December 13, 2018

Monkey See Monkey Do

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What About The FOIA Requests From the Press Herald?

While some should be happy that Maine Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship is seeking a federal investigation into whether or not the Maine Warden Service (MWS) illegally carried out undercover operations, has everyone forgotten that the MWS, to my knowledge, has yet to comply with state and federal laws by withholding documents requested by the Portland Press Herald?

I have written in the past that perhaps it was time for the Maine Legislature to take a look at the guidelines – which seem to be a secret – and determine if there needs to be changes made to undercover operations by Maine law enforcement agencies. A bit puzzling in all of this is that in each of the cases in question, that have been heard by a Maine Court, no judge has seen fit to not charge any of the defendants due to illegal actions by the MWS. Some judges have called the tactics questionable.

Assuming the Courts are not also corrupt (wink, wink) what then is the purpose of seeking a federal investigation? If the state-approved guidelines for undercover agents is being adhered to, then the next logical step would appear to be an examination of the guidelines.

But, is this really the more serious matter in all of this? What about the fact that at least one media source cannot complete its investigation because the MWS refuses to turn over documents requested through the Freedom of Information Access Law?

A federal investigation might determine that a raid that was filmed by a television film crew was staged and embellished but without release of requested documents, how can the people know exactly what took place and the communications carried out in these events.

I certainly hope the efforts to get documents from government agencies is not forgotten in all of this. Perhaps that is the intent? Do law enforcement agents and other government agencies intend to deflect attention away for FOIA and place it somewhere else where they know it will be an easier dead end? More than likely.

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Stings raise questions of entrapment vs. fair prosecutions

*Editor’s Comment* – Yes, yes, yes! But what about the government’s refusal to release documents?

The use of undercover agents and informants sometimes can be the only way to crack especially tough cases. The technique, however, also invites abuse. For both types of operatives, the incentive and ability to cut corners are always present. Reputations and rewards are improved when targets are found guilty, especially when the defendants are well known and the crimes are significant. But even in less important cases, undercover operatives are hard to control, because they operate on their own and report only what they want.

Source: Stings raise questions of entrapment vs. fair prosecutions – Central Maine

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Head of Maine Warden Service Only Qualified Employee??

According to the Portland Press Herald, “As of Wednesday, the warden service said it will not be able to release the requested emails for another month or longer because the agency’s chief, Col. Joel Wilkinson, won’t be working.”

It’s a crying shame that there is only one person qualified and capable to undertake FOIA requests at the Maine Warden Service office. Perhaps is the remaining staff are so damned incompetent, they should seriously consider shutting down the department until such time as the Colonel can carry the load again.

Your tax dollar at work.

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Maine Warden Service: Taking Their Ball and Going Home

According to the Bangor Daily News (BDN), after a paragraph by paragraph rebuttal to a newspaper article, read before a hand-selected group of “lawmakers,” accusing the Maine Warden Service (MWS) of improper undercover tactics and refusing to release documents requested under the Freedom of Information Access Law (FOIA), the head of the MWS announced it was suspending all undercover operations and blamed the press for forcing their hand.

Col. Joel Wilkinson, of the MWS, said it was necessary to stop all undercover operations to protect his officers and the integrity of the department. He pointed specifically to the issue of the Maine Sunday Telegram (Portland Press Herald) publishing a photograph of the undercover agent who seems to be the focus of the newspaper’s investigation.

I have to agree that releasing that picture was a pretty irresponsible thing to do, stupid too, if for no other reason than to protect the man and his family from the psychos we hear and read about everyday. One also has to wonder if the Portland Press Herald (PPH) did that intentionally to destroy the integrity of the MWS. Are they targeting the LePage Administration?

However, I have made it clear, that even though the Maine Courts have scrutinized all of these cases, and did not find the MWS guilty of breaching any undercover guidelines, the rules regulating undercover operations for all Maine law enforcement need a review and the elimination of the allowances for law enforcement to deliberately break any laws the rest of us are expected to adhere to, for the sole purpose of catching a thief. Trained or not trained, no law enforcement officer should be permitted to break the laws on the books in hopes of making an arrest, with perhaps the exception of saving a life.

For those who have been following my reports and commentary, where does this leave Maine citizens in answer to questions surrounding what appears to be stonewalling by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) and the MWS of FOIA document requests?

All that the BDN chose to report in regards to the document information request was to say that the MWS responded, in explanation, that they would only respond to requests for information that were done in writing, out of fear that any verbal communication would be twisted or taken out of context and used in ways, “to benefit the intent of the article.” For my purposes, this is not an acceptable or a sufficient answer to why the PPH has not received the documents they have requested – at least those in writing.

