The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. March 19, 2017: ”The 9/11 atacks were carried out by Saudis, recruited by one of their police officials, at the specific request of former President George H.W. Bush. Bush and Rove (and three others) wanted a “Reichstag Fire” incident to gain unqustioned American public support for draconian control laws. The then-President, George W. Bush was prepared to introduce and organize the implementation of programs designed to maintain the right wing Republicans in political power.
Only the unforeseen crash of the hijacked airliner that was slated to crash into the Capitol building in Washington when Congress was in session (decimating legislators and permitting the President to rule by decree until some possible future date) caused the plot to fail.
The Saudis creates ISIS so they could establish a Sunni empire and the Americans trained and armed them to please the oil-rich Saudis. But ISIS became savage, butchering rival Shi’ites, so there was a response in the West that lead to both Russian and American air attacks on ISIS, attacks that both interdicted their expansionist activities and killed them in large numbers
The air attacks on ISIS have so enraged this group that in retaliation they have ordered their members to carry out civilian attacks in Western countries.
Such attacks are virtually impossible to defend against.”
Table of Contents
- Islamic Terrorism and the United States
- Protection for student loan defaulters rolled back
- Jesus Exposed
- Germany rejects Trump claim it owes Nato and US ‘vast sums’ for defence
- Germany threatens legal action if US hikes import tax
- S. Supreme Court’s ideological balance at stake in confirmation fight
- Erdogan wants Balkans as ‘leverage’ on Europe: expertTurkey is seeking to gain more influence in the Balkans.
- Contrasting Tales of Two Besieged Cities
- Popped Pimp May Uncork Warrant Protection for Cellphone Location
- Latinos Got 77 Percent of Federal Pot Sentences Last Year
- Door-Busting Drug Raids Leave a Trail of Blood
Islamic Terrorism and the United States
March 19, 2017
by Harry von Johnston, PhD
Islamic leaders, controlled by the Sunni Saudis are about to proclaimed a holy war against selected Christian nations. Primary amongst their enemies was the United States, mainly because of its unquestioning support for the state of Israel.
Once firm business partners with the United States, the rapid depletion of Saudi oil reserves is causing a shift in the Saudi government away from the United States and more towards radical Islam.
Targets of opportunity are to be American financial interests throughout the world, American political and military personalities, (both inside and outside of the United States), prominent objects such as the World Trade buildings in New York, the Pentagon, theWhite House and the capital buildings in Washington and the following projected areas of strategic, political and sociological significance. This partial listing comes from an interepted Saudi message to IS leadership units in Syrna:
1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)
2nd Vice Presidential DC Area Bunker
63 US-based Nuclear Power Plants
AF New Boston Sat Tracking Station
Air Force Satellite Control Network
American Type Culture Collection
American controlled oil pipelines in:
Alaska, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iraq
Anniston Chemical Depot
Argonne National Laboratory
Argonne National Laboratory-West
AU Defence Signals Directorate
Barksdale Air Force Base WSA
Beale Air Force Base
Big Hole Communications Bunker
Bremerton Submarine facilities
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Bunker on White Rock Road
Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant
Camp David Presidential Retreat
Capenhurst Phone-Tap Tower
Central Intelligence Agency Headquarters at Langley, VA
Charleston Naval Weapons Station
Chesepeake Car Tunnel, Norfolk, VA
Chevron Refinery, Pascagoula, MS
Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center
CIA Office of Special Technology
CIA Special Training Center
CIA/NSA Special Collection Service
Cudjoe Key Air Force Station
Defense Nuclear Weapons School
Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant
Dixon/Stockton Naval Radio Facilities
DoD WMD Contractors
Downtown Manhattan Telephone Hubs
Drug Enforcement Administration
Edwards AFB/NASA Dryden Flight Center
Fairchild Air Force Base WSA
FBI CALEA Wiretap Homes
Former NSA Rosman Station
Ft. Meade SIGINT Operations Center
Grand Coolie Dam system
Grand Forks Air Force Base
Hanford Nuclear Reservation
Hoover Dam and associated power grid
HQ of the Homeland Security Dept.
Indian Point Nuclear Generating Sta.
Janet Airlines Terminal
Jim Creek Naval Radio Station
Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
Kirtland Nuclear Storage Complex
Lake Kickapoo Space Surveillance Station.
Lawrence Livermore National Lab
Letterkenny Army Depot
MacDill AFB and Central Command
Marfa v. Chinati Foundation
Marshall Space Flight Center
McGregor Naval Weapons Industrial. Reserve
Medina Regional SIGINT Center
Millstone Nuclear Power Plant
Minot Air Force Base
Mississippi River Bridges
Moyock Naval SIGINT Station
National Air Intelligence Center
National Football League Stadiums
National Reconnaissance Office
National Reconnaissance Office HQ
National Security Agency
Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek
Naval Maritime Intelligence Center
Naval Missile Range Facility
Naval Radio Station Driver
Naval Security Group at Winter Harbor
Naval Security Group San Diego
Naval Security Group Skaggs Island
Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
Naval Station Norfolk
Naval Submarine Base Bangor
Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay
Naval Submarine Base New London/NSGA Groton
Naval Surface Warfare Center
Naval War College
Naval Weapons Station Earle
Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach
Naval/Marine Intel Training Center
Nellis Nuclear Weapons Storage Area
Nevada Nuclear Test Site
New York City Water Reservoirs
Newport Chemical Depot
North Island Naval Air Station WSA
NRO at Moffett Field
NSA Bad Aibling DE Echelon Station
NSA Friendship Annex
NSA Geraldton AU Echelon Station
NSA Kent Island Research Facility
NSA Leitrim CA Echelon Station
NSA Menwith Hill UK Echelon Station
NSA Misawa JP Echelon Station
NSA Pine Gap AU Echelon Station
NSA Sugar Grove US Echelon Station
NSA Waihopai NZ Echelon Station
NSA Yakima US Echelon Station
NSGA at North Island NAS, San Diego
Nuclear Device Assembly Facilities
NYPD Ammunition Depot
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Panama Canal locks
Pantex Nuclear Warhead Plant
Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant
Presidential Homes in Texas and Maine
Pueblo Chemical Weapons Depot
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
Radio Station Cutler
Ready Reserve Force
San Nicolas Isle Missile Test Center
Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant
Site R – Raven Rock Governmental Bunker
Statue of Liberty
Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Sugar Grove Echelon Station
Tooele and Deseret Chemical Depots
Twenty-eight US Airports
Two Rock Ranch Communications Station.
- Army Intelligence Center
US Army Chemical Center
US Bullion Depositories
US Nuclear Weapons Storage Areas
US Secret Service Training Facility
US Transatlantic Cable Landings
US Transpacific Cable Landings
US Vice Presidential Official Residence
Warren Air Force Base
Warrenton Training Center Site D
Whiteman Air Force Base WSA
Wilson Blvd Tech Centers, Arlington
WIPP Nuclear Waste Target
Yakima Echelon Station
Yorktown Naval Weapons Station
Yucca Mountain Project
Protection for student loan defaulters rolled back
March 17, 2017
by Allen Cone
The Trump administration rolled back guidelines that barred debt collectors from charging high interest rates on past-due student loans.
The Education Department wrote Thursday in a Dear Colleague Letter that a previous letter from President Barack Obama’s administration is no longer in force. In 2015, agencies were barred from charging interest of up to 16 percent of the principal and accrued interest on the loans if the borrower entered the government’s loan rehabilitation program within 60 days of default.
Almost 7 million people with $162 billion in loans held by guarantee agencies are affected.
“The department will not require compliance with the interpretations set forth in the DCL without providing prior notice and an opportunity for public comment on the issues,” the letter signed by Lynn Mahaffie, acting assistant secretary, said.
The Obama administration issued the memo after the Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015 sought guidance in a case against United Student Aid Funds that challenged the penalties.
The current department said it thought the “Dear Colleague Letter” from the Obama administration “would have benefited from public input on the issues discussed” in the letter.
On Monday, two legislators, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., sent a letter urging the Education Department to uphold the Obama administration’s guidelines.
“Congress gave borrowers in default on their federal student loans the one-time opportunity to rehabilitate their loans out of default and re-enter repayment,” the letter said. “It is inconsistent with the goal of rehabilitation to return borrowers to repayment with such large fees added.”
Last week, the Consumer Federation of America issued a report that defaults increased 14 percent for the millions of people who had not made a payment on their federal student loans for at least nine months in 2016.
The average amount owed is $30,650 per federal student loan borrower, which is a 17 percent increase since 2013, according to the report.
The myths destroyed by the Cave 3 discoveries
March 19, 2017
by Harry von Johnston, PhD
Cave 3, at Qumran which contained the period references to Jesus, was discovered on March 14, 1952 and eventually yielded 14 manuscripts including Jubilees and the curious copper scroll, which lists 67 hiding places of valuable assets of the Essenes, mostly buried underground, throughout the Roman province of Judea (now the state of Israel). According to the scroll, the secret caches held astonishing amounts of gold, silver, copper, aromatics, and manuscripts.
