Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Judge: Drinking tea, shopping at garden store probable cause for SWAT raid (washingtonpost.com)
254 points by eric_h on Dec 28, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 139 comments



The actual basis of the raid was a false positive by a field test kit, which misidentified tea leaves from the target's trash as marijuana. (They claim to not need a search warrant to look at trash.)

The raid was conducted in 2012, and this article reports a test performed in 2009 which showed that the brand of test kits in question has a 70% false positive rate. It links to a video in which running the test without a sample (ie, just exposing it to air) produced a "positive" result. Notably, this was three years earlier than the raid in question, which means that they were still using the faulty test kits.

There are only two possible reasons for a police department to be using a test like that. The first is ignorance, but of a degree and nature that is quite scandalous. The second is to commit fraud upon the courts, by claiming to have evidence of drug possession where no drugs exist. In light of the FBI hair test scandal (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/fbi-overstated-fo...) I think the latter explanation is fairly likely.


> The actual basis of the raid was a false positive by a field test kit

Yes, but the reason they were being investigated at all was because a cop was recording license plate numbers at a garden supply store.

You don't even have to have something to hide to fall prey to the war on citizens. If the police need an arrest, and they're looking at you, you'll be arrested.


Exactly.

You don't know if you have something to hide.

Either because you don't know how an irrational enemy (in case govt) will interpret your actions, so you want to minimize their ability to see your actions, or you don't know what will happen in the future. Because everything is recorded these days, you don't know if in the future you might want to hide something you did today. Say, you like to drink hibiscus tea and wear blue shoes. But it turns out in the future members of some horrible terrorist group will be drinking hibiscus tea and wearing blue shoes. Then you'd be a target all of the sudden.

EDIT: This similar to how police always can search your car if they want to -- they call the K-9 unit. The handler says "find boy" or does some other trained jesture or word, dog signals, now there is a probable cause to search your vehicle. It is very hard to prove that the dog was conditioned to signal on command and hard to refute (cop's word vs yours). So that is why K-9 units are very popular with some police departments. They provide ambiguity and plausable pretext for searches.


It's really absurd that we've outsourced the Fourth Amendment to dogs.


Quoting a post I recently came across on reddit:

> The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution clearly states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated unless a dog barks."


This is almost as bad as the Annie Dookhan[0] incident, in which a crime lab chemist outright falsified evidence used in almost 40,000 cases. She planted drugs in some tests, or simply faked results for tests that she never actually performed.

In at least some cases, she did this explicitly to aid the prosecution in securing convictions[1][2].

Spoiler: Dookhan got only 3-5 years worth of prison time for this.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Dookhan

[1] http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/12/20/in...

[2] http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2015/1...


At least she made the news. I know of an acquintance of a neighbour from many years ago, who was working as a technitian for DNA crime testing lab, which also did paternity testing, rape kits, etc. That individual was selling their services to the highest bidder. I imagine over the years, rapists, killers, deadbeat dads and all kind of horrible criminals got away while that person acquired a nice fortune. When I think of an example of a horrible example of a human being, the lowest of the low, that particular person comes to mind.


Seems like your DNA technician was only doing what most good defense attorneys do - secure an acquittal for a suspect.

And as for the argument that he was falsifying evidence to allow a guilty person to walk, I am sure that the occurrence of the opposite situation is far more prevalent - that false evidence is produced to allow an innocent person to be jailed.


We can show with a few assumptions that the police thought that the prior probability of the leaves being marijuana (before the field test) is at least 41%.

A = leaves in trash are marijuana B = field test result is positive

First use Bayes' to get P(A|B) = P(B|A)P(A) / [P(A)P(B|A)+P(-A)P(B|-A)]

Assume the false positive rate, P(B|-A) = 0.7. Assume the true positive rate, P(B|A) = 1.

The result is P(A) = 0.7P(A|B)/(1-0.3P(A|B))

Assume to get a warrant the police need P(A|B)>0.5. This puts P(A)=0.41. However, probable cause is more strict. Assume we need P(A|B)>0.90. This puts P(A)=0.86.

So if you go to a garden store and you drink tea, the police are 86% sure there are illegal substances in your home.


I think the most damning quote from the article is "He also ruled that the police were under no obligation to know that drug testing field kits are inaccurate".

Police are under no obligation to know that a tool they use is inaccurate? Would the same rules apply for the acquisition of, say, firearms - i.e. would the police be under no obligation to know that the glocks they're purchasing for their officers have a tendency to fire even when the safety is on?

Edit: per comments below please s/when the safety is on/without pulling the trigger/ when reading this comment


Further - who is obligated to know that the testing field kits are inaccurate? Can police purchase marijuana dowsing rods and legally use those as probable cause for a search/SWAT raid? It seems to me that the rate of false positives would be roughly equivalent given the numbers stated in the article.


"marijuana dowsing rods" are effectively the drug dogs often used to get "probable cause" to search someone's car without a warrant or any actual probable cause. They're effectively trained to give a positive return on whatever car the police point them at, to get around whichever amendment it is that law-enforcement in the US basically like to use to wipe their ass on.


> marijuana dowsing rods

this is a great idea.


Such a device already exists, and has been sold to many countries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADE_651

> The device has been sold to 20 countries in the Middle East and Far East, including Iraq and Afghanistan, for as much as US$60,000 each. The Iraqi government is said to have spent £52 million on the devices.

> Investigations by the BBC and other organisations found that the device is little more than a "glorified dowsing rod" with no ability to perform its claimed functions. In January 2010, export of the device was banned by the British government and the managing director of ATSC was arrested on suspicion of fraud, and in June 2010, several other companies were raided by British police. ATSC was dissolved on 5 March 2013. On 23 April 2013, the founder of ATSC, Jim McCormick, was convicted of three counts of fraud at the Old Bailey in London, and was subsequently sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.


man, thank you, it is pure gold, you just can't make it up :

>According to Husam Muhammad, an Iraqi police officer and user of the ADE 651, using the device properly is more of an art than a science: "If we are tense, the device doesn't work correctly. I start slow, and relax my body, and I try to clear my mind."[10] The cards were supposedly "programmed" or "activated" by being placed in a jar for a week along with a sample of the target substance to absorb the substance's "vapours". Initially, McCormick reportedly used his own blood to "program" the cards for detecting human tissue, but eventually gave up even the pretense of "programming" them when demand for the devices was at its peak.[11]

...

>The ADE 651 is a descendant of the Quadro Tracker Positive Molecular Locator produced in the 1990s by Wade Quattlebaum, a South Carolina car dealer, commercial diver, and treasure hunter.


Sounds like a great public benefit corp. Sell LEOs marijuana dowsing rods, donate all proceeds to something like the ACLU, then submit the names of all purchasers to review for dismissal/defunding.


Pretty sure that's fraud AND entrapment.


So standard police practice, isnt it?


You are absolutely spot on. However, to pick a quick nit:

> the glocks they're purchasing for their officers have a tendency to fire even when the safety is on?

