Secret Documents Prove Obama’s Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder Is Full Of Shit – Hid Department’s Documents On Operations That Armed Criminals And Mexican Drug Cartels

June 7, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – With the help of a mole, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has turned the tables on Attorney General Eric Holder.

Issa has long been exasperated with Holder, claiming that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been withholding information on a controversial gun-running operation. But through an anonymous source, Issa has obtained information about the initiative that is under a federal court-ordered seal.

Giving such information out is a federal crime, raising the question of whether the Justice Department will seek to prosecute what Republicans are calling a whistleblower.

Issa has asked the DOJ for the documents — wiretap applications it used in the botched federal gun-tracking Operation Fast and Furious — for months. The California lawmaker has taken preliminary steps to move contempt-of-Congress citations against Holder, but it remains unclear if GOP leaders support that move. This new controversy could help Issa attract more Republican support for a contempt-of-Congress resolution.

If Holder does launch an investigation into where the leak originated, the powerful Republican could paint the move as an attempt by the DOJ to hide the documents’ contents. It would also raise the possibility that DOJ investigators will seek information from Issa, who has been trying to determine who approved the “gun-walking” tactics used in Fast and Furious along the U.S.-Mexico border.

On the other hand, not launching a probe would mean turning a blind eye to a criminal breach and could lead Issa’s source and others to reveal other information sealed by a judge.

Issa told Fox News on Wednesday that he has no intention of shining the light on his source: “We’re not going to make our whistleblower available. That’s been one of the most sensitive areas, because some of the early whistleblowers are already feeling retribution. They’re being treated horribly.”

Asked earlier this week where he got the wiretap applications, Issa told The Hill, “You can ask, but you should have no expectation of an answer. By the way, if I asked you where you got yours, would you give me your sources?”

Of course, there is some political risk for Issa. The Obama administration could point out that he is stonewalling federal authorities after complaining throughout this Congress of being stonewalled by DOJ.

As the lead congressional investigator of Fast and Furious, Issa says the documents show top-ranking DOJ officials signing off on the condemned “gun-walking” tactics used in the failed operation. Senior DOJ officials have repeatedly denied that they approved the botched initiative.

The documents have not been made public, and Issa has apparently broken no laws by being given the information.

Regardless, the DOJ is not pleased.

“Chairman Issa’s letter makes clear that sealed court documents relating to pending federal prosecutions being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California have been disclosed to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in violation of law,” wrote Deputy Attorney General James Cole to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Issa this week.

“This is of great concern to us,” the letter added.

A spokesman for the DOJ declined to comment about whether it was planning to launch an investigation into the leak.

Democrats say that Issa is exaggerating what he has. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on Issa’s panel, reiterated this week that top-ranking DOJ officials didn’t personally review any of the six wiretap applications related to Fast and Furious. Issa sent Cummings the information he received from his source.

In the past, the DOJ has justified not turning over the wiretap applications to Issa by saying that doing so could jeopardize the current criminal cases it is prosecuting.

Two former prosecutors for the DOJ, who were not familiar with the details of this article, independently told The Hill that defense lawyers could use an instance of documents being leaked in violation of a court-ordered seal to justify seeking a mistrial.

It is unlikely that the DOJ, if it does investigate the leak, will have grounds to go after Issa for accepting the documents. In past instances of court-ordered seals being broken, it is the actual breaker of the seal who is held responsible, which in this case could mean criminal contempt proceedings and possible jail time.

The battle between Issa and the DOJ has escalated over the past month, with House Republican leaders writing a letter to Holder asking him to hand over information about who was responsible for Fast and Furious. The letter also asked whether the DOJ misled Congress on when officials, including Holder, became aware of the program.

Issa is set to square off against Holder on Thursday when the attorney general is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee. The Republican lawmaker will appear on a panel to discuss oversight of the DOJ.