The Essenes were known to be a wealthy cult.
These scrolls from Cave 3 were the specifically the product of Essene Jews living in Jerusalem, who hid the scrolls in the caves near Qumran while fleeing from the Romans during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
The scroll in question was found by an amateur archeologist from Syria in May of 1952 and was sold by him, through a dealer in antiques named John Meanen, a former CIA operative based in Brooklyn, New York. Mr. Meanen sold the scroll in 1955 to a Heinz von Hungen, MD who collected rare Catholic artifacts, among other valuable historical objects. The scroll was subject to forensic testing as to age and then photographs were sent to three different experts in the Nabataean language.
The scroll itself was on a parchment and testing on this and on the ink along with the text itself, dated this at close to about 50-55 CE.
This is the only period reference to Jesus. From the translated text it is set forth that Jesus was born, not in Bethelhem but in Alexandria, Egypt and that his father was Jewish and his mother Egyptian. He had two older brothers, one of whom later became a member of the Essene cult when the family moved to Judea. As a member of the Essenes, Jesus was called ‘Bar Nasha’ or the son of man. Jesus took this name when he joined the ranks of the Essenes.
Translation from the original Nabataean of significant portion of the scroll from Cave 3
(1) Of this Jesus we compile this recording of his wonderous deeds and his gathering many into the fold.
(2) He was born in Alexandria, the son of Yossef and that his mother was a woman of Egyptian parentage and that he had two brothers with him. Joseph and his family then removed themselves to the land of Caanan in the second year of the Prefect Aquila and prospered.
(3) Jesus then being young but of a strong religious cast, (blessing) was taken into the Brotherhood by his elder brother Jacob who instructed him and became his greatly loving partner and there did prosper greatly, becoming a great leader of the people and one who sought to expel the heathen (unbelieving) sons of Rome from the land.
(4) That Jesus, not being ill-favored and most eagerly was welcomed by the society and loved (taken to their souls and bodies) then by many. He was given the name of ‘Bar Nasha’ (son of man). In the ritual bathing, he proved to be mighty and much beloved indeed and this because of the inspiration and teaching of John who was himself a much beloved person.
(5) And Jesus, not being ill-favored, was a most inspired (wonderous) preacher and went amongst the multitude and spoke with great and moving spirit about the brotherhood, causing many to come to its fold with joy and pleasure. And when age came upon him, Jesus went out into the land, preaching to the people and was himself greatly loved.
(6) In the rule of Felix, the time had come to throw off the Roman yoke (enslavement) and Jesus, and many others, did prepare a great undertaking against these Romans but they were betrayed by one Judas to the Romans and these came upon them suddenly and with great force. Many were siezed but a few eluded the Roman police (soldiers) and removed to the secret place.
(7) Jesus was one of these and with him came Cephas, a most beautiful young man who was much beloved, of Jesus, who accompanied him to his secret place and loved him greatly.
Summation of traslation:
Jesus father, Yossef,was born in Alexandria in 41 BC under Ptolemaeus XV Philopator Philomētor Caesar and in the seventh year of his rule (June 23, 47 BCE – August 23, 30 BCE), Jesus was born, also in Alexandria, under Gaius Iulius Aquila, Prefect of the Province of Egypt (10-11 CE). Jesus’ leading an Essene rebellion and his subsequent rapid departure from Jerusalem was under the Procuratorship of Antonius Felix (52 to 58 CE) in Judea. Jesus’ older brother, fellow Essene and Jesus’ lover was Jacob (or James.)
I assume, without fear of contradiction, that there were no children from this union.
Most current Biblical scholars generally believe Jesus was a follower or disciple of John and several New Testament accounts report that some of Jesus’s first followers had previously been followers of John.
John the Baptist is also mentioned by Jewish historian Josephus. Some scholars maintain that John was influenced by the semi-ascetic Essenes, who expected an apocalypse and practiced rituals corresponding strongly with baptism.
The baptism story has its roots in the extensive nude ritual bathing practiced by all the Essenes.
There also is mention of a younger, handsome man whom Jesus called Cephas, meaning “stone” in Aramaic and which is translated to “Peter.” Jesus said he would build his future church on this young man. References to him can be found in the Gospels and he is described as wearing scanty or no garments at all and associating very closely with Jesus. He was at the Mount of Olives putsch episode and ran away, naked, from the Romans.
This scroll was written by the Essenes residing at Khirbet Qumran. They composed many of the historically important scrolls and ultimately hid them in the nearby caves during the Jewish Revolt, sometime between 66 and 68 CE. The site of Qumran was eventually destroyed and the scrolls were never recovered by those that placed them there.
Germany rejects Trump claim it owes Nato and US ‘vast sums’ for defence
Defence minister Ursula von der Leyen rejects Trump’s tweeted claim
‘No debt account to Nato’, minister says, explaining spending policy
March 19, 2016
The German defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, on Sunday rejected Donald Trump’s claim that Germany owes Nato and the US “vast sums” of money for defence.
“There is no debt account at Nato,” Von der Leyen said in a statement, adding that it was wrong to link the alliance’s target for members to spend 2% of their economic output on defence by 2024 solely to Nato.
“Defence spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against [Isis] terrorism,” Von der Leyen said.
Trump, who was spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida, said on Twitter on Saturday – a day after meeting the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Washington – that Germany “owes vast sums of money to Nato & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”
His words prompted criticism, also published on Twitter, from a former permanent representative to Nato under President Obama.
Ivo Daalder, permanent representative from 2009 to 2013, wrote: “Sorry, Mr President, that’s not how Nato works. The US decides for itself how much it contributes to defending Nato. This is not a financial transaction, where Nato countries pay the US to defend them. It is part of our treaty commitment.
Trump has urged Germany and other Nato members to accelerate efforts to meet Nato’s defence spending target.
Von der Leyen said everyone wanted the burden to be shared fairly and for that to happen it was necessary to have a “modern security concept” that included a modern Nato but also a European defence union and investment in the United Nations.
German defence spending is set to rise by €1.4bn ($1.5bn) to €38.5bn ($41.4bn) in 2018 – a figure that is projected to represent 1.26% of economic output, the finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has said. In 2016, Germany’s defence spending ratio stood at 1.18%.
During her trip to Washington, Merkel reiterated Germany’s commitment to the 2% military spending goal.
Germany threatens legal action if US hikes import tax
March 17, 2017
Donald Trump’s proposal to tax imports may lead to litigation at the World Trade Organization, according to German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries.
The threat comes ahead of the first meeting of between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the US President on Friday.
Trump has warned the US would impose a 35 percent border tax on BMW vehicles, produced at a new plant in Mexico.
“I’m betting partly on reason and partly on the courts” to stop a damaging trade war, said Zypries in an interview with Deutschlandfunk public radio, Friday.
“The other option is that we file a suit against him at the WTO – there are procedures laid out there because in the WTO agreements it is clearly laid out that you’re not allowed to take more than 2.5 percent taxes on imports of cars,” the minister said.
The US became Germany’s biggest export market last year, selling €107 billion of goods while importing just €58 billion worth. Germany’s trade surplus has been a source of tension between Washington and Berlin.
“We know ourselves that that’s a problem and we’re working on it. Thankfully we just heard today that wage rises have been agreed again so that means domestic demand can increase again and we want to address tax incentives for research… so we’re on a good path,” Zypries said.
Nearly 72,000 steel workers in northwestern Germany will get a 2.3 percent wage increase starting April and a rise of 1.7 percent from May 1, 2018, according to the employers’ association for the German steel industry Arbeitgeberverband Stahl.
“The Americans need our machines and our plants, and the other point is that we only have an export surplus in the machines and plants sector; in the service sector it’s the other way around, due to big internet companies in the United States,” said Zypries.
U.S. Supreme Court’s ideological balance at stake in confirmation fight
March 19, 2017
by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung
Washington-When President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is sworn in for his Senate confirmation hearing on Monday, Democrats will make the case that he is a pro-business, social conservative insufficiently independent of the president.
In a bid to place hurdles in the way of Gorsuch’s expected confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate, Democrats on the judiciary committee have said they will probe him on several fronts based mainly on his record as a federal appeals court judge and a Justice Department appointee under former President George W. Bush.
Gorsuch has served on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006. He would replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. If confirmed by the Senate, Gorsuch would restore a narrow 5-4 conservative majority on the court.
Among questions he will face will be whether he is sufficiently independent from Trump, who has criticized judges for ruling against his bid to restrict travel from Muslim-majority countries.
