Posts tagged New York
Posts tagged New York
Side Note: What?!
The New York Police Department opened its Israeli branch in the Sharon District Police headquarters in Kfar Saba. Charlie Ben-Naim, a former Israeli and veteran NYPD detective, was sent on this mission.
You don’t have to fly to New York to meet members of the police department considered to be the best in the world — all you have to do is make the short trip to the Kfar Saba police station in the Sharon, where the NYPD opened a local branch.
Behind the opening of the branch in the Holy Land is the NYPD decision that the Israeli police is one of the major police forces with which it must maintain close work relations and daily contact.
Ben-Naim was chosen for the mission of opening the NYPD branch in Israel. He is a veteran detective of the NYPD and a former Israeli who went to study in New York, married a local city resident and then joined the local police force. Among the things he has dealt with in the line of duty are the extradition of criminals, the transmitting of intelligence information and assistance in the location of missing persons, both in the United States and in Israel.
It was decided, in coordination with the Israeli police, that the New York representative would not operate out of the United States embassy but from a building of the Sharon District Police headquarters, situated close to the Kfar Sava station. The NYPD sign was even hung at the entrance to the district headquarters, and Ben-Naim’s office is situated on the first floor of the building. One of the walls bears the sign: “New York Police Department, the best police department in the world.”
Additional Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are coming forward to allege they were targeted by police officers executing old bench warrants for minor violations in order to collect intelligence about the May Day protests this week.
Executing old warrants — no matter how minor — is legal. But legal experts say the tactic becomes illegal if it is done solely to investigate political activity.
The half-dozen or so stories fit a pattern: each individual was approached and questioned by officers who said they were picking up people on arrest warrants for low-level, non-criminal violations, such as public urination, walking around with an open container of alcohol or biking on a sidewalk. These warrants can stay open for years.
Court officials say there are more than 1 million bench warrants currently open for these types of violations in New York City. But this week, squads of police officers decided to act on a few of them.
Swarmed and Plucked From the Street
Officers visited up to six homes the day before the May 1 protests, but Shawn Carrié found himself getting questioned the evening of the protest. He was coordinating all internal communications for the Occupy movement on May Day. At about 9 p.m., he was walking near Wall Street, heading home.
“And somebody comes up to me and says, ‘Shawn?’ And just grabs my arm and nine dudes surround me,” said Carrié.
He said nine plain clothes officers wearing NYPD jackets asked if he had anything sharp in his pockets. He shook his head no. He said they started pulling possessions out of his clothes, including his cell phone, his wallet and keys.
Within seconds, he said, they bound his hands with zip ties, but didn’t explain why. Then the officers placed him in a red van waiting nearby that was marked with an NYPD sticker, he said.
When he arrived at Police Headquarters in Lower Manhattan, Carrié said there were several other people waiting to be processed, but he skipped ahead of them. He said he police quickly led him to a room filled with boxes of files where he was alone, except for one officer staring at him from a table.
“And he said, ‘Go ahead, sit down,’” said Carrié. “He asked me, ‘Do you know why you’re here?’” said Carrié. “And he said, ‘Tell me about what you were doing today.’”
Carrié said he didn’t say anything. The NYPD declined to comment, and would not verify Carrie’s account of events.
He noticed the officer’s badge number. WNYC traced that number to a detective within the NYPD’s Intelligence Division. A sergeant who signed the property voucher form issued to Carrié for his confiscated property identified himself on the document as another member of the Intelligence Division.
Carrié said he spent the next 13 hours in jail.
He said he was placed alone in a cell. It’s unclear why he was isolated from the holding pen where several individuals typically wait together to see a judge.
He found out at court the next day that he had been arrested because of two open warrants from 2007 for violations related to a public urination incident.
When his lawyer read the warrants, it turned out they belonged to a different Shawn Carrié, who had a different birth date and a different address. But now this Shawn Carrié — a name he said is not his given name and one he only uses for marches — has to go to trial next month to fight what he says are false charges.
“Scared to Freely Communicate”
Carrié said, regardless of the infraction, the alleged practice of using old warrants as a pretext for questioning people about their political activity can chill speech.
“It’s making people scared to freely communicate, and making them feel like they’re watched. ‘Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, we’re watching,’” he said.
Gawker’s Adrian Chen has a bombshell of a story about how the cops have been showing up at activist organizers’ homes, arresting them and their roommates for outstanding violations, and vigorously questioning them about May Day—information confirmed by the National Lawyer’s Guild.
