A Geek With Guns

Discount security adviser to the proles.

Archive for the ‘Corruption Corner’ Category

The FBI and Child Pornography

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The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) seemingly went scorched Earth during its campaign to takedown a hidden child pornography site. Except it didn’t take the site down. It not only left it running once it discovered where it was being hosted and continued hosting the site itself but it even actively worked to upgrade the site so it could distribute more child pornography:

Under the FBI’s stewardship, Playpen membership rose by 30 percent and the number of visitors to the site increased from roughly 11,000 to 50,000 per week, assistant federal defender Peter Adolf argued in a motion to dismiss his client’s indictment. Playpen distributed 200 videos, 9,000 images and 13,000 links to child pornography while the FBI ran the site from February 20th to March 4th, Adolf said. He supported his claims with archived messages from Playpen users commenting on how well the site was running during this same timeframe.

[…]

“Government agents worked hard to upgrade the website’s capability to distribute large amounts of child pornography quickly and efficiently, resulting in more users receiving more child pornography faster than they ever did when the website was running ‘illegally,'” Adolf wrote.

How can the FBI claim it was fighting child pornography when it was not only distributing it but also working to distribute more of it? I’m sure the FBI and its apologists will claim that the ends justified the means but it’s exactly that attitude that allowed a supposed law enforcement agency to perpetrate a crime that a large portion of society finds especially heinous.

Furthermore, if the FBI isn’t punished for this what’s to stop it from setting up another child pornography site and permanently operating it in the name of fighting child pornography? What’s to stop it from partnering with child pornographers so it can increase the available content on its site so it can attract more child pornography consumers? I’m sure there are FBI apologists who will claim my insinuation is ridiculous but they would have probably told me that the FBI hosting child pornography was ridiculous just a year or two ago.

What’s the point of having a law enforcement agency that perpetrates the very crimes it’s supposed to fight?

Written by Christopher Burg

August 24th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Cash, Baby

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Some people think that the war on drugs is about protecting the American people from the effects of drugs. Regardless of what your D.A.R.E. program officers told you in school that isn’t the case. The war on drugs is about the money and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is done pretending otherwise:

WASHINGTON — Federal drug agents regularly mine Americans’ travel information to profile people who might be ferrying money for narcotics traffickers — though they almost never use what they learn to make arrests or build criminal cases.

Instead, that targeting has helped the Drug Enforcement Administration seize a small fortune in cash.

[…]

It is a lucrative endeavor, and one that remains largely unknown outside the drug agency. DEA units assigned to patrol 15 of the nation’s busiest airports seized more than $209 million in cash from at least 5,200 people over the past decade after concluding the money was linked to drug trafficking, according to Justice Department records. Most of the money was passed on to local police departments that lend officers to assist the drug agency.

The best scams are the ones that cut everybody in on the action. Local law enforcement agencies get a cut, the DEA gets a cut, and the State gets a cut so none of them are motivated to fight against this kind of theft.

With all of the news of corruption surround the drug war it amazes me that so many Americans are still being suckered by the claim that it’s about protecting people. Using drugs certainly caries the chance of developing negative side-effects or dying. But having men with guns who are too lazy to verify an address kick in your door at oh dark thirty and shoot you is a guarantee of negative side-effects or death. And if that wasn’t enough the drug war also opens the door for rampant corruption. Police officers can blackmail drug dealers and users, steal large quantities of cash without any justification other than the quantity of cash being large, ignore laws against unreasonable searches by claiming a dog “signaled” that there were drugs in the car or house, etc.

The supposed prescription is far worse than the disease in this case. But it was never about curing the disease, it was always about milking the patient for every dime they have.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 12th, 2016 at 11:00 am

Things are Different When You Have a Badge

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If you’ve ever been the victim of online harassment and have tried to get the police to intervene you’ve probably been told that, “There’s nothing we can do.” It seems that police departments are entirely powerless when it comes to tracking down online miscreants. Except when somebody online criticizes the police. When that happens they seem to have no problem tracking the person down and sending heavily armed men to kick in their door at oh dark thirty:

AFTER A WATCHDOG BLOG repeatedly linked him and other local officials to corruption and fraud, the Sheriff of Terrebone Parish in Louisiana on Tuesday sent six deputies to raid a police officer’s home to seize computers and other electronic devices.

Sheriff Jerry Larpenter’s deputies submitted affidavits alleging criminal defamation against the anonymous author of the ExposeDAT blog, and obtained search warrants to seize evidence in the officer’s house and from Facebook.

