Topeka, KS — Drivers as well as their passengers in Topeka Kansas will soon be subject to a new policy requiring everyone to put their hands up during police stops.
Police say they are implementing this policy because “we all want to go home to our families, and this makes it safer for us to approach vehicles to gain that compliance. It gives us a chance to survive these encounters.”
However, the implications regarding this practice are horrid, and many residents are up in arms about being forced to be up in arms.
“Every day somebody’s getting shot by a police officer, and it’s like ‘oh my goodness, will I be next?’, or will I be okay?” said one resident.
Local officers are citing the three tragic shooting deaths of officers in a two year period as the reasoning behind this policy.
“As we all know, we’ve lost three officers in less than 2 years and as a result of that we’ve had to take a hard look at the way we’re conducting business, particularly as it relates to car stops.” said TPD School Resource Officer Matt McClimans.
While this policy may seem like it has good intentions, nearly every aspect associated with it is tyrannical.
First of all, this “policy” was not approved by the taxpayers. No citizens got to vote on its implementation, and it is going to be enforced with potentially deadly force.
Secondly, it treats ALL parties stopped by police as criminals.
One resident summed it up perfectly by saying, “Make us feel safe, not automatically make us feel like criminals.”
“To put my hands up, I mean, I just can’t see how people are not offended by that,” said one resident.
“I think that is too aggressive, and unnecessary, and I don’t agree with it,” said another.
“Police and community interactions are tough enough as it is and the more demands, the tougher it’s going to be, and the more problems you’re going to have,” explained a resident.
Besides treating everyone they come in contact with as a criminal, forcing people to put their hands up creates a slew of other problems as well.
How would someone hold the police accountable by filming their own interactions if they are forced to raise their hands? All too often innocent people are vindicated after being beaten and assaulted by police, only because a cell phone was recording. This would end that.
Imagine a situation in which someone tries to point their phone out of the windows while they attempt to raise their hands, the end result would not be pretty if officers mistook the phone for a gun.
What if a passenger in the vehicle is paralyzed, or temporarily disabled and they cannot raise their hands? Is this an immediate death sentence?
Finally, what about all the people who have been shot by police despite having their hands up? Looking through our archives here at the Free Thought Project, we can see that holding one’s hands up, most assuredly does not protect you from being shot by cops.
The bottom line is, while the deaths of these three officers are certainly tragic, treating every person stopped by police as a criminal is also tragic.
How about looking at WHY police are stopping people and look to reduce those interactions. Do the police really need to pull people over, en masse, for victimless crimes, such as seat belt violations?
Instead of treating everyone like criminals, why don’t police stop acting as strong arms for the state’s revenue collection racket?
Harrisburg, PA– Hummelstown police Officer, Lisa J. Mearkle was charged with criminal homicide on Tuesday in the shooting death of 59-year-old David Kassick on February 2nd.
Mearkle shot Kassick as he laid face down on the ground in the snow, unarmed, during a routine traffic stop gone awry.
Mearkle had attempted to pull Kassick over for an expired inspection sticker, but the situation escalated when Kassick attempted to flee from the officer.
Eventually Mearkle caught up to the motorist close to his sister’s home where he was staying, but Kassick got out of the vehicle and fled on foot. As he was attempting to run away, he was incapacitated by the officer’s taser which she held in her left hand. With her right hand, she unnecessarily pulled out her service gun and shot the unarmed man twice in the back as he lay face-down on the ground.
The 36-year-old officer claims that she shot the unarmed man because he would not show his hands and she was concerned he may have been reaching in his jacket for a weapon, but the recording from the deployed taser paints a different picture.
District Attorney Ed Marsico has stated that it appeared from the recording that Kassick was simply trying to remove the stun gun probes from his back before his life was taken.
“At the time Officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow covered lawn with his face toward the ground, furthermore, at the time the rounds are fired nothing can be seen in either of Kassick’s hands, nor does he point or direct anything toward Officer Mearkle,” the arrest affidavit reads.
A syringe was found near his body, and there were unspecified drugs as well as alcohol in his system when he died. His family has admitted that he has struggled with addiction, a personal problem which should not have cost him his life.
“Mr. Kassick is now dead as a result of a traffic stop, a routine traffic stop,” one of the family’s attorneys, Christopher Slusser, told the press. “He should not be dead. He should not have died as a result of that traffic stop. And the manner in which he was shot — you can infer from that what you will.”
Mearkle is currently free on $250,000 bail. She faces potential charges ranging from misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter to felony first-degree murder depending on what the prosecution decides when she is formally arraigned.
Fifty-four Colombian girls were sexually abused by US troops and military contractors between 2003 and 2007, claims a new report by the country’s reconciliation commission. None of the perpetrators were ever prosecuted because US forces had immunity.
The claims are part of an 800-page report by an independent commission established by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group. The commission’s goal is to determine the causes and document the consequences of the civil war that has ravaged the country for 50 years and claimed over seven million lives.
“There exists abundant information about the sexual violence, in absolute impunity thanks to the bilateral agreements and the diplomatic immunity of United States officials,” Renan Vega, of the National University of Colombia in Bogota, told Colombia Reports.
Vega authored the portion of the report documenting the allegations of sexual abuse by US military personnel and contractors, deployed in the country under ‘Plan Colombia’ to back the government against FARC and cocaine cartels.
Most of the abuses allegedly took place in Melgar, a town in the province of Tolima, located 61 miles (98 km) southwest of Bogota. In one instance, contractors based at Tolemaida Air Base were abusing more than 50 underage girls and making pornographic videos.
In another instance, in 2007, one US sergeant and a security contractor were accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. An investigation by Colombian prosecutors established that the girl had been drugged and assaulted inside the military base by Sergeant Michael J. Coen and contractor Cesar Ruiz. Both were flown out of the country, as terms of the US-Colombian Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) gave US personnel immunity from local laws.
The girl and her family left Melgar and moved to Medellin, claiming harassment and threats from the US-allied government forces.
