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Drone Photos Lead to Indictment For Texas Polluters 177

Posted by timothy
from the river-of-pig-blood dept.
In January of this year, we posted news of a major pollution site in Texas that was the subject of some anonymous amateur sleuths with drones, who used their UAVs to document the release of a "river of blood" (pig blood, that is) into the Trinity River as it flows through Dallas. Now, garymortimer writes, that documentation has resulted in legal action in the form of an indictment from a Dallas grand jury. "The story went viral and continues to receive hits nearly a year later. I believe this is the first environmental crime to be prosecuted on the basis of UA evidence. Authorities had to act because of the attention the story was receiving."
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Drone Photos Lead to Indictment For Texas Polluters

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @08:07PM (#42415419)

    Would have preferred to see: "Authorities had to act because it was the right thing to do". Not because it has become a public spectacle.

    • You are so naive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @08:22PM (#42415577)

      Morality only applies to commoners. The first casualty of wealth is the soul.

      Authorities largely exist to protect the wealth of the rich. Ostensibly they also protect the safety of the poor, but orders of magnitude more law-enforcement money is spent on protecting the rich from threats to their wealth.

      I agree that this is not how the world should be. But this state of things is a natural consequence of human behavior. Our only defense against it is eternal vigilance (and that means you).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @09:29PM (#42416087)

        Morality only applies to commoners. The first casualty of wealth is the soul.

        Authorities largely exist to protect the wealth of the rich. Ostensibly they also protect the safety of the poor, but orders of magnitude more law-enforcement money is spent on protecting the rich from threats to their wealth.

        I agree that this is not how the world should be. But this state of things is a natural consequence of human behavior. Our only defense against it is eternal vigilance (and that means you).

        A rather naive statement aswell. A product of the times I suppose, and appropriate for this time.

        The Authority exists to protect the powerful. It could be some madman bent on burinig money and living on bread and water.

        It's rather daft when people proclaim that money is power, because it's the opposite that's really true. Money is only power if the people in power allow it to be.

        Morality applies to all men, the problem is context. As an extreme example: Your mother's death will save millions of lives, which do you choose? This can be extended into to political choices, simply because a single decisions aren't about black and white. The problem really is the political system we use.

        A world that should be would be a Direct Democracy that would give more voting power to people who vote on decisions that improve the society, and penalize the wrong vote (to a degree). This however has so many technical and political problems it's thousands of years off.

        • by icebike (68054) on Friday December 28, 2012 @09:52PM (#42416207)

          I'm getting really sick of this tiresome rant popping up on every single Slashdot story. Government is corrupt. Corporations rule the world. We are all slaves. blah blah blah!

          Can't you guys give it a rest?

          Why do you always post your rants as AC anyway?

          And why twist any poorly phrased summary into a soap box?

          There is only this one guy, Gary Mortimer, stating that "public pressure forced the government to act". More likely it was the first time someone brought them proof sufficient to obtain a warrant to search over private lands. You clowns would be the first to complain if the government started flying their own drones, or trespassing across private lands to sample the creek.

          Take you tinfoil hat off for just a few minutes each day.

          • Re:You are so naive (Score:5, Interesting)

            by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Friday December 28, 2012 @10:19PM (#42416433)

            "I'm getting really sick of this tiresome rant popping up on every single Slashdot story. Government is corrupt. Corporations rule the world. We are all slaves. blah blah blah!

            Can't you guys give it a rest?

            Why do you always post your rants as AC anyway?"

            Sadly, while I might once have agreed with everything you said, I fear that times have changed -- or perhaps it's just that the Net has allowed the truth to be revealed in a way that governments can no longer control.

            Everywhere you look these days, there are many and varied examples of government being driven, directed and controlled by industries and those with lots (of money) at stake.

            Look at Kim Dotcom for instance -- the MPAA/RIAA may have had plenty of legal justification for some of what they did -- but certainly not all of it and not the way it was done. Hell, the FBI/MPAA/RIAA triad even bullied the New Zealand government in engaging in "unlawful acts" to carry out their dirty deeds.

            We've seen the problem of politicians protecting the rich at the cost of the poor grow to become a major problem down in this part of the world (NZL) and it's plainly obvious that the situation is far worse elsewhere.