“The high burden of proof that Judge Gorsuch has to meet is largely a result of the president who nominated him,” Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut who sits on the committee, said last week at an event featuring several plaintiffs who lost cases that came before Gorsuch.
Another line of attack previewed by Democratic leader Chuck Schumer at the same event is to focus on rulings Gorsuch, 49, has authored in which corporate interests won out over individual workers.
“Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge but his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right wing, pro-corporate special interest legal agenda,” Schumer said.
One case involved truck driver Alphonse Maddin, who was fired after he disobeyed a supervisor and abandoned his trailer at the side of a road after the brakes froze. Gorsuch wrote a dissenting opinion as a three-judge panel ruled last year that Maddin was wrongly terminated and had to be reinstated with back pay.
Another issue, set to be pressed by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, is Gorsuch’s role as a Justice Department lawyer under Bush from 2005 to 2006, when he helped defend controversial policies enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, including the administration’s expansive use of aggressive interrogation techniques.
Gorsuch’ views on social issues, including a 2006 book he wrote in which he argued against the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, will be discussed too.
In the book, Gorsuch cited the “inviolability of human life,” calling it a “basic good,” which some conservatives say could indicate that he is also opposed to abortion. Conservative activists have for decades sought to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.
Republicans have praised Gorsuch’s 11-year record on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Notwithstanding Gorsuch’s superb qualifications and principled approach to judging, Democrats and their liberal allies strain mightily to find plausible grounds to oppose his nomination,” Hatch said in a newspaper article on Friday.
Known for his genial demeanor and keen intellect, Gorsuch will, like prior nominees, seek to engage with senators as much as possible while declining to answer specific questions.
Much is at stake for Trump and his Republican Party. If confirmed as expected given the Republicans’ control of the 100-member Senate, Gorsuch would restore the court’s conservative tilt. Doing that without too much drama would be Trump’s biggest win so far as president.
With the United States divided sharply between liberals and conservatives, ideological dominance of the Supreme Court, where justices serve for life, is a blue-ribbon prize, with an impact that can last for decades.
For Democrats, the hearing will dredge up bitter feelings. After Scalia died unexpectedly, former Democratic President Barack Obama nominated a replacement, but Republicans for months refused to consider him, blocking a leftward shift on the court.
Since Scalia’s death the court has been divided equally 4-4 between conservatives and liberals.
In some ways, the fight over Gorsuch will be just a preview of an even bigger battle to come over the next vacancy.
“We’ve known for years, before Justice Scalia passed, that this next president would have two or three Supreme Court nominations,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal group.
Three court justices are elderly. Ruth Bader Ginsburg just turned 84. Her fellow liberal Stephen Breyer is 78. The court’s frequent swing vote, conservative Anthony Kennedy, is 80.
If any of them was to be replaced by a conservative similar to Gorsuch, the court would have a firm 6-3 conservative majority, possibly for decades.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Lisa Shumaker)
Erdogan wants Balkans as ‘leverage’ on Europe: expertTurkey is seeking to gain more influence in the Balkans.
DW’s Darko Janjevic spoke with Erdoan Shipoli, a US-based expert on Turkey and the Balkans, about what this means for the European Union.
March 18, 2017
by Darko Janjevic
DW: Dr. Shipoli, what are Turkey’s goals in the Balkans; what is it trying to accomplish?
Dr. Erdoan Shipoli: Historically, Turkey’s institutions, such as the military or the country’s bureaucracy, were always linked with the Balkans, because they saw the Balkans as a path to Europe. Turkey has always seen the Balkans as the road it can use to reach Europe. Nevertheless, in the recent years of the Erdogan era, it has also started seeing the Balkans as something it can use for leverage. So Erdogan’s government wants to increase its influence in those societies by investing and helping some civil society organizations … It does this so that tomorrow it will be able to tell Europe: “We have all this influence in the Balkans, your own back door, and we can use it to blackmail you.”
So Erdogan’s government thinks it will be able to use its Balkan presence to influence European politics and push Europe in a certain direction?
Yes. At least, this is what Erdogan thinks, but I don’t think he is able to really do that. When it comes to the political influence in Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia, Turkey is definitely an important regional player, but only to the degree to which its policies coincide with the European Union’s policies. For Balkan countries, their main goal is to enter the EU. For many years, this was also Turkey’s goal. Now, when Turkey is moving away from this goal, Turkish influence in the Balkans is decreasing as well.
How much real political influence does Ankara have in the region?
EU: Erdogan ‘completely detached from reality’
When it comes to ex-Yugoslav states, the strongest influence it has is in Bosnia, then Macedonia, then Kosovo, with Albania [not an ex-Yu state] coming at the end. Of course, it has better trade relations with Bulgaria and better communication with the Turkish community in Bulgaria than in Kosovo, for example. In reality, Turkey does not have the political influence it claims to have in the Balkans, and it doesn’t have the influence it wants to have. The only way that Turkey can have more influence in the Balkans is if the EU breaks its promise to work with the Balkan countries. Otherwise, if they have to choose, the Balkan countries will go with Europe and never look back at Turkey.
Even so, people in Bosnia and other Muslim communities all over the Balkans look to Erdogan as a kind of big brother. Erdogan himself recently used the Srebrenica massacre as proof of Europe’s hatred of Muslims, and he likes to portray himself as a protector of Muslims. How much of that is genuine sentiment, and how much is political posturing?
He is only doing it for domestic consumption. Of course, Bosnian Muslims have sympathies toward Turkey, because Turkey and some other Muslim countries helped them during the war before the EU and the US did. In Kosovo, this was not the case, and Kosovar Albanian Muslims don’t see Turkey as their big brother. However, while Erdogan and Turkey have no power to really influence anything in the Balkans, Erdogan is a master of using discourse and narrative to his gain. He is using the Srebrenica massacre to prove to the Turks that he cares about the Muslims, and this will bring him a lot of votes, because we should remember there are a lot of Turks with Bosnian, Bulgarian or Albanian backgrounds who historically have not voted for Erdogan. In this way, he is trying to win their votes in the referendum by showing them he would fight for the Balkans – in this case, against the Netherlands over Srebrenica.
Contrasting Tales of Two Besieged Cities
The U.S.-backed offensive to retake Iraq’s Mosul from the Islamic State is inflicting hardships on civilians, but the Western media treats this humanitarian crisis differently than the recent one in Aleppo, Syria
March 17, 2017
by Steven Chovanec
During the Syrian army’s offensive to retake the eastern part of Aleppo from the insurgent opposition, the Western media portrayed the assault as if Russia and Syria were carrying out a campaign primarily aimed at killing and harming civilians. The humanitarian crisis dominated headlines while key facts, such as Al Qaeda’s domination of the opposition forces and the way in which the militants had brutally conquered the city’s civilians, were marginalized or not reported at all.
A similar military offensive being carried out by the U.S. and its allies in the Iraqi city of Mosul reveals the hypocritical nature of Western news outlets, which portray their own countries’ actions as targeting only Islamic State terrorists and scrupulously avoiding harm to civilians.
There is no doubt that the siege in eastern Aleppo resulted in a humanitarian crisis for the civilian population trapped within the warzone. As the Washington Institute’s Fabrice Balanche described: “What the United Nations is describing [about] the humanitarian situation is correct: hospitals destroyed, people living in shelters, women and children trapped in the rubble, and so on.”
Yet in reality the destruction waged upon Aleppo was hardly different from what is now being done in Mosul as the U.S.-led coalition carries out a similar campaign of counterinsurgency and siege warfare.
Currently the Iraqi army, backed by U.S. airstrikes, is conducting a violent and brutal assault on the western parts of Mosul city in order to drive out the Islamic State. A whole population of civilians is trapped within an ongoing warzone and cut off from food supplies and basic necessities as the military offensive hits heavily populated areas killing civilians while destroying important infrastructure in the process, including hospitals.
Yet, while Western officials and media pundits vehemently condemned the Syrian assault on Aleppo, they are largely silent — or congratulatory and supportive — as the U.S. and its partners lay waste to the more heavily populated city of Mosul.
A senior Iraqi politician told veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn that “the Iraqi armed forces will eventually capture west Mosul … but the city itself will be destroyed in the fighting,” pointing to the massive destruction already inflicted upon eastern Mosul which was recently captured by the U.S.-backed forces.
So, even though the current U.S.-led siege has resulted in a larger humanitarian crisis in purely quantitative terms, the outcry over it is largely nonexistent. The trauma is reported on, but selectively, while the full extent of the civilian catastrophe is hidden from view.
For instance, The New York Times dedicated only two major stories to the offensive this month, yet flooded its pages with heartrending stories during the siege of Aleppo. In addition, coalition actions in Mosul that result in civilian casualties, like the destruction of hospital complexes, are depicted as justified or unintentional, compared to the portrayal of Syrian and Russian strikes in east Aleppo as intentional war crimes when similar complexes were hit or civilians killed.
