By DOUGLAS VALENTINE
Technically, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits John McCain from becoming president of the United States.
Section III of the Amendment says, “No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States … who, having previously taken an oath … as an officer of the United States … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have … given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
It is a fact that McCain was an officer in the U.S. Navy and took an oath to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution. This was a solemn appeal to Jehovah to smite him silly in the event he lied about or broke his oath. If he fell into captivity, he was bound by the Military Code of Conduct not to answer questions or make any oral or written statements disloyal or harmful to the U.S. To do so was considered collaborating with the enemy, and meant yet another mighty swipe from Jehovah.
It is also a fact that, in 1967, Lieutenant Commander John McCain was shot out of the sky while dropping bombs on North Vietnamese civilians. McCain’s plane crashed in a lake, and he suffered some broken bones and was slapped around after he was rescued. And all of that hurt, but none of it reached the Rumsfeld-Bush-Cheney standard for torture. Yet after a mere four days, McCain cracked like a robin’s egg. He told his captors, “I’ll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.”
In his autobiography McCain elaborated, saying, “I gave them my ship’s name and squadron number, and confirmed that my target had been the power plant.”
It is alleged that McCain gave the numbers of aircraft in his flight formation, information about location of rescue ships, and the order of which his attack was supposed to take place. According to retired Army Colonel Earl Hopper, McCain divulged classified information North Vietnam used to hone their air defense system, including “the package routes, which were routes used to bomb North Vietnam. He gave in detail the altitude they were flying, the direction, if they made a turn … he gave them what primary targets the United States was interested in.” As result, Hopper claims, the U.S. lost 60 per cent more aircraft, and in 1968 “called off the bombing of North Vietnam, because of the information McCain had given to them.”
What is Jehovah waiting for? As became evident during the revisionist Republican Convention, McCain’s political fortunes balance precariously on the myth that he never collaborated, even under torture. On Saturday, September 6, in Colorado, Sarah Palin wowed the faithful with an apocryphal story that brought tears to their eyes. As McCain stood beside her, feigning humility, she told how “Tom,” one of McCain’s fellow POWs, would watch through a peephole in his cell as the guards would walk McCain down the hall to the torture chamber. “Day after day after day,” Sara said – as if these torture sessions happened to every day for five and a half years – McCain would come back from the waterboard and, as he passed Tom, give the thumb’s up and flash a boyish smile.
Forget for a moment that McCain, by his own admission, broke after four days of pain and anxiety and spilled classified military secrets in order to get medical help. After that, was he even tortured at all?
Ted Guy and Gordon “Swede” Larson were POWs with McCain. Indeed, they were McCain’s senior officers at the time he says he was tortured in solitary confinement. Guy and Larson, who have no axe to grind and have a better idea of what happened than almost anyone else, claimed that while they could not guarantee that McCain was not physically harmed, they doubted it. “Between the two of us, it’s our belief, and to the best of our knowledge, that no prisoner was beaten or harmed physically in [the camp where McCain was],” Larson said. “No one else in that camp was. It was the camp that people were released from.”
Jack McLamb, a distinguished Phoenix Arizona policeman, FBI hostage negotiator and Vietnam veteran with a top-secret security clearance, told Alex Jones that McCain was never tortured. McLamb spoke to several POWs, and they told him that “when [McCain] came in [to the POW camp] he immediately started spilling his guts about everything because he didn’t want to get tortured.” According to these POWs, the two broken arms McCain had sustained were the result of McCain panicking and not pulling his arms in when he bailed out of plane. (McCain, notably, was a lousy pilot and crashed three planes before being sent to Vietnam. )
Let’s pretend for a moment that, in the excitement of being nominated for president, McCain has consistently forgotten to correct the record and reveal to the public that he collaborated after four days. Maybe McCain feels that torture justifies collaboration, and that the denial of medical attention is a form of torture? Maybe that is why he feels justified to pretend to be a war hero?
So, is the denial of medical attention a form of torture?
Not so, according to former CIA officer Rob Simmons. While running for Congress in 1999, Simmons was accused of torturing civilian prisoners at a secret CIA torture center in Vietnam. The alleged torture occurred, ironically, at the same time McCain was being held in a North Vietnamese POW camp. The specific charge against Simmons, ironically again, was that he would withhold medicine from injured prisoners in order to obtain information.
Did Simmons withhold medicine for an hour? A day? Four Days? He didn’t say. But he did admit to withholding it, and the practice is standard CIA practice and part of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld repertoire of “enhanced” interrogation techniques.
Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has approved the practice for domestic application by your local constabulary. In 2003, in a 6-3 decision, the Court exonerated several Oxnard, California, cops who withheld medical treatment from a Hispanic suspect they’d shot five times. They claimed they were trying to get him to talk.
Could the Republicans do anything more hypocritical than celebrate McCain for being tortured, while they’re applauding the U.S. military and CIA for doing the same exact thing worldwide on a daily basis? Of course they could! At the suggestion that denying medicine to prisoners is torture, former CIA officer and Bush-backing congressman from Connecticut Rob Simmons indignantly asserted that “any veteran, anybody who served his country in war, should be offended.”
McCain likes to take off his clothes and show the country his war wounds – his “scars,” as he calls them – but he is less flashy about his famous psychiatric disabilities. Even his colleagues have noticed the problem. Former Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) was quoted as having said about McCain: “I have witnessed incidents where he has used profanity at colleagues. He would disagree about something and then explode.” Smith called it “irrational behavior.”
Do we really want an irrational, angry man with his finger on The Button? A man suffering from an incurable case of PTSD? A man who pushed a woman in a wheelchair for merely asking him to do something about her son, who was MIA? What if Putin or Medvedev calls him “a lying skunk?” Bombs away!
No Republican hack is ever going to mention that a guilty conscience is the true source of McCain’s “irrational behavior,” or that, on June 2, 1969, McCain earned a reputation as the “POW Songbird.” On that day, McCain featured on a radio broadcast from Hanoi, aimed at U.S. servicemen in South Vietnam, praising his captors for their excellent medical treatment (“which allowed me to walk again”) and admitting he committed “crimes against the Vietnamese country and people. I bombed their cities, towns and villages and caused more injury and death for the Vietnamese people.”
“The Vietnamese Communists called him the Songbird,” Jack McLamb says. “That’s his code name, Songbird McCain, because he just came into the camp singing and telling them everything they wanted to know.” According to McLamb, “McCain made 32 propaganda videos for the communist North Vietnamese in which he denounced America for what they were doing in Vietnam.”
The Republicans also steer clear of McCain’s 1997 interview with Mike Wallace, when McCain blurted that he had murdered “innocent women and children.” McCain, apparently having a flashback, confessed to having committed war crimes. “I am a war criminal,” he stated on 60 Minutes. “I bombed innocent women and children.”
