Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Abusive DHS and DoJ: The public is losing money because of your abuse

Ref. There's been some discussion about the Patriot Act and the need for the government to be able to stop and detain people.

Pick a random city like Seattle, and talk to a photographer about taking pictures. The interaction can be fairly intimidating.

So, let's not be surprised why the con-men are taking notes from personnel like DHS Dan McNamara and his abusive tactics toward photographers.

What is going on is that crooks are showing up, pretending to be federal agents, and the public is being taken advantage of.

The solution isn't simply to go after the bad guys, but to ensure the DHS-DoJ personnel who engage in this misconduct are sanctioned and disciplined.

The longer ICE in Seattle refuses to adequately discipline special agents like Dan McNamara, the longer crooks are going to be able to get away with conning people out of money.

The solution is to ensure agents arrive on the doorstep with proper credentials, be polite, and ensure their actions are consistent with the constitution.

If agents like Dan McNamara think they are "doing the right thing" by abusing photographers, they've missed the point. The abuse within the ICE team means that people are learning to assent to that which need not be assented.

Clear, valid identification, warrants, and politeness are signals to the public that they are dealing with a bonafide federal agent.

The moment that agents like McNamara get away with being abusive, is a clear signal to the cooks what they too can get away with.

ICE, DHS, and DoJ need to get together to ensure their agents know that in this "post 9-11 era" [as we will forever be, as we cannot go back in time], it means the public needs to be given clear signals of who they are talking to.

That means credentials, courtesy, and valid warrants, and conduct that is consistent with professional standards in the administrative and operating procedures.

The public should be advised of these standards, and when agents fail to conduct themselves in a professional manner, that should be a signal to the public that they are not dealing with a bonafide agent from either ICE or DHS.

Rather, misconduct, abuse, and threats against the public should be treated as they are: Not complaints to be explained away, but the basis for credible administrative sanctions against the agents, and the basis for 42 USC 1983 claims that override any qualified immunity afforded.

The public needs to know they are dealing with bonafide agents. Because the agents are not sanctioned, the public is being asked to "take what they get."

Unfortunately, the public is also being taken for a ride. DoJ and DHS could do much to remedy this "problem with bogus agents" by making sure their own agents conduct their affairs in a professional manner.

At that juncture, the innocent-until-proven-guilty public will have a better idea whether they are dealing with a professional, or someone that the FBI needs to know about.

Because of the discipline problem within DoJ and DHS in re "effective and professional interactions with the public," the bad guys are taking advantage of this situation.

This was all avoidable if the agencies had leadership that enforced the standards, and ensured the public was treated well when reporting crimes. At this juncture, it is clear the public is confused, is incorrectly led to believe they should assent to misconduct, and are increasingly convinced to not assert themselves when they should.

The problem with bogus agents is going to continue so long as both DHS and DoJ look at the public as pawns to be abused, interrogated, and manipulated.

The public reasonably has the belief that there is no difference between the abuse of DHS-DoJ agents and the criminal conduct by petit thieves.

Indeed, it was DoJ-CIFA who oversaw and were tangentially aware of the abuses in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. We should not be surprised why the same agencies issue warnings, but do little to educate those they enjoy abusing.

Until we have some credible leadership from Congress and an outpouring of support for photographers who are abused, DHS-DoJ have nobody but themselves to blame for this abysmal state of affairs.

What is needed is a better education system for the public over what to expect of federal agents; the standards that they should be meeting, and clear points of conduct under the Special Agents in Charge of who can credibly help them when they are mistreated, or the "agent at the doorstep" is doing something that is inappropriate.

We need some leadership from the SACs. It would be helpful if the SACs through DoJ Legislative Liasion could provide their action plans to Senate and House staffers by COB 20 Oct 2004.

DHS-DoJ Action Plan to Combat Bogus Agents

  • Warrants

    Clear, valid warrants that meet well-known standards in terms of form, content, appearance to justify entry, access, and interview;

  • Disclose standards

    Clear standards for the public to compare the interaction with federal agents in re:

    - standards of conduct [examples of appropriate, inappropriate conduct, requests]
    - paperwork presented [appropriate requests]
    - identification [whether proper appearance, and properly presented]

  • Leadership

    Enforced standards within the SAC and Office of Professional Responsibility

    - timely investigations;
    - clear points of contact;
    - what information needs to be placed in the complaint
    - things that would be helpful for the public to notice

  • Focal points

    Clear points of contact under the SAC at the ASAC level to review public concerns in re agent misconduct, or cases where agent conduct appears to actually be that of criminal nature

    - pictures on website of duty agents;
    - phone numbers;
    - information to have ready to provide to the duty agent;
    - indicators and signs that the duty agent is not taking the information or responding appropriately;

  • Courtesy

    Willingness of duty agents to listen and take information, not make excuses to ignore valid inputs and observations

    - provide clear reasons for not being able to act,
    - do not make up stories or provide illusory statutes/caselaw,
    - nor state that the issue is "not a crime" when the elements have not been dovetailed with the alleged misconduct]; and

  • Public outreach

    Public dialog over whether the DHS-DoJ issued "standards of professional conduct" are adequately understood, visible, and useful to those who are most vulnerable

    - provide publicly available information on standards of conduct;
    - conduct public-training classes;
    - invite feedback on whether trials are effective;
    - conduct dry-runs with media exposure to show what the public should do when faced with this situation].