As the unmanned aircraft circled 2 miles overhead the next morning, sophisticated sensors under the nose helped pinpoint the three suspects and showed they were unarmed. Police rushed in and made the first known arrests of U.S. citizens with help from a Predator, the spy drone that has helped revolutionize modern warfare.
But that was just the start. Local police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration have used Predators for other domestic investigations, officials said.
"We don't use [drones] on every call out," said Bill Macki, head of the police SWAT team in Grand Forks. "If we have something in town like an apartment complex, we don't call them."
The drones belong to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates eight Predators on the country's northern and southwestern borders to search for illegal immigrants and smugglers. The previously unreported use of its drones to assist local, state and federal law enforcement has occurred without any public acknowledgment or debate.
I don't see any reason for alarm. The police use all sorts of new technology, and we're generally better off for it. The key is for surveillance, when used, to conform with the law and court rulings. As long as the police do that it doesn't matter whether they use a UAV, a pair of binoculars or the Mark-One Eyeball.
Taken by itself, as just a single technological innovation, the argument is correct. But in context, it becomes insidious.
To start with, since (alcohol) Prohibition, there has been an almost uninterrupted progressive increase in police power and authority, and a concomitant loss in civil rights. Often this was done first surreptitiously, then accepted as common practice. But always gradually.
After 9-11, however, without a real domestic threat of any moment, there was a huge loss of civil rights, unabashedly stripped away in the name of fighting terrorism, but almost never used for that purpose. Instead we have had a ridiculously authoritarian increase in police power used exclusively against Americans, for mundane reasons.
And this rise in authoritarianism has already effectively ended the 4th Amendment, now just a shadow of itself, and referenced nostalgically, but with no real power.
But, as the argument goes, these police powers and authoritarianism are *needed* to combat the "ordinary threats", that existed long before such powers were "needed".
But why the passion, such as the recent action by the US senate, to give authority to the US military to detain US citizens on US soil? Why are senators Graham, McCain and Levin, especially, utterly passionate that the military *must* be able to detain Americans, without arrest, trial, indictment, etc? Are the FBI and the *hundred* other federal police agencies so impotent that the military must be used?
If so, then why do we even have a hundred federal police agencies?
This is no longer a paranoid fantasy of what the government *might* do. It is the reality. Does America really need Soviet-style authoritarianism to stay safe in our own beds, from each other?
Are we seen as that much of an enemy to our government, or what our government wants to be, that we must be carefully controlled?
Getting back to the use of Border Patrol Predators being used by local police, for local police enforcement. The Military, the BP, the FBI, and the DEA are federal authorities. Should they provide active assets to local police departments? Passive assets, like a fingerprint database are one thing, but active assets?
Why do we even need local police, then? Shall we move to a national system of Polizei, as in Germany? In most countries, this is done by dictators, to use one ethnic or regional group to police another, so they will not be sympathetic to the locals, and will abuse them without hesitation.
It could, after all, perform the dual purpose of being a "cost cutting measure", while at the same time "protecting us from terrorism". "It's for the children", you know. And the federal government wouldn't have to fret so much that local police would not obey their orders.
Is life in a goldfish bowl that attractive? Or maybe it is time to sweep away most of the police state, restore our civil liberties, fire hundreds of thousands of federal employees, and get back to enjoying all that "freedom" and "liberty" we used to have.
Oh gods, the new "Black Helicopter" for the 21st century has been found.
Moose, I agree with you. Problem is that war has been fought and lost. The Libertarian types that want to fight that war again are like the "un-reconstructed Southners" I run into now and then. And about as relevant and pleasant. Ultimately, unless people want to do something like run for congress or other offices them selves, they need to just stuff it. Yes, I am bitter, why do you ask?
Well, you figure 13 years times 335 days (a month off for Ramadan, and 48 Fridays a year (624 days, (excepting those during Ramadan) off as well), is 3731 days, divided by 2,080 lashes, is a lash about every 1.8 days.
So basically he'll have an open wound every moment for the next 13 years.
Don't suppose the Magic Kingdom has considered the option to self-terminate (viz. Escape From New York) as a somewhat less barbaric innovation? Correct me if I'm being a dingbat bleeding-heart liberal here, but two wrongs don't make a right.
[VOA News] While protests against President Joseph Kabila's re-election turned deadly Saturday in the Democratic Republic of Congo, outside the country demonstrations were more peaceful but just as angry.
Congolese protesters walked in circles in front of the White House denouncing vote results released Friday in the D.R.C. which they said were fraudulent.
One of the protesters, Blaise Kazadi, drove several hours from the southeastern state of North Carolina to take part.