Similarly, justifications for civilian suffering — scoffed at and ridiculed when made by Russia and Syria — are used without irony or shame to defend U.S. actions. Whereas the West’s media treated civilians in Aleppo as the targeted victims of the Russian-Syrian attacks, civilians in Mosul are described as “human shield” victims of Islamic State terrorists who also hoard food supplies and prevent civilians from escaping.
This is not to say that these accusations against the Islamic State are false, but similar Russian-Syrian claims against the Al Qaeda-dominated rebels in east Aleppo were brushed aside as lies and propaganda.
A Dire Situation
Without doubt, the conditions on the ground in ISIS-held western Mosul are dire. Aid groups warn that the situation has been deteriorating rapidly following a U.S.-backed coalition airstrike that destroyed the last remaining bridge leading out of the city, trapping the population and preventing supplies from entering. The coalition justified the attack as necessary to cut off ISIS from supply lines, but that also had drastic humanitarian implications.
“Humanitarian conditions in the west of the city are deteriorating after supply routes were cut off in November when the east of the city was recaptured,” Oxfam reported. “An estimated 750,000 people are trapped in western Mosul without any safe means of escape from the latest military offensive.”
The result is that “up to 750,000 people in western Mosul city are estimated to remain largely inaccessible to humanitarians,” the U.N. warned, while “serious concerns remain for the protection of civilians in the west of the city, where food, water, medicine and fuel are running low.”
Patrick Cockburn, one of the few honest Western journalists reporting on the region, noted that “already shelling and airstrikes are causing heavy casualties among families sheltering in cellars or beneath the stairs in their houses.”
Writing for Middle East Eye, Nafeez Ahmed quoted Ross Caputi, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War, describing “horror stories about civilian casualties coming out of Mosul. An aid worker friend of mine was trying to recruit volunteer doctors to work in a surgical unit in Erbil, where many of the more serious cases were being redirected. She told me that the situation is worse than it’s being portrayed in the media.”
Even more startling is evidence that the first week of March was characterized by a severe rise in civilian deaths as a result of U.S.-coalition actions, at the same time when major news outlets had drastically reduced coverage on the topic.
“The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State may have killed hundreds of civilians” in the first week of March alone, according to open source data compiled by Airwars, which estimates that “between 250 and 370 civilians have been killed” since March 1. Nafeez Ahmed explained this is “exponentially higher than the US count of just 21 civilian deaths from bombing since November 2016.”
Yet, instead of highlighting the humanitarian crisis and placing blame on U.S. and Iraqi forces for the misery, the Western media has portrayed the operation as assiduously avoiding harm to civilians. For example, the coalition strike severing the bridge was described as a victory against ISIS, while the humanitarian implications were downplayed or ignored.
One report described the destruction of the bridge as “a historic setback for the Islamic State as the terror group loses its grip on its Iraqi hub of Mosul,” with no mention of the harm to civilians. Another stated “American-led airstrikes damaged all five bridges last year in a bid to isolate the militants in Mosul.”
At least one of the ruined bridges was captured recently by Iraqi government forces. But U.S. Air Force Col. (and spokesman for the coalition) John Dorrian made it clear that bridges would be fully repaired “only after defeating ISIS,” choosing to intensify the humanitarian crisis by continuing a debilitating siege on the almost one million residents who are trapped.
Perhaps the destruction of bridges and siege warfare are warranted to isolate and defeat the Islamic State, yet when main news outlets deliberately hide the humanitarian implications of such actions and portray them merely as military victories without connection to the human suffering, they are engaged in manipulation of public perceptions which mobilizes support for state actions rather than objectively informing public opinion of the reality of the situation.
Stephen Gowanz summed up the nature of this media bias: “the United States and its allies have been practicing siege warfare in the Levant and beyond for years, and continue to do so. It’s just that US-led siege warfare has been concealed behind anodyne, even heroic, labels, while the siege warfare of countries Washington is hostile to, is abominated by Western state officials crying crocodile tears.”
The reason for this hypocrisy is that the primary function of mass media in “free societies” is to serve as a system of propaganda. Under this “propaganda model” view of the media, one would expect Western coverage of the Mosul crisis to take for granted that the U.S. is carrying out its efforts in the service of benevolent ideals, with the goal of defending civilians from aggression and terrorism while making painstaking efforts to limit casualties
On the other hand, in the Aleppo case, one would expect Western media to act in the opposite fashion, taking for granted that civilian lives are treated with contempt and that motives are inherently suspicious or malevolent, while context and rational understanding of actions are marginalized or disregarded altogether.
When comparing coverage of these two stories, we see that this is exactly what you find, namely indignation directed at “enemy” military operations over civilian suffering and sympathy for U.S. and allied military assaults with the civilian casualties downplayed or rationalized.
Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky explain in their extensive study on media propaganda, Manufacturing Consent, that “while this differential treatment occurs on a large scale, the media, intellectuals, and public are able to remain unconscious of the fact and maintain a high moral and self-righteous tone. This is evidence of an extremely effective propaganda system.”
The question is how does this occur when the news media is not openly controlled by a state bureaucracy as in a totalitarian system but nonetheless achieves similar outcomes. An institutional analysis reveals that there exist various factors inherit within the structure of the media which essentially serve as a filter which sifts out inconvenient facts while propagating other information that is in accordance with the interests of the institution.
The basic structure of Western media is that the outlets themselves are powerful corporations with a profit-making goal. The product that they are selling are audiences, mostly wealthier and privileged people, as consumers of advertisements paid for by other major corporations. Given this reality, it’s not surprising that the news product reflects a worldview that is in alignment with corporate interests and prejudices, such as the military defense contractors and the military itself whose ads line the pages of major Western journals and consume significant ad time on TV.
It is in the interests of these pro-military entities for audiences to get a positive image of the U.S. military while creating an adverse image for foreign villains who can be collectively despised. It’s also understood that American audiences want to feel good about what the U.S. military is doing abroad, rather than being challenged with unpleasant truths.
Herman and Chomsky explain that this phenomenon of slanted reporting “is normally not accomplished by crude intervention, but by the selection of right-thinking personnel and by the editors’ and working journalists’ internalization of priorities and definitions of news-worthiness that conform to the institutions policy.”
The result is an extremely skewed media picture, which is determined by which side of the geopolitical struggle certain actions occur. In the cases of Mosul and Aleppo, the similarities of the tragedies that have devastated the two cities serve to further highlight the very dissimilar way in which the two stories have been reported.
Popped Pimp May Uncork Warrant Protection for Cellphone Location
Will the 9th Circuit break with four others? Advocates hope so.
March 17, 2017
by Steven Nelson
Authorities believe Los Angeles pimp Calvin Sneed was shot dead by his underage girlfriend-turned-prostitute’s family outside their San Francisco home. Now, one of the girl’s relatives, fighting for his freedom, may be Americans’ best hope for cellphone location data privacy.
Civil liberties advocates see the case as a potential vehicle to force law enforcement to get a warrant before amassing historical cellphone location data.
The case revolves around Antonio Gilton, an alleged accomplice to the 2012 murder. The girl’s father, Gilton’s cousin, is believed to have actually shot Sneed in the head in the late-night drive-by. Local news accounts suggest that authorities believe the father blamed Sneed for luring his daughter into prostitution and shot him after Sneed arrived in response to a request from his girlfriend.
Gilton and the father, believed to be gang members, face a long list of charges that include the murder of Sneed in a federal racketeering case. Their co-defendents include men who use the names “Cheese,” “Sauce” and “Fat Reg.”
The group, known as the Central Divis Playas, is accused of robbery, drug dealing and pimping of minors.
Gilton was arrested after the girl’s father. He had his cellphone records taken by police who had a warrant as part of their investigation. But the warrant was supported by cellphone location data collected about the girl’s father’s phone without a warrant. Those records contradicted the father’s description of his whereabouts.
A judge suppressed the evidence against Gilton, finding there was no probable cause to believe he committed the crime, that the search warrant affidavit “hardly mentions” him and that the family link was not enough to tar him with evidence against the father.
Gilton’s attorneys on Friday asked a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to uphold the lower court ruling, and in doing so to break with a growing consensus that no warrant is needed for historical cellphone location data.
If the judges rule in Gilton’s favor, it could move the issue closer to review by the U.S. Supreme Court, with potentially broad privacy applications to information Americans share with companies.
Four federal appeals courts have ruled warrants aren’t required for historical cellphone location data – but not without some disagreement on the subject. Two of the federal circuits ruled en banc, overruling three-judge panels that found warrants were required.
Though some authorities seek warrants, they also can get a court order using a lower legal standard under the Stored Communications Act, saying the information is relevant to an investigation, or cite an emergency, as they did against the girl’s father.
