Archive for the ‘Law’ Category
Probably their first line of defense if prosecuted: Bush Officials Did Little Oversight of CIA Program
The Bush Administration advances incompetence as a defense. Associated Press reports in the NY Times:
In July 2004, despite growing internal concerns about the CIA’s brutal interrogation methods, senior members of George W. Bush’s national security team gave the agency permission to employ the harsh tactics against an al-Qaida facilitator the agency suspected was linked to a plot to disrupt the upcoming presidential election.
After weeks of torture that included being subjected to prolonged stress positions and sleep deprivation at a secret site in Romania, the prisoner, Janat Gul, begged to be killed. But he steadfastly denied knowledge of any plot, CIA records show __ leading interrogators to conclude he was not the hardened terrorist they thought he was, and that the informant who fingered him was a liar.
Yet there is no evidence the CIA relayed that information to the White House and the Justice Department, which continued to cite the case in legal justifications for the use of the brutal techniques.
In subsequent correspondence and testimony, the agency called the interrogation of Gul a success story on the grounds that it helped expose their original source as a fabricator.
The Gul case is an example of what a Senate investigation portrays as a dysfunctional relationship between the Bush White House and the CIA regarding the brutal interrogation program. The White House didn’t press very hard for information, and the agency withheld details about the brutality of the techniques while exaggerating their effectiveness, the report shows.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general who was White House counsel when harsh CIA interrogations were approved, said it was not the White House’s responsibility to manage the program. Gonzales was the only former senior Bush administration official who agreed to speak on the record about the matter.
Once executive branch lawyers declared it legal for the CIA to use harsh methods on al-Qaida prisoners in secret facilities, Gonzales said, it was up to the spy agency to oversee the mechanics, punish abuses, and keep policymakers informed. So Bush officials can’t be blamed if CIA officers did things that were not authorized, or misinformed White House officials, as the report alleges, he said. . .
It’s unclear why the Bush White House is singled out: the Obama Administration is equally determined not to look at what the CIA has done or is doing. Obama himself more or less promised that he would not look at their operations: “Look forward, not back.” Contemptible.
You see the pattern: Let the CIA do whatever it wants, and claim ignorance of its methods. Then, when the methods come out, declare that we should not look at what it did in the past… So the cycle repeats with ever-worsening results.
Steve Rosenfeld at AlterNet lists reasons why US police have become brutal toward citizens. Via Salon:
Handcuffed teenagers beaten bloody with guns. Unarmed people shot and killed in their cars. Cops firing guns carelessly into busy streets. Mentally ill people tasered in ambulances. Supervisors refusing to challenge a brutal status quo.
These examples didn’t come from the New York City Police Department or Ferguson, Missouri, where the killing of unarmed black men by white cops has created a national outcry over institutional racism and excessive force. They were from Ohio, where the U.S. Department of Justice just finished an investigation and report on abusive and often unconstitutional policing by Cleveland Division of Police between 2010 and 2013. They were compiled before November 22, when a rookie officer shot and killed a 12-year-old African-American boy, Tamir Rice, for waving a toy gun around on a playground.
The DOJ’s findings raise big questions. It’s not just how widespread is the problem of excessive force and a corresponding lack of accountability. The harder questions include what can be done to change police culture, reverse many out-of-control tactics, and instill a belief across entire forces that restraint and accountability protect cops and civilians.
“We found that field supervisors are failing in some of the most fundamental aspects of their responsibilities—reviewing and investigating the uses of force of the officers under their command, and correcting dangerous tactical choices that place the officer and others at risk,” Mayor Frank Jackson said of the report, underscoring systemic problems.
When releasing the report, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the DOJ would work with Cleveland under a consent decree and a federal court will oversee reforms. But a decade ago, the DOJ also investigated police abuses in Cleveland and found similar patterns surrounding excessive force. The city’s police pledged reforms would come—yet the department’s nasty status quo obviously has resurfaced.
“The voluntary reforms undertaken at that time did not create the systems of accountability necessary to ensure a long-term remedy to these issues,” the DOJ’s new report said. “More work is necessary to ensure that officers have the proper guidance, training, support, supervision, and oversight to carry out their law enforcement responsibilities safely and in accordance with individuals’ constitutional rights.”
That summation describing needed reforms typifies today’s political rhetoric surrounding the crisis in militarized American policing. The DOJ report didn’t say what explicit steps needed to be taken. But it did describe how deeply embedded excessive force was among Cleveland’s police, what was wrong and broken in their culture and police procedures, and what was missing and needed to change.
