William Barr’s private army

Images like the one above have been making their way around the internet today — images of heavily armed men blocking streets in Washington, DC — men with no unit insignia — men with no name badges — men who are apparently refusing to tell people under whose authority they are blocking people. And, understandably, these images are freaking a lot of people the fuck out. As U.S. Naval War College professor Tom Nichols just wrote on social media, “No American should ever face law enforcement personnel, at any level, who do not identify themselves or wear insignia. This is atrocious.” And it is. It’s bad enough that we have the National Guard firing rubber bullets at peaceful protestors, and military police surrounding the Lincoln Memorial, but now we’ve apparently got unidentifiable paramilitary troops widening the no-go zone around the White House. Here’s video.

As former FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force member Clint Watts asks, “Do we even know if they are law enforcement? Who are these guys? (Who do they) report to? (What’s their) authority to enforce anything? What happens if they injure or kill someone? If I’m a citizen, am I required to do anything these people say?

While there are a number of theories as to who these men are, the most likely explanation that I’ve heard points back to this June 1 article about Trump administration Attorney General Bill Barr directing the Federal Bureau of Prisons to dispatch riot teams to DC in order to help stop the activities of “anarchistic and far-left extremists.” Assuming this is, in fact, the case, and these are officers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, one wonders why they would have removed the insignias from their uniforms?

update: OK, it looks as though they are from the Bureau of Prisons. Here’s an explanation from former Senior Border Patrol Agent Jenn Budd.

“1) Bureau of Prisons as guards at White House explanation: So it’s a bit tricky. DC is “special” because it’s not actually a state. But Bureau of Prisons is under Dept of Justice which is led by Bill Barr, the Attorney General. Can he order them to guard the White House? Yes. 2) Are they trained as peace officers? No. So whatever happens would be argued in court. I don’t suggest protesters test.”

So, yeah, it looks as though Bill Barr has his brought his own private army to DC.

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  1. Trump just tweeted
    Posted June 3, 2020 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    “I feel more and more confident that our economy is in the early stages of coming back very strong.” -DJT

  2. Posted June 3, 2020 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

  3. John Brown
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Between agent oranges and Bill Barr’s opus dei fat christo fascist ass, we’re going to have to be careful when we string them up. A regular service station awning like was used for Mussolini isn’t nearly sturdy enough.

    I thought Gen Milley’s letter drawing concern over misuse of military to the Joint Chiefs was the most important of yesterday’s cray cray.


  4. Scott
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Trivia question for the day:

    Which US President negotiated a peace agreement with the Taliban and then, 3 months later, declared war on US citizens?

  5. Anonymous
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Where are all the right wing MM.com regulars today, telling us how they would have been perfectly fine with it if Loretta Lynch had called in the federal prison riot squad officers to police Washington, DC?

  6. Bob
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    How do you right-wing paranoids justify your fuhrer waging a war on citizens who are protesting, in most cases, completely peacefully? Still with him?

  7. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    This “peaceful protest” bullshit you keep saying has to stop. Our country is being burned to the ground by domestic terrorists. If Trump supporters did 1,000th of what antifa does you would bust a gasket.

  8. site admin
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Heather Cox Richardson on Facebook:

    Social media roiled all day as users tried to figure out who were the soldiers in Washington, D.C. wearing no identification and saying they reported to the Department of Justice. Tonight the answer came: they were riot teams from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a law enforcement agency under the Department of Justice that oversees incarcerated people.

    This is problematic for a number of reasons. First, according to Holocaust scholar Waitman Wade Beorn, who studies ethical decision making in the military, it’s a problem because soldiers are trained to defend civilians while prison guards are used to seeing civilians as their enemies, and are accustomed to using force, rather than de-escalation, to subdue them. The U.S. military, Beorn points out, does not like to be employed against Americans, and has a long tradition of that reluctance.

    Their lack of name tags and insignia was also problematic. It hampers accountability– how can you complain about the actions of an officer if you cannot identify him?– and it blurs the lines between actual officers of the law and the men on the streets toting guns and demanding protesters answer to them. The use of unidentifiable police is common among authoritarian leaders.

    And indeed, backed by Attorney General William Barr, Trump appears to be launching a bid to become an authoritarian leader himself. Law enforcement officers operating under his orders are attacking peaceful protesters and journalists, while the president is framing himself as a powerful leader in front of important Christian symbols: on Monday St. John’s Episcopal Church, the famous “Church of Presidents” where his predecessors back to Madison worshipped, Tuesday at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C.

    He has supporters in his quest. Today, the New York Times published an op-ed by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican, calling for “an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.” With no evidence, he claimed that “cadres of left-wing radicals like Antifa” are “infiltrating protest marches… for their own anarchic purposes.”
    On Monday, Trump announced he would call in active-duty troops to “dominate” the streets, and about 1,300 troops were brought to Washington, D.C. early this week.

    But his announcement sparked a widespread and concerted push back by American military leaders today, with the Pentagon saying it has no intent to use active-duty troops in any law enforcement roles.

    General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Mark T. Esper, Secretary of Defense, were both caught in Trump’s photo-op walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church Monday after National Guard officers had cleared peaceful protesters from the square in front of it with tear gas and rubber bullets. Today, they distanced themselves from the president.

