Sunday, September 20, 2009

Police Ready To 'Take On' Commenters, Chief Says

People who misrepresent themselves as officials in online comments could face civil, criminal penalties, Acevedo says.

Tony Plohetski
The Austin American-Statesman
September 18, 2009

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says he and some of his officers have been harassed, lied about and had their identities falsely used in online blogs and in reader comment sections on local media Internet sites.

They've had enough.

In a meeting this month with department brass, Acevedo and the group discussed how they think such posts erode public trust in the department and how they have been wrongly maligned.

They have since researched their legal options and decided that from now on, they might launch formal investigations into such posts, Acevedo said. He said investigators might seek search warrants or subpoenas from judges to learn the identities of the authors — he thinks some could be department employees — and possibly sue them for libel or file charges if investigators think a crime was committed.

"A lot of my people feel it is time to take these people on," Acevedo said. "They understand the damage to the organization, and quite frankly, when people are willfully misleading and lying, they are pretty much cowards anyway because they are doing so under the cloak of anonymity."

The effort to crack down on potentially illegal statements or comments that are possibly libelous — those published with the goal of defaming a person — is the second time in recent months that the department has confronted new social media.

In March, the social networking site Twitter shut down a fake account that pretended to issue official Austin police bulletins after the department and the Texas attorney general's office complained.

University of Texas law professor David Anderson said the hosts of sites where potentially libelous comments are posted are granted immunity by federal laws. Those who post comments can still be sued, however.

State lawmakers this year passed a law that took effect Sept. 1 making it a third-degree felony to use another person's name to post messages on a social networking site without their permission and with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten.

Along with Internet blogs that offer readers a chance to give their opinions, media outlets — including the American-Statesman — in recent years have begun allowing readers to make comments online about stories and blogs.

The American-Statesman has a policy on what people can write in online comments. The newspaper asks that people keep their comments civil, not engage in personal attacks and not use profanity or racial or ethnic slurs. Comments about a person's sexual orientation or religion also are grounds for the removal of a comment.

Acevedo said he and other officers in recent months have faced allegations of sexual impropriety and suggestions that they engaged in quid pro quo behavior. A police commander has had his name falsely used as the author of comments about the department.

Acevedo said that in several cases, he thinks department employees were responsible for comments that appeared on sites such as Officers and civilian workers who were responsible for the comments could face disciplinary action.

According to police policy, employees are barred from criticizing or ridiculing the department, its policies or employees in speech or in writing when it is "defamatory, obscene or unlawful." Rules also prohibit such speech or writing when it affects "the confidence of the public in the integrity of the department and its employees."

"If you want to criticize, critique, question actions, that's allowable under the First Amendment, and we encourage that," Acevedo said. "When you start actually representing facts, when they are absolutely outright lies, that can lead to civil liability and, potentially, criminal liability."

Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr recently updated department policies prohibiting people from posting obscene or defamatory comments on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Department spokeswoman Michelle DeCrane said Thursday that officials have not yet discussed how they will enforce the updated policy.

According to published reports, lawsuits have been popping up nationally involving anonymous online speech.

However, the Associated Press has reported that most of the cases fail because statements of opinion are protected under the First Amendment. Courts are requiring officials to show they have a legitimate defamation claim — that is, one involving a false assertion of fact that hurts someone's reputation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Austin City Council Meeting 8/6/2009 Item #9: Austin Regional Intelligence Center

Fusion Centers Draw Outcry From Local Residents

Ben Wermund
The Daily Texan
August 7, 2009

John Bush stood before city council Thursday morning, his face half-hidden behind a red plastic mask.

“You’ll have to excuse the mask,” he said, taking his place at the podium. “The whole idea of these fusion centers has me a little paranoid.”

Bush was one of several Austin residents — some of whom’s faces were also concealed behind colored plastic — speaking out against the creation of a new Austin fusion center, a place where the police department will collect and monitor information on criminal activity.

But the residents were concerned the center will have its eye on more than just criminal activity.

Fusion centers, which began popping up across the U.S. with the purpose of preventing terrorism in a post-9/11 America, started as a joint effort between Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to coordinate intelligence between federal agencies and local police forces.

The Austin City Council approved a resolution for the use of Homeland Security grants to turn an existing Department of Public Safety building into the new Austin Regional Intelligence Center.

The issue will be brought before Austin residents and council again before the fusion center begins operation. The cost of transformation of the building was capped at $200,000.

Laura Martin, an American Civil Liberties Union of Texas policy analyst, said already-existing fusion centers across the nation have tracked information beyond just criminal activity.

“The ACLU of Texas believes these fusion centers undermine our basic right to privacy,” Martin said. “They were initially focused on terrorism, but have grown to include not only arrest information, but also credit reports, library records, bank statements and travel records.”

She said the fusion centers not only invade privacy, but are also ineffective when trying to solve crimes because of the sheer volume of intelligence they hold.

“With so much info on ordinary folks, this creates a needle in a haystack scenario,” she said. “They undermine democracy by chilling free speech.”

Jim Stetsman, a local business owner, said the police department does not need to know private information.

“What do you want my Randall’s card for? Why do you need to know how much beer I drink?” he said. “This is a camel’s nose under the tent.”

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said the center will only be used to solve crime, not to monitor residents.

