Criminal Justice

Abolishing the Police in the Anarchist Tradition

Abolishing the Police in the Anarchist Tradition

The tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department has provoked a national conversation about police—their role in society, their protection from accountability, the unique danger they pose to civil society. That conversation has begun to pose a radical question, one that, if it seems novel, has been explored by libertarians and anarchists for generations1The anarchist communist Albert Meltzer went so far as remarking, “Nobody but the Anarchists wishes to abolish the police,” which is of course not the case.: could we get along entirely without the police, without the set of practices and institutions today associated with them? Put more simply, could we abolish the police?

The True Function of the Police

We might note at the outset that police departments as we know them are conspicuous in their absence from almost all of human history. Indeed, upon the introduction of modern police forces, they were met with suspicion and resistance, regarded as incompatible with traditional freedoms. Policing as we know it emerges only in the modern era, embedded in a broader system of government associated with high modernism. As historian Paul Lawrence observes, Michel Foucault has been perhaps the most influential among those who argue “that the rise of the modern state necessitated a wholesale transformation in the administration of justice,” ushering in “new, bureaucratic criminal justice mechanisms” in which power “functions like a piece of machinery.”2Paul Lawrence, “The Historiography of Crime and Criminal Justice” in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Crime and Criminal Justice, edited by Paul Knepper, Anja Johansen page 22

The professionalization of the police under the modern state tracks “the wider scope of intervention of public authorities” more generally.3“New Threats or Phantom Menace? Police Institutions Facing Crises” by Jonas Campion and Xavier Rousseaux in Policing New Risks in Modern European History edited by Jonas Campion and Xavier Rousseaux) Foucault recognizes the centrality of professional policing in the development of the modern state, the modern state’s rationalistic lust for monitoring and gathering information on the citizen in a systematic way, and the replacement of the tort system by the criminal system.4John C.P. Goldberg and Benjamin C. Zipursky, The Oxford INtroductions to U.S. Law: Torts (OUP 2010). Indeed, we may say that the appearance of the professionalized police force coincides with the full maturity of the state.5Adam Crawford, “Plural policing in the UK: policing beyond the police,” in Handbook of Policing, Tim Newburn, ed. (Routledge 2011), page 147.

And it turns out to be much less than clear that the establishment of professional policing was even intended to protect citizens and their rights rather than “simply provid[ing] a means of state oppression geared to class interests.”6Alan Wright, Policing: An Introduction to Concepts and Practice, Routledge 2013, page 6. Indeed, the history of professional policing is the history of attempts to violently control the marginalized and underprivileged—the history of creating and maintaining parallel legal and judicial systems, with a second class of citizens defined by race and economic station. As Alex S. Vitale writes in The End of Policing, “It is largely a liberal fantasy that the police exist to protect us from the bad guys.” Liberal thought about police is a proxy for their thought about the state and political power more generally, the idea being that their use of force is legitimate and in service to the greater good. As a matter of historical fact, though, the police and the state power they represent have preyed upon the people far more than they have protected them and seem to have been instituted for just those predatory purposes. The primary purpose of government‐​operated professional policing has been to enforce social control and discipline through fear and systematic violence, to protect a particular political and economic status quo.

Incentives, Institutions, and Historical Context

Police abolitionists are confronted with the question of how a peaceful society could hope to function and endure without police. But, turned on its head, the question becomes much more interesting: if human beings are in fact so dangerous, so naturally inclined to crime, then the important social theoretic question is not how we could maintain safety without police, but how we could possibly maintain safety with them. After all, with the police system as we know it in the United States, it would seem that we’ve created conditions ideal for abuses of power, for predation and violent crime. Ordinary citizens are, at the very least, not given license to commit crimes, not held above accountability and punishment. But this is exactly how the political and legal systems favor police officers. It is not a bad apple problem; it’s a classic incentive problem, just the kind that we should expect to arise naturally and inevitably from such an inequality of legal status, whereby a comparatively small group is given a carte blanche to use force, even deadly force, in the most arbitrary and abusive ways. If human beings are as naturally prone to wrongdoing and barbarity as we’re assured, then we should expect that especially violent and antisocial people will self‐​select into such a system, aware that it will offer them opportunities to get away with viciously brutalizing others. It only stands to reason that anyone inclined to violent behavior and bullying should be uniquely drawn to such an occupation. And, indeed, this is just what we see. We have no reason to think that this system, the system of modern professional policing, should do anything but make ordinary peaceful citizens less safe, subjecting them to unaccountable violence. Ceteris paribus, it’s supporting modern professional policing—not police abolition—that should seem to us extreme, outlandish, unworkable, that should strike us as not seriously accounting for the fact that people may want to hurt others, steal, etc.

Though this analysis is highly suggestive of a general trend, it does not explain the very different data on policing practice in other developed countries, particularly in rich, northern and western European countries. The incentives created by the rules within which police operate, however important, are not the only variables bearing on the functioning of modern police forces. A number of more or less intangible factors also inform this functioning, with a policed population’s confidence in legal and governmental institutions not least among them. We find, for instance, “a broad correlation between trust in others, and trust in the different public institutions.” In many European countries, police don’t even carry firearms, and they’re trained to de‐​escalate potentially dangerous situations, with some countries even requiring officers to obtain permission before shooting at a suspect. America’s unique history of racial slavery certainly plays a role in the hostility and violence that marks the relationship between the police and the policed. Americans, particularly American people of color, have little confidence that legal and governmental institutions like the police and the courts will treat them fairly, with wide racial gaps in answers to questions of whether, for example, police are doing a good job or using force appropriately and proportionately.

We ought to note at this juncture that this lack of confidence in institutions, far from being the ill‐​founded conclusion of a people committed to perceiving themselves as victims, is in fact consistent with all of the available evidence about the disparate treatment of minority Americans, Black Americans in particular. If it is a cold fact that Black Americans are systematically mistreated by police, the courts, and the criminal justice system generally—and it is — then their distrust in the police simply stands to reason, the natural, appropriate result of a fundamentally unjust and racist system. That polling data suggests Black communities actually want to retain current levels of policing in their local areas points to a paradox: “Although Black Americans seem about as comfortable as Americans overall with the amount of police presence where they live, they differ markedly in their perceptions of how their local police might treat them if they were to interact.” Black Americans, apparently because they perceive their own neighborhoods as dangerous, don’t want to see the cops abandon them entirely, but neither do they trust them without reservations.

Because Black Americans have, for generations, seen their families destroyed by a police and prison system that continues directly from the Jim Crow system in the South, we must consider these phenomena—police and prisons—in tandem. As Maya Dukmasova noted in 2016, “The idea of police abolition can’t be understood separately from the wider prison abolition movement.” The call for prison abolition responds to the fact “that prisons can’t be reformed, since the very nature of prisons requires brutality and contempt for the people imprisoned,” that the whole edifice must be dismantled and substituted with new models based on an entirely new way of thinking about and discussing crime, reconciliation, and community. The police and prison systems are practically and historically inextricable, and the entire system of American policing and prisons is predicated, as Angela Davis observes, on “racialized assumptions of criminality,” which themselves follow directly from the country’s history of slavery (critics of the U.S. police and prison system have frequently noted the historical connection between modern policing and slave patrols). Prison systems in other advanced nations, particularly in some of the places we have already mentioned, are significantly different in both the level of comfort afforded the imprisoned and their underlying goals. In incremental moves toward outright abolition, Americans should look to these countries’ prison systems as waypoints in the road to freedom from prison and its warped ideologies. When we consider whether we ought to abolish the police and begin to establish peaceful, community‐​driven alternatives, it is not an idealized hypothetical of peace and justice that we should envision, but a reality of centuries‐​deep injustice along racial lines, an authoritarian reality of police brutality and mass incarceration. Accordingly, we should look honestly at the nature of police work: as so many others have observed, actual police work is quite unlike what most Americans—particularly conservatives, vocally supportive of police officers—imagine it to be. Importantly, it is far less dangerous than cops lead us to believe, characterized by long stretches of boredom, with only the very rare call to respond to a report of violent crime. On‐​duty police deaths have been on a steady decline for decades, with police officers being “many times more likely to commit suicide than to be killed by a criminal.” According to a 2019 report from the Vera Institute of Justice, less than 5% of arrests are made in connection with serious violent crime. The propagandistic “thin blue line” narrative, which casts police officers as embattled and underappreciated heroes, just doesn’t square with the empirical reality of policing.

Replacing—Not Remaking—The Police

The question now arises: what will replace the police? The short answer is nothing. The police don’t need replacing and should not be replaced or recreated. Anarchists and libertarians foresee a variety of spontaneously‐​emerging, decentralized answers to the question of crime, recognizing, as Benjamin R. Tucker observes, that the state is “the chief invader of person and property” and “the cause of substantially all the crime and misery that exist.” It is important to remember that the burden is not on police abolitionists, who ask only for an end to a very violent, dangerous species of special privilege, one that has resulted in almost unimaginable injustice and disrupted the very balance of American society. Tucker’s social and economic determinism, inherited from Josiah Warren, is apparent in his argument that the state’s creation and sustainment of privileges functions to “disperse poverty and ignorance among the masses,” creating inequality that is “directly proportional” to levels of crime.7Tucker writes, “[Our prison] are filled with criminal which our virtuous State has made what they are by iniquitous laws, its grinding monopolies, and the horrible social conditions that result from them. We enact many laws that manufacture criminal, and then a few that punish them.”

Individualist anarchists (and, later, anarcho‐​capitalists like Murray Rothbard) have advanced a system in which defensive associations would compete with one another in a legitimate free market to provide protection against theft, murder, and other crimes recognized by libertarians (that is, crimes with victims). Sketching this individualist anarchist system in his book Voluntary Socialism, Francis Dashwood Tandy argues, like Tucker, that “solv[ing] the economic problem,” that is, abolishing monopoly and the special privilege upon which it is founded, would “trim the claws of private enterprise,” rendering competition socially beneficial. For Tandy, genuine competition is the mechanism that ensures accountability, there being no fundamental reason that there couldn’t be, quoting Tucker, “a considerable number of defensive associations … in which people, even members of the same family, might insure their lives and goods against murderers and thieves.” Such a system grants no extra rights or privileges, but is rather one in which each individual is merely outsourcing her individual right to self‐​defense. Where the state arbitrarily grants new rights—more accurately, privileges—to specially appointed people, whose badges give them the power to murder with impunity, a libertarian system of competing defense associations would mean only the delegation of a right every individual already possesses, nothing further. Whether such a system of competing defense agencies amounts to police abolition is, of course, a point of contention; many, probably most, anarchists (including Meltzer, mentioned above) would contend that the competing defense agencies of Gustave de Molinari, Tucker, and Tandy nowise represent the genuine abolition of police, but only a capitalist recreation of the injustices we find today.

Conclusion

Where libertarians part sharply from the left (the rest of the left, perhaps), is in the Jacobin left’s unthinking worship of the total state, which, at bottom, is just police—as every law or stricture must be enforced by police. Libertarians are more careful and historical in their thinking, more systematic: we can’t believe that a state like the one contemplated by modern‐​day Jacobins could be anything but a Nazi Germany, a Fascist Italy, a Communist China, a Soviet Russia, that is, a full‐​blown police state. Libertarians believe the move in the direction of a free society must be based on a proper understanding of libertarian ideas—that is, that the abolition of police is one part of a broader whole. Recognition and respect for the ideas precedes any practical or policy change, as it must. Libertarians should engage with the police abolitionism conversation from this standpoint, that ideas are primary and a proper recognition of the worth of every individual must be at the foundation of sweeping change.

This article was originally featured at Libertarianism.org and is republished with permission.

What We Can Learn From ‘The Untouchables’

What We Can Learn From ‘The Untouchables’

The 1987 film ‘The Untouchables’ starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Robert DeNiro is perhaps for law enforcement what ‘Rocky’ is for boxing. It is the Hollywood tainted story of Elliot Ness, the United States Treasury agent who helped to bring down Al Capone (played by DeNiro) during the 1920s prohibition era in the United States. It is a perfect good versus evil action film. The good men of law enforcement do what they must while the villains are cold killers, evil and unredeemable. In the end, Capone is caught and arrested.

We are introduced to DeNiro’s sinister Capone in a brutal manner, as he bashes a fellow gangster to death with a baseball bat. Seated at a dinner table before many other well-dressed men, he is violent, murderous, and cold blooded. Meanwhile Costner’s Ness is a family man, who is peaceful, relatable, and vulnerable. He has a wife and child. We know that he is like the viewer. Ness sacrifices a happy household so that others may enjoy order and safety.

Life is complicated. Men like Capone can be evil, but they grow in the petri dish of laws. Men like Capone can also operate soup kitchens and employ scores of in-need individuals. Prohibition made Capone a household name, immortalising him for better and worse. He was the tyrant of Chicago, but he could only exist because of the very laws that a man like Ness swore to enforce. In the end Capone was not brought down in an epic blaze of glory like Bonnie and Clyde but in a court of law for tax evasion. Ness and his ‘Untouchables’ managed to get the bad guy; not for the murders, torture, or even rum running but because he had not paid an income tax.

At the films end, the untouchable law man Elliot Ness is asked by a reporter, “They say they’re going to repeal Prohibition. What will you do then?” To which Kevin Costner’s Ness replies, “I think I’ll have a drink.” The real-life Ness was a heavy drinker. He was a contradiction. In the movie he and his fellow law enforcers bashed and killed in the pursuit of their aims of keeping the USA ‘dry.’ And because the gangsters were detestable—in one scene a young girl is blown to pieces, the collateral damage in an explosion from a bomb laid by a Capone goon—anything that Ness and his men do is righteous.

It is with hindsight that we can all look back and see how much of a failure the prohibition laws were. The lingering effects still cause harm to this day. The ‘good men like Ness enforcing those laws were never in doubt as they did their job. The film weighs in such a way that it only shows the enforcers hurting the gangsters, not the common every day citizen. It does not show the harassment and destruction of small and large business in the name of another moral crusade. It does not show the private citizen being bullied and beaten into submission because of the powers that the laws granted ‘good’ men like Ness.

Into the late twentieth century a new era of prohibition invigorated the self righteous law enforcer, in both life and fiction. The War on Drugs spurred the violence both from those breaking and upholding the law. Don Johnson’s fictional character in the TV show Miami Vice would be the new type of Elliot Ness. The depiction is much the same. The War on Drugs could be sexy, dressed in pastels, where even the baddies are seductive with their flash, wealth and lifestyle, but just as deadly and evil. The heroes of the law are always under-resourced and fighting against insuperable odds in an urban frontier, slways for a greater good. Either the drink or the drugs always mange to get through though. The laws, the means in which they were imposed on the common person are never shown to be destructive or intrusive.

In the modern era across the globe the laws are ever expanding. A social tumor that kills and transforms cultures. Most things in life are subject to regulation and law. It is almost impossible to truly know what is ‘allowed.’ New laws are conjured up and with every crisis they are pushed through with safety, health, and security in mind. It takes ‘good ‘agents like Ness who make sure that the common person is protected. But in the real world from what? Themselves?

When laws against ‘planking’ (laying belly down on the ground, usually in random locations), Pokemon Go, unpasteurised milk, the fidget spinner, dressing up as a clown on Halloween, the ‘silk road’ and so on are created, who is the Al Capone in such a morality tale? We have the endless armies of people like Ness, with means at their disposal and just like in the film they are without doubt when it comes to their importance to law and order. The law enforcers are deemed as being a better class of person, keeping the citizenry safe, even if the crime is simply planking. All that matters is the law and obedience.

It is a cliché to refer to Nazi Germany and the legal nature of its many atrocious conducts or to point to the Soviet Union and its horrible infringements on liberty. They are the extremes but from within such tyrannical empires existed the good family man, who was merely doing a job, serving the state by enforcing the laws. Many were likely ideologically empty, not a Communist or Nazi party member, just a good law enforcer. In doing so they destroyed lives, and with no compassion they spread fear and hardship.

Like all things in life, reality defies simplicity. Many who are in law enforcement are there because it is in their minds important. They joined because they wanted to be the strong person that a child clings to in a crisis, the thin blue line that stands between the innocent and wicked, to somehow rectify the injustice on this Earth. It is a romance that belongs in fiction. Pragmatism and a mercenary’s servitude reveals a compromised and destructive character that does not lean on the side of rights for the individual but instead works to ensure that the state or a status quo is preserved.

Men like Ness in the film do exist. The many men and women of law enforcement are not all violent dog killers and power hungry domestic abusers. The dilemma is in the lack of wider understanding of repercussions. It does not take a genius to understand that in passing more laws, that inevitably more criminals will exist. If one continues to impose too many rules—a great deal of which are intrusive and arbitrary—then individuals will become lost inside a dysfunctional society uncertain as to what is a good and bad law. Which in turn will bring law enforcement into contact with individuals in negative and harmful ways. The police officer is already a multi-function tool being wielded by the state will have less time ‘serving’ and ‘protecting’ as the lay person assumes them to exist for. And in turn the added stress and less focus on what many consider to be ‘real policing’ will in turn lead to a bloated and indifferent force that ultimately serve a very few.

The Elliot Ness as portrayed by Kevin Costner is not concerned with partisan political parties or even economic and ideological theory. His philosophy is direct and simple: enforce the law. The zealotry to do such a deed is what makes the world writhe in so much misery. These good actors only following orders makes so much possible for the most perverse. That’s whether directly in obvious circumstances or as was illustrated in the film, or indirectly by growing a black market filled with terrible gangsters like Al Capone.

Across the planet ‘good’ cops like the Ness in the film make rule possible. They are those imposing questionable lockdown’s in Melbourne, the agents arresting journalists, or the armed enforcers knocking down household doors at three in the morning because some one may have ingested a prohibited substance. They are the loyal enforcers of a prison state like North Korea and make it possible for despots like Idi Amin, Joseph Stalin, and Augusto Pinochet to stay in power. And when popular consensus turns on the laws and politics catches up they will be without a seed of responsibility to move on. When the tyrant is over thrown they will help the new regime rule.

No matter how extreme the examples of police abuse are, there will be inside the public those who defend such acts. They will write beneath the videos in boot ink their opinions, blaming the victim and shielding the officers from any responsibility. Suddenly the rule of law cited by those who cling to government goes out the window and an officer can become an instant executioner. It is a deep belief that the present model of law enforcement is crucial to society. That without such individuals then we would have no freedoms and safety, even as they encroach on both. The thin blue line is the shoreline before the ocean of carnage. The laws that these men and women enforce are never considered as being crucial in causing the carnage and discontent. Ness is never shown challenging the wisdom of prohibition.

The prohibition laws that Ness enforced came from the moralist Temperance movement, a reaction to a real issue: violent and ill disciplined individuals who could not handle their liquor. The instinct was to punish all, to deny the nation the right to drink alcohol. The unintended consequences were hard to imagine until it was too late. In 1917, with the U.S. entry into the Great War, those ‘dry’ anti-alcohol advocates managed to influence policy more effectively, with anti-German laws against beer. Freedom is always sacrificed when a health crisis appears. Add in the threat to national security and liberty will be caged indefinitely. The War on Terror, married to decades of the War on Drugs, plus all forms of puritan morality and now the recent COVID-19 pandemic, means those enforcing laws have many masters, from health officials to think tanks that have never seen a war they did not like.

In the end it does not matter who you vote for, or what extremes of politics you come from. Those who enforce the laws will continue to do so. They will act with the conviction of a zealot, not to the ideals of those who direct them but, in their obedience, to upholding the law. The law is absolute and pure. It is a meal ticket and a line in the sand that separates the civilised from the savage. It is a deep romantic illusion, “I do not make the laws” is the safe declaration of the uniformed representative of those who make them. “I just enforce them” is the moral shield an amoral cowardice. Once the apprehension of the criminal is over, it is then for the legal system to do its job. The separation of responsibility from the law enforcer is complete. And in the end, the modern-day Ness, like his fictionalised depiction can say some day, “I think I’ll go have a joint.”.

Like most films based on true stories it is one that is massaged for an entertaining narrative. Not all cops are stoic, self-sacrificing ‘untouchables,’ and they are not all power-hungry corrupt beasts. They are often doing a job as public servants that get to play dress up and who act as a link in a chain. They are members of a team, a massive network that ensures that the state functions and remains the most important and intrusive part of the individual’s life, even if they think otherwise. The day that those who enforce the laws refuse, is the day that the elites, the rulers, are revealed as just being flab hidden beneath a suit. Without the armed muscle no horrible law or reactionary public policy could be possible. And in the end, even Al Capone went to jail for a victimless crime: tax evasion.

