Tag Archives: civil asset forfeiture

By Imperial Decree, by Robert Gore

A dangerous expansion of presidential power has gone virtually unnoticed.

Trump’s supporters can’t believe their man’s primary motivation is acquiring power. Trump’s enemies, other than Senator Feinstein, can’t believe how good he is at it. Neither side will recognize the real danger until it’s too late. Legions of worrywarts fret that an erratic, captured Trump will go off half-cocked and press a nuclear button or do something else almost as stupidly devastating. What should worry them are the precise calculations and bloodless strategies of the most ruthlessly Machiavellian president since Franklin D. Roosevelt as he further consolidates and extends his power. Given present jurisprudence, nothing in the Constitution stands in his way.

So Deep It’s Sunk,” SLL, 9/3/17

Exhibit One would be President Trump’s Executive Order Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption, dated December 20, 2017. Within various executive orders issued by Trump’s predecessors, there are provisions that would scare the daylights out of any civil libertarian who had the time and intestinal fortitude to go through them. Trump has now added to this dubious pile.

In the finest tradition of such orders, regulations, and laws, the preamble cites Humongous Dangers.

I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, find that the prevalence and severity of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, such as those committed or directed by persons listed in the Annex to this order, have reached such scope and gravity that they threaten the stability of international political and economic systems. Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets. The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.

I therefore determine that serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.

President Trump’s Executive Order

By imperial decree, Trump assumes the power to block, or freeze, the property within the reach or control of the US government of, “any foreign person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General” to have engaged in, “serious human rights abuse” or “corruption.” The power to freeze assets is extended to any entity, including a government, which is led by or has an official who the Gang of Three determine is corrupt or a serious human rights abuser. Thirteen people listed in the annex are so labeled, although it appears that for most of them their crimes are alleged, not established by a judicial determination. An additional 39 individuals and entities were named in a Treasury Department release.

The power is also extended to anyone, US citizen or foreign national, who has “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of” corrupt or human rights abusing foreigners. Keep in mind the government’s wholesale surveillance of Americans began with the claim that it would only be applied to Americans’ foreign contacts. The definition of foreign contacts in that instance has been stretched beyond recognition; look for something similar here.

The order specifies that no prior notice will be given to those whose property is blocked. No judicial recourse is provided, only that the Secretary of Treasury, “in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, is hereby authorized to determine that circumstances no longer warrant the blocking of the property and interests in property of a person listed in the Annex to this order, and to take necessary action to give effect to that determination.” Presumably enabling regulations will detail how those—whether listed in the annex or named later—whose assets are frozen can petition the Secretary of Treasury, if the accused has enough unfrozen assets to hire the necessary legal assistance and run the bureaucratic gamut.

This is civil asset forfeiture going global and running amuck. Civil asset forfeiture allows state and local governments and the federal government to seize assets it deems involved in crime, with no requirement that the property owner be found guilty of any crime. The burden is then on property owners to prove the “innocence” of their property in a judicial proceeding to reclaim the property. Abuse is rampant. In 2014 government took more through civil asset forfeiture ($4.5 billion) than the total lost in burglaries ($3.9 billion, according to the FBI). Fourteen states have amended their laws to require a criminal conviction in most or all forfeiture cases.

Sometimes the federal government and either state or local governments team up and split the booty (the Equitable Sharing Program). Barack Obama tried to stop this practice, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reinstated it. President Trump endorsed expansive civil asset forfeiture in off-the-cuff remarks to the National Sheriff’s Association at the White House in February. It’s unclear if Trump knew exactly what he was endorsing.

Judging by this newest executive order, he might have. The executive order does not allow the government to seize the assets in question. However, a freeze, as civil asset forfeiture demonstrates, can be tantamount to seizure for the property owner if it leaves the individual or entity without access to resources. And a future executive order could allow the government to confiscate what it has frozen, which would turn Trump’s executive order into the global equivalent of civil asset forfeiture.

The US government simply has to label a foreign person or entity guilty of corruption or human rights abuse, and not only can their assets be frozen, but the assets of any US citizen or entity that the government determines assisted the foreign person or entity can be as well. This further erodes the tattered remnant of American property rights. Multinational corporations down to individuals now have to worry that their foreign contacts and transactions might run afoul of a bureaucratic determination of culpability by those with whom they contacted or transacted, exposing them to an asset freeze.