And by the 9/11 standard, there is no doubt that he is a war criminal and a terrorist. As filmmaker Michael Moore has said, “McCain flew 23 bombing missions over North Vietnam in a campaign called Operation Rolling Thunder. During this bombing campaign, which lasted for almost 44 months, U.S. forces flew 307,000 attack sorties, dropping 643,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam (roughly the same tonnage dropped in the Pacific during all of World War II). Though the stated targets were factories, bridges, and power plants, thousands of bombs also fell on homes, schools, and hospitals. In the midst of the campaign, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara estimated that we were killing 1,000 civilians a week. That’s more than one 9/11 every single month – for 44 months.”
Palin and Thompson did not mention that “one 9/11 every single month” fact – or that the embodiment of Christian character, John McCain, divorced the wife that stood by him while he was a POW after she was crippled in a car accident, in order to marry a trophy wife heiress who stole drugs for two years from a charitable organization of which she was president.
John McCain has been living the Big Lie for so long he probably believes it’s true. But he also acts to make sure the truth never gets out.
Like fellow war criminal Rob Simmons, John McCain has not been honest about his war record. But while Simmons signed non-disclosure agreements with the CIA, giving him carte blanche to lie, steal, cheat and murder, McCain has to resort to more devious tactics. According to the journalist Sydney Schanberg (famous for his coverage of the war in Cambodia), McCain has a “long-time opposition to releasing documents and information about American prisoners of war in Vietnam.” On the contrary, “in close cooperation with the Pentagon and the intelligence community [meaning the CIA],” McCain has been successful in legislating into secret “thousands of documents that would otherwise have been declassified long ago.”
McCain “says this is to protect the privacy of former POWs and gives it as his reason for not making public his own debriefing. But,” Schanberg adds, “the law allows a returned prisoner to view his own file or to designate another person to view it.”
To try to parry his critics, McCain gave Nesweek’s Michael Isikoff a peak at his records, and Isikoff swore they contained “nothing incriminating,” although he acknowledged, “there were redactions.”
Why the redactions? This is a question that riles the POW/MIA community, including Jane Duke Gaylor, the woman in the wheelchair McCain pushed. Indeed, many Vietnam veterans, former POWs and their families have criticized McCain for keeping his “and other wartime files sealed up.” According to Schanberg, “A smaller number of former POWs, MIA families and veterans have suggested there is something especially damning about McCain that the senator wants to keep hidden.”
Could that secret be the politically annihilating fact of his collaboration and its cover-up? Could it be that he made “numerous public statements that appeared favorable to the communist war effort in exchange for ‘special treatment.’“
In their elitist wisdom, the Founding Fathers inserted an escape clause in the 14th Amendment. Section III says, “But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
McCain’s “disability” (if not his PTSD) is thus treatable. All it takes is for some congressperson to bring the matter up for investigation and vote and avoid the Constitutional crisis that would ensue, if the “disability” becomes an issue in the campaign. As my friend Terry said, “If McCain merely appeared in photos posed in clean sheets [in a North Vietnamese hospital], then 2/3rds should quickly vote to forgive him. If, however, he supplied military secrets, McCain should not hold federal office.”
The Universal Brotherhood of Officers
McCain is a man of many contradictions. For example, he told Mike Wallace he was a war criminal for murdering Vietnamese civilians. However, according to Fernando Barral, a Cuban psychologist who questioned him in January 1970, “McCain was ‘boastful’ during their interview and ‘without remorse’ for any civilian deaths that occurred ‘when he bombed Hanoi.’” McCain had a similar recollection, writing in his [autobiography] that he responded, “No, I do not,” when Barral asked if he felt remorse.
On the one hand, “McCain told [Barrel] that he had not been subjected to ‘physical or moral violence’” and “lamented in the interview that ‘if I hadn’t been shot down, I would have become an admiral at a younger age than my father.’”
On the other hand, he’s running for president of the United States (an even bigger job than admiral) primarily on the basis of having been tortured. McCain even allows his handlers to claim he only gave “name rank and serial number” when, in his autobiography, he clearly admits to collaborating and says it caused him to attempt suicide.
All this covering-up can take a lot of energy, but it also takes a lot of help, which comes from America’s mainstream media and, naturally, the military. I took a lot of flack from military officers over my previous article about McCain, “War-Hero or Go-To Collaborator”, now available on the CounterPunch website. One marine colonel accused me of not liking officers. He implied I have a problem with authority.
I’m also the son of a blue-collar worker and veteran of WW II. Dear Old Dad explained the facts of life to me – that officers of opposing armies will treat one another more kindly than they will treat their own soldiers, who are nothing more than canon fodder. In this sense, the word “officer” is analogous with the Captains of Industry who compose our ruling class – be they Democrats or Republicans – and their totalitarian attitude toward worker bees, especially those overseas.
Another erstwhile military officer said I was unfair toward McCain because (get this) all U.S. Navy pilot prisoners (all officers) of the North Vietnamese collaborated and signed confessions.
What does this tell us about officers? It tells us that they take their oaths but not very seriously, and that they feel entitled to special treatment, which they receive from their smarter brothers in the mainstream media. John Sidney McCain III has benefited immeasurably from being born into military royalty (his father and grandfather were admirals) and having married into money. Using his heiress wife’s money and his war hero mythology, he ascended to the Senate and now stands poised to become president. At every step he received, as he received it in that North Vietnamese prison, special treatment. He accepts it as his due, without remorse, the way he might drop a bomb on Hanoi.
This should come as no surprise as the class double standard is the defining characteristic of American society, which is why the mainstream media, in its role as enabler of the ruling class, allows “maverick” McCain to get away with his Big Lie.
It has never been about race and gender so much as it is about class and ideology. Race and gender do matter – race, perhaps, more than gender, in so far as you’ll never see any mainstream magazine savage Sarah Palin for toting an AK-47, while The New Yorker used a mere caricature of Michele Obama armed with one to fan America’s latent racist flames.
Imagine the reaction if someone published a photograph of one of Obama’s daughters and, say, a Chicago boyfriend brandishing rifles and handguns, and looking like Bonnie and Clyde, like Bristol and her baby’s daddy Levi? Imagine if she was an unwed mother at 17. What if Michele left her Down syndrome baby at home to pursue political office? Automatically, “family values” would become an issue.
What if Obama had advocated that Chicago secede from the Union? You just know Senator James Inhofe would say that Obama didn’t love his country.