Here’s what the people involved told Chen:
In the first case: activist Zachary Dempster said that six NYPD officers broke down the door of his Bushwick, Brooklyn apartment at around 6:15am this morning. Dempster said they were armed with a warrant for the arrest of his roommate, musician Joe Crow Ryan, for a six-year-old open container violation. But Dempster believes this was an excuse to check in on him, as he’d been arrested in February at an Occupy Wall Street Party that was broken up by cops, and charged with assaulting a police office and inciting a riot.
After running his ID, a detective questioned Dempster in his bedroom for about five minutes about tomorrow’s May Day protest, he said.
“They asked what I was doing tomorrow, and if I knew of any activities, any events—that was how the conversation started,” Dempster said. Dempster said he’s not planning doing much, as his case from February is still open. Dempster’s roommate was also asked about him and May Day.
About an hour later, an activist friend of Dempster’s who runs in anarchist circles said his apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, where he lives with a half-dozen other activists and Occupy Wall Street organizers was visited by six NYPD cops—possibly the same ones. The activist said police used arrest warrants for two men who no longer lived there as pretext for the raid. The officers ran the IDs of everyone who was in the apartment, then booked our source when they discovered he had an outstanding open container violation. Police never asked about Occupy Wall Street or May Day, but our source said the message was clear: We’re watching you.
This is standard fare for the new NYPD—more than really gleaning out organizer’s plans, the tactics are to intimidate and preemptively harass organizers. This is the kind of treatment that people of color in the city’s less affluent neighborhoods deal with every day—not to mention Muslim citizens who have been spied on—and it’s our toleration of that kind of aggressive policing which leads to increased surveillance and aggressive treatment of free-speech exercising protesters.
War On Society and other anarchist sources were covering this immediately… so I presume to know Gawkers sources.
This morning around 6:30am at least two houses were raided by NYPD detectives. In both cases, the cops used the pretext of spurious arrest warrants to gain access to apartments of local anarchists. The warrants were for individuals unconnected to those homes, but allowed cops access to one and apparently justified them forcibly breaking into another.
After entering the apartments the police searched them, intimidated the residents, and ran their identification. In one of the instances, an anarchist organizer was taken into a separate room and interrogated by detectives about past actions and upcoming plans for May Day.
It awaits to be seen if more houses were subject to raids this morning. Regardless, this ‘preemptive strike’ by the NYPD was clearly a coordinated effort to intimidate local organizers and fish for information.
This news comes on top of reports that over the past weeks hundreds of cops have been drilling on Randall’s Island in anticipation of May Day. Those in the NYC area should be aware of these pig tactics and take any necessary precautions in the hours leading up to tomorrow’s activities.
If there was any doubt how seriously the pigs are taking our efforts then those doubts can be put to bed. But if they think that intimidation and harassment can stop us, they have another thing coming.
Tomorrow they won’t be raiding innocent individuals in their beds, they will be up against tens of thousands of angry New Yorkers who have had enough of their bullshit.
May Day means no work. May Day means no shopping or housework. And May Day means revenge.
-Some Brooklyn Anarchists
* * *
At least one more anarchist house has been invaded as of this afternoon using the same tactics and pretenses. It is possible that NYC could see a bunch more raids tomorrow morning in an effort to neutralize opposition.
Stay safe, folks!
There has now been a confirmed fourth apartment that was visited this morning without being let in (door was locked so we don’t know how they got in) and they searched the place and ID’d all the folks they could find.
The New York City Municipal Archives just released a database of over 870,000 photos from its collection of more than 2.2 million images of New York throughout the 20th century. Their subjects include daily life, construction, crime, city business, aerial photographs, and more. I spent hours lost in these amazing photos, and gathered this group together to give you just a glimpse of what’s been made available from this remarkable collection.
Twenty-eight protesters were preemptively arrested in DeWitt, New York as they tried to reach Hancock Air Force Base for a demonstration outside the gates against the use of drones. The protesters were charged with “failing to obtain a town permit,” according to the Post-Standard.
Concerned citizens from Buffalo, Rochester, Ithaca, Binghamton, Syracuse, Rome and Albany had planned a “Peace Walk” to the base, where Reaper drones are present. They planned to protest “murderous use” of drones, which violates international law, just as they did last year. But the group reached an intersection near a commercial strip mall and about ten sheriff’s cars pulled out to block the road.
