Archive for the ‘Law’ Category
Very interesting column by Justyn Dillingham in Salon. If RFK, Jr’s thought is true—that domestic opponents were behind it—those would been very powerful people, and those not only have great influence, it turns out that they cannot be touched when they are flagrantly guilty of war crimes: I’m referring, of course, to the open acknowledgement that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney instituted a program of kidnapping and torture. It’s very well known, and we even know those directly in the chain of command. But not only are no steps taken to hold accountable those responsible, President Obama will not even release the Senate committee’s own report of its investigations: the very body charged with oversight of this stuff.
And it’s all done quite openly.
Very interesting story, and it seems to destroy Raymond DeGiorgio’s claim that he didn’t remember making the alteration to the part. The report by Bill Vlasic in the NY Times begins:
DETROIT — General Motors pressured a supplier to continue producing a substandard ignition switch a decade ago and leaned on the company to improve it even though it could not be fixed, a newly disclosed email shows.
The switch, made by Delphi, has become the focus of a safety crisis at G.M. and is linked to at least 33 deaths and dozens of injuries.
In the email, part of internal Delphi correspondence in 2005, a Delphi official said the company was pressured by G.M. to make the faulty switch work even though it did not meet G.M.’s own standard and continued to fail in testing.
It is the first publicly disclosed document showing Delphi’s longstanding concerns with the switch, and it demonstrates how G.M. pushed Delphi to continue to manufacture a faulty part. The email, which was reviewed by The New York Times, was introduced as evidence in a sweeping collection of lawsuits against G.M. and was made public on Friday.
A Delphi official, Thomas Svoboda, wrote in the email that Delphi was intimidated by a G.M. engineer, Raymond DeGiorgio, into accepting the switch’s design. . .
It seems like GM has pretty consistently lied and tried to cover this up.
What Snowden has revealed is crucial to our understanding: he shows how the currents of the country are shaped and channeled by the underwater rocks, as it were, of the security apparatus, and reveals those forces to us. David Bromwich writes in the NY Review of Books:
a film directed by Laura Poitras
At some point in the chase that led the documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras from America to Berlin and finally to the hotel room in Hong Kong where she would meet the whistle-blower who identified himself as “Citizenfour,” her unnamed informant sent this warning: “I will likely immediately be implicated. This must not deter you.”
What did he offer in return for the risk he hoped she would take? The answer was compelling. He knew things that the American public ought to know. The director of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, had “lied to Congress, which I can prove.” Alexander denied under oath that the NSA had ever engaged in the mass surveillance of Americans that was then going forward under the codenames PRISMand XKeyscore. Citizenfour could also demonstrate that General James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, came no closer than General Alexander to telling the truth. When asked, under oath, by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon whether the NSAcollects data on “millions or hundreds of millions of Americans,” Clapper had answered: “Not wittingly.”
Clapper’s statement was false in every possible sense of the words “not” and “wittingly.” [And yet Obama leaves him in office, while doing everything a president can to stifle the Senate’s report on the US program of kidnapping and torture—either Obama is in the grip of the security apparatus, or he is a part of it. His constant appointment of Wall Street insiders to regulatory agencies is a clue: this is not the president we were promised. – LG] The agency was indeed collecting data, it was doing so in accordance with a plan, and the director had ordered no halt to the mass collection. The extraction of private information about Americans without our consent seems to have troubled Edward Snowden far back in his employment by the NSA. But there were other things that gave him pause: the astonishing license for ad hoc spying, for example, that was granted to those NSA data workers who had been awarded the relevant “authorities”—a bureaucratic synonym for permissions. “We could watch drone videos [of the private doings of families in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan] from desktops.” This, Snowden has said, was one of those things “that really hardened me.
Citizenfour, a documentary about the rise of mass, suspicionless surveillance and about the dissidents who have worked to expose it, naturally centers on Snowden; and most of the film concentrates on eight days in Hong Kong, during which Poitras filmed while the Guardian reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill introduced themselves, conducted searching interviews and conversations with Snowden, and came to know something of his character. The focus on a single person is consistent with the design of all three of the extraordinary films in the trilogy that Poitras has devoted to the war on terror.
