Morocco arrested a Saudi prince as he was attempting to leave Casablanca’s airport and fly to Paris on Thursday. The report on the arrest does not explain why he was arrested — unlike the Saudi prince arrested in the US in September for sexual assault or the Saudi prince arrested in Lebanon in October for having 2 tons of amphetamines in his private plane. Nor does it provide his name (again, unlike those other reports).
But it does say he was arrested on an Interpol warrant issued by Riyadh.
A prince from Saudi Arabia was arrested by Moroccan authorities at Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca on Thursday and placed in custody at the prison of Salé, according to Moroccan daily Al Massae’s weekend edition.
The Saudi prince was about to board a Casablanca-Paris flight when border police discovered that his identity matched that of a man wanted by Interpol office in Saudi Arabia for whom an international arrest warrant had been issued.
It’s unusual that Saudi Arabia arrests a member of the royal family, and when I read it I wondered whether it might be tied to recent calls for a coup. I think that’s still a possibility.
Equally likely, it relates to that massive drug bust in Lebanon last month. That would be interesting because that bust involved Captagon, a drug closely tied to ISIS.
They were allegedly “attempting to smuggle about two tons of Captagon pills and some cocaine”, a security source was quoted as saying.
Captagon is a brand name for the widely used amphetamine phenethylline.
It is the drug of choice for front-line fighters on both sides in the Syrian war, allowing a heightened state of alertness.
It is unclear where the pills allegedly found in Beirut were ultimately to be sold, although the plane was said to be heading back to Saudi Arabia.
In any case, I don’t have any theory on this arrest right now, but in retrospect wanted to note the arrest here.
Chuck Rosenberg, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, said Wednesday that he agrees with FBI Director James Comey that police officers are reluctant to aggressively enforce laws in the post-Ferguson era of capturing police activity on smartphones and YouTube.
“I think there’s something to it,” Rosenberg said during a press briefing on drug statistics at DEA headquarters in Arlington. “I think he’s spot on. I’ve heard the same thing.”
… I reminded that Rosenberg is also Comey’s former Chief of Staff, from when Comey was Deputy Attorney General in the Bush Administration.
Which is why I find it interesting that the White House has suggested President Obama raised the issue with Comey in a meeting this week.
Asked whether Mr. Obama would call in the two men to discuss the issue privately, Mr. Earnest noted that Mr. Comey met with the president last week, and he strongly hinted that the president chided his F.B.I. director on the subject.
“The president is certainly counting on Director Comey to play a role in the ongoing debate about criminal justice reform,” Mr. Earnest said, suggesting that Mr. Obama expected Mr. Comey to uphold the president’s view on the matter.
While he was Comey’s CoS, remember, Comey made sure he was in the loop on torture discussions he otherwise wouldn’t be, as Comey made an effort to limit some of what got approved in the May 2005 torture memos. That was partly to make sure the torturers didn’t use his absence to push through the memo, but also partly (it seems clear now) to lay out his own record of events.
Given the timing (and the distinct possibility Rosenberg endorsed Comey’s Ferguson Effect views after Comey got chewed out by the President), this feels like a concerted bureaucratic stand. Of course, these two allies’ role atop aggressive law enforcement agencies, Comey just 2 years into a 10-year term, stubbornly repeating police claims, is a pretty powerful bureaucratic stand for cops who want to avoid oversight.
For at least the second time, Jim Comey has presented himself as a Ferguson Effect believer, someone who accepts data that has been cherry picked to suggest a related rise in violent crime in cities across the country (I believe that in Ferguson itself, violent crime dropped last month, but whatever).
I have spoken of 2014 in this speech because something has changed in 2015. Far more people are being killed in America’s cities this year than in many years. And let’s be clear: far more people of color are being killed in America’s cities this year.
And it’s not the cops doing the killing.
We are right to focus on violent encounters between law enforcement and civilians. Those incidents can teach all of us to be better.
But something much bigger is happening.
Most of America’s 50 largest cities have seen an increase in homicides and shootings this year, and many of them have seen a huge increase. These are cities with little in common except being American cities—places like Chicago, Tampa, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Orlando, Cleveland, and Dallas.
In Washington, D.C., we’ve seen an increase in homicides of more than 20 percent in neighborhoods across the city. Baltimore, a city of 600,000 souls, is averaging more than one homicide a day—a rate higher than that of New York City, which has 13 times the people. Milwaukee’s murder rate has nearly doubled over the past year.
