Molly Redden

Molly Redden

Reporter

Molly Redden is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Previously, she worked for The New Republic, covering energy and the environment and politics, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has also appeared in Salon, Washington City Paper, and Slate. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and watching too much television. She tweets at @mtredden. Email her at mredden at motherjones dot com.

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Molly Redden is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Previously, she worked for The New Republic, covering energy and the environment and politics, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has also appeared in Salon, Washington City Paper, and Slate. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and watching too much television. She tweets at @mtredden.

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The Pentagon Just Realized It Gave Too Much Military Equipment to the Ferguson Police

But Ferguson still has plenty of combat gear to go around.

| Wed Aug. 12, 2015 2:54 PM EDT

As new clashes between the police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, revive concerns about the growing use of military-type gear by local cops, the Pentagon has ordered Ferguson to return two Humvees that came straight off the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan.

But it's not because of the way Ferguson police officers have responded to the demonstrators, government officials say; it's a paperwork issue.

The Guardian, which broke the story, reports that the government is repossessing the vehicles because Missouri's state coordinator for the Pentagon's controversial 1033 program gave Ferguson four Humvees when it was only authorized to give two.

Established in the 1990s, the 1033 program has stocked local police arsenals with $5.6 billion in combat equipment left over from two foreign wars. Protests in Ferguson over the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, thrust the program into the spotlight last summer after officers responded to the demonstrators with a militarized show of force, including mine-resistant vehicles, combat-style assault rifles, and gas masks.

At protests to mark the one-year anniversary of Brown's killing, the police show of force has been only a little less aggressive.

Civil liberties advocates have called for curtailing or ending the program, and for cutting off other, larger funding streams that help local cops buy combat equipment as a way to strengthen the line between the police and soldiers. But the Pentagon's move to take away two war-ready Humvees does not demilitarize Ferguson's police force. Ferguson acquired four Humvees through the 1033 program; the Pentagon is only forcing the return of two vehicles. And the Pentagon is not suspending or expelling the city of Ferguson from the 1033 program, the Guardian reports.

What's more, officers are streaming into the community from law enforcement agencies all over St. Louis County, bringing with them their own departments' combat gear.

The Obama administration has announced several changes to the controversial 1033 program since the chaos of last year. Civil rights advocates hope a new White House requirement—for police departments to receive community approval before acquiring armored tactical vehicles—will stanch the flow of some of the most intimidating vehicles. Mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks, for example, are routinely made available through the program.

But the changes do not apply to weapons, equipment, and vehicles that are already in police armories across the country. And as Radley Balko, the top reporter covering police militarization today, noted in the Washington Post last year, very little of Ferguson's military-type vehicles, assault weapons, and protective gear actually came from the 1033 program:

Most of the militarization today happens outside the 1033 Program. As the Heritage Foundation reported last year, few of the weapons we saw in those iconic images coming out of Ferguson were obtained through 1033. That program created the thirst for militarization, but police agencies can now quench that thirst elsewhere. Since 2003, for example, the Department of Homeland Security has been giving grants to police departments around the country to purchase new military-grade gear. That program now dwarfs the 1033 Program. It has also given rise to a cottage industry of companies that build gear in exchange for those DHS checks.

Communities that decide on their own to get rid of equipment from the 1033 program often have a lot of trouble doing so. The Pentagon technically has a process for returning unwanted equipment. But in reality, as I reported last year, police departments across the country have found that the process doesn't always work.

Online law enforcement message boards brim with complaints that the Pentagon refuses to take back unwanted guns and vehicles—like this one, about a pair of M14 rifles that have survived attempts by two sheriffs to get rid of them.