Public Letter, Signed By Prosecutors, Judges, and Cops, Demands Congress Expunge All Marijuana Convictions

Public Letter, Signed By Prosecutors, Judges, and Cops, Demands Congress Expunge All Marijuana Convictions

The organization formerly known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), now known as Law Enforcement Action Partnership, along with the National Black Police Association, and Fair and Just Prosecution have signed onto a revolutionary letter to Congress urging the federal government to legalize marijuana and expunge all past convictions relating to marijuana. In addition to the three major groups signing on to the letter, dozens of current and former prosecutors, judges and police officers. Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) also signed on.

The letter went out last month and is addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). It calls on House lawmakers to “swiftly bring” the bill, dubbed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, to the floor for a vote this month.

The group accurately portrays the problem created by the war on marijuana and how it degrades trust in police.

A significant driver of public distrust in law enforcement is our focus on low-level marijuana arrests. As the most visible part of the justice system, we police are already met with animosity every day. Our effectiveness and morale should not suffer unnecessarily. If marijuana had never been criminalized, many more Americans would greet us with warmth and cooperation rather than fear and malice. Without the trust of the people we serve, we lose a valuable crime-fighting resource. When community members refuse to talk to us, fail to present evidence or even to report crime, our jobs become much more difficult. Legalizing marijuana will help alleviate this tension and allow us to focus on our shared priorities: responding to emergencies and curbing serious crime.

The resources used to enforce marijuana law violations could be shifted and used to more effectively tackle serious and violent crimes. Americans were arrested for marijuana seven million times between 2001 and 2010, the vast majority of which were just for possession. Even as more states legalize marijuana, police made more than 663,000 marijuana arrests—92% of them for possession—last year alone. Meanwhile, homicide and sex crimes units struggle to get evidence examined in a timely manner. While that evidence sits in storage for years collecting dust, predators roam free to harm more innocent people. This misallocation of resources is disgraceful. By legalizing marijuana at the federal level, we will send a message to every police department in this country about our real priorities. Our allegiance lies with crime survivors and would-be victims, not with marijuana prohibition. By focusing on serious crime and creating safe neighborhoods—rather than arresting people for a drug most Americans think should be legal—we will be able to solve more crimes and earn back the trust of our communities.

This letter contains no new information. However, the fact that it is receiving coverage in the mainstream and is directed at Congress is encouraging. This conversation is long overdue and it needs to change now as the war on drugs fosters a violent and criminal society.

It should go further, however, and move to decriminalize all substances, not just marijuana.

As readers of TFTP know, America has the largest prison population in the world. It is estimated that victimless crime constitutes 86% of the federal prison population. That means the only reason that these individuals are incarcerated is because the state deemed their non-violent personal choices, “illegal.” The majority of that 86% is for illegal drugs only.

Most of the people who are thrown in prison are non-violent. However, when they are locked in cages with society’s worst and treated like cattle in a factory farm, they come out forever changed. America is breeding a torturous and violent environment, and they have the audacity to call this the “justice system.”

This system—whether or not the right wants to admit it—disproportionately targets minorities, fostering a violent and tyrannical environment. The research cited in the letter also points this fact out.

If you honestly believe that black lives matter, it is your duty to call for an end to the drug war. Ending the drug war would have profound effects on police interactions in black communities.

No longer would cops be able to launch fishing expeditions in an attempt to catch black people with a substance deemed illegal by the state. This would drastically reduce the amount of police interactions as a whole. What’s more, as the letter points out, it would decrease crime by eliminating the monopoly on drug sales held by organized criminal gangs. It would defund the gangs and remove much of the incentive to wage violence in their community.

To understand why this would have such a drastic effect, you have to realize that when the government makes certain substances illegal, it does not remove the demand. Instead, the state creates crime by pushing the sale and control of these substances into the illegal black markets—usually monopolized by gang members in poor communities. All the while, demand remains constant. Because this market is not regulated by free market principals, safety and child possession fall to the wayside. The authors of the letter understand this and point out how legalization would curb this problem.

Regulation reduces youth access and keeps adult consumers safe. Criminalizing marijuana has been a boon to the illegal market where there are no regulations, product testing, etc. Resourceful teenagers do not usually have trouble accessing marijuana when it is illegal. Underground sellers do not have to obtain age verification before making a sale and may sell
other far more dangerous substances. Legalizing marijuana shrinks the size of the market available to teens, which simultaneously reduces their exposure to criminal activity in general.

A profitable underground market supports the high demand for marijuana, much as it did during the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and ‘30s. Calling marijuana a “controlled” substance is illusory; where it is illegal, we have no control. We cannot ensure the purity of the product, require the use of childproof containers, or determine who can buy and sell it. Over time, marijuana legalization will drive out the underground market, just as alcohol bootleggers disappeared after repealing alcohol prohibition. Right now, the underground market still flourishes because marijuana is legal in some places and not others. The most impactful way to take marijuana profits away from criminal organizations and reduce youth access is to regulate marijuana similarly to how we regulate alcohol and cigarettes.

The illegality of drug possession and use is what keeps the low-level users and dealers in and out of the court systems, and most of these people are poor black men. Black people are more likely to receive a harsher punishment for the same drug crime as a white person.

This revolving door of creating and processing criminals fosters the phenomenon known as Recidivism which is the tendency of those who are processed into the system and the likelihood of future criminal behavior.

The War on Drugs takes good people and turns them into criminals every single minute of every single day. The system is set up in such a way that it fans the flames of violent crime by essentially building a factory that turns out violent criminals.

The system knows this too!

As stated by the law enforcement experts in their letter, when drugs are legalized, gang violence drops—drastically. Not only does it have a huge effect on the localized gangs in America, but the legalization of drugs is crippling to the violent foreign drug cartels too. 

Until Americans educate themselves on the causeof this violence, uninformed and corrupt lawmakers will continue to focus on controlling the symptoms.

We will see more senseless killings and more innocent lives stripped of opportunity by getting entangled in the system. We must end the drug war now.

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor-at-Large at the Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on TwitterSteemit, and now on Minds. This article was originally featured at the Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

A Protected Class: Police Union Issues ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Cards to Civilians

A Protected Class: Police Union Issues ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Cards to Civilians

Known as blue privilege, there is an unwritten law among police officers: when they catch their fellow cop, or even their fellow cop’s family member or friend breaking the law, they are let go without consequence. Situations that have led to the murder of minorities and poor people end far differently when its police and their families caught committing the same crimes. A recent report out of Vice shows that this corruption runs so deep that police unions actually issue courtesy cards to friends and family of cops that allow them to get out of minor infractions.

The cards are issued by the Police Benevolent Association, or other police unions and they are known as “courtesy cards.” They have the issuing officer’s name and signature on the back, along with a phone number for the ticketing or arresting officer to call to verify the relationship.

As Vice reports, the cards are designed to be presented in a low-stakes police encounter, like a traffic stop, as a laminated wink-and-nudge between officers that says, “Hey, would you mind going a little easy on this one?” When a cop is handed a PBA card, they can call the number on it to verify the relationship between the cardholder and the issuer, then decide whether it means they should give the cardholder a break.

Vice interviewed a man identified only as Mike, who told them he’s been a courtesy card carrier for decades. Mike told Vice of one police encounter in which he was driving a car that was not his, had no license plate, and was illegally driving on the shoulder through a police check point when he was stopped. Despite Richard breaking numerous laws in front of police, when they stopped him, he pulled out the card and he was sent on his way.

“That was probably the tightest spot I could’ve been in,” Mike said. “Because [the offense] could’ve been ‘driving without a plate,’ ‘driving with no registration…’”

The PBA isn’t even trying to keep it a secret. As Vice reports, New York City’s largest police union issues these courtesy cards—nicknamed “get out of jail free cards”—to its members on a yearly basis. Members can pass the cards out to whomever they choose to provide them with a little extra protection.

While cops don’t have to necessarily abide by the card and can use discretion either way, the fact that the cards exist highlight a glaring problem with police.

TFTP has reported on countless cases in which minuscule traffic infractions have led to brutal beatings, shootings, and killings of otherwise entirely innocent people.

One prominent example of this is Philando Castile—who was executed by police—despite breaking no law. On July 6, 2016, Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled over a 32-year-old African American male named Castile for a broken tail light. During the stop Castile informed Yanez he had a legal fire arm in his vehicle. The admission caused Yanez to issue a rapid sequence of conflicting orders resulting in Yanez “fearing for his life,” and subsequently killing Castile, despite the fact that he had committed no crime—other than the alleged vehicle infraction.

Yanez was cleared of all wrong doing in the execution of Castile. Had Castile been carrying a PBA card, he would likely be alive today. But we’re guessing these cards don’t make their way to the hands of too many poor and minority people.

This list of police killings for minor infractions goes on and on.

The odds weren’t in Walter L. Scott’s favor. Reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight, Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”

Samuel Dubose, also unarmed, was pulled over for a missing front license plate. He was reportedly shot in the head after a brief struggle in which his car began rolling forward.

Levar Jones was stopped for a seatbelt offense, just as he was getting out of his car to enter a convenience store. Directed to show his license, Jones leaned into his car to get his wallet, only to be shot four times by the “fearful” officer. Jones was also unarmed.

Bobby Canipe was pulled over for having an expired registration. When the 70-year-old reached into the back of his truck for his walking cane, the officer fired several shots at him, hitting him once in the abdomen.

Dontrell Stevens was stopped “for not bicycling properly.” The officer pursuing him “thought the way Stephens rode his bike was suspicious. He thought the way Stephens got off his bike was suspicious.” Four seconds later, sheriff’s deputy Adams Lin shot Stephens four times as he pulled out a black object from his waistband. The object was his cell phone. Stephens was unarmed.

Had any of the aforementioned individuals been given one of these PBA cards, they would likely be alive today.

The sad part about this is that the connected class’s preferential treatment through the issuance of these cards allows them a pass when they can actually pay the fines imposed on them through these traffic stops. The majority of traffic citations in most areas, however, go to poor people and minorities who often cannot afford to pay them. When they fail to pay their citations, arrest warrants are issued and these folks get processed into the system ensuring a lifetime of suffering.

The solution here isn’t to start ticketing more rich people, it’s to stop predatory policing all together and usher in a society where a police union get out of jail card is moot because cops stop extorting people for being unable to fix a broken tail light.

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor-at-Large at the Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on TwitterSteemit, and now on Minds. This article was originally featured at the Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

What Bernie Goetz Can Teach Us About Vigilante Violence

What Bernie Goetz Can Teach Us About Vigilante Violence

How many times can something be divided before it permanently breaks? In a matter of months, the edifice of a United States has become more and more cracked, after repeated blows from a pandemic virus, state-imposed lockdowns, mass unemployment, police shootings, and subsequent riots. The national mood is one of exhaustion and frustration, if not outright anger.

On August 25, Americans were given another thing to divide themselves over. In response to yet another contested police shooting, riots erupted in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin. During the ensuing chaos, video was taken of an individual in possession of an AR-15 rifle being chased by a group of people, falling to the ground, and then shooting three of his pursuers (one of whom was armed with a handgun). The shooter, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, was permitted by police to leave the scene, while two of the other men lay on the ground, dead.

Twitter threads, Facebook feeds, and newsrooms are at vitriol capacity as they argue the merits of the shooting. In conditions marked by social upheaval, and as burning buildings lick the background of city streets, the contentious issues of vigilantism and self-defense are being relitigated. The discussions happening right now are downright déjà vu.

Kyle Rittenhouse and the Kenosha shooting could prove to be a contemporary version of the 1984 New York City subway shooting, but with much more deleterious social consequences. 

City dwellers still recount horror stories about the New York City of the 1970s and 1980s, when “Fear City” became synonymous with the dangers of urban living. At the start of the period rapes and burglaries tripled, while by the end of the 70s the percentage of fires started through arson had septupled. The homicide rate fluctuated between 21 and 25 murders per 100,000 residents, and by 1980 the New York City subway had become the most dangerous transportation system in the world. 

It was in these circumstances that millions of New Yorkers struggled to go through their daily lives, including a mild-mannered electrician named Bernhard “Bernie” Goetz. After an attempted mugging left him injured and his assailants unpunished, Goetz resolved that he would not again be the victim of such routine criminality. When the city rejected his request for a concealed carry permit, due to “insufficient need,” Goetz purchased a 5-shot .38 caliber revolver out-of-state and smuggled it back home. 

On December 22, 1984, three days before Christmas, Bernie Goetz sat in a New York City subway car when four black teenagers—three 19-years old and one 18—approached. Surrounding him, one of them demanded, “Give me five dollars.” Goetz pulled out his revolver and proceeded to shoot all four teens, two of them in the back. He fled the train, and then the state.

Three of the teenagers had previously been convicted of crimes (the other only arrested), and all four were already scheduled to appear at either a trial or criminal hearing. Sharpened screwdrivers were found on their persons, although Goetz was unaware of this. Months after the incident one of the boys confirmed to a reporter that they had intended to rob Goetz. Mistaking him for “easy bait,” the confrontation left all four wounded and one paraplegic. 

Stories about “the Subway vigilante” swept both the New York City media and the public’s imagination. Comparisons were instantly made to the 1974 film Death Wish, where after the rape and murder of his family, Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey goes on a one-man killing spree to clean up his city—including shooting attempted muggers on the subway. 

Instead of tips to help catch the at-large shooter, police hotlines were inundated with hundreds of calls of support for the still unidentified Goetz. New York Governor Mario Cuomo condemned this “vigilante spirit” among the public. “In the long run, that’s what produces the slaughter of innocent people,” he said. On December 31, Bernie Goetz surrendered himself to authorities. He was charged with several offenses, including attempted murder.

Sympathy for Goetz’s actions was widespread among the contemporary public. Working class New Yorkers, both black and white, knew what it was like to walk in fear on the streets of their own city. In the perception of citygoers, Goetz became a figure of cathartic retribution, and the four teenagers became cutouts for the petty harassment and crime that had enveloped New York.

Others could not overlook the racial aspect of the incident. ”I’m not surprised that you can round up a lynch mob,” said Benjamin Ward, the first black Police Commissioner of New York City, regarding Goetz’s supporters. ”We were always able to do that in this country. I think that the same kind of person that comes out and applauds the lynching is the first that comes out and applauds someone that shoots four kids.”

“In this country, we no longer employ firing squads,” said future Mayor David Dinkins, who believed that Goetz’ actions went far beyond anything appropriate in the criminal justice system.

Bleeding hearts had difficulty comprehending the public enthusiasm. “Don’t they know the danger that’s unleashed when someone starts shooting in a crowded place, when someone takes the law into his own hands?” asked a rhetorical New York Timeseditorial, diagnosing a fed-up public. “Of course they do, but they also know something else, bitterly. Government has failed them in its most basic responsibility: public safety. To take the law into your own hands implies taking it out of official hands. But the law, on that subway car on Dec. 22, was in no one’s hands.”

It is difficult not to come to a similar conclusion today. Police forces nationwide seem incapable of performing at an expected standard. On one hand, police are satisfied to lord over citizens who easily submit, as they regularly bully, harass, and brutalize legions of law-abiding and respectful Americans. But on the other hand, when their authority is challenged, police are quick to drop their “protect and serve” mantra and abandon whole neighborhoods to the mob’s torch. When the state fails, we should not be surprised when individuals act to fill the void.

“This was an occasion when one citizen, acting in self-defense, did what the courts have failed to accomplish time and again,” wrote New York Senator Al D’Amato. “The issue is not Bernhard Hugo Goetz. The issue is the four men who tried to harass him. They, not Mr. Goetz, should be on trial.”

In February 1985, a grand jury declined to prosecute Bernie Goetz for attempted murder. Outside the courthouse, some people protested the leniency, chanting “Bernhard Goetz, you can’t hide; we charge you with genocide.” In fact, the only charge brought against him, which he was later convicted of, was carrying an unlicensed firearm. He was sentenced to one year in prison, of which he served eight months. 

Thirty years after the subway shooting, I was attending a major libertarian social event in the Big Apple. During a break between scheduled speakers, the MC took to the stage to spontaneously announce that Bernie Goetz, “the Batman of New York City,” was in attendance. I was unaware of who Goetz was at the time and could only identify him as the man on the other side of the room who was suddenly being rushed by people wanting to shake his hand.

We don’t know how Kyle Rittenhouse will be received thirty years hence. After crossing the state line (like Goetz) to his native Illinois, Rittenhouse was arrested on Wednesday and charged with first-degree (premeditated) murder. More details about what preceded the video tape and ignited the confrontation can be expected to come to light in the coming days.

The helplessness that New Yorkers felt decades ago has, due to the untampered riots, exploded in every part of the country. Except now, the political left and right fear each other more than they do an anonymous specter of crime. The broad public sympathy that Goetz received will not be given to Rittenhouse, who is already being labeled either a rightwing terrorist or a man rightfully defending himself.

And now, on Saturday night, a Trump supporter in Portland was shot and killed for unknown reasons. Was the vigilantism in Kenosha just the beginning?

This article was originally featured at The American Conservative and is republished with permission of author.

Police Reform In Congress Is All Talk, and No Action

Police Reform In Congress Is All Talk, and No Action

A friend, and reader of the Libertarian Institute, asked me a few questions recently. Why did a group of protestors demand that Rand Paul say Breonna Taylor’s name when he was the senator that introduced the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act? Why do we see very little media coverage of bills, like the one introduced by Reps. Amash and Pressley, that could actually create criminal justice reform? Are politicians even interested in criminal justice reform, or do they only want to use it as a campaign talking point to seek votes and control? The answer to these questions is the fact that many people place importance on symbolism instead of substance and words instead of actions. This article will address each question in detail.

Why do some protestors seem completely ignorant of policing reform bills? If people cared about criminal justice reform, you would think they would pay attention to legislation. You would think they would know which legislation is being introduced and who is introducing it. If someone wanted justice for Breonna Taylor, they would likely follow reform bills like the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, which would prohibit the very type of no-knock raids that led to her death. They would not tell a politician that sponsored the bill to “say her name.” Saying her name is a relatively empty gesture, while a criminal reform bill can make real change.

The emphasis on empty symbolism can be seen in a recent incident in which BLM protestors heckled D.C. diners and demanded that they raised their fists. Getting people to raise their fists may look great but it does absolutely nothing to create change. Forcing someone to raise their fist is not going to end qualified immunity or bust up police unions. It is an example of empty symbolism mixed with bad PR.

Why doesn’t the media give more coverage to policing reform bills? While it is on the individual to educate themselves on issues, the media is partially to blame. There are several bills that have been presented that work towards criminal justice reform. These bills get extraordinarily little media coverage. It’s not that there is zero coverage; you can find articles on the bills if you look, but you would think that a bill that could help decrease police violence would be just as important a story as the police violence itself and the related protests. Yet, you will not see any front-page articles on these bills, and you will not see many primetime interviews with the politicians that sponsor them. Maybe those stories don’t sell. Maybe legislation is too boring for the average news consumer. People want to see drama and that is what the media sells. You can see footage all day of a protest but almost no coverage of a bill that fits the protestor’s demands. The media covers a problem and the aftermath but barely touches on the solution. It is a great disservice to their readers and viewers.

Finally, why have politicians done so little in pushing policing reform bills? There have been several bills recently presented that would address policing. The Ending Qualified Immunity Act that was introduced by Rep. Justin Amash (L-MI)and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), the Reforming Qualified Immunity Act introduced by Senator Mike Braun (R-IN), and the Justice in Policing Act introduced by House Democrats.

While it is great that these bills were introduced, there is still a lot of empty talk from politicians. The House did not hear the Ending Qualified Immunity Act, but they did pass the decent but flawed Justice in Policing Act. It’s commendable that House Democrats introduced the bill, but it wasn’t without the accompaniment of some embarrassing, symbolic photo ops. Empty gestures and pandering always come first. The Reforming Qualified Immunity Act was introduced by a Senate Republican, but most Senate Republicans opted instead to support the much weaker JUSTICE Act, a bill that does not touch qualified immunity. Republican Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) has stated that ending qualified immunity is a nonstarter for the GOP. The self-proclaimed champions of limited government do not actually care about limited government or accountability.

It should be noted that no major party has decided to tackle the issue of police unions and their influence on fighting accountability and transparency. Qualified immunity was created in 1967 and no-knock raids have been around since the inception of the war on drugs. So why are politicians just now beginning to care? A few politicians seem interested in making some real changes, but many just use criminal justice reform as a talking point to get votes.

Recent actions, and honestly actions for several decades, prove that many people care more about symbolism than substance. To some, a virtuous image is the real goal. We see celebrities and athletes making statements on social media, but we never see them comment on legislation. It would be nice to see someone with millions of fans use their fame to inform voters about important bills that are being introduced. It would be nice to see politicians go after powerful police unions that protect bad officers. It would be nice to see protestors demand votes on reform bills, instead of harassing the people that introduced the bills. That would require that people place emphasis on change and substance. When people start realizing that symbolism doesn’t make real change, maybe they can start working towards real actions and maybe pass some laws that could save lives.