In the parking lot was a Greyhound bus for arrestees. The police began grabbing people and saying everyone was under arrest. Debra Sweet, director of the World Can’t Wait, reported the police in the town of DeWitt were issuing all sorts of orders. It was confusing. They were saying you could put down your signs and go back to where you came and avoid arrest. They also were saying anyone walking away would be charged with resisting arrest.
Sandy Kessler, who is from Rochester, said anyone walking on the road with a sign would be arrested.
I said, what if I put my sign back? He said no you will get arrested. I said why? He said there can be no individual protests, no group protests. You don’t have a permit. Well, nobody really ever gets a permit. Last year, with the big one where thirty-eight people got arrested, yes, we got a permit. But we just decided we really didn’t need a permit. This is America.
Everyone there to demonstrate got together and forced the head sheriff to explain what was going on. Sweet said the sheriff explained in DeWitt “you are not allowed to have any sort of gatherings for any reason with signs and to parade in the street without permit.” After about five to ten minutes of negotiations, he backed off.
“It is apparent that many of you didn’t know a permit was required, he told the demonstrators. And, if you make the choice to leave you will not be arrested. But, at least ten people found this all completely unacceptable. They challenged the police and kept on heading toward the base and were arrested.
The police were not in riot gear. All of the people there were videotaped. Everyone who parked where they customarily park for vigil protests received parking citations, according to Sweet.
Kessler said this has “been going on for years since we found out there have been drones flying out of there.” She told Upstate Drone Action she saw police and military high-fiving.
These were arrests “based on prior knowledge of our plans and on the content of our message,” contended Sweet. She added I am sure if we had held a support rally for the Air Force or for drones they would not have treated us like this at all.
Reportedly three people who were arrested had their phones confiscated. Two people had their video cameras confiscated. A person had their phone and video camera confiscated. They were given receipts but their property was not returned, even though they were released with a citation. The citation read, “No permit.”
The lines of a ferocious struggle are crystallizing. In fact, it has been ongoing for decades, even centuries, but in the United States and elsewhere it has been strangely one-sided for some time. A class war from above has been assaulting us, with little visible response, outside of occasional outbursts from those most victimized and excluded by the system of domination and exploitation.
The global economic system has sustained itself, since the early 1970s, through the expansion of debt—corporate, household and state debt. The US has gone through an orgy of overconsumption; other countries exporting to the US market, an orgy of overproduction. Added to this already volatile situation was a massive amount of fraud and speculation, torrents of blood money for a repressive security-surveillance-industrial complex and imperial wars, the unprecedented acceleration of giant financial transactions, and, fundamentally, all the limits the capitalist delirium of eternal economic expansion and profit accumulation is bound to run into.
The inevitable disaster arrived in 2008. State and central bank bailouts saved the financial system, but the rest of us have to live through the consequences: tremendous unemployment, home foreclosures, “austerity”—i.e. decimation of wages and benefits in the public sector, elimination of social services, etc. An enormous upwards transfer of wealth has been engineered. What was already a vicious neoliberal attack on ordinary people beginning in the Reagan-Thatcher years—depressed wages; spurs to new levels of productivity; a prison-industrial complex to exacerbate racial divisions, confine and torture those “superfluous” to the work-system, and send a warning to the rest of us—has blossomed into open destruction of our lives. Passivity and conformism were once the norm, but it has become increasingly difficult to ignore the social and political problems weighing down on us.
Capitalism has always meant exploitation by the bosses and oppression by state bureaucracies and police forces. Even during the Golden Age for the OECD zone (the richer countries) after World War II, there were of course strata of the population who suffered miserably, while the middle classes entertained and distracted themselves with their newfound ability to consume. The fact that we are in world crisis does not change our basic perspective one bit; perhaps it only adds to our determination to find ways to prevent capital from restructuring (or prevent elites from exiting capitalism into an even more barbaric system!). We know, at least since the revolts of 1968, that the rhythms of the “class struggle” do not necessarily follow those of the economy. But it is important to map the landscape, to orient ourselves and decide the best means of attack. The one given is that the national and world situations are ones of chaos and uncertainty, giving no reason to hold back or bide our time, in the hope that “better days” (or the “moment of collapse”) will arrive of their own accord. Every moment lost is a moment the ruling elites will use to their own advantage, to impose order and consolidate their position.
