SourceWatch, November 18, 2006
Title: “Operation Falcon”
Author: Brenda J. Elliot
Ukernet, February 26, 2007
Title: “Operation Falcon and the Looming Police State”
Author: Mike Whitney
Student Researcher: Erica Haikara and Celeste Winders
Faculty Evaluator: Ron Lopez, Ph.D.
Under the code name Operation FALCON (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally) three federally coordinated mass arrests occurred between April 2005 and October 2006. In an unprecedented move, more than 30,000 “fugitives” were arrested in the largest dragnets in the nation’s history. The operations directly involved over 960 agencies (state, local, and federal) and were the brainchild of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and US Marshal’s Director Ben Reyna. The DoJ supplied television networks government-shot action videotape of Marshals and local cops raiding homes and breaking down doors, “targeting the worst of the worst criminals on the run,” emphasizing suspected sex offenders. Yet less than ten percent of the total 30,150 were suspected sex offenders and less than two percent owned firearms. The press has not asked, “Who were the others?” And to date, the US Marshal’s office has issued no public statement as to whether the people arrested in Operation Falcon have been processed or released. Author Mike Whitney cautions that Attorney General Gonzales has little interest in the petty offenders who were netted in this extraordinary crackdown. This action is instead, he warns, a practice roundup in the move toward martial law.
Altogether, there were three FALCON Operations, each netting roughly 10,000 criminal suspects. Between April 4–10, 2005, FALCON I swept up 10,340 fugitives in the largest nationwide mass arrest (to that date) in American history. Alberto Gonzalez proudly announced on April 15 through corporate media, “Operation FALCON is an excellent example of President Bush’s direction and the Justice Department’s dedication to deal both with the terrorist threat and traditional violent crime. This joint effort shows the commitment of our federal, state, and local partners to make our neighborhoods safer, and it has led to the highest number of arrests ever recorded for a single initiative of its kind. We will use all of our Nation’s law enforcement resources to serve the people, to pursue justice, and to make our streets and Nation safer.”
Operation FALCON II, carried out the week of April 17–23, 2006, arrested another 9,037 individuals from twenty-seven states mostly west of the Mississippi River. Operation FALCON III, conducted during the week of October 22–28, 2006, netted another 10,733 fugitives in twenty-four states east of the Mississippi River.
The US Marshals Service has not yet disclosed the names of the people arrested in these massive sweeps nor of what crimes they were accused. We have no way of knowing whether they were provided with due process of law, where they are now, or whether they have been abused while in custody.
SourceWatch contributors further ask for clarification, “Although Attorney General Gonzales stated on April 15, 2005 that Operation FALCON was ‘an excellent example of President Bush‘s direction and the Justice Department’s dedication to deal both with the terrorist threat and traditional violent crime,’ where is the connection between the Operation FALCON roundups and catching terrorists? Why did police wait for federally orchestrated raids to arrest known sex offenders and suspected murders? Why were state and federal agencies integrated with local law enforcement to simply carry out routine police work?”
The media played an essential role in concealing the important details of the Operation. In fact, the non-critical “cookie cutter” articles which appeared in newspapers across the country suggest that the media may have collaborated directly with the Justice Department. (see Chapter 9, Fake News) Whitney notes that nearly identical “news” segments and articles put the best possible spin on a story that most Americans might find deeply disturbing, and perhaps frightening.
While mass militarized police roundups make little sense as a method of apprehending fugitives, the FALCON program does make sense as a means of effectively setting up a chain-of-command structure that radiates from the Justice Department and relocates the levers of control to Washington where they can be manned by members of the administration. Whitney warns that the plan behind the FALCON program appears to have been devised to enhance the powers of the “unitary” executive by putting state and local law enforcement under federal supervision, ready for the institution of martial law (see story #2.)
Update by Mike Whitney
Operation FALCON presents the first time in US history that all of the domestic police agencies have been put under the direct control of the federal government. The implications for American democracy are quite profound.
Operation FALCON serves no purpose except to centralize power and establish the basic contours of an American police state. It is not an effective way of apprehending criminals.
For the most part, the media completely ignored FALCON. In fact, these extraordinary police-state sweeps did not elicit even one editorial or one column-inch of commentary from any journalist in the country. Following the government’s version of events, the story was simply brushed aside as trivial. For those who care to explore the media’s true role in undermining the fundamental rights of Americans; FALCON is probably a good place to begin. It illustrates how the media deliberately obscures facts that do not serve the overall interests of the state.
The last FALCON operation was carried out on October 28, 2006. Since then, the project has been put on “hold,” presumably until some time in the future when it will be reactivated by presidential decree. The precedents have now been established for law enforcement agencies across the nation to be taken over by the chief executive at a moment’s notice. If there is another terrorist attack within the United States, or the outbreak of an epidemic, or a natural disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina; we can expect that President Bush will consolidate his power by asserting direct control over all of the various federal, state, and local police agencies. Eventually, we will see that FALCON was organized with that very purpose in mind.
Recent changes to the Insurrection Act of 1807 as well as to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 allow President Bush to declare martial law at his own discretion and to take control of the National Guard from the state governors. That means that Bush now has a complete monopoly on all the means of organized violence in the country.
With the aid of the corporate media and an alliance of far-right organizations, Bush has successfully removed all the traditional obstacles to absolute power. The groundwork has been laid for an American dictatorship. FALCON is just one small part of that much larger plan.
UPDATE BY ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
A more recent and less publicized sweep was made March 7, 2007, in Baltimore, with the arrest of about two hundred fugitives. The rationale for this sweep is more puzzling, perhaps, as it was the only city involved. This sweep received only local media attention.
Numerous questions, as stated in the Operation FALCON article, remain unanswered. The mainstream press does not appear to be interested in exploring beyond the initial sweep events.
Both House and Senate committees on the judiciary and government oversight are digging into DoJ operations due to the US attorney firings and politicization of the Department, with all roads leading to the White House. It is not unreasonable to expect that these sweeps may eventually come under investigation as well.
The mainstream press, to my knowledge, has not responded at all to my SourceWatch coverage of this story. The press coverage that Operation FALCON received appears to be limited to DoJ and USMS news releases with the addition of an occasional local interest story. Information on the fate of the 30,000 plus who were arrested is conspicuous by its absence.
Additional information on this story should be available from both the DoJ and USMS. In reality, it most likely will not be, as neither has provided any updates. The SourceWatch article will continue to be updated when or if additional information becomes available.