Growing government control, a shift to militarization at home

Editorial Note – In recent weeks and months, SUA has reported on the militarization of our police, the gross expansion of federal powers, the anti-constitutional power grab by the Executive branch, and the complete disregard for performing the duties our Legislative branch is tasked to do.

That is not necessarily a broad brush inclusion of all legislators, just the ones who will not do their job, like passing a budget in the Senate for over 1,000 days, and blaming others in political rhetoric as they rammed through legislation and spending we did not need or want.

The following article by Matt Holzmann gives the reader a very well-crafted and complete look at the numbers and the subjects mentioned. We highly recommend reading it in its entirety. Its a font of fact that true conservatives can use to rebut leftist talking points and political spin.

Our Growing Police State

By Matt Holzmann

American Thinker

Last week, the FBI released its preliminary crime statistics for the first half of 2011, and across the nation violent crimes dropped 6.7% while property crimes dropped 3.7%. This continues a downward trend that dates back to the 1970’s.

Many of the violent crimes reported this year have been sensational. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Federal Judge John Roll were targeted by a lone, crazed gunman and there were a number of other gruesome crimes. The Giffords/Roll shooting was brought to an end by a bystander. The Ft. Hood massacre on November 5, 2009, which killed 13 American soldiers and wounded 29 others was brought to an end by two base police officers using conventional sidearms and procedures. The warning signs for this terrorist attack, the first on American soil since 9/11, were ignored and yet it was the local cops on the beat who faced and dealt with a terrible crime.

Every case one can think of was resolved by conventional methods. And yet the police powers of government on a local and national level have been growing at an alarming rate. And despite a dissonant data base there is a growing trend towards militarization of police forces and of an invasive state security apparatus.

The concept of militarization of police forces in this country began with the Special Weapons & Tactics (SWAT) teams in Los Angeles in 1967 -68. Its formation was a response to events including the Watts riots of 1965, and the emergence of snipers such as Charles Whitman, who killed 13 people on the campus of the University of Texas in 1966; the rise of armed revolutionary groups such as the Weathermen and, later, the Symbionese Liberation Army. Eventually SWAT returned to a more traditional police role of hostage/barricade incidents and suicide intervention.

Prior to and concurrent with this, the FBI in its battle with communism regularly investigated American citizens and the Hoover Files became famous. Today they are known primarily for salacious tidbits in the files on celebrities such as John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe. It was a time with different mores and the democratic principles of the country were in a cold war with a real and formidable enemy. Such was Hoover’s justification.

With the fall of the Soviet Empire, instead of the “end of history”, the world was fragmented into dysfunctional states and many of the same pawns used during the Cold War turned their hands towards criminal operations. The drug wars became the new front for law enforcement. Sometimes the gangs were as well or better equipped than the police.

Today, Afghanistan provides 90+% of the world’s heroin while the largest military action in the 21st Century takes place in that country; the opium poppies in many cases grow right up to the razor wire of American bases. A de facto civil war is taking place between the government and the narcotraficantes in Mexico that has cost 36,000 lives. Today the street prices of cocaine and heroin are at historic lows. It would seem that the War on Drugs is truly lost and that our government simply doesn’t care. And yet over $20 Billion/year is spent on the War on Drugs; most of it on law enforcement. This seems to be a very poor return on the investment.

On September 11, 2001 the jihad being waged against the West since the mid 90’s struck at the heart of the infidel empire and 3,000 civilians were murdered. Everything changed that day. The West invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq with the goal of defeating the jihadists. Over 10 years later there has not been a single successful attack on the United States. Attacks in the UK, Spain, and Indonesia were successful, but there has been a steady decline caused by greater global cooperation and information sharing as the primary differentiators.

Along the way a massive security infrastructure and bureaucracy was created. The Patriot Act authorized the broad use of enhanced surveillance techniques and intelligence gathering while including domestic terrorism under the scope of the intelligence services. To date the only truly domestic terror prosecution seems to have been a few retired white supremacists in Georgia. The Ft. Hood massacre was officially classified by the White House recently as a workplace related shooting.

