Reader Rob McMillin points us to this account of how "Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security" made last night's Major League Baseball All-Star Game a whole lot safer by busting unlicensed vendors outside Detroit's Comerica Park:

"A lot of people ask 'What the heck are you guys in Homeland Security doing with counterfeiters?'" said Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE in Michigan and Ohio. "First and foremost, we're looking for vulnerabilities in our trade system; vulnerabilities that criminals -- and by proxy, terrorists -- could exploit."

Thanks, guys, for protecting us from exploding bobbleheads and cheap caps. Whole thing here.

NEXT: Who Mourns For Gene Wilder?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. This is something that O'Reilly and Hannity and Limbaugh and the rest of the Secure Border Brigade could get behind.

  2. "criminals, and by proxy, terrorists...." Well here we go. Lets just fucking get it over with: everything is terrorism.

    Anti-terrorism is the new commerce clause. I can see it now: Wickard v. Bush (2007): "any activity that could -- by proxy -- affect the war on TERROR may be regulated by Congress."

    anyway... Foriegn terrorists may be able to obtain immigration documents, credit cards, passports, driver's licenses, hazmat transport licenses, top secret security clearances, social security cards, green cards, bank and credit accounts, and pilot's licenses, but lets see 'em to try and get a legitimate vendor's license!

  3. We've already established that those designated terrorists do not share the typical protections of habeus corpus or POW status, and now we see the argument that all criminals are "by proxy terrorists." Well, it was fun while it lasted.

  4. "...agents utilized more than 120 surveillance cameras that ringed the ballpark, NOAA satellite reconnaissance from the heavens above, as well as seven Coast Guard helicopters and another from the Michigan state police to seize almost 700 bootleg shirts and 500 caps, along with several hundred fake or illegally scalped tickets..."

    The Republic is now safe!

  5. The Republic is now safe!

    No word yet on how many assets were dedicated stricly to detecting small rucksacks filled with military explosives around the ballpark. Presumably, none of these assets were allowed to go after the phony MLB merchandise until the "all clear" was issued with regard to weapons that might have been hidden among the tens of thousands of people in the area.

  6. It's fashionable to make fun of the feds every time they do something like this; this isn't the first time they've busted vendors outside of baseball games.

    But, unlike many other things they do, enforcing copyrights and patents is one of the duties of the federal government specifically listed in the constitution:

    Article I, Section 8, Clause 8: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

    Making this an anti-terrorism issue is, of course, silly.

  7. Nobody Important-

    That's the point. If this were the Department of...well, whoever it is that enforces trademarks, that would be different. But these resources were supposedly earmarked for Homeland Security, and instead they're going after bobble heads.

    The urgency of the Homeland Security mission has been used to justify all sorts of things that would be frowned upon in other contexts: Detention without trial, unorthodox interrogation methods (whether you want to apply the word "torture" to it is a dead horse that has been thoroughly flogged by both sides), etc.

    I'd hate to see some guy sent to Orwell's Room 101, simply because he bought a t-shirt that he didn't realize was a knock-off.

    No, I'm not saying that any atrocity like that happened. But when we create an (allegedly) elite department and argue that the urgency of their mission justifies unorthodox tactics, and then set this department loose on American soil to handle rather mundane matters, am I the only one who sees a tragedy just waiting to happen?

  8. This is overboard for the DPHS to be doing, but it may not be totally retarded. A lot of terrorist groups finace themselves with "petty" crimes like credit card theft and the like. I could see the unreported income from ticket scalping fitting into the equation. It's also probably not a coincedence that Deerborn is close by. Still, I agree it's a stretch.

  9. ralphus-

    The thing is, almost any criminal activity that involves money could be used to finance terrorism. Should we have the people who are (supposedly) terrorism experts spread their attention too thin by going after any and all crimes?

    And should we set loose upon the American public the people whose core mission (supposedly) justifies all sorts of practices that wouldn't be tolerated from the regular cops? If we do indeed need extreme measures to fight terrorism, can we at least reserve those extreme measures for actual terrorism, and not just for every guy with a Middle Eastern name who scalps tickets and knock-off souveneirs?

  10. [I]Thanks, guys, for protecting us from exploding bobbleheads and cheap caps. Whole thing here.[/I]

    INARA: Right. You're a criminal mastermind.
    What was the last cargo we snuck past
    the Alliance to transport?

    MAL: We made a perfectly good piece-

    INARA: What was the cargo?

    MAL:They we're dolls!

    INARA: They were little geisha dolls with
    big heads that wobbled!

    MAL: People love those!

    INARA: And what exactly was our net profit
    on the famous wobbly-headed doll caper?

    [I]Firefly[/I], "Trash"

  11. thoreau,

    Like I said - it's a stretch. But, we don't know the whole story. Maybe there was some kind of lead connecting ticket scalping to a particular group. And is it all that far fetched that a major event near a major Muslim enclave could possibly be the focus of say three or four guys with a backpack bombs? Maybe busting scalpers was just a secondary objective. I hear what you?re saying about overreach and wise allocation of resources, but why assume that the DPHS just showed up to bust balls for no good reason. You and I probably agree that creating a new unwieldy bureaucracy wasn't the best response to 9/11, but as much as I dislike it I have to assume that it's employees are really trying to keep bad things from happening. Watchdog them, criticize, stand up for individual rights and suggest better ways, but don't automatically assume that their every action is filled with malice and stupidity.

