Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

The Only Job With an Industry Devoted to Helping People Quit

leave a comment »

People who got a law degree only to discover that they hate practicing law now have quite a bit of help in getting out of the field.

Update: Link fixed. Thanks to Justin Dearing.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2014 at 9:51 am

Posted in Business, Law

The FBI and DoJ simply don’t give a shit about innocent people in prison

leave a comment »

No skin off their noses, they figure—and doing anything about it is a lot of bother, so they stall. Spencer Hsu writes in the Washington Post:

Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency, government officials said.

The findings troubled the bureau, and it stopped the review of convictions in August. Case reviews resumed this month at the order of the Justice Department, the officials said.

U.S. officials began the inquiry after The Washington Post reported two years ago that flawed forensic evidence involving microscopic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people. Most of those defendants never were told of the problems in their cases.

The inquiry includes 2,600 convictions and 45 death-row cases from the 1980s and 1990s in which the FBI’s hair and fiber unit reported a match to a crime scene sample before DNA testing of hair became common. The FBI had reviewed about 160 cases before it stopped, officials said.

The investigation resumed after the Justice Department’s inspector general excoriated the department and the FBI for unacceptable delays and inadequate investigation in a separate inquiry from the mid-1990s. The inspector general found in that probe that three defendants were executed and a fourth died on death row in the five years it took officials to reexamine 60 death-row convictions that were potentially tainted by agent misconduct, mostly involving the same FBI hair and fiber analysis unit now under scrutiny.

“I don’t know whether history is repeating itself, but clearly the [latest] report doesn’t give anyone a sense of confidence that the work of the examiners whose conduct was first publicly questioned in 1997 was reviewed as diligently and promptly as it needed to be,” said Michael R. Bromwich, who was inspector general from 1994 to 1999 and is now a partner at the Goodwin Procter law firm.

Bromwich would not discuss any aspect of the current review because he is a pro bono adviser to the Innocence Project, which along with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is assisting the government effort under an agreement not to talk about the review. Still, he added, “Now we are left 18 years [later] with a very unhappy, unsatisfying and disquieting situation, which is far harder to remedy than if the problems had been addressed promptly.”

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole this month ordered that reviews resume under the original terms, officials said.

According to the FBI, the delay resulted, in part, “from a vigorous debate that occurred within the FBI and DOJ about the appropriate scientific standards we should apply when reviewing FBI lab examiner testimony — many years after the fact.” [Tjat makes no sense whatsoeve. - LG] . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

According to a Justice Department spokesperson, officials in August completed reviews and notified a first wave of defendants in 23 cases, including 14 death-penalty cases, that FBI examiners “exceeded the limits of science” when they linked hair to crime-scene evidence.

However, concerned that errors were found in the “vast majority” of cases, the FBI re-started the review, grinding the process to a halt, said a government official who was briefed on the process. The Justice Department objected in January, but a standoff went unresolved until this month.

After more than two years, the review will have addressed about 10 percent of the 2,600 questioned convictions, and perhaps two-thirds of questioned death-row cases.

The department is notifying defendants about errors in two more death-penalty cases, and in 134 non-capital cases over the next month, and will complete evaluations of 98 other cases by early October, including 14 more death-penalty cases.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2014 at 7:15 pm

NRA’s murder mystery

leave a comment »

Interesting that the NRA’s lead counsel was convicted of murder, later released because the police (in effect) did not advise him of his rights. David Gilson has the report in Mother Jones:

Shortly before dark on the evening of April 17, 1963, Robert J. Dowlut went looking for a gun inside the city cemetery in South Bend, Indiana. Making his way through the headstones, he stopped in front of the abandoned Studebaker family mausoleum. He knelt by the front right corner of the blocky gray monument and lifted a stone from the damp ground. Then, as one of the two police detectives accompanying him later testified, the 17-year-old “used his hands and did some digging.” He unearthed a revolver and ammunition. As Dowlut would later tell a judge, the detectives then took the gun, “jammed it in my hand,” and photographed him. “They were real happy.”

