tipsheet
Matt Vespa - Chicago Police Allegedly Have A Domestic 'Black Site'
Posted: 2/26/2015 8:34:00 PM EST

It sounds like a story you would hear from a former Soviet state. The Chicago Police Department has reportedly been holding suspects at an off-the-grid location called Homan Square. Here, Americans, some as young as 15, have been denied counsel, held anywhere from 12-24 hours, and subject to beatings, according to the Guardian.

For those sent to Horman, they aren’t booked. Their records aren’t even entered in the public databases. This location is said to have been operational for years, since the late 1990s. One person is said to have died in one of Horman’s “interview rooms.” The article also discussed the arrest of Brian Jacob Church, who was arrested by Chicago police in 2012 on terrorism charges. Church is part of the “NATO Three,” who were arrested after police infiltrated their protest of the organization’s Chicago summit. The Guardian reported that Church was subject to an interrogation without being read his Miranda rights and detained for about 17 hours:

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.

Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.

A former Chicago police superintendent and a more recently retired detective, both of whom have been inside Homan Square in the last few years in a post-police capacity, said the police department did not operate out of the warehouse until the late 1990s.

Jacob Church learned about Homan Square the hard way. On May 16 2012, he and 11 others were taken there after police infiltrated their protest against the Nato summit. Church says officers cuffed him to a bench for an estimated 17 hours, intermittently interrogating him without reading his Miranda rights to remain silent. It would take another three hours – and an unusual lawyer visit through a wire cage – before he was finally charged with terrorism-related offenses at the nearby 11th district station, where he was made to sign papers, fingerprinted and photographed.

In preparation for the Nato protest, Church, who is from Florida, had written a phone number for the National Lawyers Guild on his arm as a precautionary measure. Once taken to Homan Square, Church asked explicitly to call his lawyers, and said he was denied.

“Essentially, I wasn’t allowed to make any contact with anybody,” Church told the Guardian, in contradiction of a police guidance on permitting phone calls and legal counsel to arrestees.

Church’s left wrist was cuffed to a bar behind a bench in windowless cinderblock cell, with his ankles cuffed together. He remained in those restraints for about 17 hours.

After serving two and a half years in prison, Church is currently on parole after he and his co-defendants were found not guilty in 2014 of terrorism-related offenses but guilty of lesser charges of possessing an incendiary device and the misdemeanor of “mob action”.

The access that Nato Three attorneys received to Homan Square was an exception to the rule, even if Jacob Church’s experience there was not.

Some were not so lucky. On February 2, 2013, John Hubbard was taken to Homan Square, where he died due to heroin intoxication in one of the interrogation rooms.

Regardless of the crimes, in this country, even the worst of humanity deserves a fair trial, access to counsel, and other rights associated with the due process of law. Of course, we’re all for law and order and fighting terrorism, but having what appears to be a black site on American soil poses a serious constitutional question, especially when this facility allegedly neglects to book their suspects and add their information into the database. We should be wary of institutions that engage in practices that prevent accountability under the law. To safeguard the Constitution, even the lowest of the low need their day in court–at the very minimum.

Leah Barkoukis - TSA Worried About 'Greatest Potential Incendiary Threat to Aviation'
Posted: 2/26/2015 7:38:00 PM EST

A new day, a new security threat. 

According to an FBI report, the use of Thermite on an aircraft is the “greatest potential incendiary threat to aviation.” Worse yet, the Transportation Security Administration said it would be extremely hard to detect during security screenings and once ignited, there’s no way to extinguish it using conventional methods without making the reaction worse.

The Intercept, which obtained the classified documents, has the details:

Thermite — a mixture of rust and aluminum powder — could be used against a commercial aircraft, TSA warned in a Dec. 2014 document, marked secret[PDF here]. “The ignition of a thermite-based incendiary device on an aircraft at altitude could result in catastrophic damage and the death of every person onboard,” the advisory said.

TSA said it is unlikely to spot an easy-to-assemble thermite-based incendiary device during security screening procedures, and the use of currently available extinguishers carried on aircrafts would create a violent reaction. The TSA warning is based on FBI testing done in 2011, and a subsequent report.

A thermite device, though difficult to ignite, would “produce toxic gasses, which can act as nerve poison, as well as a thick black smoke that will significantly inhibit any potential for in-flight safety officers to address the burn.”