  12. thoreau,

    The U.S. Patent and TM Office is part of the Department of Commerce. NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce, so that's why they used NOAA satellites presumably. Anyway, the Commerce Department does have its own enforcement agents, so their use of DHS personnel is slightly odd.

  13. Were there any agents checking the bats of the players? Corked bats... now there's a security issue.

  14. This sort of stuff is a sign of an agency that doesn't have a real purpose.

    They know this and are trying desperately to hide that fact so their funding doesn't get cut.

  15. Any trademark that constitutes a product gaurantee should receive the full protection of the law, but when a person can't do what amounts to advertising a team by putting its logo on a T-shirt, intellectual property has been carried too far. (The article doesn't say whether the vendors were on the team owner's land; if they were, arresting them for trespassing would be appropriate.) But when a trademark for a team's logo can't be used on a T-shirt, intellectual property has been carried too far. It's not like team owners write books or spend years and $millions on drug testing to develop those logos.
    In the article, Moskowitz says that the illegal vendors use the same techniques as terrorists and the same "methods" used to smuggle "weapons, drugs, or people." If that were actually the case, the government would be able to fight terrorism, drugs, illegal immigration, and 2nd Amendment rights by encouraging people to do this sort of thing. Mokowitz also says "anyone driven primarily by greed is dangerous to the public." I assume that doesn't include the politicians whose greed for power motivates them to support restrictions that turn what would otherwise be peaceful, law abiding immigrants into illegals to placate the AFL-CIO and other special interest groups. Of course, the people whose small businesses got busted weren't competing with Americans for jobs until ICE came along.
    If anyone here still opposes open borders, or just feels like laughing at a bunch of stupid excuses an ICE propagandist made for this operation, make sure to read the original article on ESPN's website.

  16. "anyone driven primarily by greed is dangerous to the public."

    Yeah, those vendors sure are greedy. You could tell by all the Rolexes they were wearing.

    No greed evident from the ballplayers or team owners though.


  17. It sure is funny how every time the Guvment tries out a new tactic of investigating terror or terror-related activities, especially oddball ones like this, the usual chorus claiming the end of the the Constitution as we know it come out of the woodwork. Like Agammamon said, this is the kind of crap that happens when a useless government branch like Homeland Security is created, and it has to constantly come up with justifications for its own existence. That's a far cry, however, from "a tragedy waiting to happen", and some of the other hand-wringing in this thread.

  18. JF:

    it's even funnier watching the apologists fall over themselves thinking up rationalizations.

    Has anybody seen Alan Funt hiding in the bushes? Methinketh something strange afoot.

    As for crimes, why not go after Mike Piazza last year for tipping off the Junior Curcuit batters when Roger was pitching?

    go cubbies: wait 'til next year!

  19. Why does considering possible explanations before jumping to conclusions make one an apologist? You could also say that a person who sees an impending police state takeover in every slightly questionable action of a government agency is a tinfoil hat wearing crackpot. That doesn't make it so.

  20. Right on, Ralphus.

  21. for the same reason that makes one suspicious of the war on drugs. whenever there's new laws that could be covered by the old ones, it's time to wonder. We have lots of examples of abuses by ATF, etc. over the years. Government abuses of powers is cause for concern or at least should be noted. watching for expansion of these post 9/11 powers is also something that is important for individual liberty.

  22. Like Agammamon said, this is the kind of crap that happens when a useless government branch like Homeland Security is created, and it has to constantly come up with justifications for its own existence. That's a far cry, however, from "a tragedy waiting to happen"

    I think if we were to unpack what you mean by "kind of crap that happens" and "coming up with justifications for its existence", we would find that abuses of power and curtailment of rights are among the items that fall out of the luggage.

    As for "far cry... from a tragedy waiting to happen", you are right that it usually takes some time for mission creep to go from "minor aberration from the limits of power" to "another Waco". But it seems its always a matter of when, not if.

  23. The dangers that organized black market operations pose to our security is always at the top of libertarians' talking points when the issue is immigration or drug prohibition.

    But now it's ridiculous for the government to assert the same thing?

  24. I've suddenly found myself in two awkward positions. Defending the actions of a bloated government agency and agreeing with joe.

    Look, you guys are preaching to the choir when it comes to mission creep and the general uselessness of the DOHS. It's just that I can't come right out and assume that this had no merit what so ever. Bottom line, scalpers are engaged in an illegal activity and there is a more than plausible case to be made for why these particular scalpers and counterfeiters could possibly be linked to terrorism. You can argue that the DOHS was grasping at straws, but if it turns out that a suicide attack in America was financed in part through illegal scalping they would be crucified for not cracking down.

    I'm not saying that every petty criminal act should be investigated for terrorist ties. But, if there is a lead or tip that points them in a direction, the agency in charge of protecting us should follow it. We can argue about what that agency should be and how it's run. But you can't argue with that agency being diligent.