            Bureaucrats (ie: central and local government) spend most of their time simply working to cover it's own ass -- in case things go wrong.

            Just look at most of the laws and regulations out there. They're not to improve the safety or to benefit the public nearly so much as they are to ensure that when something goes wrong, some bureaucrat somewhere can say "not my fault, we passed a law/regulation against that and the offender(s) broke those laws/regulations".

            Look at gun control for instance...

            It's illegal to murder someone with a firearm (or anything else for that matter) -- so the problem of firearms is solved! If someone goes postal or kills innocent pupils/teachers in a rampage -- it's not the fault of any bureaucrat - after all, they've made killing illegal so it's not *their* fault that kids can get their hands on assault rifles so easily.

            And they're doing it again with terrorism... they're making just about *everything* illegal -- so when a terrorist does attack and innocent folk are killed, they can turn around and say "not our fault, we made everything illegal -- what more could we do?"

            As for drones -- well yes, they're almost certainly going to make them illegal (in the hands of private individuals) too. After all, if there's one thing that bureaucrats *don't* like, it's having their actions spied on by those they're allegedly employed to protect.

            Sorry but the "perfect" world never existed and never will.

            And look... not posting as an AC! :-o

            • Re:You are so naive (Score:5, Informative)

              by icebike (68054) on Friday December 28, 2012 @11:08PM (#42416827)

              Way to Cherry Pick.

              Meanwhile:
              Madoff is in Jail for life
              2 Generals and two different cabinet officials have been forced to resign
              Seattle PD is under Justice Department microscope
              Book publishers forced to repay customers for price fixing
              BP pays huge fine and has Executives indicted
              Entire trading firms under indictment

              Its a mixed bag. It always is.

              • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Friday December 28, 2012 @11:55PM (#42417141) Homepage Journal

                Not only that, but saying that the world isn't perfect is not a justification for not trying to make it better. It's also in human nature to try to improve things.

              • by davester666 (731373) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:57AM (#42417433) Journal

                Madoff is in jail for stealing from other very rich people and corporations.

                If he had come up with a ponsi-scheme that only defrauded 'the little people', it would either have not been detected, or he might have had to pay a fine.

              • by sjames (1099) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:14AM (#42417527) Homepage

                Madoff ripped off people who were wealthier than he was. That was a major mistake.

                BP made such a thorough mess of things nobody could possibly ignore it.

                The trading firms made an even bigger mess. If nothing happened to them, there was a real chance that citizens might have taken their own actions. Meanwhile, the biggest and most powerful financial institutions are still getting off scot-free. They had to come up with a scapegoat.

                Like most things in the world, it's not a black and white corrupt/not corrupt dichotomy, just a continuum. Many people would like to move closer to the not-corrupt pole.

              • Re:You are so naive (Score:5, Interesting)

                by trevelyon (892253) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @03:02AM (#42418033)
                I would agree those were cherry picked so how about we look at a few of the major trends:

                Trust of politicians and government in general: http://www.people-press.org/2010/04/18/public-trust-in-government-1958-2010/ [people-press.org]

                Income disparity (who is getting all the new wealth): http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3629 [cbpp.org]

                I don't have a particular link to environmtal damage but if you can't see that in just about every news source (even the terrible US ones) then you are working hard not to see it.

                I will say that not everything is gloom and doom butpeople commenting on corruption, corporate greed and increase in power seems to me just being perceptive not overly negative. Most statistics I've seen and real world experience for the average person seem to support this. I would also point out there is strong evidence that government control is increasing and "rule of law" is decreasing. Again I don't have specific metrics for these but I certainly can point to several pieces of legislation as well as personal experience dealing with governmental institutions (border crossings, airports, traffic stops, tax assessment, building departments). Apparently you do not see this trend but the large number of comments about this just might be from people who see these trends or have experienced them first hand.

                Finally, the impetus behind pointing this out just might be a desire to fix some of these issues. The first step in fixing a problem is to identify the problem. Refusing to acknowledge real problems does no service to people facing them or to resolving the problem itself. Just a few things you might want to consider. Hope this helps,
              • by hoboroadie (1726896) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @05:29AM (#42418443)

                Way to Cherry Pick.

