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St. Louis County Pays Woman $750,000 After Cops Perform A No-Knock Raid, Kill Her Dog... All Over Unpaid Utility Bills

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Here's where we are in the development of the American police state: no-knock raids over code violations.

Angela Zorich says she remembers the April day in 2014 like it was yesterday.“I saw them and they're just pouring in, they're covered head to toe, they got helmets, they're like military style," said Zorich.Her life forever changed after she says the St. Louis County Police Department’s SWAT team came with a no-knock warrant for an unpaid gas bill."Why is this cop able to call in a SWAT team because I didn't have gas service at my house?" said Zorich.
The taxpayers of St. Louis County are now out $750,000 because the local boys thought the best way to address a "problem property" complaint was to talk themselves into feeling reasonably afraid and head in guns blazing.The officers knew Zorich possessed at least one pit bull. But this alone wasn't enough to justify the no-knock raid. Nor the murder of the dog. Officers claimed the dog charged them, necessitating the killing of the family pet. But testimony during the trial exposed this for the lie it was. The dog was shot in the back, six feet away from the nearest officer who, let's remember, was wearing tactical gear.That wasn't the only lie. The St. Louis PD also apparently misled the judge about the level of danger they might be facing.
[Attorney Jerome J.] Dobson says the lead officer fabricated a story to a judge and fellow SWAT members, leading them to believe Zorich’s sons were highly violent, to get the no-knock warrant issued.Dobson says that warrant was executed just two hours after it was signed."No evidence was going to be destroyed, you're not going to flush the gas meter down the toilet," said Dobson.
From the details of the case, it appears the St. Louis PD may not have even have had judicial permission to serve a no-knock warrant. The SWAT team had a warrant but it was the SWAT team leader who arbitrarily decided the team could bypass the Constitutional niceties of knock-and-announce. All this to serve an administrative warrant -- not a criminal warrant -- to search for evidence of violations of County ordinances.
Upon obtaining the Warrant, Rinck contacted Pfanstiel, a Tactical Operations Unit ("TAC") supervisor, and requested he execute the Warrant. Approximately one hour after obtaining the Warrant, Rink met Pfanstiel and other TAC officers at a park close to Plaintiff's house. Rinck informed the TAC officers that residents of Plaintiff's home had histories of violent behavior, including numerous assaults and one armed robbery, and that someone inside Plaintiff's house had slammed the door and shouted "fuck you" at him several days earlier. Rinck also told the officers about the many complaints the police department received about Plaintiff's dogs, including a report that her pit bull attacked another dog. Rinck did not mention the telephone conversation that he and Plaintiff had the previous day.Because Fumagalli was the "team leader" and Zavorka was the "point person," they reviewed the Warrant and drove by Plaintiff's property with Rinck in preparation for execution of the Warrant. Fumagalli created a plan for execution of the Warrant. Pfanstiel approved Fumagalli's plan and decided the TAC team would perform a no-knock entry.
That's not how that's supposed to work. No-knock warrants need to be issued by judges who can view the sworn statements justifying this kind of entry. This decision was made after the warrant -- a regular warrant -- had already been obtained. And this decision was unilateral -- subject zero impartial review.And that's why the county is now paying Zorich for killing her dog during this raid over an unpaid gas bill. This case was headed to trial and the County has decided taxpayers should pay for the violations committed by their public servants, rather than let these public servants be held individually responsible for their terrible decisions and actions.
In support of his position that deployment of a TAC team to execute the Warrant was justified because there was an immediate threat to officer safety, Rinck cites Holland. There, the Tenth Circuit held that the decision to deploy a SWAT team to execute search and misdemeanor arrest warrants at a 60-acre compound was reasonable because the owner and several other residents had histories of violence, officers suspected there would be firearms present, and the SWAT team's "goal was to effect the arrest and search warrant quickly, without injury, and to preserve evidence." 268 F.3d at 1190-91.The instant case is inapposite. The SWAT team in Holland was deployed to arrest a criminal suspect and seize evidence of an assault. Here, the TAC officers' intended to gain entry and secure Plaintiff's house to enable Rinck and the housing inspectors to inspect Plaintiff's property for housing code violations, none of which were characterized as emergent. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, Rinck determined, in the absence of any exigency and without allowing Plaintiff a reasonable opportunity to consent to an inspection, that it would be appropriate for the TAC unit to execute the Warrant within hours of obtaining it. Based on these facts, a reasonable jury could find that Rinck's conduct deprived Plaintiff of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
I'm sure most of us believe everyone should pay their bills. But do we believe it hard enough to send 10 armed officers through the front door of someone who isn't keeping their gas bill current? I doubt that. And I doubt any jury would either.

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Cisco Shells Out $8.6 Million For Selling The Government Easily Hackable Tech

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Not keen on competing with cheaper Chinese hardware, Cisco has long lobbied the US government to hamstring Chinese competitors like Huawei for lax security practices. At the beginning of this decade as Huawei began to make inroads into US markets, Cisco could frequently be found trying to gin up lawmaker angst on this subject for obvious, financial gain. And while Huawei (like most telecom giants) certainly does dumb and unethical things, it's fairly obvious that at least a portion of our recent hyperventilation over (so far unproven) allegations that Huawei spies on Americans is good old fashioned protectionism.Fast forward to this week, when new reports suggested that Cisco should have spent a little more time worrying about its own products. The company was required to pay the government $8.6 million after it was found the company routinely sold the government hackable video cameras, then did nothing to secure the devices once they were in the wild. For years. The vulnerable gear, exposed by a Cisco whistleblower, was sold to a variety of hospitals, airports, schools, state governments and federal agencies.And while news of the scandal was buried underneath the other, more notable privacy and security scandals of the day, the flaws were not what you'd call modest:

"Hackers could use the flaw not just to spy on video footage but to turn surveillance cameras on and off, delete footage and even potentially compromise other connected physical security systems such as alarms or locks all without being detected, said Hamsa Mahendranathan, an attorney at Constantine Cannon, which represented the whistleblower James Glenn."
Cisco states that there's no evidence that these vulnerabilities were exploited, though that seems like an impossible claim to make given the scope of the impacted products, many of which aren't even still in circulation. Glenn suggested the vulnerabilities were "trivial" to exploit. He also noted that despite being aware of the issue, Cisco left the cameras unfixed for four years, opening to liability given its contractor relationship to government:
"Glenn, during his work at a Cisco subcontractor called NetDesign over the course of 2008, sent the company detailed reports revealing that anyone with a moderate grasp of network security could exploit this software, but he never got a response, his attorneys said. Glenn was fired by NetDesign in 2009, his attorneys said. They are not alleging that dismissal was in retaliation for pointing out the flaw. He filed the whistleblower lawsuit two years later."
The settlement (astonishingly) marks the first time in US history that a government contractor has been forced to pay out under a federal whistleblower law for failing to have adequate cybersecurity protections, though it's unlikely to be the last. After the Washington Post broke the story, the New York Times found that the settlement will be doled out to an array of US government agencies, including FEMA, Homeland Security, the Secret Service, and all four branches of the military.

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