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Sunday, January 14, 2007

InauguRELLgate scandal not going away

The events surrounding the arrest of freelance journalist and Green Party candidate Cliff Throrton's former campaign manager Ken Krayeske at Governor Rell's inaugural parade is still generating interest (as well as concern) on the blogs as well as in the mainstream media.

I caught up with Krayeske in Hartford yesterday and hopefully, I'll be able to have an interview with Krayeske's attorney Norm Pattis very soon. In the meantine, on Fox 61, Beyond the Headlines, State Rep. Mike Lawlor, Attorney Pattis and AP "reporter" Sue Haigh had a roundtable discussion on the matter.

Pattis also wrote on op-ed in today's Hartford Courant about the dangers of a "secret list" and it's worth a read.
"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.

[...]

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?
Amen.