McCain is a prevaricating loose canon with a PTSD disability, and Palin an ambitious ingénue. Yet, their volatile combination of emotional explosiveness and naïveté is likely to ascend to the White House, thanks to the Universal Brotherhood of Officers that will protect them, and which they will serve, and the bottomless ability of the American public to buy mainstream media hype.
The only way out is a Congressional inquiry into McCain’s two disabilities, as a collaborator and a victim of PTSD. Let Congress absolve him of the first disability, as it surely would, and then inquire if the PTSD is under control. Does he need therapy? Can he handle the stresses of being commander in chief?
Alas, this is just as likely to happen as some reporter asking McCain if he collaborated, signed a confession, or committed war crimes.
More likely that Jehovah will smite the potential first dude before he takes his next oath.
Douglas Valentine is the author of four books which are available at his websites http://www.members.authorsguild.net/valentine/ and http://www.douglasvalentine.com/index.html His fifth book, The Strength of the Pack: The Politics, Personalities and Espionage Intrigues That Shaped The DEA, will be published in September 2009 by Trine Day.
John McCain, Faith of My Fathers, pp. 193-194.
“John McCain: Privileged 'War Hero', Liar, Collaborator, Traitor,” Part 1, Gerard Kiley’s interview with Earl Hopper, http://educate-yourself.org/cn/earlhopperinterview08feb08.shtml.
Amy Silverman, “Is John McCain a War Hero,” March 25, 1999, Phoenix New Times.
Alex Jones, ‘Prison Planet,’ February 8, 2008, interview with Jack McLamb.
“Justice Takes a Beating,” L.A. Times, May 28, 2003.
“Justice Takes a Beating,” L.A. Times, May, 28, 2003.
New London Day, May 1999.
NewsMax.com, July 5, 2006.
Cannon, Eugene. UPI report, June 2, 1969.
Alex Jones, “Prison Planet,” February8, 2008, interview with Jack McLamb.
Ted Rall, CommonDreams.org. February 6, 2008.
Sydney Schanberg, “The War Secrets Sen. John McCain Hides: Former POW Fights Public Access to POW/MIA Files,” New York (APBnews.com), April 25, 2000.
Ted Sampley, “U.S. Veteran Dispatch,”November 1999. Follow this link to a good photo: http://www.usvetdsp.com/mcianhro.htm.
Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post Foreign Service, Tuesday, March 11, 2008; C01
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom based in New York City that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Michael Grabell is an investigative reporter for ProPublica. USA TODAY editors worked with Grabell and ProPublica editors in preparing this story for publication.
For more information on air marshals who've been in trouble with the law, visit http://www.propublica.org/feature/federal-air-marshals-and-the-law.
Michael McGowan used his position as an air marshal to lure a young boy to his hotel room, where he showed him child porn, took pictures of him naked and sexually abused him.
And when Brian "Cooter" Phelps wanted his ex-wife to disappear, he called a fellow air marshal and tried to hire a hit man nicknamed "the Crucifixer."
Since 9/11, more than three dozen federal air marshals have been charged with crimes, and hundreds more have been accused of misconduct, an investigation by ProPublica, a non-profit journalism organization, has found. Cases range from drunken driving and domestic violence to aiding a human-trafficking ring and trying to smuggle explosives from Afghanistan.
The Federal Air Marshal Service presents the image of an elite undercover force charged with making split-second decisions that could mean the difference between stopping a terrorist and shooting an innocent passenger.
But an examination of police reports, court records, government reports, memos and e-mails shows that 18 air marshals have been charged with felonies, including at least three who were hired despite prior criminal records or being fired from law enforcement jobs. A fourth air marshal was hired while under FBI investigation. Another stayed on the job despite alarming a flight attendant with his behavior.
This spring, after U.S. embassies, airlines and foreign police agencies complained about air marshal misconduct overseas, the agency director dispatched supervisors on international missions.
From 33 to 3,000
Before 9/11, the Air Marshal Service was a nearly forgotten force of 33 agents with a $4.4 million annual budget. Now housed in the Transportation Security Administration, the agency has a $786 million budget and an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 air marshals, although the official number is classified.
Only a fraction of them have been charged with crimes, and some degree of misconduct occurs at all law enforcement agencies. But for air marshals, the stakes are uniquely high. Their beat is a confined cabin with hundreds of passengers in firing range. There are no calls for backup at 30,000 feet, putting a premium on sound judgment and swift action.
Since 9/11, air marshals have taken bribes, committed bank fraud, hired an escort while on layover and doctored hotel receipts to pad expenses, records show. They've been found sleeping on planes and lost the travel documents of U.S. diplomats while on a whiskey-tasting trip in Scotland.
The Air Marshal Service says it has the highest firearms qualification standard among federal law enforcement agencies. Yet police and court records show some marshals have used their weapons imprudently:
In 2003, a New York air marshal pulled his gun in a dispute over a parking space. Another failed to turn over his ammunition on an international trip, as required by diplomatic agreements, and was detained by Israeli airport security in 2004. That same year, a Las Vegas air marshal "discharged" his gun in a hotel room, penetrating a wall and shattering a mirror. In April, a Phoenix air marshal fired his during a fight outside a bar.
Still another left his handgun in the plane's lavatory in 2001, according to court papers. He realized it was missing only after a teenager found it.
Robert Bray, director of the Air Marshal Service, says the misconduct cases don't represent the exemplary work done by the vast majority of air marshals.
"We can reassure the public that these dedicated professionals go out there every day and put their lives on the line to make sure that everyone is safe," Bray says. "I don't want them to be tarred by … a few allegations from a few years ago."
Bray and other officials declined to discuss specific cases, citing privacy laws.
Under government policies, air marshals found guilty of felonies were fired or forced to resign. But 10 air marshals convicted of misdemeanors, mostly drunken driving, were allowed to keep their jobs. And even after notice that background checks were poor, the agency failed to root out air marshals with troubled pasts before they committed felonies.
Current and former air marshals say the misconduct cases show that the agency continues to struggle with policing its own ranks, a problem that surfaced in its post-9/11 buildup. Since then, the service has had three leaders, been moved four times to different parent agencies and been blasted by Congress for, among other things, failing to cover enough flights and enforcing a dress code that many air marshals felt blew their cover.
Don Strange, the former special agent in charge of the Atlanta office and a finalist to lead the agency in 2006, says turmoil and low morale have led good air marshals to quit and made it harder for managers to maintain the highest standards.
"It starts with the urgency (to hire and train recruits) in a ridiculous amount of time," he says. "Things start to spin out of control."
Under heavy congressional pressure, the government rushed to hire thousands of air marshals after 9/11. Partly motivated by enduring images of planes hitting the World Trade Center, the Pentagon aflame and a charred Pennsylvania field, 200,000 applied. With limited spots, the Air Marshal Service had an acceptance rate of about one in 40 — four times as tough as Harvard's.