That unvarnished look reveals how hard it will be to reform out-of-control departments, whether in Cleveland, Staten Island, Ferguson, or elsewhere. Here are 15 excerpts from the DOJ’s Cleveland report showing how deeply embedded police brutality is, and why recent political rhetoric promising solutions barely scratches the surface.
1. The Street Cops Are On Their Own: “We found that CDP officers too often use unnecessary and unreasonable force in violation of the Constitution. Supervisors tolerate this behavior and, in some cases, endorse it. Officers report that they receive little supervision, guidance, and support from the Division, essentially leaving them to determine for themselves how to perform their difficult and dangerous jobs.”
2. Excessive Force Is Expected And Covered Up: “These incidents of excessive force are rooted in common structural deficiencies. CDP’s pattern or practice of excessive force is both reflected by and stems from its failure to adequately review and investigate officers’ uses of force; fully and objectively investigate all allegations of misconduct; identify and respond to patterns of at-risk behavior; provide its officers with the support, training, supervision, and equipment needed to allow them to do their jobs safely and effectively; adopt and enforce appropriate policies; and implement effective community policing strategies at all levels of CDP.”
3. Using Maximum Force Has Become Routine: “For example, we found incidents of CDP officers firing their guns at people who do not pose an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or others and using guns in a careless and dangerous manner, including hitting people on the head with their guns, in circumstances where deadly force is not justified. Officers also use less lethal force that is significantly out of proportion to the resistance encountered and officers too often escalate incidents with citizens instead of using effective and accepted tactics to de-escalate tension.
“We reviewed incidents where officers used Tasers, oleoresin capsicum spray (“OC Spray”), or punched people who were already subdued, including people in handcuffs. Many of these people could have been controlled with a lesser application of force. At times, this force appears to have been applied as punishment for the person’s earlier verbal or physical resistance to an officer’s command, and is not based on a current threat posed by the person. This retaliatory use of force is not legally justified. Our review also revealed that officers use excessive force against individuals who are in mental health crisis or who may be unable to understand or comply with officers’ commands, including when the individual is not suspected of having committed any crime at all.”
4. Police Don’t Know How To De-escalate: . . .
Panel picked by John Brennan (3 from CIA, 2 from outside) reaches forgone conclusion: No punishment for CIA employees who broke the law
It doesn’t seem quite impartial: John Brennan selects the panel members—and just to be sure, 60% are CIA employees who report to John Brennan—and the panel finds that John Brennan is guilty of nothing, nor are the CIA employees who broke into the Senate staff computers. The CIA is above things like “accountability” and “laws” and, so far as I can tell, even the president cannot rein in the CIA. It’s hard to be sure, because Obama has not even tried, seeing his job as one of protecting the CIA from any accountability: “Look forward, not back,” and ignore crimes.
It’s a depressing sign of the increasing movement of the US toward an authoritarian government, and people seem well aware of what’s happening but are powerless to stop it—see the comments to the NY Times story by Matt Apuzzo and Mark Mazzetti:
A panel investigating the Central Intelligence Agency’s search of a computer network used by staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who were looking into the C.I.A.’s use of torture will recommend against punishing anyone involved in the episode, according to current and former government officials.
The panel will make that recommendation after the five C.I.A. officials who were singled out by the agency’s inspector general this year for improperly ordering and carrying out the computer searches staunchly defended their actions, saying that they were lawful and in some cases done at the behest ofJohn O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director.
While effectively rejecting the most significant conclusions of the inspector general’s report, the panel, appointed by Mr. Brennan and composed of three C.I.A. officers and two members from outside the agency, is still expected to criticize agency missteps that contributed to the fight with Congress.
But its decision not to recommend anyone for disciplinary action is likely to anger members of the Intelligence Committee, who have accused the C.I.A. of trampling on the independence of Congress and interfering with its investigation of agency wrongdoing. The computer searches occurred late last year while the committee was finishing an excoriating report on the agency’s detention and interrogation program.
The computer search raised questions about the separation of powers and caused one of the most public rifts in years between the nation’s intelligence agencies and the Senate oversight panel, which conducts most of its business in secret. It led to an unusually heated and public rebuke by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is the committee’s chairwoman.
Three C.I.A. technology officers and two lawyers had faced possible punishment. In their defense, some pointed to documents — including notes of a phone call with Mr. Brennan — that they said indicated that the director supported their actions, according to interviews with a half dozen current and former government officials and others briefed on the case. . .