The Trump Administration quietly issued an Executive Order (EO) last Thursday…

Zero Hedge, “New Trump Executive Order Targets Clinton-Linked Individuals, Lobbyists, And Perhaps Uranium One” 12/28/17

In “Is Trump Winning?” SLL said that, “when Trump does anything quietly, take note.” Aside from the Zero Hedge article there has been remarkably little said in either the mainstream or alternative media about this sweeping order, though it puts within the Trump Administration’s grasp a substantial portion of the world’s assets. The Zero Hedge article was generally laudatory, and that site has long been vigilant concerning expanding government and its many dangers.

President Trump is amassing power. Civil liberties are merely an obstacle, notwithstanding his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Some of his fans are delighted that this new executive order will make it easier for him to go after his enemies, especially the detested Clintons and their foundation. The 13 people listed in the annex are alleged to have done dastardly deeds, and some have ties to the Clintons. However, executive orders establish law and precedent, and this one will give a future president the power to go after a different set of enemies—maybe Trump supporters or even Trump himself.

Perhaps legislation would have to be passed or an executive order promulgated allowing the president to jail anyone he or she chooses without a trial before they’d see the danger, and even then they might not object…at least until Trump was out of office. For the rest of us, the message is clear: Trump craves power and is adept at acquiring it. The modus operandi of governments is clear: what they acquire is taken from someone else. What Trump acquires will ultimately be at the cost of our liberty and individual rights. Once they’re gone, there’s nothing left.

START THE NEW YEAR OFF RIGHT!

AMAZON

KINDLE

NOOK

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“Give Us The Man, We Will Make The Case”: Civil Forfeiture, RussiaGate And The Police State, by Jim Jatras

There is not usually an announcement as to when a government becomes a police state. It’s more a gradual slide, and the US government has been sliding. From Jim Jatras at washingtonbabylon.com:

How to legally rob a 73-year-old Amtrak employee and lock up citizens for non-crimes

Uncle Joe meets Uncle Sam: We have met the enemy and it is us. Photo credit: WikiCommons.

When do we realize we’re already living in a police state?

Maybe one clue is when our betters make a point of assuring us that we aren’t. Here’s Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifying before a House Judiciary Committee inquiry into political bias in the Robert Mueller “Russia-gate” investigation:

Department of Justice employees are united by a shared understanding that our mission is to pursue justice, protect public safety, preserve government property, defend civil rights, and promote the rule of law.

Rosenstein’s contempt for his interlocutors’ intelligence was unconcealed. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

Rod’s on the job! Americans can certainly sleep peacefully tonight.

Or maybe not. Besides cracking down on states’ playing fast and loose with federal marijuana laws, one of the first enforcement actions ordered by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-Recused) was to step up use of civil forfeiture, which is a fancy way of saying “taking the property of people who have not been convicted of anything, or even accused of anything, with little recourse.”

But no sweat, there are “safeguards” to assure that property seizures only impact drug kingpins and gangsters – right?

Sessions’s order . . .  resuscitates a practice known as “federal adoption,” which allows police and prosecutors to circumvent state restrictions on asset seizures by collaborating with federal authorities. Through this partnership, state and local authorities turn their seizures over to federal colleagues, who “adopt” them for prosecution—ultimately returning up to eighty per cent of the assets to the originating cops or prosecutors to keep. One result, often unaddressed in critiques of forfeiture, is the tacit encouragement of racial profiling and targeting of property owners of color, who remain prime targets of the practice in much of the country.

To continue reading: “Give Us The Man, We Will Make The Case”: Civil Forfeiture, RussiaGate And The Police State

Rand Paul: Civil asset forfeiture turns the American justice system on its head

In many cases civil asset forfeiture is legalized theft from innocent property owners who have little recourse to get their property back.  Institute for Justice, mentioned in the article, takes a lot of these cases pro bono and is an excellent recipient for your liberty-minded donations (I donate). From Rand Paul at rare.us:

“Innocent until proven guilty” is the bedrock of American jurisprudence. Civil asset forfeiture, a legal process in which the government confiscates your property without a guilty verdict, turns that justice on its head.

