Tom Diaz

Archive for the ‘Washington Bureaucracy’ Category

Gun Colonialism and the Scramble for America

In bad manners, Concealed Carry, Ethics in Washington, Glock, Gun Colonialism, Guns, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans, Washington Bureaucracy on July 26, 2013 at 5:41 pm
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The Last Great Colony…of the World’s Gun Manufacturers

Africa1898

The “Great Powers” Scrambled to Carve Up Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the so-called “Great Powers” of the world–Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and a few other wannabes–competed to stake out their colonies in Africa.  The elbow-throwing, often violent competition became known as “The Scramble for Africa.”

The same powers had also competed for other colonies, including India and China.

The purpose of these colonies was simple–exploitation.  The Great Powers ripped off natural resources and valuable commodities from the colonies.  In return they forced their colonial subjects to buy goods from the imperial homeland or other colonies.

Opium Poppy Seedhead

The British Forced the Chinese to Become a Vast Market for Opium

The British, for example, saw great potential in selling opium to the huge population of China.  When the Chinese attempted to ban the flow of this drug, the British simply went to war (twice) and forced the defeated Chinese to take their opium.

The British and some other imperial powers (including the United States) preferred to rule “indirectly.”  This means they set up systems of “native” stooges and front men to “administer” their own country on behalf of their conquerors.

A great Scramble for America has been going on in the world’s gun markets for some time.  Foreign gun-makers have succeeded in carving out markets in the United States that they could never enjoy in their own countries, almost all of which have sensibly strict gun laws.  America has become the last great colony in the world of guns.

Just like the Great Powers, the gun imperialists have their local boot-lickers: the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and of course, Congress and the hive of lobbyists that buzz around it.

Just as the British succeeded in mass addiction of the Chinese to opium, the gun industry has pretty much succeeded in addicting a sizable number of Americans to guns.  And like drug addicts, gun buyers need a stronger “kick” after a while.  The gun industry has obliged by designing and selling increasingly lethal firearms.  These include assault weapons and high-capacity semiautomatic pistols.

Just as in other colonies, our indirect rule administrators are only rarely touched by the pestilence they fawningly help spread.  It’s good for you, they say.

Here’s a short video on point.

Congress, NRA Lobbyists, Cockroaches, and the Public Interest–Cockroaches Win

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Corruption, Cultural assassination, Ethics in Washington, Fox News, Glock, Glock Semiautomatic pistols, Glock smeiautomatic pistols, Guns, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans, Washington Bureaucracy on April 25, 2013 at 4:59 pm

cockroaches

“Cockroaches are a pretty good reason to call the exterminator but voters might be even more concerned if their homes were infested with members of Congress: Cockroaches 45 Congress 43″

Congress somewhere below cockroaches, traffic jams, and Nickelback in Americans’ esteem

Here are the names of two people you probably never heard of: Jim Manley and Mark Lyttle.

The worlds of these two men are a universe apart. The void between their worlds is filled with the dark matter of political influence in Washington–blood money, revolving doors, and the self-interest of career politicians. That invisible political astrophysics is what defeated the public’s desire for comprehensive background checks in the Senate last week, is defeating public health and safety measures to reduce gun violence in Washington today, and will continue to thwart the will of the vast majority of Americans for a safer country tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Unless you get up, stand up, and do something about it, like the hundreds of Americans rallying today in Washington to shame the NRA’s lobbyists.

New Yorker

How can this happen, you may ask yourself? Think “lobbyists” and money. Lots of money. Your money.

Mark Lyttle is the subject of a frightening article by William Finnegan in the current issue of The New Yorker magazine. Lyttle is an American citizen who was arrested for a misdemeanor in North Carolina. From there–in a horrendously Kafkaesque series of arrogant mistakes and flawed decisions by nameless, faceless, and demonstrably incompetent  bureaucrats–Lyttle was thrown into the unrelenting machinery of the American Homeland-Security-Industrial-Complex. He was expelled from the United States and repeatedly arrested by Department of Homeland Security operatives.

Like Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Lyttle fell through the cracks of the vastly flawed system of piously fearful pork upon which we, the taxpayers of America, have lavished at least $1.3 TRILLION since the horrible events of September 11, 2001.  Trillions for “homeland security,” but not one cent for keeping children safe from gun violence!