Rob Faust holds a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, served four years in the United States Air Force, and has worked as a defense contractor in the greater Washington D.C. area for eleven years. This experience and education motivate him to write about criminal justice and national defense policies.

‘Serve and Protect’? Eighty Percent of Criminal Charges Are for Misdemeanors

‘Serve and Protect’? Eighty Percent of Criminal Charges Are for Misdemeanors

A recent meeting by a North Carolina state government task force underscored that the mission today of American police forces may well be less to “serve and protect” and more to “harass and extract.”

“Of North Carolina’s 1.9 million criminal charges, 1.6 million of those are misdemeanors,” reported the N.C Insider (subscription required). This statistic was revealed by Jessica Smith, a professor of public law and government at the UNC School of Government, to members of the N.C. Task Force on Racial Equity in an August 20 meeting.

Smith told the work group that only 6.7% of those misdemeanors were considered violent. “I would say that the justice system is largely a non-violent misdemeanor system,” Smith added.

According to the news account of the task force meeting, Smith said that “the majority of the nonviolent misdemeanor charges are traffic, including speeding, driving with a revoked license, expired registration or not having an operator’s license.” Moreover, the article continued, Smith noted that “outside traffic violations, the most charged misdemeanors are larceny, possession of drug paraphernalia, possessions of a half-ounce of marijuana and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.”

Clogging up the state’s court systems are cases of minor victimless offenses, according to Smith.

Smith pointed out some of the most absurd misdemeanors consuming the state court system’s time. These included “not having a city dog tag, leash law violations or having tinted windows,” according to the news report.

North Carolina’s trends mirror the national data.

In this 2019 Equal Justice Initiative article, former federal public defender and legal scholar Alexandra Natapoff “estimates that misdemeanors comprise approximately 80 percent of all arrests and 80 percent of state dockets, based on arrest data from the FBI and other statistical reports.”

Natapoff concludes from her research that, “Misdemeanors are moneymakers for local jurisdictions,” adding that “Because they fund courts, probation offices, public defender and prosecutor offices, and even the general budget in some jurisdictions…misdemeanors function as a regressive tax policy that shifts costs for basic services to the poorest citizens.”

Legislators create more and more violations, making it virtually impossible for the average citizen to make it through the day without violating one of them. This is on top of the laws, like drug possession, that prohibit “unapproved” behavior in which there is no actual victim. The criminal justice system has been turned into more of a cash cow extracting fines and penalties from peaceful citizens than an institution protecting its citizens from the aggression of others.

Overcriminalization has led to overpolicing. It’s become so ludicrous, that according to a 2019 report by the Vera Institute of Justice, an arrest is made every 3 seconds in America.

The report notes that “fewer than 5 percent” of the arrests are for serious violent crimes, and furthermore “the authors of the study suggested that arresting large numbers of people for minor offenses for nonviolent or comparatively minor offenses can effectively undermine the trust and legitimacy that effective law enforcement requires.”

The mass levels of arrests and police interactions with citizens amazingly come at a time when violent crime has been decreasing. This 2019 Reason article noted that the violent crime rate fell another 3.3 percent from 2017 to 2018, after a “reduction of violent crime by roughly half since 1993.”

Because of the rising trend of overcriminalization, Reason reported that “about 6.4 percent of Americans born before 1949 have been arrested, compared to about 23 percent of those born between 1979 and 1988.”

Unsurprisingly, Reason noted that “Drug arrests have grown increasingly common, now representing 9 percent of arrests for men and 8 percent for women,” and further that “11 percent of arrests of women and 16 percent of those of men are for underage drinking.”

Being arrested for even such petty, non-violent transgressions can cause long-lasting damage to the lives of those being charged. Stiff fines can put low-income people in to debt that takes years to climb out of, and adding a misdemeanor to one’s record can create significant barriers to employment.

And of course, having so many interactions between citizens and police increases the odds of more interactions turning violent or deadly.

We are taught in elementary school that our government exists to secure our rights to “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” Police are to be deployed as a means to protect us from those that would violate such rights.

Sadly, we are way beyond that point. Legislators create countless laws to restrict or mandate behaviors having nothing to do with protecting our basic rights. Police are dispatched to enforce these rules, making criminals out of peaceful people who never aggressed against anyone.

The criminal justice system has turned into a money-making machine, punishing millions of victimless misdemeanors to collect fines to pay the people running and enforcing the system. Like everything else it touches, the state has turned the criminal justice system into a means to enrich itself at citizens’ expense.

Bradley Thomas is creator of the website Erasethestate.com and author of the book “Tweeting Liberty: Libertarian Tweets to Smash Statists and Socialists.” He is a libertarian activist who enjoys researching and writing on the freedom philosophy and Austrian economics. Follow him on Twitter @erasestate.

New Evidence Indicates Police Provoked Violence In Kenosha

New Evidence Indicates Police Provoked Violence In Kenosha

Serious violence unfolded in Kenosha Tuesday night during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake. The violence mentioned below, however, was not between police and protesters. It was captured on video and it was between citizens. Two people were killed and a third victim was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries after shooting began in a residential area of the city. Some of it was captured on video.

Much of the violence took place in the area of 63rd Street and Sheridan Road in the city, where eyewitness video purports to show heavily armed civilians defending local businesses from suspected looters and arsonists.

Police say they have no details about the shootings, but videos of some of the shootings and the aftermath were all over Twitter Wednesday morning.

Many of the individuals who were heavily armed were claiming to be there to protect private property from those who have been laying waste to the city over the past several days. This is a theme that plays out time and again during protests, up to and including the LA riots when the Korean neighborhoods defended themselves with gunman on rooftops.

The gunman in the video above was filmed before that shooting, describing himself as one of these folks. Prior to shooting, the gunman said he was there to protect the property of citizens.

We do not know what happened prior to the video above, so we will reserve judgement. We do see several people chasing him down and then jumping on top of him before he opens fire. However, we do not know if he provoked the attack.

As the following video shows, however, several BLM activists and other militia-style citizens were discussing what could’ve set this off and their answer was shocking—the cops.

As the video below shows, BLM activists and several armed men who were their protecting property are having a cordial discussion about what unfolded that night.

These two groups, who the media says are supposed to be enemies, were not at war with one another. Instead, they were figuring out why things became so violent.

“We fully support what you all are doing out here tonight,” the militiaman says to the BLM acivtist.

The BLM activist who was confirmed to be filming was telling the militiaman that they “left the city open,” in an apparent attempt to criticize the job they were doing “protecting private property.”

But the militiaman answered back, telling the man filming that this was extremely difficult, considering a business is on fire behind them.

“You know what the cops told us today, we’re gonna push em down by you, and you’re gonna deal with them, and we (the police) are gonna leave,” the AR-15 toting young man said.

Another AR-15 carrying man chimes in saying, “the second the shots were fired, I had to tell like six people it wasn’t from you guys (BLM).”

According to the people having the discussion in the video above, there may be some bad actors out there attempting to provoke violence among the protesters and the people protecting property. And, according to the people having the discussion in the video above, those doing the provoking, are the police.

The video above is a brief clip of the much longer one below in which BLM activists and militiamen peacefully gather together to discuss what caused the violence and how to prevent it further. The interaction begins at the 20:00 mark.

With all the hatred and violence being doled out by all sides of the political and racial spectrum, videos like this one are quite heartening to see.

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=303231960743213&set=pcb.303232124076530

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor-at-Large at the Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on TwitterSteemit, and now on Minds. This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

How Privatizing the Roads Would Help Stop Police Brutality

How Privatizing the Roads Would Help Stop Police Brutality

Advocates of a free society so frequently field the objection “Who will build the roads?” or some variation thereof that it’s become a meme. Much effort has been put into answering this question, including books on the privatization of roads and highways. What has received relatively little attention is what effect road privatization would have on the role of government police, which is surprising given the existing relationship between roads, police, and drivers.

Indeed, most of what police do is related to the road. According to the US Department of Justice’s most recent report on contacts between the police and the public, over half are traffic stops, and an additional 14.6 percent are in relation to traffic accidents. When not otherwise engaged, officers spend around 74 percent of their time engaged in patrol, typically in a car. Over 9 percent of arrests recorded in the 2018 FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program data are for driving under the influence. Unfortunately, the UCR does not specify what percentage of the 1,147,050 drug possession arrests in 2018 were the result of searching vehicles, but there is little doubt that it was a significant portion. Making arrests based on pretext stops (the act of pulling someone over ostensibly for a minor traffic infraction in order to investigate some other crime, conduct a search, or to determine whether the vehicle’s occupants have any outstanding warrants) is considered good policing and is endorsed by the US Supreme Court. The long-running erosion of the right to be secure in one’s vehicle, as codified in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is well documented in Sarah Seo’s Policing the Open Road.

In addition, revenue from traffic citations can constitute an important source of municipal funding. One example (though definitely an outlier) is the town of Randolph, Missouri (pop. 47), which issued 3,132 traffic fines, collecting an estimated $148,000 of their $270,043 total revenue in 2009. Besides traffic citations, an additional source of revenue for police on the roads is civil asset forfeiture. The Texas town of Tenaha (pop. 1,100) had seized millions of dollars in forfeitures from traffic stops before being sued in 2009. Without the pretext of traffic stops, there would be many fewer opportunities for police to separate individuals from their cash and other possessions.

Based on these considerations, it would appear that the privatization of roads would be of interest for the purposes of police reform alone. In light of calls to “defund the police,” police activities on roads have received more attention. Economist Alex Tabarrok has suggested the “unbundling” of police from traffic enforcement:

The responsibility for handing out speeding tickets and citations should be handled by a[n] unarmed agency. Put the safety patrol in bright yellow cars and have them carry a bit of extra gasoline and jumper cables to help stranded motorists as part of their job – make road safety nice.

While such a reform certainly sounds like an improvement over the status quo, the question is to what degree it changes the practices above. On some margins, state agents fully dedicated to traffic enforcement may make things worse, particularly without changing the incentive governments have to milk drivers of funds. Pure traffic patrollers would be less expensive to train than sworn police officers, making it cheaper to put more of them on the road. They would not have to respond to the non-road-related calls that police officers are expected to handle, giving drivers less reprieve from their constant presence. Furthermore, there is little evidence that traffic enforcement significantly improves road safety anyway. But even if it did, there is still a tradeoff between road safety and other ends, such as arriving at one’s destination quickly. By getting in a vehicle, we demonstrate that we are not willing to sacrifice all other ends for that of safety.

However, if unarmed traffic patrollers lack other police powers, such as the ability to warrantlessly search a vehicle, seize assets they believe may have been used in the commission of a drug crime, or engage in pretext stops, such a reform has the potential to result in positive outcomes for those who consider liberty to be important. A big question, though, is whether governments would be willing to forgo what has been such a large source of revenue, as well as one of their primary means of drug interception.

Leaving the roads in the public domain, even if they are policed by nice traffic safety officers rather than the cops, still has a number of disadvantages related to traffic enforcement. The state still makes the rules, licenses the drivers, decides what insurance is required, and decides how rules are to be enforced. Because the roads are not privately owned and the payment and use of them are not voluntarily contracted, economic calculation is not possible. The government is in the dark in negotiating the aforementioned tradeoffs between safety and other ends. There is no competition between road providers that would prevent overzealous enforcement of traffic laws or the opposite. If roads (and other transportation infrastructure) were privatized, road entrepreneurs would seek the optimal tradeoff between safety and other ends, and consumers’ ability to choose different roads or means of transportation would enable this to occur.

Thus, even setting aside gains in efficiency or reductions in highway fatalities, the case for the privatization of roads has much to recommend it solely in terms of how it would affect the power of the police to detain us, search us, and seize our property.

Tate Fegley is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Center for Governance and Markets at the University of Pittsburgh. This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

Matt Taibbi on the Origins of the Russiagate Hoax

Matt Taibbi on the Origins of the Russiagate Hoax

From left, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sit together in the front row before President Barack Obama spoke about National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance in this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, file photo at the Justice Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) ** FILE **

A New Whistleblower Exposes the ‘Cambridge Four’

This interview was recorded August 13, 2020. The computer garbled the audio terribly, but at least the auto-transcriber was able to make sense of it. The following is edited for clarity and minor mess-ups.

Scott Horton:
Alright you guys, introducing Matt Taibbi, formerly at Rolling Stone and now just doing his own thing over there at Substack. And of course, he also runs a podcast with Katie Halper called Useful Idiots, which is great. I watch it semi-regularly, at least. He’s got a brand new piece, “Our Man in Cambridge,” that goes along with this companion piece by Steve Schrage called, “The Spies Who Hijacked America.” Welcome back to the show, Matt. How are you doing, sir?

Matt Taibbi:
Good, how are you?

Horton:
I’m doing great. And you know what? I’m so glad that you’re focusing again on “Untitled-gate” here. I was pretty sad when you sort of abandoned that project for other things because I am just so curious about the origins of this gigantic Russiagate hoax, which, as my friend Dave Smith says, is as big a deal as if the accusations had been true. If everything they said about Donald Trump was true, the fact that it wasn’t is as big deal as that would have been. That’s what a crime it is that the FBI and the CIA falsely accused the president of treason for three years.

Taibbi:
Yeah, it’s funny when the story first broke in, I guess it was the end of December of 2016 when it first started becoming really a big, big deal. I remember saying to another journalist, “if this is true, it’s the biggest story ever. And if it isn’t true, it’s the biggest.” Because there was no other explanation as either as to be historic setup or, you know, historic kind of espionage tale. So it looks like the former.

Horton:
Yeah, absolutely. A lot of us knew from the very beginning. If people want to check the archives, I first interviewed Jeffrey Carr, the computer security expert, in July of 2016 about how CrowdStrike and/or the FBI don’t know who hacked into servers. The only people in the world who could know who hacked them is the NSA because they have God-like omniscient power of being able to rewind the entire internet and trace every packet wherever they want. No one else can do that. And no expert examining the server can tell you for sure who had been there, because it’s too easy to fake it. In this case, the tracks they left were so obvious, where they had references to “Iron Felix” and all these Cyrillic letters dumped in there and all this stuff. Pretty obviously, you know…

Taibbi:
From from a journalistic standpoint, the idea that we identify the source of the hack by somebody writing “Felix Edmundovich” in the code, it’s pretty ridiculous. It’s as if somebody wrote “Allen Dulles” in the middle of the Stuxnet code

Horton:
(Laughs) Right.

Taibbi:
You know what I mean? It would be very silly to think that would actually happen, you know?

Horton:
So anyway, So we have the different parts of this. And I sure would like to see your very meanest work on the hacking and leaking of those emails. I know this is a subject that you have not really focused the most on. But you know, your most recent work here, of course, is about the Steele Dossier and the group of retired old spies at Cambridge University and all of this. Steele was a part of that also, involved essentially in the framing of Page and Papadopoulos. Certainly Page. I don’t know about Papadopoulos. That’s, I guess, a different question. But anyway, so you have this new whistleblower. And so I guess I want to ask you just first of all, if you can explain who is Stephen Schrage? And why is it that it took him so long to come forward and tell the story here?

Taibbi:
Yeah, so Steven Schrage. He was a former State Department official, also was the chief of staff from Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts. He was, you know, a fairly senior official in the Romney campaign in 2008, left government after he left the Brown office in the early two-thousand-tens, decided to go into academia and ended up pursuing a doctorate under Stephen Harper, who is the central figure in the old “Spygate” narrative, right? So he was the retired quasi-retired FBI-slash-CIA person who was teaching at Cambridge. And Schrage worked for Halper, and in fact is the reason that Halper met people like Carter Page, because he invited Page to a conference in circumstances that are quite humorous. We can get into that later. But to answer your question of why it took him so long to come forward, his take on this is that he didn’t know until Halper was named in the news, which I think was in May of 2018, that any of this had had any kind of like FBI significance to it. And he felt that he was a little bit conflicted, he said. He says he felt that his best shot to bring this story forward would be to go to the authorities. He did go to the Durham investigators last year, and then he came back again this year, and he decided to go public when he became concerned that perhaps that investigation was not going to end up being effective.

Horton:
I think he kind of accidentally unearthed this old audio that…

Taibbi:
Yes. So his relationship with Halper has deteriorated over the years, Halper being his doctoral advisor. And he says that with Halper’s permission, he had begun taping exchanges with with Halper as early as 2015, so that really so that he could go back and point out to him inconsistencies in his academic advice, I think is the idea. So he has lots of tape of Halper talking, and the two of them during these conversations. And after he met with the Durham people, the first time, he went back and reviewed some of those conversations, and some of them he didn’t expect to hear anything terribly interesting. But in one of them, it was two days before the big leak involving Michael Flynn. If you remember that story, the one that was written in the Washington Post involving reporting to David Ignatius, and he’s asking Halper, “Hey, do you think would be a good idea for me to go try to work for Michael Flynn who is now the National Security Advisor?” This guy had a long record of working with Republican politicians, you know, why not? And Halper says, “No, I don’t think he’s going to be around very long.”

Horton:
In fact, let’s just put that conversation here.

Horton:
So what did we just hear?

Taibbi:
Okay. Yeah. So basically this is January 10, 2017, and that’s two days before the Washington Post came out with this story that ended up having enormous consequences because the January 12 story said that Flynn had been on the phone with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak. And as a result of that leak, which incidentally was an illegal leak of telephonic surveillance, the FBI decided to re-interview Flynn. It was a result of that re-interview that they built their false statements charge and prosecuted Flynn. So the notion that somebody would know two days before that leak happened that Flynn was in deep trouble that he was not going to be around for very long, and that “if you know how these things work,” and that his opponents and so-called enemies are going to “turn up the heat” and all that stuff, it’s very suggestive of, you know, perhaps foreknowledge that something bad was going to happen to Flynn. From Schrage’s point of view, in the way he puts it was like, “I would have thought that the last person who would have job security issues in the Trump administration would be Flynn because he one of the only people who have real experience in Trump’s inner circle.” But, you know, the tapes incident suggests otherwise.

Horton:
David Ignatius, for people who aren’t familiar, he’s widely known as the CIA’s man at the Post. One of many, I guess. But when he writes, he’s always very, you know, keyed into what the intelligence community is saying, is really sort of the Mouth of Sauron for them in that way kind of, right?

Taibbi:
I can’t speak to his background. But certainly the idea that he’s very plugged into the CIA is kind of a known thing in the business.

Horton:
And we already know, right, that James Clapper, who right up until then was the Director of National Intelligence, I forget now the context of how we know that he had ordered this hit piece in the Post and said “now is the time to take the kill shot.” So from there, it seems like Ignatius, Halper and Clapper… that’s another sort of confirmation, right that Halper really knew something and wasn’t just making a wild guess here, and that then that would mean the director of the National Intelligence was in on it as well.

Taibbi:
Yeah, well, I believe the “killshot” quote came from Flynn’s second lawyer, Sidney Powell, who talked about… who theorized the leak traveled…

Horton:
Oh, I’m sorry about that if I screwed that up. I could have swore that was what I had read, that somebody had essentially caught Clapper giving that order.

Taibbi:
Yeah, so no, it came from Powell’s court filing.

Horton: For some reason I thought that that was what Clapper had told Ignatius. “You know what, pull the trigger on that article we’ve been waiting on here.”

Taibbi:
Yeah, but she just described it as Clapper. So yeah, “Powell also referenced a purported conversation between former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Washington Post reporter David Ignatius, claiming Clapper told the reporter words to the effect of ‘take the kill shot on Flynn,’ after he reportedly obtained the transcript of Flynn’s phone calls.” And then Clapper denied it.

Horton:
I gotcha.
So, what other indications do we have other than this guy…

Taibbi:
Steven Schrage.

Horton:
Okay, and what all indications do we have of, you know, other than just the way Halper sounded on that audio, that Halper was not just doing this with his friends, but was in league with the American intelligence agencies or even British MI-6?

Taibbi:
Well, he, he didn’t know that at the time. He only found out subsequently. At least that’s his story. But, you know, if you’re putting two and two together. And remember, Powell, who was Flynn’s lawyer, had theorized that the leak had gone through the Office of Net Assessment, which is a Pentagon office that was Halper’s employer. They paid Halper enormous sums of money, like over $400,000 during this period for these mysterious reports. So the theory is that the leak goes from somebody to the Office of Net Assessment to perhaps Halper. Or at least I think that’s what’s being suggested there.

Horton:
Yeah, I mean, well, you know, the Pentagon was certainly paying him all that money all that time for something. No other apparent publications by him at that time or any other thing, right, so seems pretty cut and dry.