Yesterday, Comey flew to Chicago and repeated something its embattled Mayor recently floated (even while Bill Bratton, who is a lot more experienced at policing than Rahm Emanuel, has publicly disputed it): that cops are not doing their job because people have started taking videos of police interactions.
I’ve also heard another explanation, in conversations all over the country. Nobody says it on the record, nobody says it in public, but police and elected officials are quietly saying it to themselves. And they’re saying it to me, and I’m going to say it to you. And it is the one explanation that does explain the calendar and the map and that makes the most sense to me.
Maybe something in policing has changed.
In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?
I spoke to officers privately in one big city precinct who described being surrounded by young people with mobile phone cameras held high, taunting them the moment they get out of their cars. They told me, “We feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars.”
I’ve been told about a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video.
So the suggestion, the question that has been asked of me, is whether these kinds of things are changing police behavior all over the country.
And the answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior.
Let’s, for the moment, assume Comey’s anecdote-driven impression, both of the Ferguson Effect and of the role of cameras, is correct (to his credit, in this speech he called for more data; he would do well to heed his own call on that front). Let’s assume that all these cops (and mayors, given that Comey decided to make this claim in Rahm’s own city) are correct, and cops have stopped doing the job we’re all paying them to do because they’re under rather imperfect but nevertheless increased surveillance.
We’ll take you at your word, Director Comey.
If Comey’s right, what he’s describing is the chilling effect of surveillance, the way in which people change their behavior because they know they will be seen by a camera. That Comey is making such a claim is all the more striking given that the surveillance cops are undergoing is targeted surveillance, not the kind of dragnet surveillance (such as the use of planes to surveil the Baltimore and Ferguson protests, which he acknowledged this week) his agency and the NSA subject Americans to.
Sorry, sir! Judge after judge has ruled such claims to be speculative and therefore invalid in a court of law, most recently when T.S. Ellis threw out the ACLU’s latest challenge to the dragnet yesterday!
I actually do think there’s something to the chilling effect of surveillance (though, again, what’s happening to cops is targeted, not dragnet). But if Comey has a problem with that, he can’t have it both ways, he needs to consider the way in which the surveillance of young Muslim and African-American men leads them to do things they might not otherwise do, the way in which it makes targets of surveillance feel under siege, he needs to consider how the surveillance his Agents undertake actually makes it less likely people will engage in the things they’re supposed to do, like enjoy free speech, a robust criminal defense unrestricted by spying on lawyers, like enjoy privacy.
Comey adheres to a lot of theories, including the Ferguson Effect.
But as of yesterday, he is also on the record as claiming that surveillance has a chilling effect. Maybe he should consider the implications of what he is saying for the surveillance his own agency has us under? If the targeted surveillance of cops is a problem, isn’t the far less targeted surveillance he authorizes a bigger problem?
[See update below: Lynch says she didn’t mean how these statements came out.]
It’s bad enough that Attorney General Loretta Lynch refuses to force police to keep records on how many people they kill.
In a conversation with NBC journalist Chuck Todd on a range of criminal justice issues, Lynch said on Thursday that she does not support a federal mandate to report people killed by police.
“One of the things we are focusing on at the Department of Justice is not trying to reach down from Washington and dictate to every local department how they should handle the minutia of record keeping, but we are stressing to them that these records must be kept,” she said at the Washington Ideas Forum, hosted by AtlanticLIVE and the Aspen Institute.
It’s her reasoning I find really troubling.
Lynch said the Justice Department does “encourage” local departments to maintain records on police shootings but that improving police-community relations is more important. She noted that the small size of the average police department could make record-keeping difficult.
“The statistics are important, but the real issues are: ‘what steps are we all taking to connect communities … with police and back with government?’” she said.
It’s all well and good to say communities and their cops just need to get along.
Here’s what the crime story said: “Among some experts and rank-and-file officers, the notion that less aggressive policing has emboldened criminals — known as the “Ferguson effect” in some circles — is a popular theory for the uptick in violence.” A paragraph later, the story continues: “Others doubt the theory or say data has not emerged to prove it.” Two experts are quoted, and the story moves on from there.
Bill Michtom of Portland, Ore., wrote to me about it, calling it a “classic example of false equivalence.” Ta-Nehisi Coates called the suggestion of a Ferguson effect “utterly baseless” in a piece for The Atlantic, noting that one of the experts quoted said that the rise in violent crime in St. Louis had begun before the large protests last year over a white police officer’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager.
