Jun 16, 2010

Justifiable Police Brutality

If I reacted to being stopped and cited for jay-walking in this manner, and resisted arrest, I would expect to get a pop in the nose. Or something.

Apr 25, 2010

Another Reason to Keep Gitmo Open...

Not ending it, but mending it!

From the BBC this morning!

Eleven suspected Somali pirates have been charged in a US court over two attacks on US naval vessels.

The charges include piracy, attacking to plunder a maritime vessel, and assault with a dangerous weapon. The men did not enter a plea and spoke only to say they understood proceedings against them, AP news agency reported.

After they were captured, the group was kept aboard US Navy vessels off the Somali coast while officials decided what to do with them.

At the Virginia courthouse, one suspect was on crutches and had his head bandaged, while another was in a wheelchair and had one leg bandaged because it had been amputated below the knee, AP said. The US government said the injuries resulted from the men's alleged battle with the Navy.

Five of the defendants were captured on 31 March after they allegedly fired at a US Navy ship from their boat, west of the Seychelles. According to court documents, they apparently mistook the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas for a merchant ship. The other six were arrested in waters near Djibouti on 10 April after allegedly shooting at the USS Ashland, an amphibious vessel.

Both incidents involved US warships taking part in an international anti-pirate effort off the east coast of Africa.

The US legal process comes after Kenya - Somalia's neighbour - said it was planning to stop piracy trials, arguing that it was an international issue and they should not be left to bear the burden alone.

Pirates operating off the African coast have intensified attacks on shipping in recent years and have expanded their reach towards India, despite patrols by the US and other navies.

With piracy increasing, some have called for international courts to be set up to deal with the problem. Last year, the US charged a Somali teenager with piracy after he allegedly tried to seize a US ship in the Indian ocean.

Apr 7, 2010

Anwar al-Awlaki

U.S. Approves Targeted Killing of American Cleric

I'll certainly support this project, going for it in a big way!

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and spent years in the United States as an imam, is in hiding in Yemen. He has been the focus of intense scrutiny since he was linked to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., in November, and then to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.

American counterterrorism officials say Mr. Awlaki is an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They say they believe that he has become a recruiter for the terrorist network, feeding prospects into plots aimed at the United States and at Americans abroad, the officials said.

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president.

But the director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, told a House hearing in February that such a step was possible. “We take direct actions against terrorists in the intelligence community,” he said. “If we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that.” He did not name Mr. Awlaki as a target.

The step taken against Mr. Awlaki, which occurred earlier this year, is a vivid illustration of his rise to prominence in the constellation of terrorist leaders. But his popularity as a cleric, whose lectures on Islamic scripture have a large following among English-speaking Muslims, means any action against him could rebound against the United States in the larger ideological campaign against Al Qaeda.

The possibility that Mr. Awlaki might be added to the target list was reported by The Los Angeles Times in January, and Reuters reported on Tuesday that he was approved for capture or killing.

“The danger Awlaki poses to this country is no longer confined to words,” said an American official, who like other current and former officials interviewed for this article spoke of the classified counterterrorism measures on the condition of anonymity. “He’s gotten involved in plots.”
The official added: “The United States works, exactly as the American people expect, to overcome threats to their security, and this individual — through his own actions — has become one. Awlaki knows what he’s done, and he knows he won’t be met with handshakes and flowers. None of this should surprise anyone.”

As a general principle, international law permits the use of lethal force against individuals and groups that pose an imminent threat to a country, and officials said that was the standard used in adding names to the list of targets. In addition, Congress approved the use of military force against Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. People on the target list are considered to be military enemies of the United States and therefore not subject to the ban on political assassination first approved by President Gerald R. Ford.

Both the C.I.A. and the military maintain lists of terrorists linked to Al Qaeda and its affiliates who are approved for capture or killing, former officials said. But because Mr. Awlaki is an American, his inclusion on those lists had to be approved by the National Security Council, the officials said.

Apr 4, 2010

Eugene Terreblanche Hacked to Death on His Sleep

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- The right wing, white supremist leader, Eugene Terreblanche was probably one of the most divisive and least likable characters in recent South African history.

Not many people in South Africa would disagree with that. One newspaper editor called him "a violent racist" others have called his far right wing views "distasteful in the extreme."

However, his apparent murder on his farm has left many South Africans cold and fearful that this beautiful but deeply troubled country is again in the grip of racial hatred.