Many of the mainstream perspectives of “opposition” that have emerged recently have a nostalgic tinge; the defensive, backwards-looking idea that it is still possible to return to the “good old days” of Keynesian class compromise, “full employment” and consumerism for (almost) all is implicit or explicit in all the arguments of liberal or “socialist” writers like Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Doug Henwood, Dean Baker… . their endless cries for more regulation, stimulus packages and jobs programs are falling on mostly deaf ears, however. The strategies of exploitation encapsulated by the word “austerity” (and the militarization of society that comes under the heading of the “War on Terror”) indicate that the capitalists’ stance has hardened. Today it has to be recognized that our masters are in no mood to deal. This should have been obvious decades ago, when neoliberalism was introduced into France and Spain by “socialist” parties; today, it’s a party of social democrats that is imposing the severest austerity measures on the Greek people.
It’s a mystery why anyone would want to influence the politicians and policy-makers, anyway: to save the system from itself, producing the reforms that might insure its smoother functioning and place it on a more equilibrated path of development? Even if this were possible, it is something that must be rejected. Our task, our responsibility is not to rescue capitalism by advising its leaders, by demanding the concessions that, in the long run and on the whole, could in fact benefit the capitalist classes. If we are to do something other than help “manage” the crisis, we must refuse to be bought off with baubles and crumbs from the table. In our view, there has already been far too widespread a complicity, in the geopolitical “center” of the system, with its destructive nature. Liberal hegemony and what political philosopher Étienne Balibar has called “extremism of the center” are no longer really tenable options. Were the ruling classes to again offer an integrating project like that of Keynesianism, which at any rate seems unlikely, we would only find it detestable. Behind every concession is the structural necessity for capital and the state—and all the related institutions and everyday practices that form us and tend to compel our obedience—to devour our lives.
Mali is on the brink of a major humanitarian disaster following a coup and rebellion in the north, Amnesty International says.
The human rights group says aid agencies must be allowed immediate access to the country, to prevent more civilians dying.
Some fighters in the north have said they have stopped military operations.
But Amnesty says all food supplies and medicines stored by aid agencies have been looted and most workers have fled.
"The population is at imminent risk of severe food and medical shortages that could lead to many casualties, especially among women and children who are less able to fend for themselves," Amnesty’s West Africa researcher Gaetan Mootoo said in a statement.
The group said the three northern towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu have experienced days of looting, abductions and chaos.
The Tuareg separatist rebels of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) said in a statement on their website that they had captured enough territory to form their own state.
But the position of Islamist insurgents, who fought alongside the Tuareg in northern Mali, is unclear.
Washington - Financial speculators are gambling on oil the same way they gambled on the housing market a few years ago — a frightening prospect for the fragile economy, a Democratic congressional committee was told Wednesday.
"It is similar to the gambling Wall Street did on whether or not people would pay their subprime (below-market rate) mortgages in the mortgage meltdown," said Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland and a former federal regulator of financial markets. "Now they are betting on the upward direction of the price of oil."
The housing industry collapse helped trigger the deep recession that began in late 2007 and whose effects are still felt today.
The economy is slowly recovering, Greenberger said, but it could come to a halt unless oil prices come down. Gene Guilford, president of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association, told lawmakers that the recent oil price run-up has cost consumers an additional $10 billion a month since mid-December.
The House of Representatives’ Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which consists of party leaders, called the hearing to spotlight Democratic efforts to promote lower oil and gasoline prices. No Republicans were present.
Today’s routine $4-and-higher prices for a gallon of gasoline have nothing to do with conventional supply-and-demand forces, Greenberger said. He formerly directed regulation of market trading in futures contracts and derivatives for the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.
"It is excessive speculation, which is a fancy word for saying that gamblers wearing Wall Street suits have taken these markets over," he said.
Financial speculators such as investment banks and hedge funds account for at least 65 percent of purchases of contracts for future oil deliveries, more than twice their traditional share, while buyers who intend to actually take delivery of the oil and use it, such as airlines, make up only about one-third of demand. The speculators bid up contract prices, sending oil and gasoline prices higher and reaping them huge profits. The bidding is stoked by fear of possible violence in oil-producing countries, notably Iran.
Congress has tried to pressure the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to put limits on how many contracts anyone can buy, but financial interests have stymied CFTC efforts in federal court.
Greenberger suggested several remedies, including a strong Justice Department probe. He said the threat of a serious investigation can be enough to intimidate speculators.