Glocks don't have a safety that goes "on" and prevents them from firing. If you pull the trigger (which has a little mini trigger in it which must also be pulled - the only actual safety), it will fire.

Even cops who don't carry glocks rarely carry weapons that have a safety that works in the way you suggest; instead, most LEO duty weapons simply have a heavy trigger pull.


Thanks for picking that nit, I wasn't aware of that. I can count the number of handguns I've fired in my life on one finger (and it was a PPK).

I believe the analogy on the whole is still roughly valid, just s/when the safety is on/without pulling the trigger/


to add: the safety on a glock is to prevent impacts and vibration from firing the gun.

the gun is designed to shoot only when you pull the trigger, but to shoot FOR SURE when you pull the trigger, until the magazine is empty.


To clarify: most Glock pistols are semi automatic including LEO side arms and will only empty the magazine if the trigger is pulled repeatedly.


Whoa whoa, the magazine will only be emptied in that scenario if the rounds aren't dummy rounds.


Yeah, double-action-only should be the default for all handguns short of crazy .22LR target pistols.


a glock isn't double action. if the striker isn't in firing position (done by racking the slide when you first insert the magazine), it won't fire no matter how many times you pull the trigger. the slide locks back after firing the last round, so that it only readies the striker when you insert a new magazine and release the slide.


Yes, I know how a Glock works, and I think it's a bad design.


Only someone who knows nothing about shooting pistols would think that. How on earth is it a bad design?

A normal Glock with its single-action mechanism is pretty close to the best handgun design there is now. A double-action-only (DAO) design suffers from heavy trigger pulls, which cause terrible shot accuracy. Look at the NYPD and how many innocent bystanders they shoot because of their 12-lb trigger pulls. DA/SA are even worse because the first shot is double-action, so it's inconsistent. Both these designs should be banned from law enforcement use because of public safety.

The only thing wrong with Glocks is they only have the trigger safety, and no external safety (like the grip safety on Springfield XD pistols), so they misfire if you're clumsy when reholstering and something gets into the trigger guard, and this has caused a bunch of cops to shoot themselves in the foot or leg.


Maybe the problem in NYC isn't accuracy, maybe it's the number of people the NYC cops are trying to shoot.

Yes, Glocks make great target shooting pistols. I don't think it's a good gun to be putting into the hands of adrenaline-jacked people on the street. This year alone we've seen several instances of cops having shot suspects already subdued on the ground as well as each other because they are squeezing the gun too tightly while drawing and aiming. Adrenaline stress + bad trigger discipline = "the gun just went off".

You might disagree that DAO firearms are good for avoiding accidental discharge, but it's not an uninformed opinion. I own several firearms, have gone through several firearm safety courses, and have even had my own CCW permit in the past. I don't know how common of an opinion it is, but it's not just something I've made up because I don't know anything about guns.


Glocks were designed as military weapons, not target shooting pistols, and are used in the militaries of many nations. Similar pistols (like the XDs) are used in other nations' militaries. I would imagine that combat is about as bad an environment as you can get for adrenaline stress.

It sounds like the big problem is shitty training for cops.

The problem in NYC has been well-documented by gun experts, it's not the number of people they're trying to shoot. There have been many cases of them shooting at legitimate targets (not black guys running away, not small black children with toys, but real suspects wielding weapons on the street) at hitting bystanders because their shot accuracy is so pathetically bad. A 12-lb trigger pull (specifically designed into Glocks that were never meant to have them, at the insistence of the NYPD because they were used to crappy old revolvers) is a big part of that.

If a cop shoots a suspect on the ground, that's just plain murder, I don't care what their excuse is. Bad trigger discipline should be prosecuted as murder: you never put your finger on the trigger unless you've decided to kill the target.


>> Glocks were designed as military weapons

yeeeeah, definitely not suitable for cops


Um, why not? The stress of actual combat is far more than almost any cop ever goes through, unless he's one of the rare ones involved in an active shooter situation (and even those tend to be over pretty quickly; military combat can go on for hours or days).


Because the metric it optimizes for is "successfully hit target", and ignores whether or not the target needed to be hit. NYPD's problem is not heavy trigger pulls. It's trigger happiness to begin with. Police duty is not like TV, it's not battles with drug cartels, even in LA. Police should not in any way resemble soldiers. We should go back to the time when recent military duty was considered a negative when applying for police duty.


I'm sorry, this is just plain stupid. Giving cops inaccurate weapons is not going to make them less trigger-happy, you'll just wind up with more bystanders shot. Yes, the NYPD does have a problem with heavy trigger pulls, whether you agree or not. Many expert sources have pointed this problem out. If you want to hit a target, a heavy trigger pull makes it more likely you'll torque the gun and miss your target. Going back to revolvers isn't going to fix that (though at least the revolvers were heavier so maybe the effect wasn't as bad).

If you want to argue about police tactics, recruitment, training, or purpose, this isn't the place for it. This is a thread about pistols and trigger pull weights.

As for military duty, that should be a plus for police duty. Military soldiers have to learn about things like "rules of engagement" and had very strict training about that. If they saw combat, then they are also much less likely to lose their demeanor when dealing with a rough situation, because they've already seen much worse. The cops who have all the problems seem to be ones who were never in the military, and probably would have been (or were) rejected if they had applied: basically thugs who want to play soldier and never got the chance. Notice that you never hear about problems with military police (MPs) shooting people unnecessarily, despite the extremely high numbers of non-white people in the military? I think there's a reason for that.


> Only someone who knows nothing about shooting pistols would think that.

Come on now. Plenty of the most seasoned experts on earth don't care for the Glock design.

DA/SA requires a lot of practice, sure, but it's a great mechanism.

Are you saying that there's a known correlation between departments who, say, carry Sigs (the worst in your assessment), vs heavy glocks (second worst) vs. light glocks? I'm aware of no such data.

At the end of the day, different people prefer different pistols. I happen to really like the DA/SA of the FNH's and Sig P220.


double-action-only should be the default

But then, as another response to you mentioned, it's hard to hit what you're aiming at.

What's your objection to "traditional double-action",[1] aka double-action/single-action? At least that way, it's easier to control subsequent shots, while still requiring double-action for the first shot.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trigger_%28firearms%29#Double-...


DAO (and equivalent) are problematic though. Exposed hammers should be there. NYPD issues Glocks with custom 12 lb triggers (regular is about 5), and their cops have a bit of a problem hitting what they're pointing at as a result.


The same thing has come to light about tasers since the famous case where a man was killed from being tased while handcuffed [1]

It turns out that Police had done zero testing and had no idea if tasers are "safe" - it just happened that some company started making and selling them, so Police started buying and using them.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Dzieka%C5%84ski_Taser_i...


"A state trooper had been positioned in the store parking lot to collect the license plate numbers of customers, compile them into a spreadsheet, then send the spreadsheets to local sheriff’s departments for further investigation."

this sound a lot like a stasi operation.

https://media.ccc.de/v/32c3-7209-what_does_big_brother_see_w...