                Reports on Madoff were disregarded by the SEC for nearly a decade, similar to this story.
                Do your other examples illustrate my point as well? I frankly don't have time to do the research.
                Good Night.

              • by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:02PM (#42419775)

                Way to Cherry Pick.

                Meanwhile: Madoff is in Jail for life 2 Generals and two different cabinet officials have been forced to resign Seattle PD is under Justice Department microscope Book publishers forced to repay customers for price fixing BP pays huge fine and has Executives indicted Entire trading firms under indictment

                Its a mixed bag. It always is.

                1. Madoff ripped off rich people, nobody cared until he then.

                2. Sex scandals don't count. They make such great news that everyone gets taken down by them.

                3. It's a gov't agency. The rest of us are busy complaining about how private companies get away with murder (HSBC anyone?)

                4. And the fine was still significantly less than the profits from the price fixing.

                5. See above.

                6. See above.

                There's a phrase I don't hear often enough: Corporate Death Penalty.

            • by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @11:55AM (#42419727)
              If they're spending their all their time covering their asses instead of doing their jobs there's a reason, and it's because someone's out to get them. At least in the States the powers that be are doing a major push to put working class Americans at the throats of gov't workers that happen to still make a living wage. It's classic divide and conquer tactics. They do the same thing with race baiting.

              The key to keeping the poor down is to keep pointing at someone else as the problem. The problem isn't that the rich have 80% of everything, it's those darn Bureaucrats/Unions/Negroes holdin' you back.

              Put another way: A Bureaucrat, a Union guy and a Rich man are setting at a table with 10 apples. The Rich Man pulls 8 apples off the table, turns to the Union guy and says "Hey, that guy's gonna steal your apple".
          • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday December 28, 2012 @11:31PM (#42417009) Journal
            Realize that most of them were born in the 80' and 90's, the civil right movement is history to them in the same way WW1 was history to "boomers" like me who grew up in the sixties. However that doesn't mean there aren't any problems today, the political paralysis in the US over climate change is one such example. It's a constant struggle, someone points out something "inconvenient", (wish Al Gore hadn't stolen that word), and those who are inconvenienced start pumping out the most outrageous (and surprisingly effective) propaganda. Actually they hire others to do it, who have no qualms about assassinating the charter of the genuine "Galileo's" for a meager $100k/yr. A sound and broad scientific education seems to be the best defense for the average punter and the only way to obtain that is through humility and self skepticism.
          • by sjames (1099) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:54AM (#42417419) Homepage

            There had been complaints for years. Are you saying that the government couldn't possibly have investigated in any way at all including use of a helicopter like the one the cops around here use routinely to look for pot growers or an airplane like they use in Florida to catch speeders?

            Given the time laps between the citizen gathered evidence going viral and actual action being taken, it does indeed look like the government was perfectly content to ignore it until they were shamed into action.

          • by hoboroadie (1726896) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @05:12AM (#42418407)

            I think the point of the summary is valid. The neighbors have been complaining about the stench, the relevant public servants did nothing. The internet buzzed with the truth, embarrassing said public servants into performing their duties.
            All of this is very familiar to me, except for the publicity and the public servants doing their jobs part, I've only heard about that.
            Put on the tinfoil once in a while, and don't believe everything you think.

    • by houbou (1097327) on Friday December 28, 2012 @09:19PM (#42416037) Journal
      I agree with you, but unfortunately, the right thing to do is not synonymous with the most profitable thing to do.. :(
    • by SeaFox (739806) on Friday December 28, 2012 @09:31PM (#42416101)

      Seriously.

      Folks lambaste the "Court of Public Opinion" for subverting the justice system, but that seems to be the only one that works sometimes.

    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday December 28, 2012 @11:04PM (#42416791) Journal
      I would have preferred, "Planning authorities deny application to build pipe from factory to river".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @08:08PM (#42415425)

    Red gold. Texas tea.

  • by koan (80826) on Friday December 28, 2012 @08:09PM (#42415443)

    And most likely one of the last as new regulations pushed forth by corporate lobbies will restrict drone use or create "air space" restrictions over corporate land.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday December 28, 2012 @09:37PM (#42416131)

      Perhaps, but what little good drones over corporate lands would do would likely be far outweighed by the good a law that prevents the pervert down the street from doing the same to you. I welcome any law that stops this nonsense before it gets out of hand. One good deed does not make drones a good thing.

