NEWS of the Day - June 20, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - June 20, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


From the Washington Times

Libya becomes focal point for foiling terror

Militant havens expand

by Kristina Wong

A breakdown of security in Libya has allowed a significant flow of militants and weapons into other troubled areas in North Africa, according to the top Pentagon official on Africa policy.

The outflow of Libyan weapons and militants has “created opportunities for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to exploit instability and establish new and expanded safe havens,” said Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Amanda J. Dory.

Speaking at a conference sponsored by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies this week, Ms. Dory specifically noted the turbulent situation in Mali , where rebel military forces and Islamist militants have seized control of a large part of the country.

The developments highlight the growing U.S. military interest and involvement in Africa as the Pentagon implements a strategy to thwart militants and terrorist groups across the continent.

According to the U.S. intelligence community's 2012 Worldwide Threat Assessment, Africa-based terrorist groups such as al-Shabab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Algeria and Boko Haram in Nigeria will surpass the remnants of the “core” al Qaeda in Pakistan in terms of threats to U.S. interests and will seek opportunities to strike Western targets in their operating areas.

To counter the threat, the Pentagon is working in close coordination with the State Department and 10 partner countries to build a regional counterterrorism capacity, Ms. Dory said.

“Regional cooperation and information-sharing between militaries will be more important than ever as we grapple with the challenges associated with the outpouring of weapons and people from Libya into the greater Maghreb and Sahel regions,” she said.

New policy, new strategy

It is this kind of partnered response that the Pentagon is building upon in its defense strategy in sub-Saharan Africa, which seeks to deepen security partnerships with African nations and regional organizations to address threats and challenges.

“The interests of the United States and Africa converge in important ways,” Ms. Dory said. “The United States is more secure when our friends and allies around the world are secure.”

Defense officials note that President Obama recently issued an Africa directive calling for a focus on strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth and investment, promoting development, and advancing peace and stability.

Ms. Dory's public remarks Monday were the first by a defense official on the new policy and strategy in Africa.

The strategy calls for the U.S. to leverage its expertise in border security, maritime-aviation security, cybersecurity and financial transactions to counter the illicit movement of people, arms, drugs and money, she said.

“We will concentrate our efforts on disrupting, dismantling and eventually defeating al Qaeda and its affiliates and adherents in Africa and elsewhere,” Ms. Dory said.

J. Peter Pham , director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, said the new strategy is really a continuation of various programs begun by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to build up African military capacity and peacekeeping.

“This is continuity,” he said. “With the exception of a few despotic regimes like Sudan under Bashir and Zimbabwe under Mugabe, there's virtually no African government that the United States and [U.S. Africa Command] does not partner with, even in the most modest of fashions.”

U.S. forces in Africa

Still, he said, he welcomes the administration's effort to formulate a new policy on Africa.

“I congratulate the administration for doing it. I think it's something that's worthwhile; on the other hand, I think it's overdue,” Mr. Pham said. “Three-and-a-half years into an administration of a president who was hailed as the first president of African descent, he spent less than 24 hours on the ground in sub-Saharan Africa.

“So it's long overdue, but it's going to take more than a piece of paper that doesn't list priorities to right U.S. policy in Africa.”

One example of a long-existing effort that will continue is the deployment of U.S. Special Forces to Africa.

In October, the president authorized the deployment of about 100 commandos to advise local forces pursuing the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), and in April announced a continued deployment through 2013.

“The small teams of U.S. military advisers now present with forward-deployed Ugandan military forces and national military forces in field locations are in LRA -affected areas,” Ms. Dory said.

“At these locations, the advisers have made progress in strengthening the relationships between military officials and … civilian officials and other organizations, enhancing information-sharing and synchronization and helping with training and planning,” she said, adding that regional partners include Uganda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Ms. Dory also noted that U.S. military advisers in Congo are supporting U.N. operations as well as the nation's efforts to drive out militants with the LRA, which has plagued the area for years.

“We're satisfied with the results of the deployment to date. The advisers have established a good working relationship and foundation with partner militaries,” she said.

