Harwood and Stanley: Policing the dystopia

For 15 years, Americans have been living in a constant state of “wartime” without any of the obvious signs of war. There is no draft. The public has in no way been mobilized. The fighting has all taken place in battle zones thousands of miles from the United States. Despite a rising homegrown fear of Islamic terrorism, an American in the continental U.S. faces greater danger from a toddler wielding a loaded gun. And yet, in ways often hard to chart, America’s endless wars — Barack Obama is now slated to preside over the longest war presidency in our history — have quietly come home. You can see them reflected in the strengthening powers and prominence of the national security state, in those Pentagon spy drones now flying patrols over “the homeland,” and, among other things, in the militarization of police departments nationwide.

Perhaps nowhere in these years, in fact, have America’s wars come home more fiercely or embedded themselves more deeply than in those police forces. It’s not just the multiplying SWAT teams — the police equivalent of Special Operations forces, often filled with ex-special ops types and other veterans from this country’s Iraqi and Afghan battlefields — or the weaponry fed by the Pentagon to police departments, also from the battlefields of the Greater Middle East, including mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, automatic and semi-automatic rifles, and even grenade launchers. It’s also, as Jay Stanley and TomDispatch regular Matthew Harwood, both of the American Civil Liberties Union, suggest today, intrusive new forms of technology, developed by or in conjunction with the Pentagon for battlefield use, that are coming to your neighborhood.  So welcome to the war zone, America. Tom Engelhardt

Power loves the dark
Police nationwide are secretly exploiting intrusive technologies with the feds’ complicity
By Matthew Harwood and Jay Stanley

Can’t you see the writing on the touchscreen? A techno-utopia is upon us. We’ve gone from smartphones at the turn of the twenty-first century to smart fridges and smart cars. The revolutionary changes to our everyday life will no doubt keep barreling along. By 2018, so predicts Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, more than three million employees will work for “robo-bosses” and soon enough we — or at least the wealthiest among us — will be shopping in fully automated supermarkets and sleeping in robotic hotels.

With all this techno-triumphalism permeating our digitally saturated world, it’s hardly surprising that law enforcement would look to technology — “smart policing,” anyone? — to help reestablish public trust after the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the long list of other unarmed black men killed by cops in Anytown, USA. The idea that technology has a decisive role to play in improving policing was, in fact, a central plank of President Obama’s policing reform task force.

In its report, released last May, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing emphasized the crucial role of technology in promoting better law enforcement, highlighting the use of police body cameras in creating greater openness. “Implementing new technologies,” it claimed, “can give police departments an opportunity to fully engage and educate communities in a dialogue about their expectations for transparency, accountability, and privacy.”

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William deBuys: No more wide open spaces?

One summer 43 years ago, I headed west with a photographer friend, interviewing Americans at minor league baseball parks, fairgrounds, tourist spots, campgrounds, wherever the moment and our Volkswagen van took us.  Grandiosely enough, our goal was “to tap the mood of the nation,” which led to my first book, Beyond Our Control: America in the Mid Seventies.  Looking back, I now realize that, in 1973, three decades ahead of schedule, we met the precursors to the Tea Party movement, angry and unnerved white Americans of a certain age, camped out in their RVs and distinctly dyspeptic about where this country was going.  This was a crowd, as I wrote at the time, that when it came to the lifestyles they had known and enjoyed could already “feel the tremors under their feet” and I predicted that one of these days they would be the ones to suffer.  “You can bet,” I observed, that “America’s corporate pushers won’t be going through the same sort of withdrawal pains as their victims.”  And I added, “What makes it so frightening is this: When these people find themselves desperate, they may panic and grab for the first help in sight, and I’m afraid to think what that will be.”  All these decades later, we may finally have a better idea of what that, in fact, is.

As it happened, for this born and bred New York City boy for whom Central Park was the wilderness, there was another unforgettable aspect of that journey from coast to coast.  I saw up close and personal something of the West, of lands that seemed to stretch out toward eternity, that could take your breath away, and that, as TomDispatch regular William deBuys points out today, still — though for how long we don’t know — belong to all of us.  Of our visit to Yellowstone Park (where the warnings about grizzlies in the campgrounds touched off the panic button in this urbanite), I wrote:

“Early this afternoon, we rested by a lake and watched a Swainson’s hawk hover and hunt, all its energy focused on a few yards of field. Suddenly, it plummeted out of sight, rose with a field mouse in its claws and was gone.  Yellowstone’s been like that, just the opposite of our expectations.  Gigantic, wild-looking, beautiful. The roads don’t even dent it, at least in the eastern part where we’ve come in. Strangest of all, it’s not crawling with people.  We didn’t see anybody until we pulled into the parking lot of the Hamilton General Store.”

