Civil Liberties

Cops Chase Terrorists, Catch Poker Players


Writing in the Seattle Stranger, Brendan Kiley tells the tale of a "counterterrorism" operation in which loads of public money and two years of surveillance allowed FBI and Seattle PD investigators to nab (a) four poker players, (b) some unrelated drug dealers, and (c) an activist pressured by an undercover cop into showing up at a drug deal. Sadly, as Kiley notes, the case isn't as unusual as it might sound:

Cheese it! The cops!

The FBI, [Will] Potter says, has been playing this make-believe game with "domestic terrorists" off and on since 9/11, even though it has been directly criticized for it by the US Department of Justice.

The DOJ's 95-page audit report from 2003 opens and closes with the inspector general basically saying that the FBI has been doing a crappy job of protecting American citizens from terrorism because it's not good at sharing information with other agencies, and it's been too busy busting the likes of vegans, hippies, artists, anarchists, and other low-risk dissident American subcultures.

From page 63 of the DOJ report: "Frequently, the information being shared on terrorism could be described as background; often the subject of the FBI's communications is not the high risk of radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorism but social protests or the criminal activities of environmental or animal activists."

On the 11th page of the report's introduction, the DOJ suggests that the FBI concentrate on "actionable information on the high risk of international terrorism and any domestic terrorist activities aimed at creating mass casualties or destroying critical infrastructure, rather than information on social protests and domestic radicals' criminal activities."

In other words, the DOJ is telling the FBI to stop wasting its time with the vegans, the hippies, and the anarchists. They're fine—people are allowed to be weird in America. Those people aren't a threat, anyway. The FBI should spend its time looking for murder-minded international terrorists instead.

Along with the abuses to our civil liberties, there's a fiscal angle:

Here's a little more math about the public resources that this investigation sucked up. According to documents acquired by The Stranger, during May and June of 2008, [undercover agent] Bryan [Van Brunt] showed up to play cards at [activist/target] Rick [Wilson]'s apartment eight times. For those eight card games (i.e., eight police shifts for Bryan), the investigation paid for 112 shifts by supporting officers: 9 officers one night, 5 officers another night, 11 officers another night, etc. One night, an FBI agent came out. Another night, a SWAT team was there. And that's just in a two-month window.

Read the whole thing.

[Via our beloved commenters.]

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  1. I’m going to a Casino Night being held for senior week in a few hours. I hope we don’t get raided.

    1. i went to one a friend of mine’s dance team put on for charity. she had to fill out a metric assload of forms, etc. to run it (no limit poker game) but it was really fun.

      not as fun as the previous tournamet – because i won that one, but pretty fun

      1. Point of clarification: is a metric assload larger than an Imperial assload?

        1. It’s very close to a Imperial long assload.

    2. You will, now.

      1. We did not. And I won a ton of chips playing poker. Unfortunately, the chips were only redeemable for raffle tickets for prizes. Please, if I’m winning at poker you shouldn’t expect me to be in into raffles (although with the other people playing at those tables it was hard not to win).

        1. that sux. at the charity poker night things i went to – CASH prizes. as it should be

  2. I’d really like to hear Dunphy’s thoughts on this, since this is right near his jurisdiction, if I recall correctly. The city ordinances will be different, but I’m sure he’d still be familiar with a lot of how Seattle PD works.

    1. hey, thanks man.

      WA state, a democratic stronghold I might add… a state where casinos are fucking EVERYWHERE both indian and non-indian variety… passed a law several years back making playing online poker a C FELONY!

      that’s more serious than assault, and as serious as burglary or auto theft!

      when they passed the law, the head of the gaming commission admitted that they did not plan to ENFORCE it against any poker player. iow, it’s a scare tactic, a sop to big govt. taxes (they don’t get taxes in WA from gambling, especially because we have no income tax – but do get them from casinos), and indian gaming

      since the law was passed, they have not prosecuted ONE single person for it. how do i know? an officer I worked with was getting fired and during the investigation, they found out he had been playing online poker – for money – which violates the law. they threatened ot prosecute him. our union lawyer did research, found out that they have yet to prosecute anybody for it, and offered that he would sue for malicious prosecution if they charged the officer, at which point they said “nevermind”

      it’s a total joke. a few of the guys at the WSOP were WA residents who had WON their seats via paid satellites. i am sure the gambling commission didn’t go after them

      this leftwing state is FAR more encroaching on this type of thing than any repub run state i know of. the laws on strip clubs are insane, liquor laws, etc. democrats imo are far worse than repubs on this stuff

      this doesn’t surprise me much with SPD. SPD is a very very bureaucratic agency. they actually have to screen arrests with a Sgt. (i lol’d when i heard that) and i can guarantee you if they were doing this shit, the chief, etc. wanted them to be doing it.

