Obama Sponsoring Privileged Corruption

Obama hides behind legalities to build iron presidency and support government corruption.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JUNE 21, 2012

It was just a matter of time after Barack Obama took office for the public to find out about his real deal, and it took less time than with previous presidents. The man who came in promising change, jobs, transparency and a great economy, not only has failed at everything, but also reminded us all that we are not out of the woods when it comes to men who love to build iron castles to hide their support for a powerful Executive Office. As his predecessor once said: “Fool me once is on me, fool me twice is on you.” Americans were fooled again, and so was the world.

After criticizing George W. Bush for his overreach of power — and with reason — during the political campaign of 2008, Obama decided to follow on his tracks to make an ever more powerful Executive branch; one that does not need Congress or the opinion of the people who elected him to make decisions, but the permission of the United Nations and NATO, as Obama himself during several press conferences and speeches. The same talking point came out of the Leon Panetta’s mouth in congressional hearings. “We can’t wait” is the excuse given by the imperial presidency of Barack Obama, who justifies his unilateral actions by saying Congress doesn’t act, so he has the obligation to use his privilege to write executive order to create ‘laws’.

Both Republicans and Democrats have always stood in the way when a president had a ‘signature’ plan in mind to improve the country, but never has a president declared war on the Constitution, the American people and the rest of the world as Barack Obama has done up until today. Mr. Obama has built upon George Bush’s work that began by declaring the so-called war on terror, pushing the Patriot Act and bailing out foreign banks with his TARP legislation. Obama has declared citizens are enemy combatants, even on US soil, grabbed an nonexistent right to assassinate them if he decides is his best interests and has put troops on the streets of the country as no president has done for the past 30 years. While Obama preaches regime change for lawfully elected world leaders, he crushes his own citizens at home.

In the latest example of political and moral deceit, Obama has decided to concede  US Attorney General, Eric Holder executive privilege on documents related to the Fast&Furious gun-running program. Under Fast&Furious, the US government send thousands of fire arms to Mexican Drug Cartels in a supposed attempt to learn about drug and money trafficking from Mexico to North America. But as congressional investigation and alternative media revelations have shown, the US government’s dealings with Mexican drug organizations is nothing else than arms trade between the cartels and the drug-running, money-laundering US government. Some of the fire arms that made their way into Mexico were responsible for the murder of US Border Patrol officer Brian Terry and hundreds of innocent people on the Mexican side of the border.

Congressman Darrell Issa recently announced the start of an official voting process to hold Eric Holder in contempt of Congress after he decided not to provide sensible documents about Fast&Furious which Obama has now hidden behind his shameless executive privilege. The House Oversight Committee was informed Wednesday morning about Obama’s legitimation of government corruption regarding the Fast&Furious programs, to which Darrell Issa responded that “this untimely assertion by the Justice Department falls short of any reason to  delay today’s proceedings”. Issa, who has questioned Holder in several occasions, accused the Justice Department of trying to have the investigation into the Fast&Furious scandal closed. Apparently, Holder had promised to hand over some documents related to the operation, but Issa said he could not accept that  deal.

After being pressed to the limit, Holder contradicted himself a number of times about what he knew, when he knew it and how he learned about Fast&Furious. In an effort to try to avoid more public scrutiny, Holder’s Justice Department requested in a letter addressed to Obama to keep the incriminating documents related to the gun-running operation secret. Obama rapidly granted his request. “We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps  we have taken to address the committee’s concerns and to accommodate the  committee’s legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and  Furious,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “Although we are deeply disappointed that the committee  appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the department remains willing to work with the committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution  of the outstanding issues.”

A significant fact about Obama’s decision to use his executive privilege to hide the Fast&Furious documents is that this is Obama’s first assertion of such privilege. The reason for his acceptance is that Fast&Furious has the potential to bring down Eric Holder and even Obama himself. From all the fire arms that ‘walked’ into Mexico under Fast&Furious, the US government allegedly lost 2,000. How did the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), the agency coordinating with the Department of Justice the Fast&Furious operation lost 2,000 weapons is still unknown. These and other details have been kept secret by DOJ. “The documents responsive to the remaining subpoena items pertain to sensitive law enforcement activities, including ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions, or were generated by department officials in the course of responding to Congressional investigations or media inquiries about this matter that are generally not appropriate for disclosure,” said James Cole.