Take the case of the Motel Caswell in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. In 2009, owner Russ Caswell found himself the target of a civil forfeiture claim by the federal government and his local police department, even though he had never been accused – much less convicted – of a crime. It should also be noted that, historically, the motel had a good working relationship with the police, even providing them with free rooms for stakeouts and contacting them about suspicious activities.

The government’s basis for seizing the property? Fifteen “drug-related incidents” over a 14-year period – out of around 196,000 rooms rented.

In its reporting on the case, WBUR recounted how a DEA agent testified that it was his job “to seek out targets for forfeiture by watching television news and reading newspapers” and to check the Registry of Deeds after discovering properties where drug crimes had taken place. The Motel Caswell, with a more than $1 million value and lack of mortgage, became the focus of a combined effort between the DEA and the local police, according to the agent.

If the Caswells had lost, the federal government and local police department could have split the proceeds of selling the property under so-called “equitable sharing” – with the police department keeping up to 80 percent of the profit.

With the help of the Institute for Justice, which took on their case pro bono, the Caswells triumphed in court. But not every story gets such a happy ending.

To continue reading: Rand Paul: Civil asset forfeiture turns the American justice system on its head

Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind, by John W. Whitehead

Civil asset forfeiture is legalized theft by police departments and governments. From John W. Whitehead at rutherford.org:

“Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle — a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him, he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism. It is the aim of the Bill of Rights, if it has any remaining aim at all, to curb such prehensile gentry. Its function is to set a limitation upon their power to harry and oppress us to their own private profit.”— H.L. Mencken

Let’s not mince words.

Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top law enforcement official, would not recognize the Constitution if he ran right smack into it.

Whether the head of the Trump Administration’s Justice Department enjoys being the architect of a police state or is just painfully, criminally clueless, Sessions has done a great job thus far of sidestepping the Constitution at every turn.

Most recently, under the guise of “fighting crime,” Sessions gave police the green light to rob, pilfer, steal, thieve, swipe, purloin, filch and liberate American taxpayers of even more of their hard-earned valuables (especially if it happens to be significant amounts of cash) using any means, fair or foul.

In this case, the foul method favored by Sessions & Co. is civil asset forfeiture, which allows police and prosecutors to “seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets—all without so much as charging you with a crime.”

Under a federal equitable sharing program, police turn asset forfeiture cases over to federal agents who process seizures and then return 80% of the proceeds to the police. (In Michigan, police actually get to keep up to 100% of forfeited property.)

This incentive-driven excuse for stealing from the citizenry is more accurately referred to as “policing for profit” or “theft by cop.”

To continue reading: Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind

 

Jeff Sessions Moves to Make it Easier for Government to Steal Property of Innocent American Citizens, by Michael Krieger

Civil asset forfeiture is an appalling practice that takes people’s property without anything approaching due process. Attorney General Jeff Session undoubtedly lowers himself a few more rungs in hell by proposing to expand the practice. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

Civil asset forfeiture has been a key topic here at Liberty Blitzkrieg over the years for one very obvious reason. The practice has absolutely no place in any halfway humane and decent civilization. The fact that this barbaric, authoritarian practice somehow has legal protection in these United States says so much about the state of the nation and the level of thuggishness we’re willing to put up with as a people.

For new readers who aren’t familiar with the subject, here’s a quick refresher:

Asset forfeiture is a disputed practice that allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime. There is little disagreement among lawmakers, authorities and criminal justice reformers that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” But in many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary — under forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level, mere suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to allow police to seize items permanently.

Additionally, many states allow law enforcement agencies to keep cash that they seize, creating what critics characterize as a profit motive. The practice is widespread: In 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did. State and local authorities seized untold millions more.

Since 2007, the Drug Enforcement Administration alone has taken more than $3 billion in cash from people not charged with any crime, according to the Justice Department’s Inspector General.

