“Trump’s firing of James Comey yesterday proves that even those who carry water for the president are not safe.. After all, Trump and his cronies are investigable for so very many things”

VIA WWW

Trump’s firing of James Comey yesterday proves that even those who carry water for the president are not safe. Trump is in greater peril, it seems, by the hour. And in response, the long knives are out for anyone who is less than 100 percent dependable.

He needs unquestioned loyalists around him — especially in the office that could send almost anyone to prison.

After all, Trump and his cronies are investigable for so very many things, from questionable business dealings and conflicts of interest to tax matters to allegedly colluding with the Russian government.

Comey, under criticism for his own actions, faced significant public pressure to demonstrate that the FBI does its job. That could not have sounded good to Trump.

As it happened, just hours before the Comey news broke, WhoWhatWhy had published a lengthy investigation into the back story to Comey’s most famous — or infamous — act. It chronicled how Trump’s close surrogates and media allies pressured the FBI director to reopen the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Evidence strongly suggests that this surprising move days before the election was decisive in Trump’s unexpected victory.

Overall, having Comey at the Bureau was a blessing for Trump. Besides damaging Clinton, he also aided Trump by withholding information about the Bureau’s potentially much more serious probe into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.

The incoming president knew he had a good thing going. In early January, during a reception for top law-enforcement officials, an obviously grateful Trump singled Comey out for special praise and even a hug. But he soon cooled on the FBI director — as he so often does with people.

Also, Comey’s life was growing increasingly complicated, and he himself appeared to have lost his footing. In recent days, he looked incompetent in front of Congress, even bungling key testimony, such as exponentially overstating the quantity of Clinton emails forwarded to Anthony Weiner’s computer. Trump, who if anything is about appearances, could not have enjoyed watching this televised spectacle.

But the real problem was, as they say in mafia movies, you’re either with us or you’re….out.

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Trump said in a letter dated Tuesday.

Comey is only the second FBI director ever to be fired. He joins William Sessions, who was dismissed by Bill Clinton in 1993.

Ostensibly, the reason for Comey being sacked was his “handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails,” according to a May 9th memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. That reasoning rings hollow, however, as the alleged fireable offense took place more than six months ago.

It is much more likely that Comey’s revelation that Trump’s campaign is being investigated for its Russia ties as well as his testimony before the Senate last week were the real reason for his dismissal.

Trump and his team are desperately seeking to stifle Russiagate. Matters continue to heat up on that front. As we write, CNN is reporting that prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas. Firing one of the people in government who knows most about that sensitive topic would serve that aim twofold.

The FBI is itself entwined in the matter and urgently needs to clear the air. As WhoWhatWhy reported in another major investigation, published in late March, the Bureau maintained a long and close informant relationship with a Trump business associate working out of Trump Tower. The president may have been worried about where that thread could lead, as it includes hints as to Trump receiving long-term financing from oligarchs tied to Vladimir Putin and organized crime.

Comey now can’t make any trouble on the matter; and it serves to put any other determined federal appointees — planning to rigorously follow Russiagate even if it leads to the Oval Office — on notice that such conduct will mean the end of their career.

Not surprisingly, Trump acolytes are presenting the firing as long in coming. As the veteran Trump strategist and hatchet man Roger Stone, himself under scrutiny in Russiagate, tweeted yesterday:

“Two years ago I go to the F.B.I. because my son was doing really bad, O.K.? But they check almost two months, they say, ‘He’s O.K., he’s clean, he’s not a terrorist'”

Via NYT

Two years before the bombings that Ahmad Khan Rahami is suspected of carrying out in New York and New Jersey, his father told the police that he suspected his son might be involved in terrorism, prompting a review by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agency said on Tuesday.

The father, Mohammad Rahami, in a brief interview, said that at the time he told agents from the F.B.I. about his concern, his son had just had a fight with another of his sons and stabbed the man, leading to a criminal investigation.

“Two years ago I go to the F.B.I. because my son was doing really bad, O.K.?” he said. “But they check almost two months, they say, ‘He’s O.K., he’s clean, he’s not a terrorist.’ I say O.K.”