Two days earlier, a woman named Anna Marie Yocum had been murdered in her South Bend home. An autopsy determined she had been shot three times, once through the chest and twice in the back, likely at close range as she’d either fled or fallen down the stairs from her apartment. Two .45-caliber bullets had pierced her heart.

Less than an hour after her body was found, two police officers had gone to Dowlut’s home and asked him to help locate Yocum’s 16-year-old daughter, whom he’d dated. After a short, fruitless search, the officers took him to police headquarters. Though Dowlut was booked as a material witness, investigators soon came to suspect that the tall, polite Army private, home on a two-week leave, had killed Yocum. After a day of intense questioning, Dowlut allegedly broke down and confessed in detail to the murder as well as to a botched robbery attempt earlier the same night in which the owner of a pawnshop was seriously wounded.

At first, Dowlut insisted that he’d thrown his gun into the St. Joseph River, but the detectives kept pushing. One officer, Dowlut later testified, “just grabbed me by the shirt, told me that I was a son of a bitch, and that I’d better show them where the gun was really at.” Not long afterward, Dowlut told his interrogators that he’d lied: “I said the gun was in the city cemetery.” According to one detective, Dowlut reeled off the weapon’s serial number from memory.

The gun Dowlut unearthed less than a half mile from the murder scene was a Webley Mark VI, a British-made six-shot military revolver commonly sold in the United States after World War II. The Indiana State Police Laboratory determined that it had fired a bullet recovered from Yocum’s body, one retrieved from her apartment, and another found at the pawnshop.

The following morning, Dowlut was charged with first-degree murder. A year and a half later, a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. Before the judge handed down a life sentence, he asked the defendant if there was any reason why he shouldn’t be put away. Dowlut replied, “I am not guilty.” A day later, the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City registered Dowlut, now 19, as prisoner number 33848.

Less than six years later, Robert Dowlut would be a free man—his murder conviction thrown out by the Indiana Supreme Court because of a flawed police investigation. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2014 at 9:24 am

Posted in Guns, Law

On the (often difficult and dangerous) public service of the police

leave a comment »

Here is a tough story. There are indeed some very bad and dangerous people around, and the police are our protection from this kind of day-to-day threat (as opposed to a war, when the military is our protection, though lately more used in aggression). It’s not an easy job, I would think.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2014 at 1:44 pm

Interesting story on the very start of the Catholic church’s pedophile scandal

leave a comment »

From the first chapter of a four-chapter series published by Minnesota Public Radio and written by Madeleine Baran:

Lafayette, La. — The Diocese of Lafayette stretches from the city south to Vermilion Bay, whose waters lead to the Gulf of Mexico. Down among the bayous and sugar cane fields of southern Louisiana, Catholicism runs deep.

Many of the 300,000 Catholics who live here trace their history back to the late 1700s, when their French ancestors fled Canada to escape British rule. In this humid, undeveloped land, they discovered waters filled with shrimp, oysters and crawfish, and they built churches on patches of dry ground.

For generations, they believed the priest served as the living face of Jesus Christ. He forgave their sins, baptized the young and anointed the sick. In his purity, he gave the faithful a glimpse of what heaven would be like.

No one had ever heard of a priest raping a child.

So when the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe arrived in the 1970s and showed an interest in young boys, no one paid much attention.

The priest took boys on camping trips and invited them for sleepovers in the rectory. He claimed to hold practices for altar boys every day at 6 a.m. and encouraged parents to let their boys spend the night.

His sexual appetite was uncontrollable. He put bars on the windows of a rectory. He kept a gun by the side of his bed, and when children refused to submit he threatened to use it. At night, he raped the boys, forced them to perform sex acts on each other, and took photographs on his Polaroid camera.