    I am of course assuming there was such a tip, but what can I say? I like to think the best of people. If there was no such lead, then this was in fact a waste of resources.

  25. joe-

    I agree that organized black market operations can be a real danger to our security. That's why I'm all in favor of shrinking the black market to a more manageable size.

    I'm not really all that upset over the use of cops to enforce trademarks. I mean, we can debate the proper scope and duration of copyright laws, but the basic notion doesn't bother me.

    What does bother me is that, in the name of fighting terrorism, parts of the government are taking on far greater powers than before. If we do indeed need some scary powerful guys on the payroll (I'm not saying we do, but for the sake of argument), is it too much to ask that we only let them out in public on special occasions? Let the regular cops bust the guy smuggling knock-off bobble heads into the country. If he turns out to have terrorist ties, then we can always bring in the scary DHS guys to deal with his associates.

    But if we bring in the scary guys every time we see a crime, that way lies danger. (Waco, etc.)

  26. I wish they would have busted those fuckers outside of the All Star game in Houston last year. I couldn't bargain down any of them for their cheap knockoff crap. Now, if I threatened to call in La Migre if I didn't get the price I wanted, well, that's quite a hammer now, isn't it?

  27. Terrorists can also fund terrorism using money earned legally.

    So what is it about illegally earned money that somehow poses a special threat? Especially when, as sources of Al Qaeda funding are concerned, bobblehead sales pale in comparison to the kind of dough they get from Saudi oil princes.

  28. "Terrorists can also fund terrorism using money earned legally."

    Point taken. But, are you assuming that we are not perusing their legal sources of income as well? Illegal money is not a special threat. Its another threat. We should peruse all sources of income for theses groups.

    If in fact that was the reason for this operation. Like I said before, I am making the assumption that they were following some kind of lead.

    (Let?s not get into the Saudi issue now. We probably wouldn't have much to disagree on there.)

  29. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be without borders! Why, I think the libertarians should join up with Vicente Fox and work towards your common goals.

    Meanwhile, for those who are grown-ups and not corrupt, read up on this extortion attempt: Mexico ties border security to massive illegal alien amnesty.

    Since Julian Sanchez claims to have been one of Jorge Castaneda's students, perhaps he could chime in with a defense.

  30. What I really want to know is, what are those infidels doing about those Osama bin-Laden bobbleheads. I mean, unless the funds are going to al Qaeda, those dolls are unlicensed copies. Right?

  31. Hmmm...

    Counterfeit jersey - $20

    Officially licensed jersey - $63

    ICE statement "anyone driven primarily by greed is dangerous to the public." - Priceless

  32. Don't ascribe benevolent motives to government bureaucrats simply because they're from the government and raise the specter of terrorism. ICE spokeshumans just say what'll raise support for their bureaucracy, regardless of whether it's true, because that's what they have to do to keep their jobs.
    Besides, if you read the quotes in the article carefully, they say this sort of thing can be used to fund terrorism; they're not even claiming anyone who got busted was funding terrorism.

  33. "Don't ascribe benevolent motives to government bureaucrats simply because they're from the government and raise the specter of terrorism."

    Agreed. But I also think one shouldn't ascribe malevolent motives to government bureaucrats simply because they're from the government and raise the specter of terrorism.

  34. ralphus, I think the thing that got me the most in reading the ESPN article was how this read like a propaganda piece for ICE while at the same time making the most ludicrous statements imaginable. People have already highlighted some the examples above, but the article is filled with statements that baffle the libertarian mind. And your giving them the benefit of the doubt seems strange given the consistency of the story, which is that this was all about busting vendors selling knock-off goods, nothing more.

    What's truly sad is the misplace priorities that these stories perpetuate, such as that its worth spending millions of dollars using precious resources to defend the profits of Major League Baseball. This included taking cops out of the violent crimes department, which is saying that this is more important than solving murders and preventing rapes! Either the journalist who wrote this is a #1 idiot, the laziest reporter alive (which is quite a stretch given other items coming from the press these days), or had a political agenda. My vote is idiot, with a strong leaning towards lazy.

  35. I hear you. And I agree that the story as it was written paints a prety sorry picture. Maybe I'm just grasping for an alternative explanation because the truth is just too damn depressing to think about. I hope there was more to it than craking down on guys slinging bootleg bobble heads.

  36. "Don't ascribe benevolent motives to government bureaucrats simply because they're from the government and raise the specter of terrorism."

    Agreed. But I also think one shouldn't ascribe malevolent motives to government bureaucrats simply because they're from the government and raise the specter of terrorism.

    Neither approach is 100% effective, but ascribing malevolent motives to government bureaucrats does have a better track record than ascribing benevolent motives.

  37. Normally my operatives do not commit petty crime in the country where they reside. It is difficult to execute operations against the infidels when one is in jail for a crime.

    My operatives in the UK did not engage in such activities. They behaved as normal, law abiding citizens until it was time to strike and avenge the victims of the Zionist Crusaders.

    I encourage you to continue to waste your resources capturing terrorist T-shirt sellers. It serves my ends.

  38. everyone should do something to it

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.