In addition to hiding the details related to Fast&Furious, Obama signed statements saying that Congress could not declare it unconstitutional for him to have ‘czars’, increased the number of decisions made by himself alone regarding domestic policy, including sponsoring government violence against taxpayers by forcing them to buy health insurance from a government program, reaffirmed the right of the US government to carry out torture, enabled and agreed on the continuation of government spying on the American people through the communications infrastructure, drones and satellites, and so on. In other words, Obama is doing exactly what George W. Bush did during his two term presidency, which in the eyes of many Democrats were actions proper of a dictator, not a president. “Obama’s not saying he has the right to defy a Congressional statute. But if the legislative path is blocked and he otherwise has the legal authority to issue an executive order on an issue, they are clearly much more willing to do that now than two years ago,” said Richard H. Pildes to the New York Times.

In some of Obama’s most recent acts of defiance to the US Constitution and Congressional oversight, he directed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, and last week he announced he would legalize foreigners who came to the US illegally. “I refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer,” said Obama in one of his speeches as he flashed a banner with the message “We Can’t Wait”. “When Congress refuses to act and — as a result — hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them.” The problem is that all that Obama has accomplish through his unilateral decisions has been to erode the US Constitution — just as his predecessors did — without having any positive outcome. In fact, due to the violence generated by programs like Fast&Furious both in Mexico and the US, government agencies and the main stream media often request tighter restrictions on civil liberties and individual rights. Coincidence? Not likely.

“Fast & Furious” Guns Used in Multiple Crimes

Reuters
July 26, 2011

At least 122 firearms from a botched U.S. undercover operation have been found at crime scenes in Mexico or intercepted en route to drug cartels there, according to a Republican congressional report being issued on Tuesday.

Mexican authorities found AK-47 assault rifles, powerful .50 caliber rifles and other weapons in late 2009 that were later linked to the U.S. sting operation to trace weapons going across the border to Mexico, the report said.

Guns from the program, dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious,” also were found at the scene of the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in the border state Arizona last December. It is not clear if they were the weapons responsible for his death.

The sting has become an embarrassment for the Obama administration and its Justice Department, rather than a victory in cracking down on the illegal flow of drugs and weapons to and from Mexico.

It has also hurt ties with Mexico, which has been battling the violent cartels in a war in which thousands have died.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and federal prosecutors had hoped the sting would help them track gun buyers reselling weapons to cartels. But U.S. agents did not follow the guns after the initial purchaser re-sold them.

The House of Representatives Oversight Committee, led by Republican Darrell Issa, and the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, have been investigating the sting and will issue the report Tuesday.

Their investigators say at least 122 firearms bought by suspected gun traffickers were found at Mexican crime scenes or caught going to the cartels.

Of the 2,000 weapons sold to the suspected gun traffickers, just over half remain unaccounted for, the report added. The Justice Department said that the ATF was not aware of the majority of those gun sales when they occurred.

“Given the vast amount of ‘Operation Fast and Furious’ weapons possibly still in the hands of cartel members, law enforcement officials should expect more seizures and recoveries at crime scenes,” said the congressional report.

The independent watchdog at the Justice Department is also conducting its own investigation of the sting operation.

The Justice Department said it could only confirm 96 guns recovered in Mexico were tied to suspects being tracked in the operation, but it said that ATF did not have complete information on how many were recovered at crime scenes there.

The agency said another 274 weapons were recovered in the United States and, so far, about a dozen were found at U.S. crime scenes, according to information given to Grassley obtained by Reuters.

Soon after the sting began, Mexican authorities arrested a young woman with 41 AK-47s and a Beowulf .50 caliber rifle that were bought the previous day by a so-called straw buyer, or somebody buying a weapon for somebody else.

She told police she was taking them to the Sinaloa drug cartel, the congressional report said.

During a May, 2001 raid by Mexican federal police on the La Familia drug cartel, in which 11 members of the group were killed and 36 were captured, some of the more than 70 weapons recovered at the scene were traced back to the U.S. sting, according to the congressional report.

Issa’s committee will hold a hearing later Tuesday with current and former ATF officials including those who worked in the U.S. embassy in Mexico who complained that they were kept largely out of the loop about the scope of the operation.

U.S. Justice Department Gun Sting Backfires. It is then covered-up

by Guy Adams
The Independent
June 17, 2011

America’s firearms watchdog allowed weapons to flow in, failed to catch ringleaders, then tried a cover-up.

The lethal fallout from a botched operation by the US Department of Justice which allowed almost 2,000 illegally purchased firearms to be transported from the streets of Arizona to drug gangs in Mexico has been laid bare in a scathing Congressional report, which concludes that it resulted in countless deaths.

A mixture of arrogance, over-confidence, and staggering ineptitude by the Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF] was outlined in a 51-page investigation by two Republican members of a House panel charged with getting to the bottom of what went wrong during a two-year operation called “Fast and Furious”.