A key provision of the Patriot Act was the expansion of the authority of the Department of the Treasury to investigate money laundering, and yet the narcotics trade has risen from $321 Billion in 2003 according to the United Nations to an estimate of $500 Billion this year by the Center for Strategic & International Studies. In Afghanistan, hundreds of millions of dollars in cash are shipped out to banks in Dubai openly and with the government’s approval with no questions asked. The opium/heroin trade alone is estimated at $4 Billion/year which funds both the warlords on our side and the Taliban warlords. So Afghanistan is not only bleeding our military, but also our civilian population.

And we now have a Department of Homeland Security that employs over 216,000. The Transportation Security Agency consists of over 58,000 of those employees. The Border Patrol is of equivalent size, while ICE employs approximately 20,500. In an address delivered by retired General Barry McCaffrey, he emphasized the real dangers of the War on Drugs and an out of control border. The criminal networks have become ever more sophisticated and now act as paramilitaries, destabilizing one of our most important allies. And yet the inward directed nature of much of our security establishment does nothing to address real and present dangers.

The Wall Street Journal in an article entitled “Federal Offenses: law enforcement teams grow at government agencies” wrote on Saturday of the proliferation of heretofore nonexistent police forces in federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce, Labor Department, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Agency, and many others who have the power to conduct investigations, seek indictments, or simply raid violators of even regulatory violations. Cases where armed agents have raided homes and workplaces have included the infamous Gibson Guitar raid for illegal wood; documentation errors on otherwise legal imports, and even the recent batch of a 881 lb. Bluefin Tuna by a New Bedford trawler. “Put the tuna on the ground and raise your hands”.

The Internal Revenue Service has been strong arming countries around the world to open their bank records not to trace narcotics cash or Russian mobsters, but income tax evaders. The “Stop On Line Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the recent NDAA Act, which is now law, have broadened the policing authority of the Federal government to a never before greater degree at a time when ordinary crime is decreasing. The SOPA Act, in the words of one IT manager, would make our internet similar to China’s. The NDAA allows for the President to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects, including American citizens. The law then becomes a matter of semantics to the unprincipled.

In the meantime, corruption and cronyism have risen to a level not seen since the 1870’s.

Nat Hentoff has written extensively on the assault on civil liberties and on due process starting with many of the measures of the Bush Administration. This accelerated, according to Mr. Hentoff, under President Obama, who has concentrated power in the White House to an extraordinary degree. By avoiding Congressional approval and his own Executive Branch through the appointment of “czars” ranging from the auto industry to regulation to ethics to climate to consumer affairs, the president has subverted the separation of powers repeatedly in an imperial presidency that is unparalleled.

Crime rates have been dropping for 20 years and yet today there is more danger to civil liberties posed by government than ever before. Our government continues to expand the definition of crime while approving special powers usually found in police states.

When Members of Congress urged the President to ignore their own branch of government during the recent Congressional debt ceiling debate and act by fiat or the insistence of some of those same Members of Congress on the recusal of Justice Thomas in the health care case before the Supreme Court, one can easily understand the danger of even a well intentioned government to its own people.

As the terrorism threat used to rationalize many of these powers has receded, government power has never been greater or more at odds with the Constitution. In the meantime the narcoterrorism network which funds many those terrorist organizations, is on the sidelines. The law is at odds with itself.

Our government has built an anti-Constitutional framework that can and will eventually be turned against our citizens. On one side we have our civil/criminal system, and the other the growing power of Orwellian dysfunction. Think about it.

Blackhole date for news, Fri. Dec. 23 – Obama's "signing statement"

Editor’s Note – The signing statement below was generated by Barack Obama and his staff at the White House and released two days before Christmas. Possibly the one day, more than any other, that anyone could release objectionable or dilatory information so no one would notice, especially the main stream media outlets. Fridays are normally the day to do such things, and this year, that Friday was the beginning of the Christmas holiday.

How convenient, especially when you consider just how ridiculous the arguments are as displayed in that ‘signing statement’. By signing the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012” he effectively turned the entirety of the bill into law, but since it did not agree with his ideology and campaign promises, he attached the statement listed below.