The Colombian daily El Tiempo reported that Melgar was dealing with a ”a growing societal problem” of sexually exploited minors, “augmented by the presence of foreigners, especially those from the United States tied to oil and military endeavors.” The newspaper reported that there had been 23 formal complaints in 2006 and 13 in 2007. Left-leaning news site El Turbion corroborated the numbers.
According to the government, 7,234 Colombian women were registered as victims of sex crimes during the conflict.
The No to Military Trials for Civilians campaign said on Monday that 3,000 civilians were tried in military courts in the last five months, since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi passed new legislation treating certain state facilities as military institutions.
The findings formed part of the campaign’s fourth annual conference, which included testimonies from those who have been through military trials and their families.
Campaign member Sara al-Sherif says this constitutes a “dramatic” increase in an already endemic practice, presenting a greater challenge for the campaign, as public outrage has been more recently directed at harsh rulings by civilian courts.
She says people claim, “civilian judiciaries issue death penalties and life sentences without restriction, in contrast to verdicts by military judiciaries that are swift and will never be worse than what is already practiced in civilian courts,” but maintains this is not accurate, given the nature of military courts and the verdicts they have issued.
Lawyer Ahmed Heshmat raises concerns over the independence of military courts in the first place. “The law that enabled military courts to try civilians stipulated that this judiciary is independent, but it is not independent at all. Military judges are employees of the Defense Ministry, and as such they have to adhere to the demands of their superiors.”
“Verdicts issued by military courts should be approved by the military leader or his deputy, and he has the right to request the amending of a sentence, or a retrial if the defendants were acquitted,” he adds.
Heshmat also questioned the legal procedures for military trials. Verdicts by military courts are all issued as if the defendants are present, even if they are actually absent.
Since Sisi’s decree, the number of civilians referred to military courts has increased, especially among students arrested on campuses for protesting, many of who have been handed lengthy prison sentences. Universities are now considered military institutions under the new law.
An activist in the “Horreya” (freedom) campaign, concerned with the detention of students, Seif al-Islam Farag, said that the campaign has recorded the cases of 160 students referred to military tribunals, including 48 students from Mansoura University, 31 from Al-Azhar University and 14 from Monufiya University.
He added that the sentences against many of these students are not based on reality, as in the example of student Ahmed Shokier, who was sentenced to life in prison, when he had actually passed away one month before the incident for which he was convicted took place. Another student in Port Said was referred to 11 military tribunals.
Mother of 16-year-old Youssef Shaaban, who was arrested in September, says her son was tortured to make him confess to crimes he didn’t commit, including killing a police officer. The grieving mother says she is not able to visit her son in prison as no one knows his whereabouts.
Father of 19-year-old Ain Shams student Mohamed al-Araby, said that he was surprised when five police officers stormed his house and arrested his son. They said his son had published a video concerning the military and would face charges of “spreading false news about the Armed Forces.” The father was told his son would return home in a few hours, but he never came back.
“Days later, I found a lawyer asking for a lot of money to defend my son who was facing a military trial. When I went to military prosecution, they said there is no need to hire a lawyer, as the case would be heard by a misdemeanor court and not a criminal one. I have just realized that the case was referred to criminal court,” Araby’s father added.
Araby himself spent many weeks in military prison before he was referred to Tora, with signs of torture on his face, according to his father.
The No to Military Trials campaign organizers pleaded with local media to raise the issue of military trials for civilians, which they say threatens everyone under the new legislation.
Translated by Mai Shams El-Din
US drone strikes on Pakistani soil over the past decade have claimed the lives of some 2,200 people, Press TV quotes Islamabad
According to figures presented in a report by Pakistani lawmakers, 2,199 people have been killed and 282 others injured in the US drone attacks in Pakistan.
Nearly 210 houses and 60 vehicles have also reportedly been damaged.
The families of 43 of the dead and seven of those injured have received compensation so far, according to the report.
However, rights activists say Islamabad has not revealed the actual number of deaths, which many say is more than 3,000 and possibly as many as 4,000.
“The majority of the people who got killed were the citizens of Pakistan and I don’t think that this [report] is a final truth. There are still numbers that are out there and I hope those numbers also come out and that will push this number of 2,200 to a much higher numerical level,” political analyst Tariq Pirzada said.
Islamabad has so far failed to provide accurate information regarding the identity of those killed in the drone strikes.
Although evidence on the ground indicates civilians are the main victims of the strikes over the years, the Pakistani government reports that most of those killed are militants.
Islamabad has also said it cannot determine the actual number of civilian deaths as a result of its ongoing ground and air offensives against the militants in the tribal areas.
The Pakistani government has been criticized for allowing the US to carry out its illegal drone strikes near the country’s border with Afghanistan.
The aerial attacks, initiated by former US president, George W. Bush in 2004, have been escalated under President Barack Obama.
Obama has defended the use of the controversial drones as “self-defense.” Washington claims the targets of the drone attacks are militants.
The United Nations and several human rights organizations have identified the US as the world’s number-one user of “targeted killings,” largely due to its drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Freedom to the Brave group published on Saturday a leaked letter from detainees in the Abu Zaabal Prison in which they complain they were subjected to torture and beating over the past few days.
“All the political prisoners were tortured and the cells were raided by masked central security forces which created panic,” the letter read. “We were attacked with batons and dogs, which led to several injuries and others passed out due to tear gas.”
Fifteen detainees were reportedly taken from their cells and tortured for three hours in front of the others. They were stripped of their clothes and forced to utter profanities, the detainees claimed.
The letter was written by detainees who were arrested on the fourth anniversary of the January 25 revolution for staging protests.
According to Ali Halabi, an activist who has been following the case of the January 25 detainees, it all began when prison forces attacked Ahmed Gamal Zeyada, a journalist, and other detainees tried to protect him.
“After that the cells were raided by masked forces with dogs and they destroyed the property of detainees as well as torturing them,” he told Mada Masr.
The detainees were then kept in the disciplinary room in their underwear for four days.
Reports of torture weren’t limited to Abu Zaabal Prison, but similar cases in Borg al-Arab Prison were reported as well. According to families of detainees, attacks go well beyond verbal assaults, which even the families are subjected to.
