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Tag: america

FBI, CIA, NSA: No Credible Threat of Terrorist Attack in America on Anniversary of 9/11

World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks via Wikipedia.

World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The federal agencies in charge of keeping America safe from a terrorist attack said there is no credible threat to America’s homeland on today’s 14th anniversary of Sept. 11.

The Washington Times reports that directors of the FBI, CIA and the National Security Agency said Thursday that they have no reason to believe a terrorist attack will occur today, despite increasing concerns over ISIS and al Qaeda.

The directors made the statement at an intelligence community conference in Washington, saying improvements in communications between the agencies have greatly reduced the threat of terrorism on the homeland.

“Compared to where we were 14 years ago, that intelligence work is light years ahead of where it was,” CIA Director John Brennan said. “And, in addition, strengthening the defenses of this country from 2001 to now — this is a much more difficult environment for terrorist groups to operate in.”

Weekend Series on Crime: Inside the America’s Neo-Nazi Movement

An Analysis: The Illicit Prescription Drug Epidemic Just Keeps Getting Worse

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
 
The following are a few of the true stories from the cinema verite of America’s Prescription Addiction already playing in real life near you. Half of Americans received at least one prescription in the last month, and almost three billion prescriptions for 100 billion pills were dispensed last year. Both numbers are on a steady increase.

Scene #1 – In the early morning hours the “patients” are lined up out the door and around the block of the suburban Detroit clinic.  Each has a well rehearsed set of subjective symptoms that will produce a scrip for Xanax, Vicodin or another drug that they can sell on the street. Muted cheers as the doctor pulls up in his expensive European sedan, gives them a friendly wave, and then enters the side door of the office. By noon he will have completed his “treatment” of those in the line, and he will retire to the doctors’ lounge at a nearby hospital where he can check his stocks on his laptop.

Scene #2 – The federal prosecutor and case agent view the latest day’s video of a court-authorized Title III from a camera inserted into another doctor’s office, this time in the inner city. The investigation had shown that no “patients” ever entered this office. The doctor enters the office and, using the list of names and drugs given to him by his assistant, proceeds to write out dozens of prescriptions for patients he never sees. What is striking to the prosecution team is that he always puts on his starched white coat and checks his appearance in the mirror before sitting at his desk to complete his task.

Scene #3 – Fourteen year old Sally digs through her parents’ medicine cabinet before leaving the house to join her friends. She thought there was some Valium left from last week but decides to settle for a few of these OxyContins her father had left over from some back surgery. A friend would bring some alcohol to share with the group. Her parents would receive a call later that night from the hospital emergency room where she had been taken after she went into seizure at the party.

Scene #4 – Max was a good student at the state university, but this semester’s course load was a ball-buster, and his performance on final exams next week would determine whether he would keep his scholarship for the rest of the year. Fortunately he had a buddy down the hall who had been diagnosed as ADHD and who would always slide him a few Adderall to boost his concentration level.

Scene #5 – Dr. Anderson gets a call as he is leaving the house with his family to see a Friday night movie. He has to take it because it is his turn to be on call. A desperate sounding patient of the clinic where he works is in a great deal of pain from a recent surgery. She needs a prescription for a pain killer called in to the pharmacy so that she can get through the weekend. Although he knows it will mess up the movie schedule, the doctor takes the time to check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database and discovers that the patient has been getting the same pain pills from two other physicians and an emergency room in the last month. He refuses the request and makes a mental note to address the issue with her regular physician.

Like most things, along with the use comes the abuse. Over one-fifth of Americans have taken prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. One-quarter of high school students have abused them, a 33% increase in the last four years. Six of the ten most popular illegal drugs used by 12th graders were originally obtained by prescription, and half of them came from mom and dad’s medicine cabinet.

The epidemic of illicit prescription drug abuse continues to gain speed.  Its use exceeds the combined use of cocaine, heroin, and all inhalants. Marijuana is the only illegal drug used more than pharmaceuticals.