Isn’t it funny how the police are more than capable of identifying anonymous bloggers when they’re the ones being criticized? Things are a bit different for people in the big club.

This is another example of the legal system being used to punish dissent. The First Amendment supposedly covers the right to protest. If your police department is corrupt you’re supposed to have the right to point that out. If you simply don’t like what your police department does you’re supposed to have the right to protest them. But here in the United Police States of America such activity can get your home raided, your computers stolen, and put you in a position where you have to spend money on a lawyer.

It should be noted that this incident isn’t unique:

This isn’t the first time that Louisiana law enforcement officers have challenged those who criticize them. In 2012, Bobby Simmons, a former police officer, was arrested and jailed on a charge of criminal defamation for a letter he wrote to a newspaper regarding another police officer. The charge was later dropped, and Simmons filed a civil suit alleging that his civil rights were violated.

If you’re harassing people online the police will leave you alone. If you’re exercising your supposed First Amendment right to protest the police they will find you and they will use the court system to punish you for being an uppity slave.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 9th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

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Chelsea Manning did the American people a service by leaking a great deal of information concerning the government’s activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. For her efforts she was subjected to a military trail and tossed in a cage. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the prospects of being in a cage for the remainder of her life got to her and she attempted suicide. In response the State decided to do what the State does and indulge its sadism:

These new charges, which Army employees verbally informed Chelsea were related to the July 5th incident, include, “resisting the force cell move team;” “prohibited property;” and “conduct which threatens.” If convicted, Chelsea could face punishment including indefinite solitary confinement, reclassification into maximum security, and an additional nine years in medium custody. They may negate any chances of parole.

Instead of providing Manning the psychological help she needs, the State is planning on making her torment even worse but subjecting her to solitary confinement (which they did to her when she was being held while awaiting trail). This isn’t about justice, it’s about a sick desire for revenge. She disobeyed the State and now the State doesn’t merely want to punish her, it wasn’t to torture her for the rest of her life. It really is akin to the Room 101 scene from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 29th, 2016 at 10:30 am

The Sex Offender Registry is Bullshit

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The sex offender registry, like all government registries, is bullshit. How can I say that? Do I want neighborhoods to be ignorant of the sexual predators living within them? Do I want sexual predators to be free to roam the streets and prey on the innocent? These are the kinds of questions I’m asked when I state my opposition of the registry. Obviously I don’t want any such things. But I subscribe to Blackstone’s formulation, which states “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

When people think of the sex offender registry they think of creepy middle-aged men fondling children or raping women. The reality is far different. What’s the most common age of people charged with sex offense? It’s not 40. It’s not 50. It’s 14:

But in fact, the most common age that people are charged with a sex offense is 14. That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice. Why so young? I explain:

Because people tend to have sex with people around their own age, which means young people tend to have sex with other young people. And much under-age sex is illegal.

So we keep throwing kids on the registry and labeling them sex offenders, as if they’re incorrigible monsters. But in Britain, a study recently commissioned by Parliament has recommended a totally different course: Trying to understand, treat and refrain from labeling the kids, since children often “make mistakes as they start to understand their sexuality and experiment with it.”

If a teenager takes a picture of their junk and consensually sends it to another teenager then both are in possession of child pornography and therefore fall under the criteria of the sex offender registry. The sex offender registry is ruining the lives of people who have done nothing wrong and aren’t even old enough to buy a cigarette or even face trail as an adult. In other words, we have a lot of innocent people suffering.

Nobody should be surprised by this. This is how government registries always work. They’re sold as a mechanism to keep track of the bad people in society but they end up filled with innocent people. I’m sure many of the teenagers who are listed as sex offenders got on the list because some judge decided that teenagers having sex is immoral and that putting them on the list would make an example of them.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 28th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Implied Licenses are Bullshit

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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been thoroughly fucking over people in the United States since 1998. One of the things that the DMCA accomplished was effectively abolishing property rights on anything that includes copyrighted material. This has had wide reaching ramifications including preventing farmers from repairing their own equipment:

In fact, the craziness of this goes even further: In a 2015 letter to the United States Copyright Office, John Deere, the world’s largest tractor maker, said that the folks who buy tractors don’t own them, not in the way the general public believes “ownership” works. Instead, John Deere said that those who buy tractors are actually purchasing an “implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

[…]

But what this has meant is that tractor owners can’t repair their own tractors—and if they do, they’re in violation of the DMCA. So, if a machine stops working, its owner can’t pop the hood, run some tests, and find out what’s going on; he or she is legally required to take the tractor to a service center (one owned by the manufacturer, since that’s the only entity allowed to analyze the tractor’s issues).