Terreblanche's killing comes soon after a senior figure within the ruling African National Congress, Julius Malema, was barred by a judge from singing the anti-apartheid song, "Kill the Boer" or "Kill the farmer."

The court ruled the song was tantamount to "hate speech." But the ruling party and its allies came out in defense of the song's violent lyrics, saying it reflected their heritage and struggle for freedom against the white apartheid government.

And then the man who represented the worst of that old, apartheid South Africa is bludgeoned and hacked to death on his farm. He was apparently attacked while taking an afternoon nap.

The connection was bound to be made; the coincidence just too much for racially sensitive South Africans.

They are asking -- did that song incite two young men to kill the archetypal "Boer?" Was his death more than a criminal incident over unpaid wages?

And will there now be reprisals against black South Africans by the small number of Terreblanche supporters, who will see him as a martyr?

For many here, the atmosphere now smacks of those scary, dark days before South Africans voted for a new democratic South Africa in 1994 -- when the white man and the black man were so suspicious of each other that many thought this country's transition to democracy would be violent and bloody.

But South Africans were led out of the twisted spectre of racial hatred by Nelson Mandela -- whose leadership and calm management prevented a potentially explosive conflict.

Mandela is now an old man, who cannot be expected to quell another rising tide of hatred and it is now left to a new generation of South African leaders to heed the lessons which he taught them 16 years ago.

But the bonds of nationhood that Mandela strived to build are still fragile and many in South Africa fear that Terreblanche could be even more divisive in death than he was in life -- and tear apart a nation still struggling to let go of the past.

Mar 30, 2010

A case of Insufficient Police Brutality

BURBANK, Calif. (KABC) -- Tuesday, new details surfaced about the attempted murder suspect who led police on Monday's dangerous pursuit.

The two Burbank Police officers involved in Monday's shooting were placed on leave while they were under investigation, a standard practice with any officer-involved shooting.

The Burbank Police Department and the L.A. County District Attorney's office are investigating. They will determine if Monday's pursuit that ended in gunfire followed procedure and whether the officers' actions were within department guidelines.

The suspect was identified as 30-year-old Steven Satterly from Wabash, Indiana. He's wanted on a charge of attempted murder in Indiana.

The chase started Monday afternoon shortly after 4 p.m. in the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County.

The California Highway Patrol said Satterly reached speeds of up to 100 miles per hour during the chase that stretched from the westbound 210 Freeway into the North Hollywood/Burbank area.

Burbank Police picked up the chase once Satterly exited the 134 Freeway and drove an older model gray Chevrolet Blazer through North Hollywood and Burbank. Satterly got stuck in traffic on Barham Blvd. just east of the 101 Fwy. Surrounded by officers as he tried to speed away, one officer fired his gun at the vehicle, shattering the driver's side window. Satterly was not struck by this shot.

Satterly bailed out of his vehicle at the entrance to Universal CityWalk a few minutes later. He allegedly brandished a knife at police, whereupon another shot was fired, this one striking Satterly in the torso. He was quickly taken into custody and rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in stable condition.

The two officers have been temporarily removed from patrol as the department investigates. The shooting investigation can take from several months to a year. The department is concerned about the welfare of the two officers. Burbank Police Sergeant Robert Quesada:
We know from the information received that he committed a felony, a violent crime. We cannot allow him to just flee. And especially going toward CityWalk, where there are thousands of people."

It is a traumatic experience. Even though the officers weren't shot, it's still a traumatic experience. So we want to make sure that we care for them, make sure that they're OK to go back onto duty, to go back out onto the streets to serve the public.

I, members of my family and friends drive these highways and byways. I want them safe. I have long felt that drivers engaging in felony evasion of arrest by vehicles should be stopped, dead, by police action. Once it is determined that there are no innocent passengers any fugitive's car which is being driven recklessly, as was the case in this instance, police should be mandated to use deadly force.

The officers in this case should be summarily decorated for doing their assigned duty of protecting public safety.

Jan 18, 2010

A Caveat In My Anti-Death Penalty Position

My position in opposition to the death penalty arrived at after long and tortured reasoning is not based upon moral grounds but on enlightened self-interest, albeit broadly drawn. Since my objection to capital punishment is not on moral grounds, it is not absolute.

This case of Chemical Ali' (to be hanged within days) causes me to enter a caveat: where penal custody for life (a life sentence) is not secure, enabled or guaranteed, taking a dude out back and shooting him is permissible.