Taibbi:
So, no, I mean, that’s a pretty that’s actually quite a funny subplot two this whole thing is how the whole Office of Net Assessment thing works. You know, it appears to be just a way to funnel money to informants and other people who are useful to the government. And essentially what they do, and I actually talked to some people who contributed to some of these reports, the ONA will pay somebody like $50,000 for a report on say China’s position in the world right now, right? And, and what the American will do is they will call up some person in a foreign country and offer them peanuts to put together basically a bunch of text around open source material, they send it back to him, he compiles it into a big document, sends it back to the Pentagon, does basically zero work and makes probably 10 times what the highest paid journalist in the world gets paid to do that same kind of stuff. So it’s pretty amazing. It’s amazing little subplot to the whole thing.

Horton:
Although, I mean, in this case, it doesn’t even seem like he was turning in those phony reports. He was getting paid. It seems like there’s a very good chance it was for this.

Taibbi:
Well, yeah, superficially, you can make the argument and there’s a whistleblower case involving this that’s coming out right now unrelated to Schrage, but there’s somebody in the Office of Net Assessment, who was claiming essentially that these payments were exactly for that kind of activity. If you’re interested in looking for this kind of thing, for instance, you can look for a document called “China: The Three Warfares,” and that’ll be online somewhere. You’ll see Halper didn’t really write anything in it, but I think he got paid something like $47,000 for this.

Horton:
What a racket.

Taibbi:
Yeah.

Horton:
All right now, so this guy, Schrage, he coined this new term, “the Cambridge Four,” it’s not just Halper, but it’s also Richard Dearlove — and of course Dearlove, the former head of MI-6 is most famous for having compiled the Downing Street Memos about the meeting at the so-called Crawford ranch in July of 2002, about how “we’ve decided that the policy is that we’re going to war and the facts are being fixed around the policy.” That was his job there.

Taibbi:
Yeah.

Horton: So, anyway, that’s what we know about Dearlove from before. He was the head of MI-6 at the time that the British helped lie us into war. And then there’s also of course Steele, he groups into this, and so maybe that’s an opportunity to talk a little bit more about his background as well. And then there’s this other guy, Christopher Andrew, who I think is would probably be the least known of the four. And you know, in terms of the broader public in terms of his role in all of this, but you guys both make the case that these four really were kind of working together throughout 2016 to gin this thing up. I think as you put it, then something really bad happened: Trump won anyway. This was supposed to stop him. And then once Trump won, now they’re in real trouble. So do they back down? No, they double-down. Right?

Taibbi:
Exactly. Yeah. It’s funny, though a lot of people, when they look at this scandal, imagine that it was this overwhelming, devastating conspiracy that involves, you know, really intense planning and tons of resources. And I don’t really think it played out that way. I think what you have here is a group of people who had an immediate financial interest in producing research. So somebody along the line and this is the part that we don’t really know yet. Somebody got it got it into their heads in 2015 or early 2016 that the Trump campaign had some kind of untoward relationship with the Russians. And at some point, the Democrats got interested in that topic and decided that they wanted to make political hay out of it, at which point they hired Fusion GPS and instructed them essentially to really look into the Russia issue. Fusion GPS, then hires Steele who was a former officer who had been stationed in Russia and had some expertise there, ran this private investigatory firm called Orbis, but he also had a relationship with Dearlove who was at Cambridge, and Dearlove had a relationship with Halper. So the two big wings of the pre-election investigatory effort involves Steele, who is getting paid very significant sums of money to produce research suggesting that Trump had all these relations with the Russians, and then there was Halper, who was also getting paid a lot of money to do the surveillance on Trump figures. And the interesting thing here is the sort of cross-pollination between those two plotlines. One seems to be ending up confirming the other and vice-versa. Carter Page gets invited to Cambridge by Schrage, Halper and Dearlove sees him there and then a week later Carter Page appears in Steele’s reports for the first time. And nobody even knew who this guy was before that. So that’s what’s interesting about this whole thing is that a lot of the stuff that ended up in the news later on really had their roots in just a couple of characters in this British University.

Horton:
We’ll get back to Papadopoulos here in a minute, but we know now, we found out relatively recently that the FBI discounted the Papadopoulos thing right away. I think the IG report said they decided “forget the Papadopoulos, we’re going to go with this Page thing.” So they really hung the FISA warrant applications and all of that on Page and his alleged connections to the Russians. And then this ought to be the biggest scandal of all, it almost always goes unmentioned, is the CIA told the FBI, “this guy belongs to us,” and the FBI blacked that out of their FISA application and pretended to not know that. And then think about this Matt: for three years, all those leaks from all those spooks to all those newspapers and TV stations, and nobody ever leaked that “Page belongs to the agency. He’s a loyal American patriot and when he met with the Russians, he came straight to us and told us everything.” They never leaked that in three years. We only found that out this spring in the IG report, right?

Taibbi:
Yeah, absolutely. That was outrageous on multiple levels. It was outrageous that that nobody mentioned any of the news reporters that Michael Flynn had told his agency about his planned trip to the RT dinner, and seems to have done a little little bit of reporting back to the DIA during that trip. And I think what’s most outrageous is the thing that you mentioned up top, which is that in August of 2016, the FBI concluded — this is literally within weeks after they commenced this investigation — they concluded, the direct quote is, “the evidence didn’t particularly indicate that George Papadopoulos was having any kind of interactions with Russians.” So they were admitting within weeks of starting the investigation that the entire predicate for the investigation was incorrect. And was for that reason that they moved on to Page, and as you say, they suppressed the evidence that might have might have exonerated him, or or prevented the surveillance from from going forward. And there’s some stuff that Schrage has on that too, by the way. But yeah, absolutely. The scandal here is not only that they they did all that stuff, but they kept telling reporters to dig into these questions years after they’d already moved on from them.

Horton:
Right. I mean, that really goes to show how dirty it all was that they were completely over it and continued anyway. You mentioned about how it doesn’t seem like Brennan and Comey and a couple others had a big meeting and said, “Okay, we’re going to frame Trump for treason with Russia,” in this kind of over-the-top way. But the way that the conspiracy developed, essentially was that the FBI counterintelligence division and the CIA were pretending to believe this stuff, right? Like in the case of Papadopoulos , they couldn’t even pretend to believe that anymore. So they threw that out. But I know you’ve mentioned this numerous times. To me the first thing- I didn’t even finish reading the Steele Dossier when it first came out because as soon as I got to the part that said that the Russians offered Carter Page a 19% ownership stake in the Russian state government-owned oil company Rosneft, which would have been worth billions of dollars, on the successful accomplishment of him seizing control of America’s sanctions policy from the Congress and getting all the sanctions on Russia lifted, I thought that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

Taibbi:
(Laughs.)

Horton:
And I’m supposed to believe that Comey read that and was really concerned? And he had his guys go to the FISA court because of this unheard of Benedict Arnold action by this active CIA asset. And I want to be clear, not “officer.” He wasn’t a CIA officer. He was a CIA asset, literally speaking, working for the CIA, as he’s going on his regular trips to Russia to meet with business people, right?

Taibbi:
Yeah. I don’t know what the term technically would be. But yes, he was giving information to them and had been for a couple of years and was in good standing with them. So the whole thing is preposterous. Yeah, the first time I read the Steele Dossier, there were so many red flags in there, that it just read like a really ridiculous piece of fiction. To me, it reminded me a lot of the Graham Green book Our Man in Havana, which is about a vacuum cleaner salesman who becomes a spy and decides to just send pictures of giant vacuum cleaners back to the home office in London, making them think that the Cubans are building one in the jungle. And they buy it, you know, and that’s what happened here. It was a bunch of goons are sort of making up a bunch of stories, but the the irony is that, yes, it turned into a real investigation. They bought it.

Horton:
And they ruined the lives of so many people, like this lady, Svetlana Lokhova.
Have you talked to her? Tell us about that. Because I think this was one of the more harmful aspects of this. It didn’t get too much play in the media, I don’t think, but it did get played in terms of how it affected Mike Flynn in his job, or in the case against him, right?

Taibbi:
Yes. This is a very dark story and I’ve worked on this and haven’t been able to really tell all of it, but the outlines of it are as follows. In February of 2014, Michael Flynn who was then Barack Obama’s the head of the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, he visited Cambridge, and he was at an official dinner, and during that dinner he was sitting at a table where he was surrounded by two of these figures, Christopher Andrew and Richard Dearlove, and then a fourth person was this woman Svetlana Lokhova who was a doctoral candidate under Andrew. And at that dinner she showed Flynn an old postcard written by Stalin that she had uncovered during a trip to Russia to look through the old NKVD-KGB archives, and they had a conversation lasting about 10 minutes. The entire thing was supervised and surrounded by these sort of luminaries of British intelligence. And nobody said anything about it for two years. And then after all this nonsense started in the summer of 2016, suddenly Halper — who was there that night, although he wasn’t at the dinner — Dearlove, and then later also Andrew ended up sounding the alarm and saying that that Flynn had been seduced by a Russian national at that dinner. And this is something I know for a fact, which is that multiple members of the U.S. media were told by American sources that Flynn was actively having an affair with a Russian agent around that time. And if you go back and look you’ll find that at that time there were a series of news stories that started to come out in December 2016. And then in March of 2017, about Flynn’s interaction with this woman. And it all came from this idea that these these goofballs cooked up that Flynn had been seduced in that five or ten minute conversation by a Russian, because it was the only conversation with a Russian that anybody could think that he had, which is crazy.

Horton:
Yeah, and as Schrage says in his piece about this, this woman, as you just mentioned, was Andrew’s student. And he says at that time in 2014, she was a brand new mother and they just drag this woman through the mud saying that she is a spy, a honeypot, working for Vladimir Putin to suborn Mike Flynn and compromise him in all this treason. I guess you said you talked to her. This really destroyed her life to a great degree, right?

Taibbi:
Yeah, absolutely. And it was completely sociopathic on the part of all these people. And I talked to a bunch of the journalists who covered the story…

Horton:
Like who?

Taibbi:
It was all off the record. You can guess by looking at the bylines. There were only five or six major characters who covered this thing. But they all said the same thing. Basically, they were approached by Americans in late 2016. And told, you know, without any hesitation, that Flynn was having an affair with a Russian. This was this was big enough news that American reporters were flown over to London to cover it. And they dug, they tore through this woman’s personal life and they eventually put her name out there. And they never had any kind of real indication that anything had happened.

Horton:
Well, and they didn’t just pick up the phone and call DIA and say “When this guy was your boss, did you guys have any indication that he was sleeping with the enemy?” How about that for a dog that didn’t bark?

Taibbi:
Well and he had passed security clearances multiple times after that, which tells you that whatever these informants thought, they certainly didn’t raise any alarm about it for a significant period of time, for years at least. So the whole thing was was absurd on its face, and I think that a good reporter would have run run screaming in the other direction from the story because there’s just there’s no there there, you know, but they did it anyway. And what was amazing about that is that it led ultimately to the exposure of Halper because he was one of the people who alerted the FBI to this nefarious connection between Flynn and this woman. And his name eventually came out in the newspapers, but they were far more concerned about protecting the identity of Halper than they were about Svetlana Lokhova. So the whole thing was crazy.

Horton:
Yeah. And then, but, you know, it really is just like the Iraq war. You made that comparison in your writing before, where, you know, the case for the war against Iraq was about 10 or 15 points long, and every single one of them was zero.

Taibbi:
(Laughs)

Horton:
But a hawk could keep talking all day about why we have to do it. It’s just at the end of his talk, 15 times zero is still zero. None of it’s true. It’s all lies, but it’s like 15 lies. And so it’s the same kind of thing with this: people talking about, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” But it’s not smoke, it’s steam. It’s hot air. It’s all bs, but there’s so much of it, when people want to believe, there’s enough there for them to believe in. You know, we saw the way people got caught up in this. The entire cult of not the left, but the liberal sort of centrist Democratic Party types in this country, by the 10s of millions got caught up in this thing.

Taibbi:
Yeah, and I think it really speaks to, you know, kind of a problem that we have with the way we do investigative journalism in this country. There’s sort of a loophole that you can drive through with national security stories, which is if somebody from one of the spy agencies or from the FBI calls up and tells you like a shaggy dog story, but says, “Hey, I’m sorry, I got to keep my name out of this,” the newspapers will very frequently just run with that stuff anyway. So the normal fact checking process that we would go through to check all kinds of other things, we just don’t do that with this kind of story, which is one of the reasons the Iraq thing happened. Right. So it looks somebody in the military tells Judith Miller that, “Hey, we know we’ve got something just over the next hill that proves he’s got the WMDs,” but it’s a nameless, faceless source, right? That stuff ends up in the newspapers with amazing frequency. That happened over and over and over again with this Russia story. You know, they just kept driving through that loophole.

Horton:
Yep. And then of course, the other thing is, you have to have two sources. But who’s to say they’re not, you know, coming up with a list together of “here are the journalists we’re going to lie to. I’m going to call him on Tuesday. You call him on Wednesday, and we’ll have it in the paper by Thursday.”

Taibbi:
Right. Yeah, exactly. Or the classic construction of an intelligence source who tells a somebody in a congressional committee that’s like the House or Senate Intel committees. And so the congressional source tells their source to call up the reporter, and then puts the person in touch with the original source, but it’s a game of telephone. It’s not like you’re getting the story independently confirmed by another source. It’s just the same story that ran through two people. And that’s the problem that you have with these kinds of stories is that when the names aren’t made public, you can’t tell whether it’s just one narrative that’s been passed around an office, or whether it’s something that actually multiple people can confirm.

Horton:
Yeah. And we actually had the argument ad-absurdum on this sort of thing just recently with the story about the Russians paying for American scalps in Afghanistan, where the next day after the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post put out this story, on Twitter all the reporters were telling each other “my story is confirmed by his story, which is confirmed by the other story.” And yet all they say is “anonymous sources tell us.” They have no evidence and no compelling narrative whatsoever. In fact, over the next couple of weeks, as they tried to create a compelling narrative, it all completely fell apart. And no one was willing to stand by the story and so it was all dead. But Charlie Savage really thought that when Warren Strobel wrote the same thing, that “See, I’m right.” And he didn’t even know how foolish he sounded. And I pick on Charlie Savage because I used to respect him a little bit.

Taibbi:
Yeah. Actually, I often thought that he was one of the better reporters that the Times had. But you know, this is an example. That story is a prime example of how this stuff works. Who among the American press corps, is going to be able to confirm that some warlord in Afghanistan got a bag of money to go assassinate Americans? That’s an unconfirmable story. The only way we’re going to ever get to that story is, is by the Americans who actually came up with it. And it could be the same anonymous source talking to five different newspapers. So they’re not confirming each other. They’re just confirming that they heard a story.

Horton:
Yep. And in fact, one more I’m sorry, It just came to mind and is so important, I think. Although I’m not sure how much of an impact it made, but last Saturday, the New York Times in the weekend magazine ran a 10,000 word hit piece on Donald Trump, essentially by the CIA. And I gotta tell you that I bet you a third or two thirds of it is true about how completely stupid Trump is. You can’t even talk to him in pictures anymore. And all he wants to talk about is his inauguration crowd size again, and this kind of garbage. I more or less believe it. But at the same time, what the hell is going on here? Another giant hit piece with what, 15 different CIA people went and talked to this reporter for this gigantic weekend magazine expose on Trump. And all it is is CIA guys complaining about the president. Who the hell do they think they are, these people? You know?

Taibbi:
And Bernie Sanders.

Horton:
Yeah, of course.

Taibbi:
That story, right? They talked about the NIE. Yeah, and I think what bothers me is somebody who kind of grew up in this business is that there was a time period where the normal attitude of somebody who worked in the news media was to be at best distrustful of people who work for the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, to a lesser extent. It was less of a thing back then. But now it’s like these people are the biggest stars in the world, and whatever they say is like gospel. And it’s not only that they get to say whatever they want in these newspapers, basically without any pushback, that, you know, they leave these agencies and immediately get million dollar positions on television and cable news. It’s like, you know, there’s just no skepticism that’s built into the media system about about information that comes from these folks anymore. And that’s that’s really depressing.

Horton:
Yeah, well, and you can see why people believe Earth is flat, or God knows what, because the same people who told them the Earth is round are the same people who lie to them about everything. And so they don’t know where to draw the line. They don’t understand. They know that it’s not the way TV and the newspapers say. So maybe it is this Q-Anon thing. Or maybe it is Vladimir Putin. Or maybe it’s some off-the-wall explanation because whatever it is, the common narrative delivered to us daily doesn’t make sense. You know? It doesn’t hold up, and so if these are the people we have to rely on, you know, people turn their back, but then which way do they go? Next thing you know they’re having a protest burning masks, or whatever it is because they’re caught up in who knows what.

Taibbi:
Yeah. And I think you brought up a good example there with the press attitude towards the Covid coverage. We went through these amazing stages right where they they first they were they were furiously angry at anybody who went outside to protest the lockdowns. Then during the Black Lives Matter protests, these the exact same sources, the exact same op ed writers simply said that it was more important to protest than it was to worry about the pandemic. And then they went back to the first thing a few weeks after that. So what’s the ordinary news consumer supposed to think watching all this? “Should I say inside? Or if I think it’s really important, can I go outside? I have no idea.” And I think people in this business underestimate the impact of those kinds of inconsistencies.

Horton:
Well, and you know, I’m sorry, because I hate the media so much, and you’re so good at talking about that. But I wanted to touch on a couple of more details here real quick if it’s okay. The recent revelations just in the last few weeks about declassified testimony from the House and Senate hearings on this stuff, where we found out finally who Christopher Steele’s sources were after being told they were high-level Russian government employees and people who work for powerful oligarchs and all this stuff this whole time. It turns out that what now? Where did he get this stuff?

Taibbi:
From a Washington-based analysts from the Brookings Institution named Igor Danchenko, who didn’t live in-country. He did travel to Russia for the story, but in an affidavit the FBI released where they interview him, he says he didn’t have any contact with any senior intelligence or any intelligence officials, that part of his M.O. was to drink heavily with the sub-sources that he talked openly about his sub-sources trying to monetize their relationship with him. It’s absurd that anybody ever took any of this stuff seriously. And if you read the FBI’s interview with this guy, you realize he was just kind of selling wolf whistles the whole time. He was openly going around telling people they can make money by giving him information. And they guessed what he wanted and gave him some information, but it’s not reliable.

Horton:
Can you refresh my memory on when it was the FBI had created… It must have been right away, or early in the investigation, when they got the Steel Dossier in the summer of 2016, they created this big spreadsheet where they crossed everything off the list as possibly being reliable information, or found that anything in there that was true, had been published in the Washington Post two days before and so we know that that was where they got it, the little kernels of truth here and there. Because that was even before they had gone to the FISA court, or at least back the second time or something, right?

Taibbi:
I’m not sure exactly when they did that process. I know that in the IG report, the Horowitz report, they talked about doing an analysis of how much of the original reporting in the Steele reports can be trusted, and the conclusion they essentially came to is that the true stuff in here has already been publicly reported. So (laughs) I don’t think they found anything original that turned out to be right in the report.

Horton:
Now, so the part about this that is to me the most interesting is the very few sporadic reports… And somewhere in the back of my head, I think you had mentioned in this, in some of your “Untitled-gate” reporting, that some of these contacts with the informants and the Trump people went back even to 2015. I can’t remember if that involved Halper or Papadopoulos. But also I don’t know the role of the Misfud and who originally put Misfud on the case of Papadopoulos. I guess the most I know about the Papadopoulos thing is from Michael Tracy’s interview with him where he talks about how he went and got this job and how immediately they were trying to set him up and figure out a way to put pro-Russian words in his mouth or some kind of thing. But who exactly was Misfud? And what was his role in this? And beginning when? I guess are to me the biggest questions. And same for Halper. What was the very first time that they started this put-on?

Taibbi: We don’t really know. My theory about how this began early-on was was based on some things that I heard a couple of years ago that I haven’t been able to really suss out since. We know for sure that by late July of 2016, that people were actively trying to approach both Papadopoulos and Page. Schrage’s account, you know, this is the guy that I’m talking to now, in his telling basically, they don’t start getting interested in Page until the second week of July 2016. And that’s basically when Dearlove runs into Page at this conference at Cambridge. And suddenly it seems like everybody’s interested in Page and any other Trump contacts. But the question of Misfud is really still one of the outstanding mysteries of this whole thing. Like where is this guy? Who is he? It’s pretty clear that the even the FBI didn’t believe that he was actually a Russian agent. He was in the U.S. briefly. I believe it was January of 2017 and released, interviewed and let go. So he couldn’t possibly have ever really been a suspected Russian spy. And yet they constructed the entire investigation based on the idea that he was one. So the whole thing doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it seems like it was much ado about nothing from the start.

