Daily Archives: August 13, 2011

FBI wants businesses watching for customers paying with cash

Government calls buying ‘night flashlights,’ making ‘extreme religious statements’ indicators of terrorism

WND | Aug 12, 2011

By Bob Unruh

Just days after the White House announced a community-based approach to combating terrorism in the United States, the FBI and other agencies are asking managers of surplus stores to spy on their customers, watching whether they pay in cash, make “extreme” religious statements or purchase products such as waterproof matches.

And the request from the government also is going to gun shops, fertilizer suppliers, motels and hotels, authorities say.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced a new plan titled “Empowering local partners to prevent violent extremism in the United States.” In it, Obama wrote, “Communities – especially Muslim American communities whose children, families and neighbors are being targeted for recruitment by al-Qaida – are often best positioned to take the lead because they know their communities best.”

The report warns that while the Constitution recognizes freedom of expression, “even for individuals who espouse unpopular or even hateful views,” it also is the responsibility of government to deter “plots by neo-Nazis and other anti-Semitic hate groups, racial supremacists, and international and domestic terrorist groups.”

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“The best defenses against violent extremist ideologies are well-informed and equipped families, local communities, and local institutions. Their awareness of the threat and willingness to work with one another and government is part of our long history of community-based initiatives and partnerships dealing with a range of public safety challenges,” the report says.

One of the apparent elements of the White House strategy is a series of brochures being handed out to farm supply stories, gun shops, military surplus stores and even hotels and motels. The brochures ask proprietors, clerks and others to watch out for “potential indicators” of terrorism, including “paying with cash,” having a “missing hand/fingers,” making “extreme religious statements coupled with comments that are violent or appear to condone violence” and making bulk purchases of “Meals Ready to Eat” or “night flashlights.”

The following was handed out to surplus stores by agents of the FBI in Denver in recent days.
The flyer was reminiscent of the Department of Homeland Security’s 2009 report “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” that suggested “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups.”

The report from the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis defined right-wing extremism in the U.S. as “divided into those groups, movements and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups) and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

The DHS report had followed only by weeks a report from the Missouri Information Analysis Center that linked conservative groups to domestic terrorism.

The Missouri report warned law enforcement agencies to watch for suspicious individuals who may have bumper stickers for presidential candidates such as Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin. It further warned law enforcement to watch out for individuals with “radical” ideologies based on Christian views, such as opposing illegal immigration, abortion and federal taxes.

Officials with Oath Keepers.org noted the document was similar to one earlier given to gun store managers in Utah. Authorities in Denver confirmed to WND that related brochures are going to surplus stores, hotels and motels, farm supply companies that handle fertilizer and gun shops.

“This new handout expands the absurdity by now also targeting customers of military surplus stores, and by specifically targeting the purchasing of very common, and very popular, preparedness items such as Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) as ‘potential indicators of terrorist activities,'” said a statement from Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.

“Islamic terrorists are not known to hang out in local Army-Navy surplus stores, stocking up on MREs, high capacity magazines and bi-pods for their long range rifles,” the statement said. “As Brandon Smith, over at Alt-market.com notes, ‘These are very common purchases, not for terrorists, but for Preppers and Survivalists, who are obviously the targets of the FBI profile, not secret al-Qaida agents.’

“Spot on,” Rhodes wrote. “Obviously, the current crop of FBI ‘leadership’ considers anyone who wants to be self-sufficient and prepared to be a ‘threat’ that should be relentlessly tracked and reported.”

An FBI spokesman in Denver confirmed to WND that the flyer is genuine.

“It has been disseminated throughout the United States by the FBI. The flyer and the information on it, stands on its own merit. It was created by FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Denver Division has placed our contact information on the flyer and distributed it to local businesses within the states of Colorado and Wyoming.

“I assure you the process and the information has been well vetted by the Department of Justice before being released.”

In addition to contact information for the FBI, the flyer also had a telephone number for the Colorado Information Analysis Center, a law enforcement “fusion” center where director Dana Reynolds told WND it’s just part of the information-collecting done by the government.