>this sound a lot like a stasi operation.

the Stasi/KGB would be salivating at the scale and the capabilities that has already been deployed. They could only dream about automatic recording of every sound around any connected electronic device and automatic transription of it into a searchable database already containing all the un- and weakly-encrypted electronic communications of all your populace and all the movements of that populace. Add to that constant video recording from security, police and backdoored consumer cameras with automatic image recognition. Stasi/KGB was a kiddie game compare to that.


> this sound a lot like a stasi operation.

No.

Assuming that the parking lot is exposed to the street, there is absolutely nothing wrong with posting an officer in or near the lot and recording the plates of vehicles that travel near the area. The notion that it is 100% okay that things that happen in public view may be subject to notice and recording at any time is very important to preserve.

Where this goes oh so wrong is when the PD posts a robot policeman [0] at the location, or a network of them throughout the district that record things (like license plates).

There are only so many officers in a district, each of them can only be doing one thing at a time, and every one of them requires OT pay for extended work hours. This means that a district has to decide if plate collection at a location is the best thing that they can be doing with a particular officer.

If a district can suddenly -for the price of one meatbag officer- dedicate ten new robot "officers" [1] to the task of car movement surveillance, then their powers have been greatly expanded.

It's very important that we protect the right to notice and record things that happen in public. I feel that it's equally important that we work to limit the damage that an entity can do when they have the resources available to record such things on a large scale.

[0] AKA: a camera

[1] who can work 24/7 and never require OT pay


It wouldn't have to be a police officer, you could pay minimum wage to (or blackmail) anyone willing to collect number plates etc.

From the Stasi article on Wikipedia:

By 1995, some 174,000 inoffizielle Mitarbeiter (IMs) Stasi informants had been identified, almost 2.5% of East Germany's population between the ages of 18 and 60.[12] 10,000 IMs were under 18 years of age.[12] From the volume of material destroyed in the final days of the regime, the office of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records (BStU) believes that there could have been as many as 500,000 informers.[12] A former Stasi colonel who served in the counterintelligence directorate estimated that the figure could be as high as 2 million if occasional informants were included. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stasi

According to this[1] there are 1.22 million police in the US, which is about 0.373% of the population. Imagine 10 times as many police / informants / analysts / etc.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependen...


> It wouldn't have to be a police officer, you could pay minimum wage to ... anyone willing to collect number plates etc.

I would be very surprised if any Policeman's Union would permit that.


They would just have to be a paid informant.


You still have to have paperwork on informants.

I guarantee you that a Policeman's Union is going to stop you if it looks like you're using informants as a cheap source of labor to perform police scutwork such as stakeouts and other such surveillance.


I have never followed this line of reasoning. I see no reason it should be arbitrarily limited or expensive to do things that technology can do for cheap. It makes no sense.

If the problem is that petty things are punished too harshly or are selectively enforced, then that is where attention should be directed. I don't think being caught and prosecuted for a crime should be a roll of the dice. If society decides something is illegal, I want that thing enforced. I don't want my tax money wasted on police sitting around watching for speeders. I want them doing the things that an expensive human is paid for.


> I see no reason it should be arbitrarily limited or expensive to do things that technology can do for cheap.

When you hand a powerful tool to a powerful organization you must make sure that there are safeguards in place to limit the damage that can be done when parts of that organization use that tool for evil.

For the past couple of decades, the US has been having a painful conversation about the just what this proper privacy/LEO-convenience balance should be. LEO rhetoric notwithstanding, it's abundantly clear that it has never been easier to perform surveillance than it is today.

I expect that not many people would object to temporary placement of an ALPR system at a place of interest when all data from that system that is not _clearly_ directly related to a person of interest is purged before it ever gets into the hands of law enforcement.

I expect that many (but far too few) people would object to blanketing an entire metro area in ALPR cameras, RFID toll tag readers, DRT boxes, and the like and retaining all of that information forever, just in case it was needed to speed an investigation along later.

> I don't want my tax money wasted on police sitting around watching for speeders.

Thing is, I do. I want police to have to choose to pay a meatbag to do this sort of scutwork because in way too many cases, those laws are enforced to enrich the department's coffers or to target disfavored people.

I totally 100% agree that we should have sane laws that are applied evenly across the board. I would LOVE for prosecutor and police discretion, as well as plea bargaining to be removed, forever. This will not happen in my lifetime, if it ever does.

So -for now- we limit the damage evil people can do with the power tools that they have available to them. This makes policing more expensive. That's okay with me.


>The notion that it is 100% okay that things that happen in public view may be subject to notice and recording at any time is very important to preserve.

Yes, but the problem here isn't that this number was recorded, it's that it was recorded at a garden supply shop with no real reason to believe that anyone at the shop was growing marijuana.

The key bit is that it puts innocent people under suspicion and leads to wasted effort on the police side, along with pointless legal bullshit on the innocent's side. Not everyone who goes to that stpre is gonna be a marijuana dealer, or even a user; garden supply stores are kind of a key place to get supplies for any garden. The chance of that garden being laced with pot is a lot smaller than 100% of the time.


> Yes, but the problem here isn't that this number was recorded, it's that it was recorded at a garden supply shop with no real reason to believe that anyone at the shop was growing marijuana.

We all have a right to privacy. However, we all also have a long-standing right to notice and take note of things that happen in plain sight in public areas. Be very careful with how you propose to fix any wrongs here.

> The key bit is that it puts innocent people under suspicion and leads to wasted effort on the police side...

I'm having difficulty understanding what this has to do with surveillance of a parking lot that was publicly visible.

Anyone who has undertaken a non-trivial endeavor understands that one is likely to try many approaches that end up not working out. Police investigation is often non-trivial work. Sometimes, you'll go to a place, collect a bunch of publicly available information, sift through that information, and discover that it was all a dead end. This seems to me to be perfectly okay, as long as your motivation for gathering that information was good.

If incompetent or lazy officers are either spending an inordinate amount of time chasing dead ends, or they are throwing cuffs on the first name that floats in front of their faces, they should be corrected. If they can't be corrected, they should be removed from policing.

If incompetent or lazy officers end up jailing or causing someone to have to pay legal fees when that someone is obviously not the person(s) that they're after, the department should be required to compensate [0] the person that they fucked over.

If malicious officers are using their powers to harass and intimidate, they should face real charges and be removed from policing.

[0] This compensation would obviously go above and beyond compensation for direct costs and time lost and cover pain and anguish compensation as well.


The problem isn't that the information was supposedly private, or that the parking lot was public.

The problem is that people were being raided based on buying garden supplies. The purchase of legal, useful tools--used for things like growing your own food, or even basic maintenance of your front yard (which is mandatory in some places)--was being used as a means of deciding who to arrest. This is not only a massive insult to the people being raided, but also a waste of time for the police, on top of being questionably moral and against the principles upon which the US was founded. Literally everyone involved is losing here, and that means this method of looking for people to arrest is wrong.


> The problem is that people were being raided based on buying garden supplies.

