TSA Can’t Manage To Remove American Children And Lawmakers From Its Error Filled “No Fly List” But Thinks It Can Keep Its Employees Off “Controversial” Web Sites While At Work

July 6, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is blocking certain websites from the federal agency’s computers, including halting access by staffers to any Internet pages that contain a “controversial opinion,” according to an internal email obtained by CBS News.

The email was sent to all TSA employees from the Office of Information Technology on Friday afternoon.

It states that as of July 1, TSA employees will no longer be allowed to access five categories of websites that have been deemed “inappropriate for government access.”

The categories include:

? Chat/Messaging

? Controversial opinion

? Criminal activity

? Extreme violence (including cartoon violence) and gruesome content

? Gaming

The email does not specify how the TSA will determine if a website expresses a “controversial opinion.”

There is also no explanation as to why controversial opinions are being blocked, although the email stated that some of the restricted websites violate the Employee Responsibilities and Conduct policy.

The TSA did not return calls seeking comment by publication time.

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Government Red Tape In US Sends Latest US Green Technology And Jobs To Red China

June 17, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – Chuck Provini, a former Marine with no fewer than 19 military decorations, considers himself a “good American and a patriot.”

He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, served as a Marine Corps captain in the Vietnam War and has lived his whole life in the United States. But now that he’s the president of a growing solar technology start-up, he’s finding himself in a difficult position: He must leave the United States behind.

His company, Natcore Technology, based in Red Bank, N.J., holds the license to technology that makes solar panels cheaper, more efficient and less toxic to the environment. He said he tried to commercialize the technology domestically, but while bureaucracy and red tape stalled talks with state and federal officials, conversations with Chinese officials sped ahead.

“The Chinese have a major, aggressive movement to increase the technology in the photovoltaic area,” he said. “They picked up the phone and called us and said, ‘What do you do?'”

At the time of this story’s publication, he’s in Zhuzhou city in China’s Hunan province, on the verge of signing a deal that will commercialize the technology overseas, giving the Chinese economy a boost and Chinese workers more jobs.

Obama: China Is Investing in Clean Energy Jobs That Should Be in the U.S.

“We wanted to do business in the United States and we went to different agencies and we said, ‘Here’s what we have going on in China. Can you help us replicate this?'” he said. “And, frankly, we kind of rang on deaf ears.”

In his address from the Oval Office Tuesday night, President Obama used the backdrop of the massive BP oil spill to push a clean energy agenda.

“The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America,” he said.

But what is China doing that the United States isn’t? And what do we need to do to keep up?

Provini, whose company licenses technology developed at Houston’s Rice University, said that for about a year, he went back and forth with representatives at the Ohio Department of Development. He said he also worked with a major Washington, D.C., law firm and was told that a $750,000 application fee was necessary just to apply for a specific federal program.

Solar Energy Company: We Didn’t Call China, They Called Us

When he tried to work with elected officials for guidance on how to grow his business, he said he rarely got past staff members.

Lisa Patt-McDaniel, director of the Ohio Department of Development, said she couldn’t comment directly on Natcore, but said that her office supports hundreds of new technology ventures each year.

Provini said, “The Chinese were just so aggressive. We didn’t contact them, they contacted us.”

Officials responsible for developing China’s clean and alternative energy program in the Hunan province learned about Natcore through a mutual contact at the University of Wales and placed a call, he said.

Then they flew Provini to China and helped him find a production partner that will provide capital and manufacturing capabilities. In the next three to six months, he said, they could move into the manufacturing phase, which could create 250-400 jobs.

“They’ve cut through the red tape to be responsive,” he said. “It’s almost embarrassing that whatever you ask for, they deliver it.”

Clean Energy Sector to Reach $200 Billion in 2010

Since 2005, investments in the clean energy sector have grown 230 percent, according to the Pew Environment Group Climate and Energy Program. In 2009, $162 billion was invested in clean energy globally and analysts forecast that investments will climb 25 percent to $200 billion in 2010.

But despite the opportunities in the fast-growing industry, experts say the United States continues to lag behind countries such as China, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain.

“The U.S. is missing the boat,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Environment Group Climate and Energy Program in Washington. In 2009, she said, China attracted $34.6 billion in clean energy investments, more than any other country. The United States attracted $18.6 billion, about half of China’s total, she said.

When you look at the winners in this race, Cuttino said, they all have one key feature in common: a national clean energy policy.

The countries dominating the clean energy landscape have national policies to reduce global warming pollution and provide incentives for companies to use renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, but she said the United States only had a “patchwork” of state policies.

State Development Agencies Promote Small Clean Energy Start-Ups

“We have a well-educated [population], a manufacturing base,” she said. “We basically have all of the necessary ingredients to capitalize on a clean energy policy, but we need a policy.”

The Ohio Department of Development’s Patt-McDaniel said that with investments ranging from $50,000 to as much as $1 million, the Ohio Third Frontier program funds clean energy, biomedical, polymer and other high-tech projects to help them eventually commercialize and create jobs.

“Our partner organizations at the local level … take these kinds of entrepreneurial companies and match them to potential partner investors,” she said. She said development officials could also help small companies find production partners that could take the venture to the next level.

Real Progress Needs Federal Action, Experts Say

But though state development agencies across the country may support small business following Obama’s mandate to develop clean energy, experts say real progress will only come from federal action.

“The clean technology sector is the fastest growing business sector in the global economy and the U.S. cannot afford to lose our competitive edge with China and other countries when it comes to the fastest growing sector in the global economy,” said Howard Learner, president and executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.

While one small business doesn’t necessarily prove a trend, he said the bottom line is that the United States is running the risk of missing out on the next economic driver.

“Clean energy and climate legislation before Congress would put us on the right track, but it’s been mired in both Republican political opposition and opposition from old economy industries,” he said.

Obama’s decision to enact a series of renewable energy tax credits in 2009 was a good start, he said, but they all expire by the end of this year and should be extended.

He also said that while 30 states have renewable energy standards requiring utilities to purchase an increased percentage of power from renewable sources, Learner, like Pew’s Cuttino, said a national standard is critical.

U.S. Companies Want ‘T.L.C.’

It would not only expand the market across all states and make a level playing field, it would make the market more predictable and reliable over the long-term, which would spur development, he said.

Learner also said that putting a price on carbon is key to driving the market for renewable investment, manufacturing and deployment.

But in the absence of a market created by a carbon cap and other national policies, more and more companies like Provini’s are looking to other shores for opportunity.

“There’s a whole long list of American companies that have gone to China,” Cuttino said. “[And] lots of companies sitting on the sidelines in the U.S. They’re waiting for what they call T.L.C. — transparency, longevity and consistency.”

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Scam By Military Prosecutor And Judge Sends Sex Offender Doctor To Jail For Just 7 Days – At Least 23 Victims, Some Of Whom Have A Problem With Doctor Receiving Less Than A Slap On The Wrist

June 6, 2010

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, JAPAN — Victims of convicted sex offender Lt. Cmdr. Anthony L. Velasquez say they are furious at the Navy for letting the disgraced doctor off with what they perceive as a light sentence — and then misleading them into thinking the sentence had been much tougher.

At least 23 women had alleged that Velasquez sexually violated them after they sought medical treatment in two locations, at Japan’s Naval Air Facility Atsugi branch clinic in 2007 and 2008 and Kuwait’s Camp Arifjan clinic between December 2008 and June 2009.

On May 26, Velasquez pleaded guilty at a Yokosuka Naval Base court-martial to two counts of wrongful sexual contact and two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. In exchange for those guilty pleas, under the terms of a pretrial plea agreement negotiated between the Judge Advocate General’s Office and the defense, prosecutors dropped 29 other counts of sexual misconduct and related charges leveled against Velasquez by his former patients.

Military judge Cmdr. David Berger sentenced Velasquez to two years in prison, a $28,000 fine, dismissal from the Navy and forfeiture of all pay and allowances, but the convening authority suspended the prison sentence and fine in accordance with the pretrial agreement. Instead, Velasquez spent just seven days in the Yokosuka Naval Base brig.

But a post-trial e-mail sent to victims by the JAG office left some with the impression that Velasquez would suffer a much harsher fate.

The May 26 e-mail stated that “the judge awarded a sentence of 24 months, a $28,000 fine to be paid right away or else an additional 6 months would be imposed, total forfeitures of pay, and most iportantly [sic], a DISMISSAL from the Navy.”

The e-mail made no mention of the plea agreement. Nor did it state that the judge’s sentence had been largely set aside because of the plea deal. Unless Velasquez violates the terms of the plea agreement and commits another crime, he won’t go to federal prison or pay any penalties.

Stars and Stripes contacted seven of the women whose complaints led to charges against Velasquez. Three said they did not fully understand what happened.

“I was confused when I read the [May 26] Stars and Stripes article, and it said that none of the punishment set would be happening unless he committed another crime … so I guess I don’t even know what his actual punishment is,” said an enlisted soldier whom Velasquez was convicted of molesting while she was a patient at Camp Arifjan. “It’s all been very unclear to me. I ask questions, and a lot of them don’t get answered.”

Capt. Rex Guinn, commander of Regional Legal Service Office Japan and the ranking officer copied on the JAG e-mail, said the victims were offered the right to choose whether they wanted to be notified of a plea agreement as part of the Victim-Witness Assistance Program. Neither Guinn nor any of the attorneys copied on the e-mail sent a follow-up e-mail to the full group of victims to clarify the decision.

“It was a wrap-up providing the 2703 form,” said Guinn, referring to a form that explains the post-trial rights of victims. “That was the intent of the communication.”

The victims are free to lodge an official complaint if they believe they were misled, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ron Steiner said. As of Friday afternoon, no one had done so, he said.

Two of the victims that Stars and Stripes interviewed said that prosecutor Lt. Emily Dewey, the author of the e-mail message, explained the plea deal to them after they sent her private replies about the confusing message.

Another victim said she did not blame Dewey for the misleading e-mail “because it didn’t sound like her at all.”

That victim said Dewey had told her about the impending plea deal days before the final hearing. Before the deal was made, she said, Dewey had expressed her eagerness to fight the complete case in a trial.

Dewey could not be reached for comment Friday, but told Stars and Stripes last week that all requests for comment should be referred to her superiors.

Among the seven women interviewed, two expressed some satisfaction that Velasquez had been found guilty, along with relief that the trial had concluded.

However, all expressed dismay over the terms of the plea deal, which most called “a slap on the wrist.”

Velasquez was released from the brig earlier this week and was walking around base at Atsugi on Wednesday, according to Navy officials.

“It feels like, because we’re military, there is no justice and that he’s getting away with it,” said one of the victims. “Had we been in the civilian world, he’d be in jail for a long time.

“But that’s not the case in the military, where the higher-ups make that decision,” she continued. “It’s another slap on the hand. It’s appalling. You know you’re going to suffer the rest of your life, and he’s just going to lose his license. Are you kidding me? It doesn’t make up for what he did.”

Many of the women visited Velasquez for common maladies such as neck and sinus pain. But, according to evidence and court testimony, Velasquez, 48, used his ungloved hands to fondle their genitals while purporting to check their lymph nodes.

“For me, this is yet another example of the military protecting officer positions from disciplinary action,” another victim said. “Have an enlisted man do the same thing, the sentence would have been much harsher.”

Steiner, the Navy spokesman, emphasized that Velasquez will have to register as a sex offender when he returns to the United States. His medical credentials also will be subject to revocation by a civilian medical body, and he will be dismissed from the Navy–the harshest type of discharge available in that service.

“That’s the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge,” Steiner said. “These are serious outcomes.”

The case must now be authenticated, which includes transcription and review of the proceedings by attorneys. It is then forwarded for approval to the convening authority, which in this case is the Naval Forces Japan commander, Rear Adm. Richard Wren.

Wren can make the sentence more lenient but he cannot make it any harsher.

“The convening authority can order a rehearing to the findings … but I’ve never seen it happen,” Guinn said.

Following Wren’s decision, the case is subject to appeal.

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100’s Of Millions Of US Taxpayer Dollars Wasted On Bush’s Tortue Prisons And Guantanamo Bay Base

June 6, 2010

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA — At the U.S. naval station here, a handsome electronic sign hangs between two concrete pillars. In yellow enamel against a blue metal backdrop is a map of Cuba, the “Pearl of the Antilles,” above flashing time and temperature readings.

“Welcome Aboard,” the sign says.

