East Bay Express reports suspicious activity over Oakland and Berkeley

No Joke: Secret Government Agents Circling Pot Farms in Oakland, Berkeley

Over the past several months, a single-engine, Cessna-type plane registered to an undisclosed federal law enforcement agency has been circling above the epicenter of the national legalization movement: Oakland, and Berkeley. A narcotics interdiction expert says the plane’s model, low altitude and habit of loitering over cities for hours and hours is consistent with DEA anti-pot operations, wherein the federal agency looks for the tell-tale heat signatures of grow houses and the special green color of outdoor gardens.

One Alameda resident, Marcy Englert, says Oakland International Airport staff told her the FBI was thermal imaging the East Bay when she called to complain about the incessant whine of the small craft circling the island in early September. The Englerts work from home and the plane had become a daily annoyance. Legalization Nation confirmed with Oakland Airport spokesperson Rosemary Barnes that there is indeed a federal law enforcement aircraft performing “public safety operations” above the East Bay, but she didn’t have any details on the agency or its specific activity.

During a recent overflight, Legalization Nation called the Oakland Airport noise abatement hotline and posed as an annoyed East Bay resident. Hotline staff said they’d received dozens of such complaints about the craft over the last four months. There’s actually two, single-engine “Jena” or “Idaho” type crafts, one red and one blue, the staffer confirmed. The planes have spent two to three weeks circling Alameda, two weeks above Berkeley and two months circling Oakland this summer, the staffer said. He could not detail what federal law enforcement agency owned the plane or its purpose.

“Whenever he goes up there and circles, we get calls,” the staffer said.

Barry Cooper, a former narcotics officer turned pro-pot activist and creator of the 2009 documentary Never Get Raided, says DEA anti-pot operations often involve low-flying small planes affixed with a camera system called FLIR that detects excess heat from grow house ventilation. They also use a plane-based camera system dubbed ‘pot-buster‘ that can detect from 5,000 feet up the specific wavelength of light reflecting off an outdoor marijuana garden. [See pictures of a camera system attached to the same “Idaho” model aircraft as reported in the East Bay]. These planes will circle an area tagging suspect locations with GPS coordinates.

The Supreme Court ruled thermal imaging a private residence unconstitutional without a search warrant, but the eight-year narcotics veteran says in his experience, “they’re using them anyway to spot suspicious houses. Then they set up and look for another reason to get the warrant. They do not put in the search warrant affidavit that they used the FLIR. They’ll put in the search warrant affidavit that they saw cars coming in and out of the place, or their power usage was too high, or they got an undisclosed tip.”

Authorities could simply be reconnoitering the nation’s hotbed of legalization for intelligence purposes, Cooper says.

“This is something that the feds do. It’s a billion-dollar industry. They like to keep up with where it’s being grown and how it’s being grown. They’re possibly gathering data to discover exactly how much.”

FBI Special Agent Joseph Schadler, a spokesperson on Northern California operations, said he’s not aware of big operations requiring Cessnas and thermal imaging. Schadler can’t confirm or deny the existence of any FBI investigation, but, “we don’t do dope stuff,” he said.

DEA Special Agent Joycelyn Barnes, a local public information officer, said she was unaware of any activity. The DEA also does not comment on ongoing investigations or practices. Barnes said the plane could be another federal law enforcement agency. The resident agent in charge of the DEA’s Oakland office said this was the first time he had heard of such an operation.

The Department of Justice has stated, “it will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana”, but federal anti-potoperations continue nationwide at pre-Obama levels. Cannabis is legal for medical use in California, however the federal government considers it a Schedule-One controlled substance on par with heroin and PCP.

Local growers combat imaging technology with a variety of countermeasures. Some grow in basements and vent heat from lights and fans into the sewers. Other set up glass or reflective materials to block vented heat from a grow. Outdoor gardeners have also started masking the tell-tale color of their crop — which has entered harvest season — with spray-on food dyes, Cooper says.