TSA warned federal air marshals not to use customary methods of extinguishing fires — the water or halon fire extinguishers currently found on most aircraft — which would make the reaction worse, creating toxic fumes. Instead, air marshals are told to “recognize a thermite ignition” — but TSA has provided no training or guidance on how to do so, according to multiple sources familiar with the issue.

TSA officers who spoke with The Intercept expressed frustrations over the security reports because they’ve been given no follow-up instructions or training on what to do if they are presented with such a threat onboard.

“We’re supposed to brief our [federal air marshals] to identify a thermite ignition — but they tell us nothing,” one TSA official told The Intercept. “So our guys are Googling, ‘What does thermite look like? How do you extinguish thermite fires?’ This is not at all helpful.”

Other aviation officials who spoke with the news site, also anonymously because they are not authorized to speak to the press, said much the same: “They say to identify something we don’t know how to identify and say there is nothing we can do,” a federal air marshal told The Intercept. “So basically, we hope it’s placed somewhere it does minimal damage, but basically we’re [screwed].”

OK, so we may all be “screwed” if terrorists can get this stuff past security and onto the plane, but explosives experts are saying the operative word is “if.”

Jimmie Oxley, a professor of chemistry at the University of Rhode Island, and an expert in explosives and explosives detection, said thermite — though a theoretical threat — seemed an unlikely candidate to slip through security, particularly since the would-be terrorist would also have to carry an igniter. “You’ve got to get a pound of something that is a really thick mass through security without anyone noticing,” she said. “I find that hard to believe.”

The problem is one of practicalities, said Oxley, who has worked with the FBI and other federal agencies on explosives testing, but was not aware of the specific TSA or FBI reports on thermite obtained by The Intercept. If the hope were to burn a hole through the aircraft, then the thermite would have to be placed on the floor, and then there’s still no guarantee it would take down the aircraft.

Setting off thermite is also impractical, according to Oxley. “Somebody has to give you time to play on the plane,” she said. “Like with the shoe bomber, people do notice if you’re doing something weird in this day and age.”

The FBI did point out in its report, however, that just because the agency has presented information about the threat doesn’t mean terrorists are necessarily interested in it. It turns out they may be more interested in “other types of incendiary materials.”

Great.

Cortney O'Brien - Palin: "This Bureaucracy Is Killing Our Vets"
Posted: 2/26/2015 6:45:00 PM EST
It's always a booming full house when former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin takes the CPAC stage. This year, however, the applause was saved for her son Track and his fellow soldiers and veterans who have bravely served our country.

When the country's most famous Mama Grizzly spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday afternoon, she used her remarks to honor our nation's finest.

As a military mom, Palin knows a thing or two about the sacrifices our young men and women make every day fighting for our freedom overseas. Unfortunately, she somberly noted, our veterans face a whole new set of challenges when they return home. Be it PTSD, unemployment, or staggering divorce and suicide rates, our soldiers are in danger just as much off the battlefield as they were in combat. You only have to consider this one statistic Palin provided to understand the threats they face:

"The suicide rate among our best and our brightest is 23 a day. In these four days, 92 vets will have taken their lives."

Palin, however, knows our vets are not "charity causes," as Dakota Meyer, a former Marine Corps corporal who introduced her, noted. She knows first hand how those first deployments feel - that moment when he goes from a "son" to a "sir," as she put it.

After honoring her son and the rest of our nation's soldiers, Palin spent time shaming our bureaucrats.

"They're promised no one is left behind on battlefield...We're here to collect on the promises made. This bureaucracy is killing our vets."

With revelations that the Veterans Administration put our veterans on secret waiting lists and even dared to withhold benefits from them, that statement may be truer than we may like to believe.

As to why these scandals only recently broke, Palin knows the answer.

"The reason you don't hear about these scandals, is because our vets don't complain."

The former governor offered a few solutions as to how America could better serve our returning soldiers.

1. Offer vets treatment outside of the VA. Vets deserve the same freedom as their fellow Americans when it comes to treatment. What's more, Palin said, we must ensure that illegal immigrants don't jump in front. "We demand that the vets are first in line."

2. Let them use skills they learned in the military. She called this "common sense."

3. Secure their well earned benefits. Almost unbelievably, Congress voted to cut vets retirement benefits last year. They only relented, Palin recalled, when the American people spoke up. Notably, she added, these same legislators didn't vote to cut their own.

"We must provide our vets the political will to win."

Palin couldn't speak about our vets and national security without calling attention to the very real threat of the Islamic caliphate that our president continues to dangerously minimalize. Because terrorism is "on the march" all over the world, there is but one solution, Palin said.

