NEWS DAY | Gang Strike Force revelations / Nashwauk taconite / Top Secret America

A Gang Strike Force raid gone wrong included abuse of apartment residents, police theft of property – and no arrests. Randy Furst at the Star Tribune uncovered a 160-page Internal Affairs Department report documenting the abuses and saying that police action amounted to civil rights violations. (No arrests were made.) A father tried to explain to police who were “kicking and stomping” his son that the 20-year-old man was hearing-impaired and could not understand them – but police continued to kick the son as he lay on the floor. (No arrests were made.) His injuries were later treated and documented at a hospital. Police deny that guns were drawn or that they kicked the young man, but witnesses say they did.

One officer was fired, but was later reinstated. Randy Furst, the Strib reporter who uncovered the story, says two other officers are under investigation, but it’s not clear whether the investigations are related to this raid. The FBI is investigating the Gang  Strike Force for more than a year, Furst says, but they have not yet interviewed anyone connected with this raid. According to the Strib: “Minneapolis police declined to comment for this story.”

The Gang Strike Force stories hit the news big-time at the end of 2008, with stories of abuse and corruption culminating in legislative hearings and the disbanding of the unit.

Iron and steel in Nashwauk lead off MPR’s NewsQ page this morning, with a story of the Iron Range’s newest taconite plant now under construction, and plans for a steel mill to follow a few years after the 2012 start date for the taconite plant. Taconite mining is not new to the Range, but the planned steel mill would be a first, adding value to the taconite pellets and providing hundreds of jobs. MPR reports:

Essar Steel Minnesota is the third transformation of a company that began in the late 1990s as Minnesota Iron and Steel. When completed in 2015, the plant will be the first iron-mine-to-slab-steel operation on one site.

Producing steel next to the iron mine will greatly cut the costs of producing steel.

Essar is part of a global operation, doing business in India, Canada, the Middle East and Asia, as well as in the United States.

Top Secret America is a two-year Washington Post investigative project that uncovered scary details about U.S. intelligence operations so sprawling and secretive that even those charged with oversight don’t know the details:

When it comes to national security, all too often no expense is spared and few questions are asked – with the result an enterprise so massive that nobody in government has a full understanding of it. It is, as Dana Priest and William M. Arkin have found, ubiquitous, often inefficient and mostly invisible to the people it is meant to protect and who fund it.

Full disclosure: I haven’t yet waded through the series of articles, database, website, videos and maps – but I expect to do so and what I have seen so far convinces me that you should, too.

The initial article recounts interviews with top military and civilian government officials who acknowledge that no one knows the full extent of top-secret operations, and no one is allowed to know. The operations go far beyond “the government,” including more than 1900 private contractors.

Every day across the United States, 854,000 civil servants, military personnel and private contractors with top-secret security clearances are scanned into offices protected by electromagnetic locks, retinal cameras and fortified walls that eavesdropping equipment cannot penetrate. …

The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as $75 billion, 21/2 times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001. But the figure doesn’t include many military activities or domestic counterterrorism programs.

Among the concerns: the size of the operation, the lack of oversight, concern for U.S. civil liberties – and waste and ineffectiveness.

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