And here’s a small miracle: in this era of privatization — even the military now goes into its war zones with a set of corporate warriors in tow — those awesome American lands are still ours, still public.  My children can still spend time in them and appreciate a world they would otherwise have no access to.  But my grandson when he grows up?  Who knows?  As deBuys makes clear today, behind the latest wing-nuts of the American West lie corporate interests that, in this age of growing inequality, might someday take part in one of the great land grabs of modern times.  Fortunately, there are still writers like deBuys to remind us of just what’s at stake. Tom Engelhardt

Privatizing America’s public land
How the raid on Malheur screened a future raid on real estate
By William deBuys

It goes without saying that in a democracy everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions. The trouble starts when people think they are also entitled to their own facts.

Away out West, on the hundreds of millions of acres of public lands that most Americans take for granted (if they are aware of them at all), the trouble is deep, widespread, and won’t soon go away. Last winter’s armed take-over and 41-day occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon is a case in point. It was carried out by people who, if they hadn’t been white and dressed as cowboys, might have been called “terrorists” and treated as such. Their interpretation of the history of western lands and of the judicial basis for federal land ownership — or at least that of their leaders, since they weren’t exactly a band of intellectuals — was only loosely linked to reality.

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‘Take it off! This is America!’: Man who yanked hijab pleads guilty to religious obstruction

The Washington Post reports: Near the end of his Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque in December, Gill Parker Payne decided he had to take action.

Seated a few rows in front of him was a woman he had never met before. She was wearing a religious headscarf, known as a hijab, which Payne recognized as a Muslim practice. He stood up, walked down the aisle and stopped next to her seat. Looking down at the woman, Payne instructed her to remove the covering.

“Take it off! This is America!” Payne, 37, later recalled saying. When she didn’t do it herself, Payne did: He grabbed the hijab from the back and pulled it all off. Violated, the woman, identified by the Justice Department only as K.A., quickly pulled the hijab back over her head.

On Friday, as part of a plea deal with the federal government, Payne pleaded guilty to obstructing the woman’s exercise of her religious beliefs. “Because I forcibly removed K.A.’s hijab, I admit that the United States can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I intentionally obstructed K.A.’s free exercise of her religious beliefs,” he said in a written statement in the plea agreement.

Payne awaits sentencing. He faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.

“No matter one’s faith, all Americans are entitled to peacefully exercise their religious beliefs free from discrimination and violence,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a statement. “Using or threatening force against individuals because of their religion is an affront to the fundamental values of this nation.” [Continue reading…]

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Lakota lead the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Jason Coppola reports: As the start of 2016 shatters last year’s record as the hottest year on record, the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation) once again find themselves on the front lines of the battle against the fossil fuel industry.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have established a Spirit Camp at the mouth of the Cannonball River in North Dakota as a means of bringing attention and awareness to a proposed pipeline and act as an enduring symbol of resistance against its construction.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is set to cut through several US states, delivering hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks oil fields in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.

The Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners pipeline will cross the Ogallala Aquifer — a million-year-old shallow water table spanning eight US states, which provides fresh water for drinking and agriculture — while twice crossing the Missouri River and running alongside the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

A spill could contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the worlds largest, which is already in crisis and under threat of running dry in the coming decades. [Continue reading…]

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A few miles from San Bernardino, a Muslim prom queen reigns

The New York Times reports: In the days after the December terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., when pictures of the hijab-wearing suspect filled television screens and newspapers, Zarifeh Shalabi’s mother and aunts stayed at home.

With their home just a few miles from the scene of the attack that left 14 dead, they worried about an anti-Muslim backlash. When they went shopping, Zarifeh, 17, said, other mothers pulled their children away when they saw the women wearing head scarves.

“We were more afraid that someone was going to hurt us,” Zarifeh said.