The cost of the marquee, along with a smaller sign positioned near the airfield: $188,000. Among other odd legacies from war-on-terror spending since 2001 for the troops at Guantanamo Bay: an abandoned volleyball court for $249,000, an unused go-kart track for $296,000 and $3.5 million for 27 playgrounds that are often vacant.

The Pentagon also spent $683,000 to renovate a cafe that sells ice cream and Starbucks coffee, and $773,000 to remodel a cinder-block building to house a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant.

The spending is part of at least $500 million that has transformed what was once a sun-beaten and forgotten Caribbean base into one of the most secure military and prison installations in the world. That does not include construction bonuses, which typically run into the millions.

Also not included are annual operating costs of $150 million — double the amount for a comparable U.S. prison, according to the White House. Add in clandestine black-budget items, such as the top-secret Camp 7 prison for high-value detainees, aptly nicknamed Camp Platinum, and the post-Sept. 11, 2001, bill for the 45-square-mile base easily soars toward $2 billion.

The Obama administration wants to close the detention operation and relocate it to a prison in Illinois, but the prospect of seeing the final detainees depart seems increasingly like a long-term project. If the president does succeed, the Pentagon will leave behind a newly remodeled military encampment, along with numerous questions about whether the cost of creating what then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld once called the “least worst place” for suspected terrorists was worth the price.

In the first public accounting of how much has been spent on the base since the first detainees arrived in January 2002, The Washington Post obtained from the military a line-by-line breakdown of capital expenditures, ranging from the mundane to the exotic.

Overall, the prison camp operation that hugs the Caribbean coastline cost about $220 million to build over several years, a price that does not include Camp 7, which holds 16 of the most notorious detainees, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. And $13 million was spent to construct a courthouse complex that appears custom-designed for Mohammed and his four co-defendants.

But as spending accelerated over the years, and more and more construction and renovation contracts were awarded, the number of detainees steadily declined, from a peak of 680 in May 2003 to 181 now.

Many of the projects itemized in the breakdown are reminders of suburban America — familiar settings re-created in a Caribbean hothouse to comfort the military personnel and contractors who run detainee operations.

Millions went to build artificial-turf football and baseball fields that professional players would envy, surrounded by a cluster of facilities, including a running track, a skate park, an outdoor roller hockey rink and batting cages.

[Story Continues On Original Site Below]

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When Cameras Are Outlawed Only The Outlaws Will Have Cameras

June 3, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.

The legal justification for arresting the “shooter” rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where “no expectation of privacy exists” (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.

Massachusetts attorney June Jensen represented Simon Glik who was arrested for such a recording. She explained, “[T]he statute has been misconstrued by Boston police. You could go to the Boston Common and snap pictures and record if you want.” Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley agrees, “The police are basing this claim on a ridiculous reading of the two-party consent surveillance law – requiring all parties to consent to being taped. I have written in the area of surveillance law and can say that this is utter nonsense.”

The courts, however, disagree. A few weeks ago, an Illinois judge rejected a motion to dismiss an eavesdropping charge against Christopher Drew, who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler’s license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.

In 2001, when Michael Hyde was arrested for criminally violating the state’s electronic surveillance law – aka recording a police encounter – the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld his conviction 4-2. In dissent, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall stated, “Citizens have a particularly important role to play when the official conduct at issue is that of the police. Their role cannot be performed if citizens must fear criminal reprisals….” (Note: In some states it is the audio alone that makes the recording illegal.)

The selection of “shooters” targeted for prosecution do, indeed, suggest a pattern of either reprisal or an attempt to intimidate.

Glik captured a police action on his cellphone to document what he considered to be excessive force. He was not only arrested, his phone was also seized.

On his website Drew wrote, “Myself and three other artists who documented my actions tried for two months to get the police to arrest me for selling art downtown so we could test the Chicago peddlers license law. The police hesitated for two months because they knew it would mean a federal court case. With this felony charge they are trying to avoid this test and ruin me financially and stain my credibility.”

Hyde used his recording to file a harassment complaint against the police. After doing so, he was criminally charged.

In short, recordings that are flattering to the police – an officer kissing a baby or rescuing a dog – will almost certainly not result in prosecution even if they are done without all-party consent. The only people who seem prone to prosecution are those who embarrass or confront the police, or who somehow challenge the law. If true, then the prosecutions are a form of social control to discourage criticism of the police or simple dissent.

A recent arrest in Maryland is both typical and disturbing.

On March 5, 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III’s motorcycle was pulled over for speeding. He is currently facing criminal charges for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during the traffic stop.

The case is disturbing because:

1) Graber was not arrested immediately. Ten days after the encounter, he posted some of he material to YouTube, and it embarrassed Trooper J. D. Uhler. The trooper, who was in plainclothes and an unmarked car, jumped out waving a gun and screaming. Only later did Uhler identify himself as a police officer. When the YouTube video was discovered the police got a warrant against Graber, searched his parents’ house (where he presumably lives), seized equipment, and charged him with a violation of wiretapping law.

2) Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven D. Silverman said he had never heard of the Maryland wiretap law being used in this manner. In other words, Maryland has joined the expanding trend of criminalizing the act of recording police abuse. Silverman surmises, “It’s more [about] ‘contempt of cop’ than the violation of the wiretapping law.”

3) Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley is defending the pursuit of charges against Graber, denying that it is “some capricious retribution” and citing as justification the particularly egregious nature of Graber’s traffic offenses. Oddly, however, the offenses were not so egregious as to cause his arrest before the video appeared.

Almost without exception, police officials have staunchly supported the arresting officers. This argues strongly against the idea that some rogue officers are overreacting or that a few cops have something to hide. “Arrest those who record the police” appears to be official policy, and it’s backed by the courts.

Carlos Miller at the Photography Is Not A Crime website offers an explanation: “For the second time in less than a month, a police officer was convicted from evidence obtained from a videotape. The first officer to be convicted was New York City Police Officer Patrick Pogan, who would never have stood trial had it not been for a video posted on Youtube showing him body slamming a bicyclist before charging him with assault on an officer. The second officer to be convicted was Ottawa Hills (Ohio) Police Officer Thomas White, who shot a motorcyclist in the back after a traffic stop, permanently paralyzing the 24-year-old man.”

When the police act as though cameras were the equivalent of guns pointed at them, there is a sense in which they are correct. Cameras have become the most effective weapon that ordinary people have to protect against and to expose police abuse. And the police want it to stop.

Happily, even as the practice of arresting “shooters” expands, there are signs of effective backlash. At least one Pennsylvania jurisdiction has reaffirmed the right to video in public places. As part of a settlement with ACLU attorneys who represented an arrested “shooter,” the police in Spring City and East Vincent Township adopted a written policy allowing the recording of on-duty policemen.

As journalist Radley Balko declares, “State legislatures should consider passing laws explicitly making it legal to record on-duty law enforcement officials.”

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Our Crazy Judges: Supreme Court Says Suspects Cannot Remain Silent In Order To Exercise Right To Remain Silent

June 1, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC - The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that suspects must explicitly tell police they want to be silent to invoke Miranda protections during criminal interrogations, a decision one dissenting justice said turns defendants’ rights “upside down.”

A right to remain silent and a right to a lawyer are the first of the Miranda rights warnings, which police recite to suspects during arrests and interrogations. But the justices said in a 5-4 decision that suspects must tell police they are going to remain silent to stop an interrogation, just as they must tell police that they want a lawyer.

The ruling comes in a case where a suspect, Van Chester Thompkins, remained mostly silent for a three-hour police interrogation before implicating himself in a Jan. 10, 2000, murder in Southfield, Mich. He appealed his conviction, saying that he invoked his Miranda right to remain silent by remaining silent.

But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the decision for the court’s conservatives, said that wasn’t enough.

“Thompkins did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk to police,” Kennedy said. “Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his ‘right to cut off questioning.’ Here he did neither, so he did not invoke his right to remain silent.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s newest member, wrote a strongly worded dissent for the court’s liberals, saying the majority’s decision “turns Miranda upside down.”

“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent – which counterintuitively, requires them to speak,” she said. “At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded.”

Van Chester Thompkins was arrested for murder in 2001 and interrogated by police for three hours. At the beginning, Thompkins was read his Miranda rights and said he understood.

The officers in the room said Thompkins said little during the interrogation, occasionally answering “yes,” “no,” “I don’t know,” nodding his head and making eye contact as his responses. But when one of the officers asked him if he prayed for forgiveness for “shooting that boy down,” Thompkins said, “Yes.”

He was convicted, but on appeal he wanted that statement thrown out because he said he invoked his Miranda rights by being uncommunicative with the interrogating officers.

The Cincinnati-based appeals court agreed and threw out his confession and conviction. The high court reversed that decision.

The case is Berghuis v. Thompkins, 08-1470.

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US Census Counts Imprisoned Illegal Aliens Awaiting Deportation

May 31, 2010

TACOMA, WASHINGTON - Paulo Sergio Alfaro-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant being held at a detention center in Washington state, had no idea that the federal government would count him in the census.

No one gave him a census form. No one told him his information would be culled from the center’s records.

But counted he was, along with other illegal immigrants facing deportation in detention centers across the country – about 30,000 people on any given day, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement.

By the time the census delivers the total tallies to the state and federal government, most of the immigrants will be long gone. But because the population snapshot determines the allocation of federal dollars, those in custody could help bring money to the towns, cities and counties in Texas, Arizona, Washington and Georgia where the country’s biggest and newest facilities are located.

“I think the irony, if there’s any irony, is that the locality is what’s going to benefit, because you have a detention center in a particular city where people have been brought from different parts of the region, and that community will benefit,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, an organization that has pushed Latinos to participate in the census.

This census brings a twist, though. For the first time, states have the option of counting people in detention centers and prisons as residents of their last address before they’re detained, worrying some local lawmakers who say cities and counties that host detention centers could lose money.

“Detention centers and prisons should probably count where they are located, that’s where resources would be required,” Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, D-Georgia wrote in a May letter to the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the census. Bishop represents Stewart County, Georgia, population 4,600, where the nation’s largest detention center housed a total of 14,000 people between April 2007 and March 2008.

ICE operates 22 immigrant detention centers and also houses people in hundreds of other jails or prisons. Most of the largest centers are in small towns in Texas, Arizona and Georgia. Texas is home to six detention centers, and Arizona has three.

The payout can be hefty for small towns. Federal money being distributed from the census averaged about $1,469 per person in fiscal year 2008, according to the Brookings Institution, and other grants are also available to small towns depending on their population.

In Raymondville, Texas, a town of nearly 10,000 people, the Willacy Detention Center holds an average daily population of about 1,000. The center opened in 2006 and was a boon to the community as ICE and the private company that runs the center rushed to hire personnel.

Now, the detention center’s population may push Raymondville over the town’s goal of surpassing 10,000, a number that will allow them to qualify for more federal help, Mayor Orlando Correa said.

“As long it’s humane, as long as the facility respects the rights of these people and they’re not treated like animals, I’m OK with it,” Correa said.

For safety reasons, most detainees are counted through administrative records, rather than forms being passed out, U.S Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner said. The census will cull data from records kept on April 1.

Alfaro-Sanchez, for his part, is glad he’s being counted. He entered the country when he was about 15 through Tijuana, and worked as a handyman in Goldendale, a small town in eastern Washington.

He arrived in at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on March 30 after being arrested in a fight. The charges were dropped, he said, but immigration officers had already flagged him for arrest.

“I think that even though we may be sent back, there’s a lot of people who may need that money, the Hispanic people that are here,” the 32-year-old said in Spanish.

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TSA Has Another Secret Watch List Of U.S. Air Travelers – Innocent People That They Don’t Like – Which They Are Sharing With Other Agencies And Private Businesses

May 24, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – Airline passengers who get frustrated and kick a wall, throw a suitcase or make a pithy comment to a screener could find themselves in a little-known Homeland Security database.

The Transportation Security Administration says it is keeping records of people who make its screeners feel threatened as part of an effort to prevent workplace violence.

Privacy advocates fear the database could feed government watch lists and subject innocent people to extra airport screening.

“Is this going to be the baby watch list? There’s a potential for the misuse of information or the mischaracterization of harmless events as potential threats,” American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Michael German said.

A TSA report says the database can include names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, home addresses and phone numbers of people involved in airport incidents, including aggressors, victims and witnesses.

Incidents in the database include threats, bullying or verbal abuse, remarks about death or violence, brandishing a real or fake weapon, intentionally scaring workers or excessive displays of anger such as punching a wall or kicking equipment, the report says.