One of the story’s reporters, Monica Davey, and the national editor, Alison Mitchell, strongly disagree that this is false equivalence or that it was misleading to readers. In fact, they told me, it would be wrong of The Times not to report something that some police officers are identifying as part of their mind-set.
Ms. Davey, who agrees that false balance is infuriating and must be avoided, said in an email that this example simply doesn’t fit the description. For one thing, she said, there is no established truth here: “The question about the validity of this theory simply has not been definitively answered in the way that the earth’s shape has.” And, she said, “police officers must be given some credence in assessing whether they themselves feel that they are behaving differently now — the essence of what some of them have called the ‘Ferguson effect.’ ”
Or, as Ms. Mitchell puts it: “We have the police suggesting that police are pulling back — should we not report that?”
My view is that the introduction of this explosive idea didn’t serve readers well because, in this context, it was mentioned briefly, sourced vaguely, and then countered by disagreement. If police officers are indeed pulling back from their duties, and are willing to be identified and quoted, and if there’s evidence to back it up, that would be worth a full exploration in a separate article. But this glancing treatment could easily have left readers baffled, at the very least.
Things aren’t going to improve so long as cops can just make shit up, in spite of data to the contrary.
Just as importantly, since 9/11, the mandate throughout the Federal government — and especially for FBI — has been to share information promiscuously, including down to local police departments. Some of that information includes untested leads; some of it includes cyber and terrorist threat assessments.
If Lynch is telling us these local police departments don’t have the ability to handle reporting back and forth from the federal government, than the rest of the info sharing should stop too, because it could violate Americans’ privacy and/or expose intelligence streams.
But we all know that’s not going to happen.
Which means Lynch is supporting an asymmetrical reporting system that can’t be used for oversight of the larger system.
Update: Lynch says her statements last week weren’t what she was trying to say.
The point I was trying to make at that conference related to our overall view of how we deal with police departments as part of our practice of enforcing consent decrees, or working with them and I was trying to make the point that we also have to focus on building community trust which is a very individual – very local – practice. Unfortunately, my comments gave the misperception that we were changing our view in some way about the importance of this data – nothing could be further from the truth. This data is not only vital – we are working closely with law enforcement to develop national consistent standards for collecting this kind of information.
More from her statement:
“The department’s position and the administration’s position has consistently been that we need to have national, consistent data,” said Attorney General Lynch. “This information is useful because it helps us see trends, it helps us promote accountability and transparency,” said Attorney General Lynch. “We’re also going further in developing standards for publishing information about deaths in custody as well, because transparency and accountability are helped by this kind of national data.”
Periodically, Jim Comey invites a group of select journalists in for lunch and eats them alive with his charisma and unsubstantiated claims. The first I noticed came when Comey made some false claims about National Security Letters, without a single journalist correcting him. More recently, Comey claimed FBI had arrested 10 people with ties to ISIS, only two of whom have every publicly appeared.
In this week’s edition, Comey got passionate about a claimed spike in crime.
And in unusually passionate remarks, the FBI director said he was “very concerned about what’s going on now with violent crime and murder rates across the country,” in cities as disparate as Omaha and Milwaukee.
At least in this instance, journalists are getting less credulous, because most (though not CNN) reported that in fact the crime stats released this week show a decline in crime, not a spike, even while they reported that violent crime in “many” cities has spiked.
Newly released federal data suggest a slight dip in violence across the nation in 2014. But Comey said those numbers may not be capturing what’s happening on the ground today. He’s been hearing similar concerns from police chiefs, he said.
Earlier this week, the FBI released data showing violent crime dropped slightly in 2014, but many big city police departments have reported significant jumps in shootings this year compared with last year.
In 2014, the number [of murders in NYC] had dropped to 328 — the lowest number of murders since the New York City Police Department began collecting statistics in 1963.)
None I saw, however, pointed out that the claim of a spike in “many” cities stems from a persistent propaganda effort that has been debunked as cherry-picking. Yes, there are a few cities with alarming spikes in violence, but they should be examined as cities, not as a trend that the FBI’s own data shows is moving in the opposite direction.
In his comments, Comey didn’t endorse the Ferguson effect. But he did say we need to move slowly on criminal justice reform both because of this alleged spike and because crime has gone down (!?!). Still from the HuffPo:
Comey said he didn’t know whether protests against police violence have made it harder for police to do their jobs, a theory that has been dubbed the “Ferguson effect.” “I’m not discounting it, but I just don’t know,” he said, adding that he was “focused on it, trying to figure it out.”