Under the now-defunct Fast and Furious initiative, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is under the DOJ, authorized the sale of firearms to known and suspected straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels, but lost track of many of the weapons. Some of those guns might have contributed to the December 2010 shooting death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

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Law Enforcement Officials Refuse To Identify Who Owns Or Uses License Plate Readers/Cameras Being Installed On Lawrence County New York Utility Poles

June 2, 2012

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, NEW YORK – Some area law enforcement officials apparently know who is installing the mysterious camera boxes on utility poles around St. Lawrence County, but they’re not saying who it is.

The boxes, with a window for cameras to peer out of, have popped up in Norwood, Raymondville, DeKalb Junction, Waddington, Massena and Canton, according to witnesses.

Law enforcement officials at local, state and federal agencies agree the boxes contain license plate readers that take snapshots, and are not video cameras that send live feeds. But none of them are willing to identify what agency the cameras belong to and who is operating them.

The cameras appear to be identical to license plate readers advertised on web sites as containing a visible light camera, infrared camera and an infrared light source. The cameras can read plates on passing vehicles, record the plate number, date, time and location, send it to a database for storage, and alert law enforcement if it detects a vehicle or driver being sought.

They are similar to vehicle-mounted units that St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells says his department has been using for 10 years.

But about the pole-mounted cameras, Sheriff Wells says, “They are not mine.”

A spokesperson from National Grid, the major electric distributor in the region, said the company periodically agrees to requests from police agencies for placement of such devices on utility poles, but they are not permitted to reveal any details about whose cameras they are or where they might be.

National Grid’s Virginia Limmiatis, a senior media relations representative in Syracuse, said their policy “authorizes the user to plug into our system. Under the agreement they are required to install and maintain their own equipment.” The user will get a bill for a usage fee. But she couldn’t say whose cameras these are.

Meanwhile, a box Massena Electric employees found on one of their poles was turned over to the Massena Police Department. “We didn’t even know it was a camera,” said Superintendent Andrew McMahon. “We called the village police to pick it up.”

Massena Police Chief Timmy Currier said he returned it to the owner, but wouldn’t say how he knew who the owner was, nor would he say who he gave it to.

A Border Patrol operations officer in the sector station in Swanton, Vt., said he had no knowledge about the use of the cameras. He referred questions to an investigator apparently associated with Franklin County law enforcement, who said he knew about other cameras, but didn’t know about deployment of license plate readers, and wouldn’t discuss it further.

State Police Lt. Kevin Boyea of Troop B said he has no knowledge of the cameras, their origin or their purpose.

However, not all police agencies were aware of the boxes. After discussing it at a periodic meeting of police chiefs from around the county this morning, Wells said, “none of the local chiefs were ever contacted about the existence of these cameras.”

Several of the law enforcement representatives said use of cameras – license plate readers and surveillance cameras – is increasing, and while we might not be used to such scrutiny in the North Country, each cited reports about how people living in cities should expect to be on camera at any given moment.

“Any time you travel in an urban area, you will see lots of cameras,” said Sheriff Wells. Many, he said, are designed to record drivers who go through red lights, and there are many other uses. “They’re designed to assist police. They are a tool for investigators.”

But any law enforcement agency that wants data stored by the cameras can have access to it if they need it and can show why. But they can’t tell us who they send their requests to.

McMahon, the superintendent at Massena Electric Department, said one of his crews found a box on one of their poles and took it down because “it was in the electric space,” the top tier of wires on the pole above the telephone and cable TV wires, and whoever put it there had taken a chance with electrocution. He said they had never received a request or been informed about its placement.

McMahon said whoever put it there might have thought the pole belonged to National Grid, and that it wouldn’t be the first time a mistake like that had happened. He said National Grid themselves had once replaced a damaged Massena Electric pole without knowing it.