“It will only have predicated information that the agencies already have access to,” Acevedo said. “The only difference is, at a local level, there will be an automated process where we can connect the dots.”

He said APD is aware of the problems that have developed at other fusion centers.

“We are well aware of the mistakes of the other fusions centers,” Acevedo said. “I share these concerns. It’s kind of like an older brother — we learn form his mistakes. Well, those older fusions centers, we’re going to learn from theirs.”

Before council passed the resolution, councilwoman Laura Morrison, who originally proposed the resolution, withdrew her motion and asked to postpone the vote until the matter could be discussed with the community.

“I think that what the comments have made clear is that we, as a community, have not finished this conversation,” Morrison said. “There needs to be a broad and inclusive conversation.”

The resolution to fund the building passed shortly afterward, with a stipulation that the police department takes measures to ensure the fusion center will have community approval.

“I want to vet it out to the public and these folks before we even bring it to [council],” Acevedo said. “The bottom line is, we cannot go operational until you feel comfortable.”

Item #9 Introduction

Laura Martin Addresses the Council

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo Addresses the Council

Debbie Russell Addresses the Council

Jim Stetsman Addresses the Council

John Bush Addresses the Council

Fancy Fairchild Addresses the Council

Texas Impact Addresses the Council

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo Addresses the Council

Mike McDonald, Art Acevedo, and David Douglas Address the Council

Final Segment

Local Cops Get Access to Pentagon “Domestic Terror” Database

Kurt Nimmo
September 16, 2009

On Monday, the Pentagon posted a news release on its website announcing the DoD and the Department of Homeland Security will “grant select state and major urban area fusion center personnel access to classified terrorism-related information residing in DoD’s classified network.” Federalized cops around the country will now be able to “access specific terrorism-related information” on Pentagon and DHS computer systems “in order to detect, deter, prevent and respond to homeland security threats.”

These “homeland security threats” have nothing to do with al-Qaeda or Muslims radicalized by the CIA in the 1980s.

In June Infowars posted an article revealing how the Pentagon indoctrinates its employees and soldiers. A multiple choice question included on a Level 1 Antiterrorism Awareness training course required for all DoD personnel asked the following question: “Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorist activity?” The correct answer was “protests.” Of course, this nothing new — the Pentagon, the FBI, and the police have considered political activists terrorists for decades, a fact revealed Senator Frank Church’s Select Committee on Intelligence in the 1970s.

A FOIA request in 2006 by the ACLU revealed widespread surveillance of the antiwar movement during Bush’s reign. “The documents come in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU earlier this year after evidence surfaced that the Pentagon was secretly conducting surveillance of protest activities, anti-war organizations and groups opposed to military recruitment policies. The Pentagon shared the information with other government agencies through the Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) database,” noted an ACLU press release. “The TALON database was intended to track groups or individuals with links to terrorism, but the documents released today show that the Pentagon gathered information on anti-war protesters using sources from the Department of Homeland Security, local police departments and FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces.”

TALON, short for Threat and Local Observation Notice, was authorized in 2002 by then Deputy Defense Secretary and high-level neocon Paul D. Wolfowitz. The database was maintained by the United States Air Force. On August 21, 2007, the US Defense Department announced that it would shut down the database, along with the secretive and classified CIFA that was given responsibility for analyzing the TALON reports. Many civil libertarians applauded the decision. However, data from TALON was not sent to the dumpster — it was migrated over to the FBI and included in its Guardian database. The Guardian Threat Tracking System, created in 2004, was created by the FBI “to manage the resolution of threats and suspicious incidents.”

Local cops with federal security clearances will now be able to access TALON and related data. “Increasing the breadth of law enforcement that have access to terrorism-related data will further improve the ability of fusion centers to prevent, detect, deter, and respond to terrorist attacks, and advance the combined missions of DHS and DoD to protect the nation’s security,” largely from “domestic terrorists” and “extremists” of the sort spelled out by the DHS in their now infamous “rightwing extremism” report.

In other words, the next time the cops pull you over because you have a “Don’t Tread On Me” bumper sticker on your car — designated as terrorist symbolism by the MIAC report — they will be calling in to see if you’re a “homeland security threat.”

“As fusion centers gain more and more access to Americans’ private information, the information about them being made available to the American public remains woefully inadequate,” according to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “There is a stunning lack of oversight at these fusion centers and, as we’ve seen, these centers are rapidly becoming a breeding ground for overzealous intelligence activities. Opening the door for domestic law enforcement to gain access to classified military intelligence coupled with no guidelines restricting the military’s role in fusion centers is a recipe for disaster.”

It is not a “recipe for disaster” — it is a recipe for a police state that rivals anything accomplished by East Germany’s Stazi, the KGB, SIDE, DINA, or other alphabet soup secret and political police organizations.

Obama will facilitate the process when he extends the USA Patriot Act later this year. The Patriot Act gives “the government the authority to access business records, operate roving wiretaps and conduct surveillance on ‘lone wolf’ suspects with no known link to foreign governments or terrorist groups,” the New York Times reports today.

As the DHS under the influence of the ADL tells us, the typical “lone wolf” is not a fellow traveler of the CIA’s al-Qaeda, but is influenced by “rightwing extremism,” defined as Second Amendment and pro-life activists, people opposed to illegal immigration, returning veterans, and the “racists” – as Jimmy Carter would have it – opposed to the globalist agenda of Obama.