"The only thing standing between us and savages, is the red, white and blue - the United States military."

Palin ended her speech by asking veterans in the crowd to stand so the audience could salute them, proclaiming, "We love you!"

Our soldiers are our suited protectors. In summary, I have to echo Mrs. Palin: "Our vets deserve better."

Daniel Doherty - Cruz: "The Next 20 Months Are Going to Be Very Dangerous"
Posted: 2/26/2015 6:30:00 PM EST

Prior to his speech at CPAC Thursday afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) didn’t mince words. He bluntly told reporters how nervous he is about the president’s final 20 months in office.

“The next 20 months are going to be very dangerous,” he said. “They are going to be dangerous at home. President Obama has reacted to this last election in a way that’s unprecedented. You know, prior presidents have been repudiated [and] they’ve reacted with contrition. [P]resident Obama, instead, reacted with anger and defiance.”

“I believe the next 20 months we are going to see a degree of lawlessness that will exceed anything we’ve seen in the previous six years,” he continued. “I think we’re going to see executive order after executive order. I think we’re going to see the abuse of regulations in a way that crushes small businesses, destroys jobs. I think we are going to see the continued weaponization of the IRS in the federal government, and it is going to be dangerous.”

He expressed hope, however, that Congressional Republicans will fulfill their constitutional duties and, as he put it, “rein in that abuse of power and provide meaningful oversight.” But unfortunately, he said, there are other concerns to be worried about as well.

“And I’ll tell you as dangerous as it’s going to be at home, it’s going to be even more dangerous aboard,” he emphasized. “Every bad actor on the face of the globe, from Putin to Khomeini in Iran to ISIS, has every incentive possible to do as much damage as they can in [the next] 20 months."

Why?

Because, he argued, "the tyrants of the world believe there is no credible threat or deterrent from this president.”

Cortney O'Brien - Rep. Mia Love: Government Has Made it Impossible for Legal Immigrants to Start Their Own Lives
Posted: 2/26/2015 5:00:00 PM EST

Rep. Mia Love's (R-Utah) parents came to America from Haiti with $10 in their pocket in the 1970s. After holding down several jobs, they eventually earned their own way to success. Their daughter, however, said that could probably not happen today, thanks to an overbearing federal government. Love shared her personal story with attendees today at the Conservative Political Action Conference to demonstrate how important it is to take advantage of opportunities just like her parents did and work to achieve the American Dream on their own individual efforts, before it's threatened by Washington.

Love has an impressive resume. She is the first black female Republican elected to Congress, as well as the first black Republican ever elected from Utah. More impressively, she did it without relying on the nanny state. Her own personal story is why she rejects the notion that government should run our lives.

"Too many in Washington don't trust the American people. They don't want us to have opportunities to rise to the occasion."

Love has a better vision for America.

"I think it's time we need to look within. I think it's time for Washington to trust the American people."

The Utah representative can now say that the same principles that propelled her parents' success have also offered her a way forward.

"Conservative policies work. I've seen them work as a mother, as a mayor, and I use them now as a member of Congress...The American people deserve the opportunity to rise to the occasion."

Speaking of rising, Rep. Love shared a poignant and relevant story about a hot air balloon ride she took last year. As she was getting ready to board the balloon, she asked her son to join. He declined, so her daughter jumped in instead. High in the air, they enjoyed the beauty of Utah's landscape. Then, the weather changed, and the wind took them into the backyard of a neighbor. After witnessing the exciting spectacle, Love's son felt a hint of jealousy.

"Peyton watched the excitement from the ground. He runs over and says, 'I'm ready, it's my turn! But, the opportunity for him to soar and rise to the sky had come and gone. I said, 'remember this experience, remember today...If you do not take opportunities that come today, you'll never know if they'll come back." 

This is especially true, she said, thanks to a ballooning federal government."

"The federal government has made it impossible for people to save. It's difficult for someone to start their own lives - we've got to change that."

Even just 52 days in Congress, Love recognizes how harmful the government's nanny programs can be.

"I see all these programs that are meant to help the poor, hurt those they vow to protect."

Love said that government has its own interests in mind, not those of the American people. Her solutions? We have to trust ourselves and hit government agencies where they hurt.

"Independent people are the ones that give back. Washington can't do that. Washington needs to get smaller so people are bigger...Their job is to keep their job. We have to cut the bloodline to these bureaucracies, which is the funding."

It is this positive belief in America that encouraged Love's consituents to give her a seat in Washinton to try and change the selfish status quo.