The first, My Country, My Country (2006), covered a short stretch in the life of an Iraqi doctor, Riyadh al-Adhadh, during the American occupation of Baghdad. In the months before the election of January 2005, al-Adhadh was beset by a family in bad straits and by patients whose physical and emotional state had suffered terribly in the war. He resolved at that exigent moment to help his country by standing as a candidate for the assembly. When his Sunni party withdrew from participation, he was left disappointed and uncertain, his commitment invalidated by the very people he hoped to serve.
The Oath (2010) offered a portrait of Abu Jandal, a taxi driver in Yemen, initially famous only by association as the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden’s driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan. It was Hamdan who suffered five years of imprisonment in Guantánamo before being tried on charges of conspiracy and “material support” of al-Qaeda. A deeply religious man, he was cleared by a military tribunal of the charge of conspiracy and transferred to Yemen, where he secluded himself and maintained an ascetic silence. (On October 16, 2012, the D.C. Circuit Court threw out Hamdan’s conviction on the remaining count, “material support” for terrorism, on the ground that it violated the constitutional ban on ex post facto prosecutions: the acts for which he was charged and convicted were not yet crimes when he performed them.)
As if between the lines of the film, it emerges that Abu Jandal himself—charismatic, masculine, a hero to the intellectual Muslim radicals who seek him out, yet touchingly gentle in the work of raising his five-year-old son—had been closer to bin Laden than the relative who was sent to Guantánamo. And even that is not the end: the protagonist is not what he seems at second glance any more than at first. He was once a committed jihadist, yet he was also full of doubts and capable of acting on his doubts. The film leaves him, as the earlier film had left the Iraqi doctor, uncertain and in suspense.
In the same way, we are left without a finished story at the end of Citizenfour. Snowden departs Hong Kong for Moscow, under the protection of human rights lawyers, hoping to fly from there to a Latin American country that will offer him refuge (probably Ecuador). But as we now know and the film reminds us, the US State Department revoked his passport and Snowden in Moscow is still in limbo. Though the film, in a kind of denouement, shows him reunited with his American girlfriend, visited by a political ally, Glenn Greenwald, and encouraged to hear that another whistle-blower has cropped up and disclosed the exorbitant scale of the American “watch list,” it is hard to know where his story will end.
Citizenfour gives a setting for Snowden’s action through its portrait of several other vivid personalities. . .
Later in the article:
Snowden is often called a “fanatic” or a “zealot,” a “techie” or a “geek,” by persons who want to cut him down to size. Usually these people have not listened to him beyond snippets lasting a few seconds on network news. But the chance to listen has been there for many months, in two short videos by Poitras on the website of The Guardian, and more recently in a full-length interview by the NBC anchorman Brian Williams. The temper and penetration of mind that one can discern in these interviews scarcely matches the description of fanatic or zealot, techie or geek.
An incidental strength of Citizenfour is that it will make such casual slanders harder to repeat. Nevertheless, they are likely to be repeated or anyway muttered in semiprivate by otherwise judicious persons who want to go on with their business head-down and not be bothered. It must be added that our past politics give no help in arriving at an apt description of Snowden and his action. The reason is that the world in which he worked is new. Perhaps one should think of him as a conscientious objector to the war on privacy—a respectful dissident who, having observed the repressive treatment endured by William Binney, Thomas Drake, and other recent whistle-blowers, does not recognize the constitutional right of the government to put him in prison indefinitely and bring him to trial for treason. His action constitutes a reproach to the many good citizens who have learned what is happening and done nothing about it. That, too, is surely a cause of the resentment that has a hard time finding the appropriate adjectives for Snowden.