But this month, Zarifeh received the ultimate symbol of teenage acceptance: She was crowned prom queen after her non-Muslim friends campaigned for her by wearing hijabs in solidarity.

“We saw it as a chance to do something good, to represent something good,” said a friend, Sarahi Sanchez, who like Zarifeh is one of a few dozen peer mentors at Summit High School. “This was a way to prove we don’t have problems with bullying or racism.”

Zarifeh said her win “proved that not all Muslims are something to worry about.” [Continue reading…]

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These Syrian-American Christians love Trump because they say he’s like Assad

The Daily Beast reports: Perched on a hard orange seat high above the dirt floor of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center, waiting for the Harrisburg Trump rally to start, Pastor Joseph Moussa told me Donald Trump gives him hope, in part, because he reminds him of Assad.

Yes, that Assad — Bashar al-Assad — the one whose army is accused of killing upwards of a quarter-million Syrians. In some important ways, Moussa said, Trump and Assad sound similar. And he likes it.

Besides appreciating Trump’s plainspokenness and apparent invulnerability to pressure from lobbyists, Moussa and other Syrian-American Christians living in Pennsylvania like Trump for a unique reason: They think he will do the least to undermine Assad — and, by extension, the most to protect their fellow Christians back in Syria.

“Mr. Trump, he is the only candidate that ever said, ‘I am an evangelical and I am proud of it, and I am gonna protect the Christians,’” he said.

Like any other ethnic group, Pennsylvania’s Syrian-American community isn’t a monolith. And describing it in sweeping terms is as foolish as it is uninformative. But conversations with numerous Syrian-American leaders in the Keystone State indicate that Trump may find many devoted supporters among their numbers. Many of these Christians fervently back Bashar al-Assad, as they feel he treats Syria’s Christians fairly and is their best protection against spreading Islamist extremism in the region. So they like Trump, as they feel he’s their best hope for limiting Western intervention on behalf of the rebels seeking to take down Assad. To an extent, they see Trump and Assad as two of a kind when it comes to protecting the region’s Christians. [Continue reading…]

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It took Barack Obama to crush the Brexit fantasy

Jonathan Freedland writes: o wonder they were desperate that he keep his mouth shut. At his podium in Downing Street Barack Obama flattered his hosts, paid lip service to the notion that the referendum on British membership of the European Union on 23 June is a matter for the British people – and then calmly ripped apart the case for Brexit.

It was the Vote Leavers’ worst nightmare. For years – no, decades – the anti-EU camp has suggested that Britain’s natural habitat is not among its continental neighbours but in “the Anglosphere”, that solar system of English-speaking planets which revolves around the United States. Break free from Brussels and we could embrace our kindred spirits in Sydney, Toronto and especially New York, Washington and Los Angeles. The Brexit camp has long been like the man who dreams of leaving his wife for another woman, one who really understands him.

Obama is that other woman. And today he told the outers their fantasies were no more than that. First in print and then, more explicitly, in person he spelled out that America has no intention of forming some new, closer relationship with a Brexited Britain. On the contrary, a post-EU Britain would be at “the back of the queue” if it sought to agree its own, new trade treaty with the US.

America, he told his British audience – hence his use of “queue”, not “line” – likes the fact that Britain is already married: it works out really well for all three parties involved. His message was unambiguous. Don’t rush into a hasty divorce because you think we’re waiting for you with open arms. We’re not. [Continue reading…]

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Barack Obama: As your friend, let me say that the EU makes Britain even greater

Barack Obama writes: As citizens of the United Kingdom take stock of their relationship with the EU, you should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices – democracy, the rule of law, open markets – across the continent and to its periphery. The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership. The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the US and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe.

In this complicated, connected world, the challenges facing the EU – migration, economic inequality, the threats of terrorism and climate change – are the same challenges facing the United States and other nations. And in today’s world, even as we all cherish our sovereignty, the nations who wield their influence most effectively are the nations that do it through the collective action that today’s challenges demand. [Continue reading…]

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College student is removed from Southwest Airlines flight because he spoke Arabic

The New York Times reports: A college student who came to the United States as an Iraqi refugee was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight in California earlier this month after another passenger became alarmed when she heard him speaking Arabic.