I take no position on Ali Hassan al-Majid's guilt or innocence. He's been sentenced (for the fourth time) to death by Iraq's high criminal court for ordering slaughter of Kurds in 1988. You can read about details here and elsewhere on the 'Net. His (relative) guilt may be beyond question, but it also beside the question.

So, I'm not making this about Chemical Ali'; I just consider him as a poster boy.

The question is, how can his re-release into society be definitively prevented. As the Guardian points out,
...the Guardian has learned that the US detention centre in which Majid has been held since being captured six years ago will continue to house prisoners until August, despite being scheduled to close on 31 December as part of a much-heralded security agreement between Washington and Baghdad. The status of forces agreement signed between both states had flagged the ­closure of the Camp Cropper detention centre as a milestone of security progress.
In the political disorder that follows post-Bush Iraq, there is no insurance this poster boy won't somehow gain his release.

Poster Boys like him are captured and tried all over the world, every day. Some can be sent to the Hague. But not all.

Of course, if Guantanamo didn't have to be closed to satisfy certain symbolic purposes; if it could be internationalized under United Nations auspices, Gitmo could serve as another secure International House of Pancakes Prisoners.

(But that's another story.)

So, If Chemical Ali' is guilty of the heinous acts of which he is accused, I'll pass on his case.

Dec 19, 2009

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

James Bain, 54, was just 19 years old in 1974, and without a criminal record, when he was convicted of kidnapping and raping a 9-year-old Lake Wales boy, largely on the jury's faith in the boy's identification.

But a recent DNA test called Bain's conviction into question. On Thursday, after much anticipation, Bain was expected to walk out of the Bartow courthouse, on a conditional release, until prosecutors could finish their investigation.

Instead, Bain got something even better.

Mere minutes before the 9 a.m. hearing, prosecutors received a call from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that verified the Innocence Project of Florida's DNA test results: The semen on the victim's underwear did not belong to Bain.

Instead of asking for a conditional release for Bain, State Attorney Jerry Hill moved Thursday to vacate Bain's sentence and to drop the charges against him.

About 9:45 a.m., Bain and his family finally heard the words they'd waited 35 years to hear:

"You are a free man," Circuit Judge James Yancey said. "Congratulations."

Bain had served more time behind bars than any of the 245 other prisoners exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing in the United States, including 10 others in Florida.

Since May 2001, he had asked the courts four times to test the DNA. With help from the Innocence Project, he filed his fifth and final request in July. Yancey granted the motion in October, without objection from the State Attorney's Office, and allowed the test.

The results were released last week, when prosecutors began working to verify the results and to rule out other possibilities.

The FDLE also concluded that the sperm found on the underwear did not belong to the victim, said spokesman Chip Thullbery. They'll run the DNA code in a statewide database and look for a match.

After the hearing, IPF lawyer Melissa Montle held Bain's hand as he walked down the courthouse steps and embraced his sisters inside a swarm of news reporters and cameras.

At the microphone stand, Bain remained calm and smiling.

He plans to spend time with family, to go back to school for reading and writing, and to watch "Titanic," a film he says helped him survive prison life. He wants to travel. Out of his seven siblings, he is the only child who has yet to visit Nassau, his father's home city in the Bahamas. He used a cell phone for the first time to call his mother, who waited at home for him in Tampa.

Once inside the public defender's office, Bain ate his first snack outside of prison: a glazed donut and a bottle of Mountain Dew. His belongings - notebooks, newspaper clippings and other saved artifacts - fit into a netted laundry sack. He remained calm and patient, as his family waited eagerly to take him home. Bains said,

I can't be angry. People had a job to do back then. It's just sad the way the outcome was.
According to Florida law, Bain is entitled to $50,000 for every year he was wrongfully incarcerated. That would amount to $1.75 million, but Thursday afternoon, Bain said money is not his priority.

Until the Innocence Project became involved, he said he felt "neglected" in the slow and complicated judicial process. He's seen a lot of innocent people during his time in prison, and says DNA testing should be made more accessible.

Had Bain's case been investigated today, the State Attorney's office says the trial might have gone differently. Many investigators are now trained to interview children, and DNA testing has replaced serology as the choice science.

Public Defender J. Marion Moorman said Thursday the DNA in Bain's case should have been tested earlier, but added that the larger problem is the number of cases, including Bain's, built on witness testimony. Moorman said,
We hear all the time from our clients that they are innocent. We get jaded and cynical, particularly those of us who've done this for a long time. This just, once again, teaches us the value of listening to our clients, of going the extra mile and giving them our 100 percent.