Totally Justifies the SWAT Team Gun-Toting Raid*

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Andrew Grossman has more on the case against Gibson Guitars:

Gibson’s crime, according to an affidavit supporting the search warrant, was the illegal importation of Indian-grown ebony veneers, intended for use as fret boards. A hardwood prized for its appearance and durability, ebony is sustainably raised by certified growers, and Indian law doesn’t bar its harvesting or export. What Indian law does require is that ebony veneers be finished within the country, by local labor, to a thickness of less than 6 millimeters. Gibson’s wood, it happens, was a bit thicker — nearly a full centimeter.

On that basis, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents invaded Gibson’s facilities, bringing its operations to a standstill.

(*A commenter correctly points out that this was a raid by armed federal agents, but not a SWAT team.)

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14 Responses to “Totally Justifies the SWAT Team Gun-Toting Raid*”

  1. #1 |  derfel cadarn | 

    This completely political,one is required to ask did not this wood pass through customs in both India and the U.S.? Is there no requirement for documentation from Indian Sources? Yet said wood is in the country is it that the U.S. customs service is incompetent ? The agencies involved in this including their field agents look like bumbling fools,it would seem highly unlikely that employees at Gibson would being willing to exchange gunfire over legally imported components. Thankfully it was not string materials as that have most likely required a preemptive nuclear strike. Accordingly any American possessing any musical instrument larger than a harmonica, name will now a appear on both terror and sexual crimes watch lists. After all it’s for the children.

  2. #2 |  MassHole | 

    Of course you need a SWAT team. They don’t call them power chords for nothing!

  3. #3 |  Bob | 

    This is just insane.

    I’m trying to wrap my brain around how this could possibly happen… what chain of events could have occurred.

    I seriously doubt that the Fish and Game department inspects every shipment from every foreign country with respect to every law that country has written. No, if that were even possible then it would actually be possible to win the “War on Drugs”.

    More likely, a guitar producing competitor noticed how extra-thick Gibson’s Fret-boards were and dropped a dime on them.

    So… you have a cascade of total fail:

    Congress, staffed by drooling ‘tards, incompetently passes wide reaching legislation.

    Fish and Wildlife services has a giant sack of agents because Congress stupidly gives them the money for them.

    They gotta use those agents for something! Or Congress won’t stupidly give them even MORE money next year.

    I think I see where the problem is.

  4. #4 |  ukko | 

    There was no SWAT team. It was a raid carried out by officers who carry sidearms. No weapons were pulled on anyone.

    Read the affidavit that led to the raid, it’s public record. Then you might at least understand the logic behind the raid even though it was overkill.

  5. #5 |  Comrade Dread | 

    If we didn’t use a SWAT team, he might have had time to flush the wood veneers down the commode.

  6. #6 |  fwb | 

    Interesting that OUR govt is involved in enforcing foreign laws.

  7. #7 |  Graham Shevlin | 

    Whenever I read examples of law enforcement like this one, I am reminded of the old saying: just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.
    A long-established and highly respected company, that barely survived the foreign onslaught in guitar-making in the 1980’s, is raided by a whole team of law enforcement over fretboard raw material depths?
    This is what happens when people forget another old saying, that rules are for interpretation by the wise and slavish observance by the foolish.

  8. #8 |  Bob | 

    Read the affidavit. Find it here:

    It’s 31 pages long.

    Basically, it says:

    By magic, we discovered that Gibson imported wood that is 4mm thicker than what India allows to be exported. Assuming, of course, India even bothers to enforce that law. How the fuck would we know? We don’t live in India. And by “Magic”, I mean I’m not going to tell you who tipped us off, and let you assume we miraculously inspect every shipment everywhere for even the most arcane infraction.

    The next 30 pages explains that people use “Computers” to do shit, and that we think they have some of these “Computers” at Gibson. So we want to totally fuck them up by taking all the “Computers.” Also, we can’t just look a the computers there, we have to take them with us because that will fuck Gibson up more. Of course, we specifically list the computers of the CEO, President, and other top people just to really fuck with them.

    It sure looks like one of Gibson’s competitors is using the Lacey Act and Fish and Game’s hired goon squad to get at Gibson. Or perhaps… Gibson didn’t pay the protection money. Who knows.

    And of course, Fish and Game can’t just say “Who fucking cares? We’re not gunna investigate that.” because they have a giant sack of agents who need busy work to justify their budget.

    It’s not like the Federal government is 15 trillion in debt and cash is tight or anything.

    It seems to me, that if India has a problem with the exporter who sold 10mm thick wood as 6mm thick wood, they should take it up with them.

  9. #9 |  croaker | 

    Gibson donates to Republicans.

    Obama is a “Democrat”.

    ‘Nuff said.

  10. #10 |  jncc | 

    Actually, Gibson was raided for a variety of Lacey Act violations, not just for importing too-thick cuts of lumber from India. Stuff like importing banned species from Madagascar. It’s not this was a big surprise to Gibson. They were raided in 2009 for the same thing.

    But you wouldn’t know that from reading the Andrew Grossman hack job. That’s because Grossman is a dishonest piece of shit. He’s one of those people who just picks out one little fact and misrepresents it to try to prove his point.

    There are enough government abuses out there that it is not necessary to be dishonest to try and gin up more. People who promote dishonest stories like this do not help their credibility.

    And, by the way, CEO of Gibson Guitars actually supports the Lacey Act:

    “And while some say the Lacey Act is burdensome, Martin supports it: “I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think illegal logging is appalling. It should stop. And if this is what it takes unfortunately to stop unscrupulous operators, I’m all for it. It’s tedious, but we’re getting through it.”

  11. #11 |  Radley Balko | 

    Gibson donates to Republicans.

    Obama is a “Democrat”.

    Not entirely true. Gibson gives to Democrats, too.

  12. #12 |  RoMan | 

    If Gibson would just hire some members of The New Black Panthers Party, all of their problems would be solved!

    Or, Fish and Wildlife could have just let Gibson make the guitars with the “illegal wood” and then trace them to see who they sold the guitars to. They could call it operation: Fast and Fretless!

  13. #13 |  John | 

    Not so much a bumbling government as a spiteful competitor. Where I’ve lived if you have any success in business you have to be extremely diligent in following every possible arcane regulation lest your next door competitor finds out and convinces a government official to cite you or shut you down.

  14. #14 |  treed | 

    Have we not already debated this sort of thing?

    From 1776: The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
    . . .
    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.