It went on this way for more than a decade. Gauthe remained in ministry even when his bishop learned that he had abused one boy and licked the faces of two others. After the second complaint, the bishop transferred Gauthe to a small church in the isolated town of Henry, La. On Sundays, the priest stood at the altar and surveyed his victims.

Finally, in 1983, a boy told his father, Wayne Sagrera, and Sagrera reported it to the diocese. The bishop sent Gauthe away for psychological treatment and offered nine families confidential settlements of more than $4 million.

One family refused to settle and went public, and the community awoke to the horror of what the priest had been doing to its children.

The Gastal family sued the diocese for failing to protect their 10-year-old son, Scott, who had been abused by Gauthe for more than a year. When Scott was hospitalized for rectal bleeding caused by the abuse, Gauthe stopped by to give him a toy car. The boy later worried that Gauthe would break into his parents’ home and attack him. He would stay up all night checking the locks.

The boy testified graphically in court in 1986, struggling at times to find the words to describe what had happened. He said Gauthe had put his “pee-pee” inside him. The jury awarded $1 million.

The case made headlines around the country, especially after freelance reporter Jason Berry dug into the details and found a cover-up. As months passed, it became clear that Gauthe had been abusing children for decades. He later told a psychologist that he had abused more than 300 children. The scandal grew even after Gauthe pleaded guilty to 34 criminal counts and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

More parents threatened to come forward. Other priests were accused. Reporters began to wonder whether this was truly an isolated incident or an example of something that ran deeper and farther than a single diocese.

Their suspicions would prove correct. And the events unfolding in Louisiana would prove key to understanding a story that would play out decades later in Minnesota.

Vatican ‘feared a domino effect’

The news from Louisiana soon reached the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., where the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a young canon lawyer and fast-rising star in the church hierarchy, became alarmed. He wondered: How many other priests had abused children? And how many bishops had covered it up?

Doyle quickly concluded that the scandal of priests sexually abusing children – and the failure of the church hierarchy to stop it – could destroy the Catholic Church in the United States. The Vatican “feared a domino effect,” he recalled in a recent interview. “The risk was the loss of prestige, the loss of power, the loss of respect,” and the loss of money.

There was also the spiritual risk of scandal, a word that has a different meaning in the Catholic Church. Scandal threatens to separate believers from God. It could send people to hell. [OTOH, Jesus reportedly praised knowing the truth because the truth would set one free. But the Catholic church is much more wary of the truth than was Jesus. - LG]

As the crisis unfolded in 1985, Doyle teamed up with Ray Mouton, Gauthe’s criminal defense attorney, and the Rev. Michael Peterson, who ran a treatment center in Maryland for priests with sexual disorders. They wrote a confidential report called “The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy.” It warned that hundreds of priests might be abusing children and that lawsuits and settlements could cost the U.S. Catholic Church $1 billion in 10 years.

No one listened.

“They literally laughed that off,” Doyle said. “You know, they were the Catholic Church, much too big and powerful to ever fall prey to these lawyers and these people.”

He watched as Lafayette Bishop Gerard Frey, then 71, failed to repair the scandal. “There was no playbook at that time. Nobody knew how to do it,” Doyle said.

Frey had offered prayers, policies and promises, but he couldn’t undo his failure years earlier to act on the complaints about Gauthe. A local newspaper called for his resignation. In an interview, Frey said Gauthe had tricked him into thinking he was cured.

Frey wouldn’t directly admit that he had been wrong to keep Gauthe in ministry. “Unfortunately, circumstances have proven that my subjective evaluation was in error,” he said.

Doyle read the news reports with dismay. He suggested that the pope send a new bishop to Lafayette to serve alongside Frey for the next three years and then replace him when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

He recommended a parish priest named Harry Flynn. . .