"The federal government is just not interested in getting this stuff back," says Davis Trimmer, a lieutenant with the Hillsborough, North Carolina, police department. Local law enforcement officials and Pentagon liaisons interviewed by Mother Jones all agree that the Defense Department always prefers to keep working equipment in circulation over warehousing it. Trimmer has twice requested permission to return three M14 rifles that are too heavy for practical use. But the North Carolina point person for the Pentagon insists that Hillsborough can't get rid of the firearms until another police department volunteers to take them. Police in Woodfin, North Carolina, are facing the same problem as they try to return the town's grenade launcher.

Ultimately, the police and sheriffs have found, the easiest way to offload their combat gear is to transfer it to another local law enforcement agency—an option that obviously troubles local officials who wish to get rid of the gear on principle.

In fact, the Pentagon has already said the two extra Ferguson Humvees may go to another police department in Missouri. And they could end up with one of the many departments sending officers and equipment to the scene of these protests—meaning these very same vehicles could roam the streets of Ferguson once again.

Here's What the Presidential Candidates Had to Say About Reproductive Rights in the First GOP Debate

The men have thoughts.

| Thu Aug. 6, 2015 11:29 PM EDT

On Thursday night, the ten front-runners in the race for the GOP presidential nomination gathered in Cleveland for the first debate of the primaries and naturally the discussion included women's health issues. Fox News hosts grilled Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on his opposition to exceptions to abortion laws for victims of rape and incest and Gov. Scott Walker over his support for a ban on abortion that doesn't make an exception for the life of the mother. They pressed former Gov. Jeb Bush over his ties to a pro-abortion rights group, and Donald Trump on his onetime support of reproductive rights.

Here's what they had to say:

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida — Kelly asked Rubio about his record of opposing exceptions to abortion restrictions for victims of rape or incest. "I'm not sure that's a correct assessment of my record," Rubio shot back. "I have never advocated that." Kelly may have been referring to the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act. This was a bill Rubio sponsored in 2011 that would make it a crime for anyone—except for the parents— to take a girl across state lines for an abortion with no exception for victims of rape or incest. Rubio was also a sponsor, in 2011, of a controversial 20-week ban on abortion that only made exceptions for victims of rape if they reported the crime to the police.

Rubio added he felt that the Constitution bans abortion: "I believe that every single human being is entitled to the protection of our laws whether they…have their birth certificate or not."

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin — Kelly pressed Walker on his across-the-board opposition to abortion, even in to save the life of the mother: "Would you really let a mother die rather than let her have an abortion?" she asked, wondering if his position put him too far out of the mainstream to win the general election.

Walker answered, "There are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother. That's been consistently proven." Walker was  alluding to a popular pro-life myth that abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother, an opinion rejected by mainstream medical practitioners.

Walker also noted that he defunded Planned Parenthood as governor; he signed several budgets that stripped of all funding for the women's healthcare network.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida — Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Bush about his seat on the board of the Bloomberg Family Foundation when the group is "so openly in support of abortion." Bush denied knowing about the organization's support of abortion. He also pointed to a number of actions he has taken to limit abortion rights when he was governor of Florida. He cut funding for Planned Parenthood from the state budget, directed state funds toward crisis pregnancy centers—pro-life alternatives to abortion clinics which often spread misinformation about the negative effects of abortion—and signed laws requiring parents to be informed before a minor has an abortion.

Donald Trump — The moderators asked Trump about his declaration, many years ago, that he was "very pro choice."

"I've evolved on many issues over the years," Trump replied. "And you know who else has evolved, is Ronald Reagan." Trump then told the story of a pair of friends who decided against abortion. "And that child today is a total superstar."

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas — Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Huckabee about his support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, and whether it would work against him among moderate voters. In response, Huckabee came out swinging for personhood: "I think the next president ought to invoke the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, now that we clearly know that that baby inside the mother's womb is a person at the moment of conception," he said. "This notion that we just continue to ignore the personhood of the individual is a violation of that unborn child's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. It's time that we recognize the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being."

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — In his closing statement, Cruz promised that "on my first day in office" he would prosecute Planned Parenthood over the sting videos dominating the headlines.

Thu May. 7, 2015 4:16 PM EDT
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