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A Notable Discrepancy in DNC, RNC Security

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Perhaps you remember the apparent assasination plot against Senator Obama that was stopped in a hotel in Denver.  Kossaks staying in the same hotel reported back on the shocking incident, as did local TV station CBS4:

Sources told CBS4 police found two high-powered, scoped rifles in the car along with camouflage clothing, walkie-talkies, a bulletproof vest, a spotting scope, licenses in the names of other people and methamphetamine. One of the rifles is listed as stolen from Kansas.

The people arrested are not going to be charged with conspiracy to kill the Senator despite an FBI request.  

Meanwhile,  eight would-be protesters at the RNC in St. Paul are being charged with “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism” based on the word of paid moles.  The house raid in St. Paul was conducted the weekend before the convention began.

Please let that combination of stories sink in for a moment.

Of the three men arrested in the Denver hotel, U.S. Attorney Troy Eid (a Bush appointee of whom emptywheel had some thoughts in 2007) commented:

The three men — all high on methamphetamine when arrested — are the subject of an assassination investigation but so far, authorities say, it appears that they had no capacity to carry out any attack on Obama.

“The law recognizes a difference between a true threat — one that can be carried out — and the reported racist rantings of a drug addict,” U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said.

— snip —

Eid said authorities determined there was no firm plot to harm Obama. Asked what else they could plan to do with the weapons, Eid said, “I don’t know what they were for.”

So “two high-powered, scoped rifles in the car along with camouflage clothing, walkie-talkies, a bulletproof vest, a spotting scope, licenses in the names of other people and methamphetamine” do not constitute “a true threat — one that can be carried out,” apparently.

On the other hand, over in St. Paul, police were able to find precious little physical evidence in the home where the eight members of the alleged “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism” were staying.

Searches conducted in connection with the raids failed to turn up any physical evidence to support the allegations of organized attacks on law enforcement. Although claiming probable cause to believe that gunpowder, acids, and assembled incendiary devices would be found, no such items were seized by police. As a result, police sought to claim that the seizure of common household items such as glass bottles, charcoal lighter, nails, a rusty machete, and two hatchets, supported the allegations of the confidential informants. “Police found what they claim was a single plastic shield, a rusty machete, and two hatchets used in Minnesota to split wood. This doesn’t amount to evidence of an organized insurrection, particularly when over 3,500 police are present in the Twin Cities, armed with assault rifles, concussion grenades, chemical weapons and full riot gear,” said Nestor [Bruce Nestor, President of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild]. In addition, the National Lawyers Guild has previously pointed out how law enforcement has fabricated evidence such as the claims that urine was seized which demonstrators intended to throw at police.

As mentioned, the St. Paul raid was conducted based on information provided by paid informants.

Affidavits released by law enforcement which were filed in support of the search warrants used in raids over the weekend, and used to support probable cause for the arrest warrants, are based on paid, confidential informants who infiltrated the RNCWC on behalf of law enforcement. They allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates to the RNC, assault police officers with firebombs and explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul. Evidence released to date does not corroborate these allegations with physical evidence or provide any other evidence for these allegations than the claims of the informants. Based on past abuses of such informants by law enforcement, the National Lawyers Guild is concerned that such police informants have incentives to lie and exaggerate threats of violence and to also act as provacateurs in raising and urging support for acts of violence.

David Newart at Firedoglake notes of the Denver/Obama case:

Note the language used by Eid in dismissing the gravity of the case: the case isn’t serious because they were “more aspirational, perhaps, than operational”? Well, when it was the Liberty Seven — black Muslim men who were described by the FBI as “aspirational rather than operational” — there was no hesitation by the Justice Department in bringing charges.

Another funny thing: When a black man in prison sent a threatening letter containing baby powder to John McCain, Troy Eid brought down the full force of the law, complete with press conferences and public declarations that “We won’t stand for threats of this kind in Colorado.”

But when it’s a claque of white men with rifles, disguises, and all the accoutrement of a conspiracy – as well as open admissions to it – Troy Eid isn’t worried. After all, they just a bunch of harmless, tweakers, right? … Just like little Timmy McVeigh.