    • by tompaulco (629533) on Friday December 28, 2012 @11:55PM (#42417145) Homepage Journal
      new regulations pushed forth by corporate lobbies will restrict drone use or create "air space" restrictions over corporate land.
      It is already illegal to take pictures that one would have to take extraordinary means to take. Taking a photo from the street is fine. Getting up on a ladder and taking a photo would be illegal. Taking a photo from a drone would be similarly illegal. It would be illegal to use a photo taken from a UAV to launch an investigation such as was done here. However, once you see something, you can't unsee it, and so as soon as they saw it and launched an investigation, they pretty much had all the evidence they needed. The fact that it was kicked off by somebody else doing something illegal is overlooked. It is the court of public opinion, which is all well and good, unless the public doesn't like something YOU are doing.
      This is like a burglar breaking into your house and notices you have some marijuana and calls the cops on you.
      • by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @05:50AM (#42418487)

        It is already illegal to take pictures that one would have to take extraordinary means to take. Taking a photo from the street is fine. Getting up on a ladder and taking a photo would be illegal.

        Getting on a ladder is "extraordinary means"?

        Taking a photo from a drone would be similarly illegal.

        Aircraft were arguably invented for scouting, photos have been taken from them for as long as photos have existed. Taking a photo from an aircraft is not illegal, what do you think "satellite" view in Google Earth is?

        • by tompaulco (629533) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @10:50AM (#42419429) Homepage Journal
          Getting on a ladder is "extraordinary means"?
          Not for most activities, but if you take a picture of your neighbor's house from a ladder then you have invaded their privacy.

          Aircraft were arguably invented for scouting, photos have been taken from them for as long as photos have existed. Taking a photo from an aircraft is not illegal, what do you think "satellite" view in Google Earth is?
          Yes, but they are not used to spy on people, and at the resolutions available from Google Earth and whatnot, you can't tell anything incriminating. Well, maybe you can depending on the activity, but it shouldn't be admissable as evidence or used as cause for an investigation. Frankly, I am not real happy that people can tell how many cars I have outside or weather I have a pool or not from Google Earth. That ought to be considered invasion of privacy.
  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Friday December 28, 2012 @08:12PM (#42415489)
    You can't record a phone call or in-person conversation in non-public places without warning and use it as evidence but guess what, past a thousand feet above your property or whatever the hell it is, you don't own a damn thing so say cheese and see you in court.
    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Friday December 28, 2012 @08:15PM (#42415507) Homepage Journal

      Because it's view able from anybody flying buy..walking by even if it isn't fenced,.
      You don't really have a right to privacy in your backyard.

    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Friday December 28, 2012 @08:22PM (#42415583)
      The rules were written for audio. Not inexpensive consumer grade video taken from your personal helicopter.
    • by couchslug (175151) on Friday December 28, 2012 @09:20PM (#42416043)

      "You can't record a phone call or in-person conversation in non-public places without warning and use it as evidence"

      That depends there is a consenting party to that conversation:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_recording_laws [wikipedia.org]

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday December 28, 2012 @11:06PM (#42416807)

        "That depends there is a consenting party to that conversation:"

        It also depends on what state you are in. Only twelve states (according to that Wikipedia article) have all-party consent laws. A sad minority, if you ask me. I think "one-party consent" is a completely ridiculous standard.

        • by tompaulco (629533) on Friday December 28, 2012 @11:59PM (#42417161) Homepage Journal
          It also depends on what state you are in. Only twelve states (according to that Wikipedia article) have all-party consent laws. A sad minority, if you ask me. I think "one-party consent" is a completely ridiculous standard.
          Yes, my state is one party consent, and that party can be the one doing the recording. Kind of pointless.
          • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:16AM (#42417833)

            "Yes, my state is one party consent, and that party can be the one doing the recording. Kind of pointless."

            Yes, exactly. It seems to me, if you were having a conversation with someone (in person or via telephone or whatever), and you said "Let's keep this confidential", and they agreed... that you would have a "reasonable expectation of privacy".

            And most such laws are based on "a reasonable expectation of privacy".