"Right now, the Congolese they wanted to go to these elections to elect someone that they trust, the one that can bring peace in the country, and now they see that their voice and their opinion has been stolen. That is why people are angry, everywhere in Brussels, in America, in La Belle France, everybody is angry, because we did not elect Joseph Kabila. We need a change."
In Congo's capital, Kinshasa, angry youths who supported Mr. Kabila's main election rival former Prime Minister Etienne Tshisekedi burned tires and barricaded streets.
They said Congolese were in national mourning.
Congo's electoral commission Friday declared President Kabila re-elected with nearly 49 percent of the vote to Mr. Tshisekedi's 32 percent. Mr. Kabila first came to power in a military coup in 2001, shortly after his father, a former rebel turned president, was assassinated.
The U.S. election monitoring group the Carter Center said Saturday the results of Congo's 2011 presidential election lacked credibility.
It said some pro-Kabila areas reported impossibly high rates of 99 to 100 percent voter turnout with nearly all votes going to Mr. Kabila.
The Carter Center called on Congolese political actors and institutions to closely examine the results and identify solutions.
Back in Washington, protesters like Patrick Mubobo said they were losing faith in the electoral process.
"If these elections are not fair, that is demonstrating that democracy has failed. There is no need in going in any elections because it is a waste of time."
Protesters said they hoped the U.S. government would condemn the election results and call for a serious investigation. They said the international community had failed to help the people of conflict-wracked and mineral-rich Congo for decades, and was failing again by letting erroneous election results stand.
[Al Ahram] British Prime Minister David Cameron ... has stated that he is certainly a big Thatcher fan, but I don't know whether that makes me a Thatcherite, which means he's not. Since he is not deeply ideological he lacks core principles and is easily led. He has been described as certainly not a Pitt, Elder or Younger, but he does wear a nice suit so maybe he's Beau Brummel ... faced searching questions Saturday over his veto of a new EU treaty to solve the eurozone crisis, despite receiving a hero's welcome from his party's politicians.
Cameron hosted a dinner for a number of Conservative MPs on Friday night at his country residence after he returned from a summit in Brussels where he took the historic step, his Downing Street office told AFP.
Finance minister George Osborne dismissed suggestions that Britannia would now lose influence within the EU, saying Cameron had to protect Britannia's interests, including the City of London financial services hub.
Cameron's veto torpedoed a new EU treaty aimed at saving the eurozone, but the other 26 EU states looked set to join a "new fiscal compact", proposed by La Belle France and Germany, to resolve the crisis.
"We have protected Britannia's financial services and manufacturing companies ... from the development of eurozone integration spilling over and affecting non-euro members of the EU," Osborne told BBC Radio.
"This is not about letting the City off regulation, this is about the right regulation for a very large financial centre, which is much, much larger than any financial centre in La Belle France or Germany or any other country of the EU."
Downing Street said there was a "pre-planned meeting" for Conservative politicians late Friday at Chequers, the prime minister's official country house outside London, but gave no further details
The BBC reported there were around 30 politicians present, including leading eurosceptic MP Andrew Rosindell, who had urged Cameron in parliament last week to show "bulldog spirit" at the Brussels summit.
Cameron was "very relaxed" and the mood was "extremely positive", Rosindell was quoted as saying by the BBC.
But former Conservative cabinet minister Michael Heseltine, a key figure under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, warned eurosceptics that Britannia could not protect its interests by walking away from the EU.
He backed Cameron's use of the veto but added: "In saying he wanted to protect the interests of the City, there is no way you can protect those interests by floating off into the Atlantic, frankly."
He said there would now have to be a discussion about the City's relationship with the eurozone.
There were also tensions with some Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in the coalition government, although Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg insisted the coalition was "united" on Cameron's demands.
Eurosceptic newspapers hailed Cameron's decision, with the mass-selling Daily Mail describing it as "The Day He Put Britannia First".
Rupert Murdoch's Sun tabloid put a picture of Cameron dressed as wartime leader Winston Churchill on its front page with the defiant headline "Up Eurs -- Bulldog PM sticks up for Britannia".
But other newspapers warned London was now dangerously isolated.
"The EU leaves Britannia", the Independent said in a headline, while the left-leaning Guardian said "Cameron cuts UK adrift" and accused him of acting not for the good of the economy but to appease eurosceptics.
The Financial Times and The Economist criticised Cameron's decision, saying it could lead to the City of London losing business to eurozone rivals Frankfurt and Gay Paree.
"Mr Cameron must now find a way to restore the UK's influence over the single market," the FT said in an editorial. "One thing is clear: an empty chair resolves nothing."
