With SWAT teams in most towns today, the USA is just like its official fantasy of Putin’s Russia
By John W. Whitehead
January 29, 2019
“This is jackboots in the morning. This is an American nightmare that they would arrest somebody like this.”—Judge Andrew Napolitano
The American Police State does not discriminate.
Whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now—whether it’s in the name of national security or protecting America’s borders or making America great again—rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.
We’ve been having this same debate about the perils of government overreach for the past 50-plus years, and still we don’t seem to learn, or if we learn, we learn too late.
For too long now, the American people have allowed their personal prejudices and politics to cloud their judgment and render them incapable of seeing that the treatment being doled out by the government’s lethal enforcers has remained consistent, no matter the threat.
All of the excessive, abusive tactics employed by the government today—warrantless surveillance, stop and frisk searches, SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, indefinite detention, militarized police, etc.—will eventually be meted out on the general populace.
At that point, when you find yourself in the government’s crosshairs, it will not matter whether your skin is black or yellow or brown or white; it will not matter whether you’re an immigrant or a citizen; it will not matter whether you’re rich or poor; it will not matter whether you’re Republican or Democrat; and it certainly won’t matter who you voted for in the last presidential election.
At that point—at the point you find yourself subjected to dehumanizing, demoralizing, thuggish behavior by government bureaucrats who are hyped up on the power of their badges and empowered to detain, search, interrogate, threaten and generally harass anyone they see fit—remember you were warned.
Take Roger Stone, one of President Trump’s longtime supporters, for example.
This is a guy accused of witness tampering, obstruction of justice and lying to Congress.
As far as we know, this guy is not the kingpin of a violent mob or drug-laundering scheme. He’s been charged with a political crime. So what does the FBI do? They send 29 heavily armed agents in 17 vehicles to carry out a SWAT-style raid on Stone’s Florida home just before dawn on Jan. 25, 2019.
As the Boston Herald reports:
“After his arraignment on witness tampering, obstruction and lying to Congress, a rattled Stone was quoted as saying 29 agents ‘pounded on the door,’ pointed automatic weapons at him and ‘terrorized’ his wife and dogs. Stone was taken away in handcuffs, the sixth associate of President Trump to be indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. All the charges have been related to either lying or tax evasion, with no evidence of so-called ‘collusion’ with Russia emerging to date.”
Yet another example of government overreach and brutality? Definitely.
But here’s the thing: while Tucker Carlson and Chris Christie and other Trump apologists appear shocked that law enforcement personnel would stage a military assault against “an unarmed 66-year-old man who has been charged with a nonviolent crime,” this is nothing new.
Indeed, this is blowback, one more vivid example of how the government’s short-sighted use of immoral, illegal and unconstitutional tactics become dangerous weapons turned against the American people.
To be clear, this Stone raid is far from the first time a SWAT team has been employed in non-violent scenarios.
Nationwide, SWAT teams routinely invade homes, break down doors, kill family pets (they always shoot the dogs first), damage furnishings, terrorize families, and wound or kill those unlucky enough to be present during a raid.
Payton, a 7-year-old black Labrador retriever, and 4-year-old Chase, also a black Lab, were shot and killed after a SWAT team mistakenly raided the mayor’s home while searching for drugs. Police shot Payton four times. Chase was shot twice, once from behind as he ran away. “My government blew through my doors and killed my dogs. They thought we were drug dealers, and we were treated as such. I don’t think they really ever considered that we weren’t,” recalls Mayor Cheye Calvo, who described being handcuffed and interrogated for hours—wearing only underwear and socks—surrounded by the dogs’ carcasses and pools of the dogs’ blood.
SWAT teams have been employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of so-called criminal activity or mere community nuisances: angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession, to give a brief sampling. In some instances, SWAT teams are even employed, in full armament, to perform routine patrols.
If these raids are becoming increasingly common and widespread, you can chalk it up to the “make-work” philosophy, in which you assign at-times unnecessary jobs to individuals to keep them busy or employed. In this case, however, the make-work principle is being used to justify the use of sophisticated military equipment and, in the process, qualify for federal funding.
SWAT teams originated as specialized units dedicated to defusing extremely sensitive, dangerous situations. They were never meant to be used for routine police work such as serving a warrant.
Frequently justified as vital tools necessary to combat terrorism and deal with rare but extremely dangerous criminal situations, such as those involving hostages, SWAT teams—which first appeared on the scene in California in the 1960s—have now become intrinsic parts of federal and local law enforcement operations, thanks in large part to substantial federal assistance and the Pentagon’s 1033 military surplus recycling program, which allows the transfer of military equipment, weapons and training to local police for free or at sharp discounts.
Mind you, this is the same program that President Trump breathed new life into back in 2017.
As the role of paramilitary forces has expanded to include involvement in nondescript police work targeting nonviolent suspects, the mere presence of SWAT units has actually injected a level of danger and violence into police-citizen interactions that
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