic town centre:

Environment Canada confirmed the Southwestern Ontario town was struck by either an F-2 or F-3 level tornado around 4 p.m. Sunday. The rating makes this the most powerful storm to strike Ontario since 1996, bringing winds of up to 300 km/h.

The one fatality, a 61-year-old man, was confirmed by officials as Norman Laberge of Lucknow, Ont. He had been working at a nearby salt mine when the tornado struck. Reports indicate he was working on a crane that collapsed during the storm.

Goderich’s historic square was hit directly by the storm and left completely ravaged. Several buildings had their roofs ripped off, numerous windows were shattered and a number of cars were tossed around. The downtown area, which has classic historic buildings, has been declared a “no-go” zone because of the severity of the damage.

Jack Layton, RIP

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:24

I’m sad to hear of the death of federal NDP leader Jack Layton today. Here’s the official notification:

We deeply regret to inform you that The Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 am today, Monday August 22. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones. Details of Mr. Layton’s funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.

Layton’s party achieved a breakthrough in the most recent federal election, winning enough seats to qualify as the Official Opposition for the very first time. Jack Layton had a lot to do with that impressive performance, and it’s not clear if his party will be able to retain their popularity without his leadership.

Update: The National Post has a full obituary.

Jack Layton has lost his battle with cancer, dying Monday morning at his home, surrounded by those closest to him.

The charismatic, 61-year-old politician had recently stepped down as federal NDP leader, but had expressed hope that he would return when Parliament resumed next month.

“I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of the death of Jack Layton,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.

Harper offered his condolences to Layton’s wife, MP Olivia Chow, and family.

“When I last spoke with Jack following his announcement in July, I wished him well and he told me he’d be seeing me in the House of Commons in the Fall.

“This, sadly, will no longer come to pass.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I salute Jack’s contribution to public life, a contribution that will be sorely missed.

“I know one thing: Jack gave his fight against cancer everything he had. Indeed, Jack never backed down from any fight.”

Powered by WordPress