“The right of privacy,” wrote the great scholar of constitutional law Herbert Packer inThe Limits of the Criminal Sanction (1968),
as implied by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, cannot be forced to give way to the asserted exigencies of law enforcement. The use of electronic surveillance constitutes just the kind of indiscriminate general search that helped to bring on the American Revolution and that the framers of the Constitution were alert to guard against. In the name of necessity this grant of power would permit an unscrupulous policeman or prosecutor to pry into the private lives of people almost at will. Knowledge that this was so would certainly inhibit the free expression of thoughts and feelings that makes life in our society worth living.
Packer’s understanding of the internalized character of free expression is close to Snowden’s language about the freedom of the Internet before it was watched. But as the film illustrates in detail, Snowden does not in fact oppose police work or the arrest of people dangerous to the country. The trouble, he says, is that the NSA has overseen the almost immeasurable expansion of “a system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not.” At the same time, Snowden goes further than many who call themselves libertarians. He believes that the American government has no more right to spy on private individuals in other countries than it does to spy on citizens of the United States.
In watching her films, one is always aware of the impact of the large institution on the person, but the person stands at the center of the portrayal. And in her trilogy about the war on terror, that institution is the state, the state, and the state: American power, with its long reach, its credulous belief in its own good intentions, its quenchless thirst for control, its devotion to expertise and system, and its heavy consequent burden of incompetence.
Definitely read this review. Its concluding paragraph:
The strangest revelation of Citizenfour may therefore be this: Snowden, in his hotel room with his journalistic confidants Greenwald and Poitras and MacAskill, affords a picture of a free man. It shows in his posture, and in a sense of humor touched by self-irony. He is not haunted by any fretful concern with what comes next. He is sure he has done something he chose, and sure that someone had to do it. He acted in obedience to a principle; and it was right that the actor should disappear in the action. Citizenfour, by simply using the real-life actor as a way to consider the nature of freedom, honors the premise that moved Snowden to take his unique and drastic step. “The final value of action,” wrote Emerson, “is, that it is a resource.” It is up to other Americans now, the uncertain end of Citizenfour says, to rouse ourselves and find the value of Snowden’s action as a resource.
While a welcome development, note that it depends entirely on the character and decisions of one person,District Attorney General Ray Crouch, who is the new boss of the 23rd Judicial District Drug Task Force. When he is eventually replaced in that position, the new boss could readily resume robbing citizens on the Interstate.
We need protection against Civil Asset Forfeiture to be built into the law, not depending on the whim (or good will) of whoever is in a position to decide locally.
Here’s the story, and it’s worth reading. It’s a good development, but ephemeral.
And here’s a report on how the robberies work.
FBI Director James Comey seems to have a shaky grasp of the Constitutional protections that US citizens supposedly enjoy. Kyle Chayka reports at Pacific Standard:
FBI Director James Comey certainly wants you to think that he’s not going to be able to get inside of your iPhone 6. Lately, Comey has been the source of a slew of off-the-cuff comments about how the FBI is “going dark”: “Those charged with protecting our people aren’t always able to access the evidence we need,” he said in a recent speech at the Brookings Institution. “We have the legal authority to intercept and access communications and information pursuant to court order, but we often lack the technical ability to do so.”
Comey’s consternation stems from Apple and Google’s decisions to manufacture their smartphones and operating systems with encryption baked in by default. “In the past, conducting electronic surveillance was more straightforward,” Comey said during the speech. Such encryption would damage the organization’s access to the real-time data of its suspects, or such is the line that Comey is pushing. “Some believe that the FBI has these phenomenal capabilities to access any information at any time…. It is simply not the case in real life,” he said.
Privacy experts agree that Comey’s comments are not only misleading, but outright false. Installing encryption on individual devices is a fundamental political right that the FBI seems to be ignoring, despite the fact that laws banning this encryption have already failed to pass. Comey’s comments are a repetition of an old narrative. His recommendation of mandating the installation of a backdoor into encryption for government access would be damaging to users, businesses, and national security alike, critics argue.
“The fundamental misunderstanding is that the Fourth Amendment gives the government an affirmative right to information, which is it doesn’t,” says Liza Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program. The amendment “provides an affirmative right to people, not the government.” In other words, Comey seems to think that the FBI has a legal right to blank-check access to unencrypted information from our personal devices. But there is “absolutely nothing wrong or illegal about a person encrypting their information or Apple offering encryption as a default,” Goitein adds.