The student, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, was taken off a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Oakland on April 6 after he called an uncle in Baghdad to tell him about an event he attended that included a speech by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“I was very excited about the event so I called my uncle to tell him about it,” he said.

He told his uncle about the chicken dinner they were served and the moment when he got to stand up and ask the secretary general a question about the Islamic State, he said. But the conversation seemed troubling to a nearby passenger, who told the crew she overheard him making “potentially threatening comments,” the airline said in a statement.

Mr. Makhzoomi, 26, knew something was wrong as soon as he finished his phone call and saw that a woman sitting in front of him had turned around in her seat to stare at him, he said. She headed for the airplane door soon after he told his uncle that he would call again when he landed, and qualified it with a common phrase in Arabic, “inshallah,” meaning “god willing.”

“That is when I thought, ‘Oh, I hope she is not reporting me,’ because it was so weird,” Mr. Makhzoomi said.

That is exactly what happened. An Arabic-speaking Southwest Airlines employee of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent came to his seat and escorted him off the plane a few minutes after his call ended, he said. The man introduced himself in Arabic and then switched to English to ask, “Why were you speaking Arabic in the plane?” [Continue reading…]

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Muslims used to love living in Tennessee — now it’s a nightmare

BuzzFeed reports: The fire department called before dawn. Daoud Abudiab and his 13-year-old daughter were already awake, so they got in the car quickly. From about a mile away, Abudiab saw a plume of black smoke rising above the low skyline and started getting nervous. He thought back to the arguments over whether to mark the Islamic Center of Columbia, Tennessee, the only mosque in the hundred-mile stretch between Nashville and Huntsville, with a large sign or a small, unassuming one. They had opted for a large one.

Abudiab and his daughter could feel the heat of the fire when they stood at the yellow police tape. A black swastika was spray-painted on the mosque’s facade. Flames pushed out from the burst windows and up through the collapsed roof. Abudiab’s wife arrived with the rest of the kids, followed by other congregants and their families.

Abudiab looked at the women and all he saw was headscarves. “Go home,” he pleaded. “Don’t go out. Don’t go to Walmart. Don’t go anywhere.”

The ringleader of the band of white supremacists who burned down the mosque with Molotov cocktails justified the act by saying, “What goes on in that building is illegal according to the Bible.” This was February 2008. The theory of Barack Obama’s crypto-Islamism was faint chatter on the fringes. But in the years after Obama’s election, Tennessee became a key battleground in a national anti-Muslim movement whose influence has culminated, for now, in the presidential campaigns of Republican frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, both of whom are being advised by people whose views on Islam were once considered too extreme for mainstream politics. [Continue reading…]

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Andrew Bacevich: Presidential wars

It was a large banner and its message was clear.  It read: “Mission Accomplished,” and no, I don’t mean the classic “mission accomplished” banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln under which, on May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush proudly proclaimed (to the derision of critics ever since) that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”  I’m actually referring to a September 1982 banner with those same two words (and an added “farewell” below them) displayed on a landing craft picking up the last Marines sent ashore in Beirut, Lebanon, to be, as President Ronald Reagan put it when they arrived the previous August, “what Marines have been for more than 200 years — peace-makers.”  Of course, when Bush co-piloted an S-3B Viking sub reconnaissance Naval jet onto the deck of the Abraham Lincoln and made his now-classic statement, major combat had barely begun in Iraq (and it has yet to end) — nor was it peace that came to Beirut in September 1982: infamously, the following year 241 Marines would die there in a single day, thanks to a suicide bomber.

“Not for the last time,” writes Andrew Bacevich in his monumental new work, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, “the claim proved to be illusory.”  Indeed, one of the grim and eerie wonders of his book is the way in which just about every wrongheaded thing Washington did in that region in the 14-plus years since 9/11 had its surprising precursor in the two decades of American war there before the World Trade Center towers came down.  U.S. military trainers and advisers, for example, failed (as they later would in Iraq and Afghanistan) to successfully build armies, starting with the Lebanese one; Bush’s “preventive war” had its predecessor in a Reagan directive called (ominously enough given what was to come) “combating terrorism”; Washington’s obsessive belief of recent years that problems in the region could be solved by what Andrew Cockburn has called the “kingpin strategy” — the urge to dismantle terror organizations by taking out their leadership via drones or special operations raids — had its precursor in “decapitation” operations against Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid with similar resulting mayhem.  The belief that “an additional increment of combat power might turn around a failing endeavor” — call it a “surge,” if you will — had its Iraq and Afghan pretrial run in Somalia in 1993.  And above all, of course, there was Washington’s unquenchable post-1980 urge to intervene, military first, in a decisive way throughout the region, which, as Bacevich writes, only “produced conditions conducive to further violence and further disorder,” and if that isn’t the repetitive history of America’s failed post-2001 wars in a nutshell, what is?

