Lynden man charged with 'blinding' Border Patrol pilots with flashlight
by NATALIE SWABY / KING5 News
Posted on January 20, 2011 at 1:19 PM
Updated yesterday at 5:24 PM
SEATTLE – A Lynden man has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he temporarily blinded the pilots of a Border Patrol helicopter with a flashlight. The pilots say the light was so bright it temporarily blinded them.
Wayne Groen says he stepped outside of his home last September 22nd to investigate a loud noise. He shined his flashlight at a helicopter flying low over his home.
“I was in bed when it happened, so when I went out with the flashlight to see what was going on I didn't think about it," Groen said.
Prosecutors are charging him with interfering with an aircraft. The indictment says Groen shined “a high powered spotlight” into the cabin of the Blackhawk helicopter, which was on a law enforcement mission near the border.
Groen said he’s heard helicopters before near his home but this time was different.
“It was lower than normal, I feel,” he said.
In court papers, Groen’s attorney says the helicopter was hovering over the neighborhood at an altitude of about 600 to 800 feet. To put that into perspective, the height of Seattle’s Space Needle is just over 600 feet.
“When you have a military helicopter, which does not have its lights on and it’s painted black, and it’s dark outside. And, you’re trying to sleep and you’re inside for the night, it makes sense that people are going to be curious about this,” Lustick said.
Lustick says federal air regulations require the helicopter to remain at 1,000 feet above a person or structure.
“Even though this is a government helicopter it still has to fly comply with minimum safe altitudes,” said Lustick.
Groen's wife says her husband is a good father and a business owner.
"I think the whole thing is ridiculous, he was just trying to protect his family," Nicki Groen told reporters.
Lustick adds Groen is “not an anti-government person.”
A complaint filed in the case states that, according to an FBI agent, the helicopter had been over Groen’s house for less than a minute before Groen shined a bright spotlight into the cockpit. The complaint also says the spotlight stayed on the pilots for about five minutes.
The document says when Border Patrol agents investigated on the ground, Groen shined a flashlight at them as well. Groen admitted he was upset at the time and wanted the pilots to know they were bothering him, according to the complaint.
Groen is scheduled to be back in a federal courtroom in March.
Seattle man on trial for refusing to show ID to TSA agents
By Lindsay Cohen & KOMO Staff
In November 2009, Phil Mocek was scheduled to board a Seattle-bound plane in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Instead, he wound up in a jail cell, headed for a fight that could prove historic.
Story Published: Jan 21, 2011 at 7:03 AM PST
Story Updated: Jan 21, 2011 at 9:01 AM PST
Seattle man on trial for refusing to show ID to TSA agents
Phil Mocek is seen speaking at a public hearing at Seattle City Hall in 2010.
SEATTLE -- In November 2009, Phil Mocek was scheduled to board a Seattle-bound plane in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Instead, he wound up in a jail cell, headed for a fight that could prove historic.
The Seattle man refused to show TSA officers his ID with his boarding pass, and argued he has a right not to show it.
There is no law requiring that passengers show their ID at checkpoints; however, passengers who refuse to show their ID are subject to additional security screenings.
After he refused many times to show his ID, officers asked him to leave. But instead of leaving, Mocek began taking photos and video of TSA officers against their warnings.
"I do not believe that there is a rule that bars me from using a camera in publicly acceptable areas at the airport," he is heard saying a video clip he shot at the airport on that day.
Mocek was placed under arrest and charged with four misdemeanors, including concealing his identity. Some say this is the first time anyone has brought a legal challenge to the TSA's authority to question and detain travelers.
Prosecutors argue Mocek went to the airport that day with an agenda. But his defense attorney insists this case is about a citizen's right to videotape in a public place.
In court, one TSA officer testified he was starting a secondary screening process to verify Mocek's identity when the Capitol Hill resident took out a camera, started taping, and later refused the orders of police.
In New Mexico on Thursday, the TSA agent argued Mocek's videotaping was disruptive to the screening process and causing a disturbance.
"You can use the camera as long as you're not interfering with the screening process," said TSA officer Jonathan Breedom.
Ten months ago, Mocek spoke in a public forum against cameras in public at Seattle City Hall. The topic was surveillance video in Seattle parks.
"They're intrusive. They're not working in other cities," he said at the meeting. "This is a time when the parks department is asking neighborhoods to come up with money to complete parks and yet we're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on these cameras."
According to a written statement by the TSA supervisor at the Albuquerque airport, Mocek was traveling with a companion who had no trouble getting through the security checkpoint.
That man told the supervisor that he and Mocek "didn't mean any harm and that, 'This is something we do all the time. It keeps us all more alert,'" the statement said.
Mocek's trial is ongoing on New Mexico.
Verizon files challenge to FCC’s “Open Internet” order
posted at 10:12 am on January 21, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
It didn’t take long for one of the telecoms to challenge the FCC on its latest arrogation of regulatory jurisdiction over the Internet. Verizon went to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, the same venue that rebuked the FCC and its chair Julius Genachowski for attempting to regulate the Internet without authority from Congress:
Michael Glover, Verizon’s deputy general counsel, said in a statement that the appeal follows a “careful review” of the FCC’s net-neutrality rules, which the agency passed in December.
“We are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself,” he said. “We believe this assertion of authority goes well beyond any authority provided by Congress and creates uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers.”
When Genachowski announced his “Open Internet” regulatory plan, the Net Neutrality advocates at Free Press didn’t exactly greet it with open arms. However, they didn’t waste much time in blasting Verizon, as other did for filing the case in the same court that overturned the last FCC action:
“Verizon’s decision demonstrates that even the most weak and watered-down rules aren’t enough to appease giant phone companies,” Aparna Sridhar, policy counsel, said in a statement.
“It’s ironic that Verizon is unhappy with rules that were written to placate it, and it’s now clear that it will settle for nothing less than total deregulation and a toothless FCC in the relentless pursuit of profit,” she said.
Other net-neutrality proponents took issue with Verizon’s efforts to get the case into the D.C. Circuit, which was hostile to the FCC’s open Internet efforts last time around.
“Verizon is trying to be too cute in trying to pick not only the venue for the challenge to the rules, but also to pick the judges to hear it. The court should see through this ploy and reject Verizon’s attempt to pick the home field for its appeal,” said Harold Feld, legal director at Public Knowledge.
House Republicans cheered Verizon’s challenge, which rests on four arguments. The two that will probably carry the most weight with the court will be that the FCC has abused its regulatory discretion, and that the FCC has exceeded its statutory authority. Congress made the latter argument last year — with large Democratic majorities — as Genachowsko’s first attempt at treating the Internet as a public utility foundered. The same court ruled in favor of Comcast that Congress had not granted the FCC the authority to regulate the Internet, and that without a Congressional mandate, their actions were invalid.
The FCC claims that they have tailored the new rules to fit within their authority, but that may change anyway. A statement from the new leadership in the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a warning to Genachowski:
“Equally important is putting a check on an FCC that is acting beyond the authority granted to it by Congress. Between our legislative efforts and this court action, we will put the FCC back on firmer ground,” they said.
The message is as clear as one can make it: Stop your regulatory adventurism, or we’ll stop it for you. It may not take a court to settle this question in the short run, especially with the remainder of the FY2011 budget in Republican hands.
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