I get that. That's a big problem. I thought I made my stance on this clear. :)

Don't get confused! The problem isn't the exercise of the right to take notice and note of things that happen in public. The problem is police who perform balls-to-the-wall SWAT raids on people just because they were seen purchasing gardening supplies.

Punish the shitty policing. Make those who were raided far more than whole. Actually punish the people responsible for ordering the raid on such flimsy evidence. Make it abundantly clear that this is behavior is entirely unacceptable and not how police behave. If you don't fix the root cause, the problem will happen over and over again.


You're saying public recording is fine when it's "expensive" -- costing a human salary, but not when it's a robot? I'm not following you.

If police are going to record citizens, citizens should feel comfortable recording police. What their routes are, favorite stops, conversations, etc.


> You're saying public recording is fine when it's "expensive" -- costing a human salary, but not when it's a robot? I'm not following you.

You are following me. That's exactly what I'm saying.

Human scale surveillance is okay. Because the surveillance is carried out by a human on the scene, it requires the surveillers to decide who should be surveilled, and prevents or eliminates blanket surveillance.

> If police are going to record citizens, citizens should feel comfortable recording police.

100% agreed. Because of the extraordinary powers they are entrusted with, on-duty police [0] should be held to a much higher standard than regular folks.

Off-duty cops who aren't exercising police power? They're folks like any other and must be afforded the same rights and protections as every other regular citizen.

[0] Or off-duty police who are otherwise exercising their police powers.


> Human scale surveillance is okay. Because the surveillance is carried out by a human on the scene, it requires the surveillers to decide who should be surveilled, and prevents or eliminates blanket surveillance.

But what we're describing is not a human using his judgment to select probable suspects for further investigation. It's a guy parked pointing a camera at all license plates and feeding them en masse to a computer for automated processing. It is not functionally different than the hypothetical robot you described, only this happens to be a robot with an organic component.


> It is not functionally different than the hypothetical robot you described, only this happens to be a robot with an organic component.

Two things.

1) You appear to have missed this in my original comment:

> It's very important that we protect the right to notice and record things that happen in public. I feel that it's equally important that we work to limit the damage that an entity can do when they have the resources available to record such things on a large scale.

2) It's obvious that one can very cost-effectively blanket any urban or semi-urban area in ALPR cameras. When you do this, you gain the ability to track any vehicle in that area forever. For areas of any appreciable size, no police force has the personnel on hand to achieve the same level of coverage with human officers. This means that -if you ban robot officers- you dramatically limit the parts of one's trips that the police can remember.

It's the difference between a passive attacker that controls a few nodes in the Tor network, and a passive attacker that controls most of the nodes in the Tor network. In the former situation, that attacker may be able to use traffic analysis to unmask a few Tor users. In the latter situation, they will be able to unmask very many Tor users. [0]

Make sense?

[0] This is -as the Tor people have always said- not something that Tor protects against.


Ok -- I'm following your argument now. I'm surprised that you think 100% blanket surveillance is not ok, but partial surveillance -- limited only by its expensiveness -- is OK.

Because what's most likely to happen is that the police choose to surveil an area for political reasons (like racial segregation), and are thus attacking a specific group.

Yes, by limiting robot police & robot cameras you make this difficult for police by limiting their memory, but mass-surveillance is still happening! This, myself & the other commenter (I believe) find this unacceptable.

I'm arguing that police shouldn't be mass surveilling at all -- with robots, helmet cams that track license plates or by individual human officers selecting a zone to surveil. Or that if this surveillance happens -- it becomes public knowledge. Let every citizen view the live feeds around them, perform their own tracking if they wish, to keep the playing field open.

The Tor project doesn't protect against isolated attacks (surveillance), but would it not be nice if it could?

I think we have a difference of opinion here so I'm curious -- what are valid reasons from your viewpoint in which a human officer should select an area to surveil?


> Because what's most likely to happen is that the police choose to surveil an area for political reasons (like racial segregation), and are thus attacking a specific group.

That has nothing to do with police surveillance. That has everything to do with crooked cops. It's a problem that's worth talking about, but it's completely unrelated to a conversation about limiting the damage that can be done with tireless, incredibly cheap robot police officers.

> ...but mass-surveillance is still happening!

What I'm describing as the ideal situation isn't mass surveillance. If you declare all surveillance that gets fed back into a filing cabinet (computerized or otherwise) to be mass surveillance, you make it impossible to distinguish between a single guy on a stakeout and an organization that records and stores for the rest of eternity every single phone call in a nation, the exterior of every single piece of snail mail in a nation, and the movement of every single automobile in every major and most minor metropolitan areas in that nation.

Please don't do that.

> The Tor project doesn't protect against isolated attacks (surveillance), but would it not be nice if it could?

If you could get it for free, it would be nice. It's a hard problem that requires some very serious tradeoffs. There is no way around those tradeoffs.

Tor -as is- is very useful. If it protected against a passive adversary that controlled most of the nodes in the network, nearly noone would use it because it would be too slow.

> ...what are valid reasons from your viewpoint in which a human officer should select an area to surveil?

I mean, the obvious stuff?

* As part of a routine crime-prevention patrol. (E.g. an officer walking a regular beat.)

* As part of an ongoing investigation into one or more people who are -at a minimum- suspected of being involved in illegal activity.

Let's skip the conversation about what should or shouldn't be illegal. While that's a useful conversation to have, it's not in-scope for a conversation about limiting the damage done by robot policing.


It's not fine when it's expensive, it's fine when it's inherently limited and not omniscient.

> If police are going to record citizens, citizens should feel comfortable recording police.

Nobody's debating that.


But citizens aren't incentivized to record police.


But the bigger problem is that they started to use automatic license plate recognition with cameras around town and police cars to automatically log all license plates and their locations... (see this for example, in Florida: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA5Gy32aqdo&t=1m22s)


These type of police power abuse stories are depressing to read. It seems the whole legal system is designed to protect and perpetuate itself, with justice itself being a mere side-effect. It's hard not to be pessimistic, especially after having read Balko's (the article author's) book _Rise of the Warrior Cop_.

Much of the problem stems from our hysterical over-reaction to the crime spikes of the 60's and 70's, where the citizenry clamored for and were provided with draconian laws and tactics. Combine this with an almost blind deference to police authority (both as a matter of law and public opinion) and the environment is ripe for abuses of power.

That being said, this particular case did result in some small legislation to help correct the problems of police overreach. Which is small nudge in the right direction, away from the fear-driven policies of the past. But I'm still afraid - that the situation will get much worse, and the abuses even more egregious, before any substantial reform is enacted.


> It seems the whole legal system is designed to protect and perpetuate itself, with justice itself being a mere side-effect.

This applies to almost every entity - whether a system, industry, organization or individual. Any value the entity delivers externally is of secondary concern to the entity, but it is also how the entity defines its usefulness in the eyes of others.


How does the U.S. differ substantially from a classic "police state"?


'police state' isn't something well defined.

In any case, regardless of the fact that these sorts of incident are not uncommon, they're not particularly frequent either.