He said when tips are turned in about suspicious activity, they are evaluated to determine whether there should be a police investigation.

“If it turns out to be nothing, if there’s no probably case, then the contact is ended there.”

However, when asked about profiling for suspicious behavior, such as that done successfully by security authorities in Israel, he said that was not being done, and why it is not being done “is a good question.”

One-time Colorado congressional candidate Rob McNealy, who also is a decision-maker in the Libertarian Party, told WND he came across the flyer to surplus stores among his circle of friends and quickly confirmed it was genuine.

He pointed out to WND the irony that the government, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, specifically advises citizens to collect “ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables” as well as “flashlight and extra batteries” and “matches in a waterproof container.”

Then the FBI asks store managers to report the “suspicious” activity of buying the same items.

“It’s almost like entrapment,” McNealy said.

He warned that such practices could be used as attacks on free speech, the right of association and other constitutional provisions. And he believes authorities are targeting Americans who choose to prepare themselves for emergencies.

“Al-Qaida terrorists are not running around buying MREs,” he said.

McNealy said he has information “from somebody who sat in on one of the [fusion-center type] training things in their class they will talk about all the groups out there who are dangerous to cops, sovereign citizens, neo-Nazis – and Oath Keepers and tea party groups.”

“They lump them all together,” he said.

Oath Keepers reported last year that it appeared the Southern Poverty Law Center had become “officially” part of DHS. That was because the chief of the SPLC “now sits on the DHS ‘Working Group on Countering Violent Extremism’ along with the leaders of other so-called non government organizations,” the group reported.

The move came after a government agency accused a father of being associated “with a militia group known as Oath Keepers.”

“It should come as no surprise to see Joint Terrorism Task Forces in states now listing the purchasing of firearms, high capacity magazines, bi-pods, night vision, MREs, weatherproofed ammunition containers, etc. as ‘potential indicators of terrorist activities’ since SPLC is almost entirely focused on going after the militia movement and the Patriot Movement, and is also focused on relentlessly demonizing and smearing nearly any individual or group on the political right that advocates strict adherence to the Constitution or who advocates for the right to bear arms, for state nullification of unconstitutional federal laws, etc. which is why SPLC also has a special animus toward Oath Keepers, which it has labeled as one of the most worrisome groups out there, because it contains active duty police and military who advocate for strict obedience to the Constitution and who pledge to refuse to obey unconstitutional orders,” Rhodes wrote at the time.

“They see all of us on the patriot right as being terrorists or potential terrorists, and they intend to use all the power of government to control, suppress, marginalize, investigate, track, and if possible, prosecute us all until they stamp out our beliefs and views,” Rhodes told WND.

“How far we have come from the Founder’s ideal of a ‘well regulated’ (well equipped and well trained) citizen militia where ALL able bodied citizens were expected to keep and bear their own weapons, ammunition, field gear, and other supplies essential to personal military capability and competence. And the Founders expected us to keep that military gear at home and to actually train together in its use so we would ‘be prepared’ for anything, you know, like the Boy Scouts motto. That motto is a sad remnant of the Founders’ ideal of a prepared citizenry,” Rhodes wrote.

“Under the logic of this most recent handout, the Boy Scouts should be reported as ‘suspicious,'” he wrote.

“The Founders would have wanted all of us, every one, to ‘be prepared’ for ‘any old thing.’ They would have wanted us to have night vision, gas masks (which come in handy in many situations), ‘high-capacity’ magazines – and the powerful military pattern rifles that use them – bi-pods so we can shoot accurately at long distance, and plenty of ammunition in ‘weatherproofed’ containers (also known as surplus ammo cans). They would have wanted us to have plenty of MREs for handy field use, and even ‘night flashlights.’ I suppose ‘day flashlights’ are OK with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, but those dangerous ‘night flashlights’ are verboten, and anyone who buys one must be reported! I certainly hope it wasn’t actually someone at the FBI who wrote that.