How can this be?  How can it be that the Congress of the United States can allow–indeed, encourage–waste and incompetence on such a scale for such a Byzantine structure, and yet not protect small children and the rest of us from the far greater danger of gun violence?

manley031406

Their business is none of your business. Insiders in Washington: professional politicians and lobbyists.

Enter Jim Manley, a long time aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, career Senate staffer, now turned lobbyist. Manley made the unfortunate decision to be interviewed by the brilliant John Oliver for The Daily Show on politics and guns.  He fairly made an ass of himself, but in the process revealed precisely the problem. Asked what makes a politician “successful,” Manley unblinkingly answered, “Getting reelected by his or her constituents.”

Not saving lives, but getting reelected.

Manley got the classic, patented John Oliver reaction to incredibly dumb statements.  As the light dawned on his smugly placid face, he began to squirm with a deer-in-the-headlights look.  Gosh, if only he could have rewound the tape and started over!  But see the whole revealing bit for yourself here.

So, who is this inadvertently revealing guy, Jim Manley? Here’s his official bio from QCA, the oh-so-cleverly named “public affairs” (Washington doublespeak for House of Lobbyists and Piano Players) firm for which he now works:

Jim most recently served as the senior communications advisor and spokesman for the Senate Majority Leader, where he spent six years at the nexus of communications, politics and policy for every issue facing the Senate.  As a strategist, he worked with the White House and the leadership in the House of Representatives to set the Democratic tone for legislative initiatives. As the Leader’s top spokesman, he dealt extensively with the national and regional media on a daily basis to advance the Democratic agenda.  He is a regarded as a top Democratic strategist in Washington and continues to serve as a trusted resource for many of the nation’s top reporters.

What neither Manley nor The Daily Show revealed about this “top Democratic strategist” and “trusted source” is that among his firm’s clients is the investment management company BlackRock.  New York City’s Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio recently named BlackRock as one of the Dirty Dozen investors in the gun industry.  In fact, BlackRock, with $342 million of its investors’ money invested in the killing machine business, tops de Blasio’s money manager dirty investor list.

Blood money.

Lucky Strike

Kill yourself if you got ‘em: the murderous tobacco and gun industries have lots of well-paid lobbyists in Washington and elsewhere to make sure that death is always politically safe.

In truth, there is nothing remarkable about Jim Manley and his pedestrian, let’s-all-go-along-to-get-reelected “strategical thinking.” He’s just another of the thousands of Capitol Hill staffers who rotate between high-paying Congressional jobs to cash in with even higher paying jobs whoring–oops, I meant “lobbying”–for one or another plutocratic or just plain evil special interest in Washington. They are only following their bosses’ example.  As The New York Times‘ inimitable Gail Collins recently noted:

Members of Congress regularly glom onto high-paying jobs in the private sector, none of which involve the use of their skills in computer technology. The Center for Responsive Politics counts 373 former House and Senate members who are currently working as lobbyists.

Steve Buyer

Buyer…and Seller.

Former Congressman Steve Buyer (what a deliciously appropriate name, and no wonder he pronounces it as if it were spelled “boy-er”!), for example, went to work flacking for the tobacco industry, the only other industry in town that even comes close to the murderous, blood-soaked, unconscionable greed of the gun industry and its lackey, the NRA.

The NRA, of course, has been throwing its money around Washington with an abandoned passion since the Moloch’s slaughter of precious, innocent, beautiful children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Not that the NRA and the gun industry need that much help with brilliant “strategists” like Jim Manley and the Third Way’s Jim Kessler advocating preemptive surrender on the gun control front. Still, every little bit helps when your business is death machines in a society of people who mostly want to live.

williamsme

NRA Mouthpiece at Greenberg, Taurig.

Among the hired guns the NRA has bought with the gun industry’s blood money is Michael E. Williams, a director in the firm of Greenberg, Taurig, another House of Piano Players in the Washington lobbying game. If Williams’ name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because he was reported to be linked to convicted felon Jack Abramoff’s “Dream Team” of hucksters and specialists in the subornation of Congress. Here’s Williams’ official bio, which brags conspicuously about his skill at “derailing” gun control legislation, meaning the will of the American people:

Michael Williams focuses his practice on coalition building and integrating legislative, regulatory, grass tops, grass roots and public relations strategies on behalf of his clients to affect positive legislative and regulatory outcomes. Michael’s 25 years of experience on Capitol Hill has allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the interaction of policy issues and politics, as well as a wide-ranging bipartisan network of contacts within all areas of the federal government including Members of Congress, Congressional staff, the Administration and various governmental agencies.