In the statement, he repeatedly raises Constitutional issues that he and his staff feel impedes upon his ability to do his job, and that there are clear issues impinging on the separation of powers between the Legislative and Executive branches.

Again, selective enforcement, this from the “most transparent administration, and fourth best Presidency ever”.

This is demonstrative of every facet of his administration – trot the Constitution out when it serves your purpose, stomp all over it when it does not. If we do a mere surface examination of the past three years he has been in office, its clear that there is a very large disdain for the Constitution except when needed for political means.

If he were so concerned about the ability to do his job, and the separation of powers, why does his DoJ sue states, decide not to sue criminals, and run crazy schemes like Fast & Furious that is still stone-walling Congress. All this and more while his party has yet to pass a budget in the Senate; for over 1,000 days? It is totally disingenuous!

There goes that left-handed signing statement pen - my way!

This bill was passed, under horrible political wrangling, all to keep the government working, but only as he sees fit – ‘rule-of-law’ has no meaning anymore, and this administration and his party just say: “We don’t need no stinking badges!” Everything these people do stretches credulity to its breaking point, and at every juncture, no matter the issue, its politics first, second, third…and its everyone else’s fault!

Statement by the President on H.R. 2055

AJC Blog

By Jamie Durpee

Before President Obama left for Hawaii to join his family on a Christmas vacation, he signed into law a package of budget bills for the current fiscal year – but he also let Congress know that a few provisions would not be observed by his administration.

These are called “signing statements” and have a times been rather controversial – mainly depending on which party is in control of the White House.

In other words, if it is your President, the signing statement is okay – if the other party controls the White House, then signing statements are usually bad.

This latest Obama signing statement has to do with Guantanamo detainees, the deployment of U.S. military forces overseas, restrictions on diplomatic work, the assignemnts of executive branch officials and restrictions on the use of money at the Library of Congress and in other agencies.

Put on your legal hat and sift through this signing statement:

Today I have signed into law H.R. 2055, the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012.” This bill provides the funding necessary for the smooth operation of our Nation’s Government.

I have previously announced that it is the policy of my Administration, and in the interests of promoting transparency in Government, to indicate when a bill presented for Presidential signature includes provisions that are subject to well-founded constitutional objections. The Department of Justice has advised that a small number of provisions of H.R. 2055 raise constitutional concerns.

In this bill, the Congress has once again included provisions that would bar the use of appropriated funds for transfers of Guantanamo detainees into the United States (section 8119 of Division A), as well as transfers to the custody or effective control of foreign countries unless specified conditions are met (section 8120 of Division A). These provisions are similar to others found in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. My Administration has repeatedly communicated my objections to these provisions, including my view that they could, under certain circumstances, violate constitutional separation of powers principles. In approving this bill, I reiterate the objections my Administration has raised regarding these provisions, my intent to interpret and apply them in a manner that avoids constitutional conflicts, and the promise that my Administration will continue to work towards their repeal.

The Congress has also included certain provisions in this bill that could interfere with my constitutional authorities in the areas of foreign relations and national security. Section 113 of Division H requires the Secretary of Defense to notify the Appropriations Committees of both Houses of Congress 30 days in advance of “any proposed military exercise involving United States personnel” that is anticipated to involve expenditures of more than $100,000 on construction. Language in Division I, title I, under the headings International Organizations, Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities, disallows the expenditure of funds “for any United Nations peacekeeping mission that will involve United States Armed Forces under the command or operational control of a foreign national,” unless my military advisers have advised that such an involvement is in the national interest, and unless I have made the same recommendation to the Congress. In approving this bill, I reiterate the understanding, which I have communicated to the Congress, that I will apply these provisions in a manner consistent with my constitutional authority as Commander in Chief.

Certain provisions in Division I, including sections 7013, 7025, 7029, 7033, 7043, 7046, 7049, 7059, 7062, and 7071, restrict or require particular diplomatic communications, negotiations, or interactions with foreign governments or international organizations. Others, including sections 7031, 7037, and 7086, hinder my ability to receive diplomatic representatives of foreign governments. Finally, section 7041 requires the disclosure to the Congress of information regarding ongoing diplomatic negotiations. I have advised the Congress that I will not treat these provisions as limiting my constitutional authorities in the area of foreign relations.