The strategy is aimed at informing domestic audiences and partners in Africa that the Obama administration views Africa as important, said retired Army Col. Tom Dempsey, chairman for security studies at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

“Leadership matters, and American leadership matters a lot,” he said. “This strategy is saying that this matters, it matters to us, and we need to do something about it.”



Talk of drones patrolling U.S. skies spawns anxiety

by Joan Lowy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The prospect that thousands of drones could be patrolling U.S. skies by the end of this decade is raising the specter of a Big Brother government that peers into backyards and bedrooms.

The worries began mostly on the political margins, but there are signs that ordinary people are starting to fret that unmanned aircraft could soon be circling overhead.

Jeff Landry, a freshman Republican congressman from Louisiana's coastal bayou country, said constituents have stopped him while shopping at Walmart to talk about it.

“There is a distrust amongst the people who have come and discussed this issue with me about our government,” Landry said. “It's raising an alarm with the American public.”

Another GOP freshman, Rep. Austin Scott , said he first learned of the issue when someone shouted out a question about drones at a Republican Party meeting in his Georgia congressional district two months ago.

An American Civil Liberties Union lobbyist, Chris Calabrese, said that when he speaks to audiences about privacy issues generally, drones are what “everybody just perks up over.”

“People are interested in the technology, they are interested in the implications and they worry about being under surveillance from the skies,” he said.

The level of apprehension is especially high in the conservative blogosphere, where headlines blare “30,000 Armed Drones to be Used Against Americans” and “Government Drones Set to Spy on Farms in the United States.”

When Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, suggested during a radio interview last month that drones be used by police domestically since they've done such a good job on foreign battlefields, the political backlash was swift. NetRightDaily complained: “This seems like something a fascist would do. … McDonnell isn't pro-Big Government , he is pro-HUGE Government .”

John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, Va., which provides legal assistance in support of civil liberties and conservative causes, warned the governor, “America is not a battlefield, and the citizens of this nation are not insurgents in need of vanquishing.”

There's concern as well among liberal civil liberties advocates that government and private-sector drones will be used to gather information on Americans without their knowledge. A lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation of San Francisco, whose motto is “defending your rights in the digital world,” forced the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year to disclose the names of dozens of public universities, police departments and other government agencies that have been awarded permission to fly drones in civilian airspace on an experimental basis.

Giving drones greater access to U.S. skies moves the nation closer to “a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities,” the ACLU warned last December in a report.

The anxiety has spilled over into Congress, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers have been meeting to discuss legislation that would broadly address the civil-liberty issues raised by drones. A Landry provision in a defense spending bill would prohibit information gathered by military drones without a warrant from being used as evidence in court. A provision that Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., added to another bill would prohibit the Homeland Security Department from arming its drones, including ones used to patrol the border.

Scott and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. , have introduced identical bills to prohibit any government agency from using a drone to “gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a regulation” without a warrant.

“I just don't like the concept of drones flying over barbecues in New York to see whether you have a Big Gulp in your backyard or whether you are separating out your recyclables according to the city mandates,” Paul said in an interview, referring to a New York City ban on supersized soft drinks.

He acknowledged that is an “extreme example,” but added: “They might just say we'd be safer from muggings if we had constant surveillance crisscrossing the street all the time. But then the question becomes, what about jaywalking? What about eating too many donuts? What about putting mayonnaise on your hamburger? Where does it stop?”

Calabrese, the ACLU lobbyist, called Paul's office as soon as he heard about the bill.

“I told them we think they are starting from the right place,” Calabrese said. “You should need some kind of basis before you use a drone to spy on someone.”

In a Congress noted for its political polarization, legislation to check drone use has the potential to forge “a left-right consensus,” he said. “It bothers us for a lot of the same reasons it bothers conservatives.”

The backlash has drone makers concerned. The drone market is expected to nearly double over the next 10 years, from current worldwide expenditures of nearly $6 billion annually to more than $11 billion, with police departments accounting for a significant part of that growth.