He added: “Now they say he is a terrorist. I say O.K.”

Federal agents did not interview Mr. Rahami, according to officials, and closed the investigation after several weeks.

“In August 2014, the F.B.I. initiated an assessment of Ahmad Rahami based upon comments made by his father after a domestic dispute that were subsequently reported to authorities,” the agency said in a statement. “The F.B.I. conducted internal database reviews, interagency checks, and multiple interviews, none of which revealed ties to terrorism.”

One day after Mr. Rahami was taken into custody and three days after bombs exploded in Chelsea in Manhattan and the Jersey Shore, investigators on Tuesday were learning more about what might have motivated the attack, but they still have many unanswered questions.

When Mr. Rahami was captured during a shootout with the police on Monday, the authorities found a notebook, pierced with a bullet hole and covered in blood, expressing opinions sympathetic to jihadist causes, according to a law enforcement official who agreed to speak about the investigation only on the condition of anonymity.

In one section of the book, Mr. Rahami wrote of “killing the kuffar,” or unbelievers, the official said. Mr. Rahami also praised Anwar al-Awlaki, Al Qaeda’s leading propagandist, who died in a drone strike in Yemen, as well as the soldier in the Fort Hood shooting, one of the deadliest “lone wolf” attacks inspired by Al Qaeda.

Five years after his death in a drone strike in Yemen ordered by President Obama, Mr. Awlaki remains a powerful influence on would-be jihadists, especially in the English-speaking West. Among his documented admirers were Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.; Omar Mateen, who fatally shot 49 people in an Orlando nightclub; and Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who staged an attack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon with pressure-cooker bombs in 2013.

Thousands of Mr. Awlaki’s lectures and jihadist declarations are available on the web, as is Inspire magazine, which has published detailed instructions for making pipe bombs as well as more sophisticated explosive devices using pressure cookers and Christmas lights, the same components used in the New York-area bombs.

One key area of investigation is around the question of whether Mr. Rahami had help building the bombs or if anyone knew what he was doing and failed to report it. In all, he is linked to 10 explosive devices found in the region, including the two pressure-cooker bombs, one of which exploded in Chelsea on Saturday night, injuring 29 people.

No terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attack. While the Islamic State is usually quick to claim credit for attacks around the world, organizations linked to Al Qaeda vary widely in when or if they claim credit.

The authorities are scrutinizing a number of trips Mr. Rahami made overseas, particularly several to Pakistan. In May 2011, he made a three-month trip to Quetta, according to law enforcement officials, citing Customs and Border Protection records. Then, in April 2013, he made another trip to Quetta and did not return until March 2014, according to information provided to federal customs authorities by the New York City police.

Notably, Mr. Rahami underwent an additional interview at the airport with Customs and Border Protection officers on his returns from both of those trips, but customs officers did not flag any concerns in his travel records. Mr. Rahami was born in Afghanistan but he became a naturalized United States citizen when he was still a minor.

Two law enforcement officials said that Mr. Rahami’s wife, Asia Bibi Rahami, was traveling overseas when the bombing occurred. In a statement the United Arab Emirates said Ms. Rahami had been in transit through the country and was detained for questioning.

A senior law enforcement official said on Tuesday that Ms. Rahami had made a statement to the F.B.I. and could be flown to the United States as soon as possible. The F.B.I. still believes that Mr. Rahami acted alone but is trying to speak with everyone who knew him.

Just before Mr. Rahami returned from his last trip to Pakistan in March, he emailed Representative Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat, asking for help getting a visa for his wife to come to America, according to Mr. Sires.

Ms. Rahami’s Pakistani passport had expired, and agents at the United States Embassy in Islamabad discovered that she was 35 weeks pregnant, Mr. Sires said. Ms. Rahami was told that she would need to wait until her baby was born so she could apply for United States visas for both her and her child.

She eventually made it into the United States, though it was unclear when her visa issue was resolved. But in August 2014, Mr. Rahami got into a fight with his family, during which he stabbed his brother in the leg with a knife, according to court records.