As it happened, the effects of such actions from 1980 on were felt not just in the Greater Middle East and Africa, but in the United States, too.  There, as Bacevich writes today, war became a blank-check activity for a White House no longer either checked (in any sense) or balanced by Congress.  Think of it as another sad tale of a surge (or do I mean a decapitation?) that went wrong. Tom Engelhardt

Writing a blank check on war for the president
How the United States became a prisoner of war and Congress went MIA
By Andrew J. Bacevich

Let’s face it: in times of war, the Constitution tends to take a beating. With the safety or survival of the nation said to be at risk, the basic law of the land — otherwise considered sacrosanct — becomes nonbinding, subject to being waived at the whim of government authorities who are impatient, scared, panicky, or just plain pissed off.

The examples are legion.  During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln arbitrarily suspended the writ of habeas corpus and ignored court orders that took issue with his authority to do so. After U.S. entry into World War I, the administration of Woodrow Wilson mounted a comprehensive effort to crush dissent, shutting down anti-war publications in complete disregard of the First Amendment. Amid the hysteria triggered by Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order consigning to concentration camps more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans, many of them native-born citizens. Asked in 1944 to review this gross violation of due process, the Supreme Court endorsed the government’s action by a 6-3 vote. 

More often than not, the passing of the emergency induces second thoughts and even remorse. The further into the past a particular war recedes, the more dubious the wartime arguments for violating the Constitution appear. Americans thereby take comfort in the “lessons learned” that will presumably prohibit any future recurrence of such folly.

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Panama Papers firm linked to over 1,000 U.S. companies mostly in Nevada and Wyoming

USA Today reports: The law firm at the hub of a global financial scandal has links to more than 1,000 U.S. companies, formed mostly in Nevada and Wyoming since 2001, but appears to have largely escaped the scrutiny of U.S. financial regulators — at least in public.

The leak this week of more than 11 million records from the Panamanian firm, Mossack Fonseca, has led to a global uproar that prompted Iceland’s prime minister to step aside Tuesday. An international consortium of journalists has reported the documents tie the firm, which specializes in shell companies that can be used to conceal assets, to Russian oligarchs, former heads of state and world soccer’s scandal-plagued governing body.

Yet despite those apparent dealings and its operations in the United States, the firm has appeared in only a scattering of court cases and regulatory filings. Most involve government attempts to track money the authorities believed had been concealed behind overseas shell companies the firm helped establish.

The Justice Department is “reviewing the reports” published by international journalists, the head of its Criminal Division, Leslie Caldwell, said Tuesday, but declined to elaborate.

The firestorm around Mossack Fonseca has been tied mostly to its work for foreign customers. But state incorporation records show the firm helped set up nearly 1,100 business entities in the United States since 2001.

The majority of U.S.-based companies linked to Mossack Fonseca were formed in Nevada by M.F. Corporate Services (Nevada) Limited, a one-employee company based out of a low-slung tile-roofed office building 20 miles from the Las Vegas strip. MF Nevada has served as the registered agent for 1,026 business entities since 2001, according to USA TODAY’s review of Nevada business documents. [Continue reading…]

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The Panama Papers: Where are the Americans?

Politico reports: The Panama Papers sent ripples across the globe Monday after revealing that 140 politicians from more than 50 countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iceland President Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, were linked to offshore accounts set up by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Despite its breadth, the scandal so far has barely touched American individuals and companies. There were no mass protests, as occurred in Iceland where protesters demanded the resignation of Gunnlaugsson; no U.S. leaders were forced to deny accusations of tax evasion as Putin did.