The term _police state_ has 'taken on an emotional and derogatory meaning" by describing an undesirable state of living characterized by the overbearing presence of the civil authorities'

Which isn't at all the case for most people. More like isolated abuses of power than the pervasive control of civil authorities. It's a problem, and the problem is growing, but "police state" is an unhelpful hyperbole – using terms like that loses you credibility and distracts from the real discussions that should be happening.


Have you seen this[1][2] 30 page document published by the Australian Government, entitled "Preventing Violent Extremism And Radicalisation In Australia"

The title on page 10 is "Violent extremism", followed by a 'Case Study' on page 11 which reads:

"Karen grew up in a loving family who never participated in activism of any sort. When she moved out of home to attend university Karen became involved in the alternative music scene, student politics and left-wing activism."

The Australian Government associating "university" and "the alternative music scene, student politics, and left-wing activism" with "violent extremism" is an undesirable state of living charactered by the overbearing presence of the civil authorities indeed.

> More like isolated abuses of power than the pervasive control of civil authorities.

In Australia, first they came for people who listened to alternative music. And I didn't speak up because I didn't listen to alternative music. ... Except, I do. I've also voted for, and been a member of, left-wing political parties in the past. When should I start worrying? Probably not until the current set of primary school aged kids are running the country, because it's them who have been born in to a world where persistent surveillance is normal and listening to alternative music is extreme.

Oh well, we tried.

1. https://www.livingsafetogether.gov.au/informationadvice/Docu...

2. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-24/anti-radicalisation-ki...


So I investigated [1] at your suggestion.

Literally on the same page as the Karen story is examples of far right hate groups including anti-islam and abortion clinic attacks.

All ideologies can produce extremist according this document, why are you so upset there is an example of yours?


Which isn't at all the case for most people.

This is a statement of privilege. That doesn't prove that it's wrong, but it does make it quite unconvincing. It amounts to simply ignoring the experience of those who are regularly subject to such a state of living.

...using terms like that loses you credibility and distracts from the real discussions that should be happening.

Who are we trying to convince, of what? USA residents who don't fear the excess and caprice of police vote that ignorance; they are part of the problem. The only way to help them is to end their ignorance. Since they only think what they're told to think by the news media, and the news media ignored this issue until forced by mass protests to address it, "hyperbole" is one of the few techniques that has accomplished anything.


It depends on your perspective too. A black person or person of Mexican descent might feel that it's totally a justified description and I think at this point it would be difficult to argue with them.


The response I see most often to this question - and one that is clearly inaccurate - is that police don't target people for their politics or their culture.

To my way of thinking, the entire concept of drug prohibition is an attack on a particular culture - a particular diet - which is strongly associated with a particular array of politics.

I think it's reasonable to assess that the US today is a police state.


The "Occupy" movement was targeted by police, as one example of a non-violent political group targeted by the police.*

I agree that the US is a police state.

*And by targeted I mean we had undercover police officer agent-provocateurs trying to encourage our local Occupy group to engage in serious crimes and provided materials for those crimes.


"The response I see most often to this question - and one that is clearly inaccurate - is that police don't target people for their politics or their culture."

Also, if you acknowledge that ethnic groups can have separate cultures (not a bold claim, IMO) and look at the ethnic distribution of US citizens accidentally (giving them the benefit of the doubt) killed by the police I think that claim is hard to defend.


The US is a police state through and through. There's no accountability for the police, and they're constantly used to rough up politically inconvenient groups (the poor, the blacks) and are increasingly smashing their clubs on white, middle classed heads. 360 degree surveillance powers given to local police departments also allow them to manufacture charges or probable cause-- after all, they're the only ones with that privileged information, so they can claim it says whatever they want.

The police use a culture of paramilitary raids to stroke their need to feel like soldiers while not being in danger from the civilians whose homes they break into late at night.

Oh yeah, and then there's the whole civil asset forfeiture thing, where the pigs steal from people not accused of any crime.


A fairly typical definition of "police state" is "a totalitarian state controlled by a political police force that secretly supervises the citizens' activities."

Much of the time incidents are pointed to as evidence for the US being a police state -- including the present article -- they involve actions of local police forces that, while unconstrained by the federal government, are also not acts of a national political police force enforcing some centralized policy.

Merely having inadequate constraints on a variety of different police forces with different and sometimes conflicting agendas is a distinctly different problem from being a classic police state.


When they found no evidence, they didn't file charges. That's a pretty major difference.


On the surface that does seem to be a major difference, however given that there was _no_ evidence that anyone in that house would be bearing arms (at least according to the article) the bar for forcing one's way into a house and pointing a gun at someone should be much, much higher.


YMMV but in Chicago they just plant the "evidence" anyway


Orders don't come from the top?


Articles like this will likely be censored in 20 years


There's an interesting meta-question here about why the legal system relies so heavily on binary decisions, rather than taking uncertainty into account as far as possible.

Imagine that in Bayes World, the presence of a positive THC test updates, in a way that takes into account the probability that the test gives a false positive, a random variable G|* representing the probability that, given all available information, the suspect is growing marijuana. Similarly, the event of the resident's visit to a garden store updates G|*. [0]

Then, perhaps the Bayes City Police Department would use Bayesian Decision Theory [1] (perhaps with a custom loss function that takes into the account that a false positive for sending a SWAT team can actually cause needless loss of life!) to decide who to raid. The Judge (a trained statistician and data scientist) would supervise the algorithm and make sure that procedures are updated to constantly balance the case-specific "gut feelings" of the investigators with the need for a predictable system.

And let's keep rolling with this! In Bayes World, we never think of "guilty" or "not guilty" as a set fact. If there's any uncertainty in the case, that's taken into account quantitatively in sentencing. A jury of the accused's peers, all educated in statistics (because in Bayes World, the politicians dispute certain assumptions going into macroeconomic models, but they grudgingly agree that investments in basic income and education have positive expected value when weighted by the likelihood of those assumptions... but I digress...) choose certain coefficients for sentencing based on the human factors of the case.

But we don't live in Bayes World, so we get stories like this.

[0] http://lesswrong.com/lw/2b0/bayes_theorem_illustrated_my_way... [1] http://www.cse.buffalo.edu/~jcorso/t/CSE555/files/lecture_ba...


I think the other interesting question is why Law Enforcement feel the need to execute a search warrant like this with a SWAT team and a massive show of force.

Based on the article, these people were not considered "high risk", in which case the Police could have politely knocked on the door, informed the residents what was happening without ever drawing a weapon, or forcing anyone to the ground.

In the same way their decision making is binary, it appears their method of action is also binary - either take no action, or bring the big guns and go all out with a show of force and violence.


I know a Swede who was growing pot in his apartment and got ratted on by a neighbor. The police showed up since they were obligated to respond, and proceeded to politely knock on the door, search the apartment, and in the end confiscate the plants / equipment. There were two policemen, and while they were doing the work they were chatting with my friend about the details of his setup, complimented him on how neat it was, and were almost apologetic about having to take it away. What a world of difference.


