Uncle Sugar spent $43 million for a $500K gas station in Afghanistan

Our Afghan CNG filling station

The U.S. Department of Defense spent an estimated $43 million to build a single gas station in Afghanistan, the federal government’s oversight authority for reconstruction in the Central Asian country said Monday. The revelation marks the latest example of alleged overspending identified by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction…

SIGAR’s report called the plan to build a compressed natural gas (CNG) filling station in the small northern Afghan city of Sheberghan “ill-conceived,” and said it came at an “exorbitant cost to U.S. taxpayers.” The report noted that the gas station should have cost roughly $500,000…

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera…

“One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation or outcome,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko said in a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter that accompanied the report.

Read the whole report [.pdf] if you feel like getting pissed off over millions of taxpayer dollars wasted, stolen, and misused. In a war that accomplished nothing other than decades of enmity and agony to come. A present from conservatives and cowards in Congress and the White House.

Appeals court needed for NM family to sue coppers for illegal arrest — WTF?

Heather and Stephen Maresca and children

Elementary school principal Stephen Maresca was heading home from hiking in the Sandias with his wife, three children and their dog when the family was arrested by armed deputies after a rookie Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputy typed in a wrong license plate number.

Responding officers had the couple and their children exit the truck, walk backward with their hands up and lie face-down on the pavement. The officers aimed firearms at the parents and children, including two boys ages 17 and 14 and a 9-year-old girl, according to a summary of evidence in an opinion by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

The court ruled last month that the arrest was illegal – reversing an earlier decision that gave the arresting officer, Deputy J. Fuentes, immunity.

The county is now on the hook for that 2013 arrest by Fuentes…

So, that much took two years.

The reversal was based not on the mistyped number itself, the appeals court said.

Instead, it was based on the fact that the deputy failed to notice the difference between a 2009 Chevrolet sedan with expired plates, which was the vehicle reported stolen, and a 2004 Ford pickup with current plates, the vehicle Maresca was driving, or to check the information. That information was in front of Fuentes on a computer screen the entire time…

Incredible. Ignore the typo. The copper who called in the bust and all the responding boys in blue never noticed a Ford pickup truck doesn’t look like a Chevy sedan.

According to the family’s lawsuit, Fuentes, followed by another patrol officer in a separate vehicle, called in the correct license plate number to dispatch but entered a number off by one digit in her computer.

The computer indicated from that number that the vehicle was stolen.

Garbage in = garbage out. Forever.

The deputy behind her, G. Grundhoffer, did not run any plate numbers before the two approached the pickup at gunpoint…

Other officers arrived, but none verified that the license plate belonged to a stolen car…

The family was detained for about 40 minutes, fearful, humiliated, tearful and separated from one another in different vehicles, it says. Maresca had been allowed to take their agitated dog, Maya, with him after it wandered into the highway.

Eventually, a sergeant arrived and apologized for the deputies’ mistakes…

The case was first heard by Circuit Judge Paul Kelly of Santa Fe, who found all the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because the stop was an investigatory detention reasonable under the circumstances.

The three-judge panel in the Appeals Court found that “an unreasonable mistake of fact cannot furnish probable cause…” NSS! Stupid does as stupid is – is not a reasonable defense. None of the responding coppers ever checked the description of the vehicle. Not so incidentally, the father of this family tried his best to lead them through correct procedure. He was an ex-cop.

FBI spy planes flew over police protests with surveillance cameras

The FBI flew surveillance flights over Baltimore during the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray and over Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown, using advanced surveillance techniques including infrared cameras, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union have revealed.

The internal documents from the FBI and the Federal Aviation Authority show that one Cessna aircraft circling over the Baltimore protests – which was registered to an FBI shell company named “NG Research” – carried an infrared camera mount as well as an FLIR Talon multi-sensor camera system, which includes thermal imaging technology and laser illumination.

Nate Wessler, a staff attorney at the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology project, told the Guardian that while the supreme court had upheld the use by agencies of surveillance planes, it had not considered their use in light of the high level of sophistication of the equipment now on board.

“That’s what really raises part of the concern here,” he said. “We know at least one of these planes was equipped with infrared cameras – we don’t know how powerful [they are], but if it is used to gain info about the interior of homes, then a warrant is clearly required under supreme court precedent.”…

In June, the Associated Press reported that the FBI maintained a fleet of at least 50 aircraft flying such surveillance missions over cities across the US. At the time, the FBI claimed the planes were not equipped for mass surveillance.

However, the documents obtained by the ACLU, which were obtained following requests under the Freedom of Information Act, show the agency is holding on to all surveillance tapes collected during the unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson.

Parts of the documents which would identify more of the electronic surveillance equipment used are redacted, meaning that the full extent of the capabilities of the aircraft is still not fully known.

Political hacks in Congress from both parties will roll out the usual lies about national security to excuse their contempt for constitutional rights. I’ve confronted FBI and CIA operations in the United States for over 55 years of activism in civil rights, union organizing, peace movements. These scumbags operate with virtual impunity. Even an unsanctioned operation which risks jail time for violations of law rarely end up with anything more than fines and a slap on the wrist.

Just in case you think failing banks on Wall Street invented the policy. 🙂