            The good news (only a little bit related) is that if you ever get or make a telephone call, and the other side says "calls may be recorded for [whatever reason]", you can safely record that conversation without notice to anybody because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

            • Re:legal stuff (Score:4, Interesting)

              by wierd_w (1375923) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:43PM (#42420039)

              In this case, let's look at the one party consent with a different viewpoint:

              You really DO pay all your bills, and make use of automatic bill payments via your banking institution.

              One day, you get a call from a collections agency. They inform you that they are calling on behalf of some organization that you have never heard of before, and that they are authorized to collect an obscenely large debt. (The exact mechanism of how this has come about is insubstantial. Could have been identity theft. Could have been straight up wire fraud. Does not matter. A debt was created, it wasn't created by you, it has gone to collections, and the collections people have your number.)

              You politely inform them that they must be mistaken, that you did not create said debt, and further do not have ay relationship whatsoever with their client.

              They become beligerent, and make demands. Start telephone harrassment.

              You live in a 1 party consent state, so you elect to capture their abusive telephone practices as evidence.

              They call, you press record.

              They continue their beligerence, insisting upon your culpability for the debt. You inform them that you are going to seek the services of an attourney, if they continue to harrass you. They rudely assert that their telephone activities are not harrassment, and persist on the hardliner of your owing a debt, and demand to know when you will be making payment. You tell them to stop calling you, and to please send all correspondence by mail, say goodbye, and hang up.

              They call back immediately. You press record.

              For the next few days, as they continue their nonstop harrassment, you repeatedly tell them to cease telephone communications, and to correspond by mail, until they tell you that they don't have to comply with that request, until they have received a letter from you making that request in writing. Thank them for the information, and ask why they didn't reveal it sooner. They get beligerent again, and hang up rudely.

              You will have by this time contacted an attourney, and established a legal relationship. You also mail them the written letter stating that they are to preform all contact via writing with your attourney, the address of his office, and the case number, with postal service reciept confirmation.

              They call you. You press record.

              You inform them that the letter to cease telphone collections has been mailed, and inform them about the attourney. They become beligerent, and essentially call you a deadbeat debt holding liar.

              Harrassing telephone calls continue. You record them.

              The postal service mails you deliery confirmation on your written letter.

              The call you. You press record.

              They demand to know when you will pay, and state that they are considering legal action. You inform them that they are in violation of consumer protection laws by contacting you directly, after having received written instructions to preform all collections by mail via your attourney. They assert no such letter has arrived. You inform them that you have delivery confirmation from the postal service asserting that it most certainly did, along with the tracking number, then demand the contact information for their attourney and the case number, concerning their threatened legal action. They become beligerent, call you a liar again, and hang up.

              Harrassing telephone calls continue.

              You present your collected telephone conversations to your attourney.

              He sues the living fuck out of the collections agency on your behalf.

              Without the one party consent recordings, you would have no documentation or evidence of the abusive practices of the collections agency, and would not have a case.

              With them, you nail their testicles to the wall as a monument against abusive practices.

              Naturally, a debt collector would *NEVER* consent to being so recorded, EXACTLY because of this potential liability. This is why 2 party consent for telephone recordings is very bad for average citizens, seeking legal remedies, and very good for abusive institutions. One party consent allows either end to record telephone calls for illegal and abusive behaviors, and to seek legal remedies as appropriate.

              One party consent makes a shitton of sense.

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday December 28, 2012 @11:03PM (#42416787)

      "You can't record a phone call or in-person conversation in non-public places without warning and use it as evidence..."

      In many states you can do exactly that: only one party (that would be you here) has to consent to the recording. In fact, and unfortunately, I think the majority of states have this ridiculous law.

      "... but guess what, past a thousand feet above your property or whatever the hell it is, you don't own a damn thing so say cheese and see you in court."

      Again it depends on the state. I know of at least one state in which any measures taken in order to see what's on a property beyond what can be seen by a casual passerby can be considered "illegal surveillance", and can only be done with a judicial warrant.

      So, if I were a resident of that state, theoretically you could stand on a ladder to talk to me over the back fence, but you could not stand on a ladder in order to SEE over my back fence. The same applies to drones, civilian and law enforcement... even if they are not OVER the property in question. The only thing that matters is that they are where they are IN ORDER TO see onto that property.