“The detainees and even their families are treated badly during visiting hours,” Mostafa al-Attar, brother of detainee Karim al-Attar told Mada Masr. “As soon as we arrive at the prison, security forces start treating us like sheep, ordering us to move from one place to another using profanities.”
Attar said that the detainees are held in confined spaces and are subjected to searches every few days, when their blankets may be burned and possessions destroyed.
“We know they are subjected to much more than that,” Attar said. “They don’t tell us, but they always look broken and they often cry suddenly.”
Kamal Abbas, member of the National Council for Human Rights, told Mada Masr that the council has received numerous reports from different prisons, especially Abu Zaabal and the appeals prisons. Such information includes forcing detainees to stand for hours.
The National Council for Human Rights issued a report last week saying that the Interior Ministry is hindering their visits to prisons, adding that it is prepared to join the prosecution in Shaimaa al-Sabbagh’s case.
“The Interior Ministry has been deliberately obstructing our visit to the prisons for over four months,” Abbas said, “and it denies any reports of torture.”
The council is required to obtain approval for visits from the general prosecution, and the Interior Ministry is required to arrange the visits.
However, Abbas says these rules are ineffective. “Is it realistic for the Ministry of Interior to facilitate a visit for us to ascertain whether or not it is torturing detainees?” he asked.
Abbas explained that the council has long called on previous and current governments to abide by the constitution, which stipulates that visits are by notification and not authorization.
The council’s last visit, Abbas said, was to the January 25’s fourth anniversary detainees. He confirms they had been subjected to torture and beating when they arrived at the prison.
Mada Masr contacted media and human rights officials at the Interior Ministry for comment to no avail.
Special Ops Missions Already in 105 Countries in 2015
In the dead of night, they swept in aboard V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Landing in a remote region of one of the most volatile countries on the planet, they raided a village and soon found themselves in a life-or-death firefight. It was the second time in two weeks that elite U.S. Navy SEALs had attempted to rescue American photojournalist Luke Somers. And it was the second time they failed.
On December 6, 2014, approximately 36 of America’s top commandos, heavily armed, operating with intelligence from satellites, drones, and high-tech eavesdropping, outfitted with night vision goggles, and backed up by elite Yemeni troops, went toe-to-toe with about six militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. When it was over, Somers was dead, along with Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher due to be set free the next day. Eight civilians were also killed by the commandos, according to local reports. Most of the militants escaped.
That blood-soaked episode was, depending on your vantage point, an ignominious end to a year that saw U.S. Special Operations forces deployed at near record levels, or an inauspicious beginning to a new year already on track to reach similar heights, if not exceed them.
During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) deployed to 133 countries — roughly 70% of the nations on the planet — according to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bockholt, a public affairs officer with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This capped a three-year span in which the country’s most elite forces were active in more than 150 different countries around the world, conducting missions ranging from kill/capture night raids to training exercises. And this year could be a record-breaker. Only a day before the failed raid that ended Luke Somers life — just 66 days into fiscal 2015 — America’s most elite troops had already set foot in 105 nations, approximately 80% of 2014’s total.
Despite its massive scale and scope, this secret global war across much of the planet is unknown to most Americans. Unlike the December debacle in Yemen, the vast majority of special ops missions remain completely in the shadows, hidden from external oversight or press scrutiny. In fact, aside from modest amounts of information disclosed through highly-selective coverage by military media, official White House leaks, SEALs with something to sell, and a few cherry-picked journalists reporting on cherry-picked opportunities, much of what America’s special operators do is never subjected to meaningful examination, which only increases the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.
The Golden Age
“The command is at its absolute zenith. And it is indeed a golden age for special operations.” Those were the words of Army General Joseph Votel III, a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, as he assumed command of SOCOM last August.
His rhetoric may have been high-flown, but it wasn’t hyperbole. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, including their numbers, their budget, their clout in Washington, and their place in the country’s popular imagination. The command has, for example, more than doubled its personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 today, including a jump of roughly 8,000 during the three-year tenure of recently retired SOCOM chief Admiral William McRaven.
Those numbers, impressive as they are, don’t give a full sense of the nature of the expansion and growing global reach of America’s most elite forces in these years. For that, a rundown of the acronym-ridden structure of the ever-expanding Special Operations Command is in order. The list may be mind-numbing, but there is no other way to fully grasp its scope.
The lion’s share of SOCOM’s troops are Rangers, Green Berets, and other soldiers from the Army, followed by Air Force air commandos, SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen and support personnel from the Navy, as well as a smaller contingent of Marines. But you only get a sense of the expansiveness of the command when you consider the full range of “sub-unified commands” that these special ops troops are divided among: the self-explanatory SOCAFRICA; SOCEUR, the European contingent; SOCKOR, which is devoted strictly to Korea; SOCPAC, which covers the rest of the Asia-Pacific region; SOCSOUTH, which conducts missions in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean; SOCCENT, the sub-unified command of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in the Middle East; SOCNORTH, which is devoted to “homeland defense”; and the globe-trotting Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC — a clandestine sub-command (formerly headed by McRaven and then Votel) made up of personnel from each service branch, including SEALs, Air Force special tactics airmen, and the Army’s Delta Force, that specializes in tracking and killing suspected terrorists.
And don’t think that’s the end of it, either. As a result of McRaven’s push to create “a Global SOF network of like-minded interagency allies and partners,” Special Operations liaison officers, or SOLOs, are now embedded in 14 key U.S. embassies to assist in advising the special forces of various allied nations. Already operating in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Poland, Peru, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, the SOLO program is poised, according to Votel, to expand to 40 countries by 2019. The command, and especially JSOC, has also forged close ties with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency, among others.
Special Operations Command’s global reach extends further still, with smaller, more agile elements operating in the shadows from bases in the United States to remote parts of Southeast Asia, from Middle Eastern outposts to austere African camps. Since 2002, SOCOM has also been authorized to create its own Joint Task Forces, a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. Take, for instance, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) which, at its peak, had roughly 600 U.S. personnel supporting counterterrorist operations by Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Abu Sayyaf. After more than a decade spent battling that group, its numbers have been diminished, but it continues to be active, while violence in the region remains virtually unaltered.