Source: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/LegalizationNation/archives/2010/09/24/no-joke-secret-government-agents-circling-pot-farms-in-oakland-berkeley

Stephanie Taylor aka DragonfLIES publishes BS in JEMM. Conrad Responds…again.

A bit of a redux, but …

Dragonfly has revised her blog to include 19 reasons to vote against legal marijuana, which has been published in the LA JEMM. She took out the misinformation about new felonies, but added several new ones, i.e., that it would be illegal not to have a corporate business receipt with your marijuana (you could grow your own, for heaven’s sake) and that no initiative can be amended, when in fact Prop 19 does allow certain legislative adjustments. She overlooks whole sections such as Purpose 8 when it doesn’t fit her narrative and things like that. Rather than repeat her misinformation, I am pasting a bit from an article that I submitted and hope to see published in the upcoming LA JEMM. Lynette Shaw also submitted an article to the JEMM. Someone asked me if Dragonfly is Canadian; does anybody know?

CW: Her real name is Stephanie Taylor from Nashville, TN from what we can tell.

— Chris <chris@chrisconrad.com>

… excerpt …

A much more complex and elaborate web of opinion, misinformation and conspiracy theories was woven together by someone writing under the name of Dragonfly de la Luz (‘Pro-Marijuana Activists,’ Vol 5:9, p94). Let’s go directly to the factual inaccuracies in her argument and work our way back from there. The most egregious of her inaccurate statements are contained in her so-called “facts” #2, #3, #5, #10, #15, #17, #18 and #19. Misinformation combined with speculation can sound convincing, unless you know the facts.

Dispatching her claims in order, in #2 the penalty for people 21 and above furnishing to minors age 18-21 (HS 11361c) is not mandatory and it approximates the alcohol law. Regardless of #3, business fees are directed to pay for business code enforcement (HS11302), not drug police. Despite #5, adults won’t need to carry receipts for marijuana to be legal, since they can grow their own and share with each other free and untaxed up to an ounce (HS11300a); she mixed up a requirement to keep business records with lawful personal behavior. In #10 / footnote 17, she simply ignores the fact that medical cultivation is protected in Prop 19 Purpose 8. Incredibly, in #15, the ‘corporate threat’ she theorizes about is based on an Oakland proposal under current medical marijuana laws but she blames Prop 19 which has not even passed yet. Prop 19 is written to benefit smaller growers by allowing more local control – nor could an initiative ban corporations from doing business.

One of the key factors in Prop 19 is that unless the state legislature steps in to establish controls, local communities have a lot of control over the shape of their cannabis businesses. This means that local consumers and small to medium size growers can organize into viable constituencies to protect their own interests. This is a window of opportunity flung open.

Dragonfly #17 simply ignores the entire Amendment section of Prop 19 that allows certain legislative and voter actions; i.e., the legislature can modify it, but only to make its limitations less restrictive, create a statewide distribution system or allow farmers to grow industrial hemp (Section 5 a, b, c). Contrary to #18, this is about the 19th time marijuana legalization has attempted the ballot and only the second time in 38 years it has qualified. Only Prop 215 medical use ever passed at the ballot box (1996). Finally, in #19, there is no reason whatsoever that another initiative could not qualify and pass in the future. That is a Constitutional right.

Once you see that 7 of the 19 ‘reasons’ Dragonfly proposes are based on factual errors, her whole argument collapses. Otherwise, she simply makes up her own “myths,” then exposes them as being … myths. But not all are. Prop 19 was not written to end the drug war (Myth 1) but it will certainly affect it. There is no new penalty for smoking around your children or in public (Myths 3, 11), it stays the same as now. It takes a super majority of voters to direct taxes to schools and health care (Myth 7), otherwise taxes go into the state general fund. Of course Prop 19 has regulations and controls (Myths 8, 9), that’s its name. That’s what polls show the voters want. Myths 12, 13 and 14 are speculative opinion with nothing factual to rebut. Same with Myth 16, although she omits a useful fact, the Rand Corporation opinion that the price of marijuana will drop significantly. Myth 15 comingles corporations, conspiracies and cartels, but experts including former President of Mexico Vincente Fox believe that legalizing marijuana will be important in resolving the drug war raging within that nation’s borders.