      Of course, intent can sometimes be hard to prove, so these issues have to be taken on a case-by-case basis.

    • by jockm (233372) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:59AM (#42417441) Homepage

      So by the logic the fleets of planes used by Google, Microsoft, Apple, and other mapping companies would need the prior consent of the property owners. The same would be — potentially, depending where you live — of commercial flights over your house as well.

      It is legal to look in though someone's window as well. The right of privacy varies between states and country's but as a kind of general rule, the issues becomes when one goes to extraordinary effort to look at something that would not normally be visible. So did the sUAV in question violate their airspace? Did it have an out of the ordinary zoom lens, was it flying in areas planes aren't allowed to fly? Was it violating FAA regulations?

    • by AK Marc (707885) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @05:53AM (#42418497)

      You can't record a phone call or in-person conversation in non-public places without warning and use it as evidence

      You may live in one of the few places where that's true, but most everyone else doesn't.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @08:30PM (#42415641)

    But I did, and then browsed around and ran across this totally offtopic but rather cool project. A range finding radar project using tin cans, candar?

    http://www.suasnews.com/2012/12/20299/build-a-small-radar-system-capable-of-sensing-range-doppler-and-synthetic-aperture-radar-imaging/ [suasnews.com]

    • by Ogi_UnixNut (916982) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @07:57AM (#42418803) Homepage

      Mod parent up! This is quite awesome (I actually found it more interesting than this topic). I do wonder if it will ever come to a point when people will start shooting drones down that cross over to their property. Most likely to occur in America or Russia/Eastern Europe, due to the general population being more pro-gun then in the EU nations.

      Are there any legal issues with shooting down drones over your territorry in the USA? I presume you can shoot all you want on your land, what about above it?

  • Small steps (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @08:34PM (#42415685)

    Authorities need probable cause and a warrant to search your home. But, neither is required to recruit your neighbor to tell them what they see in your home.

    See something, say something is just another small step toward tyranny, and we will all be the culprits.

  • by theodp (442580) on Friday December 28, 2012 @08:57PM (#42415897)

    Google-Funded Drones To Hunt Rhino Poachers [motherjones.com]: Thanks to a five million dollar grant awarded by Google on Tuesday, the organization is expanding its use of unmanned aerial vehicles to track and deter criminals who illegally hunt endangered animal species around the world. WWF spokesman Lee Poston is not calling these vehicles drones, because he doesn't want people to confuse them with the military kind. According to Poston, they are "sophisticated radio-controlled devices like hobbyists use" that can be "controlled from your iPad or other device." But the WWF website does call them "conservation drones."

  • Scandal that isn't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday December 28, 2012 @09:13PM (#42415985)
    The story is self-congratulatory and implies that the authorities only did their job because of the publicity on the issue. While it is true that the authorities only acted because of the original story, there is no evidence that once they were made aware of the story that they did not move at a deliberate pace in order to determine how widespread the infraction was and to prosecute it. The fact of the matter is that depending on how the plant was set up, there would have been no reason for a government official to observe the pollution. That is the only reason that they needed the original story in order to act. They had to know there was something to act on.
    • by icebike (68054) on Friday December 28, 2012 @10:07PM (#42416321)

      Exactly.

      Had the authorities demanded to search the plant for no reason, the same conspiratorial whack jobs posting as AC here would have condemned them for that. Had they flown their own drone it would have been government invasion of privacy. Had government posted stream guards at every stream and river it would be a run away gestapo police state.

      When made aware of a crime with clear evidence they took action. Yet virtually every AC posting here twists it into some shallow victory of a hundred citizens standing up to city hall.

      • by hawkinspeter (831501) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @10:06AM (#42419239)
        I didn't realise that businesses are allowed privacy. Surely businesses can be inspected to ensure that they abide by fire regulations and follow health and safety law. If they're discharging waste into a stream it's not unreasonable for them to be checked on from time to time.
        • by icebike (68054) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:01PM (#42420705)

          I'm sure the meat packing inspectors were in that plant regularly. But prior to this accidental drone photograph there wasn't a clue that they were discharging into a stream. Apparently only a few company execs knew where that drain line went. Those are the ones that got indicted.