Once upon a time people who were believed to have broken law were given a trial. We are past that now.
Greg Gordon, Mike Wiser, and Stephen Engelberg write at McClatchy:
For a second time in three years, a federal inquiry cast doubt Friday on the FBI’s assertion that genetic testing had cinched its conclusion that a now-dead Army bioweapons researcher mailed anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and terrorized the East Coast in 2001.
The long-awaited report from the Government Accountability Office found that the FBI’s exhaustive, cutting-edge attempt to trace the killer with matches of genetic mutations of anthrax samples at times lacked precision, consistency and adequate standards.
The 77-page report, perhaps the final official word on the FBI’s seven-year investigation known as Amerithrax, lent credence to a National Academy of Sciences panel’s finding in 2011 that the bureau’s scientific evidence did not definitely show that the anthrax came from the Maryland bioweapons laboratory of Bruce Ivins.
Shortly after Ivins took a suicidal drug overdose on July 29, 2008, federal prosecutors said they’d been drafting criminal charges against him, and they declared the scientist at Fort Detrick, Md., the culprit. In 2010, they laid out an extensive circumstantial case against him, presenting as a smoking gun the findings of genetic testing by outside laboratories that matched four distinct mutations in the anthrax spores in the letters with those in a flask full of anthrax in Ivins’ laboratory.
“The significance of using such mutations as genetic markers for analyzing evidentiary samples to determine their origins is not clear,” the auditors wrote. “This gap affects both the development of genetic tests targeting such mutations and statistical analyses of the results of their use.”
The auditors, who warned three years ago that they might be stymied because some information might be deemed classified, didn’t delve into theories that the anthrax contained traces of tin, perhaps reflecting attempts to weaponize it so it would stay airborne longer and harm more people. Rather, they stuck to the narrower issues of examining the bureau’s scientific methods.
The auditors pointed out that an FBI team recommended in 2007 that the bureau conduct experiments to determine whether the mutations the FBI was seeking to match might not have been unique to Ivins’ flask, known as RMR-1029. However, those tests were never done.
That omission also drew concern from the National Academy of Sciences panel, which noted that it was possible that four identical “morphs” could have grown in another laboratory in what it termed “parallel evolution.”
The auditors also focused on contradictory test results from samples collected from a colleague of Ivins’ who’d used anthrax from RMR-1029. That colleague – Henry Heine, though he wasn’t named in the report – submitted one sample that tested positive in all five genetic tests, but a duplicate sample from his vial tested negative for all five markers, the report said.
The report said that Heine, in the presence of an FBI investigator, didn’t follow instructions for collecting one sample as laid out in a grand jury subpoena. The disclosure raises the possibility that inconsistent collection methods undercut the massive testing effort. . .
And I blogged earlier today about how the FBI loses evidence.
One good thing: the problems are being revealed, not covered up. That means they can be corrected.
McCullough, DA in the Darren Wilson case, defends himself by saying he knew some witnesses were lying
But he decided to let them testify anyone. His approach was to let anyone who wanted to testify as a witness do so, even when he knew that they were lying.
That’s his defense, and having a DA support perjury is not a good sign.
Here’s the story. He fully admits that he presented a biased picture to the jury by allowing untrue testimony. What a DA!
I wonder what he thinks a DA is supposed to do.
As we’ve seen, a bad cop can (sometimes) be forced to resign—though police unions fight even that—but then can easily go to another city and get a job as a cop there. Ed Krayewski writes at Reason.com:
This week, the Department of Justice announced new guidelines against racial profiling. The changes don’t actually change all that much. As regular incidents of police brutality get more and more mainstream media attention, it’s time for a bold move from the White House.
There’s a moral obligation to keep bad cops off the streets. A job with a police department is not a right and shouldn’t be treated like one. Police unions that push for permissive rules that end up protecting bad cops pose a serious public safety threat. Nevertheless, dismantling them where they’ve taken root is a difficult prospect even in the long-term. There are other ways to keep bad cops off the streets. The federal government, and state governments, ought to create and encourage the use of a police offender registry list. Such a list would register individuals who while employed as law enforcement officers were found unfit for duty or faced serious disciplinary issues they may have resigned to avoid. Just as any other component of comprehensive police reform, this won’t eliminate excessive police violence, but it’s a start.
