A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category

Jurisdiction is Dead

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It seems like every cop show or movie involves the protagonist’s very competent and morally upstanding department fighting with an incompetent immoral law enforcement agency over jurisdiction. Eventually this fight is taken before a judge who rules in favor of the protagonist’s department.

Jurisdiction is supposed to curtail the power of any single agency by only granting them a specific area in which they are allowed to operate. That concept has been dying as the federal government has continuously expanded its jurisdiction. But today that concept of jurisdiction died completely:

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden attempted three times to delay the changes, which will take effect on Thursday and allow U.S. judges will be able to issue search warrants that give the FBI the authority to remotely access computers in any jurisdiction, potentially even overseas. His efforts were blocked by Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican.

The changes will allow judges to issue warrants in cases when a suspect uses anonymizing technology to conceal the location of his or her computer or for an investigation into a network of hacked or infected computers, such as a botnet.

Magistrate judges can currently only order searches within the jurisdiction of their court, which is typically limited to a few counties.

This rule change, as most expansions of governmental power are, was ultimately justified by a crime that almost everybody agrees is heinous. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), using a child pornography site it was hosting, ended up hacking computers in 120 countries off of a single warrant so the question of jurisdiction came up. Instead of slapping the FBI down to protect everybody’s civil rights (because these powers start with heinous crimes but end up being using for petty crimes such as cannabis usage) the rules were changed to make any future shenanigans like this completely legal.

Of course, this is nothing new. The State always rewrites rules that it finds inconvenient. This is the reason why the idea of a limited government is a fairytale.

Propagandizing Against Secure Communications

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It’s no secret that the State is at odds with effective cryptography. The State prefers to keep tabs on all of its subjects and that’s harder to do when they can talk confidentially amongst themselves. What makes matters worse is that the subjects like their confidentiality and seek out tools that provide that to them. So the State has to first convince its subjects that confidentiality is bad, which means it needs to put out propaganda. Fortunately, many journalists are more than happy to produce propaganda for the State:

The RCMP gave the CBC’s David Seglins and the Toronto Star’s Robert Cribb security clearance to review the details of 10 “high priority” investigations—some of which are ongoing—that show how the police is running into investigative roadblocks on everything from locked devices to encrypted chat rooms to long waits for information. The Toronto Star’s headline describes the documents as “top-secret RCMP files.”

The information sharing was stage-managed, however. Instead of handing over case files directly to the journalists, the federal police provided vetted “detailed written case summaries,” according to a statement from Seglins and Cribb. These summaries “[formed] the basis of our reporting,” they said. The journalists were given additional information on background, and allowed to ask questions, according to the statement, but “many details were withheld.”

The stories extensively quote RCMP officials, but also include comment from privacy experts who are critical of the police agency’s approach.

“On the one hand, the [RCMP] do have a serious problem,” said Jeffrey Dvorkin, former vice president of news for NPR and director of the University of Toronto Scarborough’s journalism program. “But to give information in this way to two respected media organizations does two things: it uses the media to create moral panic, and it makes the media look like police agents.”

The line between journalism and propaganda is almost nonexistent anymore. This story is an example of a more subtle form of journalist created propaganda. It’s not so much a case of a journalist writing outright propaganda as it is a journalist not questioning the information being provided by the police.

Journalists, like product reviewers, don’t like to rock the boat because it might jeopardize their access. The police, like product manufacturers, are more than happy to provide product (which is information in the case of police) to writers who show them in a good light. They are much less apt to provide product to somebody who criticizes them (which is why critics have to rely on the Freedom of Information Act). If a journalist wants to keep getting the inside scoop from the police they need to show the police in a good light, which means that they must not question the information they’re being fed too much.

Be wary of what you read in news sources. The information being printed is not always as it appears, especially when the writer wants to maintain their contacts within the State to get the inside scoop.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 16th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Without Government Who Would Distribute Child Pornography

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I’m sure a few eyebrows were raised when the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) took over, upgraded, operated a major child pornography distribution site. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. The FBI wasn’t running just one child pornography site, it was running 23:

The FBI has a controversial new method of fighting child pornography: distributing child pornography. As part of “Operation Pacifier,” the federal law-enforcement agency ran a dark-web child porn clearinghouse called The Playpen for two weeks, delivering malware to any site visitors, in a scheme that was revealed last summer. But it turns out that site may not have been the only dark-web site that the FBI maintained. According to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the agency was actually authorized to takeover 23 child-pornography websites in addition to The Playpen.

