Saturday, November 27, 2010

FBI Citizen's Academy Week 5

As always, any errors here are mine, not the FBI’s.

Last week, I got some extra information from one of my fellow students at the FBI academy. I wanted to know exactly which guns we shot the week before in our trip to the Dade County police firing range.

We shot the Glock 22, with 40 caliber ammunition.

The long-barrel gun was an H &K MP5, 10 millimeter, with a long barrel. It can be used in semi-automatic or full automatic mode, though we only shot in semi-automatic.

The shotgun was a Remington 12 gauge with a 14” barrel. The shorter barrel is important because it’s easier to conceal and to carry in and out of vehicles.

Week 5 was about counter-terrorism and legal issues.

Miami is one of the top 5 offices in the country size-wise, and the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in this office has 38 participating agencies and 159 full time personnel including FBI agents, analysts, and personnel on loan from partner agencies.

The FBI’s number one priority is protection of the US from terrorist attack, and the JTTF encompasses nine counter-terrorism squads called T1 – T9. T1 focuses on Al Qaeda, T3 on Hezbollah, T4 on threat response, and T5 on extra-territorial kidnappings & other events.

The state & local officers who work with the FBI on the JTTF get the same top secret clearance as Bureau agents, and get full access to the FBI facility and all databases. They also carry cases just like the Federal agents.

The FBI defines international terrorism as criminal violations intended to intimidate, coerce or influence.

Domestic terrorism comes from many places. The right wing, such as white supremacist groups; the left wing, such as Marxist or Leninists; and those groups focused on a single issue, such as eco-terrorists, anti-abortion activitsts, and animal rights activists.

After a break we discussed the legal issues the FBI faces, focusing on the 1st and 4th amendments. The FBI can’t target someone who is exercising his 1st amendment rights, such as freedom of speech. And the 4th amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, requires the FBI to justify their case when getting search warrants.

An interesting term that arose was “curtilage,” which the agent defined as the area immediately around your property. This means that an outdoor area can be legally coupled with the property it surrounds, even though it’s not part of the structure. This is important when it comes to what you need a search warrant for. If an agent sees something in the yard, it may fall within the curtilage. Trash in a a bag next to the house, for example, would still be within the curtilage and the agent would need a warrant to search it.

Trash in a bag at the street, however, is outside the curtilage and can be seen as having been abandoned. Therefore the agent doesn’t need a warrant to search it. This is an interesting term and one I would like to explore further. I checked Wikipedia and curtilage has other uses, including with the definition of burglary.

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