Continue reading. It’s an amazing story, and full of “the ends justify any means” thinking by the Catholic church. And apparently it occurred to no one that the Church should obey the law, rendering unto Caesar, etc.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2014 at 11:31 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

George Tenet desperate to censor report on CIA torture program

leave a comment »

George Tenet, one-time director of the CIA who famously declared it was a “slam dunk” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (meaning actual weapons of mass destruction, not merely hand grenades), is now furiously at work to keep details of the US torture program from coming out. This NY Times article by Mark Mazzetti describes some of his machinations. From the article:

The April meeting at C.I.A. headquarters highlighted how much of the agency is still seeded with officers who participated in the detention and interrogation program, which Mr. Obama officially ended during his first week in office in 2009.

At one point during the meeting, the current head of the counterterrorism center, an officer with the first name Mike, told Mr. Brennan that roughly 200 people under his leadership had at some point participated in the interrogation program. They wanted to know, he said, how Mr. Brennan planned to defend them in public against accusations that the C.I.A. engaged in systematic torture and lied about its efficacy.

Mr. Tenet flashed his anger at these accusations in 2007, when he was asked about the interrogation program during an interview with the CBS program “60 Minutes.”

Wagging a finger at the correspondent, Scott Pelley, Mr. Tenet said over and over, “We don’t torture people.”

“No, listen to me. No, listen to me. I want you to listen to me,” he went on. “Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of that fact that there was so much we did not know. I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots.”

First, of course, it is well known that the CIA did indeed torture people, sometimes to death. That is documented. (The CIA destroyed all videotaped evidence, of course, but word was already out.)

Second, Mr. Tenet simply denies that the CIA tortured people, but then in his rebuttal explains why the CIA tortured people: denial, and then justification.

It’s a lawyer’s defense. “We didn’t do it—and the reasons we did do it are very good.”

Contemptible—and Obama apparently is fine with Tenet riding herd on the investigation and its report. But that helps clarify the degree to which intelligence services control the White House and the government.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2014 at 9:21 am

The NSA’s New Partner in Spying: Saudi Arabia’s Brutal State Police

leave a comment »

It’s almost as if there’s a trans-governmental coalition of intelligence/security services, linking arms to leverage their intelligence (and control)—a new governmental emerging from within the existing government. I look forward to the outcome of the CIA transgressions.

Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussein write at The Intercept:

The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world’s most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency’s plans “to provide direct analytic and technical support” to the Saudis on “internal security” matters.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that “Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse,” specifically mentioning a 2011 episode in which MOI agents allegedly “poured an antiseptic cleaning liquid down [the] throat” of one human rights activist. The report also notes the MOI’s use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.

But as the State Department publicly catalogued those very abuses, the NSA worked to provide increased surveillance assistance to the ministry that perpetrated them. The move is part of the Obama Administration’s increasingly close ties with the Saudi regime; beyond the new cooperation with the MOI, the memo describes “a period of rejuvenation” for the NSA’s relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Defense.

In general, U.S. support for the Saudi regime is long-standing. One secret 2007 NSA memo lists Saudi Arabia as one of four countries where . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2014 at 7:06 pm

CIA gets secret whistleblower email, Congress worries about more spying

leave a comment »

Man, the gloves are off. The CIA feels powerful enough that it can reveal that it’s reading confidential Congressional email, which is illegal on any number of counts, beginning with: the CIA is not to mount operations in the US. But that’s obviously long gone, and the CIA is not only operating within the US but also spying on their overseers. In no way is that appropriate. Or legal. But the CIA at this point doesn’t care, which speaks volumes. And Obama faces now a choice: own it (the CIA is part of the Executive Branch, which he presumably heads), or repudiate it. Big decision that will let us know which way things are going.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2014 at 6:35 pm

US Border Patrol seems still a work in progress

with one comment

Gil Kerlikowske has his work cut out for him, as this news report from Marcus McIntosh makes clear:

A central Iowa Boy Scout troop just returned from a three-week trip they will likely never forget.