Moreover, several provisions in this bill, including section 627 of Division C and section 512 of Division D, could prevent me from fulfilling my constitutional responsibilities, by denying me the assistance of senior advisers and by obstructing my supervision of executive branch officials in the execution of their statutory responsibilities. I have informed the Congress that I will interpret these provisions consistent with my constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

Additional provisions in this bill, including section 8013 of Division A and section 218 of Division F, purport to restrict the use of funds to advance certain legislative positions. I have advised the Congress that I will not construe these provisions as preventing me from fulfilling my constitutional responsibility to recommend to the Congress’s consideration such measures as I shall judge necessary and expedient.

Numerous provisions of this bill purport to condition the authority of executive branch officials to spend or reallocate funds on the approval of congressional committees. These are constitutionally impermissible forms of congressional aggrandizement in the execution of the laws. Although my Administration will notify the relevant committees before taking the specified actions, and will accord the recommendations of such committees appropriate and serious consideration, our spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval of congressional committees. In particular, section 1302 of Division G conditions the authority of the Librarian of Congress to transfer funds between sections of the Library upon the approval of the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate. I have advised the Congress of my understanding that this provision does not apply to funds for the Copyright Office, which performs an executive function in administering the copyright laws.



December 23, 2011.

Iranian engineers abducted in Syria identified

Editor’s Note – Once again, further proof of Iran’s tendrils inserted into Syria, and Lebanon…its goal of regional hegemony is quite apparent.

Details released on identity of Iranian engineers abducted in Syria


TEHRAN, Dec. 29 (MNA) – Five Iranian electrical engineers and technicians were abducted on December 20 in the restive Syrian city of Homs by unknown armed gunmen. The engineers were kidnapped on their way to a power plant.

The five Iranian engineers and technicians along with a Syrian cook (2nd from R)

Two other Iranian engineers were also abducted in the same city a day later.

The five engineers who have been building the city’s Jandar power plant for the past two years are: electrical engineer and caretaker of electrical equipment testing group Sajad Amirian; technician and the workshop caretaker Ahmad Sohrabi; technician and electrical equipments installer Hassan Hassani; technician and installer of testing equipments of electrical equipment Majid Ghanbari; and technician and electrical equipment installer Qumars Ghobadi.

These specialists are employed in Parsian and Fanavaran-Sanat-Gostar-e-Zagros Corporations.

The two Iranian engineers who were kidnapped while searching for the other five.

The two other Iranian experts – electrical engineer Pejman Boyeri and MAPNA employee Abdolkhalegh Sahne – who were trying to clarify the destiny of the five engineers, were also kidnapped and there has been no valid report on their whereabouts.

3 Arab natives were also kidnapped along with the Iranian Engineers.

Iran’s Embassy in Damascus have taken affective measures immediately for the release of Iranian professionals, and demanded the abductors to be identified as soon as possible.

Quoting a Syrian activist called Basam Jaare, Al-Arabiya news channel recently reported that the Iranian technicians are not currently in Homs and they have been sent to an unknown locale.

A more important concern is that the abductees’ families are overwhelmingly apprehensive about them.

Iran can make a mess at Hormuz, but would it be sustainable?

Editor’s Note – While the Straits of Hormuz is a major shipping lane for oil and other essentials the world needs, it is unlikely that Iran can run a blockade and be successful. The intention is not really to close the shipping lanes, but rather to test the mettle of the Obama administration and his foreign policy clout across the globe.

Obama is not known for taking pro-active measures, so it is unlikely that he will be more aggressive than Ahmedinejad. However, Obama will not laugh at Iran and shrug off the threat of cutting off the oil supply as America sits in an alpha position with un-tapped reserves and idle refineries either.

Iran is once again exposing the administration’s shallow commitments in the region and its less than aggressive posture. This will expose Obama’s feeble leadership. It will also put major pressure on France and Turkey to act, perhaps even pushing the entire Arab League to fill the void. It is important at this time to keep a close eye on China and Russia; they will find a way to muscle into the equation.

Can Iran Close the Strait of Hormuz?