The database was created in late 2007 as the TSA launched a program to prevent the nation’s 50,000 airport screeners from being attacked or threatened, agency spokeswoman Kristin Lee said. At the time, TSA officials voiced concern about passengers disrespecting screeners, and they began issuing new uniforms with police-style badges pinned to shirts.

Lee said attacks and threats against screeners are “rare” and the database has records from about 240 incidents. Most are screeners in conflict with other screeners. About 30 incidents involve people such as passengers or airport workers attacking or threatening screeners, Lee said.

Information about passengers is taken from incident reports that the TSA writes when a traveler threatens or attacks a screener, Lee said.

“The program’s focus is on prevention,” Lee said. The database helps the TSA spot trends in incidents that can shape workplace-safety programs, Lee said.

A TSA document published in February says database information can be given to government agencies and to airports, airlines and rail and bus systems in cases involving their workers or job applicants. “They may be contacted by the TSA if an incident involves their employee,” Lee said.

A.J. Castilla, a screener at Boston’s Logan International Airport and an official with a TSA union, said he has seen passengers throw shoes at and push screeners, but incidents have subsided more recently.

The ACLU’s German said he worries that the incidents in the database are broad. “I’ve been very angry at an airport because flying can be a very frustrating experience,” he said.

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US National Archives Can’t Find 2 Terrabyte Hard Drive Containing Sensitive White House Information – Offers $50K Reward

May 30, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The US National Archives offered a cash reward of up to 50,000 dollars Friday for the recovery of a missing computer hard drive containing sensitive personnel data from the Clinton administration.

Described by the archives as a “Western Digital MY BOOK external hard drive” with a 2-terabyte storage capacity, it contained copies of backup tapes from the White House dating back to president Bill Clinton’s tenure in the 1990s.

The drive was discovered missing on March 24 from an archives processing room in College Park, Maryland.

The disappearance of the drive, which included social security numbers and other personal information of White House employees, is being investigated by the US Secret Service.

The archives said it had not yet determined whether the drive had been lost or stolen.

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Obama Administration Wants To Continue Hiding Torture And Rape Pictures From George Bush’s Gitmo Torture Prison

May 28, 2009

LONDON, UK – A former U.S. general said graphic images of rape and torture are among the photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse that President Barack Obama’s administration does not want released.

Retired Major Gen. Antonio Taguba, who oversaw the U.S. investigation into the abuses at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, was quoted as telling Britain’s Daily Telegraph in an article Wednesday that he agreed with Obama’s decision not to release the pictures.

“I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them,” Taguba was quoted by the Daily Telegraph. “The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”
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It was not exactly clear what photos Taguba was referring to.

A U.S. military official in Baghdad, however, said “the photos referred to are ones that Taguba is not aware of.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because he was not authorized to release the information.

On Thursday, the Obama administration asked a federal appeals court in New York on Thursday to cancel its decision ordering the images’ release. The court papers cite two partially secret statements from top U.S. generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno.

The administration had planned to release the photos until Obama reversed the decision this month, saying their release would endanger U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Releasing the photos poses “a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American and coalition forces, as well as civilian personnel, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to the motion filed with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court.

The photos were ordered released as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Bush administration had fought their release, and lost. The court ruled in September 2008 that general concerns about public safety were not specific enough to merit blocking the release of the photos.

Video

Obama’s reversal
May 14: Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., talk about the president’s decision to block military abuse photos from the public.

Hardball
The motion filed Thursday also notes the government plans to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Congress is also considering stepping in to block the photos’ release.

The military referred all questions on Taguba’s comments to Washington. The Obama administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Iraqis called for an investigation into the Daily Telegraph report.

“The Iraqi government must demand the reopening of the Abu Ghraib scandal case again,” said Ali Kadom, 45, who works at the Ministry of Transportation.

Khalid Bashi, 35, a trade office owner in Baghdad, said Obama should release the photos to put a stop to a possible scandal.

“Sooner or later, more scandals will appear that show crimes against humanity carried out by American troops in Iraq,” Bashi said.

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The prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib exploded after photos taken by soldiers appeared in 2004.

According to the Telegraph, the new photos depicted much more serious abuses than previously documented. One photo reportedly showed an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner and another was said to show a male translator raping a male detainee, the paper reported.

The Telegraph said the photos related to 400 cases of alleged abuse between 2001 and 2005 at Abu Ghraib and six other prisons. It was not immediately clear from the newspaper report who had seen the photos or how they might have been obtained.

The newspaper said the images in the photos were backed up by statements from Taguba’s report into prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

Appeared Here


Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik Indicted By Federal Grand Grand Jury After Lying To White House In Attempt To Gain Homeland Security Secretary Position

May 26, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – CBS 2 HD has learned that former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on charges of making false statements to White House officials during his vetting for the position of Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The new indictment was handed up Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Washington, and means Kerik will face trials in New York and Washington, D.C.

Similar false statement charges were brought as part of the larger case in New York but were dismissed and transferred to Washington, where the crimes allegedly occurred.

According to the new indictment, Kerik, in 1999 and 2000 when he was NYPD commissioner, spoke to city regulators on behalf of contractors who were seeking one or more permits to do business in and with the city.

The contractors then spent more than $255,000 renovating Kerik’s apartment in Riverdale. In 2004, when Kerik was under consideration by the White House for the Homeland Security position, he gave false and misleading answers to questions by White House officials about his relationship with the contractors.

The indictment alleges that Kerik falsely denied that there was any possible concern the president should have about his relationship with the contractors, and that as a public official he had had any financial dealings with individuals seeking to do business with the City.

It also alleges Kerik sent an e-mail to a White House official containing false and misleading statements concerning the renovations to the apartment in Riverdale.

Kerik’s attorney, Barry H. Berke, released a statement to CBS 2 HD which reads:

“Today’s indictment of Mr. Kerik — the third separate prosecution against him arising out of the same purported corruption allegations from 10 years ago — is the latest example of the Department of Justice’s overzealous pursuit of high-profile public figures.

“Mr. Kerik looks forward to finally clearing his name of these corruption charges at his federal trial in New York set for October. The Justice Department’s own rules mandate that ‘the government bring as few charges as are necessary to ensure that justice is done.’ The government has instead decided to take a third bite at the apple in Washington, apparently not confident in its ability to win the case in New York, which includes virtually identical charges.

“However many trials it takes, Mr. Kerik will vigorously defend himself against these unfounded accusations and is confident that he will be completely vindicated.”

If convicted Kerik could face up to five years in prison.

Appeared Here


Virus Hits FBI And U.S. Marshals Computer Network

May 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – Officials say the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service computers were partially shut down after a computer virus struck.

Officials say a virus was the problem at the Marshals Service; an FBI spokesman said only that the FBI was one of several agencies facing similar issues and had taken protective measures.

Technical staff disconnected the Marshals system from the Justice Department’s computer system as a precaution.

Marshals spokesman Nikki Credic said at no time was data compromised by the virus.

She said the agency had temporarily shut down their Internet access and some e-mail while the problem is addressed.

The type of virus and its origin haven’t yet been determined.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information.

WASHINGTON (AP)—A computer virus struck the computer system at the U.S. Marshals Service on Thursday, forcing a partial shutdown of its network to keep the bug from spreading to other agencies.

Officials said the problem emerged Thursday morning, and technical staff disconnected the system from the Justice Department’s computer system as a protective measure.

“At no time was data compromised,” said Marshals spokeswoman Nikki Credic.

She said the agency had temporarily shut down their Internet access and some e-mail while the problem is addressed.

The type of virus and its origin were not determined immediately, Credic said.

An FBI spokesman had no immediate comment on whether their system had seen any similar problems.

Appeared Here


Criminal Bush Officials Imune After Kidnappings And Torture

May 18, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The Supreme Court rejected on Monday a lawsuit by a Pakistani man against a former U.S. attorney general and the FBI director claiming abuse while he was imprisoned in New York after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

By a 5-4 vote, the U.S. high court overturned a ruling that Javaid Iqbal, who was held more than a year after the attacks, could sue former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

The decision appeared to be narrow, limited to the facts of the case, although it could be cited as precedent in other lawsuits.

The civil case involves different legal issues than the recent demands by human rights groups to hold former Bush administration officials accountable for what they describe as torture of terrorism suspects.

Iqbal, a Muslim, said in the lawsuit that he had suffered verbal and physical abuse, including unnecessary strip searches and brutal beatings by guards. He said he had been singled out because of unlawful ethnic and religious discrimination.

Writing for the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said Iqbal’s lawsuit failed to plead sufficient facts to state a claim for purposeful, unlawful discrimination.

Kennedy also ruled there was insufficient evidence that Ashcroft and Mueller had deprived Iqbal of his clearly established constitutional rights.

AFTER SEPTEMBER 11

In the weeks after the September 11 attacks, U.S. authorities detained 762 noncitizens, almost all Muslims or Arabs. Many of those held at the federal prison in Brooklyn suffered abuse, the U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general has found.

The Bush administration said that Ashcroft and Mueller have immunity, that they should not be held personally liable and that the lawsuit against them should be dismissed.

Ashcroft and Mueller argued they have qualified legal immunity because any misconduct was done by lower-level officials and they had no personal involvement in or knowledge of the alleged abuse.

The issue before the Supreme Court involved only whether Iqbal’s lawsuit against Ashcroft and Mueller could continue and did not address his claims of mistreatment against other lower-ranking current and former government officials.

Iqbal sued about 30 other current or former U.S. government officials, including the warden at the detention facility and the director of the federal Bureau of Prisons. He seeks unspecified damages.

Iqbal was arrested for having false Social Security papers. He pleaded guilty in 2002, was released in 2003 and deported to Pakistan. The lawsuit was filed in 2004.

The U.S. government paid $300,000 to settle with Iqbal’s co-plaintiff and fellow detainee Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian.

Appeared Here


Criminal Bush Officials Imune After Kidnappings And Torture

May 18, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The Supreme Court rejected on Monday a lawsuit by a Pakistani man against a former U.S. attorney general and the FBI director claiming abuse while he was imprisoned in New York after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

By a 5-4 vote, the U.S. high court overturned a ruling that Javaid Iqbal, who was held more than a year after the attacks, could sue former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

The decision appeared to be narrow, limited to the facts of the case, although it could be cited as precedent in other lawsuits.

The civil case involves different legal issues than the recent demands by human rights groups to hold former Bush administration officials accountable for what they describe as torture of terrorism suspects.

Iqbal, a Muslim, said in the lawsuit that he had suffered verbal and physical abuse, including unnecessary strip searches and brutal beatings by guards. He said he had been singled out because of unlawful ethnic and religious discrimination.

Writing for the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said Iqbal’s lawsuit failed to plead sufficient facts to state a claim for purposeful, unlawful discrimination.

Kennedy also ruled there was insufficient evidence that Ashcroft and Mueller had deprived Iqbal of his clearly established constitutional rights.

AFTER SEPTEMBER 11

In the weeks after the September 11 attacks, U.S. authorities detained 762 noncitizens, almost all Muslims or Arabs. Many of those held at the federal prison in Brooklyn suffered abuse, the U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general has found.

The Bush administration said that Ashcroft and Mueller have immunity, that they should not be held personally liable and that the lawsuit against them should be dismissed.

Ashcroft and Mueller argued they have qualified legal immunity because any misconduct was done by lower-level officials and they had no personal involvement in or knowledge of the alleged abuse.

The issue before the Supreme Court involved only whether Iqbal’s lawsuit against Ashcroft and Mueller could continue and did not address his claims of mistreatment against other lower-ranking current and former government officials.

Iqbal sued about 30 other current or former U.S. government officials, including the warden at the detention facility and the director of the federal Bureau of Prisons. He seeks unspecified damages.

Iqbal was arrested for having false Social Security papers. He pleaded guilty in 2002, was released in 2003 and deported to Pakistan. The lawsuit was filed in 2004.

The U.S. government paid $300,000 to settle with Iqbal’s co-plaintiff and fellow detainee Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian.

Appeared Here


U.S. Supreme Court Finally Limits Warrantless Vehicle Searches – After 30 Years Of Illegal Searches By Police

April 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The Supreme Court today sharply limited the power of police to search a suspect’s car after making an arrest, acknowledging that the decision changes a rule that law enforcement has relied on for nearly 30 years.