INFILTRATED? Does Civil Rights FBI infiltration seem familiar?

As we continue to make progress in our own movement we continue to see these “so-called stoners” attempting to use their ability to infiltrate the movement to cause division and spread misinformation in the community. Have we been infiltrated by agents of prohibition? Quite possibly. We do not have to look far for evidence of this. As we read about the tactics used by the FBI and other arms of the government to get a front row seat for the Civil Rights movement, one must wonder how many of these moles have infiltrated our own movement. After all, racism was much less lucrative that prohibition. Yes. We can be sure there are certain people in this movement that are infiltrating and causing confusion to continue prohibition and serve their ultimate interest- THE MAN.

We can be sure that these folks are imbedded in our movement, portraying themselves as “one of us,” but deep down working against our ultimate goals of cannabis freedom. How far would they go? Ask yourself- “How far would the feds go to continue prohibition and continue to jail hundreds of thousands of would be law abiding citizens into entering “the system” and being less powerful because of their criminal behavior? This is a powerful way to control large segments of our population. The police use cannabis prohibition to search throught the cars, homes, live, and pockets of honest Americans everyday. With this “probable cause” often they are able to discover more things about people and identify people who have courageously participated in civil disobedience through cannabis reform. An enlightened cannabis user is a danger to the government. It is hard to control a person who thinks for themselves and the government knows it. As cannabis opens up the minds of a person and allows them to explore their hearts and minds for truth and reason. This dangerous element, along with innumerable amounts of money spent on prosecuting, jailing, enforcing, and drug testing people is A LOT of coin for the man to give up easily. So you can be sure, just like this photographer was able top penetrate so deeply that he snapped the most famous pictures of MLK’s death because he was in the mix, that we also have these types in our movement.

Notice the voices against Prop. 19 and ask yourself who they are and where they came from? Why are they using their platforms to create confusion and spread misinformation? Why do they feel the need to dress so abstractly that they look like they are playing a trippy, stoner girl in a movie? Why are they always available and seemingly do not hold a real job? What is their REAL name? Where did they go to school? Who can vouch for their past? Who the fuck are you? Chances are there is a fed or six amongst us reading this page right now and begging that they are not exposed for the frauds that they are. Don’t believe the hype. These dangers are REAL and if you believe that they are not then you have a strange reality coming…..

Report: Famed Civil Rights Photographer Ernest Withers Spied for FBI


Ernest C. Withers had been the photographer who chronicled the civil rights movement through the 50s and 60s. His photos of the gruesome racial murder of teenager Emmitt Till still resonate to this day; he was there when nine students integrated Little Rock Central High School; and his camera shutters snapped just moments after Martin Luther King was assassinated.

And all the while, according to the Memphis Commercial AppealWithers was betraying everything he knew about the civil rights movement to the FBI.

The report, released Tuesday, comes after the paper obtained records (through a Freedom of Information Act request) identifying Withers with an “informant number,” one of several people paid by the FBI to give information to the agency about civil rights leaders. Withers, who died in 2007 at the age of 85, owned a photography studio on the storied Beale Street and had traveled to some of the major scenes of the movement. But government documents show a different side of Withers, the Appeal said.

Those reports portray Withers as a prolific informant who, from at least 1968 until 1970, passed on tips and photographs detailing an insider’s view of politics, business and everyday life in Memphis’ black community.

As a foot soldier in J. Edgar Hoover’s domestic intelligence program, Withers helped the FBI gain a front-row seat to the civil rights and anti-war movements in Memphis.

Withers had been much revered as a photographer of history with displays of his work traveling the world, and also shown in many galleries. He was also famous for his photographs during the years of Negro League Baseball and four books of his work have been published.