In addition, the MDIFW/MWS expressed concern over what might happen to information exchanged verbally, fearing it would only benefit the newspapers, that same concern exists in the reverse. I refuse to use verbal communication for very valuable information and will only accept it in writing because reports stemming from unrecorded verbal communications become a he said – she said argument. I do understand the concern of the MWS and I believe it is the prerogative of the MWS to seek all requests in writing.

To me, it appears the stonewalling continues and the actions and reactions of all parties involved suggest that the MWS is deflecting attention away from the FOIA legal issue and putting it on the Service’s desire to terminate undercover operations as a form of retribution toward the newspaper via manipulation of public opinion.

The PPH gave the MDIFW and the MWS a convenient opportunity to employ such a tactic when they decided to publish a photograph of the undercover MWS agent. That wasn’t too brilliant a move – retaliatory maybe, but not smart.

I think the MWS jumped on this opportunity to play on the public’s perception, as any well-greased governmental agency would do, and by doing such can draw more attention away from perhaps a real screw up in refusing or delaying the release of right-to-know information. One can only speculate.

How anyone chooses to view this entire operation, for sure, nobody wins. The only victory that citizens can hope for is a correction and resolution to the FOIA issue, in hopes that it will help to preserve that man-given right into the future – for whatever it is worth.

Don’t hold your breath!

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Maine Newspaper Continues Attack on Maine Warden Service Undercover Tactics

Once again the Portland Press Herald has published an article describing others who were targets of the Maine Warden Service (MWS) undercover investigations, claiming they were wrongfully treated. Why is there no real focus on a more serious situation in which it appears the MWS stonewalled and refused to send information to the Press Herald requested through FOIA laws?

Whether Maine citizens like it or not, in all of these cases being written about in the news, the undercover investigations and the subsequent charges leveled against many people, have all gone through the Court System. We know of one case where the judge made a statement that the tactics were questionable, but, they were within the laws.

This week a dog and pony show will likely begin to “investigate” the accusations being made by the Press Herald against the MWS and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) – a case of government investigating government. Governments are incapable of self-policing.

If what has come out in the Press about the tactics being used by undercover agents is remotely accurate, it is my opinion that legal tactics need to be changed. If any citizen has a “predisposition” (to give or furnish a tendency or inclination) to commit a crime – a term used to describe a precursor to actually formulating an undercover sting – why is there a need to bait them into doing it? Whatever happened to the simple infiltration of a gang only to observe and record behavior for later prosecution? Isn’t it worth it? Is there no fame, glory and money in this? Because it is “legal” (as recognized by the Court) is it right? Did the people of Maine and/or the Maine Legislature approve the “legal” guidelines to be employed during undercover operations? Do other branches of law enforcement follow the same guidelines or do they craft their own?

If Maine people don’t like the use of the tactics being described to them via the Press, it’s time to change those laws. It’s somewhat silly to keep harping about tactics, seemingly allowed by the Courts, without offering any solutions. We are told we are a government by and of the people. Is this not true?

So, is the Press Herald head hunting? Makes you wonder, although we do know they have created a hot topic and hot topics sell copies and puts money in the coffers. The governor thinks his administration is being targeted.

Why then, isn’t the Press Herald more heavily pursuing their own accusations that the MWS and MDIFW withheld and is still withholding information available to the public? We know what the law says about our supposed right to access public information. Perhaps they are pursuing that as I write. If the Press Herald is head hunting the LePage Administration, isn’t non compliance of an FOIA law a better opportunity than chasing butterflies?

It would seem to me that any investigation should be focused on FOIA actions and that if the Press and the people have issues with how law enforcement carries out their mission, they should work to get it changed.

The people have created themselves a tightrope to walk. After 9/11, Law Enforcement seemingly can do no wrong and even when they do, they are still glorified for doing it. The people cannot allow any government or law enforcement to trample on their rights, out of fear for any reason. When we fear government, including law enforcement, what then is there of value in any of our perceived rights given by God or men?

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Day 67 – No Executive Orders

DIABOLICAL!

Day 67 and President Obama has yet to post his 23 executive orders on gun control on the White House website.

There’s Nothing to See Here! Move Along Now!

In an article found at USNews, the Department of Homeland Security is saying that any notion that they are purchasing or have purchased 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition is business as usual. Enough ammo for a 20-plus year war is normal DHS business?

