Sunday, January 14, 2007

The American Follies



* * * *

POLITICS (Connecticut)

Key Committee To Hold Hearing

Testimony About Conduct Of State Police Will Be Heard By State Lawmakers

January 13, 2007

By CHRISTOPHER KEATING, Hartford Courant, Capitol Bureau Chief

A key legislative committee will hold a hearing on two of the most embarrassing issues facing the state police: a scathing internal affairs report on trooper misconduct and the controversial arrest of a political activist during the governor's inaugural parade.

State Police Commissioner Leonard Boyle will testify on both issues Jan. 23 before the General Assembly's Public Safety Committee. The hearing is open to the public, but testimony will be limited to those asked to appear.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will discuss a 207-page report his office co-authored on the internal affairs unit, which detailed allegations of trooper drug use, sexual abuse, excessive force, family violence and association with prostitutes.

Four law-enforcement officials will talk about the arrest of Kenneth Krayeske, a political activist who was handcuffed during the Jan. 3 inaugural parade and charged with breach of peace and interfering with police.

Before the parade, Krayeske had been identified by state police as a possible threat to Gov. M. Jodi Rell. He had confronted her during last fall's election campaign at a Glastonbury parade and written critically about her recently on his website.

But Krayeske's supporters say he was simply taking photographs of Rell during the Hartford parade and did nothing that could be deemed a threat. His attorney, Norman Pattis, said Krayeske took at least 50 photographs during the public parade, including 16 of Rell as she walked along the route near Bushnell Park.

Pattis said he hoped to attend the hearing - which he described as a "show trial" - but is scheduled to be in court that day on another matter. A veteran trial attorney who is known as one of the state's best defense attorneys, Pattis remained confident about Krayeske's prospects.

"If this case goes to trial and I lose it, I will shave my head on the steps of the state Supreme Court," said Pattis, who for years has worn a long ponytail.

Krayeske has limited his comments on the advice of his attorney, and Pattis said that Krayeske "will not speak anywhere until he speaks to a jury."

One police official described the Krayeske arrest as "a train wreck."

As lawmakers have publicly criticized the arrest, some lawmakers have been jockeying behind the scenes over which committee would hold hearings.

Some pushed for the judiciary or the government administration and elections committee to conduct the inquiry because they are deemed among the most aggressive in the legislature. The public safety committee finally was chosen because it retains jurisdiction over law-enforcement issues.

The hearing will be conducted by state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, and state Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, the committee's co-chairs.

"If something happened to the governor, there would have been criticism that law enforcement didn't do enough to protect the governor," Dargan said Friday night. "It's like a Monday morning quarterback. We want to make sure that law enforcement is not handcuffed in the job they're supposed to do."

* * * *

COMMENTARY
The Long Arm Of The List

Targeting People Who May Be Politically Disruptive Strikes At Heart Of Political Freedom


January 14, 2007
By NORMAN A. PATTIS

"License and registration, please?" The officer stands beside your car. Behind you, his cruiser lights are flashing. Other motorists slow down to gawk. Your heart pounds.

"What have I done?" you ask. The officer explains that you ran a stop sign several blocks back. You never saw the sign, but no matter. It will be a small fine and off you will go. Everyone makes simple mistakes from time to time.

The officer takes your license and registration to his car. He enters your name into a database linked to his car by computer. A message flashes across his screen:

WARNING - APPROACH WITH CAUTION

THIS INDIVIDUAL IS ASSOCIATED WITH TERRORISM ...

USE CAUTION AND IMMEDIATELY CONTACT THE TERRORIST SCREENING CENTER AT (866) 872-9001 FOR ADDITIONAL DIRECTION.

Your plans for the evening have changed. You are now on a federal radar, listed and tagged as a potential threat. Your name is part of the FBI's Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF). Will you go home, or to a jail cell?

How did your name get on the list? You don't know. You may never know. Perhaps you were seen at an antiwar rally. Or perhaps you contributed money to a candidate or cause that some anonymous soul views as suspect. Like it or not, however, every law enforcement officer in the country now need only log onto his computer to learn that you are a suspect.

We saw how innocent acts become crimes at the inaugural parade for Gov. M. Jodi Rell this month. Ken Krayeske, a free-lance journalist, law student and former campaign director for Green Party gubernatorial candidate Cliff Thornton, was arrested there and charged with breach of peace and interfering with a police officer. Why? He was taking pictures of the parade.

Of course, that is no crime. But before the parade began, Hartford police officers were told by the Connecticut Intelligence Center and the Connecticut State Police Central Intelligence Unit that a number of political activists posed a threat to the governor.

These intelligence groups are part of the new state-federal security network that is sharing information about all manner of things that can go bump in the night. The state police had photographs of the activists listed as threats. Krayeske's picture was among them.

Ken Krayeske was not arrested for taking pictures. He was arrested because he was on a list of potential threats. His innocent conduct took on a sinister cast when viewed through the secret lens of suspicion.

The state police deny maintaining any such lists. I suspect the denials are a mere linguistic trick. The state may not maintain a list. The lists of who is naughty and who is nice are most likely in federal hands. State lawmakers can hold all the hearings they want in Hartford to find out about these lists and they will learn almost nothing. State law enforcement officials are merely participating in federally managed and funded programs designed, we are told, to protect the security of this, our blessed homeland.

When state lawmakers try to subpoena federal officials, those subpoenas will be quashed in the name of national security or some other legal devicethat makes the federal government a distant, and sacrosanct, overlord.

VGTOF, for example, was created in 1995 in response to the Oklahoma City bombing. It is managed by the FBI. The list initially was focused on individuals believed to be members of groups posing a threat to the United States. But in recent years, the list has expanded. Not long ago, mere protesters against the war in Iraq were placed on the list. A federal audit of VGTOF in 2005 found an error rate of 40 percent based on a small sample of records. Are you on the VGTOF list?

These lists are dangerous and easily misused. Was Ken Krayeske arrested because he had threatened to attend the gubernatorial ball and protest? Or because he once questioned why Gov. Rell refused to demand that gubernatorial debates be open to all candidates?

I did not pledge allegiance to a national-security state. We proclaim in the federal Constitution's preamble that "we the people" created government for limited ends, to assure our life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"Live free or die," read license plates in New Hampshire. These are words to live by. When did we yield the freedom to be let alone to bureaucrats who decide without meaningful review who is and is not a threat? More important, who regulates the men and women sitting up nights deciding who among us to include on lists that can transform innocent conduct into crimes?

Norman A. Pattis is a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer in Bethany. He represents Ken Krayeske in criminal charges arising from the arrest at the inaugural parade.

* * * *

Click Here for my recent open letter to Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell on this subject.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home


View My Stats