When actually identified, a surprising (or not) number of officers involved in controversial, high-profile use of force incidents have previously disciplinary history. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City cop who put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold, had been previously accused, at least twice, of racially-motivated misconduct, including strip searching a man in the middle of the street and allegedly hitting his testicles. The police union in New York City is among the strongest in the country. When a rookie cop shot Akai Gurley in apparent panic last month, he didn’t think twice to reportedly contact his union rep first. A man lay dying in a stairwell for no other reason that he startled a rookie, and the fact that the officer called his union representative before calling for assistance isn’t shocking enough to lead to the officer’s termination. Even if it were, it would still be impossible to terminate the officer immediately. While all this is happening, the state of New York is on the verge of placing even more of the disciplinary regime that applies to cops under the purview of the police unions.
But not everywhere is the situation as hopeless as in New York City. In other parts of the country, cops can get fired relatively more easily. But it doesn’t stop them from finding jobs elsewhere. Richard Combs, who was the sheriff and only cop in Eutawville, South Carolina, is now facing a murder charge for shooting a resident after an argument at Town Hall, but Combs had been previously terminated from the county sheriff’s office for unspecified “unsatisfactory performance.” In Cleveland, Ohio, the cop who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, mistaking the boy’s toy gun for a real one, had been previously found too emotionally unstable and unfit to carry a firearm for law enforcement. In Georgia, the cop who shot and killed 17-year-old Christopher Roupe after the teen opened the door to his home holding a Wii controller, had been previously fired for multiple disciplinary problems including shooting at an unarmed person. Then there’s guys like “Florida’s worst cop.”
This is just a sampling of stories that received enough local attention to gain some prominence. The situation is unconscionable. Police found unfit for duty in one jurisdiction shouldn’t be employed in another. Cops who resign to avoid disciplinary charges shouldn’t slither their way into another department. Cops who cost taxpayers millions in lawsuit settlements shouldn’t be able to expose taxpayers in other places to the same risk. Insomuch as a police department might actively be seeking out bad cops, there’s not much any government can do, outside of shuttering the police department and starting over. Yet in a lot of these instances, one would hope, the hiring police departments were unaware of the candidate’s previous history. In these situations, the firing police departments may be complicit, or laws protecting the “privacy” of public employees’ records, or the hiring police department’s own inefficiency.
State governments, and the federal government, can help. . .
Philadelphians Save Homes From Civil Forfeiture Machine But Continue Legal Fight Over City’s Unconstitutional Program
The Institute for Justice reports:
Today, Philadelphia’s Office of the District Attorney agreed to dismiss its civil-forfeiture proceedings against the family homes of Christos Sourovelis and Doila Welch. The dismissals mean that both families will no longer have to worry about losing their homes as they head into the holidays.
Since August, Christos and Doila have been embroiled in a legal battle with the city over its unprecedented use of civil forfeiture to seize the homes and personal property of thousands of Philadelphians without ever charging the owners with a crime. Both Christos and Doila are named plaintiffs in the federal, class-action lawsuit that seeks to end Philadelphia’s shocking system of seizing nearly $6 million in property from its citizens each year and using that money to pad law-enforcement budgets.
Although Christos and Doila’s individual, state-level civil-forfeiture proceedings have been dismissed, they will continue to lead the federal, class-action legal challenge to Philadelphia’s entire civil-forfeiture scheme.
“After months of uncertainty, my family can finally rest easy knowing that our home is our home again,” said Christos. “I’ve lived in Philadelphia for over 30 years. I never thought it was possible for the police to just show up at my doorstep without notice and take my house when I’ve done nothing wrong. But that’s exactly what happened to me and my family—and we’re not alone. That’s why we’re going to keep fighting for everyone still trapped in Philadelphia’s civil forfeiture nightmare.”
“We are pleased that Christos and Doila’s families will be able to enjoy their homes for the holidays,” said Darpana Sheth, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which is representing the plaintiffs in their challenge to Philadelphia’s program. “Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many other Philadelphia families. Philadelphia law enforcement continues to use its system of robo-forfeitures to pad its budgets with millions in unaccountable funds by stripping innocent people of their rights and property.”
Since the lawsuit challenging Philadelphia’s civil-forfeiture scheme was announced on August 12, the case has garnered national attention and has shed much-needed light on a relatively unknown practice that nets billions every year for law-enforcement agencies nationwide. Philadelphia’s program has received critical coverage from sources ranging from The Wall Street Journal editorial board to Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver, who said that “civil forfeiture laws have warped law enforcement priorities and perception and nowhere is that more clear than in Philadelphia.”
The Institute for Justice is leading the fight against civil forfeiture nationwide. To learn more about this case and IJ’s national efforts, visit endforfeiture.com.