A phase-out of the task force was actually announced in June 2014. “JSOTF-P will deactivate and the named operation OEF-P [Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines] will conclude in Fiscal Year 2015,” Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee the next month. “A smaller number of U.S. military personnel operating as part of a PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] Augmentation Team will continue to improve the abilities of the PSF [Philippine Special Forces] to conduct their CT [counterterrorism] missions…” Months later, however, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines remained up and running. “JSOTF-P is still active although the number of personnel assigned has been reduced,” Army spokesperson Kari McEwen told reporter Joseph Trevithick of War Is Boring.
Another unit, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Bragg, remained in the shadows for years before its first official mention by the Pentagon in early 2014. Its role, according to SOCOM’s Bockholt, is to “train and equip U.S. service members preparing for deployment to Afghanistan to support Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan.” That latter force, in turn, spent more than a decade conducting covert or “black” ops “to prevent insurgent activities from threatening the authority and sovereignty of” the Afghan government. This meant night raids and kill/capture missions — often in concert with elite Afghan forces — that led to the deaths of unknown numbers of combatants and civilians. In response to popular outrage against the raids, Afghan President Hamid Karzai largely banned them in 2013.
U.S. Special Operations forces were to move into a support role in 2014, letting elite Afghan troops take charge. “We’re trying to let them run the show,” Colonel Patrick Roberson of the Afghanistan task force told USA Today. But according to LaDonna Davis, a spokesperson with the task force, America’s special operators were still leading missions last year. The force refuses to say how many missions were led by Americans or even how many operations its commandos were involved in, though Afghan special operations forces reportedly carried out as many as 150 missions each month in 2014. “I will not be able to discuss the specific number of operations that have taken place,” Major Loren Bymer of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan told TomDispatch. “However, Afghans currently lead 96% of special operations and we continue to train, advise, and assist our partners to ensure their success.”
And lest you think that that’s where the special forces organizational chart ends, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan has five Special Operations Advisory Groups “focused on mentoring and advising our ASSF [Afghan Special Security Force] partners,” according to Votel. “In order to ensure our ASSF partners continue to take the fight to our enemies, U.S. SOF must be able to continue to do some advising at the tactical level post-2014 with select units in select locations,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Indeed, last November, Karzai’s successor Ashraf Ghani quietly lifted the night raid ban, opening the door once again to missions with U.S. advisors in 2015.
There will, however, be fewer U.S. special ops troops available for tactical missions. According to then Rear-, now Vice-Admiral Sean Pybus, SOCOM’s Deputy Commander, about half the SEAL platoons deployed in Afghanistan were, by the end of last month, to be withdrawn and redeployed to support “the pivot in Asia, or work the Mediterranean, or the Gulf of Guinea, or into the Persian Gulf.” Still, Colonel Christopher Riga, commander of the 7th Special Forces Group, whose troops served with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan near Kandahar last year, vowed to soldier on. “There’s a lot of fighting that is still going on in Afghanistan that is going to continue,” he said at an awards ceremony late last year. “We’re still going to continue to kill the enemy, until we are told to leave.”
Add to those task forces the Special Operations Command Forward (SOC FWD) elements, small teams which, according to the military, “shape and coordinate special operations forces security cooperation and engagement in support of theater special operations command, geographic combatant command, and country team goals and objectives.” SOCOM declined to confirm the existence of SOC FWDs, even though there has been ample official evidence on the subject and so it would not provide a count of how many teams are currently deployed across the world. But those that are known are clustered in favored black ops stomping grounds, including SOC FWD Pakistan, SOC FWD Yemen, and SOC FWD Lebanon, as well as SOC FWD East Africa, SOC FWD Central Africa, and SOC FWD West Africa.
Africa has, in fact, become a prime locale for shadowy covert missions by America’s special operators. “This particular unit has done impressive things. Whether it’s across Europe or Africa taking on a variety of contingencies, you are all contributing in a very significant way,” SOCOM’s commander, General Votel, told members of the 352nd Special Operations Group at their base in England last fall.
The Air Commandos are hardly alone in their exploits on that continent. Over the last years, for example, SEALs carried out a successful hostage rescue mission in Somalia and a kidnap raid there that went awry. In Libya, Delta Force commandos successfully captured an al-Qaeda militant in an early morning raid, while SEALs commandeered an oil tanker with cargo from Libya that the weak U.S.-backed government there considered stolen. Additionally, SEALs conducted a failed evacuation mission in South Sudan in which its members were wounded when the aircraft in which they were flying was hit by small arms fire. Meanwhile, an elite quick-response force known as Naval Special Warfare Unit 10 (NSWU-10) has been engaged with “strategic countries” such as Uganda, Somalia, and Nigeria.
A clandestine Special Ops training effort in Libya imploded when militia or “terrorist” forces twice raided its camp, guarded by the Libyan military, and looted large quantities of high-tech American equipment, hundreds of weapons — including Glock pistols, and M4 rifles — as well as night vision devices and specialized lasers that can only be seen with such equipment. As a result, the mission was scuttled and the camp was abandoned. It was then reportedly taken over by a militia.
In February of last year, elite troops traveled to Niger for three weeks of military drills as part of Flintlock 2014, an annual Special Ops counterterrorism exercise that brought together the forces of the host nation, Canada, Chad, France, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, the United Kingdom, and Burkina Faso. Several months later, an officer from Burkina Faso, who received counterterrorism training in the U.S. under the auspices of SOCOM’s Joint Special Operations University in 2012, seized power in a coup. Special Ops forces, however, remained undaunted. Late last year, for example, under the auspices of SOC FWD West Africa, members of 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, partnered with elite Moroccan troops for training at a base outside of Marrakech.
A World of Opportunities
Deployments to African nations have, however, been just a part of the rapid growth of the Special Operations Command’s overseas reach. In the waning days of the Bush presidency, under then-SOCOM chief Admiral Eric Olson, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed in about 60 countries around the world. By 2010, that number had swelled to 75, according to Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post. In 2011, SOCOM spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that the total would reach 120 by the end of the year. With Admiral William McRaven in charge in 2013, then-Major Robert Bockholt told TomDispatch that the number had jumped to 134. Under the command of McRaven and Votel in 2014, according to Bockholt, the total slipped ever-so-slightly to 133. Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel noted, however, that under McRaven’s command — which lasted from August 2011 to August 2014 — special ops forces deployed to more than 150 different countries. “In fact, SOCOM and the entire U.S. military are more engaged internationally than ever before — in more places and with a wider variety of missions,” he said in an August 2014 speech.