Marc Perrusquia, projects reporter for the Appeal told NPR that his information came from 369 pages the government gave him relating to a public corruption scandal Withers was involved with during the early 70s. The references to Withers informant number, ME 338-R, were not obscured or censored and Perrusquia was able to make the connection.

Withers’ daughter, Rosalind, is withholding any comments, she says until she sees the documents. “This is the first time I’ve heard of this in my life,” she told the Appeal. “My father’s not here to defend himself. That is a very, very, strong, strong accusation.”

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/09/14/report-famed-civil-rights-photographer-ernest-withers-spied-for-fbi/#ixzz0zgzhduNw

FREE MARC EMERY: Sentencing set for Fri. September 10

To put it simply, our Government sucks for putting a person like Marc in prison for selling the seeds of a plant. it is a shameful situation when most of the world understands what a joke cannabis prohibition is, yet prosecutors and law enforcement continue to masquerade as if they are saving the world with this bullshit. Get a grip. These thugs who are imprisoning Marc, and those that continue to waste our country’s precious resources putting cannabis users and providers in jail, have a special place in hell. In the words of the great Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Marc and all of the other cannabis political prisoners deserve our undying love for their sacrifice to fight these terrible injustices….

“Prince of Pot” Marc Emery To Be Sentenced Friday, September 10

CANNABIS CULTURE – Marc Scott Emery, the leader of the BC Marijuana Party and well-known marijuana activist and businessman, will be sentenced in a US Federal Courtroom in Seattle, Washington on Friday, September 10.

Marc Emery is expected to be formally sentenced to the 5-year term he agreed to in his plea deal. If the judge sentences him to more or less time, the deal will be null and void, and a trial will ensue with the possibility of 30 years to life in prison.

Jodie Emery, wife of Marc Emery, will be at the US Federal Court (700 Stewart Street, downtown Seattle) at noon on Friday to meet with supporters and media.

“It’s nerve-wracking to go through this process,” Jodie said, “but Marc and I are both doing our best to stay strong. We know he is a political prisoner and, no matter the outcome on Friday, we just want him to be brought home to serve his sentence in Canada.”

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is responsible for Marc’s repatriation to Canada. He has received hundreds of letters and phone calls asking him to approve Marc’s transfer treaty request to come home, as required by law and the Charter.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, on the day of Marc’s arrest in 2005, said that he was targeted as “the founder of a legalization group” and it was “a significant blow to the marijuana legalization movement” because “hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits were channeled to drug legalization groups active in the United States and Canada”.

(The press release can be found online at www.FreeMarc.ca under “Who Is Marc Emery” or by downloading the original file at http://www.cannabisculture.com/v2/files/Tandystatement.jpg)

Though the DEA and the media have reported that Marc “made millions of dollars”, Jodie Emery insists the money was all given away to activism groups and events.

“Marc started selling seeds with the explicit goal of funding the marijuana legalization movement, which he did tremendously well, to the tune of $4 million dollars over the decade he was in business,” she said. “He paid his income tax on seed sales, and operated openly and transparently. Marc and I have no savings, bonds, stocks, property, cars, homes, or anything of value. On the day of his arrest, he had $11 in his bank account. Marc Emery sold seeds not for personal profit, but for drug policy reform and progress that has, since he started in 1994, been very successful.”

On Saturday, September 18, rallies are being held in over 57 cities in North America and abroad. This is the fourth Worldwide Rally to Free Marc Emery since 2005. Thousands of people support Marc Emery and have participated in activism to raise awareness of his history and current incarceration.

Marc is currently imprisoned at the maximum-security SeaTac Federal Detention Centre. He was subjected to three weeks in solitary confinement for a “prison podcast” recording, but has been in general population since.

Source: http://www.cannabisculture.com/v2/content/2010/09/06/Prince-Pot-Marc-Emery-Be-Sentenced-Friday-September-10

FEDS allowed to disregard private property to GPS your car

CW: The DEA did this to me. Was it in my driveway? Most likely. The real question is why do they have the right to touch my car or anything else I own without evidence of guilt? Or a better question is why is the Federal Government wasting resources playing cloak and dagger for cannabis? Last time I checked we were trillions in debt and people were outraged over government spending. How do we continue to pay for this type of bullshit and let education go unfunded. Our country is morally challenged to say the least. We spend bazillions on the military, law enforcement, and prisons- and my kid has to bring his own toilet paper to school. WTF?