"We're getting the cream of the crop," then-TSA spokesman David Steigman told reporters. "The people who are going into the air marshal program are the best of the best."
But that wasn't necessarily the case.
Shortly after joining the agency, three air marshals were indicted in corruption investigations at their former police departments. One, Louis Pirani, had been hired in early 2002, despite being under FBI investigation for months on suspicion of skimming profits from drug couriers as a sheriff's deputy in Arkansas. He eventually was convicted and went to prison for lying to investigators.
Just two weeks after joining the air marshals in April 2002, Shawn Nguyen filed for bankruptcy, claiming $200,000 in debts. Three years later, the former narcotics officer began carrying cash and cocaine past airport security for a man he knew as a drug trafficker, but who'd already turned to the FBI.
"I don't care what's in the [expletive] package, you know what I mean? Just tell me how much it is and what I'm getting in money," Nguyen told the informant in a recorded conversation recounted in court records. "I'm the man with the golden badge." Nguyen was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Before becoming an air marshal, Brian Phelps had worked at five small police departments in Alabama, but none for more than a year. He was fired from the job he held longest for losing his temper and acting "irrationally" before thinking things through, prosecutors said. He quit another job in lieu of being fired for misconduct while on duty, says Mayor Paula Phillips of Douglas, Ala.
In 2005, Phelps, known as "Cooter" among fellow air marshals, told a colleague that he wanted to see his wife's picture on a milk carton, court transcripts say. He asked the air marshal, who'd worked in Chicago's housing projects, whether he knew of anyone who could help.
The colleague said he did: The Crucifixer. The colleague told the Air Marshal Service, and after numerous contacts with FBI agents posing as hit men, Phelps was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Another air marshal, David Kellerman, was arrested on felony charges for dealing in stolen property in 1983 and for carrying a concealed weapon in 1990. Although judgment was withheld in both cases, Kellerman was sentenced each time to probation, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.
In September, Kellerman — a Green Beret and Purple Heart recipient — was sentenced to 27 months in prison after being caught hiding a cache of weapons that included AK-47s and a grenade launcher stolen while he was on leave for a military tour in Afghanistan. Kellerman told investigators he was bringing back training aids for his job as an air marshal firearms instructor.
Because air marshals receive top-secret security clearances, background checks are supposed to include criminal history searches going back 10 years, credit reports and interviews with relatives, neighbors and employers. Checks are conducted by the federal Office of Personnel Management, a separate agency, which forwards results to the Air Marshal Service.
Kellerman's charges predated the 10-year check period. But in Phelps' case, three officials — Justice Ashley, former assistant police chief in Guntersville, Ala.; Chad Long, the current Douglas police chief, and Phillips — say they couldn't recall the air marshals contacting anyone to make a background check. It's unclear whether Pirani's FBI scrutiny and Nguyen's bankruptcy were missed or disregarded.
A 2004 report by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general also flagged gaps in the background checks. The report cited 504 applicants who were recommended for hire and awaiting offers, noting that nearly a third had potentially disqualifying problems, including past arrests, bankruptcies or disciplinary problems.
"Many (air marshals) were granted access to classified information after displaying questionable judgment, irresponsibility and emotionally unstable behavior," the report said.
This summer, after a Houston TV station reported that three air marshals had been charged with drunken driving, including one with a prior DWI conviction, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, grilled TSA Administrator Kip Hawley at a congressional hearing.
In a subsequent letter to Poe, Hawley said that 28 air marshals had been hired with misdemeanors on their records, and nine more kept their jobs after a drunken-driving conviction.
TSA policies state that employees who drive drunk "demonstrate a disregard for TSA's mission" and raise questions about their ability to deal with security threats. Yet the policy allows drunken driving to be punished with a letter of reprimand, one of the lowest penalties.
By comparison, the FBI mandates at least a 30-day suspension without pay for drunken driving. Although other federal police agencies generally allow for flexibility in discipline, many big-city departments, such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, mandate a suspension or loss of pay for a first offense.
"It's more serious than a letter saying, 'Don't do it again, try to do better,' " Poe said in an interview. "I don't think a person should have a criminal record and keep their job with the Air Marshal Service — including a DWI."
The flying public agrees. In a national survey for ProPublica conducted by Harris Interactive, 86% of those who'd taken a commercial flight in the past year said it was unacceptable for someone convicted of driving under the influence to become an air marshal.
No office compiles uniform statistics on arrests of federal law officers, making it difficult to compare agencies. The 2004 inspector general's report found 753 documented cases of misconduct by air marshals over 20 months, with offenses from sleeping on duty to flunking drug tests.
After the report, the agency said it tightened its background procedures. When misconduct occurred, the agency said, it had acted "swiftly and decisively," terminating 101 air marshals over two years and taking resignations from 32 others.
But problems continued — Kellerman, Phelps and Nguyen all committed their crimes after the 2004 report. The service declined to say what's been done since to check for cases that fell through the cracks.
Hiring standards erode
Over the years, the service has loosened some hiring practices:
• In 2002, the agency decided that recruits no longer had to pass a rigorous firearms test requiring them to prove speed and accuracy in close quarters similar to an airplane. The test is still used in training but is no longer a hiring qualification.
• In late 2005, the agency began hiring TSA screeners, new college grads and others with no law enforcement experience. The change departed from practice during the 9/11 ramp-up, when air marshals almost uniformly were chosen from law enforcement, such as the Border Patrol, federal Bureau of Prisons and police and sheriff's departments.
• Two years ago, officials suspended a requirement that air marshals pass a written psychological test and an interview with a psychologist or psychiatrist. Bray, the director, says the changes did not lower hiring standards and that it's unfair to suggest a TSA screener or a recent college grad could not be up to par after training.
The Air Marshal Service still has the highest standard for shooting accuracy among federal police agencies, he says.
In the ProPublica survey, 87% said air marshals should be required to pass a psychological stress test, and 77% said they should have prior experience in law enforcement.
Two cases show why psychological testing might be valuable.
Orlando air marshal Marcus Rogozinski was on a mission from New York to Dallas in 2006 when he walked to the galley and showed a flight attendant a book with some pictures of blue crystals, his supervisor, Richard Lozada, wrote in an e-mail introduced at a competency hearing
If she had good thoughts, Rogozinski told her, the water could be turned clear, Lozada recounted. But if she had bad thoughts, it would turn murky.
When Rogozinski went to the lavatory, the alarmed flight attendant walked back to his partner, Paul Steward.
"I can't believe he is able to carry a gun!" she said, according to an account written by Steward.
In 2007, another flight attendant complained that Rogozinski "was talking about all kinds of crazy stuff like outer space," according to a memo from air marshal David Cameron.
"No (air marshal) should have to pay more attention to their partner than to the passengers," Cameron wrote. Afterward, Rogozinski failed a psych exam and was put on leave.
In June, Rogozinski was convicted of bank fraud for trying to cash a $10.9 million check from a woman he said he believed was Cambodian royalty. The money, he told prosecutors, was partial settlement for a "personal lawsuit" after he was scratched by the woman's cat.
Then there's the case of Michael McGowan, who joined the air marshals after 9/11. Before he was sentenced to a sex-offenders unit in 2006, his lawyer pleaded with a judge for help for his client. "He is taking the position 'I have a serious problem, I'm sick,' " said attorney Joel Weiss, according to a court transcript.
McGowan had been caught two years earlier trying to buy pornography of children as young as 7 over the Internet. Investigators discovered he'd been molesting a Texas boy since 2002 and had enticed the boy by saying he was staying at a nearby hotel on air marshal business.
Even after his conviction, court records show, McGowan called the boy from prison and engaged him in sexual conversations.
'Impact on our reputation'
Earlier this year, a rash of complaints about air marshal misconduct on overseas missions set off new alarms.
The agency would not provide details of the incidents. But ProPublica obtained an April 15 internal memo from Dana Brown, then director of the Air Marshal Service, warning the rank and file that the behavior threatened to create diplomatic problems for the agency on international routes, "some of the most important we fly."
"In foreign countries, some have behaved in a manner that may jeopardize our ability to continue to operate effectively," Brown wrote. "The negative impact on our reputation and that of the American government has the potential to cause significant harm."
To put a stop to it, Brown ordered "Quality Assurance Teams" of supervisors to monitor air marshals on international missions and act as liaisons with host countries.
"These are highly trained federal air marshals with guns on planes. If they need chaperones, then we're all in serious trouble," says P. Jeffrey Black, a Las Vegas air marshal who in the past has testified before Congress about agency policies.
Bray says the agency was not able to substantiate the allegations of overseas misconduct and that Brown was simply being proactive.
Black says the job shouldn't be entry-level. New hires need the experience and judgment learned from making decisions on the street, he says.
Poe, a former judge and prosecutor who sits on the House aviation subcommittee, says the unique nature of the job demands the highest recruiting standards. He says he wants to address the issue of air marshal misconduct further when the new Congress is seated next year.
Air marshals "all have to be of high quality, not most of them," Poe says. "We can't take a chance that they will make a mistake."
Six of Cincinnati air marshal David Slaughter's colleagues wrote character references for him after his arrest in 2006, according to court records.
"A man of impeccable character," wrote one. "An outstanding employee." "Polite," wrote another. "His character around the office is one of example." "Dave's demeanor and professionalism reflect favorably on the field office as well as the agency as a whole."
Slaughter was convicted of abducting a female escort during a July 2006 layover in the Washington, D.C., area.
In an interview, he said he hired the escort because he was having marital problems and wanted a woman's perspective. As they talked about how to spend their time, he went into the bedroom of his hotel suite and returned with his gun and handcuffs. The woman tried to flee, but he prevented her from leaving and unplugged the phone, prosecutors said.
The two struggled, and when the woman got the door open, Slaughter pinned her to the ground, held her in a chokehold and handcuffed her, according to prosecutors and the woman, Cherith Zorbas.
Despite his colleagues' support, Slaughter lost his job and got 15 days in jail. Zorbas called the outcome "horrific" and said the public should be scared.
"He's the only one on an airplane with a freakin' weapon," she said, "and he's supposed to have it to be protecting us."
LAKE WALES - Florida's Natural Growers was recognized by the Lake Wales Police Department at a recent Lake Wales City Commission for its support of the summer camp program offered by the department this past summer.
The company's financial support of $1,000 enabled three students to attend the "Cop Camp," where students toured the FBI Headquarters in Polk County, the area forensics laboratory, the Polk County Sheriff's Office, and the Polk County Jail, among other field trips.
During the Nov. 5 commission meeting, David Jones accepted the award on behalf of the employees of Florida's Natural Growers.
The camp offered opportunities for students to learn about law enforcement, including solving a crime through the creation of a mock crime scene. Real-life situations were recreated, including solving a crime, discovering and identifying evidence and keeping the public and press behind crime scene tape.
The campers also provided community service during the camp, which was held at the Lake Wales YMCA, by completing lifeguard and first aid training activities.
"Florida's Natural Growers appreciates the recognition for its support of the summer program. We feel it is important to support local activities particularly with the youth of our great community," said Walt Lincer, vice president of sales and marketing. "Several of our employees' children attended the camp offered by the Lake Wales Police Department and gained important knowledge of the law enforcement process. We hope they use the valuable information as they prepare for their futures."
Thursday, November 20
To Friends of the Climate Crisis Coalition,
Crisis and opportunity. Despair and hope. Al Gore and others have been speaking about these dichotomies (and choices) for a while now, and we certainly feel their presence today. The climate crisis is looming ever larger. But, we are also experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime watershed moment in our political landscape, where change is anticipated on all fronts.
President-elect Barack Obama warned our nation in his moving November 4th acceptance speech that our "planet is in peril." Citizens, scientists and government leaders are speaking out with an increasing sense of urgency about the transformative changes needed to avert climate disaster. The election results told the world that the United States was ready to enter a new era, embracing the principles of social, economic and environmental equity.
The Price Carbon Campaign
If ever there was a time for climate action, now is that time. The best way we can think of to effectively make the most of these opportunities is to advocate for the kind of legislation that we believe can work. Today CCC, the Carbon Tax Center and other allies are launching a new initiative: the Price Carbon Campaign (http://www.pricecarbon.org). We begin this effort with a petition to the Obama administration and Congress:
Citizens' Petition for Carbon Pricing Legislation:
The peril to our planet from runaway global warming creates an urgent need for the United States to enact broadly applicable, transparent and easily enforceable climate legislation to sharply curtail greenhouse-gas emissions.
Since pricing carbon creates powerful incentives that will reduce emissions, generate green jobs and promote economic and social equity, we hereby petition Congress and the incoming Obama Administration to make an economy-wide carbon tax a central component of comprehensive climate legislation to be enacted within the first hundred days of the 111th Congress.
We endorse a progressively increasing carbon tax on producers and importers of coal, oil and gas to discourage fossil fuel use while putting energy conservation and renewable energy on an increasingly favorable footing. To avoid dragging down the economy and unfairly burdening low and middle-income people, we support dedicating carbon tax revenues to reduce regressive taxes and/or to provide regular distributions to individuals on an equitable basis. Any carbon tax revenue directed toward developing green energy must be for truly renewable sources.