“Funny thing is, who exactly do the authors of these handouts think they are talking to when they ask gun store and military surplus store owners and staff to spy on their customers and serve as a network of government snitches? These stores are usually owned and staffed by veterans, who are also very preparedness minded – in other words, just like the customers the government wants them to inform on. That’s like handing the MIAC report to Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin supporters and asking them to keep an eye on those pesky, subversive, and potentially dangerous Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin supporters. It’s absurd,” Rhodes wrote.

The U.S. administration has made clear in a number of cases that it is concerned about conservatives as a potential danger and even has argued in court that it wants the authority to track American citizens in order to develop “probable cause” needed for search warrants.

That argument is being made before the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute over whether police investigators and other authorities should be allowed to track American citizens who have not done anything that would ordinarily prompt a judge to issue a search warrant.

“The court of appeals’ decision, which will require law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before placing a GPS device on a vehicle if the device will be used for a ‘prolonged’ time period, has created uncertainty surrounding the use of an important law enforcement tool,” said the government’s brief in the case, U.S.A. v. Antoine Jones.

“Although in some investigations the government could establish probable cause and obtain a warrant before using a GPS device, federal law enforcement agencies frequently use tracking devices early in investigations, before suspicions have ripened into probable cause. The court of appeals’ decision prevents law enforcement officers from using GPS devices in an effort to gather information to establish probable cause.”

Border scrutiny dissuades Mexico-Bound illegal immigrants from leaving the country

Analleli Rios Ramirez, center, and her brother-in-law, Eusebio Resendiz, try to obtain a permit to take their truck into Mexico. Joshua Lott for The New York Times

nytimes.com | Aug 9, 2011


NOGALES, Ariz. — An American immigration agent bounded up the steps of a bus about to cross the United States-Mexico border recently and demanded to see the papers of all those aboard. “Papers!” he shouted, eyeing passengers warily as he walked up and down the aisle.

Such checks are not surprising given all the attention focused on illegal immigration these days. But this bus full of migrants was leaving the United States, not entering it.

A raft of immigration laws in Arizona and other states is designed to make life so difficult for illegal immigrants that they pack their bags and head home. But the reality on the border is that departing the country has become more complicated than ever — leading some people to worry that the outbound checks could not only dissuade illegal immigrants from leaving the country but also place them in a kind of no-win limbo, reviled if they stay and potentially arrested if they try to leave.

It used to be that entering Mexico, whether it was from San Diego or El Paso or here in Nogales, was a cakewalk, with no scrutiny on the United States side of the border and next to none on the Mexico side. But efforts by the Obama administration to reduce the flow of guns and drug money heading from the United States to Mexico have changed that in recent years.

Agents now regularly hop aboard southbound buses, a common way for migrants to return to their towns and villages. At permanent checkpoints set up at border crossings, they also stop southbound vehicles and confront pedestrians going south on foot.

In questioning people leaving the country about illegal contraband, agents frequently find migrants who are not engaged in smuggling but do not have permission to be in the United States. Some with clean records are let go. Others are fingerprinted and photographed for illegal entry and only then allowed to go on their way. Once they are in the government’s database, they face more stringent penalties if they are caught in the United States again.

Immigrants who are found to have criminal records face more aggressive treatment. They are likely to be arrested and then formally deported.

The intent, officials say, is not to discourage illegal immigrants from leaving. Rather, it is to stem the flow of contraband. In a recent weekly report from Arizona, Customs and Border Protection said it had seized $22,102 in cash being smuggled out of the state from July 18 to July 24. During the same period, six weapons and 5,943 rounds of ammunition were recovered. Agents detained 1,606 illegal immigrants, although that included those who were both coming and going.

In interviews, departing immigrants offered a variety of reasons for leaving Arizona. Tough laws and law enforcement sweeps made life less livable. The economic downturn made it tougher to make ends meet. Then there was also a host of personal concerns. For Analleli Rios Ramirez, 24, it was the death of her brother-in-law in Cuernavaca that prompted her and her husband to decide to live closer to relatives.