Drug overdose deaths exceeded automobile accident fatalities last year, and most of these (about 24,000) involved prescription drugs, especially addictive painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin.

Read more »

Part 2: What We Can Do to Confront the Threat of New Designer Drugs from China

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office. This is the second in a two-part series.  To read the first part, click here.
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Part one of this report discussed the menace of a new generation of synthetic designer drugs from China causing a public health crisis in Europe. In America, in the last two years, enterprising rogue Chinese chemists have introduced hundreds of these new chemical combinations into the market.

This plague in America  is steadily growing worse.  Law enforcement and medical experts believe that the tens of thousands of reported cases in hospitals in the last year are just the tip of the iceberg. These numbers have essentially doubled just in the last year. The rate of reporting by the agencies like DAWN, which records emergency room admissions, and NFLIS, which keeps track of law enforcement laboratory tests on drugs, is a bleak harbinger of things to come.

Unless aggressive action is taken, we can expect the same panic the British are experiencing from this onslaught. On a more optimistic note, there are positive steps that can be taken and virtually all individuals and groups can have a role in this defense. This part will outline a strategy which can meet this oncoming crisis.

Parents —– Since the victims are largely teenagers living at home, the first line of defense has to be the parents. At a minimum all parents of teens and pre-teens should have a frank and two-sided conversation to educate their children on the life-threatening effects of these drugs, which are deceptively packaged and marketed as a “legal high.”

Teens think they are immortal and the prospect of some exciting new forbidden experience can be irresistible. Information and misinformation about the synthetics are spread by friends and acquaintances, and the availability is cheap and accessible. Many of these new consumers are naïve about drugs in general, as well as their dangers.

A teenage boy in North Dakota is currently facing murder charges because he gave a single tablet of a synthetic drug to a friend. The friend died shortly after ingesting it at a party. The consequences of such single acts are beyond the comprehension of most teens.

Read more »

The Story of 2 Dead Costa Rica Cops, the Drug Cartels and America’s Insatiable Appetite for Drugs

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

As he left for work on a January day this year, Police Officer Carlos Perez said goodbye to his wife and young children at their home in Limon, Costa Rica.

As law enforcement officers and their families across the globe, they faced the unspoken reality that it could be the last time they would have together. This day this reality came true.

Officer Perez and his partner, Jesus Garro, were motorcycle cops in Limon, and their assignment on that day was to apprehend four burglars who had ransacked a house, tied up its owner, and stole his truck filled with much of his personal property. The officers did find the criminals, shots were fired, and the stolen truck veered into them while they were standing next to their cycles, killing them both instantly. One of the officers managed to shoot and kill one of the culprits before the truck crushed him and his partner.

Two of Officer Perez’s relatives, who live in the US, were in Limon visiting at the time of the murders. After they read my column last week about drug trafficking in Honduras, we talked several times about their search to understand his death and what effect drug trafficking was having on their idyllic little country. I am grateful for their sharing with me this discourse at a time of family grief.

Ross Parker

Their unspoken question was whether American consumer demand for cocaine had been a direct or an indirect cause of this tragedy.

The answer, as with so many imponderables in the war against drugs, is that we may never know if there was a direct relationship between the increased Mexican drug cartel activity in Costa Rica and the men who killed the officers. There does, however, appear to be a reasonable likelihood of an indirect connection.

For several years the cartels have increasingly used Costa Rica as a transit point and storage and trading center for cocaine coming from South America and destined for the US. They commonly hire local criminals to assist the operation. These recruits frequently come to use the drug and need sources of illegal cash to support their habits. Burglary is a worldwide method to raise money for drugs.

Life in Costa Rica is much different than that for most Hondurans. As reported earlier, Honduras suffers from all of the ancillary effects of the combination of poverty and drug trafficking, overflowing prisons, unchecked criminal violence, official corruption, unstable governments, and rampant street crime by criminal gangs.