Horton:
And, you know, this is not concrete. But I think the timeline is pretty indicative of a set-up here where Assange announced on I think June 14, that “Yeah, we’ve got some Hillary emails coming out here soon,” this kind of thing. And that gave the CIA three days heads up to come up with this Guccifer crap to try to sort of insinuate, you know, Russian, I guess, Cyrillic letters as part of it from from Guccifer’s thing. Wikileaks never published that stuff, but it’s sort of like with the Flynn accusations with this woman. “Well, it could be true… Men and women do have sex sometimes,” or something. So yes, it could be true that these emails all come from the same source, it sort of seems that way. And then that was right around the same time, the beginning of summer 2016. Seems like they decided “Whatever we can do to bring up the word Russia in the context of Trump, we’re going to try to do that, and blame them for the sabotage of Hillary Clinton.”

Taibbi: Yeah. The other time was really interesting. I have to admit that that’s part of the story that I haven’t looked at a whole lot. To be honest, the reason I haven’t is because my technical chops are not so hot in terms of being able to assess who is and who could have and who maybe didn’t try to hack the DNC, but certainly the all the release testimony that came out, suggests they had, they never had anything like a concrete indication that there was any kind of relationship between the Russians, this hack, Guccifer and Julian Assange. They never concretely established any of that. It was all a series of pretty thin assumptions. Obviously, the other amazing thing about that is that they never interviewed Assange about it, which tells you that they weren’t interested in the answer or, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know what that means.

Horton:
Yeah, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the language in the Muller report where some lawyer somewhere said “No, we have to go ahead and admit that we have nothing here.” And so they say they believe the Russians did the hack, but they don’t demonstrate that. And then they admit they can’t demonstrate a chain of custody to WikiLeaks. You know, after three years of “the Russians gave it to WikiLeaks,” Robert Mueller admitted that he had no causal chain, sorry.

Taibbi:
Yeah, there’s just mountains of testimony and investigation of the question of you know, whether or not there was foreknowledge or whether or not there was a relationship there, but they’ve never actually come up with anything that proves any of that story. And also, that was all going on independently of these of these other two prongs of the story with Steele and the spying. Like, I don’t know, to what degree that they might have been connected. But, you know, either way, it was all seemingly pretty absurd.

Horton: Yeah. You know, the whole thing about the Logan Act, we’re now and this is where Joe Biden comes in, is that Biden apparently was the one who brought up “Hey, maybe we can use the Logan Act as an excuse against Flynn here.” And Sally Yates at DOJ also said, “Oh, yeah, when I read the transcripts of the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak, and then I knew what he had said to the FBI, I thought ‘Oh, no! Now the Russians have compromised him because he’s breaking the Logan Act and lying about it, and so now they’ll have this over him.'” Even though the Logan Act might as well not even exist at all. And in this context, we’re not talking about a businessman from Houston making a separate deal with the UAE or something like that. We’re talking about the designated incoming national security adviser of the president elect of the United States, not in the summer, we’re talking about after the election, after the Electoral College has voted. This guy is the designated national security adviser. I mean, they might as well bring up child abuse or whatever. They’re just pretending to have a legal pretext at that point, right?

Taibbi: Yeah, especially in the context of all the other stuff that was going on with that investigation. The fact that they investigated Flynn for all these other things. They have this whole absurd Crossfire Razor sub-investigation that had come up dry. They were recommending, the people on that case were recommending that they give it up. And, you know, some folks didn’t want to, and they decided to hold on to the idea of of dirtying Flynn through this preposterous interpretation of this call to Kislyak. And the crime here, the idea that the Logan Act was violated is far less serious crime than the actual one, leaking the telephonic communication which is a felony, and that definitely happened. And you’re absolutely right that the Logan Act, even if it was something that we were ever going to prosecute, and we never have, it was not intended to cover the incoming national security adviser who was weeks away from taking power and essentially was telling the Russian ambassador, “Hey, you know, don’t overreact. Chill out.”
Like, that’s really what happened. So the whole thing was absurd.

Horton: Yeah, I mean, that is such an important point too. What was the secret big deal communication here is he was saying, “Don’t overreact in a tit for tat over Obama’s new sanctions, because after all, he’s on his way out. And we want to strike a better note.” And, you know, this goes back to what you’re saying about Flynn at DIA. This was a three star general, who was the head of the DIA and had this whole, you know, years-long liaison relationship with the Russian military. Not that he was a traitor supported by them. He was an American three star General, who had a pretty good relationship with some powerful people in the Russian military, which is the kind of thing that all other things being equal, and no Russiagate hoax involved, is the kind of thing that all Americans ought to celebrate. And think of it, probably the best thing about this kook, Mike Flynn, who after all, is sort of a Michael Ledeen co-author, Iran hawk, nutball, who said a couple good things about Syria one time. He said a couple of good things about Russia, but is otherwise a pretty dangerous character. And yet, he gets along with the Russian military. That ought to be a bright spot in the mind of all 7 billion people in the world. Isn’t that what we want, for America and Russia to get along, no matter what?

Taibbi: Absolutely, and I think a lot of the genesis of the Democratic Party frustration and the Obama administration frustration with Flynn was that he had had an open disagreement with that administration about some pretty serious strategic questions that among other things involved the Russians. Flynn was the subject of some reporting by Sy Hersh. And essentially was going public with this idea that the Obama administration was making a mistake by trying to make allies of so called moderates in Syria, who was saying we’re not really moderates, they were more like al Qaeda, and that the preferable way to go was to team up with the Russians to to combat those kinds of extremists. And, you know, there was disagreement about that. But I could understand both the arguments for both sides of that. But the notion that he was doing something that was treasonous is crazy. It was a strategic idea that he had that you could agree with or disagree with it, but it’s certainly not outside the pale of normal behavior.

Horton: And Susan Rice pretended — again going along with this narrative that it must be treason. She said that she had a conversation with Flynn, where he should’ve just humored her. What an idiot this guy. But instead he decided to get in an argument with her about how, “Nah, Russia’s fine. Russia’s no big deal. It’s China that we’ve got to worry about.” And then Rice said, “When I heard that I thought, ‘Oh no, it must be true. He really is a traitor under the control of some foreign power, because how could any American think that?'” Actually, a lot of people think that. I’m not one of them. But that’s a point of view. In fact, Trump said, “I went and talked with Henry Kissinger. And I said, ‘Henry, I think we ought to get along with Russia because the real enemy is China.’ And Henry Kissinger told me ‘You’re right, Trump go with that.'” So he’s supposed to be the longest gray beard of all. This is a strategic question: Which side of the Sino-Russian split are you on? We’re all Richard Nixon playing Risk here. Only when Trump and Flynn do it, it’s high treason.

Taibbi: Yeah, it’s amazing. I think some of that comes from Americans not having a real clue about what Russia is, you know, Russia is a geographically massive country with a pretty big military. But economically, it’s like somewhere between Italy and South Korea. It’s not a major power, it’s got very, very serious internal problems. It’s nowhere near the level of geopolitical rival that the Chinese are. Now you could say that they have a terrible government. And you could say that Putin is not a good leader. And I certainly have been very critical of him in the past. But I wouldn’t put Russia in the same category as, say, China in terms of the size of the rivalry there.

Horton: I know you lived there for many years and that kind of thing. For most of us, Russia is a place in our imagination. We don’t really know anything about it. And on one hand our government, say John McCain for example, who said “Oh, come on, Russia is a gas station with a border. It’s not even a country at all.” Obama ridiculed them and said, “Russia is a regional power at best.” But then they turn around and say, “Actually Russia’s intelligence agencies are responsible for the election results of every country everywhere in a world where we don’t like how they turn out. And they’re about to take over and conquer all of Eastern Europe again, like back in the bad old days.”

Taibbi: Right. I mean, in 2012, Obama was essentially saying the Russia “is the gnat on the bottom of an elephant,” which I thought was a pretty good description, having lived there. The old description of the Soviet Union, that I think Henry Kissinger said, was that “Russia is Upper Volta with rockets.” You know, it’s a country with a big military, it’s powerful in that sense. It certainly exerts a lot of influence on the countries that are on its borders, but internationally, it’s just not this chaotic juggernaut that they’re making it out to be in the press. And it doesn’t have anywhere near the economic power of China.

Horton: Alright, so then one last thing here is about the effect of this have on Trump. Say, for example, if they had never cooked up this Russiagate thing in the first place. And the President had been free to pursue this Russia policy in the same way that any other president would have been. I mean, for that matter, Reagan negotiated with Gorbachev, when he was the, you know, Supreme Leader of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party, and all of these things. And so, nevermind the opportunity costs of just what could have been in terms of progress, but just think of how backwards everything is going. You know, I interviewed Branco Marcetic from Jacobin magazine last week about all the anti-Russia positions that Trump has taken over and over again, and to a great degree, even in his own words, to protect himself from these attacks. “They keep accusing me of being soft on Russia. Well I’m not soft on Russia. I’ve done this, this and this.” Including he’s pulling troops out of Germany, but he’s moving them to Poland, which is even worse. And, you know, I’m sure you’ve got something to say about what might have been here if we, if our government was not caught up in this crazy narrative that they themselves have generated about Russia here.

Taibbi: Yeah. You know, I was not a fan of Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for him. I don’t think I’ll be voting for him again, but the the degree to which all of this handicapped his presidency and all the things that happened, particularly during the transition period, when there are all these leaks, was about Flynn or about the pee tape, or handing Trump the Steele report. He entered the presidency basically from day one facing a DEFCON 5 emergency. And you know, I would argue that this is a person who, under the best circumstances would have had a difficult time doing a great job because he probably, you know, he doesn’t have the experience and it would have been a rough ride anyway. But with this going on, I think it was inexcusable. What the press and all these these creatures in the intelligence services did to handicap the presidency — I get not liking Donald Trump, but this is also the country you know, that suffered when all this took up all of our time for three years. You know, it was was really ridiculous. And so yeah, you’re right on that.

Horton: There’s got to be some kind of accountability. I can’t imagine someone publishing Jane Mayer again, for example, or David Corn. We’re going to continue to use people who, you know went so far out on the limb with this garbage? — and boy there’s exhaustive list of them. I guess I should say exhausting.

Taibbi: There’s a long history of failing upward in the journalism business, right? Like the people who were the most wrong on Iraq tended to get promoted upward. I mean, look at who’s editing The Atlantic magazine right now. You know, people like Jonathan Chait and the editorial page editor of the Washington Post who got so much wrong. I mean, basically Judy Miller was the only one who paid. Everybody else kind of got away with it. And that’s another thing. We talked about this earlier, that’s the thing: that the public sees the stuff. You know, people in journalism think that the audiences aren’t paying attention, but they do pay attention. When we screw things up there has to be some kind of reckoning, or else we lose our credibility.

Horton:
Although, you know, what you talk about in your book, about all the different “silos” of information, you can see that there are huge swathes of the liberal side who still believe in this stuff because they were never made to confront the failure of the story when it all came out. They kind of had a narrative that “well, Bob Muller gave an old man rambling testimony to the Senate,” but they didn’t break down here’s what the report actually said about all that stuff that we said. They just let it go. And so you see on Twitter, of course, but really everywhere you see Democrats still believe that, in the words of recent rando I saw that, “Vladimir Putin sure got his money’s worth with Trump.” As Nancy Pelosi said, just in the recent Afghanistan scalp story, that “all roads lead back to Putin.” She said the same thing during the impeachment. They really still believe this stuff.

Taibbi: I know. You know, there was a woman who recently resigned from MSNBC, Ariana Pekary, and she wrote a note publicly saying part of the reason she she quit is because she had come to the conclusion or she quoted one of her co-workers basically saying that, “we’re not in the business of informing, we’re in the business of comforting our audiences.” So, you know, they believe the Russia thing, and there’s news that comes out that contradicts it, they just don’t put it out there because they know it’s going to upset their audiences. So they just allow them to kind of wallow in their ignorance, which is, I think a disservice.

Horton: Alright, well, listen. Thank you so much for coming back on the show, Matt. It’s always great talking to you and reading your great journalism.

Taibbi: Thanks Scott.

Horton: The book is Hate Inc., and you’ve got to subscribe at Substack — which, by the way, can I ask you a favor? Is there a way that I can get you to turn off the paywall on “Our Man in Cambridge,” for a couple of days so we can link to it at Antiwar.com?

Taibbi: (Laughs.) I’ll try, yeah. I’ll ask the Substack guys to do that.

Horton: We ran “The Spies Who Hijacked America” by Steven Schrage there as our Spotlight the other day and I’d like to Spotlight “Our Man in Cambridge” as well.

Taibbi: Okay.

Horton: But you gotta subscribe. He’s independent from Rolling Stone, now at Substack.com. And of course you can follow him on Twitter and all those great things. And again, his show is called Useful Idiots with Katie Halper. And thank you again. Appreciate it.

Taibbi: Alright, thanks. Take care.

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of the 2019 book, The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003.

Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.

Televised Brutality: Cops Raid Man’s Home For Benefit of TV Cameras

Televised Brutality: Cops Raid Man’s Home For Benefit of TV Cameras

The controversial reality TV show “Live PD” was recently taken off the air, as the country is beginning to rethink its relationship with police, and how they are being portrayed in the media. Just like the show’s predecessor “COPS,” Live PD has been accused of crossing ethical boundaries in order to get their footage.

In one case, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office in Texas is being accused of intentionally passing up an opportunity to arrest their suspect, Asher Watsky, while he was in court, just so they could raid his home for the television cameras a few hours later. The court appearance and raid happened in May of 2019, but is just now getting new attention after the cancellation of the show.

“The second I saw the cameras, I’m aware of the Live PD program, I figured out right then, I had a feeling what was going on,” Asher said.

Gary Watsky, one of the occupants of the home, says that the SWAT raid was “all for show.”

“It was all for TV,” he said.

Watsky was wanted on a warrant relating to an assault charge that he faced from a fight that he got into with his roommate. He was fulfilling all of his court requirements for the initial charge, but for some reason, the police filed an additional charge against him, but didn’t activate it until after he appeared in court.

Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick was among many people involved with the case who felt that Watsky could have been arrested peacefully when he was in court less than four hours before the raid.

According to KVUE, Dick said that officials with the sheriff’s office admitted that they removed Watsky’s warrant from the record system so no one in the court would see it that day and try to arrest him.

They reportedly claimed that a SWAT raid on his home would be safer than arresting him after he passed through security in a courthouse. Dick has also identified at least five other cases where the Williamson County sheriff’s office used excessive force while cameras were rolling for Live PD.

Three former officers with the department have said that it was common for supervisors to push for arrests to happen during Live PD recordings, instead of off-camera where more peaceful interactions might be possible. One former officer, Gil Unger, complained to his supervisors but says that no one listened to him.

Law enforcement officials and legal experts insist that the tactics used in the Watsky raid are highly unusual.

National law enforcement consultant Jeff Noble said that this raid may not have been necessary, and he fears, “That this was staged for the value of live television.”

“That is not the type of situation to take lightly but, at the same time, it is not the type of situation I would expect a SWAT team to enter a home to make an arrest,” Noble said.

Both Live PD and Cops were taken off the air earlier this year in response to the growing protests against police brutality—when they encourage cops to do things like this, only good can come from it.

In June, TFTP reported on a similar instance with a much more tragic ending. Javier Ambler, a 40-year-old postal worker, was on his way home from a friendly poker game when he allegedly made the mistake of failing to turn off his brights when passing another vehicle.

Ambler’s last moments alive were captured on police body camera footage as well as footage from the crew from A&E’s reality show “Live PD.” He never resisted, posed a threat to cops, or attempted to attack them, yet he was thrown to the ground, repeatedly tasered, and the air squeezed from his body until he fell unconscious and died.

John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Twitter.John just won a 3-year-long battle with cancer, and will be working to help others through his experience, if you wish to contribute to his treatments consider subscribing to his podcast to support. This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

Hey Feds: Hands Off Our Cities

Hey Feds: Hands Off Our Cities

The violence and the utter disregard for basic human rights displayed by the Left in recent years—combined with its support for war crimes when a Democrat is president—have made me inclined to play nice with conservatives these days. At least conservatives aren’t planning to torch my neighborhood any time soon, and at the moment they’re no worse than the Left on foreign policy.

On the other hand, sometimes even the relatively less bad guys (for now) come to some very dangerous conclusions.

Specifically, some authors at conservative publications are now demanding that the president send in federal agents and troops to make arrests and intervene in local law enforcement to pacify rioters in Portland and other American cities. These pundits are claiming that since local officials allegedly aren’t responding with sufficient alacrity to rioters, it’s time to send in federal troops.

It is questionable that the president has the legal authority to do this. But even if he does have this power—legally speaking—basic commonsense principles of subsidiarity and decentralization inveigh against federal intervention. In other words, a basic respect for the principles behind the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence ought to cause one to reject the notion that it’s a good idea to send in federal troops to “solve” the crime problems experienced in American cities.

Here’s one example: in an article titled “It’s Time to Crush the New Rebellion against Constitution” at Real Clear Politics, author Frank Miele claims “the president is designated as the commander in chief” and therefore “shall be expected to act during a crisis of ‘rebellion or invasion’ to restore public safety.”

Miele addresses two legal questions. The first is whether or not federal troops or agents can act independently when protecting federal property—such as a federal courthouse. The second question is whether or not federal troops can intervene even when no federal property is under threat.

Arguably, in the former case federal agents would be well within their prerogatives to protect federal property as a security guard might do. This, however, does not necessarily empower them to make arrests or assault citizens outside the federal property itself, on the streets of a city well outside the federal compound. The so-called constitutional sheriffs movement—which the Left hates—has it right on this. Local law enforcement ought to be the final authority when it comes to making arrests.

Clearly, however, Miele will not brook such limitations, and he supports the idea that federal troops can intervene “where no federal property is involved.”

And what are the limitations on this federal power? Basically, there are none, in Miele’s view. So long as we define our adversaries as people fomenting a “rebellion” nothing is off the table. Not surprisingly, Miele strikes a worshipful pose toward Abraham Lincoln’s scorched-earth campaign against the Southern states of the US in the 1860s. Those people were “rebels,” you see, so the president was right to “tak[e] bold action” even if it meant “skirting the Constitution.” Because “there was never any doubt where [Lincoln’s] allegiance lay,” it was perfectly fine when he abolished the basic legal rights of Americans, such as the right of habeas corpus.

The use of the word “rebellion” is central to understanding the profederal position here. Authors like Miele (and Andrew McCarthy at National Review) have routinely used words like “insurrection” or “rebellion” in order to support their claim the current unrest requires a Lincoln-like response, including a Lincolnesque abolition of half the Bill of Rights.

The Moral Case for Local Control, Made by American Revolutionaries

As a legal matter, of course, I have no doubt that federal judges and supporters of federal meddling could find a way to slice and dice the Constitution so as to make it say whatever they want. As a moral and historical question, however, it is clear that sending in federal troops without an invitation from local leaders is blatantly contrary to the provisions of the Declaration of Independence and is contrary to the Tenth Amendment.

As I explained here, the Declaration lists that the misuse of the executive’s (i.e., the king’s) troops was a reason for the American rebellion of 1776. These troops must receive the permission of local lawmakers:

The American revolutionaries and those who ratified the US constitution…thought they were creating a political system in which the bulk of land-based military power would rest in the hands of the state governments. Standing armies were to be strenuously opposed, and the Declaration of Independence specifically condemned the king’s use of military deployments to enforce English law in the colonies and “to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.” These principles go back at least as far as the English Civil War (1642–51), when opposition to standing armies became widespread.

Thus, any attempt to send in British troops without the approval of the colonial legislatures was an abuse. This same principle was later applied to the state legislatures in relation to federal power.

Sending in federal troops to override local officials is in direct opposition to the moral underpinnings of the American Revolution. But this doesn’t stop Miele, who then insists that Article IV of the Constitution authorizes federal invasions because the text says “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.” According to Miele, the “republican form of government” here “means government of the people, by the people and for the people—not the mob.”

This definition of a republic is something Miele apparently just made up. This is hardly a standard definition of “republic,” especially in the eighteenth century—the context most relevant for our purposes here. In those days, “republic” mostly meant “not a monarchy” and something like a decentralized state ruled by a commercial elite.

The idea that the president can send in troops anywhere whenever we decide that a local government is not guaranteeing a “republic”—based on whatever idiosyncratic definition of “republic” we might choose—is dangerous indeed.

In another example, we find authors Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing insisting that “Because state and local Democrat officials refuse to restore order, the federal government must…Enough is enough. Those responsible for this new wave of insurrection must face the full force of federal law. ”

Note the language about “insurrection”—as if a minuscule clash between some left-wing and right-wing demonstrators in Denver—an example the authors use to justify their position—requires a federal invasion.