"If there is a real investigation, just the appearance of it will cause these cockroaches to scatter," he said, "because the light will be turned on."
The Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that U.S. crude oil inventories “are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.” Total motor gasoline inventories also remain in the upper limit of the average range. Both were as of March 30. That means supplies are plentiful; there’s no shortage pressure driving prices up.
The EIA, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, also said that total products supplied over the last four-week period have averaged about 18.2 million barrels per day, down by 4.7 percent compared with the similar period last year. Similarly, over the last four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied has averaged nearly 8.6 million barrels per day, down by 3.8 percent from the same period last year.
That inventories are up and products supplied are down suggests that producers are stockpiling supplies on concern that prices could go even higher, when they could earn a premium, even as demand for oil and its derivative products such as gasoline is actually down. Inventories are often built up ahead of the summer driving season.
The benchmark U.S. oil price fell Wednesday to $101.47 in New York, its lowest level since mid-February, but still well above where analysts believe it should be with supplies up and demand down.
World’s most notorious arms dealer sentenced for plot to sell weapons to Colombian terrorists
Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer dubbed “the Merchant of Death”, was last night sentenced to 25 years in a US federal prison after being convicted of helping a Colombian terror group that was seeking to kill Americans.
The sentence by New York District Judge Shira Scheindlin brings down the final curtain on a sinister story spanning five continents and featuring some of the nastiest conflicts of the past 20 years, from the Middle East to Afghanistan and Africa’s civil wars.
Prosecutors depicted Bout, 45, as an amoral criminal who caused misery around the world. But to the end he protested his innocence, telling the judge the charges were false. “It’s a lie,” he shouted, saying he never intended to kill anyone. “God knows this truth.” Trained in the GRU, the former Soviet military intelligence service, Bout began his career in arms trading around 1990. By the end of the decade, he was a multimillionaire, shipping weapons around the world in 30 aircraft.
By the early 2000s, however, international pressure mounted, as first the United Nations and then the US imposed sanctions against a man that prosecutors called a “transnational criminal” who was “ready, willing and able” to supply arms to terrorists and tyrants. Such was Bout’s notoriety that he inspired the arms dealer played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film Lord of War.
In 2007 the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched an investigation into Bout, setting up a scheme to lure him into agreeing to sell Russian ground-to-air missiles and other weapons to agents posing as representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), whose operations were largely financed by drug trafficking. The insurgent group has long been classified by the US as a terrorist organisation, and Washington has regularly dispatched special forces and intelligence units to help Colombian police. By committing to sell weapons to the Farc, Bout could thus be charged with conspiring to kill American citizens – charges which under US law can be brought against foreign citizens in foreign countries.
In 2008, DEA agents managed to coax Bout out of Russia to Thailand, where they taped him in a Bangkok hotel room where the deal was settled and he was arrested. Despite intense pressure on the Thai authorities from Moscow, was finally extradited back to the US in 2010.
After his conviction, Bout was held first held in solitary confinement, before being released into the general population at the New York prison where he has been held before sentencing.
All along Bout has maintained he was just a businessman, who fell victim to a vendetta by the American government. Bout’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, accused the US of “outrageous” conduct after his client turned down a first approach to enter into a deal with the Farc. Prosecutors said Bout’s trading made him a threat to the entire world.
Side note: Also see Michigan State Police Extracting Your Cell Phone Data During Traffic Stops (From 2011)
WASHINGTON — Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show.
The practice has become big business for cellphone companies, too, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of “surveillance fees” to police departments to determine a suspect’s location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services. Some departments log dozens of traces a month for both emergencies and routine investigations.
With cellphones ubiquitous, the police call phone tracing a valuable weapon in emergencies like child abductions and suicide calls and investigations in drug cases and murders. One police training manual describes cellphones as “the virtual biographer of our daily activities,” providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels.
But civil liberties advocates say the wider use of cell tracking raises legal and constitutional questions, particularly when the police act without judicial orders. While many departments require warrants to use phone tracking in nonemergencies, others claim broad discretion to get the records on their own, according to 5,500 pages of internal records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union from 205 police departments nationwide.
The internal documents, which were provided to The New York Times, open a window into a cloak-and-dagger practice that police officials are wary about discussing publicly. While cell tracking by local police departments has received some limited public attention in the last few years, the A.C.L.U. documents show that the practice is in much wider use — with far looser safeguards — than officials have previously acknowledged.