Janet Reno, the official who ordered the pre-dawn
raid, was the first to offer one. "We tried
to avoid the use of force," she shares in a
televised message that hit America's kitchens just
moments after the image's release. Recounting details
of endless negotiations surrounding the fate of
6-year-old Elian Gonzalez—the Cuban boy rescued
at sea after his mother drowned trying to reach
America's shores—Reno tells us that time was
up. The Miami relatives, Lazaro and Marisleysis
Gonzalez, who had been fighting for the boy's asylum
for the past five months, left her no choice. They
refused to cooperate. Leaning into the screen like
a mother comforting a stricken child, Reno assures
us the boy is safe, soon to be reunited with his
father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Her words continue,
softer, trying to blanch the fractured, sullied
edges of an image she hopes America will forget.
And for most, life
But what about the
30 or so people who were gassed, kicked, brutalized
and threatened when 151 heavily-armed federal agents
(131 INS and 20 U.S. Marshals) descended upon the
area known as Little Havana? What about the Texas
high school sophomore, tending a herd of goats,
who was shot to death by a U.S. Marine on an anti-drug
patrol along the Rio Grande? Or Amadou Diallo gunned
down in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building
by New York City police? What about 70-year-old
Accelynne Williams, the wrongly accused Methodist
minister who died of a heart attack as officers
broke into his home, handcuffed him, pointed a gun
to his head and shouted obscenities? Or the United
Airlines pilot arrested on felony charges by National
Park Service police for taking a shell from an island
Does life continue?
Iris Baez, whose
son was killed by an NYPD officer three days before
Christmas, says no. "It changed our lives 101
percent," she says, her voice flat. "Our
young ones are still suffering, they miss him. My
husband and I can't function; if he were alive,
things would be different."
These people are
witness to the thin blue line, the line holding
back the enemy. The line battling America's jungle;
the line that detains and searches young men for
the crime of standing while black, or as they call
it, SWB. These people will remember because they
have the information missing from the Associated
Press photo; missing from Reno's account of the
pre-dawn raid; missing from most media accounts.
is us against them," says William Acosta, former
NYPD internal affairs investigator who now heads
the Manhattan-based Equalizer Foundation, a not-for-profit
trying to help whistleblowers, cops who report brutality
and corruption in law enforcement. "The monster
is within the police departments."
Gregory Paul Allen
was outside the Gonzalez home the night of the INS
raid. He isn't Cuban American; he's just an American,
a former Air Force enlisted man who wanted to help.
"I kept thinking they're not allowing this
family their day in court," he says.
So each day Allen,
an engineer, made the 30-mile trip from Fort Lauderdale
to Miami. "I felt embarrassed because more
Americans were not there...to support democracy."
On what is known
as Holy Saturday in Christian faiths, the crowd
outside the Miami home was smaller than usual. Allen
says things were quiet: some sleeping, some talking,
others praying, saying the Rosary. "No one
believed anyone would come and take the boy on a
But they did.
It was about 5:15
a.m. "I saw all these men in black outfits
running down the middle of the street," says
Allen. "They were screaming, yelling, spraying
us with gas and pepper spray. They started yanking
at me, nearly throwing me to the ground, and then
there was a battering ram about a foot from my chest."
by Judicial Watch, is one of more than 20 individuals
who have filed legal actions against Reno, Deputy
Attorney General Eric Holder and Immigration and
Naturalization Commissioner Doris Meissner. "We
want them held personally accountable," says
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, who refers
to the raid as illegal, unconstitutional and Nazi-like.
According to court
documents, heavily armed agents doused neighborhood
residents with gas and threatened to shoot, yelling,
"Get out of here, mother fucker." Maria
Rodriguez, who lives across from the Gonzalez home,
was awakened by the noise and went outside. As she
stood in her yard, federal agents pointed weapons
at her and shouted, "Stay back or we'll shoot."
So Rodriguez raised her hands in the air, but a
federal agent sprayed her with gas. Martha Teresita
Lara was kicked in the stomach. An NBC cameraman,
who was inside the Gonzalez home, was knocked to
the floor, kicked in the back and held at gunpoint.
Agents flipped over tables, broke down doors and
smashed religious artifacts, yelling, "Give
me the fucking boy or I'll shoot."
Mayberry is no more.
down-home boys, reminiscent of the Andy Griffith
television show, are a rarity, although some do
still exist. These days, more and more cops are
becoming heavily armed commando warriors, and former
warriors are becoming cops. The once clear line
between police and military has eroded. The delineation
of forces, first drawn in 1878 under the Posse Comitatus
Act, was diluted in 1981 by Congress. Under the
guise of fighting America's drug war, the Military
Cooperation with Law Enforcement Officials Act was
passed, opening the door for more blended relationships.
Since that time,
according to Eastern Kentucky University police
scholar Peter Kraska, the number of police paramilitary
units (PPU) in smaller departments has increased
by nearly 157 percent; no-knock dynamic searches
of private residences rose by 257 percent; and federal
police—even the postal service has a SWAT
Across the country,
thousands of Americans are being assaulted in their
homes by no-knock, dynamic entries; heavily-armed
SWAT teams are patrolling city streets; armored
convoys and military helicopters drop paramilitary
units into America's hot zones (targeted crime areas);
military special forces, like Navy Seals and Delta
Force, previously used to fight the toughest battles
in other countries, are training our police to fight
America's war, in America.
Between 1995 and
1997, the Department of Defense handed out 1.2 million
pieces of military hardware, including 73 grenade
launchers and 112 armored personnel carriers to
police. The Los Angeles Police Department got 600
Army surplus M-16s, and a seven-officer department
in Jasper, Florida was equipped with fully automatic
Even reporters spew
military rhetoric: the war on drugs, the war on
cancer, arresting a disease, a nation under siege,
combating school violence, the front lines of the
drug war, drug work camps, drug czars and calling
out the troops.
Kraska says these
new paramilitary tactics and heavy-duty weaponry
attract a new breed of officer. They love this stuff,
he says. "For them it's a rush."
Still, it's not
like these guys are born with a warrior mentality.
It takes training. Humans have a natural aversion
to killing their own, says Lt. Col. Dave Grossman,
former Army Ranger and paratrooper and author of
On Killing who teaches psychology
at Arkansas University. Studies of previous wars
indicate that as few as 20 percent of the soldiers
were willing to kill, he says, not something the
military was happy about. So after World War II,
they set out to systematically fix the problem.
They wanted their soldiers to kill; there are no
shades of gray in war.
Air Force Col. Charles Dunlap says, "In its
most basic iteration, soldiers are trained in killing."
how does it happen?
and operant conditioning, or doing a task repeatedly,
often thousands of times. Frank Morales, a New York
minister and Covert Action Quarterly
writer, likens it to mind control. "When training
for paramilitary units is done by special forces
people, there has to be a transference of these
values," he says. "Once they've got the
mindset, they see it as a war, couple that with
fear, and quick reflex training, they'll shoot before
they even realize it."
the MK-Ultra project.
Some may remember
Conspiracy Theory, the film that reveals
MK-Ultra—a CIA program of mind control, taking
ordinary men and turning them into assassins by
using hallucinogenic drugs, brutalization and deprivation.
MK-Ultra was stopped in 1973, but Morales says that
Peter Marino, former Director of the Office of Technical
Services of the CIA, the group that headed MK-Ultra,
was president and CEO of FATS (Fire Arms Training
System), the highly-touted, life-sized interactive
video simulation of a crime going down. "He's
got a gun," the officer in training yells to
his video-simulated partner, who can be easily mistaken
for a real guy. The perpetrator runs out of the
house, tension mounts and the officer fires his
laser gun at the video assailant. He shoots again.
"Are you okay?" he yells to his not-real
partner. The guy in training is scared shitless,
his voice shaking, trickles of sweat running down
his cheek. "He's down." Dead. End of simulation.
You can't get more
real than this.
FATS makes it so real that, once on the streets,
cops shoot as a conditioned response, many not realizing
it wasn't simulation until they see the stain on
But it's not just
simulation and repeated life-like drills. The making
of a soldier begins in boot camp or at the academy.
It's instilled into
their brains," says Acosta. "The trainer
says, 'Look kid, do your eight hours and go home
to your families. The animals will be out there
tomorrow. You protect yourself. It's us against
them kid, you remember that.'" And then there's
the clothing. The black uniforms. Like Mussolini's
black shirts or Hitler's brown shirts, it's all
part of soldier making, a power trip. "They
are trying to create an aura of destructive invincibility,"
says David Koppel of the Independence Institute
in Golden, Colorado.
So they've got the
repetitive training, the clothing, the weapons.
And once they're on the streets, it's dark and lonely.
The kind of darkness born only of fear, that dirty,
stinking, tongue-drying fear. The kind that makes
your eyes dart back and forth, always listening,
looking, waiting for the enemy. Then the silence,
the dark is broken by a scream. The warrior snaps
into action. The attack, the killing cue. And he's
running in a swirl of noises. Click, like in the
simulation, he's got the enemy in his site.
And so the war rages.
Take the case of
29-year-old Anthony Baez, Iris Baez' son. He came
home to NYC for Christmas, the first time in three
His mother said
the morning of December 19, 1994 he gave out his
presents to his family, went to church and then
said his good-byes. The family was packing his van
when the four Baez brothers decided to play some
football. A patrol car drives right into the middle
of the boys playing football.
"Hey man, you
trying to kill us?" one of the boys yells.
The cop laughs. "I don't want you here,"
So the boys walk
up the street a bit and resume their game. Anthony's
younger brother David misses the ball, and it hits
the patrol car.
"I told you
to get the hell out of here, who's the leader of
They explain that
this is their neighborhood, they're just four brothers
The officer handcuffs
David. Anthony protests. "I'm a corrections
officer, you can't do that." The officer grabs
him in an illegal chokehold. "My son died in
that officer's hands. He didn't give him CPR, they
didn't call am ambulance," Mrs. Baez said.
"They even restrained my husband from going
to help him."
Not all cops are
David Durk, the
NYPD detective who relentlessly fought corruption
and helped the famed Frank Serpico, says that not
all cops are bad. He ticks off some of the good
ones—several are women. And Spike Lee's Clockers
painfully portrays what it's like on the streets.
There are good cops, bad cops and good cops pushed
to desperate measures.
Robert Frazier, the midnight shift commander and
SWAT commander for the Charlottesville, Virginia
Police Department, cares about the job he's been
doing for many years. He says they mentally screen
potential officers. "We don't want the aggressors,
those with a John Wayne Syndrome...we test for that,"
he says, adding that they only use the SWAT unit
for hostage situations. "Everything revolves
around us serving the community. And when you have
a good SWAT team, it's proven that less rounds are
fired and fewer people are hurt."
Former U.S. Marshall
John Pascucci, who tracked the real bad guys like
Nazi-Germany's Angel of Death, Josef Mengele, says,
"Sometimes, with some criminals there is a
certain degree of violence, but I don't believe
you should hit someone more than once. You've got
to be a real asshole, or a very scared person to
use excessive force." He tells the story of
a time a young female state trooper stopped him
for speeding. "She was so afraid of me, she
was almost in tears," he says. "Her excessive
fear could have caused her to overreact."
Not a big fan of
the rising number of SWAT teams, Pascucci says they
have their place. He defends the way Border Patrol agents
removed Elian Gonzalez. "All they would have
needed was one person to have a gun, you can't stop
in the middle of an arrest and get weapons. They
had to be prepared."
Then there are the
good cops who refuse to go dirty, like the famed
Serpico, who was left to die by his fellow officers
after he exposed corruption in the NYPD. Acosta
says it becomes a hostile work environment. "They
change your work schedule, they send you to dangerous
locations, they put notes on your locker, they leave
dead rats, slashed throats bleeding on your car.
And many times they utilize internal affairs to
get something on you."
U.S. Marshall Stephen
Zanowic knows all about it. Early in his career,
he noticed rampant racism. He's white, his partner
was black. "I'd hear a group in a meeting talking,
saying things like, 'fucking nigger.' And so I started
speaking up to my supervisor, about the disparity
of treatment. I was labeled a white rat."
Once they gave him
a case to work but took away his car. So he tracked
it by bus, and then they'd ask, "Why are you
taking the bus?" He recounts numerous sordid
details. He tells about the day he and his partner,
William Scott, were in the office. Zanowic sees
two white deputies, part of their special operations
group, dressed in black fatigues with automatic
weapons. After Scott gets up to go downstairs, they
pull out their weapons, behind Scott's back, saying,
"Let's take this black bastard out right now."
Zanowic stops them.
But not too long after the incident, he was set
up on a stake out, and there was no back up. About
three years ago, he was forced to take Workmen's
Compensation leave because of severe anxiety and
stress. "That's what happens to whistle blowers,
they portray you as crazy, a malcontent."
It's the middle
of the night, and two Black Hawk helicopters descend
upon the east end of Santa Cruz Island, 25 miles
off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. In a
combat-style raid, they hold 15-year-old Crystal
Leigh Grabeel at gunpoint. In a letter to President
Clinton, she writes, "I was awakened by three
men wearing camouflage uniforms, bullet-proof vests,
ski masks and safety goggles. All three were carrying
machine guns. They entered my sleeping quarters
and started yelling, 'Put your hands where we can
see them.' And they unzipped my sleeping bag and
told me to get out and lay on the floor. I was handcuffed."
But Grabeel was
not a fugitive or a criminal. She was a teenager
on vacation. The 40 or so commandos were part of
the National Park Service special operations unit
who later arrested two employees of the hunting
camp for guiding without a license, one for disturbing
a Chumash Indian burial ground, and another was
charged with cooking without a license.
Andre Barclay, an
area resident sick of these warrior tactics, has
been trying to make the park service accountable
for their actions. He's been getting documents under
FOIA and recounts a lengthy list of victims. "It's
a frightening trend," he says.
pilot Sandy Bradin fell prey to the park service.
"You should've known better," they told
him. And yeah, he says, he should have. But when
Bradin slipped a shiny abalone shell into his bag
while walking California's Santa Rosa Beach with
his wife and brother-in-law, he was just thinking
what a beautiful shell it was.
No asphalt cowboy,
Bradin had been flying park rangers to the Channel
Islands for years. And although he no longer had
a contract with the National Park Service, friends
living on the island often invited him out. So he
knew all about preserving the island's Chumash Indian
Burial grounds and about not taking artifacts. Still,
it wasn't until rangers searched the trio, asking
questions about digging up Indian graves, that he
connected the two.