“We just decided we wanted to live in our own country,” said Ms. Rios, who was the assistant manager of a pretzel shop in a mall near Phoenix.

Some question the sense of checking the papers of migrants who are leaving anyway. The criticism comes from those who consider illegal immigrants to be outlaws and those who sympathize with their struggle to improve their lives.

“Why do we want to spend resources apprehending people who are removing themselves anyway?” asked Jennifer Allen of the Border Action Network, a human rights group based in Tucson that aids immigrants in southern Arizona. “I’ve heard of people wanting to leave the country and wondering if they should risk it. It’s in the forefront of people’s minds when they’re deciding to leave.”

The possibility that a government policy might be discouraging illegal immigrants from leaving has led even some groups who favor tighter immigration controls to think twice about the southbound scrutiny.

“This is about the only situation we would ever advocate that our immigration laws be waived,” William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said last year in a statement calling for the Obama administration to ease its southbound immigration checks. “We want to encourage the illegals to leave America on their own, and thus we ask Obama to provide them safe passage out of America.”

Making it difficult to leave the country, Mr. Gheen said, might prompt some migrants instead to leave Arizona or other states with tough immigration laws for more hospitable parts of the United States.

Despite the second guessing, the administration said the policy made sense.

“We’re not trying to discourage anyone from leaving, but we do want to send the message that there are consequences for breaking immigration laws,” said an administration official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Although thousands of migrants have been detained heading south, officials said they could not break down how many were stopped because they were in the country illegally versus those stopped for smuggling violations.

Some immigrants said they were confused by the policy.

As she prepared to cross the border recently and join her husband who had crossed months before, Ms. Rios grew anxious, knowing that she did not have her papers in order and that she might be detained. She had entered the country illegally more than a decade ago, as an 11-year-old child clutching her mother’s hand. Now she was returning to a country she barely knew.

“I thought this is what Arizona wanted, for me to leave,” she said as she packed her things in Chandler, Ariz., before heading south. “And I have to worry about them catching me on the way out.”

It turns out that she and her overstuffed pickup truck crossed from Nogales, Ariz., into Nogales, Mexico, without a hitch.

Immigration officials say they cannot check everyone and use discretion as they survey the documents of departing migrants. Ms. Rios’s mother, Teodora Martinez, had left months earlier and did not have papers when an agent hopped aboard her bus. She presented an identification card issued by the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix, which did not prove legal residency. Her husband, Cesar Valle Martinez, had shown a fake ID.

The agent raised his eyebrows as he surveyed their papers and then huddled with a colleague who had also entered the bus. The couple was traveling with several young children, though, and they had American passports. “Go on,” the agent said finally, handing back the documents, exiting the bus and letting the family return to Mexico.

A Long, Cold Summer at Mount Rainier

Climbers taking the easy way down Mount Rainier in April. The amount of unmelted snow there has set records this summer.

nytimes.com | Aug 13, 2011


MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. — The calendar says summer, but the conditions are more like winter.

Usually by August, most of the snow on Mount Rainier, the sleeping volcanic giant here, has long since melted. The meadows of wildflowers are abloom, and hikers galore are tramping along the trails.

But this year, temperatures have been colder than usual, keeping record mounds of old snow lying around. This has discouraged everyone, from the most rigorous climbers to backpackers, hikers and Sunday drivers.

Total visitors to Mount Rainier National Park from January through July were down more than 30 percent, to 601,877, compared with the same period last year, when 868,681 people came.

“We’ve had terrible weather all year,” said Debbie Hannevig, the park’s fee operations manager.

The colder temperatures have wreaked havoc with Mother Nature’s schedule here and throughout the West and the Northwest, altering people’s expectations of what they could and could not do this summer. In some areas, visitors were skiing in their bathing suits on the Fourth of July. In other cases, the unseasonable weather may have contributed to various accidents and deaths.

Here, at one of the jewels in the crown of the national park system, hikers have met closed roads and trails too dangerous to try. Rangers are advising hikers to use ice axes and crampons, equipment they normally do not need.