Now, let me pause for a moment.

emptywheel points out in another post that Minneapolis’ Joint Terrorism Task Force was busy this year infiltrating peace/hippie groups.

It’s time, I think, to recall something I reported back in May: lefty groups very much like Food not Bombs were infiltrated by Minneapolis’ Joint Terrorism Task Force earlier this year.

Minneapolis’ Joint Terrorist Task Force is recruiting people to infiltrate vegan potlucks to look for potential–what?–tahini enthusiasts?–in advance of the RNC convention this fall.

If the Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher got it into his head that these hippies were terrorists, this is precisely the kind of thuggish behavior you’d expect. Heck–you’d expect it from the Bush DOJ as well.

Which is all the more reason to find out the precise role of the JTTF in these raids. If the Bush DOJ approved the use of terrorism techniques to prepare for the convention–in spite of the fact that such an approval would violate DOJ guidelines–we’d have a crystal clear example of why it is inappropriate to interpret terrorism as broadly as the Bush Administration has been pushing to do.

Without drawing any overspeculative conclusions, here, let me just repeat two facts:

(1) Bush appointee U.S. Attorney Troy Eid refused to press conspiracy charges against three guys allegedly in a hotel with guns talking about killing Senator Obama.

(2) Ramsey County Prosecutors are charging eight RNC protestors with “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism” in the apparent absence of anything the cops were actually looking for.

I am not a lawyer.  I would, however, like to know more about this seeming discrepancy.

(All hat tips to David Neiwert and Lindsay Beyerstein, respectively, at Firedoglake for this post about the Denver situation and this one about the St. Paul situation.)

26 comments

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  1. also at DailyKos.

    • Edger on September 4, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    It’s been awhile…

  2. isn’t worried about armed to the teeth white guys with military hardware and clothing, high on meth, in Denver because they were not there to target our national POW in residence.

    People like those members of the RNCWC and for that matter, Amy Goodman, on the other hand, scares the livin’ bejeezus out of him, because they might, one day perhaps maybe, start a riot.

    And Americans that have the nerve to oppose the GOP are known terrorists.

    Because they say so.

  3. And in the spirit of Michael’s essay yesterday, I’ll suggest that folks consider contacting the Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner about this prosecution from the RNC. I have a long history with this woman and will just tell you that  her modus operandi is to do anything that will advance her political career. She’s already filed to run as a Democratic candidate for Governor in 2010 so she’ll certainly be paying attention to the political winds about this right now.

    Oh and good to see you again LC!!!!

    • pfiore8 on September 4, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    seems to me this is gonna end up testing lasix plus enemy combatant status against citizens because that word TERRORISM stands out pretty loudly to me!

  4. We need to throw this in the face of Republicans who are supposedly so strong on terror:

    Would three men found with two high-powered, scoped rifles (one of the rifles listed as stolen from Kansas) in the car along with camouflage clothing, walkie-talkies, a bulletproof vest, a spotting scope, licenses in the names of other people and methamphetamine….parked car in St. Paul during the RNC constituted a charge  of “conspiracy to kill” or at a minimum “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism”?

    • Edger on September 5, 2008 at 12:58 am

    “you vote republican or we will not protect you – be very afraid…”?

  5. Lots of fun at the delegate entrance Thursday night.

    My sign: “ comprare viagra in italia in contrassegno This Party is SO over.” (flashed many times on Chris Mathews’ broadcast)

    Shouted: “ accutane target Please refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages until the funeral ceremony is completed.”

    Caught Mitt Romney entering the hall, “Second Biggest Loser” He couldn’t help asking “Who’s the Biggest?” “Giuliani of course.” He choked, trying to suppress laughter.

    • Valtin on September 6, 2008 at 2:37 am

    and one I hope you, emptywheel, and others do not let slide off into obscurity.

    Something is rotten in the state of… and we know what it is, but don’t want to face it.

  6. DNC arrests: 154

    RNC arrests: 818

    Some of the video I saw was pretty disturbing, like this from Democracy Now! producer Nicole Salazar, filming her own assault and arrest:

    Well done, Sheriff Fletcher.

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