The police arrived to investigate, and it was at this time that Mr. Rahami’s father told them about his concerns about his son’s possible involvement in terrorism. The information was passed to the Joint Terrorism Task Force led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Newark. Officers opened what is known as an assessment, the most basic of F.B.I. investigations, and interviewed the father.

An official, when asked about the inquiry, said the father made the comment out of anger at his son and later recanted it.

The assessment of Mr. Rahami is illustrative of the challenges the F.B.I. faces as it solicits information from the public about people who might pose a threat but then has to sort through what is credible and what is not.

The agency has been criticized as not having done enough in previous terrorism attacks, such as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing; bureau officials say they must balance the need to protect the country while not overstepping its authority.

In the case of Mr. Rahami, the F.B.I. did not develop any further information that would have justified opening a more serious investigation, according to officials.

In Boston, one of the brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was also the subject of an assessment in 2011.

And in that case, the F.B.I. also did not generate any additional leads that would have prompted a more serious investigation.

The Tsarnaev assessment was one of approximately 1,000 the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston carried out that year.

In the Orlando nightclub attack this year, the circumstances were different. Omar Mateen, who carried out the deadly assault, had made highly inflammatory comments, which came to the attention of investigators. He told colleagues he had family ties to Al Qaeda and was a member of Hezbollah. During the 10-month investigation, Mr. Mateen was interviewed twice and the F.B.I. used confidential informers and recorded his calls. But the bureau found no evidence that his statements were credible or that he had ties to terrorism.

Mr. Rahami did face criminal charges of aggravated assault and illegal weapons possession stemming from the domestic dispute, according to court records. He spent over three months in jail, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. A grand jury, however, declined to indict Mr. Rahami.

Mr. Rahami remained in the hospital on Tuesday, recovering from surgery for gunshot wounds he sustained during the firefight with the police. Two officers were also injured in the gunfight.

A Linden police officer, Angel Padilla, who was wearing a bulletproof vest when he was shot in the abdomen, was released from the hospital Monday night, according to Capt. James Sarnicki of the Linden department.

Peter Hammer, a traffic investigator who was sitting in his patrol car when a bullet came through his windshield and grazed his head, was released Tuesday morning from University Hospital in Newark, Captain Sarnicki said.

Mr. Rahami is currently charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, among other offenses.

Peter Liguori, the deputy public defender in Union County, N.J., said that his office had not received a call or application for a lawyer in Mr. Rahami’s case.

“If he applies, we’ll help him,” Mr. Ligouri said. “We would represent him if he needs our services.”

Mr. Rahami had a daughter with a high school girlfriend, Maria Mena, and on Tuesday, she filed court papers seeking full custody of the child, citing his possible involvement in “terrorist-related activity in NYC.”

“Considering the disturbing activities conducted by FBI informants during these “investigations,” the FBI appears obligated to tell the American public just what their “informants” were doing with Florida shooting suspect Omar Mateen in the 10 months they were “investigating” him beginning in 2013″

FBI informants and Orlando shooter

It is now confirmed that in addition to two investigations and two interviews, Florida terror suspect Omar Mateen was also approached by “informants” working for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over a period of 10 months.

New York Daily News in their article, “FBI spied on Orlando gay club terrorist Omar Mateen for 10 months in 2013: FBI Director James Comey,” would admit (emphasis added):

Mateen first appeared on authorities’ radar in 2013 after the security guard’s colleagues alerted the FBI to inflammatory statements he made to colleagues claiming “family connections to Al Qaeda,” according to Comey.

Mateen also told coworkers he had a family member who belonged to Hezbollah, a Shia network that is a bitter enemy of ISIS — the network he pledged allegiance to the night of the carnage, Comey noted.

The FBI’s Miami office opened an inquiry into Mateen.

“He said he hoped that law enforcement would raid his apartment and assault his wife and child so he could martyr himself,” Comey said.