In a decision written by Justice John Paul Stevens, an unusual five-member majority said police may search a vehicle without a warrant only when the suspect could reach for a weapon or try to destroy evidence or when it is “reasonable to believe” there is evidence in the car supporting the crime at hand.

The court noted that law enforcement for years has interpreted the court’s rulings on warrantless car searches to mean that officers may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle as part of a lawful arrest of a suspect. But Stevens said that was a misreading of the court’s decision in New York v. Belton in 1981.

“Blind adherence to Belton’s faulty assumption would authorize myriad unconstitutional searches,” Stevens said, adding that the court’s tradition of honoring past decisions did not bind it to continue such a view of the law.

“The doctrine of stare decisis does not require us to approve routine constitutional violations.”

Stevens was joined by two of his most liberal colleagues — Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and two of his most conservative — Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The decision overturned a three-year prison sentence for Arizonan Rodney Gant, who had been convicted of cocaine possession. Police found the drug in a search of his car, following his arrest for driving with a suspended license. Gant had already walked away from his car when he was arrested, and he sat handcuffed a distance away while police searched his car.

“Police could not reasonably have believed either that Gant could have accessed his car at the time of the search or that evidence of the offense for which he was arrested might have been found therein,” Stevens wrote.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the four dissenters, said the court’s insistence that its precedents had been misinterpreted was simply a cover for getting rid of a decision with which it disagreed.

He said the replacement of what had been an easy-to-understand “bright line” rule for police “is virtually certain to confuse law enforcement officers and judges for some time to come.”

The court’s new rules will endanger arresting officers, he said, and “cause the suppression of evidence gathered in many searches carried out in good-faith reliance on well-settled case law.”

He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer.

The case is Arizona v. Gant.

Appeared Here


U.S. Supreme Court Finally Limits Warrantless Vehicle Searches – After 30 Years Of Illegal Searches By Police

April 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The Supreme Court today sharply limited the power of police to search a suspect’s car after making an arrest, acknowledging that the decision changes a rule that law enforcement has relied on for nearly 30 years.

In a decision written by Justice John Paul Stevens, an unusual five-member majority said police may search a vehicle without a warrant only when the suspect could reach for a weapon or try to destroy evidence or when it is “reasonable to believe” there is evidence in the car supporting the crime at hand.

The court noted that law enforcement for years has interpreted the court’s rulings on warrantless car searches to mean that officers may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle as part of a lawful arrest of a suspect. But Stevens said that was a misreading of the court’s decision in New York v. Belton in 1981.

“Blind adherence to Belton’s faulty assumption would authorize myriad unconstitutional searches,” Stevens said, adding that the court’s tradition of honoring past decisions did not bind it to continue such a view of the law.

“The doctrine of stare decisis does not require us to approve routine constitutional violations.”

Stevens was joined by two of his most liberal colleagues — Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and two of his most conservative — Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The decision overturned a three-year prison sentence for Arizonan Rodney Gant, who had been convicted of cocaine possession. Police found the drug in a search of his car, following his arrest for driving with a suspended license. Gant had already walked away from his car when he was arrested, and he sat handcuffed a distance away while police searched his car.

“Police could not reasonably have believed either that Gant could have accessed his car at the time of the search or that evidence of the offense for which he was arrested might have been found therein,” Stevens wrote.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the four dissenters, said the court’s insistence that its precedents had been misinterpreted was simply a cover for getting rid of a decision with which it disagreed.

He said the replacement of what had been an easy-to-understand “bright line” rule for police “is virtually certain to confuse law enforcement officers and judges for some time to come.”

The court’s new rules will endanger arresting officers, he said, and “cause the suppression of evidence gathered in many searches carried out in good-faith reliance on well-settled case law.”

He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer.

The case is Arizona v. Gant.

Appeared Here


Department Of Justice Investigated After Botched Case And Kangaroo Trial Of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens – Gross Misconduct

April 5, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The bungled trial of former GOP Sen. Ted Stevens tainted more than just the Justice Department. It probably tipped the balance of a close election, and the fallout from that is far from over.

Stevens, the 85-year-old patriarch of Alaska politics, is headed to court Tuesday, when a judge is expected to grant Attorney General Eric Holder’s request to dismiss the case and toss out Stevens’ conviction.

Within the department, the Stevens case could have far-ranging implications. The prosecution team, including the top two officials in the public integrity section, faces an internal investigation.

The FBI has 2,500 pending corruption investigations across the country, and whether the targets are lawmakers or suspected crooked government inspectors, prosecutors may be more cautious in bringing charges after the Stevens debacle.

A jury convicted Stevens of lying about gifts and home renovations provided by an Alaska businessman.

Stevens beat the charges, but lost his job. In that, he’s not alone.

In Puerto Rico last year, prosecutors filed a new indictment against Democratic Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila three months before the election. He lost the race, but a jury found him not guilty of all charges.

The prosecution “certainly smacked of political motivation,” argued Acevedo’s lawyer, Thomas Green.

Such accusations are not new from defense lawyers in corruption cases. But they have far more bite when the politicians charged ultimately win in court after having lost their careers.

In Wisconsin in 2006, prosecutors indicted a little-known state worker for allegedly helping contributors to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle get a contract. The worker, Georgia Thompson, was sentenced to prison two months before the election.

After the election – which Doyle won – an appeals court not only overturned her conviction, but ordered her immediately freed from prison. One appeals court judge described the evidence against Thompson as “beyond thin.”

During the Bush administration, Democrats claimed the conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was pushed by politically minded Republicans.

Siegelman, who was sent to prison in 2007 for bribery and corruption, was freed last year on bond. An appeals court recently dismissed some, but not all the charges and ordered him resentenced. His lawyer is asking the attorney general to toss out the case entirely, just like in the Stevens case.

Holder, a former corruption prosecutor, is also facing calls to overhaul the public integrity section.

In announcing his decision on Stevens, he said the department “must always ensure that any case in which it is involved is handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice.”

Joseph diGenova, a former federal prosecutor, said federal prosecutors suffer from “a lack of supervision.”

“I’m a great fan of prosecutors, but the department and the U.S. attorneys offices in my opinion have been out of control,” diGenova said.

In Stevens’ case, Holder decided to pull the plug after prosecutors withheld notes of an interview with a crucial witness. The notes would have contradicted damaging testimony the witness gave against Stevens.

To diGenova, it was one of the worst examples of prosecutors caring more about winning a case than finding justice, and further proof of what he called incredible arrogance of many lawyers in the department.

“This was, in essence, a framing of a senator. That doesn’t mean he’s pure as the driven snow, but they were going to convict him no matter what,” the lawyer said. “They changed the balance of power in the United States Senate. That ought to be a crime.”

Stevens was the longest-serving Republican in Senate history. A week before the 2008 election, a jury found him guilty on seven felony counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from a wealthy oil contractor.

After the conviction, Stevens lost to Democrat Mark Begich by fewer than 4,000 votes. Begich has rejected calls from Alaska Republicans, including Gov. Sarah Palin, for him to resign in order to have a new election for the seat.

When he took the job of attorney general, Holder pledged to remove any political considerations from the department’s work after a slew of investigations into alleged partisan meddling during the Bush years.

Those accusations were initially driven by the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in late 2006, and culminated with the ouster of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.

Yet it was the Republican administration that filed the case against the Republican Stevens, and it was their Democratic successors who dropped it.

Appeared Here


Department Of Justice Investigated After Botched Case And Kangaroo Trial Of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens – Gross Misconduct

April 5, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The bungled trial of former GOP Sen. Ted Stevens tainted more than just the Justice Department. It probably tipped the balance of a close election, and the fallout from that is far from over.

Stevens, the 85-year-old patriarch of Alaska politics, is headed to court Tuesday, when a judge is expected to grant Attorney General Eric Holder’s request to dismiss the case and toss out Stevens’ conviction.

Within the department, the Stevens case could have far-ranging implications. The prosecution team, including the top two officials in the public integrity section, faces an internal investigation.

The FBI has 2,500 pending corruption investigations across the country, and whether the targets are lawmakers or suspected crooked government inspectors, prosecutors may be more cautious in bringing charges after the Stevens debacle.

A jury convicted Stevens of lying about gifts and home renovations provided by an Alaska businessman.

Stevens beat the charges, but lost his job. In that, he’s not alone.

In Puerto Rico last year, prosecutors filed a new indictment against Democratic Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila three months before the election. He lost the race, but a jury found him not guilty of all charges.

The prosecution “certainly smacked of political motivation,” argued Acevedo’s lawyer, Thomas Green.

Such accusations are not new from defense lawyers in corruption cases. But they have far more bite when the politicians charged ultimately win in court after having lost their careers.

In Wisconsin in 2006, prosecutors indicted a little-known state worker for allegedly helping contributors to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle get a contract. The worker, Georgia Thompson, was sentenced to prison two months before the election.

After the election – which Doyle won – an appeals court not only overturned her conviction, but ordered her immediately freed from prison. One appeals court judge described the evidence against Thompson as “beyond thin.”

During the Bush administration, Democrats claimed the conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman was pushed by politically minded Republicans.

Siegelman, who was sent to prison in 2007 for bribery and corruption, was freed last year on bond. An appeals court recently dismissed some, but not all the charges and ordered him resentenced. His lawyer is asking the attorney general to toss out the case entirely, just like in the Stevens case.

Holder, a former corruption prosecutor, is also facing calls to overhaul the public integrity section.

In announcing his decision on Stevens, he said the department “must always ensure that any case in which it is involved is handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice.”

Joseph diGenova, a former federal prosecutor, said federal prosecutors suffer from “a lack of supervision.”

“I’m a great fan of prosecutors, but the department and the U.S. attorneys offices in my opinion have been out of control,” diGenova said.

In Stevens’ case, Holder decided to pull the plug after prosecutors withheld notes of an interview with a crucial witness. The notes would have contradicted damaging testimony the witness gave against Stevens.

To diGenova, it was one of the worst examples of prosecutors caring more about winning a case than finding justice, and further proof of what he called incredible arrogance of many lawyers in the department.

“This was, in essence, a framing of a senator. That doesn’t mean he’s pure as the driven snow, but they were going to convict him no matter what,” the lawyer said. “They changed the balance of power in the United States Senate. That ought to be a crime.”

Stevens was the longest-serving Republican in Senate history. A week before the 2008 election, a jury found him guilty on seven felony counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from a wealthy oil contractor.

After the conviction, Stevens lost to Democrat Mark Begich by fewer than 4,000 votes. Begich has rejected calls from Alaska Republicans, including Gov. Sarah Palin, for him to resign in order to have a new election for the seat.

When he took the job of attorney general, Holder pledged to remove any political considerations from the department’s work after a slew of investigations into alleged partisan meddling during the Bush years.

Those accusations were initially driven by the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in late 2006, and culminated with the ouster of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.

Yet it was the Republican administration that filed the case against the Republican Stevens, and it was their Democratic successors who dropped it.

Appeared Here


US Border Patrol Plans To Use Agent Orange Like Poison Along Mexican Border

March 25, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants.

If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol’s Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although Border Patrol and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say the chemical is safe for animals, detractors say the experiment is reminiscent of the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange chemical program and raises questions about long-term effects.

“We don’t believe that is even moral,” said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, located at Laredo Community College, adjacent to the planned test area.

“It is unprecedented that they’d do it in a populated area,” he said of spraying the edge of the Rio Grande as it weaves between the cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

Border Patrol agent Roque Sarinana said the pilot project aims to find the most efficient way to keep agents safer and better protect the nation’s border. “We are trying to improve our mobility and visibility up and down the river,” Sarinana said.

Criminals have grown adept at using the dense foliage to elude capture, he said.

“They can come over almost undetected,” he said.

Should the Border Patrol project prove efficient, cane removal could become part of its arsenal of tools that have been used along various parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, including walls, fencing and look-out towers.

Members of the Laredo City Council have raised concerns about the spraying program and called on Mexico President Felipe Calderon to intervene.

Mexican officials are raising concerns the herbicide could threaten the water supply for Nuevo Laredo.

A U.S. government outline of the project indicates the Border Patrol is going to test three methods to rid the 1.1-mile bank of river of carrizo cane, which has thick stalks that form tight, isolated trails that can be dark and all but invisible from higher up on the bank.

One method calls for the cane to be cut by hand and the stumps painted with the herbicide, Imazapyr.

Another involves using mechanical equipment to dig the cane out by the roots. It is unclear if herbicides would be necessary in this scenario.