About 10 days into the trip, an innocent action by one of the nearly two dozen Scouts at the Canadian border into Alaska set off a chain of events that lead to a U.S. border official pointing a gun at a scout’s head.

Boy Scout Troop 111 Leader Jim Fox spelled out what happened to him and the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111 as four van-loads of Scouts and adult volunteers tried to drive from Canada into Alaska.

Fox said one of the Scouts took a picture of a border official, which spurred agents to detain everyone in that van and search them and their belongings.

“The agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and 10 years in prison,” Fox said.

Fox said he was told it is a federal offense to take a picture of a federal agent.

Not wanting things to escalate, Fox said he did not complain.

Another of the Scouts was taking luggage from the top of a van to be searched when something startling happened.

“He hears a snap of a holster, turns around, and here’s this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young man’s head,” Fox explained.

Fox said that had them all in fear.

Ultimately no one was hurt or arrested, and after about four hours they were allowed to continue their trip into Alaska. . .

Continue reading. Video at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2014 at 11:47 am

Most would-be US terrorists wouldn’t have committed a crime without FBI entrapment

with one comment

Data are a two-edged sword: One wants to collect metrics to determine quality of performance, but as soon as metrics are defined they distort performance, which takes as a new goal to drive up good metrics (measures of success). For example, if you are fighting terrorism, it’s good to know how many terrorist plots are disrupted, but once you start counting, those in the agency start pushing for the number to go higher, and soon it’s found that not enough terrorist plots are disrupted to make the numbers look good. So the FBI starts promoting terrorist plots (in an undercover fashion, of course), contributing plans, contacts, helping to arrange for supplies, and then step in and arrest everyone and chalk up another big win for the FBI. (Cf. the stop-and-frisk quotas in Bloomberg’s NYPD.) For example:

In the case of the “Newburgh Four,” for example, who were accused of planning to blow up synagogues and attack a US military base, a judge said the government “came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,” and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man “whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.”

That’s from this Juan Cole’s post at Informed Comment:

The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

Many prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks, the groups found. But many others have targeted people who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them. And many of the cases involve due process violations and abusive conditions of confinement that have resulted in excessively long prison sentences.

The report is based on more than 215 interviews with people charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, members of their families and their communities, criminal defense attorneys, judges, current and former federal prosecutors, government officials, academics, and other experts.

In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act. . .

Continue reading. And watch this:

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2014 at 5:21 pm

More from the Obama Administration’s “Watchlist Guidance”

leave a comment »

I blogged this article earlier, and in case you didn’t read it—it’s long—let me post a few paragraphs about what sort of things the US government checks for if you happen to be on the Watchlist or have the same name as someone on the Watchlist:

In addition to data like fingerprints, travel itineraries, identification documents and gun licenses, the rules encourage screeners to acquire health insurance information, drug prescriptions, “any cards with an electronic strip on it (hotel cards, grocery cards, gift cards, frequent flyer cards),” cellphones, email addresses, binoculars, peroxide, bank account numbers, pay stubs, academic transcripts, parking and speeding tickets, and want ads. The digital information singled out for collection includes social media accounts, cell phone lists, speed dial numbers, laptop images, thumb drives, iPods, Kindles, and cameras. All of the information is then uploaded to the TIDE database.

Screeners are also instructed to collect data on any “pocket litter,” scuba gear, EZ Passes, library cards, and the titles of any books, along with information about their condition—”e.g., new, dog-eared, annotated, unopened.” Business cards and conference materials are also targeted, as well as “anything with an account number” and information about any gold or jewelry worn by the watchlisted individual. Even “animal information”—details about pets from veterinarians or tracking chips—is requested. The rulebook also encourages the collection of biometric or biographical data about the travel partners of watchlisted individuals.