These ass-clowns continue to waste resources on cannabis enforcement and drug reconnoissance, but they have not slowed down drug use, trafficking, or crime one iota. That is sad. I believe that if after 40 years your mission is a complete failure, maybe it is time to reevaluate the mission….Just saying.

Court Allows Warrantless GPS Tracking In Marijuana Case

In a bizarre and unsettling decision, a federal court has ruled that government agents may sneak onto your property, put GPS devices on your vehicles, and follow you around 24/7 — without bothering to obtain a search warrant.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers California and eight other western states, issued the ruling — which basically means the government can monitor you anytime that it wants — in a case involving a suspected marijuana grower, reports Linda Young at All Headline News.

Among the biggest casualties of the court’s ruling is the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of the original Bill of Rights, which just took some major damage. The Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

According to the unprecedented — and scary — ruling, you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway, and no reasonable expectation that the government isn’t tracking all your movements, reports Adam Cohen at Time.
Warrantless GPS tracking now joins warrantless wiretaps and police arrests of people who photograph them on the growing list of activities that once, not so long ago, would have been unthinkable and unlawful on the part of the United States government.
The ruling, which came before the court via the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2007 arrest of Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident they suspected was growing marijuana in California, has already been upheld at the Federal level.
“It is a dangerous decision,” Time magazine warns, “one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell.
“It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich,” said Cohen in Time.
Federal agents had sneaked onto Pineda-Moreno’s property in the middle of the night and attached a GPS tracking device to his Jeep’s underside in the driveway, a few feet from his trailer home.
After Pineda-Moreno challenged the DEA’s actions, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in January that it was all perfectly legal. Even more disturbingly, a larger group of judges on the circuit, who were subsequently asked to reconsider the ruling, decided this month to let it stand.
Pineda-Moreno eventually pleaded guilty to conspiracy to grow marijuana, and is now serving a 51-month sentence, according to his lawyer.
The court’s decision goes against the long tradition of courts holding that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their homes and in the “curtilage,” a legal term for the area around the home.
“The government’s intrusion on property just a few feet away was clearly in this zone of privacy,” Time points out.
The judges, in tortured and almost unbelievable “logic,” explained that Pineda-Moreno’s driveway was not “private.” It was open to strangers, they claimed, such as delivery people and neighborhood children, who could wander across it uninvited.
“I guess that means if the neighbor kids can get into your yard, it’s also fair game for federal agents with no warrant as well,” said Tina Trimble Belliston at The North Star National.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who dissented from this month’s decision refusing to reconsider the case, pointed out the only homes not open to strangers are the residences of wealthy people. The court’s ruling, he said, means that people who protect their homes with electric gates, fences and security booths have a large protected zone of privacy around their homes.
People who can’t afford such barriers have to put up with government agents sneaking around at night, according to the ruling, Kozinski said.
“There’s been much talk about diversity on the bench, but there’s one kind of diversity that doesn’t exist,” the Reagan appointee said. “No truly poor people are appointed as federal judges, or as state judges for that matter.”
Kozinski said the judges in the majority were guilty of “cultural elitism” for favoring the rich in expectations of privacy. Everybody may be equal under the law in the United States, but some are apparently a lot more “equal” than others.
As pointed out by Time, the damage doesn’t stop at that point.
The court went on to make a second terrible decision about privacy: That once a GPS device has been planted, government agents are free to use it to track people without getting a warrant.
A high-stakes, major battle is playing out in the federal and state courts over this issue. If government agents are allowed to track anyone they want with secretly planted devices anytime they want — without having to even ask a court for a warrant — “we are one step closer to a classic police state,” Time magazine says.
“1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it’s here at last,” Judge Kozinski lamented in his dissent, which called the government’s tactics “creepy” and “underhanded.”
“I think it is Orwellian,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which advocates for privacy rights, reports Dugald McConnell at CNN.
“If the courts allow the police to gather up this information without a warrant, the police could place a tracking device on any individual’s car — without having to ever justify the reason why they did that,” Rotenberg said.
The issue is likely to eventually end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, since some other courts have come to different conclusions from the Ninth Circuit’s. The influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Court, for instance, ruled this month that tracking for an extended period of time with GPS is an invasion of privacy that requires a warrant.
Source: http://www.tokeofthetown.com/2010/08/court_allows_warrantless_gps_tracking_in_marijuana.php#