The third and most controversial removal method calls for helicopters spraying Imazapyr directly on the cane — repeatedly — until all plant life in the area is poisoned.

The Border Patrol said that after using the herbicide, it plans to make the river’s edges green again by planting native plants.

Johnson-Castro said he has no issue with removing the cane, a non-native plant brought by the Spaniards centuries ago. The challenge, he said, is how it is done.

“We are saying it is one hell of a big deal,” he said.

Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas said he believes federal officials when they say testing shows the chemical is not dangerous, but that he also realizes opponents of the project have concerns to evaluate.

“It is a complicated situation because we have to think about protecting our border,” said Salinas, a retired FBI agent. “But let’s do it in a sensible, reasonable way to make sure humans won’t be harmed, nor the vegetation, nor the animals, nor the environment.”

Appeared Here


US Border Patrol Plans To Use Agent Orange Like Poison Along Mexican Border

March 25, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants.

If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol’s Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although Border Patrol and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say the chemical is safe for animals, detractors say the experiment is reminiscent of the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange chemical program and raises questions about long-term effects.

“We don’t believe that is even moral,” said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, located at Laredo Community College, adjacent to the planned test area.

“It is unprecedented that they’d do it in a populated area,” he said of spraying the edge of the Rio Grande as it weaves between the cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

Border Patrol agent Roque Sarinana said the pilot project aims to find the most efficient way to keep agents safer and better protect the nation’s border. “We are trying to improve our mobility and visibility up and down the river,” Sarinana said.

Criminals have grown adept at using the dense foliage to elude capture, he said.

“They can come over almost undetected,” he said.

Should the Border Patrol project prove efficient, cane removal could become part of its arsenal of tools that have been used along various parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, including walls, fencing and look-out towers.

Members of the Laredo City Council have raised concerns about the spraying program and called on Mexico President Felipe Calderon to intervene.

Mexican officials are raising concerns the herbicide could threaten the water supply for Nuevo Laredo.

A U.S. government outline of the project indicates the Border Patrol is going to test three methods to rid the 1.1-mile bank of river of carrizo cane, which has thick stalks that form tight, isolated trails that can be dark and all but invisible from higher up on the bank.

One method calls for the cane to be cut by hand and the stumps painted with the herbicide, Imazapyr.

Another involves using mechanical equipment to dig the cane out by the roots. It is unclear if herbicides would be necessary in this scenario.

The third and most controversial removal method calls for helicopters spraying Imazapyr directly on the cane — repeatedly — until all plant life in the area is poisoned.

The Border Patrol said that after using the herbicide, it plans to make the river’s edges green again by planting native plants.

Johnson-Castro said he has no issue with removing the cane, a non-native plant brought by the Spaniards centuries ago. The challenge, he said, is how it is done.

“We are saying it is one hell of a big deal,” he said.

Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas said he believes federal officials when they say testing shows the chemical is not dangerous, but that he also realizes opponents of the project have concerns to evaluate.

“It is a complicated situation because we have to think about protecting our border,” said Salinas, a retired FBI agent. “But let’s do it in a sensible, reasonable way to make sure humans won’t be harmed, nor the vegetation, nor the animals, nor the environment.”

Appeared Here


Amnesty International USA Sides With Wetbacks Detained In US Prior To Deportation

March 25, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The detention of hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year in the United States represents a violation of human rights, Amnesty International USA said in a report on Wednesday.

On an average day, the rights group said, more than 30,000 immigrants are in detention facilities. That’s triple the number that were in custody a decade ago, according to Amnesty’s report “Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA.”

“America should be outraged by the scale of human rights abuses occurring within its own borders,” said Larry Cox, director of Amnesty International USA.

“The United States has long been a country of immigrants, and whether they have been here five years or five generations, their human rights are to be respected.”

Amnesty said more than 300,000 people are detained by U.S. immigration officials each year. They include asylum seekers, torture survivors, victims of human trafficking, longtime legal permanent residents and parents of U.S. citizen children.

“The use of detention as a tool to combat unauthorized migration falls short of international human rights law,” the report said.

According to Amnesty, tens of thousands of people languish in American immigration detention facilities every year — including a number of U.S. citizens — without receiving a hearing to determine whether their detention is warranted.

Amnesty called on the U.S. government to ensure that all immigrants and people seeking asylum in the United States who have been detained receive a hearing to determine whether their detention is necessary.

Sernata Reynolds, Amnesty USA’s policy director for Refugee and Migrant Rights, said U.S. officials stepped up detentions after the September 11 attacks.

LONG WAITS FOR DETENTION HEARINGS

“Although the law permitted it, it hadn’t been used in the way that it was,” she said in an interview. “Then, in the climate of fear, it was exponentially growing, and continues to grow. This year … they expect to detain 400,000 people.”

“No one comes close to detaining the amount of people that the United States does,” she said. “I don’t know of another country that detains hundreds of thousands of people as a normal policy every year.”

According to the report, there were about 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States as of January 2007. The top five countries of origin were Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines and China.

The Department of Homeland Security can detain people at the border or during raids if it suspects them of an immigration violation.

People detained at the border are not entitled to a review of their detention by an immigration judge, Amnesty said. Those apprehended inside the United States have the right to appear before a judge, but the wait can be long.

“U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been incorrectly subject to mandatory detention and have spent months or years behind bars before being able to prove they are not deportable from the United States,” the report said.

Under international law, detention should only be used in exceptional circumstances, must be justified in each individual case and must be subject to judicial review.

Amnesty said many of the immigrants who are arrested are unable to be freed on bond because the amount is set too high for them to pay.

The report said U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been incorrectly subject to mandatory detention with no right to a bond hearing before a judge and spent months or years behind bars before proving they are not deportable.

Amnesty cited the case of a man who was born in Minnesota and placed in immigration detention in Arizona. He was unable to access his birth certificate because he was in detention and ended up working for $1 a day in the prison kitchen to earn the $30 necessary to order a copy of his birth certificate.

The report said detention facilities for immigrants violate international standards. Amnesty said detainees have reported receiving poor medical care, some complained of being put in excessive restraints and others were held with people imprisoned for criminal offenses.

Appeared Here


Amnesty International USA Sides With Wetbacks Detained In US Prior To Deportation

March 25, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The detention of hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year in the United States represents a violation of human rights, Amnesty International USA said in a report on Wednesday.

On an average day, the rights group said, more than 30,000 immigrants are in detention facilities. That’s triple the number that were in custody a decade ago, according to Amnesty’s report “Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA.”

“America should be outraged by the scale of human rights abuses occurring within its own borders,” said Larry Cox, director of Amnesty International USA.

“The United States has long been a country of immigrants, and whether they have been here five years or five generations, their human rights are to be respected.”

Amnesty said more than 300,000 people are detained by U.S. immigration officials each year. They include asylum seekers, torture survivors, victims of human trafficking, longtime legal permanent residents and parents of U.S. citizen children.

“The use of detention as a tool to combat unauthorized migration falls short of international human rights law,” the report said.

According to Amnesty, tens of thousands of people languish in American immigration detention facilities every year — including a number of U.S. citizens — without receiving a hearing to determine whether their detention is warranted.

Amnesty called on the U.S. government to ensure that all immigrants and people seeking asylum in the United States who have been detained receive a hearing to determine whether their detention is necessary.

Sernata Reynolds, Amnesty USA’s policy director for Refugee and Migrant Rights, said U.S. officials stepped up detentions after the September 11 attacks.

LONG WAITS FOR DETENTION HEARINGS

“Although the law permitted it, it hadn’t been used in the way that it was,” she said in an interview. “Then, in the climate of fear, it was exponentially growing, and continues to grow. This year … they expect to detain 400,000 people.”

“No one comes close to detaining the amount of people that the United States does,” she said. “I don’t know of another country that detains hundreds of thousands of people as a normal policy every year.”

According to the report, there were about 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States as of January 2007. The top five countries of origin were Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines and China.

The Department of Homeland Security can detain people at the border or during raids if it suspects them of an immigration violation.

People detained at the border are not entitled to a review of their detention by an immigration judge, Amnesty said. Those apprehended inside the United States have the right to appear before a judge, but the wait can be long.

“U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been incorrectly subject to mandatory detention and have spent months or years behind bars before being able to prove they are not deportable from the United States,” the report said.

Under international law, detention should only be used in exceptional circumstances, must be justified in each individual case and must be subject to judicial review.

Amnesty said many of the immigrants who are arrested are unable to be freed on bond because the amount is set too high for them to pay.

The report said U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been incorrectly subject to mandatory detention with no right to a bond hearing before a judge and spent months or years behind bars before proving they are not deportable.

Amnesty cited the case of a man who was born in Minnesota and placed in immigration detention in Arizona. He was unable to access his birth certificate because he was in detention and ended up working for $1 a day in the prison kitchen to earn the $30 necessary to order a copy of his birth certificate.

The report said detention facilities for immigrants violate international standards. Amnesty said detainees have reported receiving poor medical care, some complained of being put in excessive restraints and others were held with people imprisoned for criminal offenses.

Appeared Here


Torture And Abuse Worsen At Guantanamo Since Obama Took Office

March 8, 2009

GUANTANAMO, CUBA – A freed Guantanamo prisoner has said conditions at the US detention camp in Cuba have worsened since President Barack Obama was elected, claiming guards wanted to “take their last revenge”.

Binyam Mohamed, the first detainee to be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay since Obama took office, also said British agents “sold me out” by cooperating with his alleged torturers, in his first interview since release which was published Sunday.

Mohamed, a 30-year-old Ethiopian-born former British resident, gave further details of what he has called the “medieval” torture he faced in Pakistan and Morocco, as well as in a secret CIA prison in Kabul and at Guantanamo.

“The result of my experience is that I feel emotionally dead,” he told the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “It seems like a miracle my brain is still intact.”

Far from improving, Mohamed said conditions at Guantanamo have worsened since Obama was elected in November.

The US president had promised during his campaign to shut down the Guantanamo prison and two days after taking office announced it would close this year.

“Since the election it’s got harsher,” Mohamed told the newspaper. “The guards would say, ‘yes, this place is going to close down,’ but it was like they wanted to take their last revenge.”

He also claimed the Emergency Reaction Force at Guantanamo, a team which he said punishes inmates in their cells and once almost gouged his eyes out when he declined to give his fingerprints, is now being used more often.

Mohamed said he was beaten at Guantanamo and also described mistreatment at other detention centres.

He said his chest and penis were slashed with razors while he was held in Morocco.

In Afghanistan, he said he lived in constant darkness for five months and “came close to insanity” after being forced to listen to the same album by rapper Eminem at a deafening volume for a solid month.

He flew back to Britain last month, tasting freedom for the first time since 2002 when he was arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of attending an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and plotting to build a radioactive “dirty bomb”.

But the United States never charged him, and British police also questioned him on his return and let him go free.

In the newspaper interview, Mohamed gave further details of his claim that British officials had colluded in his alleged torture.

He said while he was in Morocco in 2002, his Moroccan interrogators “started bringing British files to the interrogations… it was obvious the British were feeding them questions about people in London.

“When I realised that the British were cooperating with the people torturing me, I felt completely naked,” he said. “They sold me out.”

He said he subsequently made false confessions about one plot to build a “dirty” nuclear bomb and another to blow up apartments in New York linked to alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The paper also quoted two telegrams, shown to Mohamed by his military lawyer, from Britain’s MI5 security service to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in November 2002. They allegedly detail specific questions that the British wanted to be put to Mohamed.

“We note that we have also requested that briefs be put to Binyam Mohamed and would appreciate a guide from you as to the likely timescale for these too,” one is quoted as saying.

“We fully appreciate that this can be a long-winded process but the urgent nature of these enquiries will be obvious to you.”

In response to the claims, Britain’s Foreign Office released a statement saying: “We abhor torture and never order it or condone it…

“In the case of Binyam Mohamed, an allegation of possible criminal wrong-doing has been referred to the Attorney General. We need now to wait for her report.”

Mohamed is undergoing therapy to come to terms with his experiences.

Looking to the future, he said he wanted to stay in Britain, which is currently considering whether to let him remain. “It’s the only place I can call home,” he said.

In an editorial, this week’s Independent on Sunday said his case was “only the most dreadful of many instances where the British government’s policy seems to have been to turn a blind eye”.

Appeared Here


Torture And Abuse Worsen At Guantanamo Since Obama Took Office

March 8, 2009

GUANTANAMO, CUBA – A freed Guantanamo prisoner has said conditions at the US detention camp in Cuba have worsened since President Barack Obama was elected, claiming guards wanted to “take their last revenge”.

