Week #2: White Collar Crimes and Public Corruption, Civil Rights Crimes and Human Trafficking, and FBI Intelligence
The building has a little “FBI store” that we got to raid…with money, of course. I snagged a FBI Citizens Academy polo and a national and regional FBI challenge coin. Nerdy, but I don’t care!
Walking into the conference room where the class is held, we all got fancy leather portfolios with the FBI logo embossed on it as a gift and to put our handouts in. Nice little touch. I didn’t expect to get anything other than free bullets out of this (sent downrange in full auto, of course!).
One thing I forgot to mention here is that I’m going by memory of the classes…not taking notes. I’m very likely not capturing everything here. If any of these topics interest you, I encourage you to apply for the academy.
The second evening’s presentations started off with white collar crimes and public corruption. This was interesting in the sense that we got to really see how deep or low-level the FBI will fly…all the way down to local stuff, especially when it comes to public corruption. I asked where exactly is their “floor” and why are they chasing crimes to seemingly non-federal levels or at least outside of their “jurisdiction.” A big reason for public corruption was to keep the investigations unbiased. The example was given for a local mayor who may very well have been born and bred in his town and knows everyone there. If a local investigative force were to handle the case, the chance of corruption is very high simply from the good ‘ol boy aspect (they all know each other). One thing they pointed out was that white collar crime and public corruption are higher on their priority list than violent crimes and gangs which usually takes people’s breath away. The reason they gave for this is think of how massive the effects of public corruption are; they can/do effect an entire community at the minimum, but typically an entire region and many many more people than a smaller (geographically-speaking) crime like gangs. Plus, if we lose public trust in our government, the potential for all hell to break loose is very high. Government corruption must be dealt with effectively was the message. Also, with white collar crimes (i.e. bank fraud, trading fraud, etc.), you’ve got the potential to collapse the entire US market (look at things today). While gangs and violent crime are very important to those directly involved, they don’t necessarily jeopardize our country or regions. A delicate line they have to walk with these prioritizations, but I can understand.
A point they kept harping on is how under-staffed they are. They have something on the order of 9 agents total to work on public corruption…for all of NC. Because of this, they can’t get to all the cases so they must pick and choose the ones that will make the most impact. I personally hate that this pill must be swallowed and that the bad guys are allowed to go unchecked at the end of the day (relatively speaking).
Onto civil rights, I was thinking this was going to be my least favorite subject. Turns out, it was very interesting likely because the agent who presented was darn-near superb both on his subject and his speaking ability. He dove straight in after a brief warning that it is a very touchy subject and to not let your feelings get hurt by the topics. Of course the Trayvon Martin case came up and the topic bounced around awkwardly for a little bit. I did take note that the agent slipped up (intentionally or not, I don’t know) and called it the “Trayvon Martin murder.” I fought the urge to correct him! It was very eye-opening to learn about the US’s lack of *federal* hate crime laws prior to 2009 (I think that’s the year) when two hate crime cases finally sparked some action. the one where the black guy was dragged behind a truck and killed in Texas back in the 90’s and the other was a gay kid that was beaten so badly he died. Previously, for it to be a *federal* (not local or state) case, it had to be a hate-motivated crime that prevented someone form doing a Constitutionally-protected right (i.e. voting). If, in the case of the black guy, they were killed just walking down the street, the Fed’s had no case. So now the federal law allows for prosecution of crimes that are motivated by hate of sex, race, age, sexual preference, or disability (I might be forgetting one there). The trick is proving that the crime was motivated by one of those hates/discriminations.
The human trafficking was really sickening to learn about. I don’t live under a rock, but I really had no clue about some of the horrors that go on right under our noses. Trafficking is broken into two categories: labor and sex…both are obvious as to what they are. Right here in the good ‘ol US of A it goes on. The Agent gave an example of a brothel that was busted here in Charlotte a couple years ago. When they raided, the girls went running out the back but stopped only a block away. When asked why they stopped, they said because they had no idea where they were and had no idea where to go. All they knew is that they were likely in Atlanta a couple weeks ago but that’s it.
An interesting point was raised about Freedom of Speech. The Agent said there is a book “out there” online that actually teaches how to traffic people. They can’t do anything about it because it just simply “talks” about it but doesn’t “do” anything. That right there makes me sick.
The trafficking stuff really hit home because I thought of my kids. If someone even thought of harming them, especially in such a grotesque way as trafficking them in sex or even labor…I’ll leave the rest of that statement off…
The last presentation was intelligence. I thought this was going to be the most interesting but it turned out to be sort of dry. They showed more of the format of how they report intel and how they share it than how it’s actually gathered. I was hoping to see some James Bond gadgets! I actually made a comment similar to that during a Q&A and they basically said that there’s no way they could show us their techniques or even the toys. I won’t call it boring, but it was definitely my least favorite.
The spice of the night though was the conspiracy theorist. He struck again this time with another push about whether or not drones were being flown over Charlotte (because he read it online somewhere!). But to trump that one, he stopped an Agent in the middle of his presentation wanting to know if the documents he gets from the Freedom of Information Act requests he makes are actually true…”because you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I’ve seen about FEMA!” Forehead slap right about now. Mind you, this was after no less than 30 other random questions throughout the night…most of which were prefaced or laced with “I read online somewhere…” or “I saw a report that said…” I feel sorta bad for the guy because I can see him being asked to tone it down or don’t come back since it makes the presentations drag on longer than planned. He’s definitely not representative of the whole crowd…just worth reporting on!
Since we can’t have cameras or phones, I’ve got no pics to post…just a bunch of ramble from my memory. Sorry if it gets dry. I figure someone might want to read it to know what it’s all about.
…to be continued (again!)…