He wasn’t kidding. Just over two months into fiscal 2015, the number of countries with Special Ops deployments has already clocked in at 105, according to Bockholt.
SOCOM refused to comment on the nature of its missions or the benefits of operating in so many nations. The command would not even name a single country where U.S. special operations forces deployed in the last three years. A glance at just some of the operations, exercises, and activities that have come to light, however, paints a picture of a globetrotting command in constant churn with alliances in every corner of the planet.
In January and February, for example, members of the 7th Special Forces Group and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment conducted a month-long Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) with forces from Trinidad and Tobago, while troops from the 353rd Special Operations Group joined members of the Royal Thai Air Force for Exercise Teak Torch in Udon Thani, Thailand. In February and March, Green Berets from the 20th Special Forces Group trained with elite troops in the Dominican Republic as part of a JCET.
In March, members of Marine Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare Unit 1 took part in maneuvers aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens as part of Multi-Sail 2014, an annual exercise designed to support “security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.” That same month, elite soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines took part in a training exercise code-named Fused Response with members of the Belizean military. “Exercises like this build rapport and bonds between U.S. forces and Belize,” said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Heber Toro of Special Operations Command South afterward.
In April, soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group joined with Honduran airborne troops for jump training — parachuting over that country’s Soto Cano Air Base. Soldiers from that same unit, serving with the Afghanistan task force, also carried out shadowy ops in the southern part of that country in the spring of 2014. In June, members of the 19th Special Forces Group carried out a JCET in Albania, while operators from Delta Force took part in the mission that secured the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan. That same month, Delta Force commandos helped kidnap Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected “ringleader” in the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, while Green Berets deployed to Iraq as advisors in the fight against the Islamic State.
In June and July, 26 members of the 522nd Special Operations Squadron carried out a 28,000-mile, four-week, five-continent mission which took them to Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Japan, among other nations, to escort three “single-engine [Air Force Special Operations Command] aircraft to a destination in the Pacific Area of Responsibility.” In July, U.S. Special Operations forces traveled to Tolemaida, Colombia, to compete against elite troops from 16 other nations — in events like sniper stalking, shooting, and an obstacle course race — at the annual Fuerzas Comando competition.
In August, soldiers from the 20th Special Forces Group conducted a JCET with elite units from Suriname. “We’ve made a lot of progress together in a month. If we ever have to operate together in the future, we know we’ve made partners and friends we can depend upon,” said a senior noncommissioned officer from that unit. In Iraq that month, Green Berets conducted a reconnaissance mission on Mount Sinjar as part an effort to protect ethnic Yazidis from Islamic State militants, while Delta Force commandos raided an oil refinery in northern Syria in a bid to save American journalist James Foley and other hostages held by the same group. That mission was a bust and Foley was brutally executed shortly thereafter.
In September, about 1,200 U.S. special operators and support personnel joined with elite troops from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Finland, Great Britain, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Slovenia for Jackal Stone, a training exercise that focused on everything from close quarters combat and sniper tactics to small boat operations and hostage rescue missions. In September and October, Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment deployed to South Korea to practice small unit tactics like clearing trenches and knocking out bunkers. During October, Air Force air commandos also conducted simulated hostage rescue missions at the Stanford Training Area near Thetford, England. Meanwhile, in international waters south of Cyprus, Navy SEALs commandeered that tanker full of oil loaded at a rebel-held port in Libya. In November, U.S. commandos conducted a raid in Yemen that freed eight foreign hostages. The next month, SEALs carried out the blood-soaked mission that left two hostages, including Luke Somers, and eight civilians dead. And these, of course, are only some of the missions that managed to make it into the news or in some other way onto the record.
Everywhere They Want to Be
To America’s black ops chiefs, the globe is as unstable as it is interconnected. “I guarantee you what happens in Latin America affects what happens in West Africa, which affects what happens in Southern Europe, which affects what happens in Southwest Asia,” McRaven told last year’s Geolnt, an annual gathering of surveillance-industry executives and military personnel. Their solution to interlocked instability? More missions in more nations — in more than three-quarters of the world’s countries, in fact — during McRaven’s tenure. And the stage appears set for yet more of the same in the years ahead. “We want to be everywhere,” said Votel at Geolnt. His forces are already well on their way in 2015.
“Our nation has very high expectations of SOF,” he told special operators in England last fall. “They look to us to do the very hard missions in very difficult conditions.” The nature and whereabouts of most of those “hard missions,” however, remain unknown to Americans. And Votel apparently isn’t interested in shedding light on them. “Sorry, but no,” was SOCOM’s response to TomDispatch’s request for an interview with the special ops chief about current and future operations. In fact, the command refused to make any personnel available for a discussion of what it’s doing in America’s name and with taxpayer dollars. It’s not hard to guess why.
Votel now sits atop one of the major success stories of a post-9/11 military that has been mired in winless wars, intervention blowback, rampant criminal activity, repeated leaks of embarrassing secrets, and all manner of shocking scandals. Through a deft combination of bravado and secrecy, well-placed leaks, adroit marketing and public relations efforts, the skillful cultivation of a superman mystique (with a dollop of tortured fragility on the side), and one extremely popular, high-profile, targeted killing, Special Operations forces have become the darlings of American popular culture, while the command has been a consistent winner in Washington’s bare-knuckled budget battles.
This is particularly striking given what’s actually occurred in the field: in Africa, the arming and outfitting of militants and the training of a coup leader; in Iraq, America’s most elite forces were implicated in torture, the destruction of homes, and the killing and wounding of innocents; in Afghanistan, it was a similar story, with repeated reports of civilian deaths; while in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia it’s been more of the same. And this only scratches the surface of special ops miscues.
