Recommended listening: For the past few years, Fortean writer Greg Bishop (with whom I appeared on the 8-26-19 episode of Adam Sayne's CONSPIRINORMAL) has been hosting the WFMU radio show STOP HITTING YOURSELF. Bishop describes the content of the show as "Weird and wonderful sounds from outsider to weird covers and occasionally painful stuff from the Golden Age Of Stupidity." Since the show's debut in October of 2018, Bishop has devoted three episodes to UFO-themed music. You can listen to all three of these shows by clicking on the links below....
As criticism of these events rolled in—including from virtually every relevant state and local official in Oregon—the Department of Homeland Security scheduled a press conference earlier this week to try to reclaim the narrative. If the point of that press conference was to reassure an anxious nation that this unfamiliar and recently constituted federal police force is following the law, it likely achieved the opposite effect.
In particular, there is a two-minute segment of the press conference that is both revealing and highly disturbing. It shows that one of the top commanders of this new paramilitary federal police force—Kris Cline, Deputy Director of the Federal Protective Service—apparently does not know what the word “arrest” means. To say as much might seem like harping on semantics or, worse, like picking on Cline for speaking inartfully. But it is absolutely critical to unpack and examine Cline’s words—because the word arrest is one of the most important words in the constitutional law of policing.
Simply put, for an arrest to be constitutional it must be supported by probable cause. This means that the arresting officer must be able to point to specific facts that would cause a reasonable officer to believe that the person being arrested has committed a specific crime. If, on the other hand, the police have not arrested someone but have instead conducted only a brief investigatory stop, they need substantially less proof that the target of their attention is engaged in criminal activity. And if the police initiate instead what is often termed a consensual contact—as would occur if, say, a uniformed officer walked up to you and said, “hey, I want to ask you some questions”—well, in that case the Fourth Amendment simply does not apply, which means the officer does not need to have any reason to approach you.
Arrests, stops and contacts carve up the universe of police-civilian interactions in the United States. So, when I say that Deputy Director Cline does not appear to know what the word “arrest” means, what I am really saying is that he does not know where the basic and essential legal lines are that mark the bounds of his agency’s lawful authority. That is a problem.
This post expands on a Twitter thread I wrote earlier this week. It is a deep dive into the critical two-minutes of the DHS press conference, during which Cline made a series of comments that lead to only one of two possible conclusions: Cline does not know what the word “arrest” means. Or, if he does, he thinks no one will call him out for saying something that is patently untrue. Either way, he is wrong.
From Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean's 7-23-20 New York Times article entitled "No Longer in Shadows, Pentagon’s U.F.O. Unit Will Make Some Findings Public":
[Harry] Reid, the former Democratic senator from Nevada who pushed for
funding the earlier U.F.O. program when he was the majority leader, said
he believed that crashes of objects of unknown origin may have occurred
and that retrieved materials should be studied.
looking into this, I came to the conclusion that there were reports —
some were substantive, some not so substantive — that there were actual
materials that the government and the private sector had in their
possession,” Mr. Reid said in an interview.
crash artifacts have been publicly produced for independent
verification. Some retrieved objects, such as unusual metallic
fragments, were later identified from laboratory studies as man-made.
W. Davis, an astrophysicist who worked as a subcontractor and then a
consultant for the Pentagon U.F.O. program since 2007, said that, in
some cases, examination of the materials had so far failed to determine
their source and led him to conclude, “We couldn’t make it ourselves.”
constraints on discussing classified programs — and the ambiguity of
information cited in unclassified slides from the briefings — have put
officials who have studied U.F.O.s in the position of stating their
views without presenting any hard evidence.
Mr. Davis, who
now works for Aerospace Corporation, a defense contractor, said he gave
a classified briefing to a Defense Department agency as recently as
March about retrievals from “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”
Davis said he also gave classified briefings on retrievals of
unexplained objects to staff members of the Senate Armed Services
Committee on Oct. 21, 2019, and to staff members of the Senate
Intelligence Committee two days later.
Committee staff members did not respond to requests for comment on the issue.
From Katie Shepherd's 7-17-20 Washington Post article entitled "‘It Was Like Being Preyed Upon’: Portland Protesters Say Federal Officers in Unmarked Vans Are Detaining Them":
several men in green military fatigues and generic “police” patches
sprang out of an unmarked gray minivan in front of Mark Pettibone in the
early hours of Wednesday morning, his first instinct was to run.
did not know whether the men were police or far-right extremists, who
frequently don militarylike outfits and harass left-leaning protesters
in Portland, Ore. The 29-year-old resident said he made it about a
half-block before he realized there would be no escape.