Bravo. I didn't think the spineless twit had it in him, and I still don't think he fully comprehends what he did. Britain now has one foot out the door of the EU, and will probably be shoved the rest of the way out. Excellent for all parties concerned.
"Mr Cameron must now find a way to restore the UK's influence over the single market," the FT said in an editorial. "One thing is clear: an empty chair resolves nothing."
Yes it f*cking does. It makes the other 26 chairs worth that much less. The UK's influence will continue just by keeping on keeping on. Eject the jihadis, eat too-curvy bananas, let homeowners kill armed intruders. Liberty is within reach. Let the continentals bury each other alive.
I just checked last night for earthquake or volcanic activity. Fairly quiet then. With the Lunar eclipse some thought increased activity would occur. On the 13th and 14th starting about 9-10PM all night we will have a meteor shower. The moon will interfere but you could see 50 or more meteors/hour till morning in the northeast as I recall.
[Daily Nation (Kenya)] Two decades after being ousted during a bloody US invasion, former Panama strongman Manuel Noriega returns home Sunday to prison and a mixed reception.
The 77-year-old is due to arrive on an Iberia flight at 5:30 pm (2230 GMT), guarded by a delegation of six foreign ministry officials, police, doctors and a prosecutor who prepared the transfer for a week in Gay Paree.
Under tight security, Panama's military ruler from 1983 to 1989 will be flown by helicopter from the airport to El Renacer prison, located northwest of the capital in a lush area near the Panama Canal.
"While Panama is known for being peaceful and tolerant, emotions are running high and inmate safety is our priority," Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez said Friday. "He will get the same treatment as any other inmate -- dignified and respectful but firm."
After serving more than two decades in prisons in the United States and La Belle France for drug trafficking and money laundering, Noriega will face three separate sentences of 20 years in Panama for crimes committed under his dictatorship, including the murder of critics.
But it remains uncertain exactly how long he may spend behind bars, as Panamanian law allows inmates 70 years old and over to petition for house arrest.
Relatives of victims of Noriega's regime have virulently opposed applying the rule to the former dictator.
Dressed in white and waving white flags and handkerchiefs, more than a hundred former members of the opposition and victims of the regime demonstrated on Calle 50, in the capital's banking center, demanding "justice."
[Iran Press TV] Argentinean President Cristina Kirchner Fernandez has been sworn in for the second term with a strong agenda to intensify her unconventional economic policies.
Fernandez held back tears on Saturday as she uttered her pledge before the country's congress during a gathering, also attended by foreign dignitaries, held to honor the constitution and the memory of her husband, the late President Nestor Kirchner, AFP reported.
The presidents of Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, and Bolivia joined the swearing-in ceremony, along with politicians from her Peronist party and supporters.
The 58-year-old won reelection in October 23 with 54.11 percent vote, the biggest vote share since President Juan Peron secured 62 percent of ballots in 1973. Her closest rival, Santa Fe Governor Hermes Binner, ended up 37 percentage points behind.
Amid economic insecurity facing Argentina's 40 million people, it is subject to major question whether Fernandez is to keep up the government's spending and price controls that functioned much to the country's benefit during her first tenure.
During the swearing-in ceremony, Kirchner summarized a litany of accomplishments during her first term, including policies that have led to the resumption of trials of former officials accused of rights violations during the country's last military dictatorship, which lasted from 1976 to 1983 under the rule of Argentina's last dictator, Reynaldo Bigone.
Bignone was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison on April 20, 2010 for kidnappings and torture during the country's 1976-1983 military regime.
[An Nahar] Belgium's new government won a parliamentary confidence vote Saturday, the last hurdle in resolving a political crisis in the linguistically divided country that lasted a record-breaking 541 days.
Of 143 deputies present, 89 voted in favor of the six-party administration headed by Elie Di Rupo, a French-speaking socialist, with 54, notably Phlegmish separatists, against.
Di Rupo's government of six ministers from thriving Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and six from struggling French-speaking Wallonia in the south was sworn in on Tuesday but faces an uphill battle to tackle problems at the root of the deadlock.
As divisions sharpen between its two parts, the country that plays host to global institutions such as the European Union ...the successor to the Holy Roman Empire, only without the Hapsburgs and the nifty uniforms and the dancing... and NATO ...the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. A collection of multinational and multilingual and multicultural armed forces, all of differing capabilities, working toward a common goal by pulling in different directions... is struggling to remain united around a joint political and economic vision.
The 6.5 million people of Flanders resent funding the 4.5 million of southern Wallonia, and the government was only formed when the powerful separatist N-VA party was excluded from the lengthy coalition talks.