      the city of seattle council actually passed an ordinance (to their credit) making pot a LOW priority and essentially telling SPD to lay off potheads (good for them), so maybe they were looking for other people to hassle

      i was quite successful at online poker before the ban, but damn if i’d risk my job, so i quit when it was banned.

      leftwing nannies, and THEY run seattle. SPD doesn’t go ‘boo’ w/o their say so, are the problem. seattle PD chief is an appointed position. you can be assured if SPD is doing this shit, it’s with the city’s approval, tacit or otherwise.

      it’s fucking embarassing

    2. I’m not interested in dunphy’s thoughts on anything.

      1. and yet you had to post saying that you weren’t interested. totally meta d00d

  3. After all the taxpayer money, I just want to know if the cops learned to play poker

  4. Terrorists, poker players – I think we can all agree that’s pretty much the same thing.

  5. Now all commenters are beloved? Really, no standard is better than this entirely too flexible one. You’ve cheapened the label.

    1. As “Commenter Nothing”, this does not bother me.


      1. govt thug: it is better to be feared, then to be loved…

    2. Everyone’s special, Dash.

      Which is another way of saying nobody is.

      1. or to quote gilbert and sullivan (i can never remember which one did the lyrics) “if everybody’s somebody, then noone’s anybody”

    3. I once got a “belated” hat tip. Where does that fit into the hierarchy of hat tip lexicon?

  6. Heaven knows, chasing down vandals and poker players is more important than investigating murders committed by policemen.

    1. if you know of any murders committed by SPD that aren’t being investigated, lemme know. btw, the woodcarver (lol) shooting , which was CLEARLY unjustified was ruled thusly, and the guy was canned .

      the prosecutor could not charge him, but that’s because he was protected by the RCW. that pesky rule of law thang, darnit!

      1. Okay, fine, removing laws from the books that make it difficult to prosecute a cop who kills someone when the shooting is considered unjustified. Or rooting out violent force. Like using racial slurs on innocents and stomping on them. (And oh, thank God, the officer who did that won’t be fired, RULE OF LAW LOLZ).

        1. “”Okay, fine, removing laws from the books that make it difficult to prosecute a cop who kills someone when the shooting is considered unjustified.””

          Even if you do that, it doesn’t prevent one authority loving jury member from siding with the cop.

          It really is more about juries when it comes to cops getting off the hook once charged.

        2. yes. rule of law. the RCW *as written* did not give the prosecutor sufficient cause to charge him based on the circ’s

          just like the drug war, it’s a problem ultimately with the legislature

      2. Because if one of we peasants murdered a man in the street in broad daylight, losing our job would be deemed punishment enough.

        1. because UNDER THE LAW, it was not “murder”. nobody claims it’s murder, except histrionic ninnies. if the law was proper, he should be charged with manslaughter, except the way the RCW is written, he can’t

          i WISH he could be charged with manslaughter

          he deserves it

  7. OT personal anecdote: I got my letter back from Seattle PD letting me know they were processing my recent complaint.

    Something tells me there’s a no-knock SWAT raid in my near future.

    1. There is, Paul, but that’s because I tipped them that you’re growing Japanese Maples in your yard.

      1. the SWAT team is going to wear sap gloves for the beatdown!

  8. likes of vegans, hippies, artists, anarchists, and other low-risk dissident American subcultures.

    But vegans are powerful… psychic even!

  9. I got a fucking hat tip!

    Should I await my monocle in the mail?

  10. It’s not a total loss. The cops got overtime pay, after all.

  11. .

    1. Sleepless in Seattle was the greatest

  12. What bugs me about these laws is that they are not things most Americans have a problem with, they are victemless crimes, the law is rarely enforced, yet when operation is badly planned or cops break into the wrong house, they usually charge someone for breaking these laws.