Michael is a member of the Greenberg Political Contribution Committee which reviews and approves contributions and political activities of the Greenberg Traurig Political Action Committee. He also serves as a government affairs team representative to the Greenberg Traurig Commitment to Excellence Committee (CTE). The CTE works to ensure that the firm preserves and enhances the core values crucial to our brand: integrity, quality, service and accountability.

Prior to joining the firm in 2001, Michael Williams was a Senior Lobbyist for the National Rifle Association (NRA), the number one rated Association lobbyist team for 2001, according to Fortune magazine. For more than 11 years, as a Federal liaison for the NRA, he promoted legislative and political objectives on Capitol Hill. Michael was one of the major architects of the NRA legislative strategy to derail the 1997-1998 Clinton Gun Control legislation.

These inside ball, dark-of-the-moon, smoke-filled room operators are the mere tip of a rotting mound of corrupt influence in Washington.  For more information, go here.

These people have no shame.  And, by the way, there should be no place to hide for those who hire them. All of their clients are gun violence enablers, linked to the NRA and the gun industry in a frothing chain of blood money.

But who lobbies for the children of Newtown and the rest of us?

Newtown Kids

Never forget.

 

THE ROAD FROM SERFDOM–THE POLITICS OF GUN CONTROL

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Corruption, Ethics in Washington, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, Police, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Tired Old Republicans, Washington Bureaucracy on January 14, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Schumer's Bird

The year was 1861. An enlightened French nobleman was visiting a Russian nobleman on the latter’s vast estate. The two were out for a morning ride.  The Frenchman pointed to a cluster of serfs—poorly clothed, filthy, ignorant, and doomed to a brutish life little better than that of the animals among whom they lived and bred.

“But, my dear Alexey,” the French nobleman asked the Russian nobleman. “Don’t you care for the health of your serfs?”

“Of course, I do care, my dear André,” replied the Russian noble, flicking his riding crop impetuously as if offended by the very question. “I care very much that they be healthy enough to dig potatoes, but not so healthy as to dig my grave before I am ready to die.”

The challenge of what to do about gun violence in America presents two questions of fundamentally different natures.

  • The public health and safety question: What would successfully reduce gun death and injury among Americans?
  • The political question: What, if anything, can the politicians in Washington nurse through the Congress of the United States of America?

The questions are so radically different that they compel answers as different as the comparison of Hyperion to a satyr (see, http://voices.yahoo.com/literary-analysis-classical-allusions-shakespeares-8833327.html) or of the sun to the moon.

The Public Health and Safety Question

Culex quinquefasciatus

The answer to the first question is so thoroughly answered by an impressive body of research—even though hindered by sabotage from the National Rifle Association and junk scholarship from the gun industry, for which the NRA is a mere potty-mouthpiece—that having to ask it at all ought to be embarrassing to any educated American.

This body of careful assembled scientific knowledge points unerringly to the sea of guns in which we are awash as the problem.  Not video games.  Not movies.  Not secularism.  But guns.  Guns. (See, e.g. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/; http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/; http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/ficap/. )

Guns, and particular types of guns, are the vector, the microbe, the bacillus, the virus, the disease that has infected America with an epidemic of needless, senseless, relentless death and injury.

The proliferation and easy availability of guns not only empowers the mentally ill, the mass shooter, and the criminal. They thrust guns into the hands of law-abiding but angry husbands and boyfriends, fatally curious children, self-appointed vigilantes, the despondent, the angry driver, and the bitter extremist.

The dark, rotting specter of that infection stalks our homes, our schools, our shopping malls, our places of worship, our hospitals, our workplaces, our highways, our restaurants, our courts, our parks, our police stations, even the White House, our Capitol, and our military bases.  Its putrid breath wafts over every one of us every single day.

No other advanced—I dare say it, civilized—nation in the world tolerates this madness.

The Political Question

devil tray 02The Moloch’s slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School (see, http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/dec/15/our-moloch/) put starkly to the newly and powerfully reelected President of the United States the greatest domestic political question any President has faced since Abraham Lincoln decided what to do about the secessionist threat.

I do not make that comparison lightly. Insurrectionists today dance to theology from the NRA, around the totem of military-style guns from the gun industry.

Barack Obama handed over this profound political question—inspired by the unimaginably torn flesh and blood of Innocence itself—to Joe Biden, a crown prince among America’s putatively progressive political “gun control nobility.”