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President Obama Made Secret Deal With Pharmaceutical Company Lobbyists To Secure Support For His Doomed National Health Care Law

May 17, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Three years ago, President Obama cut a secret deal with pharmaceutical company lobbyists to secure the industry’s support for his national health care law. Despite Obama’s promises during his campaign to run a transparent administration, the deal has been shrouded in mystery ever since. But internal emails obtained by House Republicans now provide evidence that a deal was struck and GOP investigators are promising to release more details in the coming weeks.

“What the hell?” White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, who is now Obama’s campaign manager, complained to a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in January 15, 2010 email. “This wasn’t part of our deal.”

This reference to “our deal” came two months before the final passage of Obamacare in an email with the subject line, “FW: TAUZIN EMAIL.” At the time, Billy Tauzin was president and CEO of PhRMA.

The email was uncovered as part of investigation into Obama’s closed-door health care negotiations launched by the House Energy and Commerce committee’s oversight panel.

“In the coming weeks the Committee intends to show what the White House agreed to do as part of its deal with the pharmaceutical industry and how the full details of this agreement were kept from both the public and the House of Representatives,” the committee’s Republican members wrote in a memo today.

On June 20, 2009, Obama released a terse 296-word statement announcing a deal between pharmaceutical companies and the Senate that didn’t mention any involvement by the White House.

“The investigation has determined that the White House, primarily through Office of Health Reform Director Nancy Ann DeParle and Messina, with involvement from Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, was actively engaged in these negotiations while the role of Congress was limited,” the committee members wrote. “For example, three days before the June 20 statement, the head of PhRMA promised Messina, ‘we will deliver a final yes to you by morning.’ Meanwhile, Ms. DeParle all but confirmed that half of the Legislative Branch was shut out in an email to a PhRMA representative: ‘I think we should have included the House in the discussions, but maybe we never would have gotten anywhere if we had.’”

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Dozens Of Boxes Of Secret US Government Files Go Missing At National Archives And Records Administration

May 2, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Archives and Records Administration has lost track of dozens of boxes of confidential and secret government files at its records center just outside of Washington, the latest in a series of such incidents spanning more than a decade.

The missing classified materials include four boxes of top-secret restricted files from the Office of the Secretary of Defense as well as records from several U.S. Navy offices, documents obtained by The Washington Times show.

The problems came to light after a three-year investigation by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Office of Inspector General. While the investigation ended last year, officials recently provided a copy of the report on their findings in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

It’s not the first time the inspector general’s office has raised concerns about missing files at the Washington National Records Center. According to the report, the office conducted previous inventories of classified materials in 1998 and 2004, concluding that boxes were missing during both of those searches.

“According to those staffers that can recall, minimal corrective actions were taken,” the inspector general’s office noted in the report on its most recent investigation.

NARA officials say they cooperated with investigators and insist there is no indication that any of the boxes were stolen. Instead, they blame the problems on “bad data” for a tiny fraction of the millions of boxes stored in the Washington National Records Center, where 250,000 boxes enter the Suitland facility each year.

Joe Newman, a spokesman for the nonpartisan watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO), said the inspector general’s report raised troubling but not unexpected questions.

“While it’s troubling that there are boxes of top-secret and confidential materials missing, it’s not entirely unexpected considering the sheer volume of data the National Archives and Records Center is responsible for storing and protecting,” he said.

“The report raises some issues of careless handling and filing of materials that certainly deserve the attention of the administration. However, these problems also raise bigger questions of how recent budget cuts and staffing reductions have affected the ability of the National Archives to do its job effectively.”

NARA, the nation’s official record keeper, does not own the facility where the records are stored, instead leasing the property from the General Services Administration. Likewise, the boxes, which are stored in row after row of high shelves in rooms twice the size of football fields at the facility, do not belong to NARA, either. The agency acts as the custodian and stores the boxes temporarily until they’re either destroyed or turned over for permanent placement in the National Archives.

William J. Bosanko, appointed last year as NARA’s Executive For Agency Services, said officials are continuing what he called a “very aggressive search” for boxes reported missing in the inspector general’s investigation.