The government’s position is that cellphone users voluntarily supply their location data to a third party, the phone companies, and lack a reasonable expectation of privacy over those records. Authorities point to Smith v. Maryland, a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that upheld warrantless collection of call records using a “pen register” in a criminal case.
Privacy advocates are alarmed at possible applications of Smith v. Maryland’s third-party doctrine with the advent of cellphones, the internet and easily digitized data. The decades-old case also has been used to support mass collection of domestic call records.
Strident dissents in other federal circuits warn of alarming deterioration of privacy.
[U]nder the majority’s rule, the Fourth Amendment allows the government to know from YouTube.com what we watch, or Facebook.com what we post or whom we ‘friend,’ or Amazon.com what we buy, or Wikipedia.com what we research, or Match.com whom we date – all without a warrant,” 11th Circuit Judge Beverly Martin wrote in her 2015 dissent. “In fact, the government could ask ‘cloud’-based file-sharing services like Dropbox or Apple’s iCloud for all the files we relinquish to their servers.”
The 9th Circuit judges grappled with the potential fallout of their ruling.
“You don’t even know what information is being conveyed when you’re driving around on your cellphone,” said Judge Margaret McKeown.
“I don’t know that the pen register is really applicable to the GPS information, that will again tell us your every movement for 24 hours a day,” Judge Jay Bybee said.
Justice Department attorney Jenny Ellickson told Bybee, however, that “the granularity, the precision of the information, doesn’t necessarily matter.”
The argument seemed to find a sympathetic audience in Judge John Wallace, who told an attorney for Gilton, “I think the pen register cases are very strong against you” and said the 9th Circuit generally avoids creating circuit splits unless the case is particularly compelling.
ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, a participant in many of the similar court cases, told Wallace the other circuits were “riven by disagreements.”
At another point, Wessler said Gilton did not answer more than 100 calls, undermining the argument he voluntarily gave his location information to phone companies – a fact cast in a brief as notably distinct from the four other cases decided by appeals courts.
Latinos Got 77 Percent of Federal Pot Sentences Last Year
The demographic gap is growing.
March 15, 2017
by Steven Nelson
The vast majority of federal sentences for marijuana crimes went to Hispanics last year, according to new data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Hispanics were massively overrepresented with 77 percent of federal marijuana sentences, despite making up less than 20 percent of the U.S. population.
Non-Hispanic whites were dramatically underrepresented, with 11.9 percent of pot sentences, and African-Americans were also underrepresented with 8.3 percent.
Hispanics long have gone to federal prison for pot crimes at a higher rate, but the group’s share of sentences has increased amid an overall dip as states unfurl regulated markets.
Most marijuana arrests do not result in federal charges and are instead prosecuted locally. About 643,000 pot arrests were made in 2015, the most recent year for which FBI data is available.
There were 3,528 federal marijuana sentences in fiscal 2016, with an average penalty of 28 months in prison, according to the sentencing commission, which released the annual statistics Monday.
Federal marijuana charges aren’t necessarily reserved for the worst of the worst, with each case presenting a unique set of facts and in some instances reflecting the priorities of the local U.S. attorney.
Three of the 421 whites sentenced federally in fiscal 2016, for example, were medical marijuana growers in eastern Washington who had slightly exceeded state limits on collective gardens.
Although Washington state allows recreational pot sales, anti-marijuana federal prosecutors targeted the so-called “Kettle Falls Five” with a raft of serious charges. Family patriarch Larry Harvey was excused from the case because of terminal cancer, but a family friend accepted a plea deal and in the first month of fiscal 2016 his widow, stepson, stepdaughter-in-law were sentenced to prison.
Eight states and the nation’s capital now have abolished criminal penalties for pot possession – and more than half allow the drug’s medical use – but possession for almost any reason remains a federal crime.
The trend may be explained in part by international drug organizations claiming a bigger footprint in a shrinking black market – though leaning against that theory is the fact marijuana seized at the Mexican border is plummeting.
Other explanations could include minorities having a tougher time transitioning from the unregulated to state-licensed industry. Although the white share of federal pot sentences has declined, the black share has hardly budged.
State laws typically have a legal residency and clean-record requirements for licensees, and blacks and Hispanics are more likely to have criminal records from pot arrests, and blacks from arrests in general – though each group self-reports similar drug use rates.
Jesce Horton, chairman of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, says the latest federal sentencing statistics are “a sad representation of the racial targeting that has fueled the war on drugs, of which cannabis prohibition played a major role.”
Horton, a state-legal businessman in Oregon’s cannabis industry, says the disproportionate criminal enforcement has created a “comfort gap” and other barriers to entering regulated markets, which the association seeks to bridge.
“This reality has certainly played a large role in the lack of involvement among people of color in the cannabis industry,” he says. “Many are shell shocked by the fear of being targeted and dealing with generational repercussions of a criminal record.”
Although the racial divide in federal marijuana sentences has grown recently, other drug categories have stark and relatively stable racial splits.
About 80 percent of crack cocaine sentences have gone to African-Americans every year for the past decade.
A long-term drug sentence decline for blacks largely reflects fewer crack cocaine sentences – from 4,528 in 2007 to 1,305 in 2016.
Roughly 40 to 50 percent of federal methamphetamine sentences, meanwhile, have gone to whites and to Hispanics.
Methamphetamine was the most common substance for federal drug sentences last year. Heroin sentences have also seen a multiyear increase.
Hispanics have consistently received a slightly majority of powder cocaine sentences and in recent years a narrow plurality of heroin sentences, while whites almost always receive the most sentences for other drugs.
Door-Busting Drug Raids Leave a Trail of Blood
Using SWAT officers to storm into homes to execute search warrants has led time
and again to avoidable deaths, gruesome injuries and costly legal settlements.
March 18, 2017
by Kevin Sack
New York Times
CORNELIA, Ga. — This town on the edge of the Appalachians has fewer than 5,000 residents, but the SWAT team was outfitted for war.
At 2:15 a.m. on a moonless night in May 2014, 10 officers rolled up a driveway in an armored Humvee, three of them poised to leap off the running boards. They carried Colt submachine guns, light-mounted AR-15 rifles and Glock .40-caliber sidearms. Many wore green body armor and Kevlar helmets. They had a door-breaching shotgun, a battering ram, sledgehammers, Halligan bars for smashing windows, a ballistic shield and a potent flash-bang grenade.
The target was a single-story ranch-style house about 50 yards off Lakeview Heights Circle. Not even four hours earlier, three informants had bought $50 worth of methamphetamine in the front yard. That was enough to persuade the county’s chief magistrate to approve a no-knock search warrant authorizing the SWAT operators to storm the house without warning.
The point man on the entry team found the side door locked, and nodded to Deputy Jason Stribling, who took two swings with the metal battering ram. As the door splintered near the deadbolt, he yelled, “Sheriff’s department, search warrant!” Another deputy, Charles Long, had already pulled the pin on the flash-bang. He placed his left hand on Deputy Stribling’s back for stability, peered quickly into the dark and tossed the armed explosive about three feet inside the door.
It landed in a portable playpen.
As policing has militarized to fight a faltering war on drugs, few tactics have proved as dangerous as the use of forcible-entry raids to serve narcotics search warrants, which regularly introduce staggering levels of violence into missions that might be accomplished through patient stakeouts or simple knocks at the door.
Thousands of times a year, these “dynamic entry” raids exploit the element of surprise to effect seizures and arrests of neighborhood drug dealers. But they have also led time and again to avoidable deaths, gruesome injuries, demolished property, enduring trauma, blackened reputations and multimillion-dollar legal settlements at taxpayer expense, an investigation by The New York Times found.
For the most part, governments at all levels have chosen not to quantify the toll by requiring reporting on SWAT operations. But The Times’s investigation, which relied on dozens of open-record requests and thousands of pages from police and court files, found that at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers died in such raids from 2010 through 2016. Scores of others were maimed or wounded.
The casualties have occurred in the execution of no-knock warrants, which give the police prior judicial authority to force entry without notice, as well as warrants that require the police to knock and announce themselves before breaking down doors. Often, there is little difference.
Innocents have died in attacks on wrong addresses, including a 7-year-old girl in Detroit, and collaterally as the police pursued other residents, among them a 68-year-old grandfather in Framingham, Mass. Stray bullets have whizzed through neighboring homes, and in dozens of instances the victims of police gunfire have included the family dog.
Search warrant raids account for a small share of the nearly 1,000 fatalities each year in officer-involved shootings. But what distinguishes them from other risky interactions between the police and citizens, like domestic disputes, hostage-takings and confrontations with mentally ill people, is that they are initiated by law enforcement.
In a country where four in 10 adults have guns in their homes, the raids incite predictable collisions between forces that hurtle toward each other like speeding cars in a passing lane — officers with a license to invade private homes and residents convinced of their right to self-defense.