Nevertheless, FBI investigators investigated Mateen, who was born in New York, for 10 months. They introduced him to confidential informants, spied on his communications and followed him. They also interviewed him twice.

Informants Posing as Handlers

The significance of this cannot be understated. “Informants” in this context, according to FBI affidavits regarding similar counterterrorism investigations, refers to individuals posing as members of terrorist organizations who approach suspects, coerce them into planning and preparing for terrorist attacks, before finally aiding the FBI in the suspect’s arrest before the attack is finally carried out.

Among the activities these informants carry out includes providing and training suspects in the use of real explosives, providing suspects with arsenals of weapons precisely like those used in the recent shooting in Orlando Florida, and encouraging suspects to adopt “radical ideology” over the course of the investigation. Suspects are given the false impression that they are working on behalf of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda or the self-proclaimed “Islamic State,” often cultivating delusions of grandeur among otherwise mentally ill suspects…

..Considering the disturbing activities conducted by FBI informants during these “investigations,” the FBI appears obligated to tell the American public just what their “informants” were doing with Florida shooting suspect Omar Mateen in the 10 months they were “investigating” him beginning in 2013.

Did they also walk Mateen through planned attacks he ultimately backed out of? Did he eventually change his mind again after the FBI’s investigation was allegedly closed?

The American media and US elected representatives have an obligation to ask these questions, obtain this information from the FBI, and to reevaluate the FBI’s means and methods of investigating potential suspects through what is clearly a dangerous process of entrapment, indoctrination, and deceit.

The FBI’s counterterrorism program has not made America safer. It has clearly been used to provide a steady stream of “foiled attacks” that otherwise would never have materialized – causing hysteria, hatred, fear, and division across American society. The FBI’s counterterrorism program has also clearly failed monumentally to stop actual terror suspects know to them before real attacks have unfolded.

The FBI is supposed to represent an asset for the domestic security of the United States – but in reality it appears to be one of the most compromised of liabilities.

—————————————————————-

UPDATE: Just finished reading this interesting article on another site…

(Omar)Mateen also studied at the Fundamental Islamic Knowledge Seminary in Orlando, run by one Marcus Dwayne Robertson — himself an FBI informant. According to a profile in Fox News today, Robertson was a former Marine who became the leader of a criminal network of bank robbers in New York, called “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.” Robertson was apparently arrested in 1991, but then became the “body guard to the Blind Sheik [Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman] involved in the 1993 World Trade Center Attack,” only one of the numerous other points of FBI “control” in that operation. Robertson later served four years in prison, then again as informant from 2004 to 2007, “to document terrorist plans and networks in Africa, Egypt and the United States.” Now calling himself Abu Taubah, he re-surfaced in Florida and started his “Seminary,” where he preached against homosexuality.

A report in Sunday’s Florida Today quotes Daniel Gilroy, a recent co-worker of Mateen. “I quit because everything he said was toxic,” Gilroy said, “and the company [g4s] wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.”

FBI had interviewed Orlando nightclub shooter in 2013 and 2014…

DJ Blendz note: As usual, law enforcement or intelligence agency is found to had have some type of contact with ‘terror suspect’ before the mayhem…

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had interviewed the suspect in the Orlando nightclub mass shooting three times before the fateful attack occurred on Sunday.

At least 50 people were killed and 53 more were injured in a shooting at the Pulse Club in Orlando, Florida on Sunday morning.

The gunman, identified by US media as an alleged Daesh sympathizer named Omar Mateen, a US citizen of Afghani descent from Port St. Lucie, Florida, took hostages at the club and barricaded himself in the complex but was later killed by specially trained SWAT units.

According to an intelligence official, the FBI first noticed Mateen in 2013 when he made “inflammatory comments to coworkers alleging possible terrorist ties.”

The agency interviewed him twice in the course of that investigation but it was unable to verify the substance of his comments.

The FBI again carried out an investigation into possible ties between Mateen and a US suicide bomber in 2014. The agency interviewed Mateen again but determined that the contact did not constitute a threat at that time.

The FBI said it is investigating both domestic and international connections to the mass shooting that was reportedly claimed by the Daesh terrorist group.