In contrast Costa Rica has managed to avoid the chaos of bloody coups and government instability. In 1949 Costa Rica abolished its army and used the money to promote social improvement. For half a century it has increasingly become a peaceful liberal democracy with a high standard of living and a thriving tourist industry. In 2009 the New Economic Foundation ranked Costa Rica as first in the world on its Happy Planet Index.

This health and happiness assessment is apparent among the people of Costa Rica. They enjoy a long life expectancy, a better health care system in many respects than that of the US, and a high literacy rate. A common response among friends to the question “how are you?” is “Pure Vida” or good life.

The question is whether the drug cartels’ efforts to satisfy their American customers is going to mess up the Good Life in this easy going paradise.

The one area that the Central American neighbors of Honduras and Costa Rica have in common is the unfortunate geography, in this respect, of occupying territory from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Anything traveling by land from South America to Mexico must cross the territorial bridge of each country. Today 80% of the cocaine coming from South America passes through these countries.

The increasing use of the cocaine highway from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, ultimately to the US, has meant that Mexican syndicates like the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel utilize both countries as trading centers. The effects on Honduras have been obvious and deadly.

The effect on Costa Rica has been more subtle but is equally troublesome to its citizens because of the peaceful equanimity they have enjoyed. But evidence of trafficking has become more and more apparent in the last two or three years. The lengthy coastlines and unguarded border crossings make drug enforcement a difficult challenge for the limited number of police in the country, only 11.000 officers with no military support. Even with recent increases the law enforcement budget for the country is less than most major US cities.

On the positive side the US, through DEA and the military, have established an effective partnership along with providing tens of millions of US dollars that have enabled Costa Rica to transform its law enforcement and criminal justice system with the help of  a$2 million satellite and radio communication station on the Pacific coast.

The Costa Rican government has responded to the challenge by taking an aggressive stand against drug activity and related crimes. Further proposals include new wiretap, extradition and forfeiture laws, as well as increased sentences and imprisonment statistics.

Some in the country fear that these efforts are negatively affecting the Good Life in Costa Rica. However, the power and resources of the cartels seem to have given the country few alternatives but to take this get-tough stance.

The President of Costa Rica has asked two things of the US:  Increase its support and cooperation for international drug enforcement, and step up its efforts to reduce consumption in the US. These appear to be reasonable requests.

The Perez children will grow up with the knowledge that their father was a hero who sacrificed his life to improve the lives of his countrymen. Like the families left behind by fallen American law enforcement officers, they deserve to know that their sacrifice came with the realization that a renewed commitment to drug enforcement both at home and abroad was in order in America.

 

The Agonizing Death of the Death Penalty in America

This is the first of two parts.
 
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Stephen Simmons slowly walked up the steps to the scaffold in Library Park in Detroit. It was September 24, 1830, his last day on Earth, and he looked out at the festive crowd of 2,000 celebrating spectators.

Men had brought their wives and children, there were refreshment booths, and a military band played a lively tune.

A local tavern owner, Simmons was a pleasant enough guy while he was sober but a demon when he was drunk. One night a month earlier, in a drunken rage, he had strangled his wife Livana when she refused to drink with him.

The crowd quieted as he stepped up to the gallows. In his last words he made a heartfelt confession about his crime and the evils of liquor.

The holiday mood evaporated as he sang a Christian hymn. Then the noose was placed around his neck and he dropped to his death. Public enthusiasm for the death penalty plummeted in the Michigan territory.

Seven years later, across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, Patrick Fitzpatrick was hanged for murder despite his protests of innocence. A few months later, another man made a deathbed confession that he, not Fitzpatrick, had committed the murder.

When the Michigan legislature considered the issue of capital punishment in 1846, these two factors—the public’s moral repugnance of the death penalty and the fear of executing an innocent man—convinced them to abolish capital punishment for murder. The state was the first English-speaking government in the world to abolish the death penalty.

 

The Simmons hanging in Michigan had defined the capital punishment debate not only in the state but, to some extent, for the rest of the country, in moral and religious terms.