According to a recently unsealed FBI affidavit, the 23 Tor-hidden sites were run on one computer server and the FBI requested authority to seize this server and deploy its “network investigative technique” on these sites.

Generally people view distributing child pornography as an especially heinous crime and are very supportive of laws that prohibit it. But like so many other laws, having a badge seems to make it acceptable for a government agent to ignore the prohibition against distributing child pornography. As what point do people decide that this apparent exception to the law is acceptable? And can you really claim to be fighting crime when you’re perpetrating it?

One may also wonder where the FBI finds people that are willing to operate 23 child pornography sites. Anybody operating these sites knows that they are directly involved in both providing a venue for child pornography producers and distributing their content. I can’t think of anybody I know who would be willing to involve themselves in such a thing and I’m guessing many of you can’t either.

The United States has reached the point where the government can no longer pretend that there’s a difference between its law enforcers and the criminals it has tasked them with hunting.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 15th, 2016 at 11:00 am

When Officers Really Screw Up They Receive Unpaid Leave

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Earlier this week it was announced that an officer who was fired for getting drunk and beating his K-9 partner was given his job back. In other words, the officer, Brett Arthur Berry, was given an unpaid vacation instead of the standard paid vacation. But some people are probably willing to give his some leeway because he beat a dog, not a person. Here in Minnesota beating a person also results in nothing more than an unpaid vacation:

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO has obtained video that led, in part, to a police officer’s firing. That officer now has his job back, as an arbitrator ruled he should be reinstated last week. Minneapolis police officer Blayne Lehner is currently on paid administrative leave.

The video shows Lehner pushing a woman. Seconds later he swatted a cellphone out of her hand and pushed her to the ground after she tried to grab him.

Instead of receiving an unpaid vacation he is now receiving a paid vacation. Some might wonder, especially after watching the video of him attacking the woman, what justification allowed him to return to the force. Not surprisingly, the justification was “officer safety”:

“She’s talking on the phone right now and he wants her attention. When he knocks it out of her hand, her left hand is coming up towards him. He’s looking at that as a possible threat,” Dutton said.

See? She threatened him! When he initiated force by knocking her cell phone out of her hand she moved her left hand! His only option to avoid possibly being slapped was to throw her to the ground! She’s lucky he didn’t shoot her because his life was totally on the line and therefore deadly force was obviously justified!

When apologists talk about the supposedly brave men and women in blue I can’t help but scoff. It seems like police officers see a threat hiding in every shadow, lurking under every bed, and hiding in every closet. Does a person walking down the street in the dead of winter have their hands in their pockets? Threat! Is a kenneled dog barking at the officers who just kicked down the door in the middle of the night? Threat! Did a woman move her hand after an officer initiated aggression? Threat!

Law enforcement has become a self-feeding delusion. New officers are taught that they have signed up for an extremely dangerous job where everybody is trying to kill them. This deludes them into seeing every single encounter with a member of the public is potentially life threatening. Their delusion is held up whenever one of their encounters doesn’t involve a completely submissive citizen. When they tell their fellows about their encounter their delusion is further affirmed by being reminded about how dangerous the job is. Then they move on to teach other new officers about how dangerous being a cop is.

But reality is far different. Law enforcement isn’t that dangerous of a profession, at least not for the law enforcers. Law enforcement has become a dangerous profession for the people. Because of the self-feeding delusion law enforcers have they respond far more aggressively than they ought to. This is why a seemingly routine traffic stop can into a motorist being murdered by a police officer. The fact that few officers are punished for using excessive force just further feeds the cycle by teaching officers that their misdeeds will be forgiven in almost any case.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 4th, 2016 at 11:00 am

It’s All About the Money

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The war on drugs is probably been the single biggest government power grab in history. By declaring an ever expanding list of chemicals illegal the State has created a justification to expand law enforcement both in numbers and in equipment. In addition to expanding the power of its wealth expropriation force, the State has also written the laws in such a way as to better enable law enforcers to expropriate wealth. Consider civil forfeiture. Normally a law enforcement agent can’t just steal your cash or car. But if they claim that cash or your car are in any way possibly tied to a drug crime they can steal it and the burden of proving they weren’t related to a drug crime, a nearly impossible feat, falls onto you.