After being awakened by the shattering of doors and the detonation of stun grenades, bleary suspects reach for nearby weapons — at times realizing it is the police, at others mistaking them for intruders — and the shooting begins. In some cases, victims like Todd Blair, a Utah man who grabbed a golf club on the way out of his bedroom, have been slain by officers who perceived a greater threat than existed.
To be sure, police officers and judges must find probable cause of criminal activity to justify a search warrant. Absent resources for endless stakeouts, police tacticians argue that dynamic entry provides the safest means to clear out heavily fortified drug houses and to catch suspects with the contraband needed for felony prosecutions.
But critics of the forcible-entry raids question whether the benefits outweigh the risks. The drug crimes used to justify so many raids, they point out, are not capital offenses. And even if they were, that would not rationalize the killing or wounding of suspects without due process. Nor would it forgive the propensity of the police to err in the planning or execution of raids that are inherently chaotic and place bystanders in harm’s way.
Forcible-entry methods have become common practice over the last quarter century through a confluence of the war on drugs, the rise of special weapons and tactics squads, and Supreme Court rulings that have eroded Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches. Support for their continued use has been bolstered by an epidemic of opioid abuse and the threat of domestic terrorism.
Because many raids occur in low-income neighborhoods, shooting deaths like one in November of a 22-year-old black man in Salisbury, N.C., have exacerbated racial tensions already raw from a spate of high-profile police killings. The American Civil Liberties Union concluded in a recent study of 20 cities that 42 percent of those subjected to SWAT search warrant raids were black and 12 percent Hispanic. Of the 81 civilian deaths tallied by The Times, half were members of minority groups.
The no-knock process often begins with unreliable informants and cursory investigations that produce affidavits signed by unquestioning low-level judges. It is not uncommon for the searches to yield only misdemeanor-level stashes, or to come up empty.
In some instances when officers have been killed, suspects with no history of violence, found with small quantities of drugs, have wound up facing capital murder charges, and possible death sentences.
In December, a jury in Corpus Christi, Tex., acquitted a 48-year-old man who spent 664 days in jail after being charged with attempted capital murder for wounding three SWAT officers during a no-knock raid that targeted his nephew. The jury concluded that the man, Ray Rosas, did not know whom he was firing at through a blinded window.
While the officers are typically seeking narcotics, there also have been deaths and serious injuries when warrants were served on people suspected of running illegal poker games, brewing moonshine and neglecting pets. In 2011, officers in Marine City, Mich., conducted a dynamic-entry raid to serve a search warrant for “any and all evidence pertaining to graffiti including but not limited to, spray paint containers, markers, notebooks, and photographs.” After forcing residents to the floor at gunpoint, they found nothing, according to depositions by the residents.
The Times found that from 2010 to 2015, an average of least 30 federal civil rights lawsuits were filed a year to protest residential search warrants executed with dynamic entries. Many of the complaints depict terrifying scenes in which children, elderly residents and people with disabilities are manhandled at gunpoint, unclothed adults are rousted from bed and houses are ransacked without recompense or apology. Louise Milan, 68, of Evansville, Ind., alleged in her filing that she and her 18-year-old daughter were handcuffed in front of neighbors during a door-busting 2012 raid prompted by threats against the police made by someone who had pirated her wireless connection.
“There’s a real misimpression by the public that aggressive police actions are only used against hardened criminals,” said Cary J. Hansel, a Baltimore lawyer who has represented plaintiffs in such lawsuits. “But there are dozens and dozens of cases where a no-knock warrant is used against somebody who’s totally innocent.”
At least seven of the federal lawsuits have been settled for more than $1 million in the last five years. They include a $3.75 million payment in 2016 to the family of Eurie Stamps, the unarmed Framingham grandfather who was accidentally shot while compliant and on his stomach; and $3.4 million in 2013 to the family of Jose Guereña, a 26-year-old former Marine shot more than 20 times as agents broke into his house in Tucson. No drugs were found.
In each of those cases, as in almost all botched raids, prosecutors declined to press charges against the officers involved.
Planned in Haste
Perhaps no fiasco illustrates the perils of no-knock searches as graphically as the 2014 raid here in Georgia’s northeast corner. On May 22, an eager young Habersham County sheriff’s deputy named Nikki Autry, who was attached to a narcotics task force, turned a small-time methamphetamine user into a confidential informant. Intent on avoiding jail, the informant, James Alton Fry Jr., set about the task of baiting bigger fish.
According to trial testimony and investigative documents, the agents sent Mr. Fry out on the night of May 27 to make drug buys. He scored two Lortab pain pills on his first approach, struck out with a second source and then was connected to a meth dealer named Wanis Thonetheva. At around 10:30 p.m., Mr. Fry, his wife, Devon, and their housemate, Larry Wood — all persistent meth users — drove to the address provided by the dealer.
“It didn’t look like a drug house,” Ms. Fry later testified. “This was a nice house. It’s usually a shack or trailer.” The police did not follow them to provide protection or surveil the property.
Mr. Wood conducted his business out front with Mr. Thonetheva, a 30-year-old American-born son of Laotian immigrants, as the Frys waited in their red pickup. All three appeared shaken when they met up with their handlers in a church parking lot. They had spotted two men at the house whom they took to be guards for the drug operation, and a third who might have been a supplier.
The agents sent the informants home, but about half an hour later Deputy Autry texted Ms. Fry with an afterthought. “Did y’all see any signs of kids at wanis’ house,” she asked.
“Nothing except a mini van,” came the response.
Thinking she was on to a big score, Deputy Autry, who was 28, did not wait for daylight or further investigation. She returned to the Sheriff’s Office, where she pulled Mr. Thonetheva’s criminal history and mug shot. With the approval of the sheriff, Joey Terrell, she alerted the county’s Special Response Team to prepare for a raid. She and her drug unit commander, Murray J. Kogod, began drafting the application for the no-knock warrant.
The affidavit included inaccuracies and hyperbole. It asserted incorrectly that Mr. Fry — the only informant formally certified by the police — had bought the drugs, rather than Mr. Wood. Deputy Autry described Mr. Fry as “a true and reliable informant,” even though he had not made a buy before that night. Despite the lack of surveillance, she wrote that she had “confirmed that there is heavy traffic in and out of the residence.”
Shortly after midnight, Deputy Autry and another agent awakened the county magistrate, James N. Butterworth, with a house call. He read the affidavit and placed her under oath.
She told him that Mr. Thonetheva had been arrested several times for drug possession, that there might be armed lookouts at the house and that an assault involving an AK-47 had been reported there the previous year. The judge, who had never denied Deputy Autry a warrant, found no reason to dispute probable cause and signed at 12:15 a.m.
“If you had drugs and you had weapons, that was constitutional purpose to go on in there, not to knock on the door,” he later testified.
The Special Response Team, formed three years earlier, consisted of a dozen men plucked from the Sheriff’s Office and the Cornelia Police Department. They trained on their own time for four hours each Thursday. The Humvee had been procured through a Pentagon program that made surplus military equipment available to even the most rural departments.
There had been few chances to quell riots and subdue active shooters in the hamlets of Habersham County, population 43,000. Instead, the unit had been used primarily to serve narcotics search warrants, 32 times in all.
During their pre-raid briefing, team members circulated a photograph of Mr. Thonetheva, a Google Earth image of the brick house with dark shutters and a sketch of the three-bedroom interior. Deputy Autry mistakenly told the team’s commander that the drug deal had gone down near a side door to an enclosed garage, so he plotted his entry from there. She told him there were no signs of children or animals, failing to mention the minivan.
When the flash-bang detonated with a concussive boom, a blinding white light filled the room. The entry team rumbled in, screaming for the occupants to get to the ground. Deputy Stribling peered into the playpen with a flashlight and found 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh.
Deputy Stribling waved off Deputy Long, who had lobbed the grenade. “Charlie, go away, you don’t need to see this,” he said.
The child, known affectionately as Bou Bou, had a long laceration and burns across his chest, exposing his ribs, and another gash between his upper lip and nose. His round, cherubic face was bloodied and blistered, spackled with shrapnel and soot. The heat had singed away much of his pillow and dissolved the mesh side of the playpen.
At first the child was silent. But as Deputy Stribling picked him up, rubbed his feet and shook his arms, he began to wail. Even the drug agents stationed outside the other end of the house could hear the screams.
“You don’t think that baby got hurt, do you?” one asked another.
‘A Secret World’
SWAT was pioneered in Los Angeles and other big cities in the late 1960s and early 1970s in response to civil unrest and raging firefights. Today, almost every police agency with at least 100 officers, and about a third of all smaller ones, either has its own full-time unit or participates in a part-time or multijurisdictional team, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Once the teams were formed, their existence had to be justified. Drug searches became the answer. Dr. Peter B. Kraska, a criminologist at Eastern Kentucky University, estimates that SWAT deployments increased roughly fifteenfold between 1980 and 2000 as the war on drugs escalated.