    1. what’s also ironic is the counterpoint. how many Americans will call police and want officers to document a report and/or arrest somebody for something that isn’t even a crime in the first place. i get AT LEAST 4 or 5 such calls a week.

      you’d be surprised how many perfectly legal behaviors people WANT to be illegal, because it’s pissing them off

      when the bikini barista businesses started showing up, that was hilarious in how many people wanted it STOPPED!!! right NOW!!!

      i think a great idea would be a (male) scantily clad barista business in a place like capital hill. i think they could do really well

      1. Hell with that, what can I do to make it mandatory?

      2. There’s some minority that wants every little thing that makes them uncomfortable purged from their sight. No one’s denying that. I believe that’s why Brett said “most Americans.”

        1. i’m talking about civil matters that people want to be criminal, and other stuff. you’d be amazed.

          i had a woman call the other day, wanted a teacher charged with “assault” for hitting her kid on the side of the head with a rolled up piece of paper

          under the law, the teacher has the same authority to use physical force to discipline as a parent.

          it was against SCHOOL policy, but not the law. we don’t do SCHOOL policy, the school does

          the ironic thing was she WAS a teacher, and didn’t even know it was legal for her to strike a child student

          regardless, again you would be amazed at what a high percentage of run of the mill citizens want somebody prosecuted for non crimes

          “johnny called my daughter a slut on his facebook page!”


      3. “”i get AT LEAST 4 or 5 such calls a week.””

        I’m surprised it’s not higher.

        “”you’d be surprised how many perfectly legal behaviors people WANT to be illegal, because it’s pissing them off””

        I’m not surprised. Some people think they have a right not to be exposed to things they don’t like.

  13. 9 officers one night, 5 officers another night, 11 officers another night, etc. One night, an FBI agent came out. Another night, a SWAT team was there. And that’s just in a two-month window.

  14. If i remember correctly the article also mentions in passing the careerist angle to all of this.
    Anti-terror is the place to be for hungry & ambitious bureaucrats with badges.
    Unfortunately (for them) domestic terrorists are really rare. So how are these guys going to show results, climb the ladder?
    Answer: Create the terrorists themselves, then make a big production out of arresting them.
    Unfortunately these operations don’t make anybody safer.

  15. Who is this “Dunphy”? And why is this person shitting all over the thread? Do you go by “Suki” on other sites by any chance?

    1. He’s the resident cop lover who only shows up in articles about police brutality or overreach to defend his boys in blue.

      1. except that’s patently false because i frequently call for cops’ prosecution/firing/discipline in cases of ACTUAL police brutality e.g the paul schene case.

        the difference is that i know the use of force guidelines, the laws, etc. whereas most people here… don;t

  16. What dunphy said is most people’s view.

  17. waht dunphy said is my view.

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  19. As a cop, yes.

  20. Everyone knows that anytime two or more people get together, as with a poker game, criticism of the government often takes place. That is totally unacceptable, which is why all non-union public gatherings should be outlawed.

  21. The Fibbies should be going after the anarchists. They’re a significant threat, as anyone who has seen a street demonstration can attest. They’re street thugs with a significant interstate organization.

    1. Sounds like you are describing the unions.

  22. Vegans need to be rounded up and sent back to Vega.

  23. King County is a liberal bastion and here is where they are willing to stomp on the rights of the fruits and nuts that are their citizens.

  24. The FBI shouldn’t totally ignore the fruits, nuts and flakes either. Some of them are violent (spiking trees to injure loggers, violence against abortionists), cause major property damage (firebombing SUV’s, raiding animal research facilities, and generally stalk or attack people they don’t like (animal researchers, other religions)

    And if one of those flakes randomly shoots up a church, mall or madrassa, the American public is going to want to know what groups influenced him.

  25. “”On the 11th page of the report’s introduction, the DOJ suggests that the FBI concentrate on “actionable information on the high risk of international terrorism and any domestic terrorist activities aimed at creating mass casualties or destroying critical infrastructure,””

    Yeah, but there’s not enough actionable information to keep them busy.

    Plus, from P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act on, it isn’t really about terrorism, it’s about giving law enforcement tools that would be unpopular in a free society.

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