Binyam Mohamed, the first detainee to be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay since Obama took office, also said British agents “sold me out” by cooperating with his alleged torturers, in his first interview since release which was published Sunday.

Mohamed, a 30-year-old Ethiopian-born former British resident, gave further details of what he has called the “medieval” torture he faced in Pakistan and Morocco, as well as in a secret CIA prison in Kabul and at Guantanamo.

“The result of my experience is that I feel emotionally dead,” he told the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “It seems like a miracle my brain is still intact.”

Far from improving, Mohamed said conditions at Guantanamo have worsened since Obama was elected in November.

The US president had promised during his campaign to shut down the Guantanamo prison and two days after taking office announced it would close this year.

“Since the election it’s got harsher,” Mohamed told the newspaper. “The guards would say, ‘yes, this place is going to close down,’ but it was like they wanted to take their last revenge.”

He also claimed the Emergency Reaction Force at Guantanamo, a team which he said punishes inmates in their cells and once almost gouged his eyes out when he declined to give his fingerprints, is now being used more often.

Mohamed said he was beaten at Guantanamo and also described mistreatment at other detention centres.

He said his chest and penis were slashed with razors while he was held in Morocco.

In Afghanistan, he said he lived in constant darkness for five months and “came close to insanity” after being forced to listen to the same album by rapper Eminem at a deafening volume for a solid month.

He flew back to Britain last month, tasting freedom for the first time since 2002 when he was arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of attending an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and plotting to build a radioactive “dirty bomb”.

But the United States never charged him, and British police also questioned him on his return and let him go free.

In the newspaper interview, Mohamed gave further details of his claim that British officials had colluded in his alleged torture.

He said while he was in Morocco in 2002, his Moroccan interrogators “started bringing British files to the interrogations… it was obvious the British were feeding them questions about people in London.

“When I realised that the British were cooperating with the people torturing me, I felt completely naked,” he said. “They sold me out.”

He said he subsequently made false confessions about one plot to build a “dirty” nuclear bomb and another to blow up apartments in New York linked to alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The paper also quoted two telegrams, shown to Mohamed by his military lawyer, from Britain’s MI5 security service to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in November 2002. They allegedly detail specific questions that the British wanted to be put to Mohamed.

“We note that we have also requested that briefs be put to Binyam Mohamed and would appreciate a guide from you as to the likely timescale for these too,” one is quoted as saying.

“We fully appreciate that this can be a long-winded process but the urgent nature of these enquiries will be obvious to you.”

In response to the claims, Britain’s Foreign Office released a statement saying: “We abhor torture and never order it or condone it…

“In the case of Binyam Mohamed, an allegation of possible criminal wrong-doing has been referred to the Attorney General. We need now to wait for her report.”

Mohamed is undergoing therapy to come to terms with his experiences.

Looking to the future, he said he wanted to stay in Britain, which is currently considering whether to let him remain. “It’s the only place I can call home,” he said.

In an editorial, this week’s Independent on Sunday said his case was “only the most dreadful of many instances where the British government’s policy seems to have been to turn a blind eye”.

Appeared Here


One In Every 31 Adult Americans Is In Jail, Prison, On Probation, Or Under Other Supervision

March 3, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – One in every 31 U.S. adults is in the corrections system, which includes jail, prison, probation and supervision, more than double the rate of a quarter century ago, according to a report released on Monday by the Pew Center on the States.

The study, which said the current rate compares to one in 77 in 1982, concluded that with declining resources, more emphasis should be put on community supervision, not jail or prison.

“Violent and career criminals need to be locked up, and for a long time. But our research shows that prisons are housing too many people who can be managed safely and held accountable in the community at far lower cost,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Center’s Public Safety Performance Project, which produced the report.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the biggest prison population of any country in the world, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Most of those in the U.S. corrections system — one in 45 — are already on probation or parole, with one in 100 in prison or jail, the Pew study found.

Those numbers are higher in certain areas of the country, and Georgia tops all states with one in 13 adults in the justice system. The other leading states are Idaho, where one in 18 are in corrections and Texas, where the rate is one in 22. In the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., nearly 5 percent of adults are in the city’s penal system.

This was the first criminal justice study that took into account those on probation and parole as well as federal convicts, Pew said.

‘STATES SPENDING TOO MUCH’

The numbers are also concentrated among groups, with a little more than 9 percent of black adults in prisons or jails or on probation or parole, as opposed to some 4 percent of Hispanics and 2 percent of whites.

Pew compiled the report as states consider cutting corrections spending during the recession. The research group said that by changing sentencing laws and probation programs states can lower incarceration rates and save money.

“Among the many programs that are competing for scarce taxpayer dollars, there is one area of the state budget that could use some trimming, and that area is corrections,” said Susan Urahn, the center’s managing director, in a call with reporters. “The bottom line is that states are spending too much.”

Penitentiary systems have been the fastest-growing spending area for states after Medicaid, the healthcare program for those with low income. Over the last 20 years their spending on criminal justice has increased more than 300 percent, the study found.

During the last 25 years prison and jail populations have grown 274 percent to 2.3 million in 2008, according to the Pew research, while those under supervision grew 226 percent over the same span to 5.1 million.

It estimated states spent a record $51.7 billion on corrections in fiscal year 2008 and incarcerating one inmate cost them, on average, $29,000 a year. But the average annual cost of managing an offender through probation was $1,250 and through parole $2,750.

“The huge differences between states are mostly due not to crime trends, or social and economic forces,” Gelb said. “The rates are different mostly because of choices that the states have made about how they respond to crime.”

“New community supervision strategies and technologies need to be strengthened and expanded, not scaled back. Cutting them may appear to save a few dollars, but it doesn’t,” Gelb said.

Some states have begun experimenting with ankle bracelets, Global Positioning Systems, and even kiosks akin to cash machines in order to track those on probation for less, he said.

Appeared Here


One In Every 31 Adult Americans Is In Jail, Prison, On Probation, Or Under Other Supervision

March 3, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – One in every 31 U.S. adults is in the corrections system, which includes jail, prison, probation and supervision, more than double the rate of a quarter century ago, according to a report released on Monday by the Pew Center on the States.

The study, which said the current rate compares to one in 77 in 1982, concluded that with declining resources, more emphasis should be put on community supervision, not jail or prison.

“Violent and career criminals need to be locked up, and for a long time. But our research shows that prisons are housing too many people who can be managed safely and held accountable in the community at far lower cost,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Center’s Public Safety Performance Project, which produced the report.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the biggest prison population of any country in the world, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Most of those in the U.S. corrections system — one in 45 — are already on probation or parole, with one in 100 in prison or jail, the Pew study found.

Those numbers are higher in certain areas of the country, and Georgia tops all states with one in 13 adults in the justice system. The other leading states are Idaho, where one in 18 are in corrections and Texas, where the rate is one in 22. In the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., nearly 5 percent of adults are in the city’s penal system.

This was the first criminal justice study that took into account those on probation and parole as well as federal convicts, Pew said.

‘STATES SPENDING TOO MUCH’

The numbers are also concentrated among groups, with a little more than 9 percent of black adults in prisons or jails or on probation or parole, as opposed to some 4 percent of Hispanics and 2 percent of whites.

Pew compiled the report as states consider cutting corrections spending during the recession. The research group said that by changing sentencing laws and probation programs states can lower incarceration rates and save money.

“Among the many programs that are competing for scarce taxpayer dollars, there is one area of the state budget that could use some trimming, and that area is corrections,” said Susan Urahn, the center’s managing director, in a call with reporters. “The bottom line is that states are spending too much.”

Penitentiary systems have been the fastest-growing spending area for states after Medicaid, the healthcare program for those with low income. Over the last 20 years their spending on criminal justice has increased more than 300 percent, the study found.

During the last 25 years prison and jail populations have grown 274 percent to 2.3 million in 2008, according to the Pew research, while those under supervision grew 226 percent over the same span to 5.1 million.

It estimated states spent a record $51.7 billion on corrections in fiscal year 2008 and incarcerating one inmate cost them, on average, $29,000 a year. But the average annual cost of managing an offender through probation was $1,250 and through parole $2,750.

“The huge differences between states are mostly due not to crime trends, or social and economic forces,” Gelb said. “The rates are different mostly because of choices that the states have made about how they respond to crime.”

“New community supervision strategies and technologies need to be strengthened and expanded, not scaled back. Cutting them may appear to save a few dollars, but it doesn’t,” Gelb said.

Some states have begun experimenting with ankle bracelets, Global Positioning Systems, and even kiosks akin to cash machines in order to track those on probation for less, he said.

Appeared Here


Our Tax Dollars At Work: CIA Destroyed Nearly 100 Torture Tapes

March 2, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – New documents show the CIA destroyed nearly 100 tapes of terror interrogations, far more than has previously been acknowledged.

The revelation Monday comes as a criminal prosecutor is wrapping up his investigation in the matter.

The acknowledgment of dozens of destroyed tapes came in a letter filed by government lawyers in New York, where the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking more details of terror interrogation programs.

“The CIA can now identify the number of videotapes that were destroyed,” said the letter by Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin. “Ninety two videotapes were destroyed.”

The tapes became a contentious issue in the trial of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, after prosecutors initially claimed no such recordings existed, then acknowledged two videotapes and one audiotape had been made.

The letter, dated March 2 to Judge Alvin Hellerstein, says the CIA is now gathering more details for the lawsuit, including a list of the destroyed records, any secondary accounts that describe the destroyed contents, and the identities of those who may have viewed or possessed the recordings before they were destroyed.

But the lawyers also note that some of that information may be classified, such as the names of CIA personnel that viewed the tapes.

“The CIA intends to produce all of the information requested to the court and to produce as much information as possible on the public record to the plaintiffs,” states the letter.

John Durham, a senior career prosecutor in Connecticut, was appointed to lead the criminal investigation out of Virginia.

He had asked that the requests for information in the civil lawsuit be put on hold until he had completed his criminal investigation. Durham asked that he be given until the end of February to wrap up his work, and has not asked for another extension.

Appeared Here


Our Tax Dollars At Work: CIA Destroyed Nearly 100 Torture Tapes

March 2, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – New documents show the CIA destroyed nearly 100 tapes of terror interrogations, far more than has previously been acknowledged.

The revelation Monday comes as a criminal prosecutor is wrapping up his investigation in the matter.

The acknowledgment of dozens of destroyed tapes came in a letter filed by government lawyers in New York, where the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking more details of terror interrogation programs.

“The CIA can now identify the number of videotapes that were destroyed,” said the letter by Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin. “Ninety two videotapes were destroyed.”

The tapes became a contentious issue in the trial of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, after prosecutors initially claimed no such recordings existed, then acknowledged two videotapes and one audiotape had been made.

The letter, dated March 2 to Judge Alvin Hellerstein, says the CIA is now gathering more details for the lawsuit, including a list of the destroyed records, any secondary accounts that describe the destroyed contents, and the identities of those who may have viewed or possessed the recordings before they were destroyed.

But the lawyers also note that some of that information may be classified, such as the names of CIA personnel that viewed the tapes.

“The CIA intends to produce all of the information requested to the court and to produce as much information as possible on the public record to the plaintiffs,” states the letter.

John Durham, a senior career prosecutor in Connecticut, was appointed to lead the criminal investigation out of Virginia.

He had asked that the requests for information in the civil lawsuit be put on hold until he had completed his criminal investigation. Durham asked that he be given until the end of February to wrap up his work, and has not asked for another extension.

Appeared Here


Obama Administration Attempts To Cover Up Wrongdoing By Criminal President George W. Bush

February 22, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama administration, siding with former President George W. Bush, is trying to kill a lawsuit that seeks to recover what could be millions of missing White House e-mails.

Two advocacy groups suing the Executive Office of the President say that large amounts of White House e-mail documenting Bush’s eight years in office may still be missing, and that the government must undertake an extensive recovery effort. They expressed disappointment that Obama’s Justice Department is continuing the Bush administration’s bid to get the lawsuits dismissed.

During its first term, the Bush White House failed to install electronic record-keeping for e-mail when it switched to a new system, resulting in millions of messages that could not be found.

The Bush White House discovered the problem in 2005 and rejected a proposed solution.

Recently, the Bush White House said it had located 14 million e-mails that were misplaced and that the White House had restored hundreds of thousands of other e-mails from computer backup tapes.

The steps the White House took are inadequate, one of the two groups, the National Security Archive, told a federal judge in court papers filed Friday.

“We do not know how many more e-mails could be restored but have not been, because defendants have not looked,” the National Security Archive said in the court papers.

“The new administration seems no more eager than the last” to deal with the issue, said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the other group that sued the EOP.

The Executive Office of the President includes the president’s immediate staff and many White House offices and agencies.

Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, noted that President Barack Obama on his first full day in office called for greater transparency in government.

The Justice Department “apparently never got the message” from Obama, Blanton said.

The department defends the government when it is sued.

Appeared Here


Obama Administration Attempts To Cover Up Wrongdoing By Criminal President George W. Bush

February 22, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama administration, siding with former President George W. Bush, is trying to kill a lawsuit that seeks to recover what could be millions of missing White House e-mails.

Two advocacy groups suing the Executive Office of the President say that large amounts of White House e-mail documenting Bush’s eight years in office may still be missing, and that the government must undertake an extensive recovery effort. They expressed disappointment that Obama’s Justice Department is continuing the Bush administration’s bid to get the lawsuits dismissed.

During its first term, the Bush White House failed to install electronic record-keeping for e-mail when it switched to a new system, resulting in millions of messages that could not be found.

The Bush White House discovered the problem in 2005 and rejected a proposed solution.

Recently, the Bush White House said it had located 14 million e-mails that were misplaced and that the White House had restored hundreds of thousands of other e-mails from computer backup tapes.

The steps the White House took are inadequate, one of the two groups, the National Security Archive, told a federal judge in court papers filed Friday.

“We do not know how many more e-mails could be restored but have not been, because defendants have not looked,” the National Security Archive said in the court papers.

“The new administration seems no more eager than the last” to deal with the issue, said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the other group that sued the EOP.

The Executive Office of the President includes the president’s immediate staff and many White House offices and agencies.

Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, noted that President Barack Obama on his first full day in office called for greater transparency in government.

The Justice Department “apparently never got the message” from Obama, Blanton said.

The department defends the government when it is sued.

Appeared Here


Junk Science: National Academy Of Sciences Find Faults With U.S. Crime Labs And So-Called Forensic Experts And Their Tests

February 19, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC - Those slick, intricate tests used by forensic investigators on shows like “CSI” look infallible, but that is the stuff of television. In the real world, forensic tests are much more ambiguous and rarely demonstrate a definite tie between an individual and a crime.

The National Academy of Sciences found that U.S. crime labs lack uniform standards, training and oversight.

That’s what the National Academy of Sciences found when it studied the nation’s forensic crime labs for two years. What the academy discovered was a “badly fragmented” system that produces inconsistent results and needs a major overhaul.

In its report published Wednesday, the academy showed there is a serious lack of uniform standards, training and oversight. And, with the exception of DNA technology, the report concludes experts often overstate how much can be determined by forensic techniques running the gamut from fingerprinting to bite mark and hair analysis.

According to the findings, except for DNA technology, “no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”

The report noted that forensic experts in court cases often overstate what can be proven by forensic methods and even attach a numerical percentage of accuracy that may not be based on clearly established scientific standards.

The panel recommends that Congress create an independent National Institute of Forensic Science that could formulate standards for various forensic disciplines, regulate training and accreditation, and lead research. Another recommendation is that crime labs should be autonomous and not controlled by police departments or prosecutors’ offices to head off any real or perceived bias toward law enforcement.

The report also says many labs are “underfunded and understaffed, which contributes to case backlogs and makes it hard for laboratories to do as much as they could to inform investigations and avoid errors.”

One of the co-chairs of the study, Judge Harry Edwards, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., says much is at stake.

“We determine whether people are innocent or whether they are guilty in part based on forensic science evidence, so as a nation it is terribly important to us that we do it as well as it can be done,” Edwards told CNN. “And we are not doing it as well as it can be done right now.”

Edwards said the panel received input from members of the forensic science community who agreed that improvements can be made.

Constantine Gatsonis, a professor of biostatistics at Brown University and the other co-chair of the study, says the goal of the forensic community should be “how to do the science better, how to report it more reliably … and then how to practice it in a way that is uniform and according to standards across the country.”

The report does not examine specific cases but looks at various forensic techniques used in thousands of trials.

In the area of firearm analysis — a discipline used by police crime labs to determine if a bullet recovered in a crime might have come from a particular gun — the report says, “Sufficient studies have not been done to understand the reliability and repeatability of the methods.”

Fingerprints are used by law enforcement every day. The report notes the quality of the prints can vary greatly and that individual analysts “make subjective assessments” in trying to decide if a print can be linked to a particular individual. Therefore, the report states, “zero-error rates are not plausible.”

On hair analysis, the panel found: “There appear to be no uniform standards on the number of features on which hairs must agree before an examiner may declare a ‘match.'”

While the report says DNA analysis has the highest degree of certainty, it says other techniques can help narrow the field of suspects in an investigation.

Peter Marone, chairman of the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations, said his group supports a comprehensive review of forensic science and efforts to improve standards and oversight. But Marone does not think the release of the report should be an occasion to “put down the work of thousands of scientists and forensic examiners.”

Marone, who also served on the National Academy of Sciences panel that produced the report, told CNN “the great majority of labs are doing first-rate work top to bottom, and make an enormous contribution to public safety.”

The study by the National Academy of Sciences was requested by Congress. The panel has no authority to institute changes in the nation’s forensics labs, but Congress could act to implement its recommendations.

Appeared Here


Junk Science: National Academy Of Sciences Find Faults With U.S. Crime Labs And So-Called Forensic Experts And Their Tests

February 19, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC - Those slick, intricate tests used by forensic investigators on shows like “CSI” look infallible, but that is the stuff of television. In the real world, forensic tests are much more ambiguous and rarely demonstrate a definite tie between an individual and a crime.

The National Academy of Sciences found that U.S. crime labs lack uniform standards, training and oversight.

That’s what the National Academy of Sciences found when it studied the nation’s forensic crime labs for two years. What the academy discovered was a “badly fragmented” system that produces inconsistent results and needs a major overhaul.

In its report published Wednesday, the academy showed there is a serious lack of uniform standards, training and oversight. And, with the exception of DNA technology, the report concludes experts often overstate how much can be determined by forensic techniques running the gamut from fingerprinting to bite mark and hair analysis.

According to the findings, except for DNA technology, “no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”

The report noted that forensic experts in court cases often overstate what can be proven by forensic methods and even attach a numerical percentage of accuracy that may not be based on clearly established scientific standards.

The panel recommends that Congress create an independent National Institute of Forensic Science that could formulate standards for various forensic disciplines, regulate training and accreditation, and lead research. Another recommendation is that crime labs should be autonomous and not controlled by police departments or prosecutors’ offices to head off any real or perceived bias toward law enforcement.

The report also says many labs are “underfunded and understaffed, which contributes to case backlogs and makes it hard for laboratories to do as much as they could to inform investigations and avoid errors.”

One of the co-chairs of the study, Judge Harry Edwards, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., says much is at stake.

“We determine whether people are innocent or whether they are guilty in part based on forensic science evidence, so as a nation it is terribly important to us that we do it as well as it can be done,” Edwards told CNN. “And we are not doing it as well as it can be done right now.”

Edwards said the panel received input from members of the forensic science community who agreed that improvements can be made.

Constantine Gatsonis, a professor of biostatistics at Brown University and the other co-chair of the study, says the goal of the forensic community should be “how to do the science better, how to report it more reliably … and then how to practice it in a way that is uniform and according to standards across the country.”

The report does not examine specific cases but looks at various forensic techniques used in thousands of trials.

In the area of firearm analysis — a discipline used by police crime labs to determine if a bullet recovered in a crime might have come from a particular gun — the report says, “Sufficient studies have not been done to understand the reliability and repeatability of the methods.”

Fingerprints are used by law enforcement every day. The report notes the quality of the prints can vary greatly and that individual analysts “make subjective assessments” in trying to decide if a print can be linked to a particular individual. Therefore, the report states, “zero-error rates are not plausible.”

On hair analysis, the panel found: “There appear to be no uniform standards on the number of features on which hairs must agree before an examiner may declare a ‘match.'”

While the report says DNA analysis has the highest degree of certainty, it says other techniques can help narrow the field of suspects in an investigation.

Peter Marone, chairman of the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations, said his group supports a comprehensive review of forensic science and efforts to improve standards and oversight. But Marone does not think the release of the report should be an occasion to “put down the work of thousands of scientists and forensic examiners.”

Marone, who also served on the National Academy of Sciences panel that produced the report, told CNN “the great majority of labs are doing first-rate work top to bottom, and make an enormous contribution to public safety.”

The study by the National Academy of Sciences was requested by Congress. The panel has no authority to institute changes in the nation’s forensics labs, but Congress could act to implement its recommendations.

Appeared Here


TSA Implements Virtual Strip Searches Of Airline Passengers. $170,000 Machines To Replace $10,000 Metal Detectors

February 19, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC — For the first time, some airline passengers will skip metal detectors and instead be screened by body scanning machines that look through clothing for hidden weapons, the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday.

An experimental program that begins today at Tulsa International Airport will test whether the $170,000 body scanners could replace $10,000 metal detectors that have screened airline passengers since 1973. Airports in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City will join the test in the next two months, TSA spokesman Christopher White said.

The scanners aim to close a loophole by finding non-metallic weapons such as plastic and liquid explosives, which the TSA considers a major threat. The machines raise privacy concerns because their images reveal outlines of private body parts.

“We’re getting closer and closer to a required strip-search to board an airplane,” said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Privacy advocate Melissa Ngo fears that passengers won’t understand that the scanners take vivid images that screeners view.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: San Francisco | Miami | Las Vegas | Salt Lake City | Transportation Security Administration | American Civil Liberties Union | Albuquerque | Homeland Security | Airports Council International | Christopher White | Barry Steinhardt | Bruce Schneier | Tulsa International Airport | Melissa Ngo

White said each scanner has explanatory signs on how the machines work and posters showing the image they create.

Passengers at the test airports will be instructed to go through the new scanners. Anyone who doesn’t want to go through will be allowed to refuse and instead go through a metal detector and receive a pat-down, White said.

People in the scanner will stand with their arms raised and their face will be blurred out in the metallic-looking image on a nearby screen. TSA screeners view the images from inside a closed room near a checkpoint and immediately delete them.

“We’ve struck a very good balance between security and privacy,” White said.

Christopher Bidwell, security chief at the Airports Council International trade group, said the scanner “really does not reveal as much as some people might think.”

The scanners aim to address problems exposed by government probes in which covert agents got liquid explosives and detonators through airport checkpoints. A 2005 Homeland Security report urged better checkpoint technology.

Security analyst Bruce Schneier, a frequent critic of the TSA, said the scanners should improve security but warned that they take longer than metal detectors — 30 seconds vs. about 15 seconds per passenger. “There will be pressure to do the screening faster, which will be sloppier,” Schneier said.

The scanners bounce harmless “millimeter waves” off passengers’ bodies and use no radiation.

The TSA has done preliminary tests of the scanner on passengers who had just passed through metal detectors. Those tests found that the machines excel at finding hidden objects, White said.

Based on the results of the latest test, the TSA will decide at an undetermined date whether to use more body scanners in place of metal detectors.

Appeared Here


Ignorant Minority Trash U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Calls Americans A Nation Of Cowards

February 19, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Eric Holder described the United States Wednesday as a nation of cowards on matters of race, saying most Americans avoid discussing unresolved racial issues.

In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” said Holder, nation’s first black attorney general.

Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, Holder said, but “we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”

He urged people of all races to use Black History Month as a chance for frank talk about racial matters.

“It is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation’s history, this is in some ways understandable,” Holder said. “If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.”

He told Justice Department employees they have a special responsibility to advance racial understanding.

Appeared Here


TSA Implements Virtual Strip Searches Of Airline Passengers. $170,000 Machines To Replace $10,000 Metal Detectors

February 19, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC — For the first time, some airline passengers will skip metal detectors and instead be screened by body scanning machines that look through clothing for hidden weapons, the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday.

An experimental program that begins today at Tulsa International Airport will test whether the $170,000 body scanners could replace $10,000 metal detectors that have screened airline passengers since 1973. Airports in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City will join the test in the next two months, TSA spokesman Christopher White said.

The scanners aim to close a loophole by finding non-metallic weapons such as plastic and liquid explosives, which the TSA considers a major threat. The machines raise privacy concerns because their images reveal outlines of private body parts.