“Some have said police officers aren’t getting out of their cars and talking to gang-bangers on street corners anymore, but I don’t know,” he said. “What I do know is that a whole lot of people are dying. They are, according to the chiefs, overwhelmingly people of color, and we’ve got to care about that.”
The spike in crime made him want to be “thoughtful” on criminal justice reform, Comey added.
“My strong sense is that a significant portion of the change in our world since I was a prosecutor in New York in 1987 is due to law enforcement, but I’m sure there are lots of other things [going on],” he said.
“I just want to make sure that as we reform — first of all, we’re grateful that we actually have the space and time to think and talk about sentencing better, rehabilitating better, and [that] is a product of hard work over the past 25 years — but as we do it, are very, very thoughtful about where we used to be and how we got from that point to here,” Comey said.
As with encryption back doors, the data is not there (on that issue, DOJ simply doesn’t collect data on how often encryption prevents it from accessing data). But that’s not going to stop him from cautioning against criminal justice reform.
At Salon yesterday, I pointed to the most interesting part of the GOP debate on Wednesday — the policy debate over how to deal with addiction. As I point out, one reason this debate is taking place is because New Hampshire is really struggling with heroin addiction right now. But the debate started about pot, not heroin. And even tough on crime candidates like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush struggled to spin their approach as kinder and gentler; Christie pitched his support for decriminalization as another expression of pro-life.
This was the moment, I argued, when the GOP found ways to pitch a more reasonable approach to drugs in GOP ideology (and Rand Paul deserves credit for pushing this).
Even while Christie and Bush, to differing degrees, cling to old-style War on Drug rhetoric, this campaign (and particularly the New Hampshire addiction crisis Bush mentioned) will force real debate about what combination of treatment, decriminalization, legalization, and education might provide some way out of the failed drug war. This discussion framed that dramatic policy shift in rhetoric — states rights and pro life — that Republicans can rally behind.
All this, of course, took place in the Reagan library, the shrine to the man who formally declared the now-failed War on Drugs in 1982. CNN even used his damn plane to ask candidates to project themselves into Reagan’s legacy. “Ronald Reagan, the 40th President, used the plane behind you to accomplish a great many things….How will the world look different once your Air Force One is parked in the hangar of your presidential library?” But one of the most constructive policy discussions in last night’s debate constituted a renunciation, finally, of Reagan’s legacy.
Mind you, the foreign policy and immigration stances of candidates undermines the value of this — few Republicans will give up the excuse of the War on Drugs to big foot in Latin America, no matter how counterproductive that is. And some candidates — such as Trump, who probably hasn’t exactly eschewed drugs all his life — weren’t clamoring to look soft on drugs.
All that said, amid all the talk of starting new wars in the shadow of Saint Ronnie’s plane, I was heartened by a moment that might lead toward ending one.
More generally, the cables seem concerned with measuring the seriousness with which President Felipe Calderón responded to the attack. For example, this partly redacted discussion relays someone’s explanation of Calderón’s instructions the day of the attack.
Then, a cable relaying the public apology Calderón gave four days after the attack included these details, including that the apology was not in his written speech.
A description of Ambassador Anthony Wayne’s meeting with Calderón on early September is mostly redacted (it also includes details of meetings with Mexico’s AG). That description went to — among others — CIA Director David Petraeus, as well as John Brennan (who was still in the White House). And once Enrique Peña Nieto was elected, the Americans seemed pretty enthusiastic about cooperating when them going forward rather than Calderón.
A number of the cables tie the attack closely to the Merida initiative.
Motherboard has an interesting new detail on the Silk Road investigation from a mostly refused FOIA.
The few pages released show the following timeline:
June 1, 2011: Gawker publishes this story describing Silk Road.
The DEA has confirmed they are aware of the site, and while they won’t confirm or deny that an investigation is underway, from my years of experience, I’d bet my bottom dollar in this instance there is one underway,
June 6, 2011: NY Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force gets tasked with investigating Silk Road.
June 15, 2011: DEA opened a Personal History Report for its investigation into Silk Road
I find the Gawker to Schumer to New York law enforcement to feds very interesting given yesterday’s events.
I’m still reading this report on DEA’s informant program, which shows that DEA operated by its own rules, sometimes resulting in DEA having high level informants that didn’t comply with the Attorney General’s guidelines, at other times resulting in informants engaging in unreviewed otherwise illegal activity, and generally showing inadequate vetting and paperwork.