"I was elected because of the policies and the principles that belive in American exceptionalism. I believe in this country."

Preserve your right to make your own decisions, she added. 

"Unlike Washington, I believe you're capable of doing that."

I had the opportunity to interview Rep. Love Thursday morning. She expanded on how Big Government has made it extremely difficult for immigrants to legally enter and succeed in America. Below is our full conversation:

Conn Carroll - Illegal Immigrants Amnestied By Obama Eligible For Up To $9,182 In Cash Benefits Every Year
Posted: 2/26/2015 5:00:00 PM EST

Illegal immigrants who are given work permits and Social Security Numbers through President Obama's amnesty programs could get up to $9,182 in cash benefits from the federal government every year, according to a new later from the Congressional Research Service.

Requested by an unnamed Senator, the CRS letter details the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit and and Child Tax Credit payments a family could receive from the Internal Revenue Service without paying any income taxes to the federal government.

Families with four children who earned $23,260 would owe zero income taxes in 2014 and would be eligible for a $9,182 check from the government since both the EITC and CTC are refundable benefit programs which pay recipients benefits above and beyond any tax liability they night have.

Families with incomes above $23,260 would still receive EITC and CTC payments from the federal government, but those payments would decrease as the families income rose.

Illegal immigrants who filed tax returns using Taxpayer Identification Numbers from the IRS have been receiving billions in CTC payments from the federal government for years. Obama's Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program would make it easier for millions more illegal immigrants to receive tax benefits by giving the SSNs.

With a SSN, illegal immigrants become eligible for both CTC and EITC payments. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that if Obama's executive amnesties are kept for the next ten years, illegal immigrants will receive more than $20 billion in EITC patients over that time.

According to the CBO, under Obama's amnesty programs, illegal immigrants would also get $3 billion in health care benefits, $2 billion in Supplemental Security Income, and $1.6 billion in food stamps.

When Obama first introduced his DAPA program to the American people, he claimed it would not "offer the same benefits that citizens receive."

These official CRS and CBO letters directly contradict that statement.

Vivian Hughbanks  - Phyllis Schlafly Honored at Annual Weyrich Awards
Posted: 2/26/2015 4:45:00 PM EST

Marking the 50th Anniversary of her book, A Choice, Not an Echo, Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum received the Paul Weyrich Award for her life of service to the conservative movement on Wednesday evening at the Annual Weyrich Awards Dinner.

“Paul Weyrich was a tremendous figure in the early conservative movement, and I am proud to have called him my friend,” Schlafly said in a statement. “It is truly an honor to receive an award that bears his name and I am thrilled that the dinner has chosen to highlight my updated A Choice, Not An Echo for a new generation of conservatives to see. We are facing the very same battles today that Paul and I faced in the last 50 years.”

Numerous members of Congress and conservative VIPs attended the dinner, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and former Hewlett-Packard CEO and potential 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.

During dinner, guests viewed videos featuring tribute to Schlafly by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, among others.

Schlafly first self-published A Choice, Not An Echo in 1964. The book exposes Republican “kingmakers” – who picked Republican candidates and drove them to victory by funding media and staff support, feining public acclaim. More than 3.5 million copies of the book have been sold.

“She fought battles most lacked the courage to fight, and time and again she won," Dr. Ben Carson wrote in a Washington Times tribute published Wednesday.

Others awarded for their contributions to the conservative movement included FOX News host Megyn Kelly, author and former CBS investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, and Live Action President Lila Rose.

Sarah Jean Seman - Joni Ernst Honors Military Veterans at CPAC
Posted: 2/26/2015 4:03:00 PM EST

The lights rose in the dimly lit auditorium at CPAC on Thursday afternoon, and the camera shot turned from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to the audience.

“At this time, if you are able, I would like to ask all of our military men and women to please rise and allow us to show our deep gratitude and appreciation,” Ernst had just said.

Across the room some three dozen veterans rose, and applause broke out.

“As we gather together for the next few days to celebrate our values, our beliefs, and our great freedom, I encourage all of you to take a moment and reach out, and thank a veteran and their family,” Ernst said, “because they help to protect those rights.”

Ernst commended America’s military for defending the “ideals, values, and freedoms that make this the greatest nation in the history of mankind.”

The newly elected senator has served in the military and is married to a retired command sergeant major.

“For more than 20 years, I had the great privilege of serving my state and my country while working alongside some of our finest soldiers,” Ernst explained. “Today I serve as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, and I’ve been privileged to have commanded many levels from company to battalion.”