Mateen allegedly called 911 moments before the attack, pledging allegiance to the terror group, the Lost Angeles Times reported, citing a federal law enforcement official.

Earlier on Sunday, Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on a congressional intelligence committee had said that local law enforcement believed the suspect in Sunday’s deadly Orlando shooting had pledged allegiance to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

“We had Wake Up Niggers, Niggers Are Scared of Revolution … Our thing was not to use that word as casually as the kids today”

Via CR

One day last December, Umar Bin Hassan of the Last Poets attended a gathering in Chicago to commemorate local Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, who was shot dead by the police 40 years earlier. There were about 30 people, including the widows of Hampton and fellow Panther Eldridge Cleaver, and former members of radical groups such as Weatherman. “We laughed and drank wine and talked about what we all had been through,” Hassan says. “I’m glad I made it. It was good to see a lot of those people still living, you know?”

They were survivors of a turbulent period. In 1968, just two years after Oakland residents Huey Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panthers, FBI director J Edgar Hoover called the party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and set about spending millions of dollars to infiltrate, sabotage and divide it. By the mid 70s, it was in terminal decline, and Hampton was far from the only fatality.

The Panthers’ legacy has been fiercely debated ever since. Some people claim the leadership, especially Newton, were their own worst enemies: paranoid hotheads prone to violence and cronyism. Others regard them as heroes who gave young African-Americans power and pride in the face of endemic racism, only to be brought down by Hoover’s machinations. A new project, Tongues on Fire, aims to accentuate the positive, bringing together the party’s official artist and minister of culture, Emory Douglas, with musicians such as the Last Poets, the Roots and jazz saxophonist David Murray.

Valerie Malot, a Frenchwoman who is Murray’s wife and producer, conceived Tongues on Fire after attending an activist convention in Oakland and seeing Bobby Seale selling a Panther-themed hot sauce named after the famous 60s war cry Burn Baby Burn. “I was really shocked when you’ve tried all your life to change people’s conditions and you end up selling hot sauce at a convention,” she says. Malot’s focus on Douglas makes sense. He came to work on the Black Panther newspaper when the party had barely a dozen members, and the vivid, revolutionary designs he produced during the subsequent decade are part of the era’s visual vocabulary. But the Panthers’ relationship with music was much more complex.

When Newton and Seale were preparing the first edition of the newspaper in 1966, they listened obsessively to “brother Bobby” Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, especially Ballad of a Thin Man, which Newton read, rather fancifully, as a parable of racist oppression. At this point, black artists were still using code words such as “respect” and “pushing” when dealing with the subject of race. Even after blackness entered pop’s lexicon via James Brown’s Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud, Newton and Seale’s rhetoric, and Douglas’s artwork, only found their musical analogue with the arrival of the Last Poets.

Formed in Harlem in 1968, the Last Poets lost most of their founding members before they even recorded their debut album. The classic lineup on the Poets’ eponymous 1970 release consisted of Abiodun Oyewole, Jalal Mansur Nuriddin and Umar Bin Hassan. In his hometown of Akron, Ohio, Hassan had been an angry young man looking for direction when he saw the Panthers’ first televised action: their armed entrance into the California legislature in May 1967.

“Woah,” he remembers. “I was so excited to see some young black men do that. The Panthers were my first introduction to black militancy. About two months later I saw Huey Newton on the news, standing on the fenders of two cars and throwing down his fists at these white cops. I thought the revolution was going to begin and end in California. I ain’t never been in a gang, but if I was going to be in a gang I wanted to be in a gang that stood up and defended the black community from racist cops.”

Nobody had ever heard anything like the Last Poets. They combined the militant spirit of avant-garde jazz musicians such as Archie Shepp with the furious poetry of Amiri Baraka, who called for “poems that kill: assassin poems”. Their rage was aimed at both white America (“the Statue of Liberty is a prostitute”) and apathetic, unrevolutionary black people. Controversially, they called these people “niggers”.