Specifically, DiGenova and Toesing want federalism thrown out the window, because Michelle Malkin’s supporters were “battered” by baton-wielding thugs before she could deliever a speech in Dener. Presumably governments are expected to intervene to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

But which government shall do that? It’s a safe bet that the authors of the Declaration of Independence would say that a scuffle in Denver clearly lies within the authority of the government in Colorado. After all, the American patriots fought a war—and many died in it—to ensure local control outside the hands of a powerful executive in command of a standing army thousands of miles away.

It is indeed true that the rights of those who wished to see Malkin speak were violated. But here’s the thing: the rights of Americans are violated every single day in every city of America. Murders, rapes, thefts, and even gang warfare are not unheard of across this nation, year in and year out. Moreover, the data is clear that police agencies are really quite bad at bringing these criminals to justice.

So, should we call in the feds to solve these problems? There were more than fifty homicides just in the city of Denver last year. There were many more assaults and attempted murders. Doesn’t this level of bloodshed constitute a sort of “insurrection” against the decent people of the city? Certainly if we’re going to be free and loose with terms like these, as is now apparently the MO of advocates for federal intervention, our conclusion could easily be yes. We might conclude the local police are unwilling to do what it takes to “establish order” and do something about these terrorists and thugs. Will sending in the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security solve this problem?

Fortunately, cooler heads have somehow prevailed, and “sending in the feds” is not a run-of-the-mill policy option. This makes even more sense when we remember that there is zero reason to assume federal cops are better at bringing peace to a city than the state or local officials. These feds are the same people and organizations that have been running a failed and disastrous war on drugs for decades. These are the people who daily spy on law-abiding Americans, in blatant violation of the Bill of Rights. These are the people who were blindsided by 9/11 in spite of decades of receiving fat paychecks to “keep us safe.” These are the people (i.e., especially the FBI) who have conspired against Americans in order to unseat a democratically elected president.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard and the myth prevails on both the left and the right that if we’re not getting the result we want from politicians, then the answer lies in calling in other politicians from somewhere else to “solve” the problem. But just as it would be contrary to basic notions of self-government and self-determination to call in the UN or the Chinese government to “protect rights” in the United States, the same is true of calling in federal bureaucrats to “fix” the shortcomings and incompetence of state and local bureaucrats. The American revolutionaries created a decentralized, locally controlled polity for a reason. Abolishing federalism to achieve short-term political ends is a reckless way to go.

A Lost Year – Where Do You Go From Here?

A Lost Year – Where Do You Go From Here?

The point of no return may have been reached. The effects of the government-mandated shutdowns due to Covid-19 on businesses—especially small businesses—may not be known for months, even decades, but anyone who is paying attention is beginning to realize we are somewhere new. A place no one could’ve predicted at the beginning of 2020 when onlookers were just anticipating an ugly election year. They got more, much more.  

Leaving aside an economy that is at best questionable: the culture, interactions amongst family members and strangers, have been negatively affected in an already insane age where one’s character is judged by whether they believe Donald Trump is “literally Hitler,” an amusing deviation, or the Messiah who has come to deliver us from the Left.” This cultural phenomenon was already in full swing before the war between the “masked” and “unmasked,” or those who believed CV-19 will “have people dying in hospital parking lots,” and those who look upon it as just a “spicy cold” started. 

As if all of this wasn’t enough, in May a video was released of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee forced onto the neck of a prone George Floyd who died during the 8 minute and 46 second assault. Protests, rioting and looting immediately sprung up in Minneapolis which spread all over the country and continue to the day this is being written. Calls for various sorts of police reform have largely gone ignored by those with the power of change. 

Some students of history may look at the past several months and see a government that is out of control. A few may see one that is at the top of their game, especially at the state and local level. Others might see a dying wild animal, losing power and lashing out; a sort of death throes. No matter how it is being interpreted by the onlooker, something big has to happen next. Solutions have to be presented.  

Shortages of certain items have already occurred but they are finding their way back onto shelves. But what if another lockdown is ordered? Production precedes demand and if production is further hindered, those shortages that were warned of could become a reality.  

It would not be unfair to ask if civility is dead. If people are willing to threaten each other’s livelihoods and, in many cases, yell at strangers in public for everything from politics to how to handle the CV-19 crisis, how does one cope? 

If there are dangerous, violent mobs in the streets, how is one to feel safe? If those mobs include the police, is there any reason to be optimistic about the future? 

Counter-Economics and Networking 

Samuel Edward Konkin III developed the idea of agorism. Many people now call themselves “Agorists” but agorism is something you do. The idea of counter-economics, doing business outside of the government approved market is nothing new. Sam was just the first to give it a name and develop it as a strategy. 

Sam’s vision was that if enough people can start to operate outside of the “white market,” interactions where taxes aren’t collected and delivered to the overlords, eventually the State could be starved, and subsequently toppled and replaced by a truly free market. As economist Per Bylund once put it, “agorism in action creates its own institutions and builds the institutions of a free society within the shell of the old. When people start offering services, they create markets and prices. When they have conflicts, they find means to arbitration and protection. That’s what’s so beautiful with counter-economics: by withdrawing your support (stop feeding the beast) and start acting economically in freedom, you bring about the market institutions we will need (and must rely on) when the state fails.” 

In the age of forced government lockdowns and potential shortages of bare necessities, the “black” and “gray” markets may become essential for survival. Constantly communicating with your local stores is a good idea. If a store owner feels like a shortage is coming, they may hold back supply for themselves so starting a relationship with them in which they may allow you to buy some of that supply for yourself is smart. For those who can access private farms the same kind of friendship would be prudent for in the experience of this author farmers are more apt to participate in such activities. 

Preparation is key and can in many cases save you in a time of hardship. 

Counter-Economics and Income 

At this point it is no longer just people who are “extremely-online” who are familiar with the putrid phrase “cancel culture.” A few short years (months?) ago it presented itself mostly in the online arena where someone who was making their living in the media or arts said or wrote something that a certain group found so offensive that they made it their goal to get that person fired and to make sure they were not re-hirable anywhere in their industry. A popular example is former Google engineer James Damore who wrote an internal memo where one of the things he suggested was ways tech could appeal to a more diverse demographic, especially women. More recently numerous employees of Cisco were fired for posting “All Lives Matter” on internal message boards. 

At a time when even private companies are bending the knee to the mob and destroying people’s livelihoods for having an opinion contrary to an incredibly small minority, it has never been more important to start a side-hustle outside of your day job. Quality 3D-printers can be had for under $300. There are free files all over the web that allow you to make wallets, statues and trinkets that can be sold on eBay, Poshmark, Etsy and other sites that will allow you to bring in tax-free income. People who live in apartments can grow potatoes in 55-gallon drums on their porch and sell them to friends or at the local farmer’s market. Again, untaxed income.  

Whatever you come up with just start doing it. Get moving. Protect yourself and your family in these extremely uncertain times. 

Counter-Economics and Safety 

Contrary to popular opinion the police are not there to protect you. If you are in the process of suffering a home invasion and the closest officer is five minutes away, that can be the longest five minutes of your life. Or it could be the end for you. The protests that have turned into riots and lootings clearly show the police are not only not willing to protect private citizens but, in many cases, they are abandoning their own precincts and allowing the mob to take them over.  

If you own firearms get training. In the experience of this author, most firearm instructors work counter-economically. Meaning, they will accept cash in exchange for their services. Many will even teach you how to buy a weapon privately and off the books (no taxes collected) if that is legal in your area. 3D-printers must be mentioned along with CNC machines as they will allow you to manufacture a quality weapon in the privacy of your own home. 

That there are still people out there who have experienced the last four months and are relying on the government for necessities, security and safety is a testament to how well the State has convinced us that they are mommy and daddy. The time for begging for scraps and calling for them to act is over. If we are to survive this chaotic epoch, it is incumbent upon the individual to act, that he or she takes matters into their own hands and becomes as independent from the system as they can. Many lives have already been lost or irreparably damaged due to either the action, or inaction of the State. Make a decision to cast them aside and live free. Death is on the table. 

Want Less Police Brutality? Write Less Laws

Want Less Police Brutality? Write Less Laws

One of the most perplexing displays of cognitive dissonance this year is the strong support for a large state can be found within the various protest movements that are targeting the issue of law enforcement misconduct. Logically, groups opposing police misconduct should also be strong supporters of the libertarian ideology. However, this does not appear to be the case. This movement, oddly enough, has quite a bit of overlap with support for gun control, the welfare state, and more regulation. The central organization, Black Lives Matter, is a fully Marxist entity.

Socialism, Marxism, communism, and other ideologies revolve around the strong or total domination of the state in everyday life. The state, as defined by Murray Rothbard in Anatomy of the State, is an “organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area.” The way the state maintains authority within its jurisdiction is with the application of laws.

The Nature of a Law

A law is defined as “a rule of conduct or action prescribed…or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.” It is a set of rules that either obligate or forbid action with a penalty for failure to comply. While it may sound good to have a set of rules that individuals must adhere to and penalties to incentivize compliance, the nature of those penalties is where we run into issues.

While laws may have formally designated penalties for noncompliance, those penalties can be best viewed as a minimum sentence. The maximum penalty for failure to comply with any given law is execution of the perpetrator. While this sounds like hyperbole, it’s important to understand why this is the case and how law enforcement must resort to this.

Take a case of counterfeit money. The sentencing guidelines for counterfeiting money are a sixteen-month minimum and in some states a fine with a maximum prison sentence of twenty years. However, what if the accused refuses to show up in court? The court could then find the perpetrator guilty in absentia and apply the sentence and fine. Should the person refuse to part with their resources or report to prison, the court would then order an enforcement agent to collect the accused. This is also what could happen should the accused refuse to show up for court itself. And should the accused resist this arrest? This is where grievous bodily harm up to and including death can occur.

If you think this is hyperbole, this is exactly the situation that led to the death of George Floyd; a twenty-dollar counterfeit bill and refusal to be taken into law enforcement custody.

The reason state agents resort to killing an accused for refusal to comply is that, despite the verbal claims to the contrary by the state itself, there is no other way to ensure compliance with laws. If the general public knows that the worst the state will ever do is send easily ignored bills in the mail for fines, then laws would never be followed and the state would collapse. Because the state is an institution of violence, all laws must be backed with violence. The state may be careful to conceal this reality, but the ultimate refusal of compliance is always a summary execution.

More Laws Means More Violence

Police brutality, in a sense, is just a matter of numbers. As the number of interactions with an enforcement agent increase, the number of instances of violent interactions will also increase. If the odds of death from a single interaction remain the same, or even decline, this can be overwhelmed if the legal system expects greater instances of interaction with the general public through the application of more laws.

This can be demonstrated by the increasing number of death by legal intervention within the baseline white ethnicity in the United States in the aftermath of the war on drugs, particularly after the 1984 Sentencing Reform ActPer a Harvard study, the rate of killings via legal intervention of whites in 1985, the year after the US government decided to get tough on crime, stood at 0.28 per 100,000. By 2005 this number had risen to 0.37 per 100,000, an increase of 32 percent.

The reason I used whites as the baseline is due to the high volatility in the black legal intervention deaths. The underlying increase in the white death rate could indicate that the improvement in the black victimization rate should be even steeper than is reported now, but the overall impact is difficult to identify with other factors overwhelming the effects.

Further evidence that more law means more violence can be found in strong statist regimes. Enforcement killings in regimes like Venezuela are significantly worse and large-scale executions have been used to ensure legal compliance in societies like Maoist China and the Soviet Union. A society that believes it can solve all of its problems with the imposition of law will inevitably find itself engaging in large-scale killings to enforce it. The more aggressive the attempt at transforming society through legal imposition, the more aggressive the killing will be.

Don’t Just Defund the Police, End State Law

This is where the cognitive dissonance with the defund police movements comes into play. The people who support eliminating police violence also regularly support the passage of new mandates, redistribution schemes, and regulatory impositions. Without police, how do they think all these new laws and rules will be enforced? If taxation were a voluntary affair, few individuals would turn a substantial portion of their annual earnings over to the state for redistribution. If gun control were a suggestion, few people would make any effort to submit to the FFL (Federal Firearms License) sales regulations.

By advocating for more laws, rules, and taxes, these people are effectively advocating for an increase in police violence. Abolishing the entity called “police” won’t solve the issue, since the state will inevitably have to form a new entity that does all the same things and has all the same powers. Outlets like Vox can advocate for the creation of mobile response units and community mediators all they want; these entities are, from the viewpoint of the state, toothless without any means to initiate violence to ensure compliance with rules. Community mediators will either find themselves armed or calling on some newly created entity that looks and acts a lot like current police but is called something different to deal with a belligerent individual who refuses to follow the mandate. As anyone with a glove box filled with unpaid parking tickets can tell you, it’s easy to ignore a piece of paper with a fine on it. The state is going to inevitably need an armed, violent agency to handle noncompliant individuals.

The only way to ensure an end to police brutality is not concocting new entities with different names or, worse, focusing on the ethnic element of it, as all that does is try and argue that police violence is fine so long as it’s dished out equally along ethnic lines. The only way is to abolish the state. Without a state, there is no state law. Without state law, there isn’t a need for enforcement by an entity that operates with the language of violence. Without violent enforcement, there isn’t anyone getting killed for noncompliance.

Private structures have little incentive to kill noncompliant actors, and they are able to create stronger enforcement structures than state actors can. Social ostracizing, ejection from business groups, or a ban from a shop would have an equally strong impact compared to the threat of violence. Further, private security agencies that quickly utilize violence would find themselves undesired by customers and lose favor, especially if these agencies create the impression that they are against a particular group of potential customers.

As nice as it would be to believe that police can exist solely as a protection service, this isn’t the case. There’s a reason they’re called law enforcement and not protective services. The U.S. Supreme Court has already definitively told us that our police agencies have no obligation to protect anyone. Their only priority is enforcing the laws, and as those laws expand, the chances we’ll find ourselves interacting unfavorably with an enforcer will increase.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

Qualified Immunity Saves Police Who Laughed After Killing a Handcuffed Man

Qualified Immunity Saves Police Who Laughed After Killing a Handcuffed Man

As The Free Thought Project previously reported, on the night of Aug. 10, 2016, Tony Timpa called 911 asking police to help him because he had a history of mental illness and he was off his medication. When police arrived, Timpa was already handcuffed by a private security guard and was sitting peacefully on the sidewalk, asking police to help him. Instead of receiving help, however, police would mock Timpa and joke as they squeezed the life from him. For years the family has been fighting for justice and this week they found out it will not come.

According to a report in the Dallas News, in a 27-page ruling, U.S. District Judge David Godbey granted the officers’ motion for summary judgment in the case of Tony Timpa. The unarmed Rockwall man died in 2016 from “sudden cardiac death due to the toxic effects of cocaine and physiological stress associated with physical restraint,” court records show.

The court granted the officers, four of whom remain on the force, qualified immunity for their role in his death.

Because there had not been a “clearly established” incident ruled unconstitutional of cops squeezing the life from a man as they mocked him, qualified immunity was the easy way for the cops to get a pass.

“This is exactly why qualified immunity must be abolished or at least modified,” Geoff J. Henley, lead attorney for the Timpa family said as he vowed to appeal. “It allows officers to continue to use force that we all see and know to be excessive simply because there is no previous ruling prohibiting precisely the same kind of force. It’s squeezing a football through the eye of a needle.”

Henley said no specific decision from the Fifth Circuit prohibited the officers from “smothering Timpa for 14 minutes” in a prone restraint and that as a result it didn’t matter if the officers violated Timpa’s rights, according to Dallas News.

“One of the more unnerving features of qualified immunity is that courts are free to disregard rulings against officers from other circuits,” Henley said. “There will be more unnecessary deaths unless there is real legal change.”

As TFTP reported, the details from the internal investigation were released highlighting a disturbing practice by Dallas police which includes an apparent strategy of joking and mocking mentally ill people and ignoring signs of distress.

On that fateful night, Timpa, 32, predicted his own death.

“You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me! You’re gonna kill me!” Timpa screamed as the officers surrounded him.

After kneeling on his back, shoving his face into the ground, and literally squeezing the air out of him for 14 minutes, Timpa could no longer hold on to life and he suffocated to death. His death would be ruled a homicide and the three officers involved would be charged.

The case would garner national attention after the Dallas News released the body camera footage in 2018.

“I had a strategy in mind, of course looking back at everything it was the completely wrong way to approach it,” one officer said during the hearing, according to a report from FOX 4.

“If I could apologize to him, I would apologize to him for it. Cause um, it’s incorrect, looking at it back, what I said shouldn’t have been said,” an officer said at the hearing.

While the officers may seem apologetic now, their “strategy” that night killed an otherwise entirely innocent man who needed their help.

As the video shows, Timpa is compliant, in handcuffs and sitting on the ground when police arrive. As officers begin to surround him though, the diagnosed schizophrenic became extremely scared. Still, he never once attempted to harm the officers, he simply begged for them to let him go.

But police did not let him go. Instead, they would force him down on the ground, face first, and squeeze the air from his body. The more Timpa squirmed in an effort to breathe, the harder the officers pushed back down on him. Timpa was then hog tied for trying to breathe.

The entire time they are killing him, the officers are cracking jokes and laughing about their actions. Even after Timpa’s body went limp and he was no longer breathing, police continued to crack jokes.

“It’s time for school. Wake up!” one officer says as Timpa lies face down in the grass, unresponsive.

“I don’t want to go to school! Five more minutes, Mom!” another officer jokes.

Despite Timpa going completely limp and not responding to anything, the officers continue to smash down on him, all the while joking. For good measure, an EMT responder shoots Timpa up with a powerful sedative, despite Timpa being completely unconscious at the time.

Moments later, Timpa’s lifeless body is strapped to a gurney as cops continue joking—apparently for strategical purposes.

“He didn’t just die down there, did he?” an officer asks.

“Did we kill him?” an officer says as another jokes, “what’s this ‘we’ stuff about?”

Moments later, the EMT tells the officers that Timpa is dead.

“Sorry, we tried,” an officer says, as he turns off his body camera.

“It’s just basic science: People can be essentially suffocated to death when they’re lying on their stomachs in a prone position and there’s weight on their backs compressing their chest and diaphragm,”  Erik Heipt, a Seattle lawyer who specializes in cases of in-custody deaths, said.

“As soon as [police] have someone handcuffed, they’ve got to know to turn them on their sides and be on the lookout for any compromised breathing issues.”

As the person struggles to breath, like Timpa, they will wiggle and shake. This is almost always interpreted by cops as “resisting,” and then even more pressure is applied, leading to an extremely dangerous and deadly scenario.

“It’s a lethal cycle that happens,” Heipt said.

As the Dallas News reports, those three officers—Kevin Mansell, Danny Vasquez and Dustin Dillard—were indicted by a grand jury in 2017 on charges of misdemeanor deadly conduct, three months after The News published its investigation into Timpa’s death. Following two days of testimony, the grand jury’s indictment stated that the “officers engaged in reckless conduct that placed Timpa in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.”

However, thanks to a corrupt system that sets out to protect cops who kill people, in March 2018, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot dismissed all the charges.

For killing Timpa and laughing about it, none of the cops received so much as a slap on the wrist.

“There were several lines of demarcation where they absolutely did not do what they’re supposed to do,” said Geoff Henley, Timpa family attorney.

“The best thing that can happen to my son right now is for these police men to lose their badge,” mom Vickie Timpa said.

Sadly, however, it appears that this will not happen and the officers’ excuse of strategically mocking a man as they squeezed the life from him was good enough to get them all off scot free.

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor-at-Large at The Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on TwitterSteemit, and now on Minds. This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

The Breonna Taylor Tapes

The Breonna Taylor Tapes

Guilty murderer Jon Mattingly

If this one hadn’t gone viral, the “law” would have buried innocent slain victim Breonna Taylor‘s heroic boyfriend Kenneth Walker under the prison for attempting to murder a cop.

Now the tapes of his interrogation have been released. As NBC News explains:

Walker was interviewed just hours after the shooting. He waived his rights to an attorney and emotionally recalled the chaotic night, saying he shot once at what he believed was an intruder before officers opened fire. Days later, the 27-year-old was indicted for attempted murder of a police officer and assault. …

At 4 a.m., hours after the raid, PIU Sgt. Amanda Seelye introduces herself to Walker.

She and her colleague Sgt. Chad Tinnell explain to a tearful Walker that their team is like “internal affairs.”

“We investigate officer-involved shootings,” Seelye says. “We’re here just to try to find out what happened.”

“I’m scared about what to say,” Walker says.

She encourages him to sign the Miranda rights waiver and talk.

“It would be good for you to sign this and then we can get you, get your statement and then we can leave you alone,” she tells Walker. He’s compliant, later also providing his iPhone passcode when Seelye asks for it.