Vice-President Biden is today “all about” how he personally wrote and passed the monstrously ineffective 1994 assault weapons ban, as part of the epically bloated and pork-laden Clinton Crime Bill.  (See, e.g., Peter Baker, “Biden Is Back for a 2nd Run at Gun Limits,” The New York Times, December 29, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/30/us/politics/newtown-task-force-returns-biden-to-gun-control-arena.html?_r=2&.)

Why anyone would actually want to claim authorship of that abortive piece of legislation—Dr. Frankenstein could have assembled a more effective assault weapons ban using random scraps from the burial notices of those from whom he assembled his monster—passes understanding. Perhaps Dr. Biden doesn’t really understand his law’s fatal flaws, or perhaps he is counting on the fact that not one out of ten thousand Americans does either. In either case, what Joe Biden does not so freely share is the fact that in the darkest days of the final conference negotiations over that 1994 Crime Bill, when President Clinton’s senior staff member George Stephanopoulos was skulking around the conference meetings on Capitol Hill, urging conferees to dump the assault weapons provision to “save” the Crime Bill that Clinton desperately needed as an example of something—anything—the President could get done, Sen. Biden was encouraging his fellow conferees to do just that. What kept the assault weapons ban in the crime bill was the unflinching resolve of the late Senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, whose position was resolute: no assault weapons ban, no crime bill. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein was equally resolute, but she was not a conferee.)

This gun control nobility are the career politicians—and their respective trains of career advisers, well-paid consultants and pollsters, and assorted opportunistic camp followers—who have similarly gamed the question of what to do, and mostly what not to do, about guns and gun control to their political benefit over the last several decades.

Yes, gamed. Gambled.  Played at.

a-combination-of-12-handout-pictures-shows-12-of-20-young-schoolchildren-killed-at-sandy-hook-elementary-school-in-newtown-conn-on-friday-dec-14-2012All of them trade on their putative (but usually shockingly thin) knowledge of guns and of the real drivers of the gun violence problem, and on their professed paternal concern for you and me. They appear in an endless procession of Sunday morning shows and at controlled media events.

But, as the continuing and growing torrent of gun violence in America conclusively demonstrates, what has been good for this gun control nobility has not been equally good for America.  Like the nobility of imperial Russia, the gun control nobility have lurched through a series of clever retreats and cynical concessions, all designed to ensure that they stay in political office to do…what?

This political tactic of always skulking around the edges of the gun control battlefield but never stepping up to the fight has actually been reduced to doctrine and received wisdom in Washington by the likes of such appeasement-oriented organizations as Third Way, founded and run by a gaggle of career political functionaries, liverymen of the career political nobility.

“Not too liberal…not too conservative…but right in the middle.” That’s the third way.  Okay, so maybe staying in the middle third means that some more kids will have to die, but we’ll still be in office to do…what?

The barons of gun control have stayed in office.  But they have failed to protect Americans and, in a profound and real way, America itself.

Put aside the mass shootings and the daily dead. Their hand-wringing, self-serving equivocation, fainthearted piety, and backward-stepping has enabled the growth and arming of a significant insurrectionist paramilitary faction in America.  The country is in vastly more danger of armed political violence than it would have been had they screwed up the will and the courage to act decisively years ago.

Thus, the Prospects of a Sell-Out Look…Good

political-handshake-lgGiven the tender hands within which the fate of the country now rests, there is faint cause for hope.

There are really only two forces that count on this issue in political Washington. One is the power of the office of the President of the United States.  We have seen what Barack Obama chose to do with that, although it must be said that he still makes a fine speech.

The other is the National Rifle Association.

There is no in-between moderating force.

Either the President goes to war with the NRA and mobilizes the nation for a long fight comparable to that of, say, the civil rights struggle, or the NRA wins.

The so-called gun control movement—or “gun safety”, or “gun violence prevention,” or whatever the evasive semantic fashion of the day happens to be—is not a force to be reckoned with.

It is a prop.

These nubbins of candle light vigils and teddy bear mounds have no boots on the ground. None. None of them can reliably deliver that vital spark of local influence that drives the votes of the hard-eyed men and women who run Washington.  Many decision makers in Washington secretly believe that the “groups” are basically useless.  I would murmur that not all are useless.  The Violence Policy Center—where, yes, I worked for 15 years—has contributed a virtual online encyclopedia of knowledge about the gun industry and its depredations.  (See, http://www.vpc.org/.)