“The Last Poets out-niggered everybody,” Hassan says with a throaty chuckle. “We had Wake Up Niggers, Niggers Are Scared of Revolution … Our thing was not to use that word as casually as the kids today. You got young kids who think it’s OK to be a nigger. Nah, it ain’t OK. We were trying to get rid of the nigger in our community and in ourselves. The difference between us and hip-hop is we had direction, we had a movement, we had people who kept our eyes on the prize. We weren’t just bullshitting and jiving.”

Despite zero airplay, the response to the album from those who heard it was “overwhelming” and the Panthers saw a fantastic recruitment opportunity in the Poets. “Everybody knew how much the people liked us and everybody wanted us to become a part of their thing,” says Hassan. “But we kept ourselves independent.” They did not need to be card-carrying members in order to be useful. “Music to [the Panthers] was something to get people’s attention so they could speak,” says David Murray, who was a teenager at the time. “Like a trumpet sounds and then there’s a speech.”

Very soon the party had a soundtrack, with such radical poets as the Watts Prophets, Nikki Giovanni and Gil Scott-Heron emerging almost simultaneously (although Scott-Heron was sceptical about “would-be revolutionaries” with “afros, handshakes and dashikis” in his song Brother). Sympathetic rock stars such as Santana and the Grateful Dead played fundraisers. The party even attempted to launch its own musical stars. Elaine Brown, a new recruit who later became the party’s minister of information and, eventually, chairman, recorded a vocal jazz album called Seize the Time and a follow-up for Motown, Until We’re Free. At Emory Douglas’s suggestion, four San Francisco Panthers formed a Temptations-style soul group with the Marx-inspired name of the Lumpen, though songs such as Revolution Is the Only Solution and Old Pig Nixon were a long way from the Temptations in terms of chart appeal.

Unlike the Last Poets’ output, this was pure propaganda music. As the Lumpen’s Michael Torrance explains on the Black Panther history site It’s About Time: “The music was simply another facet of service to the Party and the Revolution. Furthermore, since we were an educational cadre, rigorous study was necessary to be able to translate the ideology of the BPP into song.” The musicians employed the same strategy as Douglas did with his artwork. “Huey and Bobby always said that the African-American community wasn’t a reading community but they learned through observation and participation,” Douglas says. “[African revolutionary] Samora Machel said you have to be able to speak in a way that a child could understand.” Indeed, the Panthers’ most famous song, written after Newton’s arrest for murdering a police officer in 1967, was a two-line chant that even children could sing: “Black is beautiful/ Free Huey!”

In 1970, the year the Last Poets began their album with the ominous phrase “time is running out”, it seemed to many US radicals, black and white alike, that revolution was imminent. But within a couple of years, the Black Panther Party was in disarray, largely thanks to the dirty tricks of the FBI. “Those who have the power always have the time and resources to get together,” Hassan says. “They took their blows for a minute but then they realised, ‘We gotta come back at this.’”

The agency fomented civil war between Newton and Cleaver, with bloody consequences. Douglas, who was regularly tailed by FBI agents, remembers seeing his artwork imitated on a forged pamphlet attacking another black organisation. “They tried to destroy and discredit the Black Panther Party by any means necessary,” he says. “We knew what was going on but you couldn’t put your finger on it.” The Watts Writers Workshop, the base of the Watts Prophets, was burned to the ground by a trusted employee who, it transpired, was an FBI plant. The Last Poets were constantly monitored, as Hassan discovered years later when he saw his FBI files. “We were on President Nixon’s list, the defence department list, the national security list. It kind of blew my mind.”

Not all the blame, however, can be laid at the government’s door. The Huey Newton who emerged from jail to retake the party leadership in late 1970 was a troubled, paranoid character who acquired a taste for cocaine and groupies and soon fell out with Cleaver. “Bobby Seale was the brains,” says David Murray. “Huey Newton was an action person. He would just go and do it. That might also be why he’s not alive [Newton was shot by a crack dealer in 1989].”