Six days later, Seelye testified before the grand jury that indicted Walker. In a two-minute statement, she described the shooting but did not tell the members of the jury that Walker thought the noise at the door was an intruder.

Do you see what’s going on there? In the name of Internal Affairs — implying that she is investigating the crime of the cops’ murder of his girlfriend, rather than his one defensive round fired — PIU Sgt. Amanda Seelye encourages the innocent heroic victim to admit he fired a shot. Then she went and testified for the prosecution at the grand jury and did not tell the whole truth that he was legitimately afraid for his life and was defending himself — or at least that he even claimed so. They then indicted him in-part based on her description of his admission!

Read the rest of the story to see how the same investigators fed the proper defensive answers to the murderer cop to keep him on the safe side of self-implication:

“That’s kind of like what I was getting to because of your positioning, you know, initially when you’re shot — and then rightfully so, you’re returning fire,” says Vance [Seely’s partner, while she’s standing right there].

“Mm-hmm,” Mattingly responds.

“But you know you just said you made a conscious decision, you know, ‘I’m now injured I need to move, so they can protect themselves and me as well,’” says Vance. “And then — I don’t want to put words in your mouth …”

“No, that’s it,” says Mattingly.

Vance also offers that the apartment’s layout made it a “difficult” location.

“You’ve got to nearly 20 years of police experience, would you, would you say that the positioning of that apartment, made it extremely difficult?” asks Vance.

Mattingly replies, “It wasn’t ideal.”

None of the people responsible for murdering this young woman will go to prison. Not the judge who signed the warrant who no one would even think for a moment could ever possibly conceivably be held accountable in any way whatsoever for his actions — ever, not the cops who pretended to believe the innocent dead young woman possessed “contraband” drugs at her home, not the “Internal Affairs” cop who framed the surviving victim and perjured herself before the grand jury against him, nor her partner who conspired with the guilty murderer to frame his answers in the most exculpatory way. None of them will be held accountable ever. You know it and I know it and boy do they know it.

And you wonder why people riot.

By the way, according to her family’s lawsuit against the city of Louisville, they have credible reason to believe that her death was the result of a city government conspiracy to seize her ex-boyfriend’s land for a big new urban renewal project by trying to tie him to the commission of some drug “offences.” You know who should be surprised by that? Absolutely no one.

Philando Castile: Murdered By Police Four Years Ago

Philando Castile: Murdered By Police Four Years Ago

On July 6, 2016, Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled over a 32-year-old African American male named Philando Castile for a broken tail light. During the stop Castile informed Yanez he had a legal fire arm in his vehicle. The admission caused Yanez to issue a rapid sequence of conflicting orders resulting in Yanez “fearing for his life,” and subsequently killing Castile, despite the fact that he had committed no crime—other than the alleged vehicle infraction.

Although Yanez was initially cleared of wrongdoing—and allowed to return to work—protests and nationwide outrage forced the department to suspend him. Four months after Castile’s murder Yanez was arraigned on three charges, including manslaughter. As TFTP reported at the time,

No reasonable officer would have used deadly force under these circumstances,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a press conference.

“Philando Castile was not a threat.”Detailing the events that unfolded which led to officer Yanez gunning down Castile in cold blood, Choi laid the ground work as for why Yanez was being charged.

“Philando Castile was not resisting or fleeing. There was absolutely no criminal intent on his behalf,” said Choi.

Choi then detailed how, at no time, did Castile attempt to reach for or otherwise grab his gun that was in his “foot-deep pocket.”

“He emphatically repeated that he was not pulling out the gun, only that he was lawfully carrying,” explained Choi, noting that even after his dead body was examined that the gun was still in the bottom of his pocket — and, his permit for carrying it was in his other pocket.

“His dying words were in protest that he wasn’t reaching for his gun,” noted Choi.

In response to the charges, Officer Yanez’s attorney [Earl Gray] attempted to smear Philando’s character. The attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charges after an autopsy revealed Castile had THC in his system. The attorney also noted that pictures of marijuana were found on Castile’s Instagram from 2012, while Yanez testified that he “feared for his life” during the traffic stop because he “smelled marijuana.”

Though attempts to smear the character of people killed by the police are quite common, Castile’s death was also accompanied by a notable silence from gun-rights groups like the NRA. As Splinter news noted at the time,

The fact the NRA has commented on the Dallas police officers’ deaths but not the death of a black man licensed to carry a gun is not surprising. Second Amendment protections have often been denied to black citizens.

Martin Luther King, Jr. couldn’t even get a concealed carry permit after his life was threatened. The NRA has historically not commented on individual or mass shootings, but the NRA does have a close if fraught relationship with American police forces.

Following Philando’s death, reports emerged that indicated he had been repeatedly targeted by law enforcement for vehicle infractions. Other reports found Yanez had undergone “Bulletproof Warrior” officer survival indoctrination, which imparts what one police trainer called a “paranoid” and“militaristic” mindset. These systematic issues would likely go on to play a role in Yanez’s acquittal.

On June 16, 2017, a jury acquitted Officer Yanez of the manslaughter charge. The city followed with a statement announcing his termination from the department. The acquittal of Officer Yanez provoked a swift yet peaceful response from community members. Thousands of protesters marched, temporarily closing an interstate, resulting in the arrest of over a dozen protesters. Although the Castile family eventually announced a $3 million settlement with the city, they also expressed outrage at the verdict.

One month after his acquittal Officer Yanez finalized a separation agreement with the police department, including a $48,500 buyout. Although the city claimed the agreement “ends all employment rights” for Yanez, he still reportedly holds a law enforcement licence according to the state licensing board.

As Minnesota—and the country at large—continue discussing solutions following the death of George Floyd and ensuing civil unrest. Americans would be wise to remember the death of Philando Castile (and subsequent acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez) for another solution to rampant police brutality: Nationwide Officer Blacklisting.

Currently, one of the strongest methods for holding police officers accountable at the state level is decertification. However, as noted by a 2015 report from the Associated Press, the number of officers decertified can vary largely from state to state due to the prevalence of police unions. Unions also obstruct efforts to track these statistics through their political influence. As the AP report notes,  “Five states — California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island — have no decertification process at all.”

In their September 2016 report entitled “Why It’s So Hard to Stop Bad Cops From Getting New Police Jobs,”Reason magazine expanded upon these findings noting,

Decertified Cops Can and Do Find New Jobs By Crossing State Lines

It’s harder than you might think for a cop to be stripped of his or her license: In 20 states a criminal conviction is required for an officer to be decertified.

Even still, over 9,000 police officers did lose their licenses from 2009 to 2014. That’s a lot of cops with stains on their records out there looking for work. And while opponents insist there’s no need for a tracking system, because no agency worth its salt would hire a “bad cop,” the history clearly shows that some of those bad cops are indeed able to find work after being stripped of their licenses.

While politicians in DC continue to debate the creation of a national police misconduct database; It’s important to note that without systemic changes in the way states report officer misconduct, and address the political influence of police unions, these attempts at reform are doomed to fail. Justice for black lives—and all lives—taken by police begins with government transparency and accountability.

This article was originally featured on The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

Colorado Takes Action, Ends Qualified Immunity For Police

Colorado Takes Action, Ends Qualified Immunity For Police

When George Floyd was killed last month, the nation was shaken out of its slumber in regard to police brutality in this country. Cities quite literally burned over the anger that has been boiling up over decades as cops kill people—who are often innocent, unarmed, and even children—and get away with it. Sadly, however, the organized groups behind the protests only appear to be pushing a single, partial solution of “defunding” the police. While this is certainly something to be considered, it is a bandaid on sucking chest wound. To strike the root of the problem, we need bad cops held accountable. One major way to do this is by ending Qualified Immunity. Luckily, this idea is now picking up steam.

This month, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed an omnibus reform bill into law to end qualified immunity for police officers in the state.

“This is a long overdue moment of national reflection,” Polis said at the signing ceremony. “This is a meaningful, substantial reform bill.”

A summary of the sea change from the Colorado legislature notes:

The bill allows a person who has a constitutional right secured by the bill of rights of the Colorado constitution that is infringed upon by a peace officer to bring a civil action for the violation. A plaintiff who prevails in the lawsuit is entitled to reasonable attorney fees, and a defendant in an individual suit is entitled to reasonable attorney fees for defending any frivolous claims. Qualified immunity and a defendant’s good faith but erroneous belief in the lawfulness of his or her conduct are not defenses is not a defense to the civil action. The bill requires a political subdivision of the state to indemnify its employees for such a claim; except that if the peace officer’s employer determines the officer did not act upon a good faith and reasonable belief that the action was lawful, then the peace officer is personally liable for 5 percent of the judgment or $25,000, whichever is less, unless the judgment is uncollectible from the officer, then the officer’s employer satisfies the whole judgment .

The precedent setting law reads in part:

A peace officer…employed by a local government who, under color of law, subjects or causes to be subjected, including failing to intervene, any other person to the deprivation of any individual rights that create binding obligations on government actors secured by the bill of rights, Article II of the State Constitution, is liable to the injured party for legal or equitable relief or any other appropriate relief…

qualified immunity is not a defense to liability pursuant to this section.

“Colorado has passed historic civil rights legislation, which both allows citizens to bring civil rights claims against police officers who violate their rights under the Colorado Constitution, and also clarifies that qualified immunity will not be a defense to any such claims,” the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice policy analyst Jay Schweikert, and expert on qualified immunity, told Law&Crime. “While this law doesn’t affect the availability of qualified immunity in federal cases, it does ensure that Coloradans who are the victims of police misconduct will have a meaningful remedy in state court.”

As TFTP has reported, when it comes to police accountability, one overarching question remains. ‘Do we want to live in a society whereby law enforcement officials can completely violate a person’s constitutional rights and get away with it?’ For our society to be free, the answer to that question must be a resounding, powerful, unwavering, ‘Hell No!’

Unfortunately, however, this is the case most of the time thanks to law enforcement personnel’s use and abuse of Qualified Immunity.

Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine in United States federal law that shields government officials from being sued for discretionary actions performed within their official capacity, unless their actions violated “clearly established” federal law or constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court created qualified immunity in 1982. With that novel invention, the court granted all government officials immunity for violating constitutional and civil rights unless the victims of those violations can show that the rights were “clearly established.”

As Anya Bidwell points out, although innocuous sounding, the clearly established test is a legal obstacle nearly impossible to overcome. It requires a victim to identify an earlier decision by the Supreme Court, or a federal appeals court in the same jurisdiction holding that precisely the same conduct under the same circumstances is illegal or unconstitutional. If none exists, the official is immune. Whether the official’s actions are unconstitutional, intentional or malicious is irrelevant to the test.

An example of this would be the family of George Floyd attempting to seek compensation for his death. Because there has never been a “clearly established” case of a cop kneeling on a man’s neck until he dies being declared unconstitutional, a judge in Minnesota could easily dismiss their case.

It is essentially a get out of jail free card for cops and it perpetuates the problem of police violence by giving bad cops a free pass.

Steps like this in Colorado are essential to reining in the terror of bad cops. This is why everyone needs to call their representatives and tell them to support the bill proposed by Libertarian Congressman Justin Amash (L-Michigan), H.R. 7085 which will end Qualified Immunity on a national level.

“Qualified immunity protects police and other officials from consequences even for horrific rights abuses,” said Amash. “It prevents accountability for the ‘bad apples’ and undermines the public’s faith in law enforcement. It’s at odds with the text of the law and the intent of Congress, and it ultimately leaves Americans’ rights without appropriate protection. Members of Congress have a duty to ensure government officials can be held accountable for violating Americans’ rights, and ending qualified immunity is a crucial part of that.

If you are interested in the other paradigm shifting solutions into quelling police brutality and Americans’ deprivation of rights, we propose five major solutions, including Qualified Immunity, that will have drastic changes. You can read that here.

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor-at-Large at The Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on TwitterSteemit, and now on Minds. This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

There Are Solutions Besides ‘Defund the Police’

There Are Solutions Besides ‘Defund the Police’

“Defund the Police” is the latest rallying cry for protestors in many cities across the nation. Many activists, enraged by the brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, are calling for completely disbanding the police, while others are seeking reductions in police budgets and more government spending elsewhere. However, few activists appear to be calling for a fundamental decrease in the political power that is the root cause of police abuses.

Many “Defund the Police” activists favor ending the war on drugs. That would be a huge leap forward toward making police less intrusive and oppressive. But even if police were no longer making a million plus drug arrests each year, they would still be making more than 9 million other arrests. Few protestors appear to favor the sweeping repeals that could take tens of millions of Americans out of the legal crosshairs.

How many of the “Defund the Police” protestors would support repealing mandatory seatbelt laws as a step toward reducing police power? In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that police can justifiably arrest anyone believed to have “committed even a very minor criminal offense.” That case involved Gail Atwater, a Texas mother who was driving slowly near her home but, because her children were not wearing seatbelts, was taken away by an abusive cop whose shouting left her children “terrified and hysterical.” A majority of Supreme Court justices recognized that “Atwater’s claim to live free of pointless indignity and confinement clearly outweighs anything the City can raise against it specific to her case”—but upheld the arrest anyhow. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor warned that “such unbounded discretion carries with it grave potential for abuse.”

Unfortunately, there are endless pretexts for people to be arrested nowadays, because federal, state, and local politicians and officials have criminalized daily life with hundreds of thousands of edicts. As Gerard Arenberg, executive director of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, told me in the 1996, “We have so damn many laws, you can’t drive the streets without breaking the law. I could write you a hundred tickets depending on what you said to me when I stopped you.”

What about repealing state laws that make parents criminals if they smoke a cigarette while driving little Bastian or Alison to soccer practice? What about repealing the federal law that compelled states to criminalize anyone drinking one beer in their car—or, better yet, repealing the federal law that compelled states to raise the age for drinking alcohol to twenty-one? Or would today’s enraged reformers prefer to take the risk of cops beating the hell out of any twenty-year-old caught with a Bud Light?

Would feminist zealots calling to “Defund the Police” be willing to tolerate the legalization of sex work? That would mean they could no longer howl about vast “human trafficking” conspiracies exploiting young girls every time an undercover cop is illicitly groped by a 58-year-old Chinese woman in a massage parlor.

Some Black Lives Matters activists are calling for a ban on “stop and frisk” warrantless searches for drugs, guns, or other prohibited items. But some “Defund the Police” activists also favor government prohibitions of private firearms. It is as if they were seeking to formally enact the old slogan: “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

Much of the media coverage is whooping up the recent wave of protests, perhaps hoping to stir public rage to support sweeping new government edicts. According to Washington Post assistant editor Robert Gebelhoff,

It would be a mistake to try to resolve the problems with police behavior without also acknowledging and addressing America’s epidemic of gun violence. Police reform and gun reform go hand in hand. Reducing the easy availability of guns would not eliminate the problems with policing in America nor end unwarranted killings, but it would help.

After heavily armed government agents forcibly confiscate a couple hundred million privately owned guns, the police won’t worry about any resistance and can behave like perfect gentlemen. Repealing most gun laws would produce a vast increase in self-reliance, especially in urban areas where police dismally fail to protect residents. But few street protestors are making that demand.

Many “Defund the Police” advocates presume that poverty is the cause of crime and that that shifting tax dollars from police budgets to social programs and handouts will automatically reduce violence. The Great Society programs launched by President Lyndon Johnson vastly increased handouts on a similar assumption. Instead, violent crime skyrocketed, especially in inner cities where dependence on government aid was highest. “The increase in arrests for violent crimes among blacks during the 1965–70 period was seven times that of whites,” as Charles Murray noted in his 1984 book Losing Ground.

Many advocates of defunding the police believe that a universal basic income, along with free housing and other services, would practically end urban strife. The history of Section 8 housing subsidies provides a stunning rebuke to such naïve assumptions. Concentrations of Section 8 recipients routinely spur crime waves that ravage both the peace and property values of their neighbors. A 2009 study published in the Homicide Studies academic journal found that in Louisville, Memphis, and other cities violent crime skyrocketed in neighborhoods where Section 8 recipients resettled after leaving public housing.

“Defund the Police” demands are already being translated by politicians into a justification for additional spending for social services or the usual sops. In Montgomery County, Maryland, police chiefs issued a statement announcing that they were “outraged” over George Floyd’s killing and then pledged to “improve training in cultural competency for our officers.” Elsewhere, politicians and police chiefs are talking about relying more on mental health workers to handle volatile situations. Radio host Austin Petersen predicted that the George Floyd protest “reforms” would result in “more social programs meant to give jobs to liberal white women.” Author and filmmaker Peter Quinones deftly captured the likely reality with a meme where Minneapolis police were renamed the Tactical Social Workers and still looking hungry to kick ass.

Politicians are claiming to have seen the light thanks to the Floyd protests. Floyd was killed, because politicians at many state and local levels have dismally failed to constrain the lethal power of police. There was nothing to stop politicians from banning the vast majority of no-knock raids, or torpedoing the perverse “qualified immunity” doctrine concocted by the Supreme Court, or repealing the even more perverse “Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights” that can convey a license to kill. One of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives, Eliot Engel (D-NY), embodied the political reality when he was caught on a hot mike: “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care” about denouncing the George Floyd killing. It is unclear how much longer other politicians will pretend to give a damn.

Police have too much power, because politicians have too much power. There is little chance that the George Floyd protests and riots will reverse the criminalization of daily life. How many “Defund the Police” activists are also calling for a radical rollback of politicians’ prerogatives to punish almost any activity they disapprove? There will be some reforms and plenty of promises, but as long as cops have pretexts to harass and assail millions of peaceful Americans every day, the outrages will not end. Until protestors realize that the problem is Leviathan, not the local police chief, oppression will continue.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Insitute and is republished with permission. 

The Irredeemable Racism of the Death Penalty

The Irredeemable Racism of the Death Penalty

When confronted with overwhelming evidence of a discriminatory state practice, a decent society responds in one of two ways: by trying to remove discrimination from the practice, or by scrapping the practice altogether. In the context of capital punishment, the Supreme Court has opted affirmatively for the former course of action. In 1987, the Court in McCleskey v. Kemp expressed its hope and conviction that, even without a wholesale abolition of capital punishment, any troubling racism in executions was destined to end through Court-facilitated adjustments to the ultimate punishment.

Nearly 35 years later, that conviction has proved unfounded. As we maneuver our way through a political moment pregnant with possibility—in which the foundations of our criminal justice system are under heightened scrutiny, and in which “abolitionists” debate “reformists” about the best path forward—we should be mindful of what the results of our national experiment with the death penalty suggest. As long as it retains tremendous power, the government will be tremendously dangerous. If government officials are in a position to discriminate in life-or-death siutations, Americans will continue to die because of discrimination. If our history with the death penalty is any indication, successfully taming the governmental beast cannot mean simply regulating (that is, making regular) the government’s exercise of all of its awesome powers. Instead, it must mean taking many of those powers away from the government outright.

Efforts on the high court to excise racism from the administration of the death penalty date back to 1963 (at the latest). In Rudolph v. Alabama, Frank Lee Rudolph, a black man in Alabama, petitioned the Supreme Court for review of his death sentence for raping a white woman. Although the Court ultimately declined to hear the case, three (outnumbered) justices argued that executions for rape raise important constitutional questions and that the Court, therefore, had good reason to weigh in. We now know that Justice Arthur Goldberg, who authored this dissenting opinion, was largely concerned about the death penalty’s disproportionate impact on black men convicted of raping white women. It was only at the insistence of Chief Justice Earl Warren—who apparently felt it necessary for the Court to sidestep the charged issue of black crime—that Goldberg did not mention race in his dissent to the denial of review of Rudolph’s case.

Those seeking to circumscribe the racialized system of capital punishment by ending executions for rape (of grown women) got their victory in 1977, when the Court ruled in Coker v. Georgia that executing people for rape was so disproportionate as to violate the 8th Amendment. Given the sordid history of the death penalty for rape as a mechanism of racial terrorism in the United States, this was a remarkable achievement. Even so, capital punishment (for other crimes) stayed in place, as did the plague of racism that infected it.

A decade after Coker, the Court addressed the racial issue head-on in McCleskey, where the majority suggested that it was possible to administer the death penalty in a sufficiently race-neutral way. Crucial to the majority opinion was the Court’s “Batson Doctrine,” named for a then-recent case in which the Court made it more difficult for prosecutors to strike potential jurors on racial grounds. The availability of Batson-based relief, the Court suggested, minimized the odds of unfair capital trials, thereby casting doubt on death penalty abolitionists’ contention that the death penalty was irredeemably racist in its application.