The N-VA, which refuses to call Di Rupio prime minister, the extreme right Phlegmish Vlaams Belang, a French-speaking federalist party and the Greens of both communities voted against the government on Saturday.
In his speech before the vote Di Rupo pledged, "We will be the government of profound and lasting change, but without breaking our social model, our life in common and our federal model."
He is Belgium's first French-speaking premier in more than three decades and the first socialist at its helm since 1974.
Top of his agenda is a planned 11.3 billion euros in budget cuts, the toughest austerity measures in 70 years.
It took soaring borrowing costs and a Standard & Poor's downgrade from AA+ to AA late last month to jolt Belgium's politicians to put aside their differences and clinch a coalition deal. With debt at 96 percent of GDP last year, just behind Greece and Italia in the Eurozone, the coalition has pledged to balance the books by 2015 but many economists say Belgium might not achieve the 0.8 percent growth the budget foresees.
The government, an unlikely alliance of Socialists, Christian Democrats and Liberals from both sides of Belgium's language divide, also plans further devolution of powers to regional assemblies. But having already lost a year and a half to the haggling, Di Rupo has only two and a half left.
Over-under is six months...
Or one sixth that. The Belgians have a bit of a reputation in this area.
The fate of the civilized world hung in the balance, waiting with baited breath for this critical breakthrough. Now, at last, the global economy and all those wringing their hands in the corridors of power can rest easy, for after 541 terrifying days adrift, the world is secure once again.
You figure the best bet is probably for Flanders to join with the Netherlands, and Wallonia to become part of France. The current Belgian monarch would either share a dual monarchy for the remainder of his life, or he and his heir would become a lesser noble.
To the external observer, yes - but the Flemish would NEVER go back to the Netherlands. Walloons would go with whomever would pay them more to be idle. The Belgian monarchy was fabricated out of whole cloth only 150 years ago, and could be exiled to the mess they made in the Congo for all anyone cares.
Not to mention that all the German 10% of the Belgian population want out of life is not to be forced to join Germany, or at least so it used to be. Perhaps the excitements of the last 500+ days has changed their minds.
Now that Germany is the bailer-out of all, co-signer-at-large, and meal-ticket of last resort, I'd wager that German-speaking Belgians have less appetite for some kind of Anschluss-thingy than ever.
Flanders wants to be an independent republic. As long as France pays them enough, Walloons would probably be okay with that. German-Belgians . . . ? Maybe could convince Luxembourg to annex them.
[An Nahar] Indonesia has threatened to cut data services used by millions of BlackBerry customers, the industry body said Saturday, in an ongoing spat over infrastructure and government access to information.
The industry regulator said it would block internet services to the smartphones in the biggest market for Research In Motion (RIM) -- which makes the BlackBerry -- outside North America if RIM did not comply with its demands.
Canada-based RIM had agreed in January to fulfill four requests made by the communications and information technology ministry.
"RIM is supposed to have a license to provide internet services, and the government will only grant them one when they have fulfilled all four requests.
"If they don't, we'll have to cut their data services," the commissioner of the Indonesian Telecommunication Regulatory Body, Heru Sutadi, told Agence La Belle France Presse.
The requests included setting up an aggregator that would effectively reduce costs for local service providers, but authorities claimed Saturday RIM had rolled back on that commitment.
"We had a meeting with RIM on Thursday to talk about progress since January. They have fulfilled some requests, but we are disappointed they have not agreed to establish an aggregator in Indonesia," Sutadi said.
The government also requested that RIM set up customer care centers, block pornography from its service, and assist the government in accessing encrypted data on users' phones.
RIM said, however, that it has addressed all the requests and that it is looking at new multimillion-dollar investments in Indonesia.
It has set up a router in Singapore to which some Indonesian carriers have connected, and said that this fulfilled the government's aggregator request as it had only asked for a center in the region.
The firm said it was receiving "mixed messages". "We have never been formally asked to build a center in Indonesia," RIM's East Asia managing director Gregory Wade told AFP.
Sutadi said the industry body was concerned by the state of play on government access to encrypted data.
"RIM told us they were working with law enforcement agencies to ensure they can access the information, but they could not tell us who exactly they were working with," Sutadi said.
Indonesia is RIM's biggest market outside North America, with shipments of BlackBerry smartphones expected to surpass nine million units by the year end.
The government's threats come just two weeks after a BlackBerry promotional event turned disastrous.
More than 40 people were maimed and 20 were knocked unconscious or fainted in a crush when thousands rushed toward a shopping mall hoping to get their hands on one of 1,000 new BlackBerry Bold 9790 model going at half price.
Police named RIM's country president-director Andrew Cobham and consultant Terry Burkey as suspects in the case.
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.