Iranian Admiral Habibollah Sayyari says it would be "very easy" for his navy to shut down the Strait of Hormuz

Battle Land Blog

Since it doesn’t have nuclear weapons yet, Iran is playing the lone trump card in its hand: threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz through which Persian Gulf oil flows to fuel much of the world’s economy. Iranian navy chief Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told state television Wednesday that it would be “very easy” for his forces to shut down the chokepoint. “Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic waterway,” he said as his vessels continued a 10-day exercise near the strait.

But just how good a trump card is it?

“Iran has constructed a navy with considerable asymmetric and other capabilities designed specifically to be used in an integrated way to conduct area denial operations in the Persian Gulf and SoH, and they routinely exercise these capabilities and issue statements of intent to use them,” Jonathan Schroden writes in a recent report for the Pentagon-funded Center for Naval Analyses. “This combination of capabilities and expressed intent does present a credible threat to international shipping in the Strait.”

Not so fast, other experts maintain. “We believe that we would be able to maintain the strait,” Marine General James Cartwright, then-vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress last year. “But it would be a question of time and impact and the implications from a global standpoint on the flow of energy, et cetera, [that] would have ramifications probably beyond the military actions that would go on.”


International maritime law guarantees unimpeded transit through straits, and any deliberate military disruption is an act of war. “Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations,” the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet said from its headquarters in Bahrain. “Any disruption will not be tolerated.”

Of course, brandishing a threat and carrying it out are two different things. “By presuming that Iran can easily close the strait, Western diplomats concede leverage, and the current U.S. habit of reacting immediately and aggressively to Iranian provocations risks unnecessary escalation,” Eugene Gholz, a professor at the University of Texas, wrote in Foreign Policy in 2009. “Iran would find it so difficult, if not impossible, to close the strait that the world can afford to relax from its current hair-trigger alert.”

Most U.S. military thinkers, speaking privately, seem to agree. There are two linked issues at play here: military and monetary. While it might be challenging for the Iranian navy to shut down commerce flowing through the strait, Iranian moves to carry out that threat could have much the same effect. Oil companies, and the shippers that transport their product by water, are conservative business types, not given to putting their costly tankers and crews in harm’s way. But they’d get over it pretty quickly, and commerce would resume, with higher insurance rates.

One point worth noting: analyses of possible Iranian military action to plug the strait generally note that Iran gets about half of its national budget from oil exports that transit the strait. But if the next round of sanctions keeps Iranian oil off the world market, that brake on Iranian military action will be gone.

Iran has been practicing such saber-rattling for decades, and it always sends a nervous twitch through the world oil markets, spiking prices upward. It has done so this week, and oil’s per-barrel price has flirted with the $100 mark. That’s a drag on the world economic powers seeking to punish Iran for its nuclear-development efforts, and Tehran plainly views it as a net-positive for itself. That’s especially true in the year leading up to a U.S. presidential election, where the incumbent is seeking a second term.

About a fifth of the world’s oil flows through the strait, which is only 34 miles wide at its narrowest point. But the navigable part of the strait is 20 miles across, although shipping is supposed to use a pair of two-mile wide channels, one inbound and the other outbound. Iran borders the strait to the north and east, and it has a major naval base – and its key submarine base – close by.

“While closing the Strait may be possible for Iran for a short period of time, the U.S. military would prevail in a conflict with Iran in order to re-open the Strait at a great cost to the Iranian armed forces,” Brenna Schnars wrote in a 2010 study at the Naval Postgraduate School. “With international mistrust concerning the Iranian nuclear program already at the height of world concerns, an Iranian closure of the Strait would only enrage the majority of the international community, as their economies would severely suffer without its oil imports from the Persian Gulf.”

U.S. Navy Commander Rodney Mills examined the military implications of an Iranian move to shut the strait in a 2008 study at the Naval War College. His bottom line:

There is consensus among the analysts that the U.S. military would ultimately prevail over Iranian forces if Iran sought to close the strait. The various scenarios and assumptions used in the analyses produce a range of potential timelines for this action, from the optimistic assessment that the straits would be open in a few days to the more pessimistic assessment that it would take five weeks to three months to restore the full flow of maritime traffic.