The rest of these nubbins can fend for themselves in the court of public opinion.

Thus, reality.  Unless and until a real grass roots gun control movement is created in the form of one that can deliver the same thing that the NRA delivers day in and day out—not campaign money, but local clout to be heard by politicians—all the calculations of the third or fourth or fifth way, and all the marches of a million this and a million that (truly, more like a few thousand this and a few thousand that) do not amount to a heap of toasted nubbins on the scale of hard, cold power.

Unless, of course, the President stands up and takes off the gloves for a real fight.

Obama weeping

For an easy guide to 10 ways to tell the American people have been sold out..again…on gun control, see the companion post here http://tomdiazgunsandgangs.com/2013/01/14/ten-ways-to-spot-a-sell-out-on-gun-control/.

TEN WAYS TO SPOT A SELL-OUT ON GUN CONTROL

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Ethics in Washington, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Washington Bureaucracy on January 14, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Biden and Obama copy

The Ten Ways

Vice-President Joe Biden will within days flash his beautiful teeth (only his orthodontist knows for sure what his barber already knows) and deliver the conclusions of the ponderous machinery of his task force (or whatever it’s officially called).

One would like nothing so much as a powerful legislative drone strike against the NRA and the industry it represents as the opening round in a long and relentless war against gun violence.  But the NRA is not crouched in the dust behind a hill in Yemen. What we are most likely to see is a frizzante of accommodation, an artfully-contrived punch, served up as the gun control nobility whirl about in the kind of grande valse brillante that passes for action today in Washington, DC.

Here are ten signs—among many that one could state—to watch, in order to know at the end of the day whether you have been sold out once again by the political nobility of gun control.

 

  1. Failure to stop production, import, and transfer of ownership of semiautomatic assault weapons and high capacity magazines.  If either of these bans is out, the fix is in.  A high-capacity magazine ban would be a useful advance, but if the guns themselves are not addressed, a thriving trade in contraband magazines is guaranteed to ensue.  By the way, there is nothing magic about the number ten.  A reasonable case can be made to define a high-capacity magazine as any magazine holding more than, say, five, rounds of ammunition.  The current chatter about 10 rounds is political.
  2. “Grandfathering” existing assault weapons and/or high-capacity magazines.  Any law that “grandfathers” (exempts) existing guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines is meaningless as a practical matter.  This was one of the great defects of the 1994 law.  Millions of military-style weapons would remain in legal circulation. Production and imports would ramp up feverishly to build up legal stocks before the deadline.Should the banned guns be confiscated?  No.  That is not a realistic or, given the tense facts on the ground in America, wise course. But further transfers of banned guns can be halted, meaning, if you own one, you cannot sell it, give it away, or leave it to your heirs.  The guns could be brought under the highly restrictive regime of the National Firearms Act, which requires registration and an extensive background check.
  3. Allowing “exceptions” or “waivers.”  The gun industry loves waivers and exceptions.  For example, an assault weapons ban could allow the Attorney General or some other executive authority to “waive” the prohibition on a firearm classified as an assault weapon, for one or another reason.  Were that to be in the law, the industry would build its guns toward the waiver and its lobbyists would work the halls of the bureaucracy to open a fatal gap in the ban.
  4. Exceptions for “small” calibers.  It will be tempting to make an exception for assault weapons and magazines in small calibers, e.g. 22 caliber, that are associated in the popular mind with sporting use and thought to be relatively benign.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Multiple rounds from an assault weapon in any caliber are extraordinarily lethal.
  5. Contingency and/or sunset clauses.  Contingency clauses, suspending the law’s effectiveness “unless and until” X event or Y data occur, simply open up running room for equivocation, challenge, and litigation.  The “sunset” (automatic expiration) of the last ban was a foolish concession allowing the gun industry to bide its time and wage an assault in what was essentially a entirely new legislative fight—with a President who sat on his hands.
  6. Cosmetic features test.  It is well understood that the 1994 law was a failure in large part because its definition of what constituted an assault weapon was a fanciful agglomeration of “bells and whistles,” most of which had absolutely nothing to do with what makes assault weapons so dangerous.  An effective law will focus on one prime feature—the ability to accept a high-capacity magazine.
  7. Private sales to law enforcement personnel.  Allowing individual law enforcement officers to make private purchases of banned guns is a bad idea.  If an agency decides such guns are necessary, it should purchase and issue them.
  8. “Relics” and “museum” exceptions.  Some existing gun laws are written so as not to cover guns made before a given date or period of time.  The flaw is obvious: as time passes, more and more truly modern and exceptionally lethal guns become treated as relics, which they are not in any real sense.  Moreover, similar provisions allowing trafficking in guns designated by jerry-rigged “museums” as “curios” simply opens the door to fraudulent certifications of phony curios by fake museums.
  9. Expanded background checks without funding for implementation, and better definitions of what is disqualifying (especially mental health status).  The question of mental health will be explosive, as some mental health advocates will argue that it is not “fair” to restrict the “civil rights” of persons with mental health problems.  But a better definition and working practice is essential
  10. Failure to greatly strengthen the legal definition of gun trafficking, the definition of what constitutes “dealing” in firearms, and to expand funding of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  The NRA and the gun industry have deliberately starved the ATF and weakened its authority.  It is time to insist that it be given the funds and power to deal with its mission.