In 2001, before U.S. black ops forces began their massive, multi-front clandestine war against terrorism, there were 33,000 members of Special Operations Command and about 1,800 members of the elite of the elite, the Joint Special Operations Command. There were then also 23 terrorist groups — from Hamas to the Real Irish Republican Army — as recognized by the State Department, including al-Qaeda, whose membership was estimated at anywhere from 200 to 1,000. That group was primarily based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although small cells had operated in numerous countries including Germany and the United States.
After more than a decade of secret wars, massive surveillance, untold numbers of night raids, detentions, and assassinations, not to mention billions upon billions of dollars spent, the results speak for themselves. SOCOM has more than doubled in size and the secretive JSOC may be almost as large as SOCOM was in 2001. Since September of that year, 36 new terror groups have sprung up, including multiple al-Qaeda franchises, offshoots, and allies. Today, these groups still operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan — there are now 11 recognized al-Qaeda affiliates in the latter nation, five in the former — as well as in Mali and Tunisia, Libya and Morocco, Nigeria and Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen, among other countries. One offshoot was born of the American invasion of Iraq, was nurtured in a U.S. prison camp, and, now known as the Islamic State, controls a wide swath of that country and neighboring Syria, a proto-caliphate in the heart of the Middle East that was only the stuff of jihadi dreams back in 2001. That group, alone, has an estimated strength of around 30,000 and managed to take over a huge swath of territory, including Iraq’s second largest city, despite being relentlessly targeted in its infancy by JSOC.
“We need to continue to synchronize the deployment of SOF throughout the globe,” says Votel. “We all need to be synched up, coordinated, and prepared throughout the command.” Left out of sync are the American people who have consistently been kept in the dark about what America’s special operators are doing and where they’re doing it, not to mention the checkered results of, and blowback from, what they’ve done. But if history is any guide, the black ops blackout will help ensure that this continues to be a “golden age” for U.S. Special Operations Command.
Copyright 2015 Nick Turse
By Alyssa Röhricht | The Black Cat Revolution | March 20, 2015
The Senate Torture Report released in December 2014 reads worse than even the foulest imaginings of Hieronymus Bosch: sleep deprivation, isolation and sensory deprivation, forced nudity, rectal feeding and rectal rehydration, waterboarding, beatings, threatening detainees with the rape of their mothers and harm of their children, chaining detainees to the ceiling for days clothed in only a diaper, rape, even human experimentation.
The house of horrors detailed in the Senate report – which even in its over 500 pages doubtless only scratches the surface of the depravity of U.S. “War on Terror” tactics – has been discussed at length. But what is outlined in the report is only part of the story. What the report omits is almost equally important to understanding the lengths that the U.S. will go to maintain and expand its Empire. One such omission: Diego Garcia.
Despite it being one of the most strategically important U.S. military bases on the planet, few have ever even heard of Diego Garcia or the Chagos archipelago on which it sits. The chain of over 50 small islands (today known as the British Indian Ocean Territory, or BIOT) is in the center of the Indian Ocean and was once inhabited by a thriving population of indigenous islanders. Today, it is home to the US military base of Camp Justice or the Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, nicknamed (ironically) the “Footprint of Freedom.” In some ways, the island looks like any American town – a bowling alley, tennis court, library, Post Office, gyms, a bank, a chapel, and even a 9-hole golf course. The B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers, 30 warships, satellite spy station, deep space surveillance system, nuclear storage facility, and the almost 5,000 U.S. servicemen and women that live there give lie to the façade, as do the crumbling homes, school, and church of the island’s previous inhabitants.
The Chagossians – the rightful inhabitants of the islands – have sustained a very different sort of torture. They were not beaten or raped, they were not waterboarded or forcibly deprived of sleep, but they were threatened, they were ripped from their homelands (ancestors, communities, schools, homes), they were forced onto the hull of a ship, and they were dropped on foreign islands and forgotten. And this didn’t happen in long ago history, it happened only 40 years ago – a slow and pronounced torture that continues today.
The first permanent inhabitants of the Chagos Islands were slaves brought by the French to work on coconut plantations around 1783. By 1814, one colonizer replaced another, and the British took control of Mauritius, including the Chagos Islands. In 1968, Mauritius received its independence from the U.K., but for a price. Mauritius would be freed from U.K. rule only if it did not lay claim to the Chagos Islands – thus the British Indian Ocean Territory was born. The U.S. and U.K. developed an informal lease agreement that would allow the U.S. to use Diego Garcia for a military base – prime real estate situated with eyes on the Middle East, Asia, and Russia. The agreement was hidden from both the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament and in direct contradiction to UN resolution 1514 and international law, which stated that colonies being decolonized had to be done as a whole – not carved up for profit.
The U.S./U.K. terror campaign was launched to have the islands “swept” and “sanitized” of the Chagossian people, first through an embargo aimed at starving the population out. Without basic supplies like milk, salt, and medication, many Chagossians left. In the Spring of 1971, officials in the U.S. military gave the order to round up all of the pet dogs on the island and have them killed. Thousands of pet dogs were murdered – some taken straight from screaming children – gassed with exhaust fumes from military vehicles. The Chagossians that had held out were then rounded onto a ship allowed to take only one suitcase. The horses took precedence and were put on deck. The Chagossians – women and children – slept in the hull on bird fertilizer – bird shit.
Marie Lisette Talate, a Chagossian, recalled in the documentary written and directed by John Pilger, Stealing a Nation, “All of us Chagossians, women, children, it was ourselves who were the animals on the Nordvaer.”
They were taken to the Seychelles and kept in prison cells until finally being transported to Mauritius where many Chagossians remain today. They were dropped there with nothing – no food, money, housing, jobs, water, or any institutional support in a country unknown to them. Unable to provide for themselves, many Chagossians began to die. Malnutrition, disease, and drugs plagued the community. But many islanders say that the Chagossian people were dying of sagren, sadness.
Marie Rita Elysée Bancoult, one of the Chagossian people, recounted her life after the forced relocation in an interview with Vine. After learning that they would never be returning home, her husband, Julien, suffered a stroke and died five years later. In the years that followed, her sons Alex, 38, Eddy, 36, and Rénault, 11, also died.