But fighting an Iranian effort to close the strait may not be easy. Iran in recent years has acquired “thousands of sea mines, wake homing torpedoes, hundreds of advanced cruise missiles and possibly more than one thousand small Fast Attack Craft and Fast Inshore Attack Craft,” U.S. Navy Commander Daniel Dolan wrote in a report last year at the Naval War College. “…The majority of these A2/AD [anti-access, area-denial] forces are concentrated astride the vital Strait of Hormuz…” He urged the U.S. and its allies to fight any Iranian effort to shut the strait from the relative safely of the Arabian Sea, that broad body of water between the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. “It will allow the [allied commander] to concentrate fires on attriting the enemy forces,” he said, “while denying the enemy an equal opportunity to return fires.”

History offers some guidance. In the 1980s, the “tanker wars” between Iran and Iraq in the Persian Gulf – which led to 544 attacks and 400 civilians killed over eight years – the oil flow dropped by 25% before returning to normal levels. Insurances rates also would rise – perhaps from a penny to $6 a barrel, Mills estimates – a steep hike in insurance premiums, but not that much when tacked on to a $100 barrel of oil. “Despite the increased risk,” Mills notes, “history shows us that insurance will remain available at a reasonable rate for the value of the cargo shipped.”

Iran has scant chance of covertly mining the strait, U.S. military officers say. Small boats or anti-ship missiles would make more military sense. But Iran’s trio of Russian-built Kilo-class submarines, as well as a dozen smaller subs, would be vulnerable to U.S. anti-submarine warfare. “The (U.S.) Navy,” Mills wrote, “would be eager to permanently eliminate the Iranian submarine threat in a naval conflict.”

And attacks Iran launched against tankers aren’t guaranteed to work. “Most tankers today are of newer, double-hulled designs; coupled with internal compartmentalization, this tends to limit damage from an explosion,” Mills’ study said. “There are relatively few areas of vital machinery that could disable the vessel if damaged, and much of the vital machinery is underwater.” But what about all that oil? “The crude oil they carry tends to absorb and dissipate the shock caused by an explosion, reducing the effectiveness of the warhead,” Mills wrote. “And the crude oil is not very flammable, reducing the chance of fire or secondary explosion.”

All this is not to say any battle over the strait would be a cakewalk, as some U.S. officials erroneously predicted the Iraq war would be. If war were to break out, Iran would throw everything it has into the fight. “It’s clear that the Iranians have taken an approach in which they are going to attempt to use small boats, swarms, cruise missiles, mines, perhaps suicide boats, small submarines,” Vice Admiral Mark Fox, the top U.S. commander in the region, said earlier this year. “We watch them very carefully and understand where they are, what they’re doing.”

Fox’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the region, recommends its officers read Immortal: A Military History of Iran and Its Armed Forces, by CIA analyst Steven R. Ward. “Iran’s soldiers, from the famed `Immortals’ of ancient Persia to today’s Revolutionary Guard, have demonstrated through the centuries that they should not be underestimated,” a summary of the book on the fleet’s web site says. “The Iranians’ ability to impose high costs on their enemies by exploiting Iran’s imposing geography bear careful consideration today by potential opponents.”

Fox acknowledges that “imposing geography” cited by Ward as the admiral discussed how the Iranians would likely fight. “They have a long littoral there — it’s 1,300 nautical miles,” Fox said. “They’ve got a lot of places where they have an ability to set up, they have coves for small boats and cruise missiles that can potentially move around.” All this would complicate any conflict.

But Mills sees all the Iranian rhetoric and war gaming as little more than Persian saber rattling. “Iran gains more from the existence of their threat,” he concludes, “than they would by actually carrying it out.”


DHS Plane recorded “Dudus” Coke Jamaican Raid – Why DHS?

Editor’s Note – Its all well and good that Christopher “Dudus” Coke is now in an American jail, and it’s a shame 73 people died in the failed raid in Kingston, Jamaica, but SUA wonders why a Department of Homeland Security plane was filming the whole raid.  We also wonder why we cannot get a copy of that film. With all our problems securing our nation, why are we spending money through the DHS in Jamaica? Is this not something for the military, or the FBI, or the DEA instead?