Mr. Bosanko said one measure officials think will result in better tracking is the bar coding of boxes as they come in and out of the records center. Previously, he said, paper tracking slips, which could detach from boxes and fall off shelves, could result in a box reported as missing when it is still in the records center.

Another problem he cited is the fact that agencies sometimes have asked for boxes to be returned, only to later send them back to NARA in different boxes with different so-called “accession numbers,” which are used to track the materials.

In addition, Mr. Bosanko said, tracking information can be lost as boxes age or sustain damage. He said the records center is an aging building that’s had troubles with leaks over the years, as well as sustaining damage from an earthquake last year. Officials are working to replace the building, he said.

In an interview, Paul Brachfeld, NARA’s inspector general, said the problems span years and highlight more than just record-keeping issues.

After years of what he called “chronic disregard” about the situation at NARA, Mr. Brachfeld said, “I do believe finally they are taking my recommendations to heart.”

He said it’s too early to say whether problems will surface in future audits and investigations. Records show that a similar investigation had been under way reviewing unclassified materials held at the Suitland facility.

“It’s a process that’s going to have to be played out,” he said.

Congress was on notice about the missing records months ago. In a semiannual report to Congress last year, the inspector general’s office told lawmakers that 80 boxes of top-secret and restricted materials were missing.

“This investigation was closed subject to continuing updates regarding the recovery of remaining material,” the inspector general told Congress.

The agencies listed in the report were the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Export Administration, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Energy, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency as well as four components of the U.S. Navy. Each of the agencies was notified. The report did not say when the records were compiled.

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Federal Goverment Hiding Data On Domestic Use Of Drone Aircraft

January 12, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The domestic use of stealth drones to survey America from the skies is no joke. The Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged that the US government has used the planes on the home front for years, but why and how is largely unknown.

An advocacy group aims to change that.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit based out of San Francisco, California, filed a Freedom of Information Act request back in April to learn more about domestic drone use in America. Eight months later, the Department of Transportation (and its subdivision that deals directly with domestic drones, the Federal Aviation Administration), has failed to follow through. On Tuesday this week, the EFF responded by formally filing a suit against the DoT, “Demanding data on certifications and authorizations the agency has issued for the operation of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones.”

Aside from what is leaked out of the Pentagon to the media, much isn’t clear about drone use except for a seemingly endless series of misadventures that have plagued the Department of Defense in recent months. As the US military continues drone operations overseas, the craft fleets have been linked to the firing of missiles, the monitoring of both insurgents and civilians and escalating tensions between the US and Iran. In terms of military use, drone operations have yielded widespread opposition from the likes of constitutional rights advocates, presidential candidate Ron Paul and the American Civil Liberties Union. Regardless, the government is only adding an arsenal of more and more craft to its fleet every month, adding international bases and investing billions in new unmanned planes.

American drone missions overseas are being launched for obvious reasons, despite how the government describes it. Domestic use, however, is largely kept in the shadows and is rarely discussed. San Francisco’s EFF says that at least 285 missions have occurred in America, but they want to know more about them. The US government, however, is being far from accommodation in regards to their request.

With the filing of the suit on Tuesday, the EFF hopes that they will be able to finally let the public understand why spy planes are being flown through American skies without the people of the country given any reason or warning as to why.

“There is currently no information available to the public on which specific public and civil entities have applied for, been granted or been denied certificates or authorizations to fly unmanned aircraft in the United States,” the EFF’s complaint says. In April they filed their FOIA request for information, and with no response nearly a year later, they have determined that by September of 2011, almost 300 missions by 85 separate users were certified by the FAA in all. The FAA, a component of the DOT, approves all domestic drone missions. A recent report revealed that the they are currently in the works to approve non-federal use of the spy craft planes in the US, drafting a legislation that will umbrella any local law enforcement unit to deploy drones as they would a street cruiser or bike cop.