Ernst served as a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her unit was tasked with running convoys throughout Kuwait and Southern Iraq. 

“Because of the fearless men and women like these...I will always remain optimistic about the bright future of America.”

These experiences have made Ernst a fitting addition to the Senate Armed Services Committee, where she now sits.

“We are already working on a wide range of issues, including threats from ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and others who are being radicalized by them. Congress must hold President Obama accountable to ensure that he and his administration finally develop a cohesive and strong strategy to confront these and the many other threats that we face.”

The nation must do everything possible to give veterans the quality care they were promised and deserve, Ernst stated.

Conn Carroll - FCC Approves 'Net Neutrality' Regulations
Posted: 2/26/2015 3:25:00 PM EST

If you like what Obamacare has done to health care, you are going to love what the Federal Communications Commission is about to do to the internet.

The FCC voted by a slim 3-2 margin Thursday to pass new "net neutrality" regulations that give the federal government unprecedented control over how the internet is managed.

Just as Obamacare was supposed to make health care cheaper for all Americans, net neutrality is supposed to guarantee "free and open access to the internet," according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Wheeler's new regulations essentially turn internet service providers into public utilities the same way Obamacare turned health insurance companies into heavily regulated wards of the state. And just as Obamacare has expanded paper health coverage to millions of Americans, while making it much harder for most people to actually see a doctor, net neutrality will also bring uncertainty and stagnation to the internet in the name of providing equal access to all. 

Technology entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently explained his opposition to net neutrality regulations to The Washington Post:

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. ...  Things have worked well. There is no better platform in the world to start a new business than the Internet in the United States. ... I want there to be fast lanes because there will be applications that need fast lanes. We are just now entering a period where we are seeing new ways to create and use high bitrate applications.

People like to use movies and TV shows as a reference to issues that could occur on the Internet. [But] the real issue is that there will be many applications that we can't foresee today. [And] we need those applications to not just have priority, but guaranteed quality of service.

I want certain medical apps that need the Internet to be able to get the bandwidth they need. There will be apps that doctors will carry on 5G networks that allow them to get live video from accident scenes and provide guidance. There will be machine vision apps that usage huge amounts of bandwidth. I want them to have fast lanes.

You can read the Mercatus Centers' 5 Myths About Net Neutrality here and The Heritage Foundation's 8 Myths About Net Neutrality here.

Also like Obamacare, the FCC is expected to be sued almost immediately, causing uncertainty in the industry for years. Already in 2014, a federal court struck down a 2010 FCC regulation on this same issue.

Daniel Doherty - CPAC 2015: Cruz Builds Case for 2016 Run
Posted: 2/26/2015 2:30:00 PM EST

On Thursday at CPAC, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke privately to a room full of reporters on a range of issues, most crucially about how grassroots conservatives should choose the next Republican presidential nominee. He suggested that every rumored presidential candidate at CPAC will attempt to assure the base "they're the most conservative person who ever lived." For this reason, he said, grassroots conservatives should be very wary of candidates who are well spoken and inspiring, but aren't necessarily conservatives at heart.

“We’ve been burned before,” he said. “We’ve supported candidates who sound great, got into office, and didn’t stand for principles. What I would suggest to every Republican primary voter – what I’m going to suggest at CPAC this afternoon – is we say to every candidate ‘don’t tell me, show me.’” 

“So if a candidate says they oppose Obamacare, great,” he continued. “Show me where you’ve stood up and fought to stop it. If a candidate says they oppose President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty, wonderful, show me where you’ve stood up and fought to stop it.”

And so on and so forth. He argued that candidates should not just be fluent spokesmen and women for conservative principles, but have a real and genuine record to run on. In other words, someone like him.

“If we nominate another candidate in the mold of a Bob Dole or a John McCain or a Mitt Romney—and let me be clear, those are good and honorable men [who] love their country—[we won't win because] what they did didn’t work. It’s a losing strategy and if we nominate another candidate in that mold, the same voters who stayed home in ’08 and ’12 will stay home in ’16. And Hillary Clinton will be the next president.”

“So how do we win?” he asked. “We need to look for a candidate who can energize and mobilize those millions of conservatives and bring them back."

Cruz never said explicitly that he was running for president. But he implied as much. Speaking without notes for roughly 36 minutes, he built the case for why a candidate like him—who challenges the establishment, appeals to the base, and is a proven conservative—is best qualified to carry the Republican banner in 2016. We'll see.

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