The list of government entities that collect this data includes the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is neither an intelligence nor law-enforcement agency. As the rulebook notes, USAID funds foreign aid programs that promote environmentalism, health care, and education. USAID, which presents itself as committed to fighting global poverty, nonetheless appears to serve as a conduit for sensitive intelligence about foreigners. According to the guidelines, “When USAID receives an application seeking financial assistance, prior to granting, these applications are subject to vetting by USAID intelligence analysts at the TSC.” The guidelines do not disclose the volume of names provided by USAID, the type of information it provides, or the number and duties of the “USAID intelligence analysts.”

We are more and more living under a government that believes it has the right to build a dossier on any citizen. More controls (over citizens) is coming, if this plays out according to history.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2014 at 5:04 pm

The stock markets are rigged, part MMDCCCLXIV: Half of Futures Trades in Chicago Are Illegal Wash Trades

leave a comment »

Read and ponder. The regulations and laws and watchdog agencies are failing.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2014 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

FDA can continue to ignore the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

leave a comment »

The FDA isn’t doing its job because it’s almost totally in thrall to the businesses that it is supposed to regulate and seems mostly to do their bidding. And, given the GOP pressures, I imagine funding has been cut. But still, for a Federal judge to explicitly rule that the FDA doesn’t have to do its job to protect the public makes one throw up his hands.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 July 2014 at 3:38 pm

Obama Administration makes it easier to designate someone as a “terrorist”

leave a comment »

And, of course, once someone is so designated, the US Patriot Act allows them to be imprisoned indefinitely and in secret.  Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux explain at The Intercept:

The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.

The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place “entire categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.

Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases—though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list. In an affidavit, Holder called them a “clear roadmap” to the government’s terrorist-tracking apparatus, adding: “The Watchlisting Guidance, although unclassified, contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.”

The rulebook, which The Intercept is publishing in full, was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date. It reveals a confounding and convoluted system filled with exceptions to its own rules, and it relies on the elastic concept of “reasonable suspicion” as a standard for determining whether someone is a possible threat. Because the government tracks “suspected terrorists” as well as “known terrorists,” individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being a suspected terrorist, or if they are suspected of associating with people who are suspected of terrorism activity.

“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi, who reviewed the document, added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.”

The document’s definition of “terrorist” activity includes actions that fall far short of bombing or hijacking. In addition to expected crimes, such as assassination or hostage-taking, the guidelines also define destruction of government property and damaging computers used by financial institutions as activities meriting placement on a list. They also define as terrorism any act that is “dangerous” to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation.

This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources—and might go unnoticed.

“If reasonable suspicion is the only standard you need to label somebody, then it’s a slippery slope we’re sliding down here, because then you can label anybody anything,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent with experience running high-profile terrorism investigations. “Because you appear on a telephone list of somebody doesn’t make you a terrorist. That’s the kind of information that gets put in there.”

The fallout is personal too. There are severe consequences for people unfairly labeled a terrorist by the U.S. government, which shares its watchlist data with local law enforcement, foreign governments, and “private entities.” Once the U.S. government secretly labels you a terrorist or terrorist suspect, other institutions tend to treat you as one. It can become difficult to get a job (or simply to stay out of jail). It can become burdensome—or impossible—to travel. And routine encounters with law enforcement can turn into ordeals. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 July 2014 at 12:52 pm

“The law is a ass”—sometimes Mr. Bumble is right

leave a comment »

In California, some homeowners face a bad choice: pay a $500 fine to the city for not watering their law or pay a $500 fine to the state for watering their lawn.

I suppose they could try watering half their lawn, and pay $250 to each?

It’s hard to respect the law when it presents this sort of situation.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 July 2014 at 8:56 am

Posted in Law

Police reactions to Eric Garner’s death from NYPD chokehold

with 2 comments

You might wonder why the NYPD has such a mixed reputation for its attitude toward citizens, particularly citizens of color. Eric Garner was recently killed on Staten Island by a NYPD officer using chokehold, which the police are not allowed to use. Why would a police officer do that when the offense is merely selling cigarettes. For a look into the mindset, check out this forum where police are posting their thoughts. You have to scroll down some at the link to get to the comments from the police.

