Friday, February 1, 2013

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

"The Insider Mission Creep at the TSA?"
2013-02 by Christopher Elliott from National Geographic Traveler []:
Like it or not, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an unavoidable presence at American airports, from the full-body scanners and “enhanced” pat-downs to shoes on the conveyor belt and ziplock bags filled with trial-size toothpaste.
But it’s becoming almost as difficult to avoid the TSA outside the airport, too. Today, you can be pulled over at a highway checkpoint staffed by TSA agents, courtesy of the agency’s VIPR program (that’s short for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team, and pronounced “viper,” by the way). Its most high-profile traffic stop happened in Tennessee in 2011—a training exercise, officials insisted. This year, TSA administrator John S. Pistole requested funding for 37 teams of roving screeners to the tune of $100 million.
You might encounter a TSA screening area when you’re at the train station or the subway. In one memorable 2011 incident, Amtrak passengers disembarking in Savannah, Georgia, were screened before they could leave the station. TSA agents have even been spotted at NFL games and political conventions. According to Government Executive, an extra 55 TSA screeners were on hand to help the Secret Service check delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last summer. That’s a real stretch of the agency’s mandate, even for the most security-obsessed traveler.
Is this mission creep? To agency insiders, the answer is: Of course not. TSA is just fulfilling its objectives. “TSA’s mission is to secure transportation systems,” writes Pistole on the TSA website. No qualifiers about aviation security, thanks very much. Defenders of the agency say that it is precisely because of its broad mandate that it has (together with other law enforcement agencies) prevented another 9/11. “By some measures, the TSA has scored a clear success,” observed the nonpartisan Congressional Quarterly in a recent cover story. “No terrorist has staged a successful attack on a flight from a U.S. airport since September 11.” One of the most ardent defenders of the TSA is travel guidebook guru Arthur Frommer. “Every time I am patted down, I am grateful for security agents who take their jobs seriously,” he wrote on his blog. “I am conscious of the fact that their zealousness is deterring all sorts of would-be terrorists from attempting to carry weapons onto planes.”
Critics say there’s no causal relationship between a TSA with a sprawling mandate and the absence of a terrorist attack. Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University, says screeners are conducting the law-enforcement equivalent of a clumsy police dragnet. “They’re throwing something at the wall to see if it sticks.” He and others are troubled that the random roadside checkpoints and the intermittent security screenings at subway and train stations could become permanent. Groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center are taking a lead in advocating limits to what they view as an expansive TSA. The center is suing the federal government on the decision to deploy body scanners and to ensure the right of the public to have its views heard.
The consequences of going too far in either direction could be serious. We have to carefully balance security against privacy; otherwise we risk becoming a show-me-your-papers-please nation with troubling echoes of other closed societies. “Governments good and bad have always cited national security, the prevention of terrorism, and the defense of freedom as their excuses for surveillance and control of people’s movements,” says Edward Hasbrouck, a privacy advocate who is one of the leading voices against TSA overreach. “But we can’t defend freedom by adopting measures that prevent us from exercising the rights we profess to believe in.”
Has the TSA prevented one or more terrorist attacks? That’s unanswerable. But I think the price has been high. And I fear that the cost could rise, just to make us feel safe when we travel. We need to order up just enough security as is necessary—and no more.
Previous attempts to define and limit the TSA have failed, despite a blistering 2012 congressional report that recommended downsizing and privatizing parts of the TSA, and several bills designed to contain the agency’s reach. TSA reform didn’t register as an election-year concern, and neither candidate took a meaningful stance on the issue. Obviously, no political party wants to be the first to reexamine the security apparatus created more than a decade ago, and risk the political repercussions if there’s another 9/11-style attack.
Fellow travelers, let’s call for one sensible step: Revise the TSA’s mission statement to limit its activity to air transportation. After all, we have local and state police, highway patrols, Customs and Border Protection, and, if necessary, the National Guard to protect roads, bridges, railways, and the occasional Super Bowl game. Adding a single word—“air”—to its mission would end its controversial VIPR program. One word would put the TSA’s enormous budget into perspective, allowing lawmakers to ask—and answer—the question: How much do we want to spend on aviation security? I’m willing to bet it would be significantly less than the $7.4 billion Americans currently pay for the TSA.