By enacting such a carbon tax, the United States can re-establish the moral and political authority needed to negotiate a new global climate treaty strong enough to begin bringing Earth's climate into balance.
Sign the online petition and forward it to friends and associates.
Concurrent with the petition drive, we are also launching a letter writing campaign to members of Congress. When you sign the letter at PriceCarbon.org your zip code will direct your letter to your Senators and your Congressperson. It will also go to congressional leaders with the greatest influence over climate and tax legislation. Our short-term aim is to generate thousands signatures and letters prior to our carbon pricing briefing in Washington on December 9, 2008.
Capitol Hill Briefing
On December 9th, CCC is co-sponsoring an important briefing in Washington DC:
Carbon Tax Center and CCC to Present Capital Hill Briefing on Carbon Pricing. By Daniel Rosenblum, Carbon Tax Center, November 14, 2008. "After eight years of obstruction by the Bush administration, and years of delay before that, the United States is finally poised to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On December 9, six weeks before Inauguration Day, the Carbon Tax Center [CTC] is holding a briefing on Capitol Hill to articulate to the incoming Administration and Congress why a tax on carbon emissions must be the centerpiece of a new U.S. climate policy... The Climate Crisis Coalition has joined us as conference organizer, and Friends of the Earth and the Environmental & Energy Study Institute are serving as co-sponsors... Headlining the briefing is NASA climatologist James Hansen, a powerful advocate of a carbon tax. Dr. Hansen will be followed by two eminent economists, Prof. Gilbert Metcalf of Tufts and Dr. Robert Shapiro... [former] U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs. James Hoggan, chair of the David Suzuki Foundation and [a leading authority on Canadian public perceptions on environmental, climate change and sustainability issues], will speak on public opinion regarding British Columbia's carbon tax and the impact of the Liberal Party's carbon tax proposal on last month's Canadian national election. The briefing is being hosted by Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and author of a carbon tax bill introduced last year."
As the Carbon Price Campaign proceeds we will keep you posted.
Thanks for your interest and support,
Tom Stokes, CCC Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
Ezra Small, CCC Project Organizer email@example.com
Please make a contribution to CCC and the Price Carbon Campaign. Any help that you can offer would be most appreciated. At a unique juncture in our history, we have remarkable opportunities to make a difference.
Jun 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Tom Patrick McAuliffe
How the FBI Academy uses video, multimedia, and satellite technology to field better agents and forensic videographers
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The FBI Academy is located on 650 acres at Quantico Marine Corps Base. It has a student population of more than 1,000.
We've all read the recent headlines about our nation's increasing emphasis on security. While the media has extensively documented the challenges our nation is experiencing, one area that is often overlooked is how America can continue to train the world's best law enforcement professionals.
Since the early days of Elliot Ness and J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI has been putting our most dangerous violent and white collar criminals behind bars. With increased threats of terrorism have come a greater demand for national security. AV solutions and video in particular are becoming commonplace in addressing these needs. For example, the FBI Academy near Washington, D.C., is using the latest in video, multimedia, and satellite technology to train future and current agents and law enforcement officials from around the world. More than 20,000 FBI agents and other students are trained at the facility each year.
“At the academy, whether it be through online or DVD interactive training, video teleconferencing, live television broadcasting, or traditional videotape, we tailor the educational material to fit the mode of distribution. It's all a part of the planning and pre-production process to choose what's going to reach the student and audience most efficiently and effectively,” says Larry Walker, unit chief of the Office of Training and Development at the academy.
Located in Quantico, Va., the modern campus of the FBI Academy opened in 1972 at a private site on a U.S. Marine Corps Base. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also has its training academy at the base. The academy looks almost like any other university, with three dormitories, 25 classrooms, a modern library, and a dining hall. There are also a Forensic Science Research and Training Center and two auditoriums (one of which seats 1,000) with state-of-the-art staging and AV gear. Of course, there are also a gym, track, pool, and special training areas, such as a pursuit/defensive driving road course. For the required intensive firearms training, there's an indoor firing range, eight outdoor firing ranges, four skeet shooting ranges, and a 200-yard rifle range for sharpshooter training.
At the center of all this is the academy's Training Development Unit (TDU). It's a multi-million dollar video and multimedia production facility that rivals any modern television station or post house. It supports the school and its instructors with photographic, audiovisual, and video production services. The unit also operates the FBI Training Network (FBITN) television studio and related production, and satellite and video teleconferencing systems.
The studios at the FBI Academy offer state-of-the-art lighting and bluescreen technology.
The current staff for the unit consists of 22 members, with plans to add up to 45 full-time team members. Among the current staff are three broadcast engineers and three video producer/directors. By the time you read this, three more will have joined this unique team. These professionals produce a wide variety of educational and training videos for the academy's various educational programs, FBI field offices, and other law enforcement agencies.
The annual video operating budget of the TDU, while large by most standards, is only a small piece of the whole puzzle.
“Between $500,000 and $800,000 of the unit's annual operating budget is earmarked for video production. This is only one piece of the unit's entire mission,” says Larry Walker. “Our unit also assists instructors in integrating fresh technology for their teaching points. A growing number of instructors are gaining confidence with the technology available to them. More are integrating their video and multimedia materials into the physical and virtual classroom settings. Merging long-standing personal styles with new digital capabilities is a challenge, but most teachers discover it's well worth the effort.”
In addition to distance learning television via FBITN, the TDU creates interactive training modules and reference manuals delivered via secure websites or CD-ROMs. As staffing increases, streaming video via the Internet is also planned.
Meet TDU team member Jan Garvin. He has been a TV producer/director with the bureau since 1991, and has produced nearly 300 videos to date. Prior to the FBI, Garvin served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and worked for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS). Garvin travels extensively, domestically and abroad, to videotape federal, state, and local FBI events. Examples include documenting a nationwide weapons of mass destruction exercise, and coverage of the 2004 international G8 economic conference and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Garvin has also worked with the Department of Homeland Security on variou s initiatives, and he has been deployed with the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team.
Garvin is also on the board of directors of the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association (http://www.leva.org). LEVA is a group of nearly 700 public safety video professionals involved in forensic video analysis, video production, and crime scene videography. Garvin, like the other video pros of the TDU, is a veteran video creator who uses his varied background to create engaging and innovative educational videos.
The FBI Training Network set during a recent broadcast.
So how do these training videos come about? “A project request form is filled out by any FBI entity (that's our client),” Garvin explains. “Once signed off by the respective organization's training officer, the completed form is forwarded to Jane Homeyer, dean of academics, for review.