It tells how, between 2009 and this year, the ATF instructed agents to turn a blind eye to hundreds of AK-47 assault rifles, sniper rifles, and revolvers purchased from gunshops in Phoenix and en route to Mexico. They hoped to eventually recover them from crime scenes and build a complex conspiracy case that might take down the leaders of a major drug cartel.

In the event, the operation resulted in the arrest of a handful of small-time crooks. But it exacerbated an already-huge spike in violence on both sides of the border. Two of the guns allowed to “walk” into the hands of criminals were used in a shoot-out that killed a US border patrol agent, Brian Terry.

The report describes his death as “a preventable tragedy”, detailing how many of the ATF agents involved in Fast and Furious began to object to what they saw as the “reckless” nature of the operation, which conflicted with all known protocol and may turn out to have been illegal. But when they raised their concerns, they faced “punishment and retaliation” from their superiors.

It also highlights the symbiotic nature of the deadly drug trade between the US and Mexico, which has resulted in approximately 38,000 deaths since 2007. Cartels make their money smuggling cocaine and cannabis north from Mexico, and simultaneously equip their private armies with assault weapons purchased thanks to America’s notoriously relaxed gun laws.

Fast and Furious revolved around so-called “straw” purchases of firearms, in which a buyer purchase military-grade hardware from a gun-store with the intention of illegally passing it to a criminal third party. ATF agents who track suspected straw purchases typically run intensive surveillance operations allowing them to arrest suspects and recover the guns. During the Fast and Furious operation they were instructed to simply let the weapons disappear.

A record was kept of their serial numbers. The idea was that this would later allow agents to link individual weapons to particular crime scenes. Somehow, this was supposed to help the ATF build up a nuanced picture of the complex structure of a major drug cartel, which would in turn lead to high-level arrests. But it wasn’t to be.

“Both line agents and gun dealers who co-operated with the ATF repeatedly expressed concerns”, about the operation, the report says. “But ATF supervisors did not heed those warnings. Instead, they told agents to follow orders because this was sanctioned from above.”

In total, agents watched at least 1,730 guns flood on to the black market, knowing they would be used to commit murders and other violent crimes. Their concerns about the policy were ignored. In one email to field staff printed in the report, ATF supervisor David Voth suggested that staff who objected to his orders would be fired.

“I will be damned if this case is going to suffer due to petty arguing, rumours, or other adolescent behavior,” he wrote. “We are all adults, we are all professionals, and we have an exciting opportunity to use the biggest tool in our law-enforcement tool box. If you don’t think this is fun, you are in the wrong line of work, period!”

John Dodson, a special agent from Phoenix who eventually blew the whistle on the “flawed” operation, told congressmen his superiors would be “giddy” with delight when “their” guns were found at a crime scene in Mexico, because they believed it “validated” their tactic. With regard to potential loss of life, an ATF boss told him: “if you are going to make an omelette, you need to scramble some eggs.”

On 14 December, disaster struck when the US border patrol guard, Brian Terry, was killed during a shootout with suspected illegal aliens on the Arizona border. His killers dropped their rifles to flee faster. Two of the weapons were AK-47s which had been intentionally allowed to walk during Fast and Furious.

Rather than admit to any mistake, the ATF embarked on a cover-up. William Newell, the special agent in charge of the operation, ordered the arrest of 20 of the people agents had been watching buy weapons for months. Then, although not one senior cartel member was arrested, he held a press conference declaring the operation a success.

Newell was then asked if any weapons had been deliberately allowed to end up in the hands of criminals. He replied, “Hell no!” The report describes that statement as untrue and “shocking.” It alleges that the Department of Justice continued to attempt a cover-up for several months.

The fallout from the report’s publication remains to be seen. It was written by two Republican congressmen, Darryl Issa and Charles Grassley. Some right-wing commentators have suggested that Fast and Furious was sanctioned by the Obama administration in an effort to justify tightening US gun laws. But the White House has said it had no direct knowledge of the operation.

U.S. Feds get warrants to mine Facebook accounts

As if Facebook wasn’t already enough of a data mining operation, judges are allowing Feds to access account information such as addresses, telephone numbers, friends’ lists in order to… you guessed it: ‘fight crime’.

By Robert Snell
The Detroit News
April 25, 2011

Federal investigators in Detroit have taken the rare step of obtaining search warrants that give them access to Facebook accounts of suspected criminals.

The warrants let investigators view photographs, email addresses, cell phone numbers, lists of friends who might double as partners in crime, and see GPS locations that could help disprove alibis.

There have been a few dozen search warrants for Facebook accounts nationwide since May 2009, including three approved recently by a federal magistrate judge in Detroit, according to a Detroit News analysis of publicly available federal court records.