“This is a tool that many law enforcement agencies never imagined they could have,” Steven Gitlin of AeroVironment Inc. told the Los Angeles Times in November. His company is already in the works to supply law enforcement agencies with 18,000 of small drone crafts once the FAA grants them clearance.

In the meantime, however, the federal government continues to operate these missions without explaining why. Such a shadowy-nature has only increased paranoia for Americans skeptic of the Big Brother branding near synonymous with the Obama administration, and an ongoing assault on the civil liberties of citizens is driving those previously unaware of drones to disavow the use.

“The use of drones in American airspace could dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens – tracking that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives,” EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch says in a statement. “Drones give the government and other unmanned aircraft operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans’ movements and activities,” she adds, noting that the usage rises “significant privacy concerns.”

“We’re asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request so we can learn more about who is flying the drones and why,” Lynch pleads in explaining the suit.

While America waits for the truth, they are left with only one option: to prefer for the worst and cover their tracks.

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Secret Panel Of US Government Officials Can Put US Citizens On “Kill List”

October 6, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

The panel was behind the decision to add Awlaki, a U.S.-born militant preacher with alleged al Qaeda connections, to the target list. He was killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen late last month.

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss anything about the process.

Current and former officials said that to the best of their knowledge, Awlaki, who the White House said was a key figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate, had been the only American put on a government list targeting people for capture or death due to their alleged involvement with militants.

The White House is portraying the killing of Awlaki as a demonstration of President Barack Obama’s toughness toward militants who threaten the United States. But the process that led to Awlaki’s killing has drawn fierce criticism from both the political left and right.

In an ironic turn, Obama, who ran for president denouncing predecessor George W. Bush’s expansive use of executive power in his “war on terrorism,” is being attacked in some quarters for using similar tactics. They include secret legal justifications and undisclosed intelligence assessments.

Liberals criticized the drone attack on an American citizen as extra-judicial murder.

Conservatives criticized Obama for refusing to release a Justice Department legal opinion that reportedly justified killing Awlaki. They accuse Obama of hypocrisy, noting his administration insisted on publishing Bush-era administration legal memos justifying the use of interrogation techniques many equate with torture, but refused to make public its rationale for killing a citizen without due process.

Some details about how the administration went about targeting Awlaki emerged on Tuesday when the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, was asked by reporters about the killing.

The process involves “going through the National Security Council, then it eventually goes to the president, but the National Security Council does the investigation, they have lawyers, they review, they look at the situation, you have input from the military, and also, we make sure that we follow international law,” Ruppersberger said.

LAWYERS CONSULTED

Other officials said the role of the president in the process was murkier than what Ruppersberger described.

They said targeting recommendations are drawn up by a committee of mid-level National Security Council and agency officials. Their recommendations are then sent to the panel of NSC “principals,” meaning Cabinet secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval. The panel of principals could have different memberships when considering different operational issues, they said.

The officials insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

They confirmed that lawyers, including those in the Justice Department, were consulted before Awlaki’s name was added to the target list.

Two principal legal theories were advanced, an official said: first, that the actions were permitted by Congress when it authorized the use of military forces against militants in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001; and they are permitted under international law if a country is defending itself.

Several officials said that when Awlaki became the first American put on the target list, Obama was not required personally to approve the targeting of a person. But one official said Obama would be notified of the principals’ decision. If he objected, the decision would be nullified, the official said.

A former official said one of the reasons for making senior officials principally responsible for nominating Americans for the target list was to “protect” the president.

Officials confirmed that a second American, Samir Khan, was killed in the drone attack that killed Awlaki. Khan had served as editor of Inspire, a glossy English-language magazine used by AQAP as a propaganda and recruitment vehicle.

But rather than being specifically targeted by drone operators, Khan was in the wrong place at the wrong time, officials said. Ruppersberger appeared to confirm that, saying Khan’s death was “collateral,” meaning he was not an intentional target of the drone strike.