Vallejo Copwatch: Officer Steve Darden caught in the act

Vallejo Copwatch asks: "The shift supervisor played the video in briefing and laughed about it." No comment from the Vallejo Police Department and we are supposed to believe that it was handled properly?
The Vallejo Police are killing our loved ones and we are supposed to trust their judgement... this is just the beginning. We are fighting for justice for all. It is up to us to report situations like this to save all from murderers who wear a badge to protect and serve themselves while killing us! both of thes officers should be disciplined, what does our local newspaper have to say about this?

2013-02-01 "Vallejo cop caught on tape smacking down victim"
by Dan Noyes from "KGO-TV 7" []:
Video screen-grabs from []---
VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) --  The ABC7 News I-Team has uncovered a new complaint of excessive force against Vallejo police -- the incident, caught on camera. The department is already reeling after a violent year, including six people shot and killed by officers.
 The more I dig, the more questions I have. This story began when a package arrived in the mail from someone inside the department. It was a DVD, a police report, and a letter complaining about a "cowboy attitude" by officers and command staff.

 Imagine you're a police officer on patrol. It's a warm summer day when the call comes in -- a 22-year-old complaining his roommates beat him up and kicked him out of the apartment.
[begin recording]
Officer Mustard: Are you injured?
Blake Robles: Yeah, they punched me in my face, they choked me out, ripped my clothes, tried to steal thousands of dollars' worth of my stuff. It's all out in front of the house.

[end recording]

 The victim is upset how long you took to arrive.
[begin recording]
Robles: And you guys took 45 minutes to get out here.
Ofc. Steve Darden: OK, well, listen to me, first of all, I'm not on your time watch. Second of all...
Robles: I know, I'm not on your guys' time watch, you guys take for f**kin' ever.
Darden: Second of all, second of all.
Robles: U.S. soldier, bro, know who you're talkin' to.
Darden: OK, are you gettin' in my face?
Robles: Know who you're talkin' to. Are you gettin' in my face? You stepped forward to me, I did not step forward to you.
Darden: I'm trying to talk to you.
[end recording]

At this point, what would you do? Do you try to defuse the situation, perhaps explain why it took 45 minutes to arrive? Do you direct the victim to step back, have a seat on the curb, and assure him you're there to help? Or do you smack him in the head?
[begin recording]
Darden: I know who I'm talkin' to and you're down, you understand that? So, you're talkin' to a United States Marine, you understand that?
Robles: You're talkin' to a US Soldier.
Darden: OK, you're talkin' to a Marine, so I suggest that you never step up and get in my face again when I'm talkin' to you, do you understand me?
[end recording]

 The I-Team tracked down the victim on the video, Blake Robles.
 "And seeing this now brings back the anger and frustration that I felt that day when the people that were there that were supposed to come to help me were there to attack me," he said.

 Robles had never seen the video before, and it brought back a flood of emotion.
[begin recording]
Darden: So, let's start over.
Robles: (moaning)
Mustard: The act can stop.
Darden: Let's start over.
[end recording]

 Robles says when he was on the ground, the two officers pressed their knees into his chest and that he briefly blacked out.
[begin recording]
Darden: Would you like to start over or, or do...
Robles: I'm done, I'm done.
Darden: Or do I need to further introduce myself.
Robles: I'm done, I'm done, I'm completely done.
Darden: I don't need to further introduce myself?
Robles: I can't breathe.
Mustard: Stand up son.
[end recording]

 The officers accused Robles of faking it.
[begin recording]
Darden: What was all that moaning and stuff you did on the ground?
Mustard: Just posturing for effect.
Darden: Was that 'cause my knee was in the center of your chest and you were having a hard time?
[end recording]