    Milley issued a memo to all branches of the U.S. military reminding them to honor their oaths to the Constitution, a document “founded on the essential principle that all men and women are born free and equal, and should be treated with respect and dignity. It also gives Americans the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.” Milley’s wording reflects that forty percent of the nation’s active-duty and reserve troops are people of color who aren’t keen on seeing the president empowering white supremacists.

    For his part, Esper told reporters that he did not believe active-duty military should be sent to American cities, contradicting the president, who later chewed him out for it.

    But Milley and Esper were not alone. Eager to distance themselves from Trump and the imposition of martial law, a wave of military leaders from the Air Force, Army, Navy spoke up today to call for justice for Black Americans and to reiterate their loyalty to the Constitution.
    John Allen, a retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general and former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, called out June 1, 2020 as the day that might well “signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.”
    “There is no precedent in modern U.S. history for a president to wield federal troops in a state or municipality over the objections of the respective governor. Right now, the last thing the country needs—and, frankly, the U.S. military needs—is the appearance of U.S. soldiers carrying out the president’s intent by descending on American citizens,” he wrote.

    Allen pointed out that the dangers of “Antifa,” a loose designation for those opposing fascism, pale in comparison to “violent white supremacist groups,” who have “murdered, lynched, tortured, terrorized, oppressed, and discriminated against black Americans from the beginning of the idea of America.”

    James Stavridis, the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, expressed dismay at the use of the military against peaceful protesters. Soldiers ”are not meant to be turned against their fellow citizens,” he wrote. “Our founding fathers feared the use of a standing army that could be used to further the aims of a dictator…. The idea of “boots on the ground” and “dominating the battlespace” in our American cities is anathema to America.” He invoked Tiananmen Square, where the Chinese government brutally suppressed protesters exactly 31 years ago, killing and wounding thousands, as a warning for what could happen if the military gets dragged into domestic politics.

    General James Mattis, Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, wrote a scathing public condemnation of Donald Trump himself. “Angry and appalled,” by this week’s events, Mattis said Trump had ordered troops “to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens,” and warned that we should use uniformed military “only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors.” “We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.”

    Remembering that in World War Two the Nazi slogan was “Divide and Conquer,” Mattis noted that Trump “tries to divide us.” “We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must,” he wrote, “reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.” He concluded: “Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.”

    It is not just military leaders who have spoken out against Trump. As of today, all four living presidents– Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama– have all called for racial justice and a better government.

    Today, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison charged all four of the Minneapolis police officers at the scene of George Floyd’s murder. Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, has been charged with second-degree murder. The other three officers, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng, are charged with felony aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. They face maximum sentences of forty years in prison.

    Trump’s reelection campaign is faltering as his poll numbers drop, and his supporters are trying desperately to turn the nation’s focus back to the idea of “Obamagate.” Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings on the origins of the Russia investigation, interviewing Rod Rosenstein, the former Deputy Attorney General who oversaw the investigation after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. The committee focused on the applications to the court to allow wiretapping on former Trump aide Carter Page, and while Rosenstein defended those applications, Republicans pounced on his admission that they were poorly prepared. They also attacked presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Obama for what they said were abuses of power that rivaled those of Richard Nixon.

    Trump supporters on Fox News media expressed frustration that no one seemed to be paying attention to the hearings.

    Meanwhile, across the nation, protesters and city mayors are pulling down Confederate statues, a physical political ritual that is a universal herald for regime change.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Now they’re bussing in Border Patrol officers to DC.


  10. Lynne
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    HW, it is an inability to distinguish between peaceful protesters and those who are burning things in order to make some kind of point that is a big part of the problem. I wonder if you are ok with Trump’s failures with that because you seem to have a similar deficit?

  11. Bob
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Antifa my ass. They all eat at the pizza place with your Q wankers. Faker than the tooth fairy or smart republican

  12. Demetrius
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    “Which side are you on boys?”

    America is a complex, troubled place, with many confounding issues, and few easy answers.

    But, while no rational person believes violent mobs, or looting, will bring any solutions… when it comes to upholding and protecting basic civil rights – like the right of citizens to criticize their government, or peacefully protest – there can be no middle ground.

    Anyone who seeks to condone or defend this dangerous and unprecedented erosion of fundamental liberties is choosing a side, whether they know it or not.

  13. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    “burning things”

    It’s called arson, dick.

  14. Posted June 4, 2020 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

  15. Kyle Griffin by proxy
    Posted June 5, 2020 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Sens. Warren and Booker and Reps. Krishnamoorthi and Jeffries are demanding answers from A.G. Barr on the Justice Dept.’s deployment of non-identifiable federal security forces to oversee protests, saying it “runs counter to the need for accountability.” https://bit.ly/2za0SxO

  16. Jean Henry
    Posted June 5, 2020 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    HW– You are evading the point. We have systems in place, however flawed to deal with property damage. As someone deeply concerned about the nefarious doings of the deep state, when an unidentified armed infantry engages civilians in our nation’s capital, you seems amazingly unconcerned.

    What if Obama had done the same to crack down on White Supremacists?

    Your double standard is showing again. Have you no shame?

  17. Something from Facebook
    Posted June 5, 2020 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    An anguished question from a Trump supporter: ‘Why do liberals think Trump supporters are stupid?’

    THE SERIOUS ANSWER: Here’s what the majority of anti-Trump voters honestly feel about Trump supporters en masse:

    That when you saw a man who had owned a fraudulent University, intent on scamming poor people, you thought “Fine.” (https://www.usatoday.com/…/trump-university-sett…/502387002/)
    That when you saw a man who had made it his business practice to stiff his creditors, you said, “Okay.” (https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-hotel-paid-millions-in-…)
    That when you heard him proudly brag about his own history of sexual abuse, you said, “No problem.” (https://abcnews.go.com/…/list-trumps-accusers-allega…/story…)
    That when he made up stories about seeing Muslim-Americans in the thousands cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center, you said, “Not an issue.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/donald-trumps-outrageous-…/)
    That when you saw him brag that he could shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and you wouldn’t care, you exclaimed, “He sure knows me.” (https://www.usatoday.com/…/president-donald-tru…/4073405002/)
    That when you heard him relating a story of an elderly guest of his country club, an 80-year old man, who fell off a stage and hit his head, to Trump replied: “‘Oh my God, that’s disgusting,’ and I turned away. I couldn’t—you know, he was right in front of me, and I turned away. I didn’t want to touch him. He was bleeding all over the place. And I felt terrible, because it was a beautiful white marble floor, and now it had changed color. Became very red.” You said, “That’s cool!” (https://www.gq.com/story/donald-trump-howard-stern-story)
    That when you saw him mock the disabled, you thought it was the funniest thing you ever saw. (https://www.nbcnews.com/…/donald-trump-criticized-after-he-…)
    That when you heard him brag that he doesn’t read books, you said, “Well, who has time?” (https://www.theatlantic.com/…/americas-first-post-t…/549794/)
    That when the Central Park Five were compensated as innocent men convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, and he angrily said that they should still be in prison, you said, “That makes sense.” (https://www.usatoday.com/…/what-trump-has-said-…/1501321001/)
    That when you heard him tell his supporters to beat up protesters and that he would hire attorneys, you thought, “Yes!” (https://www.latimes.com/…/la-na-trump-campaign-protests-201…)
    That when you heard him tell one rally to confiscate a man’s coat before throwing him out into the freezing cold, you said, “What a great guy!” (https://www.independent.co.uk/…/donald-trump-orders-protest…)
    That you have watched the parade of neo-Nazis and white supremacists with whom he curries favor, while refusing to condemn outright Nazis, and you have said, “Thumbs up!” (https://www.theatlantic.com/…/why-cant-trump-just-c…/567320/)
    That you hear him unable to talk to foreign dignitaries without insulting their countries and demanding that they praise his electoral win, you said, “That’s the way I want my President to be.” (https://www.huffpost.com/…/trump-insult-foreign-countries-l…)
    That you have watched him remove expertise from all layers of government in favor of people who make money off of eliminating protections in the industries they’re supposed to be regulating and you have said, “What a genius!” (https://www.politico.com/…/138-trump-policy-changes-2017-00…)
    That you have heard him continue to profit from his businesses, in part by leveraging his position as President, to the point of overcharging the Secret Service for space in the properties he owns, and you have said, “That’s smart!” (https://www.usnews.com/…/how-is-donald-trump-profiting-from…)
    That you have heard him say that it was difficult to help Puerto Rico because it was in the middle of water and you have said, “That makes sense.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/the-very-big-ocean-betwee…/)
    That you have seen him start fights with every country from Canada to New Zealand while praising Russia and quote, “falling in love” with the dictator of North Korea, and you have said, “That’s statesmanship!” (https://www.cnn.com/…/donald-trump-dictators-kim…/index.html)
    That Trump separated children from their families and put them in cages, managed to lose track of 1500 kids, has opened a tent city incarceration camp in the desert in Texas – he explains that they’re just “animals” – and you say, “Well, OK then.” (https://www.nbcnews.com/…/more-5-400-children-split-border-…)
    That you have witnessed all the thousand and one other manifestations of corruption and low moral character and outright animalistic rudeness and contempt for you, the working American voter, and you still show up grinning and wearing your MAGA hats and threatening to beat up anybody who says otherwise. (https://www.americanprogress.org/…/confronting-cost-trumps…/)

    What you don’t get, Trump supporters, is that our succumbing to frustration and shaking our heads, thinking of you as stupid, may very well be wrong and unhelpful, but it’s also…hear me…charitable.

    Because if you’re NOT stupid, we must turn to other explanations, and most of them are less flattering.

    – Adam-Troy Castro

    (To all who agree with its content, I ask that you PLEASE SHARE IT on your own post, and ENCOURAGE OTHERS to do the same.)

  18. Posted June 6, 2020 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

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  1. […] you may recall, we discussed the fact that William Barr’s Department of Justice had deployed federal agents with no name badges and no unit insignia to police the streets of Washington. Well, it seems to be happening again. Oregon Public […]

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