“My life has been buried… It’s as if I was pulled from my paradise to put me in hell. Everything here you need to buy. I don’t have the means to buy them. My children go without eating. How am I supposed to bear this life?”
This type of torture may leave no visible scars, but it is no less effective. The Chagossians have seen their homes destroyed, have left behind their land and belongings, have abandoned the graves of their ancestors, watched as their pets were ripped away and killed, and were left – deserted – on the shores of foreign lands, the forgotten refuse of Empire.
The torture continues today, as the Chagossians are ping-ponged back and forth between the two governments. The U.K. claims that the U.S. will not allow the islanders to live on the islands due to national security concerns of the base. Meanwhile the U.S. obviates responsibility, claiming it has no jurisdiction over the islands and that the Chagossians must direct their requests to the Crown. Justice, it seems, is only for the few.
What’s more, they must watch from afar as their homeland is destroyed and denigrated by the U.S. military. In addition to a recent admission by a senior Bush administration official to VICE News that the island of Diego Garcia has been used as a “transit site” where people were “interrogated from time to time,” studies of the waters surrounding the Diego Garcia military base as well have revealed massive environmental harms caused by the base, including decades of contamination from wastewater sewage, which the U.S. has been discharging into the water since at least the 1980s. The dumping of the treated sewage waters have resulted in elevated levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphates up to four times higher than normal and may be causing damage to the coral reefs.
Just the construction of Diego Garcia alone has eliminated much of the vegetation coverage on the island and decimated the coral reef – forests were bulldozed and coral reefs were blasted and dredged. As with most military bases, the usual nuclear contamination, fuel spills of millions of gallons of oil, carcinogenic pollutants in the soil and water, dangerous underwater sonars that harm marine life, and a litany of unexploded munitions plague the island. And yet, many argue against the Chagossian return to their native lands on environmental grounds, the implication being that the U.S. military is a better guardian of these islands than the people who had lived there in harmony for generations. The implicit racism in this notion is hard to ignore.
Despite the setbacks, Chagossians continue to fight, and while the U.S. and U.K. governments have continued to abdicate responsibility for their complicity in these crimes against humanity, the Chagossians seem better positioned for a return than at any other point in history. The U.K. government recently commissioned a feasibility study to determine whether a settlement may be achievable on the islands, which found “no insurmountable legal obstacles” to the Chagossians returning home. At the same time, negotiations over the military base are up for discussion between the U.S. and U.K. to decide if the informal lease of the land will be extended for the U.S. military.
The decades of torture imposed upon these people has yet to be adequately addressed or remunerated, and while the international community has expressed outrage over the U.S. use of some of the most vile and perverted means of torture against prisoners in rendition sites across the globe, the same international outcry must be directed at the decades of human rights abuses imposed upon the people of the Chagos Islands. Torture, after all, is not just carried out with drills, straps, and chains; there is also a psychological torture – the torture of neglect and marginalization that renders a people invisible – that can do just as much damage.
A New York-based federal judge has ordered the release of around 2,000 images showing the cruel treatment of detainees by the US military, despite White House efforts to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act.
Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the US District Court in Manhattan handed the American Civil Liberties Union a major victory on Friday when he ruled that the US government must release photographs depicting the abuse of prisoners in US custody at military sites around the world, including the notorious Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq.
The order would not take effect for 60 days to allow the Pentagon an opportunity to appeal the decision.
The White House had sought to keep the photographs under wraps after US Congress passed a law in 2005 that any further public disclosures of the disturbing images would “endanger American soldiers.” The ACLU, however, filed a lawsuit in 2004 for the release of the photos, arguing they are “crucial to the public record.”
“They’re the best evidence of what took place in the military’s detention centers, and their disclosure would help the public better understand the implications of some of the Bush administration’s policies,” ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a news release. “The Obama administration’s rationale for suppressing the photos is both illegitimate and dangerous.”
The Department of Defense has not yet responded to requests for comments, Reuters reported.
Last August, Hellerstein gave the government an extension to prove that the lives of military personnel would be threatened by the release of the photographs. Despite the rise of a number of new challenges facing the US military, including the battle against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), the judge apparently saw no reason to prevent the photos from reaching the public realm.
At that time, Hellerstein, who was privy to many of the images, said some were “relatively innocuous while others need more serious consideration.”
The court had been seeking from US military officials an individual analysis on each photograph as to why it should be blocked from the mandates of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Instead, the Pentagon in 2009 and 2012 provided a single certification to block the photos from release.
“The Government’s refusal to individual certifications means that the 2012 Certification remains invalid and therefore cannot exempt the Government from responding to Plaintiffs FOIA requests,” the judge wrote in his court order on Friday.
Hellerstein said it appeared the government was looking to seriously delay the process thereby “tending to defeat FOIA’s purpose of prompt disclosure.”
In 2009, former Senator Joe Lieberman said there were nearly 2,100 photographs in the government’s possession that had not seen the light of day. In the event the photos are finally released, the identities of any individuals would be redacted, the court document said.
The photographs first received attention in late 2003 by Amnesty International, which provided shocking proof that members of the US Army and the Central Intelligence Agency carried out so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ against detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The photographs pointed to gross physical and sexual abuse, including torture, rape and murder. The report opened up a debate in the United States as to the definition of torture and if it is applicable in a time of war.
The Bush administration argued that international humanitarian laws, such as the Geneva Conventions, did not apply to US interrogators overseas. Later US Supreme Court decisions overturned Bush administration policy, ruling that international law applies to American soldiers overseas.
Nevertheless, President Obama has still not closed down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility where over 100 detainees – many of them innocent of their charges – continue to languish without appropriate legal representation amid hostile conditions.
Reprieve | March 19, 2015
The body tasked with investigating British abuses in Iraq has said it will not request as evidence the US Senate’s report on CIA torture, in the case of two Pakistani men tortured and rendered by the UK and the US.
Yunus Rahmatullah and Amanatullah Ali were captured and tortured by British operatives in Iraq in 2004, before being rendered to the US-run Bagram prison in Afghanistan. They were held incommunicado for a further decade before their release to Pakistan in 2014.
