Tuesday, September 02, 2014

What is Nevada US Attorney doing with criminal referrals from BLM? Status of 35 prosecution requests made on April 30th unclear as USDoJ withholds status

Daniel G. Bogden is Pres. Obama's US Attorney for Nevada.
LAS VEGAS — Two weeks after the highly-publicized armed confrontation with renegade rancher Cliven Bundy and self-styled militia supporters, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) filed 35 formal requests for prosecution with the U.S. Attorney in Nevada but all these charges have been held without action, according to records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Justice Department is also refusing to release information specifying the specific counts and the individuals named in these criminal referrals.

The cases are listed as active and have been neither accepted nor declined for prosecution during the ensuing four months after BLM filed them. Filed on April 30, 2014, the 35 criminal referrals exceed the number of all other criminal referrals filed by BLM during the rest of the fiscal year, and are five times the greatest number of cases BLM has ever filed in any one month. All are lodged with the U.S. Attorney’s Reno Branch and are assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Rachow. A 36th referral filed by BLM with the Las Vegas Branch on April 10, 2014 is similarly held in secrecy by the U.S. Attorney with no reported action. In a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, U.S. Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden said his office “does not sit on criminal referrals from BLM.”

“A criminal referral is the toughest option available to a land management agency like BLM, but that action is toothless if the U.S. Attorney ignores it,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that in the case of Bundy who is operating without a permit, BLM has no administrative options available. “BLM cannot do its job without legal support from the Justice Department.”

In July, PEER released a threat assessment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concluding that continued inaction is seen as a “perceived victory” by anti-government militias which “will likely inspire additional anti-government violence over the next year.” That assessment also pointed to “the recent murders of two Las Vegas police officers [as] the latest and most severe in a growing trend of anti-government violence.”

Following the mid-April stand-off, no action has been taken against Bundy or militia snipers who targeted law enforcement officers. Bundy’s cattle also continue to graze illegally on national park and range lands.

“Cloaking these cases only adds to the impression that this is a stall, not a deliberative pause,” Ruch added, noting that PEER is already suing BLM to force release of information explaining its actions, including the criminal referrals, the fact that the situation was allowed to fester for years, as well as for the latest numbers of assaults and threats made against its employees. “Tolerating flagrant law-breaking for years is how the present situation festered to fruition. We are apparently repeating the same mistake.”

The case reports cited by PEER are drawn from databases compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) displaying information from Justice Department data-tapes reflecting the criminal workload of U.S. Attorneys offices throughout the 90 federal districts and U.S. territories.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

News: Public Lands: DHS reports BLM's Bundy Ranch retreat will 'embolden' extremist militia

DHS Sec. Johnson with Pres. Obama & VP Biden.
Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, July 31, 2014
 
The Bureau of Land Management's retreat from an armed confrontation with protesters during its roundup of cows in Bunkerville, Nev., will inspire more anti-government violence in the coming year, according to a new intelligence report from the Department of Homeland Security.

The July 22 assessment from DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis also found the United States has experienced a spike in anti-government violence or plots over the past several months compared with previous years, fueled, in part, by the perception that armed militia were victorious at Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch, the assessment warned.

The assessment highlighted three incidents since April that appear to be connected to the events in Bunkerville, including the gunning down of two Las Vegas police officers, a threat that Texas militiamen will "exterminate" federal officials who attempt a "land grab," and discussions by a Missouri-based militia movement about attacking federal convoys or helicopters it believed could be used to raid Bundy's ranch.

Information in the unclassified assessment was deemed “law enforcement sensitive” and “not to be released” to the public or media. A spokesperson for DHS did not immediately verify its authenticity this morning.

"The belief among militia extremists that their threats and show of force against the BLM during the April Bunkerville standoff was a defining victory over government oppression is galvanizing some individuals -- particularly militia extremists and violent lone offenders -- to actively confront law enforcement officials, increasing the likelihood of violence," the assessment states. "This perceived success will likely embolden other militia extremists and like-minded lone offenders to attempt to replicate these confrontational tactics and force future armed standoffs with law enforcement and government officials in 2014."

The assessment was released this morning by the government watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER.

It comes weeks after the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors hate groups, came to a similar conclusion that the Bundy standoff could inspire more violence against the government (E&ENews PM, July 11).

According to the DHS report, the spike in anti-government violence and plots since last November is a "departure" from previous years and is driven by perceived government restrictions on gun use, land and property, the assessment said.

Some violent incidents appear to be inspiring future attacks, it said. For example, the husband and wife accused of shooting the two Las Vegas police officers in June left a note explaining that the attack was the start of a "revolution" and a "new day."

"Though the initial tipping point or cause of this spike in violence remains unclear ... some of these incidents are likely intended to inspire additional violent attacks, resulting in a greater rate of attacks than in the prior four years," the assessment found.

The office has recorded five such incidents of anti-government violence or arrests for violent plotting since last November, compared with just three incidents in the prior 46 months.

PEER blasted BLM's retreat at Bunkerville.

"Like pumping [bellows] onto a smoldering ember, Interior's retreat in Nevada this spring, abetted by related reckless political rhetoric, appears to be encouraging and empowering dangerous right-wing extremists," said a statement by PEER Southwest Director Daniel Patterson, who formerly worked for BLM. "This is a form of domestic terrorism which demands a swift, clear and definitive response."

BLM said it stood down in the Bundy standoff to protect its employees and the public and that it still intends to bring Bundy to justice for illegally grazing his cows.

But its decision to cancel the roundup triggered criticism, particularly among environmentalists, over the signal it sent to other states' rights advocates who disagree with the agency's land-management policies.

In May, a Utah county commissioner openly flouted BLM's closure of Recapture Canyon to motorized vehicles by leading an all-terrain vehicle protest ride. Though the ride had been planned before the Bundy incident, it was seen as another illustration of BLM's limitations in enforcing federal land laws.

No arrests were made or citations issued in the Recapture ride.

- from Greenwire

Extremist militias on rise in US. DHS assessment uncovered by PEER finds inaction on Bundy stand-off likely to spur more violence

Militia man on I-15 aims at US officers in Nevada, April 2014
LAS VEGAS — The failure to effectively address anti-government extremists is making matters more dangerous, according to a new federal law enforcement assessment released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The assessment predicts that the “perceived victory” by renegade rancher Cliven Bundy in his stand-off with the government is “likely to prompt more violence.”

An Intelligence Assessment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security dated July 22, 2014, titled “Domestic Violent Extremists Pose Increased Threat to Government Officials and Law Enforcement,” notes that, “After years of only sporadic violence from violent domestic extremists motivated by anti-government ideologies, I&A (Office of Intelligence and Analysis) has seen a spike within the past year in violence. Based upon reports from state and federal law enforcement reports, this Assessment finds:

  • “I&A assesses that perceived victory by militia extremists in a show of force against the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Nevada in April will likely inspire additional anti-government violence over the next year.”
  • “I&A also assesses that the recent murders of two Las Vegas police officers is the latest and most severe in a growing trend of anti-government violence…” and
  • The “perceived victory” from the Bundy stand-off “is galvanizing some individuals – particularly militia extremists and violent lone offenders – to actively confront law enforcement officials, increasing the likelihood of violence.” 

“Like pumping billows onto a smoldering ember, Interior's retreat in Nevada this spring, abetted by related reckless political rhetoric, appears to be encouraging and empowering dangerous right-wing extremists,” said PEER Southwest Director Daniel Patterson, who formerly worked with BLM. “This is a form of domestic terrorism which demands a swift, clear and definitive response.”

The Assessment stressed that law enforcement officers will be primary targets of militia attacks since they are perceived “as an extension of state control.” As with the 1996 Oklahoma City bombing of the federal building, government facilities are also at enhanced risk.

“The law enforcement assessment suggests that timidity in the face of threats only breeds more threats,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Without a cogent enforcement strategy, we can expect more armed confrontations putting both public servants and civilians at greater risk.”

BLM has taken no further action since it backed down this past April from an armed confrontation with militias seeking to prevent seizure of Bundy’s cattle illegally grazing on federal lands. PEER has been pushing for criminal charges against Bundy and militia snipers who targeted law enforcement officers. In addition, PEER is suing BLM to force release of information explaining its actions and why the situation was allowed to fester for years, as well as statistics on assaults against its employees.

- adapted from PEER.org

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lawsuit seeks Bundy Ranch documents and attack stats on BLM staff. BLM stonewalls on Nevada standoff, post-incident precautions and lessons learned

Will Obama & AG Holder move strongly against right-wing terrorism?
LAS VEGAS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is wrongfully withholding all documents about a recent standoff with a Nevada rancher as well as statistics on assaults against its employees, according to a federal lawsuit filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). BLM has taken no further action since it backed down from a recent armed confrontation between self-styled “militias” seeking to prevent seizure of Cliven Bundy’s cattle illegally grazing for 20 years on national lands at Gold Butte, Nevada.

Representing BLM rangers and other resource agency staff, PEER is seeking documents about what led up to and what followed the cattle seizure and subsequent standoff on the Bundy ranch, including –

  • Whether the U.S. Attorney declined to criminally prosecute Bundy, making seizure of his cattle the only avenue left to BLM for proceeding against Bundy--whose cattle had been illegally grazing on 160,000 BLM and National Park Service acres for more than a decade;
  • Any BLM advisories for handling similar incidents of armed resistance or livestock trespass; and
  • Steps taken to bolster the safety of BLM employees.  Media reports indicate that BLM staff have received death threats or have been targeted by armed militias.

In addition, BLM has refused to release its annual tabulation of threats and attacks against its employees. BLM has released this annual summary describing the nature and location of such incidents to PEER every year since 1996, when the organization started collecting a database of these assaults following the Oklahoma City bombing.

“Parts of the Sagebrush West are beginning to resemble Eastern Ukraine,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that BLM’s secretiveness is stoking various right-wing conspiracy theories. “To tamp down the rumor mill fueling these high-profile incidents, the BLM should be communicating more with the public not less. This information is important not only to BLM staff but also to members of the public visiting these federal lands.”

During the 1990’s when similar “Sagebrush Rebellion” incidents flared, the reluctance of the U.S. Justice Department to criminally prosecute referrals from the BLM and U.S. Forest Service frustrated land managers who felt powerless. For example, Gloria Flora resigned as supervisor of Nevada’s Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest citing Justice’s timidity.

“Allowing these calculated obstructions and armed threats to go unpunished seems to invite only more dangerous confrontations by extremists,” said Daniel Patterson, Southwest PEER Director who formerly worked with BLM, pointing to other subsequent incidents such as an illegal off-road vehicle invasion into BLM public lands closed-to-ORVs at Recapture Canyon, Utah. “Not knowing the agency’s limits invites violent ideologues to miscalculate with potentially tragic results.”

- adapted from PEER.org