But here’s an awesome table showing that before 2012, DEA was spending less than a minute reviewing its use of sources.
The report explains:
Based on the aforementioned risks involved with long-term sources, the oversight of these long-term confidential sources is critical to the overall management of the DEA’s Confidential Source Program. Further, the importance of the long-term confidential source reviews requires that the [Sensitive Activity Review Committee] members, including any DOJ representatives, invest an appropriate amount of time and effort evaluating the benefits and risks of the continued use of each long-term confidential source.
We reviewed the DEA’s documented meeting minutes for the SARC meetings conducted specifically for the review of long-term confidential sources that occurred between 2003 and 2012 and found that between 2003 and 2012, the DEA SARC’s reviews of long-term confidential sources appear to have been inadequate and infrequent. The DEA held only 7 SARC meetings during that 9-year period. Moreover, between its meeting in October 2009 and its most recent meeting in July 2014, a nearly 5-year timespan, the SARC met only once, in February 2012.
Although the minutes reflect that starting in 2006, headquarters’ confidential source files were available for SARC members during the formal meetings, there is no indication that any SARC members actually reviewed any of these files. According to this information, between 2003 and 2012, during these formal meetings the SARC devoted what we calculated to be an average of just 1 minute per confidential source to consider the appropriateness of the source’s continued use.
As the table notes, there weren’t always DOJ people present for the review either.
The longer review process reflected in the 2012 meeting reflects a new review process, so hopefully this has been improved (to a whopping 6 minute review of DEA’s long-term relationships with sources).
But for years before that, DEA was spending as little as 13 seconds reviewing the appropriateness of its use of sources.
Yesterday, once and future Sinaloa kingpin Chapo Guzmán escaped from the high security Mexican prison where he had been held since February 2014. He escaped via the same kind of highly developed tunnel system in which Mexican Naval forces, assisted by US Marshals and DEA Agents, found him. Both tunnels provided escapes through the bathroom.
You’d think maybe Mexican officials would have been on the lookout for any tunneling systems that might assist Guzmán.
Already, the Mexican press is calling this an embarrassment for Enrique Peña Nieto (though remember, he seemed rather reluctant to boast of Chapo’s capture when it happened, until the story leaked to the US press).
US officials, who have curiously been granted anonymity to bitch, are complaining that the Mexicans never extradited Guzmán so we could dump him in Florence SuperMax, where he’d be far less likely to escape. The on-the-record statements from people like Attorney General Lynch are much more reserved — though even she makes it clear she wants to bring him here and try him.
I’m at least as interested in what this escape says about the hierarchy of the Mexican drug industry as anything about the legend of Chapo. WaPo’s story — whose reporter is also tweeting some fascinating pictures that show just how predictable this escape should have been — also addressed this somewhat.
Even with Guzman in jail, his Sinaloa organization remained the dominant narcotics smuggling power in Mexico, with trafficking networks that spread across the United States. Guzman’s cartel sends more cocaine and marijuana than any other into the United States, according to DEA officials, and it accounts for more than half of the heroin surging into U.S. communities as overdose deaths skyrocket.
Guzman’s longtime business partner, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, was believed to have assumed operational control of the cartel after Guzman’s arrest, though few in Mexico doubted that Chapo continued calling the shots from his maximum-security cell.
That is, Chapo’s arrest seems to have had little affect on the dominance of Sinaloa in the market (which may also suggest some favor from officials). Which will likely lead the decapitation-faithful in US law enforcement agencies to accidentally shoot Guzmán the next time we “help” with an arrest.
Finally, Chapo’s escape has led to predictable tut-tutting about the corruption of Mexico generally and Peña Nieto specifically. Those complaints are true: over time we’re likely to discover that Guzmán had help from inside, if not from even higher-level authorities (the house where his tunnel ended is close to a military base, apparently).
But is the US really in any position to complain? After all, at least under Eric Holder, our government didn’t even try to imprison our transnational crime organization bosses — people like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, men who don’t use the same overt violence that Sinaloa does, but who nevertheless have presided over transnational networks of entrenched crime. Jamie Dimon has never had to hide in a tunnel, in part because DOJ presumed he’d always escape whatever legal efforts we made to keep him there. And one reason we don’t change the underlying law is because our Presidents, of both parties, are just as tied to those criminal TCOs as Peña Nieto and many of his predecessors.
I absolutely agree that Guzmán’s escape reflects the lack of seriousness of some in Mexico about prosecuting him. But that’s not unique to Mexico, not even in North America.