The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which is investigating the men’s allegations, has refused a request from human rights organization Reprieve that it obtain a full copy of the US Senate’s report on CIA torture. Mr Rahmatullah and Mr Ali were rendered on a CIA flight, and it is believed that the full report would contain evidence of the two men’s physical condition after UK troops handed them over to US forces, as well as the timing of their rendition; information that could corroborate the men’s claims.
IHAT has claimed that its decision not to request a copy of the CIA report is a private ‘operational’ matter. Reprieve, which is assisting the two men, has initiated a challenge to that decision, amid concerns that the body is failing properly to investigate the men’s ordeal.
The controversial executive summary of the CIA torture report, published late last year, revealed wide-ranging torture and rendition activities by the US and its allies in the initial years of the ‘War on Terror’.
Kat Craig, legal director at Reprieve, which is assisting the two men, said: “Yunus Rahmatullah and Amanatullah Ali suffered a horrific, 10-year ordeal of torture and detention at the hands of the UK and US. These men deserve answers and justice – and the CIA torture report is a crucial piece of evidence in that effort. IHAT’s refusal to request a copy of that report is therefore inexplicable. Who should the victims of torture and rendition look to for accountability, if they are let down like this at every turn?”
A US citizen, who was put on a no-fly list, declared a threat to national security and tortured in an UAE prison after refusing to become an FBI informant, is having a hard time proving it happened at the behest of the US authorities, his lawyer told RT.
Yonas Fikre is an Eritrean born American citizen who immigrated as a refugee to the US when he was 13 from neighboring Sudan. He became a US citizen and in 2006 settled in Portland, Oregon. His problems began soon after 2010 when he went back to Khartoum, where he still had relatives, to start an electronics import business.
In Sudan he was summoned to the US Embassy on false pretenses and was told by two FBI agents from Oregon that they wanted to ask him a few questions about his mosque in Portland. When Fikre demanded a lawyer and hesitated to answer questions about people he had prayed at the mosque with but barely knew – the agents told him he was placed on a no-fly list. Although there was “absolutely no factual justification” for that, his lawyer, Thomas Nelson, told RT.
Fikre was told he would be taken off the list if he agreed to work for the FBI as an informant. He eventually agreed to answer their questions, but not work for the feds. A couple of weeks later, Fikre says he received a letter from one of the FBI agents, telling him threateningly: “While we hope to get your side of issues we keep hearing about, the choice is yours to make. The time to help yourself is now.”
Taking threats into account, he still managed to fly to his relatives in Sweden. He concluded that he was not in fact deemed a serious threat and the FBI agents had been bluffing, although he wondered whether had he flown to a close US ally such as Britain that this would also have been the case.
He got a chance to find that out after he went to the UAE, one of the US’s closet allies in the Middle East, and was suddenly arrested by the local police.
Fikre was held and tortured in UAE prison for 106 days from June to September 2011. During this time he was continually beaten and repeatedly asked about events in Portland, Oregon – the same questions that the FBI asked him earlier.
“During the torture he was always blindfolded, and so he could not see who was doing the interrogating and who else was in the room, although he was aware that there were others. With the exception that he could occasionally look underneath the blindfold and see pants, trousers, shoes and dress of that sort. Sometimes there was Western dress, sometimes there was Arabic dress,” his lawyer explained to RT.
After eventually being released – without any charges – Fikre managed to return to Sweden and over the next three years managed to prove that he had been tortured while in custody in the UAE, although he and his legal team are convinced they can not prove that this was at the behest of the US authorities.
“During the course of 3 years there, the Swedish authorities investigated what happened to him and they came to a conclusion that Yonas indeed had been tortured. Their problem was that they had a hard time proving that it was the FBI or the American authorities that instigated and performed the torturing. It was not a question of whether the torture occurred, it was a question of whether they can prove that the Americans were behind it,” he explained.
Although there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence, Thomas Nelson says they are having hard time proving the US authorities took part in the torture.
“It’s one of those difficult things because when the most powerful nation on earth wants to hide something, it can do it very easily. We have litigation going on here where, we’re going to try and chase down those avenues and to prove who was involved, what they did and how they did it,” Nelson said.
The lawyer added that legally one of the major problems lawyers face in issues like this is that it’s very difficult to bring a foreign state as a defendant into the United States court system. He also said that another reason that litigation against the US authorities has been unsuccessful is because the US has been “very effective in scaring and creating fear both in the judiciary and in the general public about Muslims.”
Two veteran New York City cops discovered to have altered Wikipedia entries related to high-profile police brutality cases from police headquarters won’t be punished, according to the commissioner.
New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton made the announcement Monday and said the two officers – whose names will not be released – do not currently work in the police headquarters, and are assigned to two different units.
“Two officers, who have been identified, were using department equipment to access Wikipedia and make entries,” NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters. “I don’t anticipate any punishment, quite frankly.”
The officers might be reprimanded for using their employer’s computers for unrelated work and are expected to be spoken to by Internal Affairs Bureau investigators.
The Wikipedia alterations were made to entries concerning some of the city’s most controversial police brutality cases, including Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo, all of whom were killed by officers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the same press conference “city computers” are “supposed to be for city business. This was not authorized business.”
Most NYPD computers don’t allow access to the internet, an anonymous source told DNAinfo. Currently, the NYPD doesn’t have a policy specific to Wikipedia, but it is in the process of reviewing its social media rules. Police officials told local news source DNAinfo that they did not direct the changes made to Wikipedia.
Since Wikipedia is publicly accessed and edited by volunteers, it is not appropriate for NYPD officers to edit references they believe are inaccurate. Wikipedia users have removed some of the changes to the entries.
Capital New York reported Friday that as many as 85 IP addresses registered at NYPD headquarters have logged hundreds of edits to Wikipedia entries on victims of police brutality, dating back 10 years.
The NYPD only maintains records that can trace computer use for one year, but they were able to uncover that the two veterans had made alterations on the “Death of Eric Garner” page on Wikipedia shortly after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his death.
Garner, who was placed in a chokehold, was killed by police last year during an arrest that was captured on video by an onlooker. One of the edits altered “Garner raised both his arms in the air” to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke.”