I’m against the concept of copyright, in part, because it is an implied license.

That is to say it’s a contractual agreement that the purchaser didn’t agree to. If you manufacture something and want to restrict the user of that thing then you need to get them to agree to contractual terms. For example, if you want to sell a book and prevent the buyer form copying it then you need to write up a contract that states the signer agrees not to copy the book and include penalties if the contract is broken. Then you need to convince the buyer to agree to it.

Copyright doesn’t work that way though. When you buy a book you don’t sign a contract binding you to an agreement not to copy the book. The agreement is implied, which is a fancy way of saying you were bound to it involuntarily. As the article notes, John Deere stated in a letter to the United States Copyright Office that people who had purchased its equipment were restricted by an implied license. The company is changing the rules after the fact by trying to force an agreement upon farmers through the State. In any sane sense of contract theory that is nonsense but in the statist interpretation it’s a perfectly sound method of getting buyers to agree to specific terms.

People should not be subject to involuntary agreements of any sort and nobody should be allowed to change an agreement willy nilly after the fact without the other party agreeing to those changes.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 19th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Garbage In, Garbage Out

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In computer science the term garbage in, garbage out is used frequently to note that if you have garbage data as an input you will get garbage data as an output. This is applicable in any research. A new study has been released that claims there is no racial bias in polices’ use of lethal force in the United States. Quite a few people have jumped on this because it supports their bias that there isn’t a problem with policing in this country. However, Radley Balko points out a serious flaw in the study. It uses reports written by police officers:

For the purpose of the discussion, let’s break shootings and killings by police into three categories: incidents that were illegal and unnecessary, incidents that were legal and necessary, and incidents that were legal but unnecessary. If you’re asking whether current laws and policies allow for too many police shootings, looking at how many shootings are justified under current law and policy is just question begging. It’s that last category — legal but unnecessary — that we want to explore. Unfortunately, it’s also a category that is plagued by subjectivity and the simple fact noted above: Most of the data we have comes from police reports themselves.

If we were to compile statistics on, say, medical mistakes in an effort to make policies that would improve the state of medicine, we wouldn’t get all of our data from written statements by the accused doctors or hospitals. If we wanted to compile data on conflicts of interest in politics, we wouldn’t rely on members of politicians to self-report and adjudicate when their vote may have been influenced by a campaign donation. But this is essentially what we do with shootings by police officers.

The study is simply an extension of the phrase, we investigated ourselves and found that we did nothing wrong. Studying police use of force in the United States is difficult because most of the data is created by the police themselves. There is very little third-party oversight and what little exists is usually tied to the law enforcement community in some manner.

I’m sure Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who killed Philandro Castile, wrote a report that exonerated him of wrongdoing. This isn’t just because he wants to avoid punishment but also because he probably wants to justify his actions to himself. We humans are great at twisting logic to justify our actions to ourselves. Thieves will tell themselves that since the person they were stealing from was wealthy no real harm occurred to him and therefore the theft was justified. Domestic abusers will tell themselves that they have to hit their partner in order to teach them important lessons. Police, likewise, will tell themselves that lethal force was necessary to preserve their lives. We cannot rely on the reports thieves, domestic abusers, and police write about their own actions because they are necessarily biased. So long as rely on such data as our input we’re going to get garbage as our output.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 15th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Incentives Matter

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I’ve been focusing a lot on the law enforcers as of late but I think it’s important to also take a look at the people who create the laws. Specifically, what incentives they put forward for enforcing different laws.

What does a law enforcement department receive when they solve a murder, robbery, or rape? Perhaps some respect from the community and the gratitude of the victims.

What does a law enforcement department receive when they go after a suspected drug user or seller? A percentage of the proceeds from the property taken under civil forfeiture.

What does a law enforcement department receive when they write a traffic citation? Here in Minnesota, as I’m sure is true with most other states, a percentage goes to the cities, which usually give that money back to their law enforcement department.

