Tuesday, September 09, 2014

overseers gone wild in false forfeiture la la land....,

WaPo |  During the rush to improve homeland security a decade ago, an invitation went out from Congress to a newly retired California highway patrolman named Joe David. A lawmaker asked him to brief the Senate on how highway police could keep “our communities safe from terrorists and drug dealers.”

David had developed an uncanny talent for finding cocaine and cash in cars and trucks, beginning along the remote highways of the Mojave Desert. His reputation had spread among police officers after he started a training firm in 1989 to teach his homegrown stop-and-seizure techniques. He called it Desert Snow.

The demonstration he gave on Capitol Hill in November 2003 startled onlookers with the many ways smugglers and terrorists can hide contraband, cash and even weapons of mass destruction in vehicles. It also made David’s name in Washington and launched his firm into the fast-expanding marketplace for homeland security, where it would thrive in an atmosphere of fear and help shape law enforcement on highways in every corner of the country.

Over the next decade, David’s tiny family firm would brand itself as a counterterrorism specialist and work with the departments of Homeland Security and Justice. It would receive millions from federal contracts and grants as the leader of a cottage industry of firms teaching aggressive methods for highway interdiction. Along the way, working in near obscurity, the firm would press the limits of the law and raise new questions about police power, domestic intelligence and the rights of American citizens.

In 2004, David started a private intelligence network for police known as the Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System. It enabled officers and federal authorities to share reports and chat online. In recent years, the network had more than 25,000 individual members, David said.

“Throughout history law enforcement investigations have been stymied because of law enforcement’s inability to move information and because enforcement entities refuse to work together,” David wrote in a 2012 letter to Black Asphalt members that was obtained by The Post. “This website allows all of us to do that.”

Operating in collaboration with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal entities, Black Asphalt members exchanged tens of thousands of reports about American motorists, many of whom had not been charged with any crimes, according to a company official and hundreds of internal documents obtained by The Post. For years, it received no oversight by government, even though its reports contained law enforcement sensitive information about traffic stops and seizures, along with hunches and personal data about drivers, including Social Security numbers and identifying tattoos.

Black Asphalt also has served as a social hub for a new brand of highway interdictors, a group that one Desert Snow official has called “a brotherhood.” Among other things, the site hosts an annual competition to honor police who seize the most contraband and cash on the highways. As part of the contest, Desert Snow encouraged state and local patrol officers to post seizure data along with photos of themselves with stacks of currency and drugs. Some of the photos appear in a rousing hard-rock video that the Guthrie, Okla.-based Desert Snow uses to promote its training courses.  Fist tap Dale.