The practice is ripe for abuse. In one case in 2016, Oklahoma police seized $53,000 owned by a Christian band, an orphanage and a church after stopping a man on a highway for a broken taillight. A few years earlier, a Michigan drug task force raided the home of a self-described “soccer mom,”suspecting she was not in compliance with the state’s medical marijuana law. They proceeded to take “every belonging” from the family, including tools, a bicycle and her daughter’s birthday money.

To continue reading: Jeff Sessions Moves to Make it Easier for Government to Steal Property of Innocent American Citizens

The DEA Has Stolen $3.2 Billion from Americans Without Charges Since 2007, by Michael Krieger

Here’s another racket: civil asset forfeiture. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

In my post published earlier this week, Recent TSA Molestation Video Proves Americans Have Become Authority Worshipping Slaves, I noted the following:

Yeah, it’s disgusting, inappropriate and anathema to a free people, but that’s the point. We aren’t a free people. We’ve become a bunch of authority-worshiping subjects toiling on a plantation dominated by multi-national companies who write our laws and manipulate our thoughts through corporate media. The worst part is we don’t do anything about it. We elect Trump and then puff our chests out yelling stupid slogans like MAGA, as molestations from the TSA get worse. Well done everyone.

I was pleased that the above paragraph connected with many people, but for those of you who think I was being hyperbolic, take a look at the following excerpts from a piece recently published at The Washington Post, Since 2007, the DEA Has Taken $3.2 Billion in Cash from People Not Charged with a Crime:

The Drug Enforcement Administration takes billions of dollars in cash from people who are never charged with criminal activity, according to a report issued today by the Justice Department’s Inspector General.

Since 2007, the report found, the DEA has seized more than $4 billion in cash from people suspected of involvement with the drug trade. But 81 percent of those seizures, totaling $3.2 billion, were conducted administratively, meaning no civil or criminal charges were brought against the owners of the cash and no judicial review of the seizures ever occurred.

Remember, the terrorists hate us for our freedom.

That total does not include the dollar value of other seized assets, like cars, homes, electronics and clothing.

These seizures are all legal under the controversial practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows authorities to take cash, contraband and property from people suspected of crime. But the practice does not require authorities to obtain a criminal conviction, and it allows departments to keep seized cash and property for themselves unless individuals successfully challenge the forfeiture in court. Critics across the political spectrum say this creates a perverse profit motive, incentivizing police to seize goods not for the purpose of fighting crime, but for padding department budgets.

To continue reading: The DEA Has Stolen $3.2 Billion from Americans Without Charges Since 2007

Civil Asset Forfeiture – Ruining Lives, While Failing To Stop Crime, by Duane Norman

Trump’s come down on the wrong side of the civil asset forfeiture issue and he may not even know what it is. From Duane Norman at fmshooter.com:

Yesterday, President Trump met with the National Sheriff’s Association at the White House. Like so many Trump comments, this one took a strange turn when Trump (jokingly or not) threatened to “destroy the career” of a Texas state Senator:

During the meeting, Rockwall County, Texas, Sheriff Harold Eavenson told President Trump about a piece of asset forfeiture legislation he believes would aid Mexican drug cartels…here’s the full conversation:

Eavenson: “There’s a state senator in Texas that was talking about legislation to require conviction before we could receive that forfeiture money.”

Trump: “Do you believe that?”

Eavenson: “And I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation passed.”

Trump: “Who is that state senator? I want to hear his name. We’ll destroy his career…”

Though the major point of conversation was about Trump’s threat to a state legislator, the bigger story should be the implicit support Trump gave to civil asset forfeiture, whether he realized it or not. And if you are not aware what civil asset forfeiture is, it is (surprisingly) something that is agreed by both sides of the aisle to be unjust and unconstitutional, and rightfully so.

Civil asset forfeiture is defined by Wikipedia as “a controversial legal process in which law enforcement officers take assets from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing.” The practice is commonplace in the war on drugs, but it can be extended to almost anything.

What it means is that the government can essentially seize any of your assets it can find (be it in a bank account, or cash/gold/whatever you have in a safe or under the mattress), label them a part of a “criminal investigation,” and keep them indefinitely, without sufficient due process for the citizen to challenge the seizures, and whether you are ultimately charged with a crime or not.

To continue reading: Civil Asset Forfeiture – Ruining Lives, While Failing To Stop Crime