For an analysis of the deeper questions and politics of gun control, see the companion post here http://tomdiazgunsandgangs.com/2013/01/14/the-road-from-serfdom-the-politics-of-gun-control/.

P

50 CALIBER ANTI-ARMOR SNIPER RIFLE A FAVORITE OF MEXICAN DRUG GANGS

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Latino gangs, Mexico, Running Fire Fight, Washington Bureaucracy on March 16, 2010 at 6:44 pm

We Feel You ... But Not THAT Much!

The murders of several U.S. citizens connected to the American consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has elicited the usual transparently fake concern by the usual suspects in Washington.

President Obama sent out to a flack to say that the Chief Executive was “deeply saddened and outraged.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  declared that the murders:

… underscore the imperative of our continued commitment to work closely with the Government of President Calderon to cripple the influence of trafficking organizations at work in Mexico.

"Gun Dealers? I Don't See No Stinking Gun Dealers!"

The unspoken overalls in the chowder of Secretary Clinton’s declarations about working closely with Mexico and crippling drug lords is the fact — political, historical, and inconvenient — that the Administration of President Obama has no intention whatever of taking on the U.S. civilian gun industry (and import houses) that are major suppliers of firearms smuggled to Mexico for use by the drug gangs and other criminals.

One of the most popular is the Barrett 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle.  Although its inventor calls his gun “an adult toy,” Mexican criminals understand its real capabiliities, which are basically its ability to punch holes in armor from a thousand or two yards away.

Although there is nothing amusing about the war in Mexico, here’s a charming little video about the Barrett rifle.

INSPECTOR GENERAL: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE GANG INTELLIGENCE ISN’T

In Crime, Gangs, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, politics, Transnational crime, Turf Wars, Washington Bureaucracy on November 19, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Department of Justice Inspector General Report: DOJ's Two Major Anti-Gang Intelligence Units "Are Not Contributing Significantly to the Department's Anti-Gang Initiatives."

If a tree falls in the courtyard of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC, would anybody notice in Yakima, Washington?

Not if it involves the two units in the department charged with developing national anti-gang intelligence and coordination systems — at least,  according to the department’s inspector general.  In dispassionate, almost clinical language, a just-issued report by the IG’s staff pretty much trashed both the FBI-based National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) and the DOJ-based Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordination Center (GangTECC).

The IG staff reports that “after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.”

A key recommendation — that the department consider merging the two rival siblings — is the kind of good government idea that could set off a classic turf war.

Tom Diaz, "No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement"

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

The following excerpts from the 63-page report — “A Review of the Department’s Anti-Gang Intelligence and Coordination Centers,” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Evaluation and Inspections Division (November 2009) — cover the major points:

A Review of the Department’s Anti-Gang Intelligence and Coordination Centers

In January 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that the Department had taken several steps to address gang violence. Among those efforts were the establishment of three new entities: (1) the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC), which was established by statute in January 2006, integrates the gang intelligence assets of all DOJ agencies and other partner agencies; (2) the National Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordination Center (GangTECC), established in June 2006 by the Attorney General, serves as a central coordinating center for multi-jurisdictional gang investigations; and (3) the Gang Unit, another Attorney General initiative created in September 2006, develops and implements strategies to attack the most significant gangs and serves as the prosecutorial arm of the Department’s efforts against violent gangs.

….

Our review found that, after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.

National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC)

NGIC was established by statute in January 2006 to “collect, analyze, and disseminate gang activity information” from various federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutorial, and corrections agencies.5 The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used existing resources from its Criminal Intelligence Section to establish NGIC. The public law that established NGIC also charged the FBI with administering NGIC as a multi-agency center where intelligence analysts from federal, state, and local law enforcement work together to develop and share gang-related information. NGIC was to provide a centralized intelligence resource for gang information and analytical support to law enforcement agencies. For fiscal year (FY) 2008, NGIC’s budget was $6.6 million and, as of June 2009 there were a total of 27 staff at the NGIC.

Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordinating Center (GangTECC)

On February 15, 2006, Attorney General Gonzales announced plans to create a new national anti-gang task force as part of an initiative to combat gangs and gang violence. On June 26, 2006, GangTECC began operations under the leadership of the Department’s Criminal Division. Its mission is to bring together the Department’s operational law enforcement components and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify, prioritize, and target violent street gangs whose activities pose a significant multi-jurisdictional threat. According to its Concept of Operations, GangTECC is intended to coordinate overlapping investigations, ensure that tactical and strategic intelligence is shared between law enforcement agencies, and serve as a central coordinating and deconfliction center. Unlike NGIC, GangTECC is not authorized a separate budget by statute. Instead, costs are borne by the contributing agencies. As of early 2009, there were a total of 17 GangTECC staff members.

Our review found that, after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.

Most importantly, NGIC has not established a gang information database for collecting and disseminating gang intelligence as directed by statute. NGIC is perceived as predominately an FBI organization, and it has not developed the capability to effectively share gang intelligence and information with other law enforcement organizations.

In contrast, we found that GangTECC has no budget and lacks the resources to carry out its mission. We also found that the Criminal Division has not filled an attorney position at GangTECC that is intended to enable it to provide guidance to law enforcement officials conducting gang investigations and prosecutions. In addition, because GangTECC’s member agencies and the United States Attorneys’ Offices (USAO) are not required to inform GangTECC of their investigations and prosecutions, GangTECC cannot effectively deconflict the Department’s gang-related activities as directed by the Deputy Attorney General. Further, GangTECC’s efforts to publicize its priority gang targets have lagged.

As a result of the above, NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively providing investigators and prosecutors with “one-stop shopping” for gang information and assistance, and they are not contributing significantly to the Department’s anti-gang initiatives.

NGIC has not developed a gang information database as directed by Congress.

NGIC planned to create and maintain a library of gang identification information and make that library available to investigators, prosecutors, and other law enforcement staff. In addition, NGIC planned to establish electronic bridges to federal, state, and local information technology systems to connect disparate federal and state databases containing gang information or intelligence.

However, technological limitations and operational problems have inhibited NGIC from deploying a gang information database. For example, NGIC has not developed the electronic bridges necessary to allow it to access information from states that have technologically disparate databases on gangs. In addition, performance issues with a contractor contributed to the delay in the development of the gang library. As of July 2009, the information management system and electronic bridges have not progressed beyond the development phase. Unless NGIC can obtain a technical solution for bridging these databases, NGIC’s ability to use existing gang information will be very limited.

NGIC is not effectively sharing gang intelligence and information.

To effectively share gang intelligence and information, NGIC must know the needs of the law enforcement personnel who are its customers and ensure they are aware of the NGIC’s capability to support their gang-related investigations and prosecutions.

We found that NGIC has few regular users outside of the FBI, GangTECC, and itself. These three organizations accounted for 64 percent of all requests received by NGIC. The remaining 36 percent of the requests were distributed among 15 other customer groups. With respect to the “state, local, and tribal law enforcement” customer group, our analysis showed that few requests came from these potential customers. This customer group encompasses the majority of law enforcement agencies and personnel in the United States – over 30,000 agencies and 700,000 sworn officers – and has the greatest interactions with criminally active gangs in the United States. Yet, despite its large size, this customer group made an average of only 3 requests per year and submitted only 13 of the 213 total requests for information received by NGIC from its inception in 2006 to February 2009.

In discussions with the NGIC and GangTECC personnel and other law enforcement officials about why NGIC was not used more frequently by law enforcement agencies, we found that NGIC was not perceived as an independent, multi-agency center by many of the law enforcement personnel we interviewed. It was repeatedly referred to as being “FBI-centric” in the products it generates and the intelligence analysis that it provides.