U.S. Spy Plane Shot Secret Video of Jamaican ‘Massacre’

By Spencer Ackerman

Danger Room

Somewhere in the bureaucratic bowels of the Department of Homeland Security is a videotape shot above the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica on May 24, 2010. It could reveal whether the Jamaican security forces, acting on behalf of U.S. prosecutors, killed 73 members of a notorious crime syndicate or innocent civilians caught in house-to-house fighting. That is, if anyone in a position of power actually wants that question answered.

Smoke rises over Tivoli Gardens in Kingston Jamaica on May 24, 2010

Over 500 Jamaican soldiers rushed into the teeming Tivoli Gardens neighborhood that day for what became known as Operation Garden Parish, a mission to capture the local mafia don, Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The mission was the result of heavy U.S. pressure: Coke had been indicted in U.S. federal court for running an international marijuana and cocaine ring. It would become one of the bloodiest days in recent Jamaican history.

What happened on May 24, 2010 garnered international headlines. But what no one knew until now was that circling overhead was a P-3 Orion spy plane, operated by the Department of Homeland Security. A lengthy investigation by journalist Mattathias Schwartz (a Danger Room friend) reveals that the Orion took footage of the hours-long battle. It has never been publicly revealed.

“I don’t know what’s on the video,” Schwartz tells Danger Room. “But given all these credible allegations of extrajudicial killings taking place on the ground, it must be released.” Schwartz’s investigation of what he describes as the “massacre” in Tivoli Gardens has just been published by the New Yorker, although it’s not yet online.

Coke is a brutal man. According to prosecutors, he used a chainsaw to kill a man believed of stealing his drug proceeds. But he was beloved in Tivoli Gardens as well as feared, as often happens in places where gangsters replace the governing machinery of failing states, and the neighborhood became his fortress.

That is, until May 24, 2010, when the American pressure on a Coke ally, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, became overwhelming. The Jamaican soldiers who carried out Operation Garden Parish, had to overcome roadblocks set up by Coke soldiers prepared for the raid. And more than that. “I fired my AK until my finger was numb,” reads a passage from a Coke gunman’s diary unearthed by Schwartz.

Christopher “Dudus” Coke in custody June 2010

Then the Jamaican soldiers went inside Tivoli houses, killing people — most of whom, locals insist, were unconnected to Coke. Some of the killings occurred outside in the open air. An American citizen, 25-year old Andre Smith, was among the dead. According to Smith’s great aunt, Smith was ordered up her stairs by soldiers, although he was hiding to avoid the battle; his body was carried out in a sheet, suggesting an execution.

Schwartz recounts many such stories. Seventy-three locals and one soldier died. Soldiers took over a thousand others to detention centers for interrogations. Coke escaped the battle.

Above the melee was the P-3 Orion, filming the events of May 24 with its onboard cameras. A Jamaican photographer snapped photos of it. Schwartz filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Homeland Security and confirmed its presence. “All scenes were continuously recorded,” a Homeland Security document Schwartz acquired confirms.

The video, said to have been screened in a joint U.S.-Jamaican operations center in Kingston, has never been released. Its contents are politically dangerous for a Jamaican government still reeling from Tivoli Gardens. (Coke was eventually arrested and convicted in New York; Golding resigned.) And the documents Schwartz acquired suggest that there might have been U.S. operatives on the ground during the raid, which the U.S. denies.

But there have been no charges brought against anyone involved in the massacre. A Jamaican detective, Gladys Brown, tells Schwartz, “Nobody is able to describe who saw and who did what. It’s very difficult to pinpoint one or two of these men who held a gun to the head and fired.”

The video can’t adjudicate every outstanding question about the Tivoli Square raid. It can’t see into houses to determine if soldiers executed unarmed civilians or defended themselves against Coke soldiers lying in wait.

But it might answer some of the questions about exactly how 73 residents of the neighborhood and one soldier died. “My belief is that the video could help identify exactly which members of the Jamaican security forces were where, and when,” Schwartz says. “Until the identities of these individuals are made known, and some court or other investigative body compels them to give public testimony, we will not have a final answer to these disturbing and credible allegations.”