Daily Archive: 08/07/2013

Aug 07 2013

Parallel Construction

Exclusive: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

By John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, Reuters

Mon Aug 5, 2013 3:25pm EDT

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”



“Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function,” a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD’s involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use “normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD.”



A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. “You’d be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.’ And so we’d alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it,” the agent said.

After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said. The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as “parallel construction.”

The two senior DEA officials, who spoke on behalf of the agency but only on condition of anonymity, said the process is kept secret to protect sources and investigative methods. “Parallel construction is a law enforcement technique we use every day,” one official said. “It’s decades old, a bedrock concept.”



One current federal prosecutor learned how agents were using SOD tips after a drug agent misled him, the prosecutor told Reuters. In a Florida drug case he was handling, the prosecutor said, a DEA agent told him the investigation of a U.S. citizen began with a tip from an informant. When the prosecutor pressed for more information, he said, a DEA supervisor intervened and revealed that the tip had actually come through the SOD and from an NSA intercept.

“I was pissed,” the prosecutor said. “Lying about where the information came from is a bad start if you’re trying to comply with the law because it can lead to all kinds of problems with discovery and candor to the court.” The prosecutor never filed charges in the case because he lost confidence in the investigation, he said.



As a practical matter, law enforcement agents said they usually don’t worry that SOD’s involvement will be exposed in court. That’s because most drug-trafficking defendants plead guilty before trial and therefore never request to see the evidence against them. If cases did go to trial, current and former agents said, charges were sometimes dropped to avoid the risk of exposing SOD involvement.

Aug 07 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: A Debt-Free College Education

Last Wednesday – almost a month after Congress failed to prevent student loan rates from doubling – Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise that will keep rates low, at least temporarily, for most graduates.

From a body with a record of procrastinating on student debt worse than students procrastinate on term papers, this was welcome news. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. [..]

A stopgap reduction in loan rates won’t do anything to fix this. We need a whole new model for financing higher education.

Fortunately, though Washington remains perpetually paralyzed, some states are demonstrating refreshing creativity and determination in tackling this issue. Last month, the Oregon legislature passed a bill that paves the way for students to attend state and community colleges without having to pay tuition or take out traditional loans.

Alexis Baden-Mayer: Monsanto Hates Democracy

Monsanto hates democracy because democracy doesn’t work for Monsanto.

Nine out of 10 of us want to know where Monsanto’s been hiding the GMOs in our food and a most of us wouldn’t eat those GMOs if we knew where they were.

If everything in this country were decided democratically, most of the food we eat would be non-GMO and Monsanto would be driven out of business.

We don’t have a problem convincing people we’re right, we have a problem with our democracy when we can’t get the politicians to pass the laws that the majority of us want.

But no government, no matter how corrupted by corporate money, will be able to stop us when we get the nine out of 10 people who agree with us to take action with us. And that’s what’s starting to happen.

Ellen Brown: The Detroit ‘Bail-In’ Template: Fleecing Pensioners to Save the Banks

The Detroit bankruptcy is looking suspiciously like the bail-in template originated by the G20’s Financial Stability Board in 2011, which exploded on the scene in Cyprus in 2013 and is now becoming the model globally. In Cyprus, the depositors were “bailed in” (stripped of a major portion of their deposits) to re-capitalize the banks. In Detroit, it is the municipal workers who are being bailed in, stripped of a major portion of their pensions to save the banks. [..]

Interestingly, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Snyder’s Democratic opponent in the last gubernatorial race, proposed a solution that could have avoided either robbing the pensioners or scaring off the bondholders: a state-owned bank. If the state or the city had its own bank, it would not need to borrow from Wall Street, worry about interest rate swaps, or be beholden to the bond vigilantes. It could borrow from its own bank, which would leverage the local government’s capital into credit, back that credit with the deposits created by the government’s own revenues, and return the interest to the government as a dividend, following the ground-breaking model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.

There are other steps that need to be taken, and soon, to prevent a cascade of municipal bankruptcies.  The super-priority of derivatives in bankruptcy needs to be repealed, and the protections of Glass Steagall need to be restored. While we are waiting on a very dilatory Congress, however, state and local governments might consider protecting themselves and their revenues by setting up their own banks.

Lisa Graves: Voices Rising Against Hedge Fund Millionaire Larry Summers to Head the Fed

Opposition is growing to the idea of President Obama naming Larry Summers to head the Federal Reserve. As William Greider wrote in The Nation, “Summers is a toxic retread from the old boys’ network and a nettlesome egotist who offended just about everyone during his previous tours in government. More to the point, Summers was a central player in the grave governing errors that led to the financial collapse and a ruined economy.”

Summers is so cocksure and callous he once suggested using “underpopulated countries in Africa” as toxic waste dumps. [..]

The last thing America needs right now is a Friedmanite at the helm of the Fed. Summers would bring more winter in the economy for ordinary Americans while his buddies on Wall Street would get more and more of America’s wealth to offshore.