In other law-enforcement news, the police union chief in Philadelphia stated that the authors of a book on a corrupt narcotics user paid their informants, which of course the police routinely do. But he offered no evidence whatsoever: just a statement that the book should be banned. The comments to the story are good.

In the light of the comments from the Philadelphia police-union chief, I think it’s a VERY good idea to take disciplining of police officers out of the hands of the police union. The police union exists (apparently) to protect police no matter what they do. To give them the authority and responsibility to discipline police officers is a huge conflict of interest, and they will almost certainly find in favor of those providing their financial support (through union dues). Unions have a role, but disciplining their members doesn’t fit that role.

The problem is that we’re moving rapidly in the direction of a police state, where the police assume the right to do whatever they want—including preventing people from taking photos in public: read this brief article from a reporter trying to take photos of the 7 ugliest buildings in Washington DC. For each building he had checked ahead of time whether it would be okay to photograph the building. It was. The cops disagreed. (Glenn Reynolds, a conservative blogger and a law professor, thinks the police are way out of bounds on this.)

 

Written by LeisureGuy

23 July 2014 at 8:51 am

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

US Sentencing Commission votes to make drug sentencing change retroactive

leave a comment »

This is good news, though the DoJ seems to be digging in its heels: too much work, they say.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 July 2014 at 8:32 am

Why Are Obstetricians Among the Top Billers for Group Psychotherapy in Illinois?

leave a comment »

The simple answer is that Medicare was not reviewing its billing data and seemed to have little interest in stopping fraud.  Charles Ornstein reports in ProPublica:

A few years ago, Illinois’ Medicaid program for the poor noticed some odd trends in its billings for group psychotherapy sessions.

Nursing home residents were being taken several times a week to off-site locations, and Medicaid was picking up the tab for both the services and the transportation.

And then there was this: The sessions were often being performed by obstetrician/gynecologists, oncologists and urologists — “people who didn’t have any training really in psychiatry,” Medicaid director Theresa Eagleson recalled.

So Medicaid began cracking down, and spending plummeted after new rules were implemented. In July 2012 the program stopped paying for group psychotherapy altogether for residents of nursing homes.

Yet Illinois doctors are still billing the federal Medicare program for large numbers of the same services, a ProPublica analysis of federal data shows.

Medicare paid Illinois providers for more than 290,000 group psychotherapy sessions in 2012 — more than twice as many sessions as were reimbursed to providers in New York, the state with the second-highest total.

Among the highest billers for group psychotherapy in Illinois were three ob/gyns and a thoracic surgeon. The four combined for 37,864 sessions that year, more than the total for all providers in the state of California. They were reimbursed more than $730,000 by Medicare in 2012 just for psychotherapy sessions, according to an analysis of a separate Medicare data set released in April.

“That’s not good,” Eagleson said when told of the Medicare numbers.

Medicare’s recent data release has led to a string of analyses showing how waste and fraud is inflating the nation’s bill for health care. This work has echoed the findings of ProPublica’s investigation last year into Medicare’s prescription drug program known as Part D, which had fewer barriers to waste and fraud than other government health care programs – and was making less effective use of its own data.

Of the Illinois ob/gyns billing for group psychotherapy, . . .

Continue reading.

Some of these physicians should face criminal charges for fraud and also lose their license to practice medicine.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2014 at 10:09 am

Hedge funds seem to operate from a scam mentality

leave a comment »

Pam Martens reports at Wall Street on Parade:

Only one word comes to mind to describe the testimony taking place before the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations this morning: Machiavellian.

The criminal minds on Wall Street have twisted banking and securities laws into such a pretzel of hubris that neither Congress, Federal Regulators or even the General Accountability Office can say with any confidence if the U.S. financial system is an over-leveraged house of cards. They just don’t know.