“If the request fulfills a training mandate, it's approved and sent to the TDU's Unit Chief Larry Walker. He reviews the request and passes it along to Dean Fletcher, who manages the unit's video department, and then assigns the project to a specific producer/director. Once the P/D is briefed, a pre-production meeting is set up with the client. During that meeting, specifics, such as script development, production schedule, clearances, travel, and budget, are discussed.
“I tell the client the most important element in the process is a blessed script. Why? Unless we lay out and get approval of the desired training message and method of delivering it during the pre-production phase, it will evolve into an eternal postproduction nightmare of trying to satisfy everyone's ‘creative’ input,” Garvin says.
On the AV technical side, the academy's arsenal is a who's who of professional video production solutions. For acquisition, team members use DVCAM, MiniDV, and BetaCamSP video formats. They use a variety of cameras, including Sony models DSR-500WS, PD150, BVW-600, TRV950, TRV80, TRV30, and TRV5. Panasonic EZ-1s are also used. Camera support is via Sachtler tripods with portable lighting duties handled by Arri. The team also uses a Jimmy Jib camera support system, and, if needed, Mirror Image teleprompters help the talent get their lines right on the first take.
For most projects, nonlinear editing is handled via four Avid Adrenaline NLE systems. For editing on the run, an Avid luggable NLE and a Panasonic AJ-LT85 laptop video editing system are at the ready. Not all editing is nonlinear, however. The FBITN control room also functions as a linear edit suite with a combination of Sony Digital Beta and BetaCamSP decks, a Sony DVS-9000 digital switcher, and for CG and video graphics, Chyron Infinit and Maxine character generators. Audio tools include a Tascam 24-input audio mixer with Sony ECM-77, Lectrosonics, and Telex microphones.
In classrooms and seminar areas, multimedia is displayed with Philips and NEC LCD projectors, both fixed installation and portable models. The academy also uses Tandberg video teleconferencing systems for education and communications.
Perhaps the best weapon in the FBI Academy's educational toolbox is the previously mentioned FBI Training Network (FBITN). The show was originally a three-hour broadcast called LESTN, the Law Enforcement Satellite Training Network. The FBI's Kansas City, Mo., office partnered with the Kansas City Police Department on the original concept, development, and airing of the programming. The first LESTN broadcast was in 1986 on the topic of advanced hostage negotiations. Members of the Kansas City field office and academy staff assisted in the initiative, and eventually production of the show was re-located to Quantico.
For several years, the FBI outsourced production of the program to a northern Virginia PBS station. Finally, broadcasts were begun from the FBI's own video facility at the academy, and the show was trimmed to two hours and renamed FBITN.
Editor Harold Brooks works on a video project using an Avid NLE and Digital Juice's Jump Backs animated 3D backgrounds.
Creating the programs takes a Herculean effort. FBITN has a contract with a local production company to provide crews on show days, which can number up to 12 people. Prior to that, there was only in-house staff to assist and produce the show and local freelancers hired for other positions as budgets would allow.
Once a quarterly broadcast, the program is now moving toward monthly offerings. Some recent FBITN programs include: Law Enforcement and the Media: A Perspective Behind the Camera, Death Investigations, Interviewing Children, Video & Law Enforcement, and Muslim Culture for Law Enforcement. Broadcasts aren't just geared for academy students, but for any law enforcement professional.
“The program transmission is not encrypted, so anyone that's in the satellite footprint can pick up the broadcast,” says Garvin. “We have an uplink capability to the C and KU band satellites allowing us to broadcast live over North America. Videotape copies of programs are also available to FBI and other law agencies in the field. FBITN also provides playback of various important videos to the internal audience at the academy via a cable TV network showing feeds of live events such as graduation ceremonies and VIP speeches.”
The FBITN recently installed some new satellite equipment. Signal uplink is via an Andrew 3.7m dish transmitting MPEG-2 programming on the KU band. The broadcast signal is also sent to a redundant transmitter.
Before having its own dish, the academy hired an uplink company to bring in a satellite truck and plug into the studio's video signal. For downlinking, FBITN can bring in C and KU band signals and also has dishes picking up the Criminal Justice Training Network and PBS broadcasts.
While the FBI Academy does not provide video production training for students, returning agents who are selected for advanced in-service training at the FBI Academy do go through basic media production training. For this, Garvin takes off his producer/director hat and dons the hat of video professor. “I teach a four-hour Crime Scene Videography block nine times a year to each basic class for the FBI Evidence Response Teams (ERT),” says Garvin.
The bureau's ERTs are a group of highly trained agents who specialize in conducting evidence recovery operations at major crime scenes. These services are in great demand by local, state, and even foreign law enforcement agencies. “Each FBI field office has a Sony TRV900 or 950 MiniDV digital camcorder used for both surveillance and for crime scene documentation, as well as for in-house training at the local field office,” Garvin explains.
Teaching the Crime Scene Videography course is very rewarding, Garvin says. “It's really gratifying when a student says afterwards that they can't wait to get back to their field office to use the camera. In my opinion, in the past video has been viewed as a toy by many in senior law enforcement. That mindset is changing dramatically today.
“The value of having high-quality video documentation for presentation in court (if a case gets that far) far outweighs ignoring the technology. At the same time, just handing a camera to someone who previously has only recorded their child's birthday and saying, ‘Go videotape that homicide crime scene,’ is dangerous and unfair. It's from those tapes that video gets its bad name in our community.”
Special Agent Jason Kaelin from the FBI's Miami Evidence Response Team performs an operations check on his camcorder. In the background, Claudine Riggio (wearing the FBI jacket), a forensic photography instructor, surveys a mock crime scene on which Kaelin and his fellow students will test their crime scene videography skills.
The Evidence Response Team members Garvin teaches may get additional video training if their local office approves it. However, most are left on their own to get a camera from their office and spend time polishing their shooting techniques.
“I've discovered that most are just hesitant to use the camera in an operational setting because they worry they'll screw up,” Garvin says. “Equipment familiarization will help overcome that hesitancy. There's too much emphasis on the phobias of using a video camera for forensics. I call it ‘phobiarensics’, or the fear of using certain forensic techniques. The existence of digital technology did not cause an incident to occur that may have caused embarrassment to a police agency. With proper equipment and training, video technology will keep or get an agency out of trouble much more than creating any problems.”
Garvin says that even with the best training efforts, there are still some concepts that academy and ERT students find challenging. “A crime scene video must be shot to tell a logical story to the judge and jury. Frames of reference of where one piece of evidence is to another, the location of one room to the next, etc., are all crucial,” he explains.