Valerie Strauss: Five Absurdities about High-Stakes Standardized Tests

Barely a day goes by when the education world isn’t treated to some new story involving high-stakes standardized tests, the chief metric of “accountability systems” in the modern era of school reform.

It might be about how student test scores went up or down or all around; about how standardized tests were incorrectly scored by giant companies that make millions from testing contracts; that some questions on the test don’t make any sense; that the high stakes being attached to the results – which are being used to evaluate students, teachers, principals, schools, districts and states – have gone from being unfair to preposterous.

Sue Sturgis: The South’s Widening War on Abortion Rights

Date on which North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed into law a bill that requires the state’s abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, despite a campaign promise that he would not sign any legislation that further restricts abortion: 7/30/2013

Additional cost to build a clinic that meets ambulatory surgical center standards: $1 million

Number of bodyguards that accompanied McCrory the following day when he left the executive mansion and stepped into the street to deliver cookies to abortion rights advocates protesting outside, who returned them with a note that said, “We want women’s health care, not cookies”: 4

Aug 07 2013

On This Day In History August 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

August 7 is the 219th day of the year (220th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 146 days remaining until the end of the year.

The Northern Hemisphere is considered to be halfway through its summer and the Southern Hemisphere half way through its winter on this day.

On this day in 1947, Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft captained by Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, completes a 4,300-mile, 101-day journey from Peru to Raroia in the Tuamotu Archipelago, near Tahiti. Heyerdahl wanted to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized the Polynesian islands by drifting on ocean currents.

Heyerdahl and his five-person crew set sail from Callao, Peru, on the 40-square-foot Kon-Tiki on April 28, 1947. The Kon-Tiki, named for a mythical white chieftain, was made of indigenous materials and designed to resemble rafts of early South American Indians. While crossing the Pacific, the sailors encountered storms, sharks and whales, before finally washing ashore at Raroia. Heyerdahl, born in Larvik, Norway, on October 6, 1914, believed that Polynesia’s earliest inhabitants had come from South America, a theory that conflicted with popular scholarly opinion that the original settlers arrived from Asia. Even after his successful voyage, anthropologists and historians continued to discredit Heyerdahl’s belief. However, his journey captivated the public and he wrote a book about the experience that became an international bestseller and was translated into 65 languages. Heyerdahl also produced a documentary about the trip that won an Academy Award in 1951.

Aug 07 2013

John & Lindsey’s Not So Excellent Adventure

What was Barack Obama thinking when he gave his blessing to a these two clods to represent the US in Egypt, for any reason. Apparently, Republican Senators John McCain (AZ) and Lindsey Graham (SC) not only managed to fail at whatever it was they were sent to accomplish but managed to insult everyone in the military led interim government.

First, didn’t anyone in the State Department brief McCain to put a sock in it and not use the word “coup”?

McCain (R-Ariz.) and Graham (R-S.C.) had used the word “coup” at an afternoon press conference to describe the manner in which Egypt’s military had seized power from the Muslim Brotherhood’s elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in early July. [..]

In a statement later on Tuesday, distributed by Egypt’s Middle East News Agency and reported by Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, a top media advisor to Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, offered a stronger rebuke. The statement accused McCain of twisting facts, and dismissed his remarks as “clumsy,” or “irresponsible,” depending on the translation. (On Twitter, bilingual Arabic speakers debated the best translation for the word, “kharqa,” which also could be interpreted as “moronic” or “irrational.”)

Pres. Mansour went to call McCain’s comments “an unacceptable interference in internal policies”. When later asked by journalists whether the pair really meant that the military-backed overthrow was a coup, a term the US State Department has avoided using, McCain’s response was,  “I’m not here to go through the dictionary. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

These two dolts went on to lecture the Egyptian leadership on ways to reach an accord with the Muslim Brotherhood, urging General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in a Tuesday meeting to release all political prisoners as a starting point for holding free elections. In a press conference after the meeting, Graham further stepped in the diplomatic mire the two had created

“In democracy, you sit down and talk to each other. It is impossible to talk to somebody who is in jail.” [..]

“The people who are in charge were not elected. The people who were elected are in jail. The status quo is not acceptable.”

Really? Could Pres. Obamba sent two worse representatives into such a volitile situation? Maybe he could have sent Bill and Ted, from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Middle East expert and historian Juan Cole weighed in on why McCain and Graham the lack of credibility to talk to the Egyptians:

1. McCain and Graham are urging the interim Egyptian government to engage in dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood. But in winter of 2011 just after the fall of Mubarak, this is what McCain said:

   ” SPIEGEL: What is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood?

   McCain: I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic – at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government. “

The phrase “they have been involved with other terrorist organizations” suggests that McCain considered the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, just as Gen. Sisi does. One of the pretexts on which Sisi has jailed several Muslim Brotherhood leaders is their ties to Hamas and “terrorism.” So how would McCain argue him out of that stance.  [..]