DEA takes over case when State begins losing it..

On eve of Marin trial, pot suspect arrested by feds

Marin Independent-Journal

A Petaluma stuntman on the brink of a drug trafficking trial in Marin was arrested on federal charges when he arrived for court Wednesday. Avery Badenhop, a skydiver and tattoo artist who calls himself  “Tattoo Buckaroo,” is now facing a potential 10-year minimum prison sentence if convicted in the federal case. Badenhop is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, according to a  complaint filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Marin prosecutors dismissed their charges Wednesday after Badenhop was arrested by federal authorities. Jury selection was slated to begin Thursday in the local case.  Badenhop, 47, came to court Wednesday for a pre-trial motion to get his case dismissed on medical marijuana grounds. Defense attorney Douglas Rappaport planned to call witnesses who would testify that Badenhop was delivering marijuana to legal dispensaries when he was arrested in San Rafael last August. Rappaport said Marin prosecutors dismissed their case and turned  it over to the feds because they “smelled an acquittal.” He said authorities were apparently more interested in keeping the $750,000 in cash seized from Badenhop than hearing the truth about his legitimate medical marijuana work.

“I think we had them in check, and it was about to be checkmate, and they knocked the pieces right off the board,” he said. “The evidence was going to be presented today. They just didn’t care to wait.”District Attorney Ed Berberian said giving the case to the federal authorities “simplifies jurisdictional issues” in the case, which involves Marin and Sonoma counties. It also exposes Badenhop to a potentially longer prison sentence, he said. Had federal authorities declined to take the case, Berberian said, “We were prepared to go forward.”

Badenhop is being held without bail at the Marin County Jail pending an initial court appearance Thursday in federal court in San Francisco. Badenhop’s arrest by federal marshals is the latest twist in a case that began nearly one year ago with a routine traffic stop in San Rafael.

On Aug. 28, the California Highway Patrol stopped a vehicle that was speeding on Interstate 580 in San Rafael. Police found Badenhop at the wheel and the strong smell of fresh marijuana emanating from the
car. Badenhop’s hands were shaking and he was smoking several cigarettes simultaneously in an apparent effort to mask the marijuana odor, according to an affidavit by Special Agent Todd Enger of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

The CHP detained Badenhop and called the Marin County Major Crimes Task Force to examine the contents of the car. The task force found 20 pounds of processed marijuana in the vehicle plus half a pound of hashish and four ounces of hash oil. Investigators then obtained a search warrant for Badenhop’s home, where they found another 32 pounds of processed marijuana, $750,000
in cash, a stash of handguns, and evidence leading them to several other residences and five additional suspects in Petaluma.

In all, the task force confiscated $804,000 in cash, 62 pounds of processed marijuana, and a trove of hash oil, concentrated cannabis, marijuana plants and handguns. All six suspects were booked into
Marin County Jail on drug and conspiracy allegations.

In the end, only Badenhop was charged in Marin Superior Court. The task force vigorously sought charges in Sonoma County, where much of the investigation was focused, but none were filed there. Badenhop posted bail last fall after a judge reduced it from $2.5 million to $500,000.

Badenhop is a veteran stunt jumper and cameraman who has appeared on “Nash Bridges,” “Hard Copy” and “60 Minutes II,” among other programs, according to his website.