How have Americans so far escaped the biggest leak of financial data of all time? It’s not because wealthy Americans don’t use offshore bank accounts to avoid U.S. taxes: they do — to the tune of $1.2 trillion in 2014, according to one estimate. Some professors have suggested that Americans may have disguised their accounts at Mossack Fonseca behind another party. But there’s also a more structural answer, tax experts say — one that has to do with shifts in global financial policy — and, to an extent, taste.

Tax evasion overall is a far larger problem in developing countries, where norms around paying taxes are weak and rules designed to stop such evasion are ineffective. And when wealthy Americans do want to evade taxes, they turn to Bermuda, or the Cayman Islands, or Singapore. They don’t park their money in Panama. [Continue reading…]

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American inquisition: Training teachers to extract confessions from their students

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Douglas Starr writes: About a year and a half ago, Jessica Schneider was handed a flyer by one of her colleagues in the child-advocacy community. It advertised a training session, offered under the auspices of the Illinois Principals Association (I.P.A.), in how to interrogate students. Specifically, teachers and school administrators would be taught an abbreviated version of the Reid Technique, which is used across the country by police officers, private-security personnel, insurance-fraud investigators, and other people for whom getting at the truth is part of the job. Schneider, who is a staff attorney at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, was alarmed. She knew that some psychologists and jurists have characterized the technique as coercive and liable to produce false confessions — especially when used with juveniles, who are highly suggestible. When she expressed her concerns to Brian Schwartz, the I.P.A.’s general counsel, he said that the association had been offering Reid training for many years and found it both popular and benign. To prove it, he invited Schneider to attend a session in January of 2015.

The training was led by Joseph Buckley, the president of John E. Reid and Associates, which is based in Chicago. Like the adult version of the Reid Technique, the school version involves three basic parts: an investigative component, in which you gather evidence; a behavioral analysis, in which you interview a suspect to determine whether he or she is lying; and a nine-step interrogation, a nonviolent but psychologically rigorous process that is designed, according to Reid’s workbook, “to obtain an admission of guilt.” Most of the I.P.A. session, Schneider told me, focussed on behavioral analysis. Buckley described to trainees how patterns of body language — including slumping, failing to look directly at the interviewer, offering “evasive” responses, and showing generally “guarded” behaviors — could supposedly reveal whether a suspect was lying. (Some of the cues were downright mythological — like, for instance, the idea that individuals look left when recalling the truth and right when trying to fabricate.) Several times during the session, Buckley showed videos of interrogations involving serious crimes, such as murder, theft, and rape. None of the videos portrayed young people being questioned for typical school misbehavior, nor did any of the Reid teaching materials refer to “students” or “kids.” They were always “suspects” or “subjects.”

Laura Nirider, a professor of law at Northwestern University and the project director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, attended the same session as Schneider. She told me that about sixty people were there. “Everybody was on the edge of their seat: ‘So this is how we can learn to get the drop on little Billy for writing graffiti on the underside of the lunchroom table,’” she said. One vice-principal told Nirider that the first thing he does when he interrogates students is take away their cell phones, “so they can’t call their mothers.” [Continue reading…]

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Earthquakes caused by oil drillers place 7 million Americans at risk

Grist reports: Earthquake risk is on the rise, and we mostly have ourselves to blame — or, more specifically, the oil and gas industry.

In a new report, the U.S. Geological Survey maps out earthquake hazards for the coming year, and for the first time, its assessment includes the risk of human-induced earthquakes. There’s now so much earthquake activity caused by the oil industry injecting wastewater underground that 7 million Americans in the central and eastern U.S. are at risk of experiencing a damaging tremor this year.

In parts of north-central Oklahoma and southern Kansas, the risk of dangerous shaking is now about 5–12 percent per year — a riskiness on par with traditionally earthquake-prone California. The difference, of course, is that the Californian quakes as we currently understand them mostly stem from natural processes.

Fracking itself is not to blame for the increased earthquake risk, USGS says. Rather, it’s the oil and gas industry’s disposal of wastewater that can cause problems. Sometimes that wastewater is the result of fracking, and sometimes it’s the result of traditional drilling processes. After water is pumped into the earth to help extract oil and gas, it comes back up polluted, salty, and altogether undrinkable. To keep it away from people and other critters, it’s often injected back into the earth into deeper formations (below the aquifers we tap for drinking water). This kind of injection can lead to increased pressure at fault zones, which can cause the kind of slippage associated with earthquakes. [Continue reading…]

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