Despite positive achievements such as a free breakfast programme for poor children, the mood of mistrust caused Panther members to desert en masse. Elaine Brown resigned the chairmanship in 1977 after Newton approved the beating of a female party administrator. Eight years earlier she had recorded Seize the Time. Now the time was definitely past.

“We all thought we were moving towards bringing about something new, something good, for America – not just for black people, but for all people,” Hassan says. “But when you started seeing one brother go one way and another brother snitching, a lot of us went back on to the streets doing what we were doing before, selling drugs or hustling, because we were disappointed.” Hassan himself left the Last Poets in 1974 and became a cocaine addict, giving poetry readings in crackhouses. “Yeah man, there was a lot of disappointment.”

Asked about the Panthers’ balance sheet, Emory Douglas draws a long sigh. “I would say we did the best we could under the circumstances. You have to understand that never in the history of the country had any organisation stood up to the challenges in the way we did and at such a young age.” David Murray thinks the party has to be seen in context. “This was a time when California was changing the world. I was a hippie, I was a Black Panther, I was in the Nation of Islam. That was how you grew up during that time – you had to dabble in each one.”

Tongues on Fire demonstrates that the era’s revolutionary art, visual and musical, outlasted the party that inspired it. Chaka Khan and Chic’s Nile Rodgers drew from their experience as members. Bands such as Public Enemy (whose Chuck D remembers singing “Free Huey!” as a child) pitched themselves as the Panthers’ heirs: “This party started right in ’66/ With a pro-black radical mix.” Naturally, they were fans of the Last Poets.

A few years ago, Hassan met former Panther chairman David Hilliard in Oakland. “He said, ‘Do you know how important you guys were? People listened to y’all. Y’all made people want to be Panthers and join the Nation of Islam. Y’all were as important as anyone because you made people think.’ It took me a long time to understand how much influence we had on that time.”

FBI director admits spy planes were used in Ferguson and Baltimore protests…

Via

FBI Director James Comey admitted in testimony last week before the House Judiciary Committee that the agency conducted surveillance flights over mass protests against police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland over the past year, at the request of local police departments. Comey’s remarks confirmed an earlier Associated Press report revealing the FBI’s extensive use of secret flyovers throughout the country.

The hearing itself, mislabeled as being dedicated to the “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” was a further indication of the ability of government agencies like the FBI to carry out illegal mass surveillance against the American population with impunity. Comey contradicted himself at key points through his testimony, which the members of the Committee allowed to pass without comment.

He absurdly claimed in his testimony that the FBI’s flyovers are not used for “mass surveillance,” but only to track specific individuals targeted by an investigation, despite the obvious fact that low-flying, camera-equipped aircraft are ideally suited to follow large numbers of people simultaneously over a wide area. As the ACLU noted recently on its website, new technologies that are now commercially available to police departments nationwide can monitor an area of 25 square miles from low-circling aircraft.

Comey subsequently contradicted this claim when he effectively admitted that the FBI’s spy planes were deployed to Ferguson and Baltimore to spy on the protests as a whole and not specific individuals. “If there is tremendous turbulence in a community, it’s useful to everybody, civilians and law enforcement, to have a view of what’s going on,” Comey told the Committee. “Where are the fires in this community? Where are people gathering ? Where do people need help? And sometimes the best view of that is above rather than trying to look from a car on the street (emphasis added).”

In fact, the federal government closely coordinated with state and local police from day one in both Ferguson and Baltimore in directing the military-style crackdown on largely peaceful protesters. Leading Washington officials, including Barack Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder, lent their voices to the demonization of protesters in order to legitimize the use of violence against them. There can be no doubt that the FBI, an organization with a long history of political repression against dissident groups, was intimately involved at the highest levels in the direction of the crackdown.

Comey then explained under direct questioning that the agency does not obtain warrants before carrying out flyovers, because, as he claimed, “We are not collecting the content of anybody’s communication or engaging anything besides following someone in that investigation … The law is pretty clear that you don’t need a warrant for that kind of observation.” However, Comey later admitted to the Committee that at least some FBI planes are also equipped with “Stingray” technology, which mimics cell phone towers in order to fool nearby phones into establishing connections with it, enabling police to monitor communications and track users’ whereabouts.