2. McCain insisted that there was in fact a military coup in Egypt on July 3, and called for political prisoners (the former Muslim Brotherhood elected government) to be released. But McCain supported the military coup of 1999 by Gen. Pervez Musharraf against the elected government of Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif.

3. Graham doesn’t like people to win elections if he doesn’t like them. When the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, won the Palestine Authority elections in early 2006, Graham rejected their legitimacy [..]

If this mission was meant to help resolve the crisis the crisis in a country that is instrumental in Washington’s Middle East policy, it was a miserable failure that may have actually harmed the US relationship with Egypt.

Aug 07 2013

August 6, 2001

An Annual Reminder.

Echo… echo… echo… Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbon… Manny Mota… Mota… Mota…

You may remember my brother the activist.  I keep trying to get him to post, but he’s shy and busy.  He sent me this yesterday and I thought I’d share it with you.

I need to add that he’s a great admirer of James Carville’s political savvy (though not his policies) and one story he likes to tell is how during the height of Monica-gate Carville was on one of the Talking Head shows and made a point about how important it is to stay on message.  Carville then proceeded to demonstrate his gift by working the phrase “Cigarette Lawyer Ken Starr” 27 times in the next 30 seconds.- ek

The date – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 – August 6, 2001 needs to be as well known to Joe and Jane American as September 11, 2001.

Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001 PDB

Declassified and Approved for Release, 10 April 2004

Presidential Daily Briefing: August 6, 2001 – Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997 has wanted to conduct foreign terrorist attacks on the U.S. Bin Ladin implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and “bring the fighting to America.”

Presidential Daily Briefing: August 6, 2001 – Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.

After U.S. missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a [deleted] service.

Presidential Daily Briefing: August 6, 2001 – Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.

An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an [deleted] service at the same that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative’s access to the U.S. to mount a terrorist strike.

Presidential Daily Briefing: August 6, 2001 – Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.

FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

Presidential Daily Briefing: August 6, 2001 – Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.

So Vice President Dick, tell me again how the REPUBLICANS WILL KEEP US SAFE?

So Senator McSame, tell me again how invading and occupying IRAQ has helped the U.S. hunt down BIN LADEN?

I’m printing my own bumper stickers filled with images from 9-11 and this text-

August 6, 2001 – Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S. – We Will Never Forget.

“I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center”- Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor

“All right. You’ve covered your ass now.”- George W. Bush

Aug 07 2013

Chronic Tonic- Prisoner Of Franklin Avenue

Originally published at VOTS

My Dad is pissed off. About what, you ask. Well, one never knows what, out of any number of things will set him off throughout the day, but, believe me, you do not want to be in his path when it happens. For instance, last week, during a seemingly innocuous discussion of Whopper Wednesday, Dad mentioned that each time we partake in this fast food festivity it cost him 25 bucks. Now, I don’t why, but for some reason a giggle managed to bubble up and escape from me. Suddenly, I found myself in the room with Joe Pesci, “What? That’s funny to you?”

“No! Nope, not at all. I wasn’t laughing at you, Dad, it was something on the computer! I can always rustle us up something here at home, we don’t even need to do Whopper Wednesday, I thought you liked it.” Oh, holy shit, that was close.

A lot of us Catholic school kids learned long ago many tricks to suppress laughter. My best bet was always to suck in slightly and bite down on the inside of my cheeks. I’ve had occasion to employ this method from time to time over the years, meetings, school plays, funerals, but I never dreamed that I’d be raw as hamburger in there at this stage of the game. It’s not just me either, it’s to the point now where I can shoot my sister a look across the table that instantly conveys: careful, you’re in danger of getting “Pesci’ed.” Yeah, it happens often enough that we’ve short-handed it.

Yes, he rants and he raves. He calls utilities and bends the ear of whatever poor shmo happens to be on the other end of the line for what seems like hours. Why isn’t it like it used to be? Why did your website change? Why is there a charge to pay by phone? Are you the same person I talked to yesterday? Damn it, what happened to customer service? Better them than me.

He runs to Home Depot to pick up epoxy. Now, this trip ought to take about a half hour at most, it’s five minutes away and he knows what he’s going for. Two hours later he is back, and there is fire in his eyes. “That fucking store doesn’t carry the two part epoxy I want! Half the people working there don’t know their ass from third base, they don’t even know how epoxy works!” This will be followed by a lecture on how epoxy works (we know, Dad, from the previous ten times you’ve told us) filled with words like methyl-ethyl-ketone, viscosity and other terms to make eyes glaze over. Yes, he does know what he’s talking about, no, I do not care. But, I will sit and nod and make appropriate noises throughout. He was, in his day, the “go to” guy at his workplace for this and many, many other things. Plus–I do not want him going all Pesci on me.

To the casual observer it might look like Dad is angry about damn near everything these days. He’s not. He’s really angry about one thing: His wife of nearly 60 years slips a little further away every damn day, and no matter what he does, he can’t fix or change it.