“There has never been this amount of snow, and it stopped us from doing things we would usually do,” Carol Larkin, 66, of Richland said the other day as she and her husband, Dave, 67, changed out of their hiking boots at a rest stop beneath towering Douglas firs near the mountain’s base.

They have hiked here every year since 1990 and wanted to keep up their ritual, even if it was curtailed. They said they encountered some people along the trail who turned back after seeing the snow and others who were unprepared but nonetheless forged ahead.

“I was amazed at some of the people we saw on the trail,” Mrs. Larkin said. “They didn’t have poles. One person was in flip-flops.”

People can be caught off guard here because the weather on this glacier-capped mountain, which sits just 100 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, is so changeable. The location, the park service says, means that Rainier “makes its own weather.”

It also acts as its own billboard advertisement, because it is so big and can be seen from so far away. “If the weather is poor and you can’t see the mountain, you don’t come,” Ms. Hannevig said.

The amount of snow still on the ground, as measured at Paradise, the park’s main visitor area, is setting records. Last Sunday, it set a record of 44 inches, said Stefan Lofgren, the park’s mountaineering district ranger. The previous record for Aug. 7 was 40 inches, set in 1974.

Another record was set Tuesday, when 43 inches remained on the ground. Mr. Lofgren said he expected records for another couple of weeks. At this elevation (5,400 feet), Paradise normally gets about 630 inches of snow a year, but this year it received a whopping 907 inches.

This is not the most snow ever for what rangers call “one of the snowiest places on Earth,” but it is close. The difference this year was the extended low temperatures in the spring and summer, which brought some of the coldest months on record in more than 100 years, preventing the snow from melting.

“It will probably be the third week of August until subalpine meadows in Washington State will be free of snow,” Mr. Lofgren said.

For mountain climbers, the persistent snow has extended the climbing season, often creating firm-enough bridges over weak spots that might otherwise collapse into deep crevasses and swallow up even an experienced climber.

Moore Phillips, 24, a student who lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., was preparing to climb Rainier’s summit the other day via Liberty Ridge, one of the mountain’s most exposed and challenging routes.

When the snow is gone, he said, “the rock fall is like a bowling alley,” and that, combined with weak bridges, normally makes this climb too perilous so late in the season. “If there wasn’t this snow,” he said, “we couldn’t do Liberty.”

Liberty Ridge is where an experienced climber, Rob Plankers, 50, of Olympia, apparently slid to his death in June. Despite having proper gear, he got hypothermia and frostbite, park spokesmen said, and others in his party left him to seek help. Mr. Plankers then apparently slid to his death 2,000 feet down a steep and icy slope. Foul weather and ferocious winds hampered recovery efforts.

Rob Reuter, 49, an environmental engineer in Seattle, climbed to the summit last weekend with friends. The sun was strong during the day, and some of the snow started to melt, making for an unexpectedly slushy and slippery descent. “Coming down was more treacherous than normal,” he said. “The snow bridges were starting to collapse and it was a little scary at times. It took an extra hour and a half.”

While conditions are still good for climbers, Mr. Lofgren, the ranger, said, 1,200 fewer climbers tried to reach the summit this year compared with last year. (Generally, about 10,500 climbers a year try and about half make it.) “Ironically,” he said, “the foggy, cold, snowy, windy weather that has preserved favorable climbing conditions often make it impossible to climb.”

But in his view, the bad weather is only part of the story. Another factor, he said, is the economy. Not only is climbing expensive — equipment alone can cost $2,500 — but gas prices have been high. And then the stock market began its wild gyrations, creating new anxiety. (Studies show that those who climb Rainier make an average of $90,000 a year, so it would not be surprising if many were invested in the market.)

“The number of climbers on the mountain has just as much to do with the Dow Jones and the Consumer Price Index as it has to do with weather conditions,” Mr. Lofgren said.

“If the stock market hadn’t just crashed,” he said, “we would have had a whole lot more people coming to the park.”