> could have politely knocked on the door, informed the residents what was happening without ever drawing a weapon, or forcing anyone to the ground.

... but then they wouldn't get to stage a raid that justified their purchase of military surplus gear.


Because it makes for good security theater. Sometimes the local media is invited, which dutifully shows the (uninformed) citizenry their tax dollars at work, taking out the Bad Guys(tm).


> I think the other interesting question is why Law Enforcement feel the need to execute a search warrant like this with a SWAT team and a massive show of force.

If they actually had probable cause to believe that it was a major criminal marijuana grow operation, that itself would probably be nearly sufficient reason to expect that the risk of armed resistance would be high enough to warrant the kind of raid actually conducted.


No, it actually wouldn't. We're not talking about the Juarez Cartel here, we're talking about 2 white people from Kansas with an extremely weak lead. If the lead was accurate, which it wasn't, it would've been 2 aging hippies, probably unarmed. Maaaaaaybe somoene with a handgun stashed in the house. Definitely not a paramilitary force of gangsters looking to get into a shootout.

The real reason for the SWAT raid is because SWAT raids are cool. Look at the gear. Look at the guns. Looks like fun. In fact, it looks like more fun than anything in the average policeman's day job. Ever seen a coder pick the more fun, cooler approach rather than the more appropriate, boring tool that gets the job done with a minimum of fuss?


I'm no expert in Bayesian statistics, but I think the outcome would have been exactly the same if the law enforcement officers were trained statisticians:

1) Some percentage of people > 0% who buy hydroponic equipment are using it to illegally grow marijuana. Depending on what percentage you assign to this, this is reason enough to go to 2.

2) Some percentage of substances > 0% that test positive for THC are marijuana. Again, depending on what percentage you assign to this, this is enough reason to go to 3.

3) The house is searched, and the suspects are determined not to be growing marijuana.

The huge problem with Bayesian statistics, is that incredibly difficult to assign these probabilities objectively for many real world scenarios. How many people who purchase hydroponic equipment in Johnson County, Kentucky are growing marijuana? 1%? 50%? 90%? You could analyze this to death, and you'd never be able to put an exact number on it.


Oooor...

1) You realize hydroponics has nothing to do with growing pot. 100 % of pot growers breath air. You don't use that to single them out.

2) You make sure the tested substance is actually pot. No test can be perfect, but it can be a LOT better than "sometimes it works".

3) You don't pretend you are military. Just knock the door, have chat with the white couple instead of pushing their face into the floor, pet the dog instead of shooting it, and have a look around for the pot growing operation instead of searching the entire house for something else.


Well - we do have the concept of reasonable doubt. For the sake of framing it in the framework you've presented, we'll call it reasonable uncertainty. The problem with the case presented in the article is that all of the action happened before it proceeded to the part of the system where reasonable uncertainty is actually a valid argument, and ultimately, no charges were filed.

It is undeniable that police do not behave under the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty, or innocent until it's been proven beyond reasonable uncertainty - it is purely for the courts to decide that.

Police, when they suspect a person of wrongdoing will treat that person as guilty as far as the law will allow them to. They can handcuff you, put you in jail, point a gun at you, interrogate you, etc. as long as they believe they have a reasonable suspicion (not certainty, not a great deal of evidence, just reasonable suspicion).

Given the number of false positives I've gotten with Bayesian spam filters, I'll take reasonable doubt over Bayesian justice ;)


It's time to start the conversation about Private Production of Defense.[1] Without competitive forces coming to bear upon the monopoly enjoyed by the law enforcement and judicial systems, we will see ever-increasing rights violations with no recourse from the citizens.

Ending the War on Drugs is a great step in the right direction and make sense any way you look at it, but it will not end the systematic abuses of power perpetrated by the State.

[1]: https://mises.org/library/private-production-defense


This is a trivial criticism of a work that I do not presently have time to review, but I can't help but think of capitalist dystopia described in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash when considering the delegation of defense/police forces to the free market.


Vernor Vinges "the ungoverned" puts a clever twist on this idea.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ungoverned


If you have private police, don't you effectively have your own private state?


FTA: "Once they had been cleared of any wrongdoing, the Hartes wanted to know what happened. Why had they been raided?"

They got raided because in a police state, constant paramilitary raids happen whether or not the police have valid criminal targets. If there are no real criminals to raid, criminals will be invented. Poor quality contraband testing and the drug war itself are two such ways that criminals can be invented. The purpose of creating criminals and conducting armed raids is to keep the citizens afraid of their government.

We've fallen a long way. In what world is the growing of a certain kind of plant a legitimate reason for a violent raid?

Fascist behavior is exactly why I am purely indifferent when the police are killed or maimed: they have earned their reputation as oppressors and wear it with stolid pride.


This story is a pretty good argument against "if you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid of", too. They had nothing to hide, but with the innocent information the police collected - the businesses they visited, the purchases they made, the things they threw away - they managed to construct an excuse to raid their house.


I think this is a fantastic case against the "if you have nothing to hide" argument.

The apologist would say "but they weren't convicted of anything, so the system worked!"

Personally, I would say they were lucky that no one was killed. None of the "probable cause" for this raid justifies pointing a loaded gun(s) at an unarmed person.


As well as extensive property damage during the search.


Agreed, but I'll take property damage over having a loaded gun pointed at me any day of the week; doesn't matter who's pointing it.


I hope this account isn't linked to your actual identity, because in a police state, stating that you're indifferent to police being killed is a very good way of getting very special attention.


If someone wants to find something bad on the person, then it’ll be very easy.

Bought fertilizer? said online that you’re indifferent to police being killed?

"We have clues the person might have planned a bomb attack on local police headquarters".

The whole issue of being able to use planted evidence, misinterpreted information, or faked witness statements to hurt some random person is real. As can be seen in the fact that a single call can lead to a SWATting.


Pfft, we're all already "on the lists", and it's too late to care about that. The government has dossiers on all of us sitting in databases somewhere, detailing our political views, grudges, radicalization potential, etc.

Sure, maybe by being a bit more edgy you get put on the next edgier list and there's more scrutiny, but let's face it, the government isn't even aggressive enough to stop the people on the no-fly list from weaponizing, so they are sure as hell not aggressive enough to bother people not associated with terrorism but who disagree with them overtly. As of now, there are not so many tangible consequences to disagreeing with the government in public.

So, in short: the "attention" of the federal part of the police state is algorithmic, and, while malicious, relatively impotent in terms of effecting armed raids. The local cops aren't empowered to hunt down their detractors or federal dissenters so long as they don't demonstrate physically en masse.


That would mean that the State is actually making some deep analysis.

The level of analysis here is very very shallow: a set of registration numbers jotted down by a police officer on a parking lot 5 months before. The rest, which is already not much at all, is at best heavily biased dice throw, or as the author suggest simply planted evidence.

No deep connection check ( like government monitoring database for activities like on reddit trees ), background analysis (why would a rich family start a home pot operation in the first place), no basic policing work ( electricity/water consumption, movement, contact with dealer, ...).

Parent can say whatever he wants here. Visiting a fishing and hunting shop, or picking his friend at the gun range is all that is needed for the police.


> Once they had been cleared of any wrongdoing, the Hartes wanted to know what happened. Why had they been raided? What possible probable cause could the police have had for sending a SWAT team into their home first thing in the morning? But even that information would prove difficult to obtain. Under Kansas law, the sheriff’s department wasn’t obligated to turn over any information related to the raid — not to the Hartes, not to the media, not to anyone. The couple eventually had to hire an attorney to get a judge to order the sheriff to release the information. They spent more than $25,000 in legal fees just to learn why the sheriff had sent a SWAT team into their home. Once they finally had that information, the Hartes filed a lawsuit.

> He also ruled that the police were under no obligation to know that drug testing field kits are inaccurate, nor were they obligated to wait for the more accurate lab tests before conducting the SWAT raid.

This is bullshit.

By this standard, Marijuana Dowsing Rods can be sold to the police and used to raid people's homes!

Oh, and the police are under no obligation to disclose the fact they use dowsing rods as a primary method of "discovering" drug dens!

> Keep in mind that this was a ruling for summary judgment. This was not a trial. To dismiss the suit at this stage, Lungstrum needed to view the facts in a light most favorable to the Hartes. And yet he still found that at no point did the police violate the family’s constitutional rights.

Congratulations! We live in a police state if the most favorable interpretation of those events for the victims is "Nope, no problem here!"


I more and more fail to understand why people from the USA tolerate their police / justice and assimilated services. From all the articles I see here they seem to do far more harm than good and to be populated with lots of insane people (how else would you define randomly spying on gardeners, then trashing them, then raiding them based on lousy evidences)? Do they ever do something good and not stupid? Are they ever accountable for they misbehavior and absurd investigations? Isn't there an inspection service that can investigate on police actions and actually recognize that they are insane when they are?

Not that this is so much better in France. They recently administratively home arrested ecologist activists using extra power given by the state of emergency that was activated by the islamist terror attacks. That's beyond fucked-up, but given demonstrations were forbidden at the same time they could get away with that totalitarianism move without much trouble... :/


For the time being, it would seem that the vast majority of encounters with police in the United States is entirely uneventful: traffic tickets, a stern talking to, etc.

Naturally, every police encounter where a gun is not drawn/no one's rights are apparently violated will never make the news.

It's the exceptions that make headlines, and it's the internet that has empowered those exceptions to be made public and spread much farther and wider than they ever had even 10 years ago (what with everybody and their mother and grandmother on Facebook these days). This is perhaps one upside of the true eternal September that we've entered (much more so than the advent of AOL back in the day).

This is not to say that there isn't a problem. The fact that stories like these have popped up in basically every state in the US suggests that there is indeed a culture that has developed amongst law enforcement/government that facts and science and reason play second fiddle to a number of other factors (not to mention the "thin blue line").

I do believe that most cops in the US act in the public interest to the best of their knowledge/ability; the problem is that it's most and not all, and the minority with perhaps ulterior motives now has access to a great deal of surplus military equipment manufactured for various recent US military operations (and provided to local law enforcement at tremendous discounts), and laws that allow them to behave in ways that they should not be allowed to behave.


It's very difficult to 'not tolerate' the government's policies and behavior.

Hard to know how to change a problem behavior, hard to organize against it, and if you do organize against an existing power structure, you can be sure there are companies making money off the existing structure that can counter-organize with easier access to funding than your own group.


"Keep in mind that this was a ruling for summary judgment. This was not a trial. To dismiss the suit at this stage, Lungstrum [the judge] needed to view the facts in a light most favorable to the Hartes [the SWATed family]."

Words fail me.


> words fail me

Why?

As you state, this was a motion for summary judgement, not a trial. The burden of proof for summary judgement is higher than for a civil suit trial. [1][2]

While the information presented in this article raised disturbing questions and the family involved appears to have been subjected to unreasonable search based on faulty testing, the article is light on details for why the judge rejected the request for summary judgement.

Has anyone found a link to the judgement?

I hope the family continue to push their case - it appears the were a victim of 'war on drugs theatre'.

[1] Burden of proof for summary judgement:

The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion. In civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proving his case by a preponderance of the evidence.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/rule_56

[2] Burden of proof for civil cases: In civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proving his case by a preponderance of the evidence.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/burden_of_proof


I hope the family continue to push their case...

How can they do that? TFA clearly describes judgement in favor of the defendants' (i.e. the cops) summary motion to dismiss all elements of the suit completely. Read TFA more closely, please.

[EDIT:] The comment to which I reply seems to misunderstand TFA to have referred to a summary motion by the plaintiffs, which is not the case. If appealing to a higher court rather than just getting the fair trial to which one is entitled seems like a trivial thing, then one must be either fabulously wealthy, or an attorney. We're certainly out of the $25k range mentioned in TFA.


> How can they do that?

By appealing to the appropriate US Court of Appeals.

> TFA clearly describes judgement in favor of the defendants' (i.e. the cops) summary motion to dismiss all elements of the suit completely.

Such a judgment does not prevent an appeal. (Indeed, a final judgment of this type may be necessary for an appeal to be ripe.)

> Read TFA more closely, please.

Good advice for you to follow. Note the last sentence (also, paragraph) of the article: "The Hartes’s attorney recently told KMBC that they will likely appeal Lungstrum’s decision."


Just as a side note, the article kind of drops the ball at the end:

> The Hartes are also a white, financially sound couple who both happened to have worked for the CIA. Most people on the receiving end of these raids aren’t white, aren’t middle-class, didn’t once work for a federal law enforcement agency and don’t have $25,000 to fund a fight in court.

The CIA is not now, and has never been, a federal law enforcement agency.


Eh, I think it's a minor gaffe. That both of them worked CIA means that they were _heavily_ vetted by the federal government. My (admittedly limited) understanding is that the vetting process for the CIA is even more stringent than the vetting process for the FBI, which is a federal law enforcement agency.


s/federal law enforcement agency/part of the federal security apparatus/ doesn't really change the argument, does it?


> s/federal law enforcement agency/part of the federal security apparatus/ doesn't really change the argument, does it?

Since there is no argument actually made, just a recitation of supposedly-relevant facts designed to create an emotional response, the argument can't actually be changed. But, yes, I think that the given that this is a non-security-related law enforcement issue, the change even in the fuzzy emotional appeal the reporter is making with that paragraph is radically transformed without the implication that he Hartes' have a background in law enforcement specifically giving them a notional advantage in dealing with this kind of law enforcement action.


The far simpler interpretation is that they're likely vetted far beyond what the local PD is capable of. Which doesn't change if you swap out the description of the agency. It should have been a huge red flag for the detective or their management.