Although the Justice Department changed its internal policy last month to require the FBI and other agencies to obtain search warrants before using “Stingray” devices, state and local police are able to use their own devices, subsidized by the federal government, with complete secrecy and without even token oversight. Furthermore, while a recent Justice Department memo banned agencies from using drones “solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment,” this restriction does not apply to manned aircraft such as those operated by the FBI.

Comey’s claim of a limited scope for surveillance does not square with the extraordinary level of secrecy surrounding the program. The Associated Press story this June, which first revealed the FBI’s use of surveillance flights, traced over 50 aircraft to shell companies set up by the bureau throughout the country, and found that the agency had conducted more than 100 flights in 11 states during a one-month span this spring.

The AP found that some flights circled “large, enclosed buildings,” such as malls and airports, “where aerial photography would be less effective than electronic signals collection,” suggesting the use of “Stingray” technology.

Furthermore, numerous flyovers have been observed in Dearborn, Michigan, a Detroit suburb with the country’s largest Arab-American community and which has been subjected to routine harassment by local and federal police since the September 11th attacks.

Comey’s frank admission of the FBI’s use of aerial surveillance was met with hardly a word of protest from the members of the House Judiciary Committee, ostensibly tasked with overseeing the activities of the federal police. Neither Comey’s claim that the FBI planes were not conducting “mass surveillance” in Ferguson nor his argument that such flights did not require a warrant were challenged by the Committee. Instead, members of the Committee competed with one another in showering Comey and his organization with fawning praise.

The day following his testimony before Congress, Comey gave a speech at the University of Chicago Law School in which he attempted to pin the blame on a supposed rise in crime rates on the increased public scrutiny of police in the aftermath of the Michael Brown killing last year. Comey was in Chicago in advance of this week’s conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“I don’t know whether that explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year,” Comey said. “I’ve been told by a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video … Lives are saved when those potential killers are confronted by a police officer, a strong police presence and actual, honest-to-goodness, up-close ‘What are you guys doing on this corner at 1 o’clock in the morning’ policing. We need to be careful it doesn’t drift away from us in the age of viral videos, or there will be profound consequences.”

The theory that a spike in violent crime nationwide in US cities is due in part to fear on the part of police that their activities will be recorded by hostile bystanders and posted on Youtube, known as the “Ferguson Effect,” has no basis in fact.

In the first place, there is no evidence that, outside of a few municipalities, there has been a statistically meaningful spike in violent crime in the United States at all. Second, the claim that police are legitimately concerned that they could face punishment if videos of their activity were recorded does not hold water when even officers who have been filmed committing acts of murder have not been disciplined, let alone arrested and charged with a crime. Finally, the only significant slowdowns in arrest rates this year have been due to work slowdowns, such as those organized in New York City and Baltimore, directed against city administrations deemed to be insufficiently fervent in their defense of the police.

Instead, the Ferguson Effect “theory” is a politically-motivated slander against police brutality protesters designed to portray police as victims and shield their activities from scrutiny. It has been most heavily promoted by right-wing demagogues and officials of local police unions. Even the New York Times, which functions as a compliant mouthpiece for the American state, was compelled to admit in its reporting of Comey’s remarks that the existence of a “Ferguson Effect” was “far from settled.”

The decision by Comey to publically solidarize himself with the arguments of the far-right was allegedly a source of some embarrassment to the Obama administration (the Times cited unnamed officials who “privately fumed” at Comey’s remarks).

However, the administration itself has deliberately allowed killer police to operate with impunity, intervening against the plaintiffs in every police brutality case heard by the Supreme Court, and, through its massive expansion of government surveillance and funneling of military hardware to local police departments, has contributed significantly to erecting the scaffolding of police state forms of rule.

If Comey felt secure in scapegoating police brutality protesters the day after he confirmed that the FBI conducted surveillance against them, it is because he knows his agency is subjected to virtually no democratic restraints.