But the State isn’t the only culprit here. An entire industry has sprung up around helping law enforcement agencies expropriate wealth. One such industry is the manufacturing of field drug testing kits. These kits, which have an extremely dubious record in regards to reliability, give an officer probable cause to kidnap individuals. However, recognizing that the kits are unreliable most agencies will have the tested substance sent to a lab for more rigorous testing. But one agency that doesn’t is the Las Vegas Police Department (LVPD):

A new report from ProPublica and the Las Vegas Review-Journal finds that since the early 1990s, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has been using cheap drug field-test kits to determine whether found substances are illegal. While far too many police agencies have used the kits to determine probable cause for a search, in most cases the substances are later more thoroughly tested at a crime lab. In Las Vegas, the test results were apparently also used as evidence to help prosecutors win convictions.

As Billy Mayes would have said, but wait, there’s more!

All along, though, police and prosecutors knew the tests were vulnerable to error, and by 2010, the police department’s crime lab wanted to abandon its kits for methamphetamine and cocaine. In a 2014 report that Las Vegas police submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice under the terms of a federal grant, the lab detailed how the kits produced false positives. Legal substances sometimes create the same colors as illegal drugs. Officers conducting the tests, lab officials acknowledged, misinterpreted results. New technology was available — and clearly needed to protect against wrongful convictions.

Not only is the LVPD not using more thorough testing measures before brining charges but the department, as do all other departments, knows that the field testing kits are unreliable.

Why would the LVPD rely on unreliable tests to prosecute individuals? If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you already know the answer: law enforcement isn’t about justice, it’s about expropriating wealth from the populace. The whole point of the war on drugs is to give the State yet another method on top of taxes, citations, and permit fees to transfer money from your bank account into its own. But the State wants this expropriation to look legitimate so people don’t see it for the organized criminal gang that it is. To create an illusion of legitimacy the State surrounds its expropriation with a bunch of legal rituals. These rituals make the process of expropriation look impartial and fair.

If you’re charged with a drug crime you have the option of a jury trail. In a jury trail the State must convince 12 jurors that you are actually a very bad person. The process of convincing a jury that you’re a very bad person involves submitting evidence that proves that the glazed doughnut you were eating was actually crystal meth. Since field drug testing kits are biased towards false positives they make excellent evidence, especially when the jurors are selected specifically because they’re entirely ignorant of how the tests work and how unreliable they are.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 3rd, 2016 at 11:00 am

“Libertarians”

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I make no secret of my disagreement with political libertarians. While they claim that we need to implement incremental change by working within the system I’m rolling my eyes because I know that the system has numerous redundancies that prevent anti-statist meddling and that the State, like the One Ring, corrupts all who try to wield it.

The Star Tribune ran a story about the Crystal City Council. Crystal, for those who don’t know, is a suburb here in the Twin Cities. The Libertarian Party controls a majority of its city council. That’s the joke, this is the punchline:

At the same time, in a seeming departure from Libertarian principles of thrift, the city has raised property taxes and water and sewer fees.

Libertarians seized control of a municipal government and taxes went up. If these Libertarians didn’t exist I’d have to make them up to illustrate my point about political action being an ineffective strategy for libertarianism. One is probably wondering why a “libertarian” city council would raise taxes and water and sewer fees. After all, that seems like a pretty anti-libertarian decision. It’s for muh roads and the children, of course:

The alliance split in September when the City Council raised property taxes nearly 8 percent. One of the Libertarians, Councilwoman Olga Parsons, said she voted in favor because she thought the budget was already lean and she didn’t see anywhere to cut spending.

The budget was already tight? She is obviously not a libertarian. Any libertarian could find a significant amount of unnecessary crap to cut. For example, they could start with the police. Most police departments invest the majority of their time in enforcing victimless laws such as drug offenses and speeding citations. Stopping the department from enforcing those nonsense laws would greatly reduce the need for officers and the city could downsize the department (I would personally eliminate it entirely but this is me trying to play the libertarian political game). City “services” could be privatized or eliminated entirely and the city properties related to providing those “services” could be sold. Doing that would allow the market to decide what the community actually wants and what has been forced down its throat by a handful of politically connected community members. The bottom line is that if the budget is tight that means the city is providing things it shouldn’t be providing.

In spite of what the Star Tribune and these “libertarians” claim, paying cash for government projects isn’t libertarianism. Libertarianism is dismantling the government. If there’s a government project any libertarian worth their salt should be working to eliminate it, not fund it.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 2nd, 2016 at 11:00 am

It’s Good to Be the King’s Men

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In 2000 the Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act was passed. The law made it a federal offense, one carrying some fairly stiff penalties, for harming a law enforcement animal:

Under the Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act, which went into effect this week, anyone convicted of purposely assaulting, maiming, or killing federal law enforcement animals such as police dogs and horses could be fined at least $1,000 and spend up to 10 years in prison. Previously, the animals were covered by a variety of state, rather than federal, laws.