There is no way to know the true number of forcible entries because there is no federal mandate that police agencies report on SWAT operations. Only two states have required it, and efforts by news and watchdog groups to compile national figures have been frustrated by police stonewalling.
“This is kind of a secret world within a secret world,” said Dr. Tom Nolan, a criminologist at Merrimack College and a SWAT veteran of the Boston Police Department. “They don’t open up.”
Utah is currently the only exception. In 2014, after a marijuana raid resulted in the death of one officer and the wounding of five (as well as of the suspect, who hanged himself in jail), the state enacted a law requiring annual disclosures about tactical raids.
The initial results show that many departments use dynamic entry almost by default. SWAT units in Utah did so in 61 percent of 1,016 deployments reported in 2014 and 2015. About 40 percent of the warrants they served were no-knocks, usually for drugs, mostly at night.
Maryland had a similar reporting requirement from 2010 to 2014, inspired by a botched raid that resulted in the shooting of two dogs at the home of the mayor of Berwyn Heights. More than 90 percent of 8,249 SWAT deployments during those years were to serve search warrants, and more than two-thirds involved forcible entry. Firearms were discharged in 99 operations, civilians were killed in nine and injured in 95, officers were injured in at least 30 and animals were killed in 14.
- Anthony Muse, a state senator who sponsored the measure, said he found the numbers “alarming.” He also found it disturbing that the General Assembly allowed the reporting requirement to sunset, amid heavy lobbying from law-enforcement groups. “They don’t want to be held accountable,” he said.
Among the cities examined in the recent ACLU study was Little Rock, Ark., where the SWAT team broke down doors and detonated flash-bangs in more than 90 percent of 147 narcotics search warrant raids between January 2011 and March 2013, according to data shared with The Times.
Deadly outcomes did not slow them down. In 2010, two team members were shot, neither fatally, and a suspect was killed, in a no-knock raid that uncovered half an ounce each of marijuana and crack. Less than two years later, a SWAT officer killed an armed 31-year-old man during an early morning raid that turned up three marijuana plants. The unit then conducted five more raids in the ensuing two weeks.
The shootings prompted a new policy that the team must withdraw if it encounters an armed suspect, but they did not prompt broader reconsideration.
“It’s not foolproof, not always going to happen just right,” said the SWAT commander, Lt. Tim Calhoun. “But it winds up being the most safe for us. These are dangerous people we’re dealing with.”
Summoning armed criminals outside, he said, is no less risky than startling them inside. Long stakeouts exhaust manpower and can lead to dangerous vehicle pursuits, street confrontations and traffic stops that do not yield as much contraband.
It matters little, Lieutenant Calhoun said, that drug crimes may not always pose an immediate mortal threat. “If you have a dope house next door,” he said, “there’s probably nothing the police can do that would be overreacting.
The mission creep for the heavily militarized teams has coincided with a stark shift toward law enforcement in the Supreme Court’s search for the proper balance between public safety and individual rights.
The quest for that sweet spot dates from the early 17th century and the “castle doctrine” of English common law, which protected residents from unannounced government intrusions. That ethos was enshrined in the United States Constitution in 1791 with the ratification of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” and requires that warrants be backed by probable cause.
More than a century ago, those rights seemed so sacrosanct that the Supreme Court, in its early iterations of the exclusionary rule, asserted that evidence obtained through an improper search could not be used at trial. But after a series of rulings in the 1990s, officers became able to obtain a warrant to forcibly enter a house with merely a “reasonable suspicion” that announcing would be dangerous or allow the destruction of evidence. Paradoxically, that standard allowed the use of the most extreme force in pursuit of the smallest amounts of drugs, since a few grams are more quickly flushed than a few bales.
“If it’s a small quantity, you’re probably not going to find too many police investigators that are going to knock,” Chief William P. McManus of the San Antonio Police Department said in a 2010 deposition.
In 2003, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of officers to break into a residence with a standard warrant after knocking and waiting only 15 to 20 seconds. Three years later, it undercut even that requirement by concluding that evidence remains admissible even when the police barge in more quickly.
That has helped blur the distinction between no-knock and knock-and-announce entries. “Either the door comes in and people are yelling ‘Sheriff’s office’ or people yell ‘Sheriff’s office’ and the door comes in,” said Judge Brian M. Rickman of the Georgia Court of Appeals, who was district attorney in Habersham County during the Cornelia raid.
In The Times’s inventory, 47 civilians and five officers died as a result of the execution of knock-and-announce searches, while 31 civilians and eight officers died in the execution of no-knock warrants. The type of warrant could not be determined in three civilian fatalities.
With so little restraint exerted by the federal courts, few states have offered greater protections. A survey by The Times found that 13 states have enacted laws authorizing no-knock warrants. Another 13 have blessed them through rulings by appellate courts. In seven states, no-knock warrants are routinely granted in the absence of explicit authority by statute or the courts. In 16 states and the District of Columbia, no-knock warrants are not customary but the police can nonetheless make unannounced entries with standard warrants.
Only in Oregon does state law prohibit no-knock entries, and only in Florida has a state Supreme Court disallowed no-knock warrants. That 1994 opinion recognized a “staggering potential for violence to both occupants and police.” In 2015, the Utah Legislature banned forcible entry if the only suspected offense is drug possession.
Elsewhere, even when prompted by sensational headlines, legislative efforts to curb the raids have encountered resistance. Several proposals withered in Georgia’s General Assembly the year after the Baby Bou Bou episode, including prohibiting no-knock raids between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Those failures only deepened mistrust in minority neighborhoods, said State Senator Vincent Fort, a Democrat who sponsored the bills in the Republican-controlled legislature. “It makes some community members see the police as occupying forces as opposed to community partners against crime,” he said.
Why It Can Go Wrong
And so the raids continue. When successful, they can temporarily disrupt the supply chain. But too often, the show of force is disproportionate, the errors disastrous. There are a variety of contributing factors.
Inadequate Judicial Scrutiny
In August 2015, an assistant clerk-magistrate in Worcester, Mass., reviewed an application for a no-knock warrant aimed at finding two illegal guns in a drug dealer’s apartment. The affidavit by a state trooper relied solely on a single confidential informant. There had been no surveillance, and the affidavit itself acknowledged that motor vehicle and utility records indicated that the suspect did not live there anymore.
Nonetheless, the magistrate, Brenda D. Seaver, signed the warrant and at about 5 a.m. on Aug. 19 the city’s SWAT team broke through the door. The new tenants — a man and woman who were engaged, their male roommate and two children — were detained at gunpoint as their belongings were ransacked. Both men were handcuffed; the woman, who had been sleeping nude, reported being berated profanely in front of her children.
No contraband was found, and the police eventually became convinced that the residents did not know the suspect, who had moved out more than three months earlier.
The tenants have filed a federal lawsuit against the city, the police and the informant. But their lawyer, Héctor E. Piñeiro, also blames the judiciary.
“If you’re a magistrate,” he said, “you should be asking are there children there, what steps have been taken to find out, what kind of surveillance has been done, how reliable is this confidential informant, are there other ways you can arrest this person. It never gets done.”
Ms. Seaver did not respond to a request for comment.
The mistakes might be laughable were they not so consequential.
In May 2010, the police in Hempstead, N.Y., shot and wounded 22-year-old Iyanna Davis during a no-knock raid at a two-family residence where she lived in an upstairs unit with a separate entrance. The warrant was for downstairs.
Ms. Davis was awakened at about 7 a.m. by the sound of a door’s being smashed and hid in a closet, she recounted in a deposition. A Nassau County police officer, armed with an assault rifle, opened the door, found her crouching and screamed at her to raise her hands.
That’s when I heard the shot,” she recounted. ”The force actually knocked me back on my backside.” The bullet had entered her right breast and exited her abdomen.
In his own deposition, the officer, Michael Capobianco, said that he “tripped and didn’t mean to fire.” He was cleared of any policy violations; Ms. Davis, who spent a week in the hospital and another three months recuperating, won $650,000 in a legal settlement from the county.
Failure to Knock
The warrant to search Julian Betton’s apartment did not authorize the police in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to break in without warning, and the officers insist that they knocked and announced.
But video from Mr. Betton’s front porch surveillance camera on the afternoon of April 16, 2015, shows no sign of warning before drug agents rammed through his door. The recording does not include audio, but a neighbor who watched from steps away told state investigators he was “100 percent sure” there was no prior notice.
Suspected of small-scale marijuana dealing, Mr. Betton said in a deposition late last year that he emerged from a bathroom, saw moving shadows, assumed he was being robbed and reached for the handgun in his waistband. Three officers responded by spraying the room with dozens of rounds, hitting Mr. Betton nine times.
“I just seen stuff coming at me and I went to reach for it and went down,” Mr. Betton, who was 30 at the time, said in a deposition for the lawsuit he later filed.