 "What was that moaning, you son of a bitch?! That was me not being able to breathe!" Robles said. "Whether you're in a bad mood, whether you're angry, whether they feel you're being disrespectful, it doesn't matter. They are there to protect and to serve us, and that day I was not protected, I was not served and I've never felt safe from the police department since then."
 The incident was captured by what's called a VIEVU camera, clipped to the shirt of Ofc. Steve Darden, a 17-year veteran of the Vallejo Police Department.
 "You wanna know what happened? OK, I'll tell you what happened," Darden said.
 But, Darden does not want to talk about this case. By email, he refused the I-Team's request for an interview.
 Darden's best known outside the department for his rap music after he recorded a tribute to Vallejo Ofc. Jim Capoot who was killed by a suspected bank robber in 2011.
 Police Chief Joe Kreins declined to be interviewed when Dan Noyes caught him outside police headquarters. He said he wasn't chief at the time of the incident -- he arrived last September from Novato.
 But the package arrived at ABC7 just last month, sent by someone inside the Vallejo Police Department who is concerned about the conditions there right now. Along with the DVD and police report, the source wrote a letter describing a pervasive "cowboy attitude" in the department.
 The source described what happened to Robles and wrote, "Criminal behavior is being allowed and nothing is being done to stop it." "Internal Affairs ... does nothing to hold officers accountable and spends more time bullying citizens who try to file complaints."
 The source also wrote that "the shift supervisor ... played the video in briefing and laughed about it."
[begin recording]
Dan Noyes: Did that happen?
Lt. Lee Horton: I don't believe that happened, I believe that's completely inaccurate, but you know this was a year and a half ago, I wasn't there for every step of this.
[end recording]

 Horton oversees the Vallejo police professional standards division. He refused to comment directly on the video or to say what, if any, discipline Darden received for the incident.
[begin recording]
Horton: By law, I can't discuss the man's personnel file or his disposition of discipline or anything like that with you.
Noyes: You're asking me and you're asking the public to trust you, that you handled this properly. I'm not sure there's a lot of trust here. So, I just need to know, I'll give you one last shot. Was his behavior, that officer's behavior on that video appropriate?
Horton: Well, I can answer the question for you this way. If I'm telling you that we conducted an internal affairs investigation, there was a disposition with the officer, that's the answer to your question.
[end recording]

 Horton also would not discuss Darden's version of events he wrote in the official police report: "I conducted a 'front reap throw,' exerted forward force with my right palm into the upper portion of his chest while sweeping his legs in the opposite direction."
 But, he didn't hit Robles in the chest, as he wrote. The video shows Darden's gloved right hand strike the left side of Robles' head, knocking him to the ground.
 For some perspective, the I-Team took the video to the head of the criminal justice program at San Francisco State University.
 "Police officers know if you don't take control of a situation pretty early on, it can easily escalate," Jeff Snipes said.
 Snipes says Darden's use of force falls within general police guidelines, but agrees he let the confrontation turn personal very quickly.
[video-still showing Darden and his rap albums]

 "Perhaps he [could have] stood at a little bit more of a distance at first and tried to use some positioning, verbal commands," Snipes said. "'Please sit on the curb,' or something like that and see where it went from there."
 Robles went to the hospital after the incident -- he says his ribs were sore for weeks, but he never considered suing the police.
 "I don't want money, I want a solution, I want the people of Vallejo to be safe, and they're not safe right now because when officers like this are coming out to calls and they're treating victims of cases like this, no one is safe," he said.
 Under the public records act, the I-Team asked Vallejo police for all VIEVU recordings in which Darden had any physical contact with the public in the past three years. The department denied the request, saying all the videos are a part of Darden's personnel file. The I-Team has filed an appeal with the Vallejo Police Department lawyers.

Read the letter sent to the I-Team:

Read the police report:
[begin extract]

[end extract]

[video-still showing a recent Justice gathering at the Vallejo PD Headquarters. The People, who are family, friends, or folks sympathetic to the cause for Justice against the Human Rights abuse exhibited by Vallejo Police, are being protected by the BRLP of Oakland, who have their "Watch a Pig Program" which protects the community people being harassed by "stop & frisk" tactics used by Oakland PD]: