Archive for the ‘Law’ Category
A sobering column from TomDispatch.com:
Sometimes a single story has a way of standing in for everything you need to know. In the case of the up-arming, up-armoring, and militarization of police forces across the country, there is such a story. Not the police, mind you, but the campus cops at Ohio State University now possess an MRAP; that is, a $500,000, 18-ton, mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle of a sort used in the Afghan War and, as Hunter Stuart of the Huffington Post reported, built to withstand “ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IEDs, and nuclear, biological, and chemical environments.” Sounds like just the thing for bouts of binge drinking and post-football-game shenanigans.
That MRAP came, like so much other equipment police departments are stocking up on — from tactical military vests, assault rifles, and grenade launchers to actual tanks and helicopters – as a freebie via a Pentagon-organized surplus military equipment program. As it happens, police departments across the country are getting MRAPs like OSU’s, including the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota. It’s received one of 18 such decommissioned military vehicles already being distributed around that state. So has Warren County which, like a number of counties in New York state, some quite rural, is now deploying Afghan War-grade vehicles. (Nationwide, rural counties have received a disproportionate percentage of the billions of dollars worth of surplus military equipment that has gone to the police in these years.)
When questioned on the utility of its new MRAP, Warren County Sheriff Bud York suggested, according to the Post-Star, the local newspaper, that “in an era of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and mass killings in schools, police agencies need to be ready for whatever comes their way… The vehicle will also serve as a deterrent to drug dealers or others who might be contemplating a show of force.” So, breathe a sigh of relief, Warren County is ready for the next al-Qaeda-style show of force and, for those fretting about how to deal with such things, there are now 165 18-ton “deterrents” in the hands of local law enforcement around the country, with hundreds of requests still pending.
You can imagine just how useful an MRAP is likely to be if the next Adam Lanza busts into a school in Warren County, assault rifle in hand, or takes over a building at Ohio State University. But keep in mind that we all love bargains and that Warren County vehicle cost the department less than $10. (Yes, you read that right!) A cornucopia of such Pentagon “bargains” has, in the post-9/11 years, played its part in transforming the way the police imagine their jobs and in militarizing the very idea of policing in this country.
Just thinking about that MRAP at OSU makes me feel like I grew up in Neolithic America. After all, when I went to college in the early 1960s, campus cops were mooks in suits. Gun-less, they were there to enforce such crucial matters as “parietal hours.” (If you’re too young to know what they were, look it up.) At their worst, they faced what in those still civilianized (and sexist) days were called “panty raids,” but today would undoubtedly be seen as potential manifestations of a terrorist mentality. Now, if there is a sit-in or sit-down on campus, as infamously at the University of California, Davis, during the Occupy movement, expect that the demonstrators will be treated like enemies of the state and pepper-sprayed or perhaps Tased. And if there’s a bona fide student riot in town, the cops will now roll out an armored vehicle (as they did recently in Seattle).
By the way, don’t think it’s just the weaponry that’s militarizing the police. It’s a mentality as well that, like those weapons, is migrating home from our distant wars. It’s a sense that the U.S., too, is a “battlefield” and that, for instance, those highly militarized SWAT teams spreading to just about any community you want to mention are made up of “operators” (a “term of art” from the special operations community) ready to deal with threats to American life.
Embedding itself chillingly in our civilian world, that battlefield is proving mobile indeed. As Chase Madar wrote for TomDispatch the last time around, it leads now to the repeated handcuffing of six- and seven-year-olds in our schools as mini-criminals for offenses that once would have been dealt with by a teacher or principal, not a cop, and at school, not in jail or court. Today, Madar returns to explain just how this particular nightmare is spreading into every crevice of American life. Tom
The Over-Policing of America
Police Overkill Has Entered the DNA of Social Policy
By Chase Madar
If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving” social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them, with generally disastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.
By now, the militarization of the police has advanced to the point where “the War on Crime” and “the War on Drugs” are no longer metaphors but bland understatements. There is the proliferation of heavily armed SWAT teams, even in small towns; the use of shock-and-awe tactics to bust small-time bookies; the no-knock raids to recover trace amounts of drugs that often result in the killing of family dogs, if not family members; and in communities where drug treatment programs once were key, the waging of a drug version of counterinsurgency war. (All of this is ably reported on journalist Radley Balko’s blog and in his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.) But American over-policing involves far more than the widely reported up-armoring of your local precinct. It’s also the way police power has entered the DNA of social policy, turning just about every sphere of American life into a police matter.
The School-to-Prison Pipeline
It starts in our schools, where discipline is increasingly outsourced to police personnel. What not long ago would have been seen as normal childhood misbehavior – doodling on a desk, farting in class, a kindergartener’stantrum – can leave a kid in handcuffs, removed from school, or even booked at the local precinct. Such “criminals” can be as young as seven-year-old Wilson Reyes, a New Yorker who was handcuffed and interrogated under suspicion of stealing five dollars from a classmate. (Turned out he didn’t do it.)
Though it’s a national phenomenon, Mississippi currently leads the way in turning school behavior into a police issue. The Hospitality State hasimposed felony charges on schoolchildren for “crimes” like throwing peanuts on a bus. Wearing the wrong color belt to school got one child handcuffed to a railing for several hours. All of this goes under the rubric of “zero-tolerance” discipline, which turns out to be just another form of violence legally imported into schools.
Despite a long-term drop in youth crime, the carceral style of education remains in style. Metal detectors — a horrible way for any child to start the day — are installed in ever more schools, even those with sterlingdisciplinary records, despite the demonstrable fact that such scanners provide no guarantee against shootings and stabbings.
Every school shooting, whether in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, or Littleton, Colorado, only leads to more police in schools and more arms as well. It’s the one thing the National Rifle Association and Democratic senators canagree on. There are plenty of successful ways to run an orderly school without criminalizing the classroom, but politicians and much of the media don’t seem to want to know about them. The “school-to-prison pipeline,” a jargon term coined by activists, is entering the vernacular.
Go to Jail, Do Not Pass Go
Even as simple a matter as getting yourself from point A to point B can quickly become a law enforcement matter as travel and public space are ever more aggressively policed. Waiting for a bus? Such loitering just got three Rochester youths arrested. Driving without a seat belt can easily escalate into an arrest, even if the driver is a state judge. (Notably, all four of these men were black.) If the police think you might be carrying drugs, warrantless body cavity searches at the nearest hospital may be in the offing — you will be sent the bill later.
Air travel entails increasingly intimate pat-downs and arbitrary rules that many experts see as nothing more than “security theater.” As for staying at home, it carries its own risks as Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates found out when a Cambridge police officer mistook him for a burglar and hauled him away — a case that is hardly unique.
Overcriminalization at Work
Office and retail work might seem like an unpromising growth area for police and prosecutors, but criminal law has found its way into the white-collar workplace, too.
You know, we’re watching this happen. It’s going on, and we are just watching (probably because the FBI and NSA seem to respect no bounds of privacy). But at least it’s being done out in the open, before our very eyes..
Juan Cole posts at Informed Comment:
Jon Schwartz ( @tinyrevolution ) posted this to Twitter. It is a side by side comparison of a passage from “1984″ to the news report from a former senior FBI official that the FBI can turn on the laptop cameras of individuals without activating the red light that shows the camera is operating.
The Washington Post broke the story. If the FBI is doing this without a warrant it is yet another nail in the coffin of the US 4th Amendment, which guarantees people the right not to have government snoop through their personal effects without evidence of wrongdoing and a judge’s permission.
Software is an algorithm and thus should not have been patented according to the Supreme Court’s own past decisions. Tim Lee reviews the current case coming up for a decision. His conclusion:
Now the Supreme Court will have an opportunity to weigh in on the case. And while the high court could issue a narrow ruling based on the details of the patents in this case, it could also take the opportunity to fix the software patent mess more broadly. All it would need to do is to reiterate its earlier position that patents claiming mathematical processes — a.k.a. computer software — isn’t eligible for patent protection unless it’s tied to a specific machine or physical process.
The high court will be reluctant to do this because it would be disruptive. Reiterating that mathematical algorithms can’t be patented would call into question thousands of patents held by major software companies. And these companies could complain, with some justification, that the Supreme Court’s failure to rule on the issue for more than 30 years was a tacit acceptance of rulings by the Federal Circuit.
Still, the federal circuit cannot overrule Supreme Court precedents. And the federal circuit’s experiment with software patents has been a disaster. As the patent scholar James Bessen has argued, the patent troll crisis is really a software patent crisis. Software patents are far more likely to be involved in litigation than other types of patent. The result: According to Bessen’s calculations, troll-related litigation cost the U.S. economy $29 billion in 2011 alone. Reiterating that “pure” software can’t be patented wouldn’t just be good law — it would also save the nation billions of dollars in litigation costs.
The system of law works best when people trust it. Marc Herman reports in Pacific Standard on a study of judicial conflict of interest rules:
The Center for Public Integrity just released what it’s calling an investigation of conflict of interest rules for judges in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. On an A-F scale, the outfit graded state rules that keep judges from presiding over cases where a personal interest might intrude. Forty-two states and D.C. scored an F, meaning CPI thinks the disclosure rules were too lax, or didn’t exist in the first place. No state’s legal system got an A or a B, according to CPI’s standard. California pulled a gentleman’s C.
If those depressing-sounding rankings are fair, what do they mean? The gist is that there isn’t enough legislation out there to prevent judicial corruption. So some corruption occurred:
After reviewing three years of personal financial disclosures, the Center found judges who authored opinions favoring companies in which they owned stock. The Center found judges who ruled on cases even when family members were receiving income from one of the parties. And it found judges who accepted lavish gifts — like a $50,000 trip from a lawyer.
Sounds bad. The rest of the research, however, doesn’t offer too many cases that sound particularly grave. In the most alarming incident highlighted, a California supreme court judge participated in a case involving Wells Fargo Bank, despite . . .
In Salon Josh Eidelson reports an encouraging development:
With accusations of abuse directed at private companies providing public services, a package of privatization safeguards is expected to be introduced in nearly half the nation’s state legislatures in the next session, according to a group pushing the measures.
“If you contract to fix your car or paint your house” and “don’t figure out exactly in advance what you want, and get that done precisely, and you don’t watch real closely, then you get screwed,” said Donald Cohen, who directs In the Public Interest — a project of the Partnership for Working Families, which produces research critical of the subcontracting of government work — and chairs the ITPI Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) that pushes legislation. “That’s what happens with contracting.” ITPI’s funders include foundations and unions.
In a report being released Wednesday afternoon, ITPI urges adoption of a battery of measures to confront alleged abuses by such companies providing public services. According to ITPI Action Fund, legislators in nearly half the states – including California, Maryland and Pennsylvania – plan to introduce versions of that legislation.
To increase transparency, the ITPI package would require governments to disclose online how much contractors cost and how many people they employ, and require each company with a contract to “open its books and its meetings to the public.” To promote accountability, ITPI urges states to establish minimum staffing devoted to oversight, bar scofflaw companies from receiving contracts, require clauses letting governments cancel contracts based on broken promises, and limit contracts to companies that guarantee a cost savings of at least 10 percent. To advance “shared prosperity,” ITPI would require wage and benefit standards for subcontracted employees, and impact analyses taking into account potential outsourcing’s effect on the environment, local business and social services. And in the name of competition, ITPI’s program would forbid language promising profits for contractors or allowing automatic contract renewals, and would require that direct public employees have the chance to submit competing proposals for work the government is considering contracting out.
“There’s a myth around private sector doing things cheaper, better, faster, which turns out not to be accurate,” Cohen told Salon. He contended that recent outsourcing abuses make the case for reform.
The forthcoming ITPI report, “Out of Control: The Coast-to-Coast Failures of Outsourcing Public Services to For-Profit Corporations,” offers a parade of such alleged abuses. Among them: In New Mexico, a district judge sided with the city of Truth or Consequences (that’s the actual name) when it refused to share video recordings of city commission meetings on the grounds that an open records law didn’t cover the private contractor that did the recording (that ruling was overturned by an appeals court). In Indiana, a private toll road operator refused to let state troopers shut down a toll road due to a snowstorm. In Florida, the Palm Beach Post found that three out of six private prisons saved taxpayers no money. In Chicago, a 75-year contract signed in 2009 restricts the government from adding bicycle lanes or sidewalk space because of the potential impact on private parking meter profits. In New York City, a 1998 contract with the private company CityTime to oversee time records of public employees was still unfinished a dozen years later, after costing taxpayers over 10 times the expected $63 million price tag.
“The rationale has long been that work or things might be done better by bringing in outside experts,” said New York City Comptroller John Liu, whose office investigated CityTime. “In New York City, that line of thinking has largely failed … Part of it is the sheer lack of oversight over these outside consultants, who are given too much free rein and too much flexibility in the contractual agreements with the city.” Liu told Salon that the CityTime example had also shown that “the work can always be done in-house, if the will is there.”
“Desperate governments will do desperate things,” said Cohen, “and … there is a huge industry whose purpose and mission is now to walk the halls … saying, ‘We’ve got a deal for you.’” Still, he argued that public attention to the role of contracting in the Healthcare.gov and Edward Snowden stories and the trans-ideological appeal of “fiscally prudent government” offered an opportunity to effect reforms. Signs of progress cited by ITPI include the suspension of the process of Chicago airport privatization, the cancellation of a Cincinnati parking lease, and media scrutiny on a Nashville private prison contract under which taxpayers owe Corrections Corporation of America extra cash when prison occupancy falls below a contractual minimum. . .
Students get a rap sheet instead of being sent to the principal’s office. Lizette Alvarez reports in the NY Times:
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Faced with mounting evidence that get-tough policies in schools are leading to arrest records, low academic achievement and high dropout rates that especially affect minority students, cities and school districts around the country are rethinking their approach to minor offenses.
Perhaps nowhere has the shift been more pronounced than in Broward County’s public schools. Two years ago, the school district achieved an ignominious Florida record: More students were arrested on school campuses here than in any other state district, the vast majority for misdemeanors like possessing marijuana or spraying graffiti.
The Florida district, the sixth largest in the nation, was far from an outlier. In the past two decades, schools around the country have seen suspensions, expulsions and arrests for minor nonviolent offenses climb together with the number of police officers stationed at schools. The policy, called zero tolerance, first grew out of the war on drugs in the 1990s and became more aggressive in the wake of school shootings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado.
But in November, Broward veered in a different direction, joining other large school districts, including Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago and Denver, in backing away from the get-tough approach.
Rather than push children out of school, districts like Broward are now doing the opposite: choosing to keep lawbreaking students in school, away from trouble on the streets, and offering them counseling and other assistance aimed at changing behavior.
These alternative efforts are increasingly supported, sometimes even led, by state juvenile justice directors, judges and police officers.
In Broward, which had more than 1,000 arrests in the 2011 school year, the school district entered into a wide-ranging agreement last month with local law enforcement, the juvenile justice department and civil rights groups like the N.A.A.C.P. to overhaul its disciplinary policies and de-emphasize punishment.
Some states, prodded by parents and student groups, are similarly moving to change the laws; in 2009, Florida amended its laws to allow school administrators greater discretion in disciplining students. . .
Amy Goodman has a good program at Democracy Now!, video and transcript. The blurb:
With hundreds of thousands of people now on the government’s terrorist watch lists, a closely watched trial begins today in San Francisco. Stanford University Ph.D. student Rahinah Ibrahim is suing the U.S. government after she was barred from flying from Malaysia back to the United States in 2005 to complete her studies at Stanford after her name was placed on the list. The New York Times reports that the federal government’s terrorist watch list, officially called the “Terrorist Screening Database,” has grown to at least 700,000 people, and those on the list are often subjected to extra scrutiny, prohibited from flying, and interrogated while attempting to cross borders. The government refuses to divulge who is on the list, how one can get off the list, and what criteria is used to place someone on the list in the first place. Oftentimes, people have no idea their name is in the database until they attempt to board a flight. We speak with Anya Bernstein, associate professor at the SUNY Buffalo Law School and author of the article, “The Hidden Costs of Terrorist Watch Lists.”
Those who (hope to) fly will find this of great interest—there are many routes to the No-Fly List.
Interesting list. From the post, by Juan Cole:
In many key ways America’s political and financial practices make it in absolute terms far more corrupt than the usual global South suspects. After all, the US economy is worth over $16 trillion a year, so in our corruption a lot more money changes hands.
1. Instead of having short, publicly-funded political campaigns with limited and/or free advertising (as a number of Western European countries do), the US has long political campaigns in which candidates are dunned big bucks for advertising. They are therefore forced to spend much of their time fundraising, which is to say, seeking bribes. All American politicians are basically on the take, though many are honorable people. They are forced into it by the system. House Majority leader John Boehner has actually just handed out cash on the floor of the House from the tobacco industry to other representatives.
When French President Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated in 2012, soon thereafter French police actually went into his private residence searching for an alleged $50,000 in illicit campaign contributions from the L’Oreale heiress. I thought to myself, seriously? $50,000 in a presidential campaign? Our presidential campaigns cost a billion dollars each! $50,000 is a rounding error, not a basis for police action. Why, George W. Bush took millions from arms manufacturers and then ginned up a war for them, and the police haven’t been anywhere near his house.
American politicians don’t represent “the people.” With a few honorable exceptions, they represent the the 1%. American democracy is being corrupted out of existence.
2. That politicians can be bribed to reduce regulation of industries like banking (what is called “regulatory capture”) means that they will be so bribed. Billions were spent and 3,000 lobbyists employed by bankers to remove cumbersome rules in the zeroes. Thus, political corruption enabled financial corruption (in some cases legalizing it!) Without regulations and government auditing, the finance sector went wild and engaged in corrupt practices that caused the 2008 crash. Too bad the poor Afghans can’t just legislate their corruption out of existence by regularizing it, the way Wall street did.
3. That the chief villains of the 2008 meltdown (from which 90% of Americans have not recovered) have not been prosecuted is itself a form of corruption.
4. The US military budget is bloated and enormous, bigger than the military budgets of the next twelve major states. What isn’t usually realized is that perhaps half of it is spent on outsourced services, not on the military. It is corporate welfare on a cosmic scale. I’ve seen with my own eyes how officers in the military get out and then form companies to sell things to their former colleagues still on the inside.
5. . . .
An interesting analysis by Jeremy Peters in the NY Times:
Within hours of each other, two federal appeals courts handed down separate decisions that affirmed sharp new limits on abortion and birth control. One on Oct. 31 forced abortion clinics across Texas to close. The other, on Nov. 1, compared contraception to “a grave moral wrong” and sided with businesses that refused to provide it in health care coverage.
“These are the kinds of decisions we are going to have to live with,” a blunt Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, warned his caucus later as it weighed whether to make historic changes to Senate rules. Those changes would break a Republican filibuster of President Obama’s nominees and end the minority party’s ability to block a president’s choices to executive branch posts and federal courts except the Supreme Court.
The moment represented a turning point in what had been, until then, a cautious approach by Democrats to push back against Republicans who were preventing the White House from appointing liberal judges. All the more glaring, Democrats believed, was that they had allowed confirmation of the conservative judges now ruling in the abortion cases. Republicans were blocking any more appointments to the court of appeals in Washington, which issued the contraception decision.
Faced with the possibility that they might never be able to seat judges that they hoped would act as a counterweight to more conservative appointees confirmed when George W. Bush was president, all but three of the 55 members of the Senate Democratic caucus sided with Mr. Reid. The decision represented a recognition by Democrats that they had to risk a backlash in the Senate to head off what they saw as a far greater long-term threat to their priorities in the form of a judiciary tilted to the right.
“The final tipping point was this month, when the minority launched a campaign to block President Obama from appointing anyone, regardless of experience and character, to three vacancies on the D.C. circuit court,” said Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon and one of the leading proponents of filibuster limits. “This constituted an attack on the balance and integrity of our courts.” . . .
“Doesn’t Eat, Doesn’t Pray, Doesn’t Love” begins:
The question of whether for-profit companies can claim a religious identity, one that exempts them from obeying a generally applicable law, is fully worthy of the attention the Supreme Court is about to give it. But to the extent that much of the commentary about the challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception-coverage insurance mandate frames the issue as a debate about the rights of corporations – as a next step beyond Citizens United’s expansion of corporate free speech – I think it misses the point. What really makes these cases so rich, and the reason the court’s intervention will dramatically raise the temperature of the current term, lies elsewhere.
The religious-based challenges that have flooded the federal courts from coast to coast – more than 70 of them, of which the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear two – aren’t about the day-in, day-out stuff of jurisprudence under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause: Sabbath observance, employment rights, tax exemptions. They are about sex.
As such, the cases open a new front in an old war. I don’t mean the overblown “war on religion” that some Catholic leaders have accused the Obama administration of waging. Nor do I mean the “war on women” that was such an effective charge last year against a bevy of egregiously foot-in-mouth Republican politicians.
I mean that this is the culture war redux – a war not on religion or on women but on modernity.
All culture wars are that, of course: the old culture in a goal-line stance against a new way of organizing society, a new culture struggling to be born. Usually, that’s pretty obvious. This time, somehow, it seems less so, maybe because the battle is being fought in the complex language of law, namely a 20-year-old law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
This tendentiously named statute, aimed at overturning a 1990 Supreme Court decision that cast a skeptical eye on claims to religious exemptions from ordinary laws, provides that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless the burden serves a “compelling” government interest and is the “least restrictive means” of doing so.
What’s a substantial burden? What governmental interest is sufficiently compelling? And with particular respect to the two new Supreme Court cases, is a for-profit corporation a “person” that can engage in religious exercise? . . .
Tim Lee has an interesting article in the Washington Post:
An organization called the TPL Group has put together a handy compilation of letters opposing the patent reform legislation that was approved by the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month. Many of the letters come from organizations you’d expect to be oppose legislation weakening patent protection: patent attorneys, the pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology companies and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. But one letter opposing the legislation comes from a surprising source: academia.
The legislation, sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), targets patent trolls, “non-practicing entities” that acquire broad patents not to commercialize them but to earn licensing revenues from others who have done so. When it’s pointed out that this definition of a patent troll also applies to some universities, patent reformers are usually quick to clarify that they don’t regard universities as patent trolls. But the reality is that some universities do, in fact, behave like patent trolls. And now they’re lobbying like them, too.
Billed as a “statement from the higher education community,” the Nov. 8 letter is signed by the Association of American Universities, the American Council on Education and four other university groups. “We strongly support the goal of H.R. 3309 to reduce abusive patent litigation and the corrosive impact it has on the US patent system,” the groups write. However, the academic organizations argue, some provisions have an “over-broad scope” that “raises the specter of unintended problems and thereby raises particular concerns for universities.”
Essentially, the universities are concerned that the legislation would make it harder for patent holders to enforce their patents. And they’re right. The line between patent trolls and other patent holders isn’t always clear, so any reform designed to make patent trolling more difficult is also going to inconvenience many conventional patent holders — including universities.
But it’s far from obvious that that would be a bad thing. After all, while universities don’t engage in the most egregious troll tactics, universities’ efforts to generate licensing revenue have imposed significant costs on the public that aren’t so different from the problems created by patent trolls.
A good example of this is a lawsuit by genetic testing company Myriad Genetics seeking to force a competing breast cancer test off the market. Myriad persisted in its litigation even after the Supreme Court ruled that human genes could not be patented. Joining Myriad as plaintiffs are two universities, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Utah. If the lawsuit succeeds, the likely result will be less competition and higher prices for breast cancer testing.
Another example: For more than a decade, a troll called Eolas sued major Internet companies claiming to own the concept of embedding interactive content in a Web page. Its co-plaintiff was the University of California, where the patent originated. Internet pioneers, including World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee, have disputed claims that the University of California invented interactive Web content. But Eolas was able to get tens of millions of dollars from leading Internet companies, with UC taking a cut.
Universities’ efforts to maximize their patent revenues create other problems, too. For example, Yale researcher William Prusoff developed d4T, one of the first AIDS drugs. . .
Money disrupts values, doesn’t it? As studies show, for individuals as well as for institutions.
Apparently so-called “revenge porn” often uses images obtained by hacking a stranger’s computer. Read this amazing account by Charlotte Laws at xojane.com of how one woman took effective action by changing her life to focus on the slimy attacks on her daughter:
I felt like Will Smith in “Enemy of the State.”
I was being hunted, harassed and stalked by criminals with technological expertise. I had been thrust into an unexpected war. I felt exposed, vulnerable and alone on the front line. I had awoken a hideous network of villains and saboteurs, who were in pursuit of me, hoping to ruin my life. I had received creepy emails, backlash on Twitter and three death threats. My computer had been bombarded with viruses, and a technician had advised me to buy all new equipment because the malware was tough to remove.
“Also, be leery of unusual cars or vans in the neighborhood,” the tech added.
“Why?” I asked.
“If someone wants to break into your computer network, he will need to be close to your house. That is, unless he has advanced skills. Then, he could gain access from anywhere.”
I hurried home from the hardware store with my all-important purchase: heavy-duty padlocks. I knew I had to secure the gates at my residence, so that an intruder or a team of intruders could not access my backyard and possibly my home.
I pulled into my driveway and scanned the street, glad that the suspicious white car with the young, male driver was no longer present. It had been there on the previous evening, according to my daughter, Kayla. She’d seen it when she returned from work, and she had monitored it for several hours until it disappeared. She did not report the incident to me until the next day.
“Mom, why was there a guy in a white car, watching our house last night?”
Because she had no knowledge of the “be leery of unusual cars or vans” warning by the computer technician, I could not accuse her of paranoia.
I affixed padlocks to the gates, and the phone rang. It was like a gun. It had become a powerful way to threaten and to terrorize me. It was one of my enemy’s weapons. I reluctantly picked up the receiver.
“We know where you live,” a muffled male voice spoke. “Your life will be ruined.” He hung up.
A caller that morning had told me I would be raped, tortured and killed. I glanced out the front window. The night had once looked innocent and peaceful, but suddenly it seemed ominous and dangerous. Then I logged onto my computer to see whether the Twitter backlash against me had ceased. It had not. But there was an odd message on my feed, which read, “Please follow me. I need to direct message you.”
I did as I was instructed, and the interaction resulted in a bizarre phone call. Just as “Enemy of the State” protagonist Will Smith got aid from Gene Hackman — an off-the-grid, former government agent — I was being offered assistance.
“Don’t worry. We’re going to protect you. We’re computer experts,” were the first words uttered by a man nicknamed “Jack,” who claimed to be an operative with the underground group, Anonymous.
I knew little about the famous, decentralized network of activists and hacktivists, who are sometimes called “freedom fighters” or digital Robin Hoods, so I conducted Google searches during our half-hour phone conversation.
“Jack” instructed me on how to protect my computer network and explained in detail how he and a buddy planned to electronically go after the man who had been threatening me and who had been urging his devotees to follow suit. He then uttered the name of the person who has become the most well-known online face of revenge porn: a man named Hunter Moore. . .
Read the whole thing. It’s fascinating and she does indeed make progress.
And here’s another woman’s story, including her campaign to stop the harassment and change the laws.
Obama has repeatedly said that his administration would be transparent, that statement is simply false: he has embraced secrecy with a passion, and now his Justice Department is trying to keep secret judicial opinions in court cases. This is a bad direction to go. Next will be a US Star Chamber—oh, wait: we already have those: the group that decides whether to kill people with drone attacks. A secret court hearing secret evidence with the accused not represented and given no voice—and indeed probably ignorant of the trial which results in his death sentence. That is exactly a Star Chamber.
Marisa Taylor reports for McClatchy:
The Obama administration should be permitted to keep a legal opinion secret that allows the FBI to obtain certain telephone records without any formal legal process, a Justice Department lawyer told a U.S. appeals court Tuesday.
The legal assertion by the Justice Department came in response to a lawsuit that alleges the department’s Office of Legal Counsel violated the federal open-records laws by refusing to release the memo, which says the bureau can collect international phone call data without court oversight or a “qualifying emergency.” As a result of the Justice Department’s refusal to release the memo, the circumstances under which the bureau can collect the records and the precise legal authority it relies on remain secret.
Justice Department lawyer Daniel Tenny told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the opinion should be protected from public disclosure because it was internal legal advice to the FBI, not necessarily binding policy.
“If the FBI knew that the advice it got back would be made public, then the FBI’s own deliberations would be made public,” he said. “. . . The key point is not whether all of the advice should be made public. The question is whether it should be involuntarily made public.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which sued for access to the opinion, asserted that the FBI used the opinion as “cover” for its previous actions, which were under fire as potentially illegal. As a result, the foundation argued, the opinion was relied on as binding policy and cannot be withheld from the public.
“The OLC opinion at issue in this case set forth for the executive branch an authoritative, controlling interpretation of federal surveillance and privacy statutes,” Mark Rumold, a lawyer with the group, told the three-judge panel.
The lawsuit arises out of a longstanding debate over how much the public should know about the legal rationale that supports spying programs aimed at catching terrorists. The suit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation was prompted in part by McClatchy’s reporting that highlighted the existence of the memo and the department’s refusal to release it to the newspaper chain in January 2010.