      • by mathmathrevolution (813581) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:23PM (#42420375)

        Are you so naive as to think this was the first time a pork producer illegally disposed massive quantities of waste into public waterways? Do you think it was just some random coincidence that an activist group happened upon this pollution? Everybody who paid any attention to the problem already knew do this was going on regularly and on a massive scale. When you dump a river of pig blood into a public waterway you leave plenty of evidence. Neighbors have been trying for over a decade to stop this, but the authorities never listen to them. Pork producers just bullshit the public claiming, assault the science, and write checks behind the scenes to keep business as usual.

        Yes, it was very much the case that public officials were actively trying to protect industrial pig farmers and they succeeded for years. If it wasn't for the activists galvanizing the public and shaming the government then nothing would have happened and everybody would still be drinking hormone-injected pig's blood.

        • by icebike (68054) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:15PM (#42420813)

          Get your facts right. They weren't an activist group. They were drone enthusiasts.
          Activists would have just walked across the field, or paddled a canoe across the river into the stream mouth.

          Neighbors were complaining about the smell. Any time you bring in live animals for slaughter it stinks. There were zero complaints about blood in the creek.
          USDA inspectors were visiting that plant regularly, as were Texas Meat Safety Assurance Unit inspectors.
          There were no activists. Stop making things up.

    • by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Friday December 28, 2012 @10:47PM (#42416661) Homepage

      >The story is self-congratulatory and implies that the authorities only did their job because of the publicity on the issue

      The court of public opinion is an amazing thing, and it definitely affects who our elected officials choose to investigate and prosecute. With 'scandals' like the warrantless wiretaps and retroactive forgiveness for large corporations it's not surprising that some people would automatically assume the worst in a situation. Given the lax prosecution on past environmental disasters and deaths that have resulted, some people expect it.

      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @09:46AM (#42419153)
        I do not have a problem with people reading about a prosecution like this and wondering if it was only investigated because of all of the publicity. However, it is quite another thing for a "journalist" to report that it was only investigated because of the publicity when they provide no evidence that such is the case. This story is a perfect example of why people no longer trust "journalists".
    • by fermion (181285) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:11AM (#42417225) Homepage Journal
      Pretty much this is the case. There are inspectors in texas, but they seem to only give warnings if the do anything at all. And then the situation is set up so the owners are not responsible. For instance in 2005, 15 workers were killed at BP in Texas City A year later another worker was killed. None of these were BP related, because these were contract workers. There were many safety citation which were never enforced. And BP does not care because they contractors, who have no control over the safety, are the one's responsible for the workers.

      So no, it is not reasonable to say that they did not know and should not have known and really had no reason to know. In fact it is reasonable to assume that they did not, in some file somewhere is a warning and many even a promise form the owners to fix it. But without real fines and even criminal penalty, there is no incentive to make changes that are only going to make a plant unprofitable.

      So, BP has some of the most dangerous plants in the world, and over the past 5 years because of publicity they seem to be safer. This is the way things change in Texas. To shame the people who are only cared about profits. There is a lot of money in Texas, and most believe that it is uncool to kill people to save a buck. There are people who are paid a lot for semi skilled work, but that is because the work is dangerous, though no one is paid to die.

      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @09:51AM (#42419181)
        It is one thing for you to read the article and conclude that the authorities only acted because of the publicity. It is a quite different thing for the reporter to say in the article that the authorities only acted because of the publicity, when they provide no evidence supporting that claim. The claim that the authorities only acted because of the publicity is opinion. That means it belongs on the opinion page, not in the news article, unless there are some facts presented in the article to support that opinion (even then it probably belongs on the opinion page, but that would make it more of a judgment call). This is why people no longer trust "journalists", because they do not clearly separate their opinions from the facts they present.
    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday December 29, 2012 @08:51AM (#42418961) Homepage Journal

      The fact of the matter is that depending on how the plant was set up, there would have been no reason for a government official to observe the pollution

      The fact of the matter is that there is every reason for a government official to observe the pollution, and you are prevaricating for no apparent reason. Do you have an interest in keeping the entrenched media elite in their position of power over The People? The cops do us for speeding because they derive revenue from it. Sometimes you can bribe your way out of it because they personally derive more revenue from a bribe than from writing one more ticket. They should be doing the corporations for polluting because they derive revenue from it in the form of fines, it's not like they typically use the money to clean up the problem. But they don't. Could it be because someone somewhere is deriving more revenue from it on a personal level? And under a system of capitalism, is there indeed any other good explanation?