When the name of a foreign, rather than American, militant is added to targeting lists, the decision is made within the intelligence community and normally does not require approval by high-level NSC officials.

‘FROM INSPIRATIONAL TO OPERATIONAL’

Officials said Awlaki, whose fierce sermons were widely circulated on English-language militant websites, was targeted because Washington accumulated information his role in AQAP had gone “from inspirational to operational.” That meant that instead of just propagandizing in favor of al Qaeda objectives, Awlaki allegedly began to participate directly in plots against American targets.

“Let me underscore, Awlaki is no mere messenger but someone integrally involved in lethal terrorist activities,” Daniel Benjamin, top counterterrorism official at the State Department, warned last spring.

The Obama administration has not made public an accounting of the classified evidence that Awlaki was operationally involved in planning terrorist attacks.

But officials acknowledged that some of the intelligence purporting to show Awlaki’s hands-on role in plotting attacks was patchy.

For instance, one plot in which authorities have said Awlaki was involved Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb hidden in his underpants.

There is no doubt Abdulmutallab was an admirer or follower of Awlaki, since he admitted that to U.S. investigators. When he appeared in a Detroit courtroom earlier this week for the start of his trial on bomb-plot charges, he proclaimed, “Anwar is alive.”

But at the time the White House was considering putting Awlaki on the U.S. target list, intelligence connecting Awlaki specifically to Abdulmutallab and his alleged bomb plot was partial. Officials said at the time the United States had voice intercepts involving a phone known to have been used by Awlaki and someone who they believed, but were not positive, was Abdulmutallab.

Awlaki was also implicated in a case in which a British Airways employee was imprisoned for plotting to blow up a U.S.-bound plane. E-mails retrieved by authorities from the employee’s computer showed what an investigator described as ” operational contact” between Britain and Yemen.

Authorities believe the contacts were mainly between the U.K.-based suspect and his brother. But there was a strong suspicion Awlaki was at the brother’s side when the messages were dispatched. British media reported that in one message, the person on the Yemeni end supposedly said, “Our highest priority is the US … With the people you have, is it possible to get a package or a person with a package on board a flight heading to the US?”

U.S. officials contrast intelligence suggesting Awlaki’s involvement in specific plots with the activities of Adam Gadahn, an American citizen who became a principal English-language propagandist for the core al Qaeda network formerly led by Osama bin Laden.

While Gadahn appeared in angry videos calling for attacks on the United States, officials said he had not been specifically targeted for capture or killing by U.S. forces because he was regarded as a loudmouth not directly involved in plotting attacks.

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Names Of UK’s Killer Cops Hidden From The Public

September 26, 2010

UK – The identities of just two police officers involved in 33 fatal shootings have been made public in the last 15 years, a Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed.

Since 1995 a total of 55 officers have opened fire on and killed members of the public, but in only two cases have their names been revealed.

The figures can be revealed as the inquest into the death of 32-year-old barrister Mark Saunders continues – and the policemen who shot him dead in May 2008 are allowed to remain anonymous while giving evidence.

The trend was criticised last night by Tory MP and security expert Patrick Mercer who said that officers should be identified in cases where they drew weapons.

And a barrister who represents bereaved families at inquests said the odds were stacked in favour of the police.

Divorce lawyer Mr Saunders, who was drunk, was gunned down by marksmen in a hail of bullets after he opened fire with a shotgun on his neighbours’ homes from a window of his £2.2 million Chelsea mansion.

Giving evidence at the inquest on Friday, one member of the firearms team said he did not shoot at Mr Saunders because he ‘could not justify it’.

It is up to coroners to decide whether to grant anonymity to police officers and there is nothing explicit in the law to help them reach a decision. The coroners’ ‘bible’ – Jervis On Coroners, first published in 1829 – says ‘any departure from open justice must be a stringently regulated exception.’