“We go into this with every expectation that the laws governing public safety and personal privacy will not be administered any differently for (drones) than they are for any other law enforcement tool,” said Dan Elwell, vice president of the Aerospace Industries Association.

Discussion of the issue has been colored by exaggerated drone tales spread largely by conservative media and bloggers.

Scott said he was prompted to introduce his bill in part by news reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has been using drones to spy on cattle ranchers in Nebraska. The agency has indeed been searching for illegal dumping of waste into streams but is doing it the old-fashioned way, with piloted planes.

In another case, a forecast of 30,000 drones in U.S. skies by 2020 has been widely attributed to the FAA. But FAA spokeswoman Brie Sachse said the agency has no idea where the figure came from. It may be a mangled version of an aerospace industry forecast that there could be nearly 30,000 drones worldwide by 2018, with the United States accounting for half of them.

Fear that some drones may be armed has been fueled in part by a county sheriff's office in Texas that used a homeland security grant to buy a $300,000, 50-pound ShadowHawk helicopter drone for its SWAT team. The drone can be equipped with a 40mm grenade launcher and a 12-gauge shotgun. Randy McDaniel, chief deputy with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, told The Associated Press earlier this year his office had no plans to arm the drone, but he left open the possibility the agency may decide to adapt the drone to fire tear gas canisters and rubber bullets.

Earlier this year Congress, under pressure from the Defense Department and the drone manufacturers, ordered the FAA to give drones greater access to civilian airspace by 2015. Besides the military, the mandate applies to drones operated by the private sector and civilian government agencies, including federal, state and local law enforcement.

Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass, and Joe Barton, R-Texas, co-chairs of a congressional privacy caucus, asked the FAA in April how it plans to protect privacy as it develops regulations for integrating drones into airspace now exclusively used by aircraft with human pilots. There's been no response so far, but Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will probably be asked about it when he testifies at a Senate hearing Thursday.

Even if the FAA were to establish privacy rules, it's primarily a safety agency and wouldn't have the expertise or regulatory structure to enforce them, civil liberties advocates said. But no other government agency is addressing the issue, either, they said.



From Google News

Rodney King's legacy, two decades after the riots

by Editorial Board

RODNEY KING has died, 21 years after a brutal assault by Los Angeles police officers made him a household name.

On March 3, 1991, King, then 25, was speeding on Interstate 210 at more than 100 miles per hour. Just released from a two-year sentence for robbery, he had been drinking and was well aware that he would be found in violation of his parole if stopped. When he did finally pull over after an eight-mile police chase, he acted aggressively with the officers. What happened next, however, sent shockwaves through the country: Recorded by a bystander on home video, officers tased and kicked Mr. King and bludgeoned him with metal batons more than 50 times.

After these images aired worldwide — and especially after riots erupted in Los Angeles after the acquittal of several of the officers — Rodney King became a reminder of police brutality and of the persistence of institutionalized racism. Two decades later, how much has changed?

Some good did come of Mr. King's suffering. In subsequent years, the Los Angeles Police Department — mostly under the direction of chief William Bratton — actively pursued a model of community policing that focused on regaining the trust of minority communities wary of racial profiling and the needless reliance on force. Community policing has been largely successful in Los Angeles and has since been implemented in other cities. The home video, too, was a reminder to police everywhere of an emerging culture of public accountability and the demands it makes of officers.

But many of the fears and suspicions that fueled the riots of 1992 understandably persist. In February, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, police initially released George Zimmerman without charge; many saw race as the primary explanation of that decision. In New York City, police stop-and-frisk practices disproportionately target minorities: statistics from the New York Civil Liberties Union show that, in the last decade, of the roughly 700,000 people stopped each year, almost 90 percent are either black or Latino. Figures like these are what drive thousands of people to public protests against police authority, as in New York this past weekend.

Earlier this year, Mr. King told the Los Angeles Times he was written into a drama he wanted no part of: “I never went to school to be ‘Rodney King.'?” There's still work to do to ensure that he didn't play the role for nought.