Was the death penalty morally justified as a just retribution for the taking of a life? Did the Bible authorize it or forbid it as a penalty option in the most heinous cases?

Michigan and a handful of states rejected the ultimate punishment, but the overwhelming majority of states embraced the death penalty as morally justified and ordained by God as “an eye of an eye.”

There were other great historical causes in 19th early 20th Century America that were also vigorously debated primarily in terms of morality—temperance, women’s suffrage, and the abolition of slavery. While both sides of each of these issues raged on for decades without a resolution, ultimately it was the pragmatism of economics and politics which settled them, not so much morality. For a growing majority, the country’s future simply could not proceed with unenforceable and corrupting Prohibition and the marginalization of large parts of the population.

Similarly, the future of the death penalty is being decided in terms of economics—taxpayer dollars and cents. Slowly, incrementally, the death penalty is dying in America. Not because most people believe that the worst offenders do not deserve the most severe sanction. Nor has the debate over the efficacy of the penalty produced anything definitive. Studies on both sides of the issue claim to prove that the death penalty either does or does not deter others from committing the worst forms of murder.

Not only are these previously debate-defining terms not coming to any resolution, they are slowly being moved to the role of afterthought. Few people even talk about deterrence and moral justification any more. Instead what little debate that is occurring focuses on questions like: can local prosecutors’ offices afford death penalty litigation? Can the death penalty be administered in a humane and botch-free manner? In a post-DNA world can we guarantee that no innocent person will be executed?

More than any other factor, the future of the death penalty is being determined by the growing sentiment that we simply cannot afford it. Even though a majority of Americans probably continue to believe that capital punishment is justified for the mass murderers we hear about on the news with disturbing regularity, they are no longer willing to pay the increasing price. Just as likely, pragmatic considerations in an era of economic insecurity affect those moral decisions on whether as a society we need capital punishment.

Next week this column will explore this downward trend in the use of the death penalty and discuss one ex-prosecutor’s view on where it is heading—the death of the death penalty in America.

 

Lawmakers Urge FBI to Track Hate Crimes Against Sikh-Americans

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Sikh-Americans, with their unique attire, have sometimes been mistaken in America as being part of some extremist groups and have been subject to hate crimes, according to the Indo-Asian News Service.

Consequently, as many as 92 US lawmakers have urged the FBI to collect data on hate crimes against Sikh-Americans, the news service reported.

“The more information our law enforcement agencies have on violence against Sikh-Americans, the more they can do to help prevent these crimes and bring those who commit them to justice,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to FBI, the news service reported.

“The Department of Justice and FBI have carried out important outreach efforts in coalition with the Sikh community, but these efforts must also be paired with data collection to ensure we are doing everything possible to crack down on hate crimes against the Sikh community.”

 

FBI Training Said Arabs Were Prone to “Jekyll & Hyde Temper Tantrums”

By Spencer Ackerman
WIRED

The FBI taught its agents that they could sometimes “bend or suspend the law” in their hunt for terrorists and criminals. Other FBI instructional material, discovered during a months-long review of FBI counterterrorism training, warned agents against shaking hands with “Asians” and said Arabs were prone to “Jekyll & Hyde temper tantrums.”

These are just some of the disturbing results of the FBI’s six-month review into how the Bureau trained its counterterrorism agents. That review, now complete, did not result in a single disciplinary action for any instructor. Nor did it mandate the retraining of any FBI agent exposed to what the Bureau concedes was inappropriate material. Nor did it look at any intelligence reports that might have been influenced by the training. All that has a powerful senator saying that the review represents a “failure to adequately address” the problem.

“This is not an effective way to protect the United States,” Sen. Richard Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee overseeing the FBI, tells Danger Room about the inappropriate FBI counterterrorism training. “It’s stunning that these things could be said to members of our FBI in training. It will not make them more effective in their work and won’t make America safer.”

To read the full story click here.

Read the NY Times Story