      They had to know there was something to act on.

      If you serve people food and have a license for serving food you may receive a surprise inspection to determine whether you are in compliance, because you may cause people harm. The same thing is true of all food processors of any kind. The government reserves the right to run up in your business and find out if you're doing anything they don't like. They do this to small food processors all day every day, shutting them down on specious evidence of contamination like evidence of rodents outside the facility and the like, so there is more than a little evidence that they are willing to do this when the money is right — and lobbyists are a dime a dozen. And since Monsanto is now literally in charge of what food you are now permitted to eat, it's trivial to see not just who's applying the dimes, but where.

      They had to know there was something to act on.

      Yes, and they could have found that out by performing a random inspection like they allegedly are doing with the producers of raw milk cheeses and so on, and discovered the abuses that way, but they didn't. And meanwhile, they continue to discover dramatically less obvious faults in smaller facilities on a weekly if not daily basis, which should be harder and not easier, which implies to me that they're not actually that interested in doing their actual job unless forced to. Which is what happened here.

      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @10:06AM (#42419243)
        If the opinion that the authorities had only acted because of the publicity had been expressed in an opinion piece, I would have been fine with that. However, it was presented as part of a news story, with no evidence to back it up. Having seen your posts before, I am aware that you think that "journalists" should present opinions which you agree with as facts, however, this is why people do not trust "journalists", because they present opinions as facts.

        Do you have an interest in keeping the entrenched media elite in their position of power... I love that. You accuse me of wanting to keep the media elite in a position of power when I accuse the media of taking credit for action without providing evidence. The post you base your accusation on was one where I was critical of the media elite, yet it causes you to ask if I have an interest in keeping the media elite in a position of power.

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday December 29, 2012 @10:33AM (#42419371) Homepage Journal

          Having seen your posts before, I am aware that you think that "journalists" should present opinions which you agree with as facts, however, this is why people do not trust "journalists", because they present opinions as facts.

          Nothing which has come in my posts before suggests that I believe that journalists should present opinions with which I agree as facts unless they are facts. However, the most plausible conjecture in this case is what was stated in the article, and I have clearly explained why this is true.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Friday December 28, 2012 @09:14PM (#42415997) Journal
    This will soon come to the attention of legislators through corporate lobby groups who seek to undermine the power of people to be able to conduct affairs that protect the public good and limit profit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @09:40PM (#42416147)

    Let's not forget they posted this cynical video on YouTube:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-SGE5AHlns

    Then instructed all their employees to like and put positive comments.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @09:44PM (#42416167)

      http://cityhallblog.dallasnews.com/2012/03/in-letter-and-video-joe-ondrus.html/

      "The City will use all legal means possible to ensure that Columbia Packing, or any company in the City, is not allowed to continue to discharge illicit waste and potentially harm the public and the environment.
      Columbia Packing officials, on video, focus on a hidden pipe on their property that they claim was clogged with brick and other material. What company officials do not address is another hidden pipe discovered that was installed to bypass the City’s monitoring device in the sanitary sewer line. The installation of that bypass allowed the discharge of pig blood and other unsanitary waste materials without City oversight. Columbia Packing has failed to document when and how this bypass was installed. The bypass pipe appeared to be of recent vintage.

      The search warrant and associated affidavit speak for themselves and clearly outline daily investigatory activities on the part of the City and other investigators from the day the situation was brought to the City’s attention."

    • by icebike (68054) on Friday December 28, 2012 @10:09PM (#42416341)

      Yeah, so what?

      You do know what the word "indictment" means don't you? It means it didn't work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @03:36AM (#42418151)

    He purposely flew high enough to see on private property and is now giving the business a bad name, endangering countless jobs. This should not be celebrated, he should be condemned to prison for a lengthy term for interrupting domestic commerce in a time of war. Life in prison would be a gift, given the circumstances.

    Besides that, I doubt there was ever a regulation about dumping that specific substance into that specific river. Who are we, communists?

  • If they'll do this to coperate entity that is paying million in bribes, what to stop them from watching you?

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all alike.

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