The law enforcers are focusing on the crimes that the politicians have incentivized them to focus on. The fact that the politicians are incentivizing crimes such as drug manufacturing, selling, and use over murder, robbery, and rape should be damning.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 12th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Another Man Shot Dead by The Police

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The polices’ war on the people continues. This time a supposedly broken taillight initiated a series of events that ended in another black man’s execution. What makes this situation stranger is that the victim, Philando Castile, supposedly held a valid carry permit and was legally armed. Supposedly Castile had his hands on the steering wheel and informed the officer that he had a valid carry permit and was armed. At that point the officer is said to have demanded his identification and permit. When Castile moved his hands to comply with the officer’s demand the officer shot him:

A St. Paul man died Wednesday night after being shot by police in Falcon Heights, the immediate aftermath of which was shown in a video recorded by the man’s girlfriend as she sat next to him and which was widely shared on Facebook.

[…]

The girlfriend said on the video that the officer “asked him for license and registration. He told him that it was in his wallet, but he had a pistol on him because he’s licensed to carry. The officer said don’t move. As he was putting his hands back up, the officer shot him in the arm four or five times.”

The video shows a uniformed police officer holding a pistol on the couple from outside the car. The officer can be heard to say, “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand out.”

The video, unfortunately, only shows the aftermath of the shooting. But based on the officer’s statements in the video it’s clear Castile didn’t pose an immediate threat as he didn’t have a weapon in hand. Was he shot because the officer gave conflicting orders or because he failed to get into a submissive position fast enough? We can’t be sure but neither act is worthy of execution.

It’s also important to note that both the woman recording the video, Diamond Reynolds, and a young girl, assumed to be Reynolds’ 7-year-old daughter, were in the car when the officer shot Castile. Even when it was clear that Castile was incapacitated the officer aimed his gun into the car again when he was yelling at the camera claiming he told Castile not to reach for his permit. The officer appears to have no concern for the safety of the bystanders, which should give everybody cause for concern.

Finally, as if the officer was purposely trying to make the situation as bad as possible, Reynolds is ordered out of the car, handcuffed, and kidnapped. Why was she kidnapped? If I were to hazard a guess it was because she was collecting evidence that could incriminate the trigger happy officer who is probably desperate to sweep this entire matter under the rug.

While there are some questions regarding the events that lead up to the shooting we do know that Castile is dead because an officer claimed to have seen a broken taillight. Let that sink in. A man was killed because a pathetic municipal revenue generator either saw or fabricated a chance to write a citation for a few bucks. There is no justification for executing a man over a few dollars. Every law is a death threat.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 8th, 2016 at 10:30 am

All Laws are Backed by the Threat of Death

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When somebody says, “There ought to be a law.” you should ask if they really want people to die for breaking that law. The fact that all laws are backed with the implicit threat of death is best illustrated by the recent rash of shootings committed by officers. Many of these shootings start because officers initiated contact over a petty offense:

There is still no comprehensive study to determine just how many cities pay their bills by indenturing the poor, but it is probably no coincidence that when you examine the recent rash of police killings, you find that the offenses they were initially stopped for were preposterously minor. Bland’s lane change signal, DuBose’s missing plate. Walter Scott had that busted taillight—which, we all later learned, is not even a crime in South Carolina. Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes. When Darren Wilson was called to look into a robbery, the reason he initially stopped Michael Brown was for walking in the street—in Ferguson, an illegal act according to Section 44-344 of the local code. Between 2011 and 2013, 95 percent of the perpetrators of this atrocity were African American, meaning that “walking while black” is not a punch line. It is a crime.

Failing to signal before a turn, having a nonfunctional taillight, and walking in the street should not be punishable by death. But when those acts are declared law they automatically elevate from minor nuisances to execution worthy acts. The Mother Jones article explains how turning police officers into revenue generators has exacerbated the problem of officer related violence. However, there is a more fundamental issue at hand. Interactions with police officers are never voluntary. One side, the officer, wields all of the power while the other side, the suspect, has no power whatsoever.

When a police officer turns on their attention whore lights you must get out of their way. If they’re turning on the lights because they’ve targeted you then you must pull over and, if you’re smart, place your hands on the top of the steering wheel. During the encounter you cannot drive away until you’re given permission to do so. You also cannot legally defend yourself in most cases if the officer escalates the situation to violence. If you fail to pull over, drive away, or defend yourself it is considered a crime and more men with guns will be sent to hunt you down. In other words, voluntarily disassociating with an officer who isn’t to your liking is a possible death sentence. Under such circumstances the officer has no motivation to treat you decently.