“We’re getting closer and closer to a required strip-search to board an airplane,” said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Privacy advocate Melissa Ngo fears that passengers won’t understand that the scanners take vivid images that screeners view.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: San Francisco | Miami | Las Vegas | Salt Lake City | Transportation Security Administration | American Civil Liberties Union | Albuquerque | Homeland Security | Airports Council International | Christopher White | Barry Steinhardt | Bruce Schneier | Tulsa International Airport | Melissa Ngo

White said each scanner has explanatory signs on how the machines work and posters showing the image they create.

Passengers at the test airports will be instructed to go through the new scanners. Anyone who doesn’t want to go through will be allowed to refuse and instead go through a metal detector and receive a pat-down, White said.

People in the scanner will stand with their arms raised and their face will be blurred out in the metallic-looking image on a nearby screen. TSA screeners view the images from inside a closed room near a checkpoint and immediately delete them.

“We’ve struck a very good balance between security and privacy,” White said.

Christopher Bidwell, security chief at the Airports Council International trade group, said the scanner “really does not reveal as much as some people might think.”

The scanners aim to address problems exposed by government probes in which covert agents got liquid explosives and detonators through airport checkpoints. A 2005 Homeland Security report urged better checkpoint technology.

Security analyst Bruce Schneier, a frequent critic of the TSA, said the scanners should improve security but warned that they take longer than metal detectors — 30 seconds vs. about 15 seconds per passenger. “There will be pressure to do the screening faster, which will be sloppier,” Schneier said.

The scanners bounce harmless “millimeter waves” off passengers’ bodies and use no radiation.

The TSA has done preliminary tests of the scanner on passengers who had just passed through metal detectors. Those tests found that the machines excel at finding hidden objects, White said.

Based on the results of the latest test, the TSA will decide at an undetermined date whether to use more body scanners in place of metal detectors.

Appeared Here


Ignorant Minority Trash U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Calls Americans A Nation Of Cowards

February 19, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Eric Holder described the United States Wednesday as a nation of cowards on matters of race, saying most Americans avoid discussing unresolved racial issues.

In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” said Holder, nation’s first black attorney general.

Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, Holder said, but “we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”

He urged people of all races to use Black History Month as a chance for frank talk about racial matters.

“It is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation’s history, this is in some ways understandable,” Holder said. “If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.”

He told Justice Department employees they have a special responsibility to advance racial understanding.

Appeared Here


Obama Administration Backs Rendition And Toture Under Bush – Boeing Subsidiary Employees Help Transport Victims For CIA Torture – "National Security" Used As Excuse In Attempt To Dismiss Lawsuit

February 10, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – A government lawyer urged an appeals court Monday to toss a lawsuit accusing a Boeing Co. subsidiary of illegally helping the CIA fly suspected terrorists overseas to be tortured, maintaining a Bush administration position that the case would jeopardize national security.

The American Civil Liberties Union and others had called on the White House to change direction and drop its move to dismiss the suit. The organization filed the lawsuit on behalf of five men swept up in the “extraordinary rendition” program and who are still being held in various prisons around the world.

The lawsuit claims that San Jose-based Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. should be punished for allegedly providing the CIA airplanes and crew to carry out the program that included torture.

The U.S. government intervened in the case and a trial court judge last year tossed it out after CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden invoked the government’s so-called “state secrets privilege,” which lets intelligence agencies bar the use of evidence in court cases that threaten national security.

U.S. Department of Justice lawyer Douglas Letter on Monday urged a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to uphold the lower court decision. Letter said his position was “thoroughly vetted with the appropriate” administration officials.

“These are the authorized positions of the administration,” Letter said in a response to a question from Judge Mary Schroeder.

Letter said that he was confident that Schroeder and her two colleagues on the appeals court would toss the suit after they read top secret legal documents the government filed with the court under seal.

The case presented Obama’s Justice Department with one of the first of many policy and legal decisions it faces in countless actions across the country left over from the Bush administration. Legal scholars contend that the prior administration stopped litigation involving the government by invoking state secret claims a record number of times, including in more than 40 legal challenges to the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretap program.

A Department of Justice spokesman in Washington, D.C., said government lawyers were reviewing all such state secret assertions in lawsuits across the country.

“It’s vital that we protect information that if released could jeopardize national security,” said Justice spokesman Matt Miller. “But the Justice Department will ensure the privilege is not invoked to hide from the American people information about their government’s actions that they have a right to know.”

Outside of court, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero criticized the new president.

“This is not change,” Romero said in a prepared statement. “Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue.”

Appeared Here


Obama Administration Backs Rendition And Toture Under Bush – Boeing Subsidiary Employees Help Transport Victims For CIA Torture – "National Security" Used As Excuse In Attempt To Dismiss Lawsuit

February 9, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – A government lawyer urged an appeals court Monday to toss a lawsuit accusing a Boeing Co. subsidiary of illegally helping the CIA fly suspected terrorists overseas to be tortured, maintaining a Bush administration position that the case would jeopardize national security.

The American Civil Liberties Union and others had called on the White House to change direction and drop its move to dismiss the suit. The organization filed the lawsuit on behalf of five men swept up in the “extraordinary rendition” program and who are still being held in various prisons around the world.

The lawsuit claims that San Jose-based Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. should be punished for allegedly providing the CIA airplanes and crew to carry out the program that included torture.

The U.S. government intervened in the case and a trial court judge last year tossed it out after CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden invoked the government’s so-called “state secrets privilege,” which lets intelligence agencies bar the use of evidence in court cases that threaten national security.

U.S. Department of Justice lawyer Douglas Letter on Monday urged a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to uphold the lower court decision. Letter said his position was “thoroughly vetted with the appropriate” administration officials.

“These are the authorized positions of the administration,” Letter said in a response to a question from Judge Mary Schroeder.

Letter said that he was confident that Schroeder and her two colleagues on the appeals court would toss the suit after they read top secret legal documents the government filed with the court under seal.

The case presented Obama’s Justice Department with one of the first of many policy and legal decisions it faces in countless actions across the country left over from the Bush administration. Legal scholars contend that the prior administration stopped litigation involving the government by invoking state secret claims a record number of times, including in more than 40 legal challenges to the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretap program.

A Department of Justice spokesman in Washington, D.C., said government lawyers were reviewing all such state secret assertions in lawsuits across the country.

“It’s vital that we protect information that if released could jeopardize national security,” said Justice spokesman Matt Miller. “But the Justice Department will ensure the privilege is not invoked to hide from the American people information about their government’s actions that they have a right to know.”

Outside of court, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero criticized the new president.

“This is not change,” Romero said in a prepared statement. “Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue.”

Appeared Here


Reporter Assaulted After Asking Obama CIA Director Designate Leon Panetta A Question

February 6, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – Following Leon Panetta’s confirmation hearing Thursday, several reporters approached the CIA director-designate in the hallway outside room G-50 in the Dirksen Building.

There, CongressDaily reporter Chris Strohm — upon asking a question — was physically restrained by a man who accompanied Panetta at hearings both days.

Strohm, when reached by phone Friday, said he was unsure of the man’s role.

“I felt this hand grab my right arm and push me aside,” Strohm said.

By his account, Strohm told the man, “Please don’t touch me” more than once. Eventually, the man let him go.

Tim Starks, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, said he witnessed Strohm approach Panetta and ask a question, just before the man began “grabbing him by the arm and moving him away.”

“I said to the guy, ‘That’s not the way you do it,’” recalled Starks.

Starks said that he’s covered the CIA for years and had never seen a reporter strong-armed that way before, adding that the agency is typically respectful of journalists.

Reflecting on the incident, Strohm played it down somewhat, saying that he’s “had worse happen” while reporting.

A staff assistant at The Panetta Institute said they are not addressing any media inquiries before Panetta’s confirmation. The White House declined to comment.

After today’s hearing, there was no similar incident: Panetta briefly answered questions from reporters.

Appeared Here


Reporter Assaulted After Asking Obama CIA Director Designate Leon Panetta A Question

February 6, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – Following Leon Panetta’s confirmation hearing Thursday, several reporters approached the CIA director-designate in the hallway outside room G-50 in the Dirksen Building.

There, CongressDaily reporter Chris Strohm — upon asking a question — was physically restrained by a man who accompanied Panetta at hearings both days.

Strohm, when reached by phone Friday, said he was unsure of the man’s role.

“I felt this hand grab my right arm and push me aside,” Strohm said.

By his account, Strohm told the man, “Please don’t touch me” more than once. Eventually, the man let him go.

Tim Starks, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, said he witnessed Strohm approach Panetta and ask a question, just before the man began “grabbing him by the arm and moving him away.”

“I said to the guy, ‘That’s not the way you do it,’” recalled Starks.

Starks said that he’s covered the CIA for years and had never seen a reporter strong-armed that way before, adding that the agency is typically respectful of journalists.

Reflecting on the incident, Strohm played it down somewhat, saying that he’s “had worse happen” while reporting.

A staff assistant at The Panetta Institute said they are not addressing any media inquiries before Panetta’s confirmation. The White House declined to comment.

After today’s hearing, there was no similar incident: Panetta briefly answered questions from reporters.

Appeared Here


Anti-American U.S. Supreme Court Takes Another Huge Bite Out Of U.S. Citizens Rights

January 27, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC —The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so.

The court on Monday unanimously overruled an Arizona appeals court that threw out evidence found during such an encounter.

The case involved a 2002 pat-down search of an Eloy, Ariz., man by an Oro Valley police officer, who found a gun and marijuana.

The justices accepted Arizona’s argument that traffic stops are inherently dangerous for police and that pat-downs are permissible when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that the passenger may be armed and dangerous.

The pat-down is allowed if the police “harbor reasonable suspicion that a person subjected to the frisk is armed, and therefore dangerous to the safety of the police and public,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

Appeared Here


Anti-American U.S. Supreme Court Takes Another Huge Bite Out Of U.S. Citizens Rights

January 27, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC —The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so.

The court on Monday unanimously overruled an Arizona appeals court that threw out evidence found during such an encounter.

The case involved a 2002 pat-down search of an Eloy, Ariz., man by an Oro Valley police officer, who found a gun and marijuana.

The justices accepted Arizona’s argument that traffic stops are inherently dangerous for police and that pat-downs are permissible when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that the passenger may be armed and dangerous.

The pat-down is allowed if the police “harbor reasonable suspicion that a person subjected to the frisk is armed, and therefore dangerous to the safety of the police and public,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

Appeared Here


Federal Prosecutors Piss Away Taxpayer Dollars In Efforts To Censor Internet Content – And Lose

January 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The government lost its final attempt Wednesday to revive a federal law intended to protect children from sexual material and other objectionable content on the Internet.

The Supreme Court said it won’t consider reviving the Child Online Protection Act, which lower federal courts struck down as unconstitutional. The law has been embroiled in court challenges since it passed in 1998 and never took effect.

It would have barred Web sites from making harmful content available to minors over the Internet.

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled that would violate the First Amendment, because filtering technologies and other parental control tools are a less restrictive way to protect children from inappropriate content online.

The act was passed the year after the Supreme Court ruled that another law intended to protect children from explicit material online — the Communications Decency Act — was unconstitutional.

The Bush administration had pressed the justices to take the case. They offered no comment on their decision to reject the government’s appeal.

Five justices who ruled against the Internet blocking law in 2004 remain on the court.

The case is Mukasey v. ACLU. 08-565.

Appeared Here


Federal Prosecutors Piss Away Taxpayer Dollars In Efforts To Censor Internet Content – And Lose

January 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC – The government lost its final attempt Wednesday to revive a federal law intended to protect children from sexual material and other objectionable content on the Internet.

The Supreme Court said it won’t consider reviving the Child Online Protection Act, which lower federal courts struck down as unconstitutional. The law has been embroiled in court challenges since it passed in 1998 and never took effect.

It would have barred Web sites from making harmful content available to minors over the Internet.

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled that would violate the First Amendment, because filtering technologies and other parental control tools are a less restrictive way to protect children from inappropriate content online.

The act was passed the year after the Supreme Court ruled that another law intended to protect children from explicit material online — the Communications Decency Act — was unconstitutional.

The Bush administration had pressed the justices to take the case. They offered no comment on their decision to reject the government’s appeal.

Five justices who ruled against the Internet blocking law in 2004 remain on the court.

The case is Mukasey v. ACLU. 08-565.

Appeared Here


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