According to a copious report released last evening, here’s what hedge funds have been doing for more than a decade with the intimate involvement of global banks: the hedge fund makes a deposit of cash into an account at the bank which has been established so that the hedge fund can engage in high frequency trading of stocks. The account is not in the hedge fund’s name but in the bank’s name. The bank then deposits $9 for every one dollar the hedge fund deposits into the same account. Some times, the leverage reaches as high as 20 to 1.

The hedge fund proceeds to trade the hell out of the account, generating tens of thousands of trades a day using their own high frequency trading program and algorithms. Many of the trades last no more than minutes. The bank charges the hedge fund fees for the trade executions and interest on the money loaned.

Based on a written side agreement, preposterously called a “basket option,” the hedge fund will collect all the profits made in the account in the bank’s name after a year or longer and then characterize millions of trades which were held for less than a year, many for just minutes, as long-term capital gains (which by law require a holding period of a year or longer). Long term capital gains are taxed at almost half the tax rate of the top rate on short term gains.

There are so many banking crimes embedded in this story that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the one most dangerous to the safety and soundness of banks: extension of margin credit.

Under Federal law known as Regulation T, it is perceived wisdom on Wall Street that a bank or broker-dealer cannot extend more than 50 percent margin on a stock account. But since the banks involved in these basket options called these accounts their own proprietary trading accounts, even though the hedge fund had full control over the trading and ultimate ownership of profits, the banks were justified (in their minds) with thumbing their nose at a bedrock of doing business on Wall Street.

We learn from a footnote in the Senate’s report that hedge funds have gamed Regulation T further. The report . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2014 at 9:55 am

Posted in Business, Law

Church Lawyer Details Cover-up Claims on Sex Abuse

leave a comment »

How the Catholic church betrayed its parishioners by helping pedophiles, explained by a church lawyer in an ABC  News article:

A canon lawyer alleging a widespread cover-up of clergy sex misconduct in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has made her most detailed claims yet, accusing archbishops and their top staff of lying to the public and of ignoring the U.S. bishops’ pledge to have no tolerance of priests who abuse.

Jennifer Haselberger, who spent five years as Archbishop John Nienstedt’s archivist and top adviser on Roman Catholic church law, also charged that the church used a chaotic system of record-keeping that helped conceal the backgrounds of guilty priests who remained on assignment.

Haselberger said that when she started examining records in 2008 of clergy under restrictions over sex misconduct with adults and children she found “nearly 20″ of the 48 men still in ministry. She said she repeatedly warned Nienstedt and his aides about the risk of these placements, but they took action only in one case. As a result of raising alarms, she said she was eventually shut out of meetings about priest misconduct. She resigned last year.

“Had there been any serious desire to implement change, it could have been done quickly and easily with the stroke of a single pen,” Haselberger wrote in the affidavit, released Tuesday in a civil lawsuit brought by attorney Jeff Anderson. “The archbishop’s administrative authority in his diocese is basically unlimited.”

The archdiocese has for years pledged it was following the national bishops’ policy, known as the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which lays out a series of requirements — from conducting background checks to alerting parishioners about offender priests and barring guilty clergy from parish assignments. Archbishop Harry Flynn, who led the Minneapolis archdiocese until retiring in 2008, was an architect of the 12-year-old plan.

But Haselberger said she discovered in 2008 that the archdiocese hadn’t conducted background checks on most priests since the early 1990s. When she drew attention to the lapse, she said she was told to eliminate references to the date of background checks in a form pledging a priest is suitable for ministry. . .

Continue reading.

I do not think Catholic officials in the US are excused from obeying the law, but many seem to act as though that were true. If you read the complete article you will see that Catholic officials quite deliberately broke the law because they thought it was “better for the Church” to keep pedophile priests (some of whom were paid extra) in the Church.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2014 at 9:46 am

Posted in Law, Religion

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,201 other followers

%d bloggers like this: