Peter Watts may serve two years for failing to promptly obey a customs officer


Cory Doctorow at 2:13 PM March 20, 2010

I’ve spent the last day in a funk at the news that my friend, Canadian sf writer Peter Watts was convicted of obstruction for getting out of his car at a US Border crossing and asking what was going on, then not complying fast enough when he was told to get back in the car. He faces up to two years in jail.

David Nickle, a mutual friend who worked with Peter on his defense, has a very good post on the subject, including a quote from one of the jurors:

The job of the jury was to decide whether Mr. Watts “obstructed/resisted” the custom officials. Assault was not one of the charges. What it boiled down to was Mr. Watts did not follow the instructions of the customs agents. Period. He was not violent, he was not intimidating, he was not stopping them from searching his car. He did, however, refuse to follow the commands by his non compliance. He’s not a bad man by any stretch of the imagination. The customs agents escalted the situation with sarcasm and miscommunication. Unfortunately, we were not asked to convict those agents with a crime, although, in my opinion, they did commit offenses against Mr. Watts. Two wrongs don’t make a right, so we had to follow the instructions as set forth to us by the judge.

That’s apparently the statute: if you don’t comply fast enough with a customs officer, he can beat you, gas you, jail you and then imprison you for two years. This isn’t about safety, it isn’t about security, it isn’t about the rule of law.

It’s about obedience.

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Dismantling of Saudi-CIA Web site illustrates need for clearer cyberwar policies

From The Washington Post:

By early 2008, top U.S. military officials had become convinced that extremists planning attacks on American forces in Iraq were making use of a Web site set up by the Saudi government and the CIA to uncover terrorist plots in the kingdom.

“We knew we were going to be forced to shut this thing down,” recalled one former civilian official, describing tense internal discussions in which military commanders argued that the site was putting Americans at risk. “CIA resented that,” the former official said.

Elite U.S. military computer specialists, over the objections of the CIA, mounted a cyberattack that dismantled the online forum. Although some Saudi officials had been informed in advance about the Pentagon’s plan, several key princes were “absolutely furious” at the loss of an intelligence-gathering tool, according to another former U.S. official.

Four former senior U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified operations, said the creation and shutting down of the site illustrate the need for clearer policies governing cyberwar. The use of computers to gather intelligence or to disrupt the enemy presents complex questions: When is a cyberattack outside the theater of war allowed? Is taking out an extremist Web site a covert operation or a traditional military activity? Should Congress be informed?

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Four Bronx buddies facing year in jail after ‘hitting’ off-duty transit cop – with a snowball!

From (with video):

Four Bronx buddies are facing a year in jail for criminal possession of a weapon – a snowball that hit an off-duty transit cop.

The young men say they were horsing around in the late February storm when an errant snowball smacked Officer Adonis Ramirez in the leg.

Next thing they knew, he was waving a gun at them and calling for backup. Now they’re facing a slew of charges and readying a $10 million suit against the city.

“When I was in Central Booking, people asked me what I was locked up for, and I said a snowball,” said Johnathan Rodriguez, 22. “Everyone started laughing.”

The NYPD doesn’t think it’s a joke.

A police source said the cop, who was in street clothes, was barraged with snowballs and taunts and chased down the street “in a threatening manner.”

The Bronx district attorney has no plans to drop charges against the four friends, three of whom have prior arrests for minor incidents.

“You would think that the NYPD would focus on real crimes and not on young men playing in the snow during a nor’easter,” said lawyer Neil Wollerstein.

He’s planning to hit the city with a $10 million false arrest and malicious prosecution suit on behalf of the four and a 15-year-old pal who was arrested but had the charges dropped in Family Court.

“The DA’s office is prosecuting nonsense here.”

The group says Ramirez was the one who behaved badly – failing to identify himself as a cop when he pulled out a gun and ordered them to the ground.

“He screamed, ‘You don’t know who I am,'” said Manuel Rondon, 18, a student at Monroe College.

“He pulled out the gun and aimed it at me when he was 3 feet away. I thought he was going to kill me.”

“I thought he was some drug dealer who was going to shoot me in the head and walk away,” said Christian Perez, 19. “We only hit him once, and it was by mistake.”

Ariel Lopez, a 17-year-old senior at Jane Addams High School, said he and the others “were all really scared.”

Police sources said Ramirez, on the force since July 2003, was leaving a friend’s apartment when he encountered the group.

“After passing them, he’s hit in the back with several snowballs,” a police source said.

“He continues walking toward his car despite them yelling that he’s a bitch.”

After the cop heard the group run toward him, he identified himself as a cop and called 911, summoning officers who arrested the snowball-throwers, the source said.

The criminal complaint says Ramirez told cops someone in the group said, “Let’s jump him” in Spanish – though the defendants point out only one of them speaks the language.

Rodriguez, Rondon, Perez and Lopez were taken to the 44th Precinct stationhouse and charged with weapons possession, attempted assault, menacing and harassment.

Lopez and Rodriguez each have a prior arrest, but the charges were dismissed after they stayed out of trouble for a year. Rondon has a criminal trespassing case that was slated to be dismissed in May.

Rodriguez filed a civilian complaint against Ramirez, and he and his friends think the NYPD should discipline the jumpy cop.

“He shouldn’t be able to carry a gun again,” said Perez. “I don’t think he should be able work on the streets.”

Virginia State Police Help With Budget Crunch

Police are now part of a government’s revenue generation machinery. They aren’t here to Serve and Protect anymore, they’re here to issue tickets and arrest people.


A federally funded ticketing blitz in the state of Virginia landed a total of 6996 traffic tickets this weekend. The blitz, dubbed “Operation Air, Land & Speed” coincided with frantic efforts by state officials to close a$2.2 billion budget deficit. Supervisors ordered state troopers to saturate Interstates 81 and 95 to issue as many tickets as humanly possible over the space of two days.

“The safety of Virginia’s highways begins the minute a vehicle is put in ‘drive,’” Virginia State Police Superintendent W. Steven Flaherty said in a statement. “Those split second decisions to choose not to drive drunk, to choose to wear a seat belt and to choose not to speed or drive aggressively really do make a difference in preventing and/or surviving a crash.”

Officers had no trouble delivering the requested number of speeding tickets with a total of 3536 ordinary speeding citations written. In addition, another 717 “reckless driving” tickets were filed, although these most often are simple speeding tickets that happen to carry a fine of up to $2500. Driving as little as 10 to 15 MPH over the limit can qualify for this enhanced punishment. On the other end of the scale, some 310 tickets were handed to drivers who either forgot to wear their seatbelts or made a choice not to do so.

Activists with the National Motorists Association pointed out that enforcement efforts may have concentrated on areas where speed limits are expected to rise to 70 MPH following Governor Bob McDonnell’s signature on legislation raising the state’s maximum speed limit (view law). This would mean a significant number of tickets were issued for conduct that will be perfectly legal in a matter of months. The group also indicated that state police tactics may run afoul of state law.

“All officers making arrests incident to the enforcement of this title shall be paid fixed salaries for their services and shall have no interest in, nor be permitted by law to accept the benefit of, any fine or fee resulting from the arrest or conviction of an offender against any provision of this title,” Virginia Code Section 46.2-102 states.

Under the federal grant application process, state officials explained that they would pay officers overtime — at least one-and-a-half times their normal salary — to participate. This special reward for ticketing operation participants appears to violate the spirit of state law.

Since 2006, a total of twenty-three ticketing blitzes have taken place, generating 120,977 traffic tickets.

Troopers raid popular bars for unlicensed beers


IT WAS ELIOT NESS and the Untouchables, as played by the Keystone Kops.

More than a dozen armed State Police officers conducted simultaneous raids last week on three popular Philadelphia bars known for their wide beer selections. The cops confiscated hundreds of bottles of expensive ales and lagers, now in State Police custody at an undisclosed location.

The alleged offense: Although the bar owners had bought the beer legally from licensed Pennsylvania distributors and had paid all the necessary taxes, the police claimed that nobody had registered the precise names of the beers with the state Liquor Control Board – a process that requires the brewers or their importers to pay a $75 registration fee for each product they want to sell in Pennsylvania.

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Internet access is ‘a fundamental right’

It’s reached the point where apparently anything you can think of is ‘a fundamental right’ to somebody. Healthcare, education, housing, food, transportation, you name it, it’s a fundamental right. Apparently no one is concerned about paying for these fundamental rights or cares where the money comes from so long as the government takes care of it for them.

From the BBC:

Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests.

The survey – of more than 27,000 adults across 26 countries – found strong support for net access on both sides of the digital divide.

Countries such as Finland and Estonia have already ruled that access is a human right for their citizens.

International bodies such as the UN are also pushing for universal net access.

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Two MU students arrested, suspended (for felony hate-crimes)

This is where the hate crimes laws are going to take us, to idiotic places such as this.


Two students at the University of Missouri-Columbia were suspended Wednesday after their arrests in a case of cotton balls thrown across the lawn of the campus black-culture center.

Campus police on Tuesday evening arrested the students, one of whom is from the St. Louis area, on suspicion of a felony hate crime. The two were released on bond, and charges were pending.

The incident happened early Friday at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, near the middle of campus. Nathan Stephens, the center’s coordinator, said students were offended because of the “symbolic violence” that harkened to days of slavery on cotton plantations.

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