The trend raises privacy and evidentiary concerns in a rapidly evolving digital age and illustrates the potential law-enforcement value of social media, experts said.

Locally, Facebook accounts have been seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and FBI to investigate more than a dozen gang members and accused bank robber Anthony Wilson of Detroit.

“To be honest with you, it bothers me,” said Wilson, 25, who was indicted Tuesday on bank robbery charges after the FBI compared Facebook photos with images taken from a bank surveillance video. “Facebook could have let me know what was going on. Instead, I got my door kicked down, and all of a sudden I’m in handcuffs.”

Federal investigators defend the practice. “With technology today, we would be crazy not to look at every avenue,” said Special Agent Donald Dawkins, spokesman with the ATF in Detroit.

The FBI suspected Wilson was behind a string of bank robberies across Metro Detroit that netted more than $6,300. Special Agent Juan Herrera said an informant told the FBI about Wilson’s Facebook account. It was registered under the name “Anthony Mrshowoff Wilson.”

In several photos on Facebook, Wilson was wearing a blue baseball hat and blue hooded sweatshirt, both featuring a Polo emblem. That’s the same outfit the FBI said the suspect wore when he stole $390 from a Bank of America Branch in Grosse Pointe Woods on Nov. 26, according to federal court records.

His Facebook photos also included one in which Wilson wore a red Philadelphia Phillies baseball hat, which the FBI said Wilson donned while robbing $1,363 from a PNC Bank branch in St. Clair Shores on Dec. 21, according to court records.

On Jan. 26, U.S. Magistrate Judge Virginia Morgan gave approval for the FBI to seize information from Wilson’s Facebook account. The warrant was executed within four hours.

Facebook gave the FBI Wilson’s contact information, including birth date, cell phone number, friends, incoming and outgoing messages, and photos.

Wilson was charged in a criminal complaint Feb. 7 and indicted Tuesday on five bank robbery charges. He is free on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

“I’m innocent until proven guilty,” Wilson told The Detroit News. “They’re basically going off my clothes. Ralph Lauren is a popular clothing line.”

He’s since updated his Facebook photo. Wilson swapped the blue Polo hat and blue Polo sweatshirt for white ones featuring the iconic Polo horse.

Despite the search warrants, his Facebook information page was still public Thursday.

Technology challenging

Morgan, the federal magistrate judge, also approved two search warrant requests from the ATF late last year and in February to search the accounts of at least 16 people suspected of belonging to a Detroit area gang. The affidavit justifying the search remains sealed in federal court.

Even with the access, investigators are having a hard time keeping up with high-tech crooks. In February, an FBI official testified before a House subcommittee about the difficulty accessing electronic communications on social media sites and email even with court approval.

“The FBI and other government agencies are facing a potentially widening gap between our legal authority to intercept electronic communications pursuant to court order and our practical ability to actually intercept those communications,” FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni testified.

Monitoring real-time Web-based conversations is particularly difficult, she said.

The FBI uses the term “Going Dark” to label the gap between having the authority to access electronic communications and the Internet service providers’ capability to gather the information. “This gap poses a growing threat to public safety,” Caproni testified.

Concerns over privacy

Information gleaned from the Internet raises constitutional and evidentiary issues that must be considered, including privacy and the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, said Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen, who also is an evidence professor at Wayne State University. Evidence obtained from the Internet and social media sites also raises issues about whether the information can be authenticated, he said.

“The Internet is the next frontier for the development of Fourth Amendment law,” Rosen said, referring to the amendment protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures.

A Facebook spokesman said the company receives a “significant volume of third-party data requests” that are reviewed individually for “legal sufficiency.”

“We do not comment publicly on data requests, even when we disclose the request to the user. We have this policy to respect privacy and avoid the risk that even acknowledging the existence of a request could wrongly harm the reputation of an individual,” said Andrew Noyes, Facebook manager of public policy communications. “We never turn over ’content’ records in response to U.S. legal process unless that process is a search warrant reviewed by a judge. We are required to regularly push back against overboard requests for user records, but in most cases we are able to convince the party issuing legal process to withdraw the overboard request, but if they do not, we fight the matter in court (and have a history of success in those cases.)”

Spokeswomen for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI declined to discuss techniques used by investigators.

It is unclear exactly how many search warrants have been executed for Facebook accounts. But requests – in Maryland , New York , North Carolina , Virginia , California , Pennsylvania , Montana and Alabama – come amid a backlash from users who complained too much of their personal information was being disclosed .

The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation , a digital civil liberties organization based in San Francisco, launched a campaign recently to encourage Facebook and others to disclose when and how often law-enforcement agencies request user account information.