As Carol and Jordan Steiker have pointed out, the Court in McCleskey overstated its case. To be sure, Batson has and had made it easier to thwart prosecutorial attempts to strike jurors because of their race. However, the fact that prosecutorial teams can almost effortlessly concoct and claim benign, non-racial reasons for striking potential jurors of color means that many race-based peremptory challenges probably go unpunished. In any event, Batson failed to address other ways that racial prejudice can surface in death penalty cases. For example, Batson did nothing to remove prosecutors’ vast discretion over whether to seek the death penalty in the first place. Insofar as their implicit racial biases affect prosecutors’ assessment of the heinousness of various crimes, the exercise of this discretion can affect who lives and who dies.

The failure of the Court’s efforts to cleanse the death penalty of its racism is apparent in our own time. In 2018, the State of Georgia executed Kenneth Fults after one of the jurors in Fults’s case claimed post-trial that the “nigger got just what should have happened,” no matter if Fults “ever killed anybody.” Similarly shockingly, the African-American Andre Thomas, after he was found guilty of killing his “white estranged wife” and their child, was sentenced to death by exclusively white jurors—three of whom claimed to disfavor interracial romance. (The state’s conduct is even more shocking in light of the fact that Thomas is so mentally ill as to have removed and eaten his own eye.)

Those who believe that the death penalty has no appreciable race problem may consider these sorts of cases simple aberrations in a system otherwise designed to withstand attempts at racist infiltration. But the reality is that as long as powerful actors exercise (an inevitable) discretion over the death penalty’s application—by deciding whether to seek the death penalty, whether to grant clemency, and how to weigh mitigating factors in defendants’ individual cases—discrimination is likely to rear its ugly head in the penalty’s administration.

The clear lesson for those seeking to address abuses of American state power in other contexts is to eschew the utopianism, either sincere or feigned, that the Court has embraced in its retention of the death penalty. Reasonable people can disagree about the propriety of hard drug laws, the deployment of armed police officers in response to 911 calls, the placement of officers in public schools, and—for that matter—the death penalty. However, those who would embrace an extensive state presence in people’s lives should not be allowed to claim that the mammoth state—through diversity and sensitivity training, for example, or through peremptory challenge reforms—can be made nondiscriminatory. Simply put, efforts to rid a human institution of the apparently ineradicable human vulnerability to prejudice is doomed to failure. The only way to stop the state from abusing its power is to eliminate the power that the state would abuse.

Tommy Raskin is pursuing a J.D. at Harvard Law School. Readers are encouraged to research “Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment” by Jordan and Carol Steiker for more information.

Getting the Police Issue Right

Getting the Police Issue Right

Now that folks are coming around on the idea that law enforcement needs serious structural transformation in this country, let’s make our argument a little more robust.

The tiniest fraction of people get killed by police. It is not useful to think of this problem as one in which there is any real likelihood of being gunned down. At least from the perspective of intellectual integrity (whether it’s useful for the masses to see it that way, is another question).

The problem with the term “police brutality” is that it has multiple meanings. From a police officers perspective, something that you regard as police brutality is in fact, them just doing their job. They believe they are doing the right thing, the best they can. And they probably carry some moral justification around with them that’s not dissimilar to yours. I am not talking about the instances where among LEOs it would be regarded as excessive force. It’s way less likely for law enforcement to act with impunity than it is for them to do what they think is right.

The most egregious issue is mass incarceration. We have by far the largest prison population in the world, anyway you slice it. Absolute numbers, as a percentage, etc. This comes from over-policing and an emphasis on enforcement of prohibition.

Among ways of slicing the demographics, the most vulnerable to over-policing and mass incarceration are the poor.

So how does race come into play? Well, 3/4 of the prison population is black. So notwithstanding socio-economic class as the most accurate predictor of vulnerability to over-policing, it is not unreasonable to view this issue as one of race. Particularly when historically, race has been a way of slicing demographics (by which I mean, the Civil rights movement is only a small few decades old). In America today, the poor are not a community. Black people and African-Americans largely see themselves as one. To add to that, there is clear evidence suggesting a cyclical relationship between over-policing and further impoverishment, and there are numerous other factors that suggest a particular causal relationship between fitting a certain profile (namely: being black) and being a target of over-policing.

Therefore, it’s okay that the loudest voices are the communities (actual, not theoretical) that are most impacted by the most egregious issue.

The jury is out on whether some of the relatively few cases of needless killings by police officers will be most effective as the primary motivation for political change in this area. However, at the moment it is pointing to the optimal solution, end over-policing by getting the most police off the streets.

Finally, police are only Sauron’s physical form. The laws criminalizing poverty are the ring of power. They must be thrown into mount doom

Supreme Court Refuses To Reconsider Its Doctrine of ‘Qualified Immunity’ for Police

Supreme Court Refuses To Reconsider Its Doctrine of ‘Qualified Immunity’ for Police

The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to hear eight separate cases that had presented opportunities to reconsider its doctrine of “qualified immunity.” That doctrine, created by the Supreme Court in 1982, holds that government officials can be held accountable for violating the Constitution only if they violate a “clearly established” constitutional rule. In practice, that means that government officials can only be held liable if a federal court of appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court has already held that someone violated the Constitution by engaging in precisely the same conduct under precisely the same circumstances.

“Qualified immunity means that government officials can get away with violating your rights as long as they violated them in a way nobody thought of before,” explained Institute for Justice (IJ) Attorney Anya Bidwell. “And that means that the most egregious abuses are frequently the ones for which no one can be held to account.”

Qualified immunity has come in for harsh criticism from the left and the right alike. And the outrageous facts of the cases rejected today help illustrate why: In them, lower courts had granted immunity to a group of officers who took an Idaho mom’s consent to “get inside” her home as consent to stand outside, bombarding it with tear-gas grenades; to Texas medical regulators who showed up at a doctor’s office and, without warning or a warrant, rifled through confidential patient files; and to a deputy sheriff who (while in pursuit of an unrelated, unarmed suspect) held a group of young children at gunpoint and then shot a ten-year-old in the leg while firing at a non-threatening family pet.

“Qualified immunity is a failure as a matter of policy, as a matter of law, and as a matter of basic morality,” said IJ Senior Attorney Robert McNamara, who was counsel of record in West v. Winfield, one of the cases denied review today. “It is past time for the Supreme Court to admit as much and start expecting government officials to follow the Constitution.”

The Court’s rejection of the petitions was not unanimous. Justice Clarence Thomas issued a dissent in the longest-pending petition, Baxter v. Bracey, calling for the Court to reevaluate the doctrine entirely: “I continue to have strong doubts about our §1983 qualified immunity doctrine,” Justice Thomas’s dissent concludes. “Given the importance of this question, I would grant the petition for certiorari.”

The drumbeat of voices calling for an end to qualified immunity and a return to basic government accountability has only grown louder in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. Articles in outlets ranging from USA Today to Fox News Channel to the New York Times editorial page all pointed to the slaying as a symptom of a broader culture of official impunity and called upon the Supreme Court to rethink its qualified immunity rules. Today’s decision means those cries will, at least for now, go unanswered.

“There is no shortage of outrageous qualified immunity cases for the Supreme Court to take,” said IJ Attorney Patrick Jaicomo. “It has refused to hear a case this year, but it can only avoid the issue for so long. The skewed incentives of qualified immunity guarantee that lower courts will continue to generate more examples of injustice, and we will keep bringing those examples back to the courthouse steps until we break through.”

The Institute for Justice, through its Project on Immunity and Accountability, actively litigates to remove barriers to meaningful enforcement of constitutional rights. Today’s decision denied review in one of IJ’s Immunity and Accountability cases, but a second, Brownback v. King, has already been granted review and will be heard by the justices next term. A third case, brought on behalf of a Colorado family whose home was destroyed by police in pursuit of a suspect who had no connection to them, will be considered later this month.

“The principle at stake is simple: If citizens must obey the law, then government officials must obey the Constitution,” concluded IJ President and General Counsel Scott Bullock. “The Constitution’s promises of freedom and individual rights are important only to the extent that they are actually enforced—and the Institute for Justice will work tirelessly to ensure that they are.”

John Kramer is Vice President for Communications at the Institute for Justice. This article was originally featured at the Institute for Justice and is republished with permission. 

How ‘Wandering Cops’ Exacerbate Police Abuse

How ‘Wandering Cops’ Exacerbate Police Abuse

In a previous post, I discussed how fired police officers are often able to get their jobs back by appealing their termination to independent arbitration and thus how only time will tell if the officers involved in the arrest and death of George Floyd will remain fired. Even if they are unable to return to their jobs as Minneapolis police officers, this does not mean that their law enforcement careers are over. There is growing recognition of the phenomenon of the “wandering officer,” or, as the great journalist of law enforcement abuse William Norman Grigg called it, the “gypsy cop.”

The wandering officer is one who is fired or “voluntarily resigns” in lieu of being fired and obtains employment with another law enforcement agency. Although many anecdotes about such officers exist, a recently published Yale Law Journal article by Ben Grunwald and John Rappaport presents the first systematic analysis of the wandering officer. Before discussing their data, Grunwald and Rappaport list a number of examples of wandering officers, including the following:

● Cleveland officer Tim Loehmann, who shot and killed twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, previously worked for the police department in Independence, Ohio, for five months. The Independence deputy police chief wrote a memo noting that Loehmann had resigned rather than face certain termination due to his dangerous loss of composure during firearms training. His supervisors expected that he would be unable to cope or make good decisions under stressful conditions. After being fired for failing to disclose this work history when he applied to the Cleveland Police Department, Loehmann was still able to obtain employment as a law enforcement officer for Belaire, Ohio.

● “New Orleans Police Department officer Carey Dykes was ‘sued for alleged brutality, accused of having sex with a prostitute while on duty and caught sleeping in his patrol car instead of responding to a shooting.’ An internal affairs investigation found seventeen violations of department rules. New Orleans fired Dykes in 2001. Later the same year, Dykes found police work at the Delgado Community College in New Orleans and then the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.”

● “Nicholas Hogan, an officer with the Tukwila Police Department in Washington, pepper-sprayed a suspect who was restrained on a gurney in a hospital in 2011. Hogan was federally indicted for the act and Tukwila fired him. In 2012, the police department in nearby Snoqualmie hired him only to fire him later for having an affair with the wife of a fellow officer. He was also subsequently incarcerated for the pepperspray incident.”

Grunwald and Rappaport were able to obtain employment data on all police officers in the state of Florida from 1988 to 2017, including the reasons for their firing and whether they resigned in lieu of being fired. They found that in any given year of their study, an average of just under one thousand wandering officers were working as agents of law enforcement in the state of Florida, making up 3-4 percent of all law enforcement officers in the state.1Grunwald and Rappaport believe that, if anything, this is a lowball estimate of the number of wandering officers, since it does not include officers who moved across state lines and those who successfully lied about their employment history. Further, it should not be considered nationally representative, since Florida is relatively strict in terms of decertifying officers and requiring certain background checks for new hires. This may not sound like a lot, but police misconduct is not evenly distributed. Research of the Chicago Police Department by Kyle Rozema and Max Schanzenbach, for example, found that the worst one percent of officers, as measured by civilian complaints, generate nearly five times the number of payouts and more than four times the total damage payouts in civil rights litigation compared to the average officer. In Florida, Grunwald and Rappaport found that compared to new recruits or experienced hires who have never been fired, the wandering officers were much more likely to be fired again and more likely to be fired for engaging in misconduct. Clearly, then, focusing on terminating and preventing the rehire of officers with a demonstrated history of misconduct would disproportionately reduce the amount of misconduct that occurs.

So why isn’t this happening, or at least not to a greater degree than it has? Why would departments even consider hiring an officer who has been fired from another law enforcement agency? There are a number of reasons for this. One is that such job candidates are financially attractive, at least in the short run, compared to new recruits who have to be paid while they undergo training at the police academy and cannot be deployed to the street right away. But, in some cases, hiring police agencies do not know the history of the person they’re hiring.

This was the case with two hires of the West Palm Beach Police Department. One of them had worked for six different departments in Tennessee and Georgia in five years. He resigned from the department in Chattanooga after two complaints of brutality and after his drug problem with marijuana became known. He promised the police commissioner in Chattanooga that he would no longer work in Georgia, Tennessee, or Alabama but would go to southern Florida, disclosing none of these issues to the West Palm Beach Police Department. The other hired officer, while employed by the Riviera Beach Police Department, had beaten an arrested man, blinding him in one eye, resulting in an $80,000 judgment. When the department in West Palm Beach asked the department in Riviera Beach whether there was any derogatory information regarding this applicant, they had reported that they were not aware of any such information even though the beating had occurred five months prior. In 1990, these two officers stopped Robert Jewett for attempting to hitchhike. A struggle ensued, and Jewett was beaten to death. Although both officers were cleared of any wrongdoing by an internal investigation, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported that had the West Palm Beach Police Department been aware of these officers’ histories, they would never have been hired and Jewett might still be alive.

Roger Goldman and Steven Puro note that “At the time of the Jewett killing, Florida law did require chiefs to send the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC) a report where they had cause to suspect the officer had committed decertifiable conduct.” Although they had been legally required to do so, the Riviera Beach Police Department did not notify the CJSTC of their officer’s beating and blinding of a suspect. Regarding the officer who had previously worked in Chattanooga, Tennessee law allowed the state Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission to revoke the certificate of an officer who had been suspended or terminated for disciplinary reasons, but the regulations did not cover those who had resigned.

Currently, in forty-five states, to become a law enforcement officer requires a certification—essentially an occupational license—from a state-level entity.2According to Roger L. Goldman, the five states in which a police officer cannot be decertified require that barbers have an occupational license. See “A Model Decertification Law,” Saint Louis University Public Law Review 32, no. 1 (2012): 147–56. In most states, this body is called the POST. The rules for decertifying officers vary widely by state, and some standards are rather low. For example, twenty states require a criminal conviction before an officer can be decertified.3See Loren T. Atherley and Matthew J. Hickman “Officer Decertification and the National Decertification Index,” Police Quarterly 16, no. 4 (December 2013): 420–37 for a good summary. Note, however, that since its publication more states allow for decertification, making it dated in some respects. There exists a National Decertification Index (NDI), a database containing the names of decertified officers that can be referenced by POSTs (or their equivalent) and some law enforcement agencies. Reporting decertified officers to the NDI is voluntary, however, and not every agency does it. Further, only twenty-eight POSTs say that they “always” or “frequently” query the NDI. Despite the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommending that the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services partner with the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training “to expand its National Decertification Index to serve as the National Register of Decertified Officers with the goal of covering all agencies within the United States and its territories,” this recommendation has not been implemented, and wandering officers are able to make it through the cracks.

Compared to other proposed police reforms, making sure that police agencies report decertified officers to the NDI and reference it in making their hiring decisions does not face a hard tradeoff4For example, reforms that reduce police protections would require that officers be paid higher wages and might encourage officers to engage in “depolicing.” and there is no clear concentrated interest group to oppose it (e.g., police unions have little interest in expending resources to aid wandering officers who are not paying dues). Roger Goldman considers such a coordinated reform between states “an opportunity for cooperative federalism.” Given the fact that he wrote that back in 2003 and the law enforcement entities who could implement it have dragged their feet on such an obvious, seemingly noncontroversial reform leads one to question how interested they are in reducing misconduct.

Tate Fegley is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Center for Governance and Markets at the University of Pittsburgh. This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

Qualified Immunity: An Invention of Judicial Activism

Qualified Immunity: An Invention of Judicial Activism

Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that shields cops from liability for actions taken in the line of duty unless they violate rights “clearly established” by existing judicial precedent. No statute exists granting qualified immunity. It evolved over time based on a series of Supreme Court cases.

In practice, qualified immunity makes it extremely difficult to prosecute police officers for using excessive force or committing other acts of misconduct. As Supreme Court Justice Byron White wrote in the 1986 case Malley v. Briggs, qualified immunity protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” Reuters called it “a highly effective shield in thousands of lawsuits seeking to hold cops accountable for using excessive force.”

But how did we end up with qualified immunity in the first place? The legal doctrine evolved over time thanks to federal judicial activism and was applied to every police department in the United States through the incorporation doctrine. The very existence of qualified immunity reinforces an ugly truth. We can’t trust the federal government to protect our rights. It almost always defers to government power.

We can trace the origins of qualified immunity back to the Civil Rights Act of 1871. The act was codified into law by 42 U.S. Code §1983—“Civil action for deprivation of rights.” In effect, it allows any U.S. citizen to sue a state or local official in federal court for “the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.”

This was one of the first federal laws passed based on the 14th Amendment. The statute arguably overreaches the intent of the 14th. Regardless, for the first time, it created an avenue for individuals to hold state officials accountable through the federal courts.

Although §1983 did not specifically provide for an immunity defense, lawyers for government officials often argued for immunity based on common law, arguing it was implicit in the statute. Early on, immunity defenses were built on a case-by-case basis and not based on settled federal court precedent. But in the 1967 case Pierson v. Ray, the Supreme Court cemented the doctrine of qualified immunity into federal jurisprudence. The Court held that government officials who violate the law or constitutional limits on power in “good faith” can raise “qualified immunity” as a defense.

Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the majority opinion.

“Under the prevailing view in this country, a peace officer who arrests someone with probable cause is not liable for false arrest simply because the innocence of the suspect is later proved. A policeman’s lot is not so unhappy that he must choose between being charged with dereliction of duty if he does not arrest when he has probable cause, and being mulcted in damages if he does. Although the matter is not entirely free from doubt, the same consideration would seem to require excusing him from liability for acting under a statute that he reasonably believed to be valid but that was later held unconstitutional, on its face or as applied.”

The next step forward for qualified immunity came in the 1971 case Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents. The case opened the door for individuals to sue federal government officials for violations of rights given that §1983 only applied to state and local officials. Justice William Brennan wrote, “While there is no explicit right to file a civil lawsuit against federal government officials who have violated the Fourth Amendment, this right can be inferred. This is because a constitutional protection would not be meaningful if there were no way to seek a remedy for a violation of it.”

In 1982, Harlow v. Fitzgerald established qualified immunity for federal government officials and set the stage for the current definition of qualified immunity. The Court held that government actors are entitled to qualified immunity due to “the need to protect officials who are required to exercise discretion and the related public interest in encouraging the vigorous exercise of official authority.”

“Government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” [Empashis added]

Today, courts analyze qualified immunity cases under a three-part test established in Graham v. Connor (1989). Ilan Wurman explained the test in a paper titled Qualified Immunity and Statutory Interpretation published by the Seattle Law Review.

“The test requires courts to undertake an objective analysis of the circumstances surrounding the use of force. Even if a court decides that the use of force was unreasonable and thus unconstitutional, the second step of the inquiry is the qualified immunity analysis: Was it ‘clearly established‘ that this kind of force in this kind of circumstance is unconstitutional? If not, the officer escapes liability.” [Emphasis added]

Grahm also established that all police excessive force cases involving arrests, searches, or investigatory stops must be evaluated under the Fourth Amendment, not the due process clause of the 14th.

Wurman argues that the “clearly established” test erects an almost insurmountable hurdle to those trying to prove excessive force or a violation of their rights.

“The qualified immunity test poses an almost insurmountable analytical problem—the permutations are infinite. A given situation is rarely exactly like another. There will always be sufficient distinguishing facts to decide that there was no clearly established law.”

Bivens and subsequent cases all involved federal government officials, but eventually, the court effectively abandoned the statutory process in §1983 and began hearing cases against state agents directly under the Constitution. As Wurman explained, “Immunity doctrine traditionally looked to the common law to derive immunities in §1983 cases. This approach was lost, quite possibly as a result of historical accident, as the Court began to hear Bivens actions directly under the Constitution and not under any statute.”

Later, he writes, “[The Court] subsequently invented immunity doctrine out of whole cloth in other federal-officer cases and exported that doctrine to the §1983 cases rather than importing the relevant doctrine from the state-officer cases.”

The rationale for federalizing state and local police misconduct cases was good-intentioned. When Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1871, it was next to impossible for African-Americans to get a fair shake in many state courts and government officials could abuse their rights with virtual impunity.

But the end-result of centralizing power in the federal government was worse. Now it’s next to impossible for any person in any state to get a fair shake when challenging police misconduct. The federal courts have cemented a system in place that gives law enforcement officers almost complete immunity and allows them to violate any individual’s rights with virtual impunity.

Through the incorporation doctrine that applies the federal Bill of Rights to state and local governments, this system protects police officers in every city, county and state in the U.S. from Honolulu, Hawaii to West Quoddy Head, Maine.

A decentralized system where cases were heard under state law and state constitutions would undoubtedly have problems. Some states would probably extend almost complete protection to law enforcement officers just like the federalized system. But surely some would be better.

The lesson here is pretty clear. Government protects its own. Centralized power almost never benefits the average person in the long-run. And we cannot count on federal courts to protect our rights.

This article was originally featured at the Tenth Amendment Center and is republished with permission.

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