It says neither a ‘wholly irrational’ fear of possible reprisal against a police officer, nor a ‘vague and unspecified threat’ is enough to justify the granting of anonymity. And when a police witness is allowed to hide his or her identity, ‘this does not lessen the court’s task but instead increases the need for vigilance,’ says Jervis.

But the laxity of the system has come under growing criticism and last night barrister Stephen Simblet, who specialises in representing bereaved families at inquests, called for new rules to be drawn up.
The victims…but will we ever know who killed them?

He said: ‘At the moment the odds are stacked in favour of the police. It is likely that not only the individual officers will be represented by lawyers at the hearing, but also their force and sometimes the local police authority.

‘There is a tendency for coroners to be outweighed by the sheer number of lawyers making the application for anonymity. All these legal representatives will have been paid for by the taxpayer.

‘It seems to me that public money is being invested in trying to cover things up rather than get to the truth. Police firearms officers are given the extremely rare privilege and responsibility of being allowed to carry a gun on the basis that they are trained, controlled and properly briefed.
Mark Saunders

Divorce lawyer Mark Saunders was gunned down by marksmen in a hail of bullets

‘If we don’t know who they are, how do we know, for example, that a particular officer may not be suffering from psychiatric problems or taking drugs? I would like to see stricter, case-specific reasons (for granting anonymity) based on actual, real and substantiated concerns rather than a feeling that they might be some form of unidentified risk to an officer’s safety.’

Mr Mercer said: ‘Every police officer wears an identification number on their uniform. The reason for that is that they are easily identifiable to members of the public. If that is the case in normal circumstances, I do not see why officers should not be identified in cases where they draw their weapons.’

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said its policy was not to name officers involved in fatal shootings unless they were charged with a criminal offence.

And a Police Federation spokesman said: ‘Firearms officers are often involved in sensitive covert and overt operations. Revealing their identity could threaten their safety and the safety of those around them when deployed on such operations.’

Inquiries by this newspaper revealed that since 1995 there have been only two fatal shooting cases in which police marksmen have been named.

One involved Andrew Kernan, a schizophrenic shot dead near his home in Liverpool, in July, 2001. At a coroner’s court, PC Michael Moore said he decided to shoot Kernan with a high-powered rifle when the 37-year-old refused to drop a 3ft-long Samurai sword.

At the inquest – where no order was made to keep secret the firearms officers’ names – PC Moore described how he and fellow police officer Glen Mitchell had hoped to restrain Kernan with a CS spray, but failed to do so.

A four-year investigation by the IPCC cleared the Merseyside firearms officers from blame and said they had acted ‘bravely’ under the circumstances.

In the other case, PC Chris Sherwood was acquitted of murder and manslaughter after the death of James Ashley, 39, who was shot in front of his girlfriend while he was naked and unarmed.

Sussex Police admitted negligence after the killing at St Leonards in West Sussex, and Paul Whitehouse, the chief constable, resigned. PC Sherwood said he had opened fire in self-defence.

But in 31 other fatal shootings, the identities of police marksmen have been kept secret.

They include that of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, who on July 22, 2005, was shot dead by unnamed Metropolitan Police officers on board a tube train at Stockwell in South London in the belief he was a suicide bomber. Mr de Menezes was shot in the head seven times.

Following an investigation by the IPCC, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that no charges would be brought against any officers in connection with his death.

Other infamous cases include that of Diarmuid O’Neill, 27, an unarmed IRA suspect, who died in a hail of bullets when police raided his home in Hammersmith, West London. No officers were named and no charges were laid against police.

And in September 1999, decorator Harry Stanley, 46, was shot dead as he walked home carrying a table leg in a plastic bag, which police officers mistook for a gun.

Two officers were arrested after a second inquest recorded a verdict of unlawful killing but the Crown Prosecution Service ruled there was insufficient evidence for the marksmen to be charged. They were never named.

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