The plan to force farmers off their land

WND | Aug 12, 2011

By Henry Lamb

Al Gore was beside himself when the Senate failed to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1994. Gore had spent the first two years of his vice presidency developing what he called his “Ecosystem Management Policy.” This new policy was nothing more than preparing the agencies of government to implement the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and Agenda 21. These three policy documents were adopted in Rio de Janeiro at the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development.

Agenda 21 was the only document that was not an international treaty. It was, instead, a non-binding “soft-law” document that was designed to avoid the necessity of congressional debate or Senate ratification. Bill Clinton issued an executive order to create the President’s Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) especially to implement Agenda 21 administratively – without oversight or interference from Congress. The agencies of government have done a masterful job of infecting almost all urban communities with some form of government control under the guise of “Sustainable Development,” which is the objective of Agenda 21.

Now, the Obama regime intends to impose the same kind of control over rural America through his White House Rural Council, also created by executive order.

The rather bland 18-page Convention on Biological Diversity came with an 1,140-page instruction book called the Global Biodiversity Assessment. Page 993 of this instruction book says that the Convention’s plan for protecting biodiversity is “…central to the Wildlands Project recently proposed in the United States.” Page 15 of the Wildlands Project says:

“… at least half of the land area of the 48 conterminous states should be encompassed in core reserves and inner corridor zones … assuming that most of the other 50 percent is managed intelligently as buffer zone.”

Since the President’s Council on Sustainable Development was created, agencies of the federal government and complicit environmental organizations have been working overtime to get people out of rural areas and into “stack-‘n’-pack” high-rise so-called “sustainable” communities. Under the guise of “preserving open space,” unelected bureaucrats ignore the property rights of the people who own the open space and write regulations that sometimes require as much as 40 acres to build a single home. Quite often, development of any sort is absolutely prohibited. These regulations are typically delivered to a community through a comprehensive land-use plan.

In more rural areas, especially in the farming and ranching parts of the country, these measures have not been as successful as the government wants. That’s why a new extension of the PCSD is needed. This time, however, they are calling it the White House Rural Council.

This Council, chaired by the secretary of Agriculture and consisting of the heads of 25 government departments and agencies, is charged with extending “sustainability” to that part of the country that has not already been subdued by the measures implemented by the PCSD.

How will they do it? Let us count the ways.

Consider the Department of Transportation’s recent announcement of its intention to reclassify farm vehicles and implements as “commercial” vehicles and require all drivers of these vehicles to hold a Commercial Driver’s License. Applicants for a CDL must be 21 years of age, submit a medical record, a complete driving record from any state in which a license has been obtained and pass rigorous written and driving tests. CDL holders must keep a log of their activities available to law enforcement at any time, must not work more than 12 consecutive hours, must carry at least $750,000 in liability insurance and many more requirements that farmers and ranchers just can’t meet.

Farm children have always helped by learning early how to drive farm vehicles. Grandpa could drive the tractor, when he could not do the heavy lifting he did as a youngster. This DOT regulation will end farming and ranching as it has always been known in this country. Farmers and ranchers cannot afford to pay professional CDL holders to come plow the fields, mow the hay, or harvest the corn. Farmers and ranchers who can no longer make a living from the land will have no choice but to sell their land and move to a “stack-‘n’-pack” sustainable community. The only potential buyers for these farms are corporate agricultural conglomerates, land trusts, or the government. Since comprehensive land-use plans or other government regulations preclude the possibility of development in the open space, farmers and ranchers will never get the real value of the land.

To add to the hardship on rural families, the Department of Agriculture is still planning to require every farm animal to have an electronic identification ear tag, which will add more costs and bureaucratic red tape to farming and ranching operations.

Every agency that is a member of the White House Rural Council can, and will, find some regulation that rural land owners must comply with to stay on their land. This new executive order has but one purpose: to further tighten regulatory control over people in rural communities to ensure that their lifestyle becomes “sustainable,” or in plain language, government-approved.