Then, he sank to his knees, hands in the air.
was terrified,” Pettibone told The Washington Post. “It seemed like it
was out of a horror/sci-fi, like a Philip K. Dick novel. It was like
being preyed upon.”
He was detained and
searched. One man asked him if he had any weapons; he did not. They
drove him to the federal courthouse and placed him in a holding cell.
Two officers eventually returned to read his Miranda rights and ask if
he would waive those rights to answer a few questions; he did not.
And almost as suddenly as they had grabbed him off the street, the men let him go.
said he still does not know who arrested him or whether what happened
to him legally qualifies as an arrest. The federal officers who snatched
him off the street as he was walking home from a peaceful protest did
not tell him why he had been detained or provide him any record of an
arrest, he told The Post. As far as he knows, he has not been charged
with any crimes.
His detention, which wasfirst reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting,
and videos of similar actions by federal officials driving around
Portland in unmarked cars have raised alarm bells for many. Legal
scholars questioned whether the detentions pass constitutional muster.
require probable cause that a federal crime had been committed, that
is, specific information indicating that the person likely committed a
federal offense, or a fair probability that the person committed a
federal offense,” Orin Kerr, a professor at University of California at
Berkeley Law School, told The Post. “If the agents are grabbing people
because they may have been involved in protests, that’s not probable
officers from the U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland
Security have stormed Portland’s streets as part of President Trump’s
promised strong response to ongoing protests. Local leaders expressed
alarm at news of Pettibone’s detention and echoed calls for the feds to
leave that have grown stronger since Marshals Service officers severely
wounded a peaceful protester on Saturday.
peaceful protester in Portland was shot in the head by one of Donald
Trump’s secret police,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote in a Thursdaytweetthat
also called out acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf. “Now Trump and Chad
Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke
violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well
with right-wing media.”
Civil rights advocates suggested the Trump administration is testing the limits of its executive power.
think Portland is a test case,” Zakir Khan, a spokesman for the Oregon
chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Post.
“They want to see what they can get away with before launching into
other parts of the country.”
Carson, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties
Union of Oregon, called the recent arrests “flat-out unconstitutional”
in a statement shared with The Post.
when we see people in unmarked cars forcibly grab someone off the
street, we call it kidnapping,” Carson said. “Protesters in Portland
have been shot in the head, swept away in unmarked cars, and repeatedly
tear-gassed by uninvited and unwelcome federal agents. We won’t rest
until they are gone.”
From Hilary Brueck's 7-16-20 Business Insider article entitled "The Trump Administration Just Pulled Coronavirus Data Out of the CDC's Hands, and It Means Americans Can't See Where Hospital Beds Are Filled":
On Wednesday, hospitals across the country abruptly stopped telling the US Centers for Disease Control how many beds they have available, and how many are filling up with coronavirus patients.
HHS is contracting with private companies on the project, including Palantir, a software company cofounded by investor and Trump associate Peter Thiel, and Pittsburgh-based health system software company TeleTracking.
From Elahe Izadi and Jeremy Barr's 7-14-20 Washington Post article entitled "Bari Weiss Resigns from New York Times, Says ‘Twitter Has Become Its Ultimate Editor’":
York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss, who attracted considerable
controversy both internally and externally, resigned from the newspaper
this week, the company confirmed Tuesday.
In alengthy noteabout
her Monday departure, Weiss criticized the Times for caving to the
whims of critics on Twitter and for not standing up for her after she
said she was “bullied” by Times staffers.
paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a
distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives
of most people,” she wrote. “Nowadays, standing up for principle at the
paper does not win plaudits. It puts a target on your back.”
To read Izadi and Barr's entire article, click HERE.
What follows is a brief excerpt from Weiss' resignation letter:
...the lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.
Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative...
Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.
From Betsy Woodruff Swan's 7-9-20 Politico article entitled "A Top Terrorism Fighter’s Dire Warning":
America’s intelligence agencies risk slipping back into dangerous pre-9/11 habits, a recently departed top counterterrorism official is warning in his first public remarks on the matter.
Russell Travers, former head of the U.S. government’s hub for analysis of counterterrorism intelligence, was so alarmed that he shared his concerns with the intelligence community’s top internal watchdog in his final weeks on the job.
“I think there are really important questions that need to be addressed, and I don’t think they have been thus far,” said Travers, who ran the National Counterterrorism Center until March of this year. “And that has me worried, because I do think we could very easily end up back where we were 20 years ago.”