I’m Just Too Confused!

confused

If you will recall a few weeks ago in Maine, a bill was proposed that would protect the personal information of those people holding a legal Maine concealed carry permit. Due to a FOIA request from the Bangor Daily News for that information, Gov. Paul LePage pushed through an emergency injunction that would put a stop to the release of that information until such time as the Legislature could consider a proposal that was on the docket.

This week the bill that had been introduced by Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, LD345, that would prevent anyone from having access to personal information, reached the legislative committee and was tabled by chairwoman, Sen. Linda Valentino, D-York. The committee vote to table the action followed along party lines. Sen. Valentino was quoted as saying: “the panel needs more time to consider a complex amendment offered by another legislator.”

Certainly, far more complex bills than this simple bill have come and gone from various committees. Why does the democratic chairwoman think this bill is so complex? Maybe she just doesn’t like it.

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Day 39 – No Executive Orders

PRESTIDIGITATION?

Day 39 and we still wait. President Obama jumped through hoops to pretend to the American people he was signing 23 executive orders to ban certain guns and related equipment, among other actions, to further his demolition of the Second Amendment. Although he provided the public a summary of his intentions (he did not sign any executive orders) the actual executive orders that would contain details of his plans has yet to happen. How can the public, including the press, scrutinize Barack Obama’s plans for action if we don’t know any of the details? Is this by design?

Check on those nonexistent executive orders for yourself.

Just this week, Maine’s Gov. Paul LePage pushed through emergency legislation to temporarily prohibit the release of personal information of concealed weapons permit holders. The debate about guns continues in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In addition, this emergency legislation, seems prompted by events that took place shortly after Sandy Hood in New York, where a news agency there obtained the names and addresses of licensed gun owner in two counties and published that information, along with a map to locate each owner. The intent was obvious and the action created several backlashes, including a blow back of the publication of the names and addresses of the people who published gun owners’ information.

I have written previously that I believe that requesting this personal information has no good intents and purposes and will only result in putting innocent people in danger.

We are now hearing fallout from Gov. LePage’s emergency legislation and such fallout can be found in an editorial in the Journal Tribune. The editor appears to me to be up and down and self-contradictory in his position about this legislation. On the one hand he asserts the need to protect innocent people but on the other hand defends his perceived right to access private information for what seems no other reason than because he should be able to.

Part of what set off Maine’s action on emergency legislation was when the Bangor Daily News submitted FOIA requests for all concealed permit holders in the state. The Journal Tribune’s editor states his view of the events I wrote about above that took place in New York with publishing this information:

We believe The Journal News’ actions were in violation of the public’s trust and did a disservice to freedom of access advocates everywhere. While the paper was certainly within its rights to publish the information, even in map form, we feel they crossed the line. It is the media’s responsibility to use public information with care. There is a big difference between having to go to your town office or police department to see the list of concealed-carry permit holders and publishing a map in a major circulation newspaper of where they all live.

This information may or may not be in agreement with your own philosophies on access to private information but I believe the editor is completely missing the point in the reason why states and other municipalities have been forced to take the actions they have to block access to information.

I dislike laws probably more than the most people. Unfortunately, the reason we have to implement these laws is due to people and organizations like the Journal News in New York who, by the very words of the editor, “were in violation of the public’s trust” and as a result of that action, several events took place. Are we to trust each news agency or publication business that information they get through FOIA will never be published? A bit naive I think.

This action by Journal News immediately put at increased risk, every person whose name and address was included on that list. Did the Journal News consider the people attempting to live incognito, with a concealed carry permit, and probably a restraining order, to escape the dangers of stalking or abuse? This, of course, is but one example.

In addition, criminals used the opportunity to go to homes when the owners were away and stole their guns. People not on the list also became targets as thieves have a better sense of which homes don’t have guns making them easier prey.

But perhaps what the people at the Journal News didn’t expect was a return of the favor when others took it upon themselves to reveal, in the same public fashion, the names and addresses of the reporters who released that information. Consequently, these people had to hire body guards and security personnel to guard themselves and their homes. And all for what?

The editor gives the excuse for continuation of access to private information in this way:

Restricting access to public records is a troublesome proposition. The government should be striving for more openness and accessibility, not less. No other permit issued by state or local governments is protected information, and while there are some concerns, we do not believe they rise to the level that would warrant exempting concealed-carry permits from public record.

Gov. LePage has said he does not see any reason why these records should be public, but it’s tough to argue that the public should not have the right to know how many Mainers are carrying concealed, as it is a public safety issue that is pertinent to every citizen. If the state is in the business of granting or denying these permits, the public should be able to see them if for no other reason than to gauge the efficacy of the state’s process.