“I tell my students to weave together a story that will make sense to a jury. I insist that after they shoot a training scenario they play back their tape as soon as possible and then put themselves in the seat of a juror watching it for the first time. Does the video make sense? Does it show what needs to be shown? Does it look professional or homegrown? Homegrown video has shots that are shaky, poorly lit, poorly composed, and frequently features excessive zooming. These do nothing to help document a crime scene and provide a video that can be used as legal evidence.”
Video and AV technology is being well received by academy students and by in-the-field viewers alike. “Over the past few years, we've seen a really strong and increasing flow of training programming from the FBI Training Network. The fact that the programs are geared to local, state, and federal agencies shows the FBI is very sincere in its goal to build partnerships and share information,” says Inspector Roland Tolosa of the San Francisco Police Department.
Unit Chief Walker says these technology-driven visual teaching methods increase viewers' learning interest. “Students respond favorably when they encounter a class using more than just a book and slides to learn from. But no matter how dazzling a techno-performance a video is, it's really the integrity and professionalism of the instructor that will be remembered most. The technology does not drive what our instructors teach. The curriculum drives the technology we use to make the instruction more effective for the student. That's what it's all about.”
“We're utilizing video and distance learning technology to educate law enforcement professionals new and old,” Garvin says. “The challenge is to make the video product worthy of the viewers' attention. That means a great deal of thought must go into the project concept to ensure it's palatable.
“Watching a training video should not be a dreaded exercise or a sacrifice of time. It's a balance between unleashed creativity and realistic technical capability to end up with a video of educational value and something worthwhile,” Garvin explains. “This means you can't always do what you dream up visually if you don't have the skills or equipment to pull it off. If you don't have a trained staff that has recognized expertise, passion, a team commitment, initiative, and integrity, having all the latest video toys in the world won't help.”
The Tarnac Affair:Symptomatic of a Psychotic Social Order
by Jean-Claude PayeAdd a comment · Share this article · RSS Feed
Jean-Claude Paye, a sociologist, is the author of Global War on Liberty, available from Telos Press. This essay was translated from the French by Henry Crapo.
On November 11, 2008, within the framework of Operation "TAIGA" , one hundred and fifty police encircled the small village of Tarnac, in Corrèze (southwest France). Simultaneously, evidence was seized in Rouen, Paris, Limoges, and Metz. An arrest of young people was made, above all as a spectacle to incite fear. Their arrest was said to be in connection with the sabotage of the train lines of the SNCF , which on November 8 caused delays for certain TGVs on the Paris-Lille line . These malevolent acts, which knocked down several overhead wires, were characterized as terrorist in nature, despite the fact that they never, at any moment, put human lives in danger. The prosecution, which says it possesses several clues, recognizes that it has no material evidence or proof.
It is the character profile of the arrested youths that justifies their being held for questioning. They were arrested because "they used radical language and had relations with foreign groups," and because a number of them had "participated on a regular basis in political demonstrations"—for example, in "marches held in opposition to the Edvige [Exploitation documentaire et valorisation de l'information générale] file system  and against the reinforcement of measures against immigration." As for their residence, it was described as "a meeting place for indoctrination, a base camp for violent action."
Although accused of constituting a "hardcore cell that had armed struggle as its purpose," they were rapidly set free, some conditionally so, while others were confined to their residence. Only the "chief" and his companion would be held in jail. On December 26, the appeals court in Paris had, at the request of the prosecution, cancelled an order that Julien Coupat be released. The request for release of his companion had been previously refused.
The discourse of the government illustrates a kind of double displacement: first, simple acts of sabotage, such as those one might find in any social movement, are qualified as "terrorist," and these acts are attributed to the youths of Tarnac, despite the fact that the police admit to the absence of any material element of proof. The image of terrorism construed by the State creates a reality that is a substitute for the facts. The facts are not denied, but they are denied any explanatory capacity. The acts of sabotage cannot be other than the acts of persons designated as terrorists. The act of naming, prior to any procedure of objective evaluation, trumps the latter and seals it in an empty form.
The absence of material elements that would permit the pursuit of the incriminated persons is not denied, but the necessary prevalence of facts is overturned, in the interests of the primacy of the image constructed by the State. The position of the Minister of the Interior, Madame Alliot-Marie, is particularly interesting: "They have adopted underground methods. They never use mobile telephones, and they live in areas where it is very difficult for the police to gather information without being spotted. They have managed to have, in the village of Tarnac, friendly relations with people who can warn them of the presence of strangers." But, the minister admits, "there have been no indications of attacks against persons."
These declarations nicely sum up the affair. What makes these young people terrorists is their way of life, the fact that they attempt to escape the economic machine and that they do not adopt a "proactively" submissive attitude with respect to procedures of control. Not to have a cellphone is proof of terrorist intentions. Participating in a social network is also incriminating behavior, because this practice permits the construction of a protective shield against the deployment of unrestricted power by the State.
In its declarations, the reference to acts, in the absence of any convincing material elements of proof, cannot be rationally assimilated, and induces a phase of aberration, a reconstruction of reality with the image of terrorism as support. This process is equally visible in the police reports, which utilize, from a purely semantic point of view, an entirely phantasmagorical reconstruction of reality. Thus, the police, as if referring to material proof of the culpability of the accused, speak of "documents noting the times of passage of trains, village by village, with the times of arrival and departure from the stations." An SNCF timetable thus becomes a particularly troubling document, and its possession necessarily implies participation in the material destruction of railway equipment.
The staging of these arrests and the bringing of charges against the "autonomous youth of Tarnac" is a phenomenon that reveals a profound mutation of the symbolic order of the society. The State has the ability to create a new reality, a virtual reality that does not suppress, but rather supplants, the facts. The weakness of the social movement and the failure of the symbolic function explain the absence of constraints on the domination of the State, which exhibits itself as an all-inclusive entity in the guise of a maternal image. Where a social order reveals itself to be contradictory, a psychotic structure takes its place, an order that suppresses all conflict and all possibility of confrontation with reality.
1. TAIGA (traitement automatique de l'information géopolitique d'actualité) is French spyware, developed in 1987, which uses somewhat outmoded computer technology based on the semantic analysis of information intended for the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE). (The DGSE, which is subordinate to the Ministry of the Defense, is responsible for military intelligence as well as for strategic information, electronic intelligence. It is also responsible for the counterespionage outside the borders of the national territory.) TAIGA technology was used by the FBI to gather information on Julien Coupat's supposed subversive activities in the United States, whence the operations code name "EAL."
2. The French National Railway Company (SNCF) is a French public enterprise.
3. The TGV (train à grande vitesse) is the French high-speed train.
4. French revolt over Edvige-Sarkozy's Big Brother computer, which will spy on citizens.
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