Comey is also misrepresenting the extent to which encryption from Google and Apple changes how information is protected. Privacy, after all, has always been a third-party option for devices. “Strong encryption services and products are already out there,” says Harley Geiger of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “You can buy a black phone, a Silent Circle phone, or use PGP to encrypt your data.” What the FBI is speaking out against is the spread of encryption technology to a wider audience that may have not been aware of it before. “What Apple and Google have done is make strong encryption available to the average user, not just those who are security conscious—that’s hugely valuable,” Geiger adds.
Not only would mandating an encryption backdoor damage personal privacy, it could have much wider consequences. . .
Ferguson is expecting (a) that there will be protests if officer Darrell Wilson is not indicted, and (b) that officer Wilson will not be indicted. So the county, municipal, and state governments have established a force to prevent any rioting. Gov. Jay Nixon was asked a simple question: “Who’s in charge of that response?” You absolutely must listen to his answer. (Hint: it’s not just title, first name, last name—he stumbles on for almost 3 minutes.)
Pam Martens in Wall Street on Parade notes:
Every now and then, someone raises the question of Mafia infiltration on Wall Street or suggests that Wall Street has become an Ivy-league educated, better tailored version of the mob. Now, two lawyers, Helen Davis Chaitman and Lance Gotthoffer have dramatically ratcheted up the debate, suggesting boldly in the latest chapter of their free on-line book that there are stark parallels between the Gambino crime family and JPMorgan Chase – the nation’s largest bank.
Writer Matt Taibbi had a similar epiphany back in 2012 in an article for Rolling Stone titled The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia– the story of how major Wall Street firms conspired together to rig bidding in the municipal bond market. Taibbi writes: “In fact, stripped of all the camouflaging financial verbiage, the crimes the defendants and their co-conspirators committed were virtually indistinguishable from the kind of thuggery practiced for decades by the Mafia, which has long made manipulation of public bids for things like garbage collection and construction contracts a cornerstone of its business.”
In 2009, the book, Nothing but Money by New York Daily News reporter Greg B. Smith was released, detailing actual Mafia infiltration in stock pump and dump schemes on Wall Street, albeit at small firms. That was preceded in 2003 by Born to Steal: When the Mafia Hit Wall Street by long-time business writer and author, Gary Weiss. The Weiss book took an in-depth look at Mob-run stock brokerage firms selling phantom stocks by following the career of one of the stock swindlers, Louis Pasciuto, who eventually turned state witness.
But what attorneys Chaitman and Gotthoffer are doing is extraordinary and unprecedented. They are asking the public to seriously look at the parallels between the Mafia and JPMorgan Chase, a bank holding over $1.7 trillion in Federal Reserve assetsand more than $1.3 trillion in deposits, the bulk of which are insured by the FDIC and ultimately backstopped by the U.S. taxpayer.
Chaitman is a nationally recognized litigator and author of The Law of Lender Liability. She is also a Bernie Madoff victim who lost a large part of her life savings to his Ponzi scheme and then tenaciously represented other victims of his fraud in district and appellate courts. Chaitman has teamed up with fellow attorney, Lance Gotthoffer, to conduct an exhaustive investigation of the intersection of the Madoff fraud with the bank that was criminally charged by the U.S. Justice Department in the matter – JPMorgan Chase. (The bank signed a deferred prosecution agreement and paid $1.7 billion to the Madoff victims’ fund to avoid prosecution.)
The book is titled JPMadoff: The Unholy Alliance Between America’s Biggest Bank and America’s Biggest Crook. The authors are releasing a new chapter of the book each month as well as a quick means of contacting your legislator in Washington to urge Congress to “act in the interests of the American people, not in the interests of the financial institutions that are rich enough to make significant contributions.”
The latest chapter looks at the culture inside JPMorgan and provides a detailed portrait of some of the main insiders: among them, . . .