Were you or I to beat a drug sniffing dog we’d face a potential decade in a cage. Because this is a nation of laws and all are equal under the law the same applies to law enforcers themselves, right? Wrong. As usual, the law is applied differently to serfs and the king’s men. If you wear a badge the Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act apparently doesn’t apply to you:

A Ramsey County deputy who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after beating his canine partner during an out-of-town event will keep his job despite the sheriff’s office’s attempt to fire him.

Deputy Brett Arthur Berry was fired April 8, a few months after a Carlton County, Minn., judge sentenced him to a year of unsupervised probation for the June 2015 incident at Black Bear Casino. Berry admitted that he got drunk while at the casino for a canine officers’ certification event and beat his K-9 partner, Boone, out of frustration when he had a hard time putting the German shepherd back on the leash after taking him outside for a walk.

[…]

In a decision filed Monday, state arbitrator Gil Vernon wrote that the sheriff’s office did not sufficiently consider mitigating factors when it moved to fire Berry, and those factors show Berry is at a low risk of future misconduct. He noted that Berry had been forthright about his behavior that night and he sought alcohol abuse treatment afterward.

Not only did Mr. Berry receive an extremely lenient punishment for attacking his K-9 partner but he won’t even lose his job in the end. Can you imagine the shit show that would have occurred had one of us mere serfs beat his K-9 partner? I highly doubt admitting to our misconduct and seeking alcohol abuse treatment would satiate the State enough to keep us out of a cage.

It’s good to be the king and it’s good to be one of the king’s men.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 1st, 2016 at 10:00 am

Who Watches the Watchmen

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Who watches the watchmen? Not Congress:

DO THE COMMITTEES that oversee the vast U.S. spying apparatus take intelligence community whistleblowers seriously? Do they earnestly investigate reports of waste, fraud, abuse, professional negligence, or crimes against the Constitution reported by employees or contractors working for agencies like the CIA or NSA? For the last 20 years, the answer has been a resounding “no.”

This article is an excellent read for anybody who thinks Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and other whistleblowers should have gone through “proper channels.” It covers a couple of examples of individuals who did go through “proper channels” only to discover that the government has no interest in voluntarily overseeing itself (shocking, I know). Take William Binney for example:

Enraged that a program they believed could have prevented the 9/11 attacks had been jettisoned, Binney and his colleagues privately approached the House Intelligence Committee. When that failed to produce results, they issued a formal complaint to the Defense Department’s inspector general.

The subsequent investigation validated the allegations of the NSA ThinThread team. But in spite of this vindication, all who had filed the complaint were subsequently investigated by the FBI on bogus charges of leaking classified information. The episode is now the subject of an Office of Special Counsel whistleblower reprisal investigation, involving former NSA senior manager and ThinThread proponent Tom Drake. I have read the Defense Department inspector general report, which is still almost completely classified, and filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking its declassification. The Pentagon has stonewalled my request for more than a year and a half.

Not only were his pleas ignored but Congress even sicced its attack dogs, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), on him. When the response for going through “proper channels” is both being ignored and having men with guns storm your home early in the morning, which is exactly what the FBI did, and hold your family at gunpoint the message is quite clear, Congress doesn’t want any of the State’s dirty laundry being aired.

Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden aren’t criminals, they’re products of a government that both sweeps its illegal activities under the rug and viciously attacks anybody who tries to raise an alarm. They both did what was necessary to bring attention to some really nasty government programs. Instead of calling them traitors why not put the blame where it belongs with Congress? Because they’re supposedly the watchmen but they’re not only failing to do their job but they’re also attacking anybody who tries to help them do their job.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am

The State Giveth and the State Taketh Away

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Do you trust the United States government? Believe it or not, there are fools out there that still do. Unfortunately, many of these fools get suckered into military enslavement (I call it enslavement as opposed to service or employment because an individual who enters the military voluntarily cannot later leave voluntarily and the contract they sign is entirely one sided). Why? For some it’s because they believe the military allows them to serve their country (and that serving a country is noble). For others it’s because they’re out of employment options and need the cash, which is why the State often offers enlistment bonuses. But there is no honor amongst thieves. As the ultimate thief in the territory the United States government is more than happy to demand those enlistment bonuses back:

Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.

Now the Pentagon is demanding the money back.

Nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served multiple combat tours, have been ordered to repay large enlistment bonuses — and slapped with interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens if they refuse — after audits revealed widespread overpayments by the California Guard at the height of the wars last decade.

Investigations have determined that lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet enlistment targets.

I guess this is what the United States government means when it speaks of treating soldiers with respect and dignity.

There are two important details worth noting here. First, the obvious. The California National Guard misrepresented the deal to the soldiers signing up yet it is not the entity being punished. Instead of the California National Guard being forced to repay the money it wasn’t authorized to distribute the soldiers who signed up with the understanding that they would receive the enlistment bonus are being required to give it back with interest. This solution seems to be acceptable to the United States government. As always, when the State screws up it’s the people who pay.

Second, and this is where my label of enslavement comes in, the contract the soldiers signed when they joined the California National Guard are apparently very one sided. There are very few ways for a member of the military to change the contract they sign, which includes submitting themselves to an alternative justice system, but the State seems to be able to change the contract for any reason whatsoever. If a member of the military wants more pay they’re shit out of luck. If the State later wants the enlistment bonus it paid a member when they joined it can do so without issue and even charge interest.

The State submits us to continuous propaganda about how solider are heroes and how us mere civilians should treat them as such. But the State prefers us to do as it says, not as it does because it has no issue treating soldiers like shit. Of course, in the long run, this will be detrimental to the State because it will have a more difficult time finding people for its meat grinder and those already getting ground up may turn out to view their employer less favorably. An unhappy military is a less efficient expropriator of foreign wealth than a happy military.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 25th, 2016 at 10:30 am

They Want Your Fuckin’ Retirement Money

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George Carlin once said, “And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your fuckin’ retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later ’cause they own this fuckin’ place. It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.”

Social Security is often referred to as a Ponzi scheme and that is a fairly accurate assessment. Ponzi schemes tend to enrich the early participants of the scheme at the expense of the newer participants and the State, which passed the legislation mandating we all participate in this scheme, was certainly enriched while newer participants continue to get screwed harder than the last set of participants. What makes matters worse is that we all realize it. How many people in their 20s and 30s have you heard say “I don’t expect to get anything from Social Security?” Hell, I say it quite frequently. But you know who is benefitting from Social Security? The State.

Since its inception the Social Security Trust Fund has been “invested” in Treasury securities. In other words, the State pulls money from peoples’ supposed retirement accounts and lends it to itself. But its cronies have been wanting to get a piece of the action and, as George Carlin predicted, they’re going to get it.

The State has been unwilling to directly cut its cronies in on the Social Security scheme but it did throw them a bone. The bone was a tax rule that allowed money invested into a sanctioned scheme to be withdrawn from employee paychecks before taxes. This scheme, referred to as 401(k), has two major flaws from the point of view of the State’s cronies. First, it’s decentralized. There is no single mandatory 401(k) account that all employees have to invest in. Second, it is voluntary so many employees didn’t hand their money over to the State’s cronies. A lot of that is likely to change in the near future under President Clinton:

While Hillary Clinton has spent the presidential campaign saying as little as possible about her ties to Wall Street, the executive who some observers say could be her Treasury Secretary has been openly promoting a plan to give financial firms control of hundreds of billions of dollars in retirement savings. The executive is Tony James, president of the Blackstone Group.

[…]

It is a plan that proponents say could help millions of Americans — but could also enrich another constituency: the hedge fund and private equity industries that Blackstone dominates and that have donated millions to support Clinton’s presidential bid.

The proposal would require workers and employers to put a percentage of payroll into individual retirement accounts “to be invested well in pooled plans run by professional investment managers,” as James put it. In other words, individual voluntary 401(k)s would be replaced by a single national system, and much of the mandated savings would flow to Wall Street, where companies like Blackstone could earn big fees off the assets. And because of a gap in federal anti-corruption rules, there would be little to prevent the biggest investment contracts from being awarded to the biggest presidential campaign donors.

The “millions of Americans” that proponents are claiming will be helped by this change are the State’s cronies on Wall Street. Me and you? We’ll get fucked on the deal just as we’ve been getting fucked on Social Security. Instead of voluntarily opting to enter into 401(k) we’ll be forced to give money to yet another national retirement scheme. It’ll basically be Social Security II but the money will go to the State’s cronies instead of itself.

Every decree by the State exists to expropriate wealth from the populace. It’s a nice system if you’re either the king or are connected enough to the king to hold a royal title. But it really sucks for us lowly serfs.

Written by Christopher Burg

October 20th, 2016 at 10:00 am