Mr. Betton awoke from a coma six weeks later, partially paralyzed, having lost portions of his gallbladder, colon, bowel and rectum. On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to drug charges, including possession of nearly eight ounces of marijuana found in the raid. Counts of pointing and presenting a weapon were dismissed and he was sentenced to the time he served in the hospital.
Members of the police team initially claimed that Mr. Betton fired first, but the state crime lab found no evidence that his gun had been discharged. A prosecutor cleared the officers, concluding that the shooting was justified.
Lack of Monitoring
Because fewer than a third of tactical teams use body cameras, the police version of events like the killing of Eric John Senegal is often the only one.
Members of the Beauregard Parish sheriff’s special operations team told investigators that when they broke into Mr. Senegal’s house trailer in rural Ragley, La., on Jan. 4, 2016, they found the slightly-built, 27-year-old man just inside the entrance, pointing a handgun their way. It was not cocked, but two deputies fired, hitting Mr. Senegal three times, according to investigative reports. Another killed his charging pit bull.
Several team members told investigators there were shouts of “Sheriff’s Office” as they detonated two flash-bangs and breached the door. A grand jury declined to indict them, said District Attorney James R. Lestage.
But since the deputies were not equipped with cameras, there is no way to really know what happened, and the uncertainty has bred suspicion and litigation. Crime scene photographs show Mr. Senegal splayed out on the floor, blood pooling near his head, the gun about three feet from his sneakers. Derrick Kee, a lawyer who has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Senegal’s widow, suggests that it could have been planted.
The drug seizure was not insubstantial: 22 ounces of marijuana, about 20 grams of methamphetamine, a gram of cocaine, 34 prescription pills and $38.42 found in a Nesquik jar, according to a crime lab report.
Mr. Kee does not acknowledge that Mr. Senegal was dealing, but said it still would not justify his death. “These warrants introduce volatile circumstances into nonvolatile situations,” he said. “They should be issued only under the most unique circumstances.”
Officers Are Divided
Some SWAT veterans find it confounding that many police agencies remain so devoted to dynamic entry. The tactic is far from universally embraced, and a number of departments have retired or restricted its use over the years, often after a bad experience.
The National Tactical Officers Association, which might be expected to mount the most ardent defense, has long called for using dynamic entry sparingly. Robert Chabali, the group’s chairman from 2012 to 2015, goes so far as to recommend that it never be used to serve narcotics warrants.
“It just makes no sense,” said Mr. Chabali, a SWAT veteran who retired as assistant chief of the Dayton, Ohio, Police Department in 2015. “Why would you run into a gunfight? If we are going to risk our lives, we risk them for a hostage, for a citizen, for a fellow officer. You definitely don’t go in and risk your life for drugs.”
Another former chairman of the association, Phil Hansen, said SWAT teams tended to use dynamic entry as “a one-size-fits-all solution to tactical problems.” As commander of the Police Department in Santa Maria, Calif., and before that a longtime SWAT leader for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, he said it seemed foolhardy to move so aggressively in a state that voted in November to legalize recreational marijuana.
“Why am I risking people’s lives to save an ounce of something that they’re bringing in by the freighter every year?” he asked.
But officials with other law enforcement groups reject such absolutist approaches.
“If you want to take the position that narcotics laws in this country should not be enforced, then O.K., yeah,” said Sheriff Greg Champagne of St. Charles Parish in Louisiana, the president of the National Sheriffs’ Association. “That’s not the position of the law enforcement people around the country that I know. If you’re going to make narcotics cases you need to have evidence, and search warrants are how you get it.”
Sheriff Champagne said his deputies looked for opportunities to detain suspects on the street or in cars. Even so, he said, “there are times we just have to go in.”
“There’s an argument that no-knock warrants can actually be safer for residents and officers because a well-trained SWAT team can neutralize a situation in seconds and minimize the chance for hostage-takings and standoffs,” he added. “You can always point to the one bad case, but look at the thousands of cases where a no-knock warrant was executed without injury and heroin is seized. How many lives are saved because we got it off the street?”
No-knock warrants, said Bob Bushman, president of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, are “a tool that should stay in the toolbox.”
“There are some times,” he said, “that if you’re going to bring an investigation to a head the way to do it is with a no-knock.”
Clearly there are other factors that contribute to the tactic’s staying power. Some of it, according to long-term observers, derives from the adrenalized, hypermasculine, militaristic ethos of SWAT.
“It’s culturally intoxicating, a rush,” said Dr. Kraska, the criminologist. “It involves dressing up in body armor and provocative face coverings and enhanced-hearing sets, a cyborg 21st-century kind of appeal. And instead of sitting around and waiting for something to happen twice or three times a year, you can go out and generate it.”
That culture is reinforced by a cottage industry of tactical training contractors, many of them veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, who are hired by police departments to keep SWAT teams up to date.
“For them, collateral damage is something you try to avoid but it’s not a deal breaker,” Commander Hansen said. “That doesn’t translate well for police work. If you’re in the military and told to clear a block of houses in a half-hour, you’re going to do it quickly by kicking in doors and throwing grenades. It’s a whole different theater of operations.”
Another potential factor is the incentive sometimes provided by asset forfeiture laws when contraband or drug proceeds are found in a residence. Revenue generated by those seizures typically reverts back to law enforcement agencies.
Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute in Utah, said that was one of the rationales behind his state’s recent ban on forcible entry in drug possession cases. In 2015 when the new law passed, search warrant executions accounted for 29 percent of all forfeitures, according to a state report.
“We feel strongly that a lot of this is financial motive, not to keep the community safe,” said Mr. Boyack, whose libertarian-leaning group advocated for the restriction.
Further inducement has come from the Defense Department’s excess property program, which has distributed more than $6 billion in military vehicles, weapons and other equipment to law enforcement agencies since 1997. Until last May, the Pentagon required that any transferred equipment be “placed into use within one year of receipt.”
The Obama administration ended that requirement after a larger review of the so-called 1033 program, which was prompted by the police response to the 2014 civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo. President Trump has yet to act on a campaign pledge to rescind an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2015 that limited the kinds of equipment offered by the government. It is unclear whether he would reinstate the one-year rule.
‘Why Didn’t You Knock?’
As SWAT officers administered first aid to Bou Bou Phonesavanh, other agents detained his parents — Bounkham and Alecia Phonesavanh — and their three other children, ages 3 to 7.
“You know why we’re here,” an officer barked at Mr. Phonesavanh.
He didn’t. “Why didn’t you knock on the door?” he asked.
Elsewhere in the house, the agents came upon Mr. Phonesavanh’s sister, Amanda Thonetheva, who owned the place, as well as her boyfriend, her grandson and one of her sons. They did not find her other son, 30-year-old Wanis, who no longer lived there but dropped by at times. Nor did they find guns or drugs beyond some meth residue in a glass pipe. Later that night, deputies arrested Wanis at another address.
The Phonesavanhs had already suffered their share of misfortune. Earlier that year, the family’s house in Janesville, Wis., had burned down. They stayed in a motel as long as they could afford it, then lived for two weeks in their 11-year-old Chrysler Town & Country minivan.
They drove to Georgia when Mr. Phonesavanh’s sister offered the room in her garage. Seven weeks later, after struggling to find work, they were preparing to drive back to Wisconsin.
Remarkably, Bou Bou survived the explosion after being sped to a hospital in Atlanta. Now 4, he underwent his 15th surgery late last year, with more to come, his mother said. “The nightmares are still there,” she said, “several times a week. When he wakes up he’s usually sweating and holding his face.” She said all of her children became scared when they saw a police officer or security guard.
The Phonesavanhs, who have returned to Janesville, received $3.6 million in settlements to the federal lawsuit they filed against the traumatized members of the drug and SWAT teams. The payments were made through government insurance policies purchased with taxpayer funds. All but $200,000, Ms. Phonesavanh said, has been spent on medical and legal bills.
“Things are still quite the struggle,” she said. “They didn’t mean to hurt my son, but they could’ve done a lot more to prevent this.”
A Habersham County grand jury issued a stinging report, but found no criminal negligence and declined to indict any of the participants. Federal prosecutors then won an indictment of Deputy Autry for violating Bou Bou’s civil rights, but she was acquitted after a weeklong trial. The jury accepted the defense’s assertion that the mistakes made by the former deputy, who had resigned, were unintentional.
In their closing arguments, opposing lawyers found common ground in their criticism of no-knock searches.
The prosecutor, Assistant United States Attorney William L. McKinnon Jr., called the tactic “probably the most intrusive contact that any citizen could have with the government.” He got no dispute from one of Deputy Autry’s lawyers, Michael J. Trost. “There’s a pattern of excess in the ways search warrants are executed,” he told the jury. “That’s what led to the injuries to this child.”