Are you kidding me? I fail to see how endangering the lives of innocent people, as there will always exist irresponsible and agenda-driven non thinkers as was on display at Journal News, doesn’t measure up to anyone’s standards of in need of offering means to disallow this needless threat. It doesn’t measure up?

If, as the editor states, the public has a right to know due to a public safety issue, this totalitarian view is offering the expenditure of the lives and safety of gun owners in exchange for allowing the public to know who carries. Seriously, are people who don’t know if their neighbor carries or owns in any more danger by not knowing? Statistic say not.

And to top it all off, the editor then says that people have a right to know who carries, “if for no other reason than to gauge the efficacy of the state’s process.” If this editor really believes this then I would have to suggest he/she also would agree with the following; as was asked of me in an email:

It should be public information and published in any media platform that anyone wishes, in addition to concealed carry information:

*Personal and private information of everybody receiving any form of welfare, i.e. food stamps, heating assistance, aid for dependent children, etc.

*Personal and private information of everybody receiving Section 8 housing

*Personal and private information of everybody receiving Medicaid

*Personal and private information of everybody receiving free or reduced lunches for their school children

*Personal and private information of everybody receiving treatment for contagious diseases

*Personal and private information of everybody on prescription drugs for mental disorders

*Personal and private information of everybody receiving medical treatment, which doctors and hospitals or clinics they visit

*Personal and private information of everybody’s police records, past and present

*Personal and private information of every school child in public schools (certainly I have a right to know if my neighbor’s kids are a threat to me because they can’t pull the right grades.)

After all, shouldn’t we have the right to know this stuff in order that we can gauge the efficacy of our government to ensure they are doing a good job? This editor does and fascists/totalitarian-thinking people think so.

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Bangor Daily News Asks For Then Rescinds Request For Concealed Carry Permit Holder Identification

Let’s establish a couple things that I think have been lost in the debate about whether the personal information about concealed carry permit holders should be available as public information. This is America. Under the Constitution, a person is innocent until proven guilty. Laws are created to protect the innocent (it is said). Furthermore, a licensed concealed carry person is a law-abiding individual, otherwise they would never be permitted to carry. It’s time these individuals were treated as lawful Americans and give them the respect they deserve instead of making them targets for people who hate guns and anyone and anything associated with them.

Considering the statement I just made, it is easy to conclude that any person or agency, i.e. Bangor Daily News in this case, that seeks the personal information on permit holders, are doing so for reasons that can only be wrong, political and potentially cause harm to law-abiding citizens.

Yesterday, Mainers discovered that one of the state’s largest newspapers, the Bangor Daily News(BDN), through Freedom of Information Act powers, sought the names and personal information of concealed gun permit holders across the entire state. Within 24 hours BDN rescinded its requests due to the outrage of many citizens, including the Governor.

In an “Editor’s Note” published in the Bangor Daily News, the editor writes:

What has been heartening, however, are the dozens of calls and emails from readers about this issue. We’ve had many good conversations about our request, our intentions, and our commitment to privacy and security of the data.

Unfortunately, these conversations have been trumped by rampant misinformation about our request, as well as swift political opportunism. It’s clear that as a state, and as a nation, we still have much to do to generate light in this debate, instead of heat.

This statement is dishonest and hypocritical. While BDN may be telling people it has no intention of publishing a list of permit holders and their personal information, believing somehow this exonerates them of any wrongdoing or places them above common indecency, they fail to tell the public exactly what they need the information for and what their plans are with it. In a veiled attempt at that, BDN says it needs the information to “study issues.” And then do what with the information and the results of biased studies one need ask? This is dishonest at best.

The hypocrisy comes when the BDN editor accuses people angry at BDN’s possible intentions as “trumped up by rampant misinformation”, not that the BDN has ever done such a thing. The editor also claims that some of those opposed to BDN’s request for permit holder information are participating in “swift political opportunism.”

What I’d like to know is what BDN would like to call their actions, to acquire the names and addresses of every concealed carry permit holder for purposes that can only be political and potentially harmful, if it isn’t “swift political opportunism.”

BDN says they, “regrets that its request for information may have been taken as a personal attack on concealed carry permit holders…” When we consider the history of what has become of this sort of requested information, and considering the fact these are all good, lawful and upstanding citizens, how else are these permit holders supposed to have taken BDN’s actions if not a personal attack?

And then we ask, “Why is someone proposing a law to make it illegal to obtain this private information?”

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