The context in which it is mentioned is not about why the police should have done more vetting of the information, but of supposed advantages they have in legally fighting a poorly-justified police raid in the legal system that other targets of such raids would not have; material resources, being white, and a law-enforcement employment background are the three given examples -- the first is quite real advantage, the second is a real feature, though how much of an advantage it is in the contextay be debatable, and the last is simply false, based on the misidentification of the CIA as a law-enforcement agency.


The CIA is not...

Haven't you heard of parallel construction?


Funny, I came here to point out the same observation. I found the gaffe a bit disturbing.


> both former CIA analysts

Is it not related to the events? I only skipped through the article, but they didn't seem to mention it ever again.

Smells... Interesting.


The last full paragraph wraps it up thus: The Hartes are also a white, financially sound couple who both happened to have worked for the CIA. Most people on the receiving end of these raids aren’t white, aren’t middle-class, didn’t once work for a federal law enforcement agency and don’t have $25,000 to fund a fight in court.

I believe it to say that even with intimate knowledge of US law enforcement, they still had trouble getting answers and results... the rest of us are equally screwed.


> I believe it to say that even with intimate knowledge of US law enforcement, they still had trouble getting answers and results...

While the article by its use of comparisons in that paragraph tries to suggest that (by imply that the CIA is a federal law enforcement agency and therefore, being former CIA analysts, the Hartes would have intimate knowledge of law enforcement), this is false because the CIA is not a law enforcement agency, it is a foreign intelligence agency, and to the extent that it coordinates with law enforcement, it is principally with federal agencies (mostly the FBI) whose law enforcement brief includes national security matters, and there is no indication in the article that this coordination was any part of the Hartes' work as CIA analysts.

I think the reporter here is either being willfully misleading to give the story greater emotional appeal, or has watched too many of the movies and TV shows in which the CIA is portrayed as having a role that is a mix of its own and that of the FBI, and mistaken them for reality.


I don't think that's the implication at all.

The implication is rather that the Hartes are firmly part of the Establishment, and even the privileges bestowed by that membership couldn't help them.


Ironic if FBI counter-intelligence investigate the police over this one. I suspect the article is misleading in parts.


That's not really what I meant though. Could it be something else than a drug bust in reality?


I don't know why they got raided any more than you. (I suspect it to be exactly how the article presents it since I have no reason to think otherwise.) I was just pointing out that they did mention it again in the article since you seemed to have missed it in your skipping through.


Yes I though that mention would lead to some espionage investigation or something. Perhaps the whole "drug bust" thing was a farce designed to search for evidence of some other covert activity.


I think, perhaps you're giving them too much credit, especially given that they stated that once they'd found no evidence of a grow op, they switched to searching for evidence of personal use (the absurdity of which is a whole other discussion).

My guess is that they did no homework at all before performing this raid; they just built a spreadsheet of gardeners, started checking trash cans and raided the first house that had a positive field test.


Or thry had another reason for the search entirely which they didn't want to make public, so just switched stupid excuse for another one?


Mention the CIA and the conspiracy theories just come flying in :P.

I'm more inclined to side with both Occam's and Hanlon's razor in this case.

Further, if we had data on the number of false positives these "4/20" raids turned up (which, per the article, seems like it could be quite a task to produce), we could come to a reasonable statistical certainty either way.


Were that the case, presumably it would have been a federal agency like the FBI or DEA carrying out the cover raid, not the local Sheriff's department, and it wouldn't have been part of a regularly-scheduled annual publicity-effort raids conducted on 4/20.

Well, unless you get into a fairly deep conspiracy theory.


Seems like overkill -- couldn't the CIA just do a nice quiet blag bag operation, breaking into their apartment during the day while they were away at work?


... that moment when you realize the system is the problem.


What's the saying, "Don't expect a persons behavior or opinion to change when their paycheck depends on them having said behavior or opinion".


“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” -- Upton Sinclair

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/21810-it-is-difficult-to-get...


Is this true, though? Does a judge's salary depend on him not understanding the fourth amendment? Does a policeman's salary depend on him not understanding appropriate search warrant tactics? I understand most people disagree with law enforcement's decisions in this case (I do too).

But the only people who seem to refuse to understand the circumstances are those whose righteousness depends on portraying the police as cartoon villains.


Please, it's a podunk middle-America state, full of ignorance and local Republican governments who are control freaks when it comes to this sort of thing. This is precisely the expected outcome of having such a state and local government. That's why I don't live there anymore.

And it's not just simple ignorance, it's prideful ignorance, and active resentment of people who question the local politics, status quo, religion, and anyone liberal.

And the judge in the case? George H.W. Bush appointed him. So yeah, this story is not a surprise to me at all.

Now in defense of podunk, they're incentivized by our militaristic culture to behave this way. Not merely the violence, but also the money and arms the Feds have thrown at them in pursuit of "drugs" without respect to the drugs' relative risk factors. And these dense states who pay less in taxes than they take in are more than happy to lie through their teeth like in this story to get more Federal drug war resources.


An acquaintance of mine was recently arrested on suspicion of stealing a double bass from in front of a conservatory of music. Evidently, a bass was reported as stolen, and a complete description of the instrument was provided to police. Surveillance footage showed him leaving the conservatory carrying a bass, and that was sufficient to obtain a search warrant for his home. Never mind that he's a bassist, and the footage showed him carrying his own instrument. There can clearly be only one bass in existence, and the one on the surveillance tape must be it.

Upon searching his apartment, the police found not one, but two double basses in his possession. Never mind that he had documentation to show that they both belonged to him, and never mind that neither one fit the description of the instrument that had been stolen. There can clearly be only one bass in existence, and these ... two ... basses, somehow, are ... it? I dunno, these aren't the same maker, and they don't have the same identifying marks, but hey, they have four strings! The one that's missing has four strings! Good enough, he must have just hidden the stolen bass under a rug or something. (They're easy to hide, right?) Let's just make an arrest and go home.

So they arrested him, and (again, despite having conclusive proof that neither was the instrument in question) seized both basses, along with his cell phone, and held him on $100,000 bail.

Astonishingly, charges were ultimately dropped for lack of evidence.

This was in San Francisco -- about as un-podunk, un-middle-America, and un-Republican as you can get without showing a passport. Lazy police work is everywhere. It has nothing to do with politics or ignorance, and it doesn't really even have to do particularly with the war on drugs (although that certainly gives the police more opportunities to brandish their laziness publicly). It's a combination of pressure to show action by making arrests and an utter lack of accountability when those arrests turn out to be specious, and those two factors exist everywhere in this country.


Every single branch of the US government jealously guards its ability to keep secrets from the general population. Not holding the individual civil servants to account is a Republican and Democrat failure of the highest order.


Law enforcement do what they want. That simple.


Agreed. However I wonder if this information age will change that? For example Netflix's "Making a Murderer" MUST yield some sort of fallout against that local department. Right? At the very least, I will be avoiding Wisconsin.


To sum up both the article and the judge's ruling: the idea of "Rule of Law" in the United States is a bad joke.

This has been true for a while, but is becoming increasingly difficult for the public to ignore.




Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: