Updated Information and Some Thoughts on the Chelsea Bombing

Now that we’re 27 hours on from the bombing in Chelsea last night we both have more information and still don’t know a lot. Law enforcement has now confirmed that both devices were improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using pressure cookers packed with shrapnel and wired with Christmas lights and cellphones. No one has claimed responsibility and local, state, and Federal law enforcement are working on trying to determine who was responsible, the motivation behind the attack, and if there is any linkage to the near miss and malfunctioning pipe bombs at a charity race in New Jersey earlier yesterday. An online posting claiming credit earlier today has been debunked as a hoax.

Myles Millar, a reporter for NY1, has reported out via twitter that:

And Corey Johnson, the NY City Councilman for the district that includes Chelsea has just tweeted out the following information:

State Senator Golden has confirmed Councilman Johnson’s information:

CNN has now reported (12:02 AM EDT) that the FBI has questioned several people at a traffic stop near the Verrazano Bridge, but that no arrests have been made. Also, based on surveillance video they have identified a person of interest, but are still pursuing numerous leads. And the NY Daily News has now reported that the FBI has arrested several people in possible connection with the Chelsea bombing. Specifically five people arrested who were traveling in an SUV and who are tied to a bomb cache of “three pipe bombs and two smaller devices” at a train station in Elizabeth, NJ.

All of this current/breaking information is still provisional and it remains to be seen how it plays out as the investigation proceeds.

There are some interesting things about what occurred last night. The first is that no one has come out and claimed credit. If this was tied to any of the big international players we would have had some confirmation by now. As a result it is likely that this was done by someone who has self radicalized and that increases the possible reasons for doing this. It could be, given the placement of the first pressure cooker device, that it was someone that had a personal grievance and motivation rather than an ideological/doctrinal (political, religious, ethno-national, etc) one. In this way it would have been like the Con-Ed bomber* that plagued metropolitan NY off and on for decades. This would make the bombing a solely criminal act, so it wouldn’t be terrorism, though with the recent arrests and the discovery of the cache of IEDs – pipe bombs and other devices – this now seems less likely. Or it could be a small group of people who have self radicalized and are acting out their subjective attachment to any number of possible ideological/doctrinal affiliations.

These days the news media has taken to calling these types of actors one of two things: lone wolves or terrorists. The differentiation seems to be whether they are (terrorist) Muslims or not Muslims (lone wolf). As I’ve mentioned here several times: words matter and ideas matter. This false dichotomy obscures that the process of radicalization is the same regardless of what ideology or doctrine one has internalized, identified with – subjectively or objectively, and is acting in support of. Moreover, it paints two exclusionary categories with very broad brushes that make all Muslims potential terrorists, while all non-Muslims can only be lone wolves. This is wrong. The reality of this type of behavior was for years referred to in the literature as leaderless resistance. Leaderless resistance, was first conceptualized by Louis Beam a white supremacist and member of the Christian Identity group Aryan Nations. Beam, linking the concept back to a Colonel Ulius Amoss, conceptualized leaderless resistance as:

An alternative to the pyramid type of organization is the cell system. In the past, many political groups (both right and left) have used the cell system to further their objectives. Two examples will suffice. During the American Revolution “committees of correspondence” were formed throughout the Thirteen colonies.

Two things become clear from the above discussion. First, that the pyramid type of organization can be penetrated quite easily and it thus is not a sound method of organization in situations where the government has the resources and desire to penetrate the structure; which is the situation in this country. Secondly, that the normal qualifications for the cell structure based upon the Red model does not exist in the U.S. for patriots. This understood, the question arises “What method is left for those resisting state tyranny?” The answer comes from Col. Amoss who proposed the “Phantom Cell” mode of organization. Which he described as Leaderless Resistance. A system of organization that is based upon the cell organization, but does not have any central control or direction, that is in fact almost identical to the methods used by the Committees of Correspondence during the American Revolution. Utilizing the Leaderless Resistance concept, all individuals and groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction, as would those who belong to a typical pyramid organization.

At first glance, such a type of organization seems unrealistic, primarily because there appears to be no organization. The natural question thus arises as to how are the “Phantom cells” and individuals to cooperate with each other when there is no intercommunication or central direction? The answer to this question is that participants in a program of Leaderless Resistance through phantom cell or individual action must know exactly what they are doing, and how to do it. It becomes the responsibility of the individual to acquire the necessary skills and information as to what is to be done. This is by no means as impractical as it appears, because it is certainly true that in any movement, all persons involved have the same general outlook, are acquainted with the same philosophy, and generally react to given situations in similar ways. The pervious history of the committees of correspondence during the American Revolution show this to be true.

Since the entire purpose of Leaderless Resistance is to defeat state tyranny (at least insofar as this essay is concerned), all members of phantom cells or individuals will tend to react to objective events in the same way through usual tactics of resistance. Organs of information distribution such as newspapers, leaflets, computers, etc., which are widely available to all, keep each person informed of events, allowing for a planned response that will take many variations. No one need issue an order to anyone. Those idealist truly committed to the cause of freedom will act when they feel the time is ripe, or will take their cue from others who precede them. While it is true that much could be said against this type of structure as a method of resistance, it must be kept in mind that Leaderless Resistance is a child of necessity. The alternatives to it have been show to be unworkable or impractical. Leaderless Resistance has worked before in the American Revolution, and if the truly committed put it to use for themselves, it will work now.

Again, words matter and ideas matter. What Beam described in 1992 is how a number of terrorist and insurrectionist groups have tried to mobilize its supporters. This includes everyone from the Aryan Nations’ own Order 1 and 2 to ISIL to a host of other ethno-national, ethno-religious, and political-ideological groups around the globe. And make no mistake leaderless resistance is a tactic of low intensity warfare: rebellion, insurrection, and/or terrorism. The failure of the news media to not fall back on this false dichotomy, as well as those who appear on TV and radio as subject matter experts that go along with the division of terrorists = Muslims and lone wolves = non-Muslims are not doing anyone any favors. Aside from misinforming the public as to the actual dynamics of what has happened it also plays right into the hands of ISIL in attacking and attempting to destroy the Grey Zone.

While we wait for further information, and hopefully clarity, as the FBI’s investigation proceeds, it is important to remember that anyone from any ethnicity, religion, and political ideology can be a terrorist. It is not just simply Muslim = terrorist, non-Muslim = lone wolves. Every extremist and terrorist group today tries to leverage leaderless resistance to achieve their strategic objectives and all of them are trying to destroy the Grey Zone – the civic space that all of us live in when we are not in private. The sooner we start keeping that in mind when dealing with these issues the better informed and off we will be in doing so.

* Interestingly enough James Brussel, the father of pyschological/behavioral profiling, claimed that he had successfully profiled the Con-Ed bomber and, as a result, solved the case. The truth was that his profile was completely off base other than the Con-Ed bomber was, indeed, a man. The actual hero of the case was Alice Kelly who had been assigned to go through Con-Ed’s files and had found letter after letter from a very angry and upset man named George Metesky. Metesky was the Con-Ed bomber, but Brussel claimed and because he did so, got the credit despite actually sending the police down numerous rabbit holes, while Alice Kelly is known only to a few as the person that broke the case open. Dr. Brussel was a great salesman, but a terrible profiler because, as the empirical criminological research shows, psychological/behavioral profiling doesn’t work.



Belated NFL Thread

I’m half-assed watching the Bucs. Winston is throwing interceptions again.

Here’s a photo of Ray-Jay Stadium I took the other day at a USF Bulls game:

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The Bucs aren’t there; they’re in Arizona, losing 10-0 at the moment.

Earlier, we were out in the country. Saw a canoe launch that led to a pretty pond:

image pond

We got some fresh veggies and produce for a salad. I made an orange vinaigrette based on this one from Giada. Got any good salad dressing recipes?

Open thread — football or other topics. Except politics.



Breaking News: Explosion in the Chelsea Section of Manhattan

Something exploded in a dumpster at 23rd Street and 6th Avenue in the Chelsea area of Manhattan around 8:30 PM EDT tonight. As of now the estimates are that 26 are injured. The explosion, and the dumpster, were located in front of the VISIONS at Selis Manor facility for the blind. The NYPD and FDNY are on site and investigating. This is obviously a developing situation, the information on it is going to change over the next 24 – 72 hours and we’ll update as appropriate. Here’s a link to CBS NY’s live feed. Here’s a link to live radio coverage if you prefer. (h/t: Raw Story for both) And here’s CBS NY’s live feed as an embed:

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Update at 11:oo PM EDT

Josh Marshall at TPM, who lives right across the street from where the explosion occurred, provides important context and given the nature of the incident, I’m posting his entire post because its important context:

You may have seen news of an explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan tonight. The cause of the explosion is still unknown, though there’s a flood of speculation. As it happens, the place where the explosion occurred is literally directly across the street from my apartment. My family and I were about thirty miles away when this happened. TPM’s New York office is about three and a half blocks away.

As long as everyone’s talking about this, let me share a few details about the location. The building where this happened (or immediately in front of this building) is a large, old-style institutional home for the blind. Very large, probably hundreds of occupants. The ground floor of the building is also a voting location. For months there’s been some sort of low-intensity construction going on. There’s scaffolding over the sidewalk in front of the building and there’s usually at least one mega dumpster immediately in front of the building – one of those huge construction dumpsters that’s like 30 feet long.

I’ve seen suggestions that this area is a highly congested area or a place where there’s lots of night life on a Saturday evening. That’s not true. You could find places like there within a couple hundred yards, maybe closer – at least places where there are restaurants with outdoor seating on to the sidewalks. But there’s nothing like that at this location, not at this home for the blind obviously but also not anywhere on that block. Even though 23rd street is a major east-west artery in Manhattan, there actually wouldn’t be very many people at all on that street in that area mid-evening on a Saturday night.

Of course, it’s a major street in Manhattan. So everything is relative. But there just wouldn’t be that many people there. I’d say a relatively light amount of foot traffic – virtually all people on their way to somewhere else. But just not that many of them. There are likely even fewer in precisely that area because of the scaffolding which has a kind of tunnel through it that you walk under.

Because of this I’m not terribly surprised that there seem to be relatively small number of injuries simply because at 8 pm or thereabouts there just wouldn’t be that many people around.

I’ve also seen reports that this is a gay neighborhood with an active gay nightlife. That’s at least somewhat misleading. Chelsea is a historically gay neighborhood. (Allow me to use these unwieldy phrases, just to explain some basics about the area quickly. And let me state the obvious: I’m no expert on neighborhood gayness. I’m trying to give people who don’t know the area as much context as possible. Please read the following in that light.) But it’s less distinctly so than it used to be. And there are lots of areas of the west side of Lower Manhattan that could as easily be termed a ‘gay neighborhood’. There are clusters of gay bars on the avenues a bit further south and west. (The Stonewall Inn is maybe a mile and a half to the South.) But there’s no business or bar or anything else on that block that is gay-identified in any way. Point being, if someone had a beef with the gay community there’s nothing symbolic or iconic on that block or really anything particularly interesting at all besides a few barber shops, a deli, a Donkin’ Donuts and a pizza place.

So is Chelsea a gay neighborhood? Sure, by some definitions. There’s a large gay community. But if you’re talking about Chelsea today, Chelsea in relation to other contiguous neighborhoods or this particular block, there’s little about it that would make you think this location as opposed to a thousand other places on the West Side of Lower Manhattan might be targeted by people hostile to gays.

I’ll update more if and when it’s relevant.

Update at 11:08 PM EDT

I’ve updated the links to CBS NY and included/attempted an embed. Mayor de Blasio will be holding a press conference momentarily.

Update at 11:30 PM EDT

The NYPD CT Unit has tweeted out that there is no evidence of terrorism and no specific threat/targeting of Chelsea.

At Mayor de Blasio’s press conference, they have just indicated, as answer to the question if this was a bomb, that they do not yet know what caused the explosion, they are investigating, but they do believe this incident was intentional.

Update at 11:40 PM EDT:

NYPD CT Unit is now reporting 29 injured with one possibly critical:

Update at 11:45 PM EDT

CBS 2 NY is now reporting a second device has been found on 27th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues and that Mayor de Blasio indicates that the 8:30 explosion was deliberate.

Update at 12:05 AM EDT

NYPD has now indicated that it was not the dumpster that blew up/was blown up, but something inside a toolbox placed in front of the building:

Update at 12:25 AM EDT

Raw Story has linked to a tweet at NY City Alerts that “purports to show the explosion”

And the NYPD has issued the following alert:

Update at 12:30 AM EDT

Dean Meminger, the Criminal Justice Reporter at NY 1 is now reporting:

Update at 12:35 AM EDT

And RT has already begun with the propaganda:

Update at 12:50 AM EDT

MSNBC is now reporting that law enforcement (from three law enforcement sources)  is stating that the pressure cooker has tape, wire, and a cell phone on it. It is unclear if it is a legit device or just made to look threatening. This is why they are concerned about the pressure cooker and they are now trying to determine whether they want to do a controlled explosion on site with the mobile unit or try to remove it to the NYPD bomb squad facility. They are also reporting that NYPD believes that the surveillance footage from the area of the initial explosion has information on it identifying a person of interest.



The Trials of Snack Team Six: Day Three

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Today was the third day in court for the members of Snack Team 6. When last we left our stalwart, masticating patriots their leader Ammon Bundy (call sign Munchies 6) was making the political statement that he was a political prisoner. But that, good citizens, was yesterday and what everyone* wants to know is what happened today. So without further ado…

Snack Team 6 opened with a motion to declare the trial a mistrial this morning. Ammon Bundy’s argument, made by his attorney Marcus Mumford, is that Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward’s testimony on the first day was highly prejudicial and that Judge Brown had not done enough (anything?) to deal with it. As always The Oregonian’s Maxine Bernstein is on the case:

Bundy’s lawyer Marcus Mumford had asked Ward during his cross-examination Wednesday if he had conducted his own investigation into the 2014 armed standoff that occurred near Bunkerville, Nevada with federal officers attempting to corral Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s ranch cattle. Cliven Bundy is Ammon Bundy’s father.

Ward explained that what he learned about the Nevada standoff “scared the hell” out of him. The sheriff went on to note that he had discovered during a Google search on the Internet that “some unstable people who had left that situation” killed two police officers while they were eating lunch in a restaurant.

In court, Mumford asked the judge to strike Ward’s comments, arguing they were unresponsive. The judge denied his motion.

Bundy’s older brother, Ryan Bundy, then stood up and objected, also asking the court to strike Ward’s statements, initially citing a hearsay objection but quickly contending instead that the comments were prejudicial.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown found merit in Ryan Bundy’s objection, and told jurors to disregard Ward’s references to events in Bunkerville that had to do with police officers being killed.

Now, Mumford argues that the judge’s instructions to jurors didn’t go far enough.

“While the Court offered a curative explanation to the jury, that instruction was inadequate in light of the highly inflammatory and prejudicial insinuations that Mr. Bundy’s actions are somehow related to a high-profile, double-murder of police officers,” Mumford wrote in his motion. “Accordingly, Mr. Bundy moves for a mistrial and dismissal with prejudice.”

If the court isn’t inclined to grant a mistrial, Mumford offered the judge three alternatives: strike all of the sheriff’s testimony, hold an evidentiary hearing to inquire further about what Ward learned from other law enforcement about the Bunkerville standoff, or tell the jury Ward’s statement was unfounded and intended to prejudice his client.

“Sheriff Ward is a governmental agent and a central governmental witness who was clearly aware of the prejudice he was unfairly creating with his testimony, which he intentionally directed at Mr. Bundy and his counsel, as indicated by his indignant use of the word “sir,” in the answer at issue,” Mumford wrote.

Moving quickly along, the Prosecution called a number of FBI agents to the stand today and they testified about the Facebook postings and other social media messaging written and/or sent by the Bundys and their followers before and during the standoff at the Malheur Federal Wildlife Refuge.

Four FBI agents who combed through about 300,000 pages of 23 Facebook accounts belonging to defendants in the federal conspiracy case, searching for terms relevant to the alleged conspiracy, also testified. They read aloud the messages and posts, as prosecutors put them on computer screens so jurors could read them.

In several of Ammon Bundy’s posts, he criticized Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, claiming the sheriff was “collaborating with the violators,” while he vowed to “do whatever it takes” to protect Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steve Hammond from having to return to federal prison on arson convictions.

“We as people desire to live in peace and tranquility, but we will defend our friends if necessary, Respectfully Ammon Bundy,” one post read. During the occupation, Ammon Bundy uploaded a video of him seated in a refuge office, saying, “We basically came out here not to protest, stomp our feet…We came out here to make a difference.”

As always click across if you want to see all of The Oregonian‘s great coverage of the trial.

We’ll be back Monday with another edition of How the Bundy Bounces – same Bundy time, same Bundy station!

Stay hungry citizens!

* Everyone being defined as Bella Q and LAO.



Snack Team Six Trial Day 3: The Political Prisoner is in Court Your Honor

 

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Today, Ammon Bundy the leader of Snack Team Six, appeared in court wearing his prison scrubs to make the point that he is a political prisoner.

“Mr. Bundy desires to appear as he is, a political prisoner not free to dress as if presumed innocent,” attorney J. Morgan Philpot said, reading his client’s statement. “He would prefer to drop the facade and appear as the political prisoner he has been made.”

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown asked Bundy to stand. She inquired whether it was his choice to appear in jail attire, and if anyone took his suit away.

“Your honor, I have no comment,” he replied.

The judge told him she must know if his decision was voluntary.

“I have no comment,” he repeated.

Philpot interjected, “Mr. Bundy feels he really has no choice — that that’s been taken from him.”

It appears that Mr. Bundy and the rest of Snack Team 6 seem intent on turning Judge Brown’s court into a circus to suit their own purposes. It remains to be seen just how successful they will be.



Bundy Bunch Trial Update Day 2!

The first witness called by the prosecution as they began to make their case today was Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward.  Sheriff Ward testified that:

“I was told my responsibility was to prevent them from going to prison, and if I didn’t do those things, they would bring hundreds of people to town to do my job for me,” Ward testified.

The ultimatum “in my mind, sounded bad,” the sheriff said.

Bundy also referenced the 2014 standoff with federal officers outside his father Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada, calling Bunkerville “a great victory” because the federal government was forced to retreat.

Ward said he encouraged Bundy and Payne to work through lawful channels rather than contemplating civil unrest, and stressed that the community would not tolerate the type of actions that occurred at Bunkerville.

Ward said he made it clear to the two men that, “We could not have violence or bloodshed in our community.”

He also testified that:

In a followup call, after it became apparent Ammon Bundy was taking a leadership role, the sheriff cautioned him. If anything goes wrong in the community, Ward said, “you’re going to be held responsible for it.”

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office was being flooded with with emails and phone calls seeking his intervention in the Hammonds’ situation. The agency was seeing 10 times the usual volume, he said, and it was impossible to keep up.

Among those were two November 2015 emails from co-defendant Neil Wampler. On Nov. 17, Wampler wrote that the sheriff had two options for handling the Hammond case: Protect your constituents or “see your county invaded by some of the most determined and organized and armed citizens alive in this country today.

“The Bundys have sent out a nationwide alert.”

Three days later, Wampler sent another email to Ward. Part of it read, “I assure you that our determination to protect the Hammonds is no Bluff…Hundreds of armed citizens, including yours truly, are prepared and waiting for the call WE AIN’T PLAYIN’. As Sheriff Poindexter said, let the chips fall where they may.”

Ammon Bundy also issued him an ultimatum:

“You have one week, sheriff,” Ward said Bundy told him, before adding something to the effect of, “One week to do the right thing.”

Click on over to read all of Maxine Bernstein’s excellent coverage of the trial. Here’s the rest of today’s highlights and a lay out of where things go from here.

We’ll be back tomorrow night, good citizens, to check in on how the Bundys Turn. Same Bundy time, same Bundy station.



Bundy Bunch Update: The Trial Begins

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(Worst Episode of Hollywood Squares Ever!)

Much to LAO and Bella Q’s delight, the trial for the remaining defendants – as in those who hadn’t pled out or had their charges dropped – in the Bundy family led Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Occupation began this week in Federal Court in Oregon. The lines to get in were long! The Prosecution opened up their case today, delineating how the Bundys and several of their codefendants had carefully planned their actions and that they were in clear violation of numerous Federal laws.

Barrow, during opening statements in the long-anticipated Oregon standoff trial, used Ammon Bundy’s own words caught on video Jan. 2 to argue that Bundy and his co-defendants aren’t being prosecuted for holding a political protest, but for leading an armed occupation of the refuge.

He played a video of Bundy standing atop a snowbank in the Safeway parking lot in Burns in his blue plaid flannel jacket and cowboy hat, declaring, “Those who understand what has happened here … I’m asking you to follow me to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. We’re going to make a hard stand. … We’re going to insist the Constitution be protected here in this country.”

“We are not prosecuting the defendants because they don’t like the government,” Barrow said. “In Ammon Bundy’s words, ‘This was much more than a protest.’ They were taking a ‘hard stand.’ ”

One of Ammon Bundy’s attorney’s, however, laid out a competing argument to justify his clients actions:

Marcus Mumford, a lawyer for Ammon Bundy, told the court that the peaceful demonstration was an effort to draw attention to the federal government’s illegal control and mismanagement of public lands. He said Bundy was attempting to use a provision of the law known as adverse possession to retake land improperly seized by the federal government many decades ago.

“The government has been squatting on this land for years, illegally and contrary to how (the U.S.) Congress intended,” Mumford said in a telephone interview on Monday.

We’ll be checking in all week, in between restocking the Balloon Juice Bunker – just in case… Those of you readers in NY and Ohio that are on LAO and Bella Q watch – please confirm receipt of your schedules and acknowledge your shift assignments in the comments!