Travers detailed his concerns, much of which remain highly classified, to the intelligence community’s inspector general. About a week later, he was summarily ousted, he says — and the Trump administration official who fired him didn’t explain why [...].
The National Counterterrorism Center was set up to solve a gaping problem the Sept. 11 attacks had revealed all too painfully: U.S. agencies weren’t good about sharing information with one another. Bits of intelligence weren’t always in the right hands. Dots weren’t getting connected. By analyzing intelligence on terror threats at a central hub, the thinking went, potential attacks could be foiled before they happened [...].
Travers, a veteran intelligence officer with decades of experience who helped set up NCTC’s predecessor organization in 2003, temporarily helmed the center for all of 2018. Then he took the reins there again in August 2019, at a moment of immense tumult for the intelligence community [...].
“I do think this community is too big, and it’s got to get smaller,” [Travers] said, referring to the counterterrorism enterprise. “The question is, how do you do that?” [...]
“Russ is absolutely right to point out that it is past time for a reckoning of resource allocation across the Intelligence Community when it comes to terrorism and counterterrorism,” said Nick Rasmussen, a former NCTC director. “There’s no doubt that there is room for rationalization and elimination of duplication and redundancy.”
What follows is the first paragraph of HARPER'S MAGAZINE'S "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate" (7-7-20): Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides....
What follow are relevant excerpt from Jennifer Schuessler and Elizabeth A. Harris' 7-7-20 NEW YORK
TIMES article entitled "Artists and Writers Warn of an ‘Intolerant
Climate.’ Reaction Is Swift.":
The letter, which was published by Harper’s Magazine and will also
appear in several leading international publications, surfaces a debate
that has been going on privately in newsrooms, universities and
publishing houses that have been navigating demands for diversity and
inclusion, while also asking which demands — and the social media
dynamics that propel them — go too far [...].
The debate over diversity, free expression and the limits of acceptable
opinion is a long-burning one. But the letter, which was spearheaded by
the writer Thomas Chatterton Williams, began taking shape about a month
ago, as part of a long-running conversation about these issues with a
small group of writers including the historian David Greenberg, the
writer Mark Lilla and the journalists Robert Worth and George Packer.
Mr. Williams, a
columnist for Harper’s and contributing writer for The New York Times
Magazine, said that initially, there was concern over timing.
didn’t want to be seen as reacting to the protests we believe are in
response to egregious abuses by the police,” he said. “But for some
time, there’s been a mood all of us have been quite concerned with.”
incidents, Mr. Williams said, both fueled and echoed what he called the
far greater and more dangerous “illiberalism” of President Trump.
Trump is the Canceler in Chief,” he said. “But the correction of
Trump’s abuses cannot become an overcorrection that stifles the
principles we believe in.”
said the letter was very much a crowdsourced effort, with about 20
people contributing language. Then it was circulated more broadly for
signatures, in what he describes as a process that was both “organic”
and aimed at getting a group that was maximally diverse politically,
racially and otherwise.
just a bunch of old white guys sitting around writing this letter,” Mr.
Williams, who is African-American, said. “It includes plenty of Black
thinkers, Muslim thinkers, Jewish thinkers, people who are trans and
gay, old and young, right wing and left wing.”
“We believe these are values that are widespread and shared, and we wanted the list to reflect that,” he said.
include the leftist Noam Chomsky and the neoconservative Francis
Fukuyama. There are also figures associated with the traditional defense
of free speech, including Nadine Strossen, former president of the
American Civil Liberties Union, as well as some outspoken critics of
political correctness on campuses, including the linguist Steven Pinker
and the psychologist Jonathan Haidt.
signers also include some figures who have lost positions amid
controversies, including Ian Buruma, the former editor of the New York
Review of Books, and Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a Harvard Law School
professor who left his position as faculty dean of an undergraduate residence amid protests over his legal defense of Harvey Weinstein.
are also some leading Black intellectuals, including the historian Nell
Irvin Painter, the poets Reginald Dwayne Betts and Gregory Pardlo, and
the linguist John McWhorter. And there are a number of journalists,
including several opinion columnists for The New York Times [...].
[...] Mr. Betts, the director of the Million Books Project, a new effort aimed at getting book collections to more than 1,000 prisons, was unfazed by the variety of signers.
“I’m rolling with people I wouldn’t
normally be in a room with,” he said. “But you need to concede that
what’s in the letter is worthy of some thought.”
said that as someone who had spent more than eight years in prison for a
carjacking committed when he was a teenager, he was given pause by what
he called the unforgiving nature of the current moment. “It’s
antithetical to my notion of how we need to deal with problems in
society,” he said.