We also found that, in the 38-month period we examined, NGIC responded to only about six requests a month. While this increased to about 17 requests a month in the first 5 months of FY 2009, that number is still small given NGIC’s staffing of 20 intelligence analysts. NGIC management attributed the small number of requests to the law enforcement community’s unfamiliarity with NGIC – despite the Center’s attempts to advertise its presence – and to NGIC personnel not recording all the requests they received.

Although GangTECC’s operational guidance states that it is intended to be a major user of NGIC’s gang intelligence services, its use remains limited.

GangTECC has insufficient resources to carry out its mission of coordinating gang investigations and prosecutions.

GangTECC has a broad, multi-purpose mission, but only 12 members and no operating budget. Participating components are required to contribute staff to GangTECC and pay their salaries out of their own budgets. The lack of an operating budget has prevented GangTECC managers from taking actions essential to its operations, including hosting case coordination meetings and conducting effective outreach to the law enforcement community. Almost all GangTECC members we interviewed, as well as the GangTECC Director and Criminal Division officials, stressed that the lack of an operating budget is the biggest hindrance for GangTECC, particularly when it prevents the GangTECC personnel from fully participating in case coordination meetings.

Coordination efforts. Organizing and participating in case coordination meetings is central to GangTECC’s mission to identify common targets between law enforcement agencies. GangTECC identifies opportunities to coordinate gang investigations with multiple law enforcement agencies and attempts to organize case coordination meetings to bring together federal, state, and local investigators, analysts, and prosecutors to share information. Successfully coordinated cases may enable charges to be brought against large, geographically dispersed gang-related criminal enterprises.

GangTECC has coordinated 12 cases that involved multiple law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions, and these efforts resulted in better, stronger cases for prosecution. GangTECC has also facilitated cooperation and coordination in over 100 other cases in which investigators or agencies would not initially share information on common targets with one another. Law enforcement personnel we interviewed who used the GangTECC’s services reported high levels of satisfaction and told us that case coordination was the most helpful service that GangTECC could provide to the field.

Notwithstanding the demonstrated value, the GangTECC Director told us there have been at least five occasions when GangTECC has been unable to host or even attend out-of-state case coordination meetings because it was unable to fund travel costs. For example, GangTECC could not host case coordination meetings for two cases involving the Latin Kings gang. As a result of the limitations on GangTECC’s ability to execute its mission, opportunities to better coordinate the Department’s efforts to combat gang crime have been lost.

Deconfliction by GangTECC is not occurring as directed by the Deputy Attorney General.

Over its 3-year existence, GangTECC has not established itself as the central coordination and deconfliction center envisioned by its Concept of Operations.9 Although it was intended that GangTECC would “provide a strong, national deconfliction center for gang operations,” neither GangTECC’s own participating components nor USAOs are required to notify GangTECC of newly opened gang cases. Consequently, GangTECC cannot effectively deconflict the Department’s anti-gang activities on a national level.

GangTECC’s efforts to publicize priority gang targets have lagged.

GangTECC is required to use information from NGIC and other sources to identify priority targets and propose strategies to neutralize the most violent and significant gang threats. According to the GangTECC Director, GangTECC and NGIC first identified 13 priority gang targets in 2006. However, we found little evidence during our review that the list was used outside the two Centers.

NGIC and GangTECC are not effective as independent entities.

NGIC and GangTECC’s operational plans required them to co-locate so that they would establish a relationship in which the resources of each Center would be integrated with and fully utilized by the other. An effective NGIC and GangTECC partnership would include deconfliction, identification of priority gang targets, and sharing of gang information. While the Centers are located in the same office suite in the same building, this co-location of NGIC and GangTECC did not lead to the anticipated partnership. Our discussions with NGIC and GangTECC personnel regarding their interactions found that communication between the two Centers remains limited and ad hoc.

In addition, while both NGIC and GangTECC advertise at conferences and in their pamphlets that they provide investigators and prosecutors with a “one-stop shopping” capability for gang information and assistance, this capability has not been achieved due to various impediments. NGIC is administered by the FBI while GangTECC is administered by the Criminal Division. We found that differing leadership and management philosophies, funding sources (dedicated funding versus funding through contributions by member agencies), and investigative priorities have limited the Centers’ ability to work together effectively.

We believe that the Department should consider merging NGIC and GangTECC into a single unit under common leadership.

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