For years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the FBI sought and obtained thousands of certain telephone records for international calls in an attempt to thwart potential terrorists.
The opinion by the Office of Legal Counsel was issued in response to questions that were raised by the Justice Department’s inspector general about the legality of the FBI’s handling of those records.
A reference to the opinion appeared in the heavily excised section of a 2010 inspector general report on how the FBI abused its powers when seeking the records.
The inspector general had concluded that the bureau devised an informal system of requesting the records from three telecommunications firms to create what one agent called a “phone database on steroids,” which included names, addresses, length of service and billing information.
The inspector general described a “casual” environment in which FBI agents and employees of the telecom companies treated Americans’ telephone records so cavalierly that one senior FBI counterterrorism official said getting access to them was as easy as “having an ATM in your living room.”
In revealing the existence of the memo, the Justice Department’s inspector general said: “The OLC agreed with the FBI that under certain circumstances (word or words redacted) allows the FBI to ask for and obtain these records on a voluntary basis from the providers, without legal process or a qualifying emergency.”
In January 2010, a McClatchy reporter asked for a copy of the memo under open-records laws but was denied.
In its cover letter to McClatchy, however, . . .
Joshua Holland interviews Gary Ruskin at BillMoyers.com:
In 2010, a group of hackers known as LulzSec gave us a peek into the shadowy world of corporate espionage. The group released 175,000 emails it obtained from a private security firm called HBGary Federal.
The hack revealed, among other things, that Bank of America (BofA) had grown concerned about a promise that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange made in 2009 to release a trove of sensitive documents that Assange claimed could “take down” the bank. BofA went into crisis-control mode, setting up a “war room” to handle the fallout from the expected release (which, as it turned out, never came).
It also approached the Justice Department, which referred the mega-bank to a K-Street lobbying firm, which introduced BofA executives to a group of private security firms called Team Themis.
Peter Ludlow, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote in The New York Times that the group offered, among other services, a “common aspect of intelligence work: deception. That is, it is involved not just with the concealment of reality, but with the manufacture of it.”
Team Themis (a group that included HBGary and the private intelligence and security firms Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies and Endgame Systems) was effectively brought in to find a way to undermine the credibility of WikiLeaks and the journalist Glenn Greenwald… because of Greenwald’s support for WikiLeaks.
Team Themis considered falsifying documents and feeding them to Greenwald in order to discredit his reporting. They also pitched the Chamber of Commerce with a plan to infiltrate Chamber Watch, a progressive group that opposes the CoC’s anti-regulatory agenda. They suggested creating “two fake insider personas, using one as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second.”
When the story broke, Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce rushed to distance themselves from the plans and HBGary claimed that they had never gotten past the planning stage. But the leaked emails briefly shined a light on the murky, largely unregulated world of corporate spying – an industry that watchdogs say has grown exponentially since the 9/11 attacks.
Last week, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Corporate Policy Center issued a report titled, “Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations,” which detailed a number of revelations of corporate espionage operations against non-profit activist groups. Moyers & Companyspoke to the report’s author, Corporate Policy Center Director Gary Ruskin, last week.
Joshua Holland: Over the past few years, a few cases of corporate espionage against various activist groups have come to light, but your report is the first to attempt to document this phenomenon in detail. Do we know how widespread this practice is?
Gary Ruskin: We really do not. Our report, “Spooky Business,” is really an effort to say something that we really know very little about. It’s kind of like documenting the tip of the iceberg, but we don’t know how deep the iceberg goes. So it’s going to require a lot more journalistic work, as well as some investigations by the Department of Justice and other law enforcement officials.
Holland: Let’s look at an example of the kinds of stories that have come to light and then we can discuss the ramifications. What is S2i, the company formerly known BBI?
Ruskin: Those two companies are basically private investigation firms and they were very active in surveilling and conducting espionage against a wide variety of nonprofit organizations.
Holland: What kind of specific activities did you find these private ‘spooks,’ if you will, doing to disrupt activist groups — or is disrupt even the right word? . . .
This is the season when charities make a big push. Note this column in the NY Times by Ken Stern:
BY all outward indications, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association was a leader in the charitable community. Founded in 2002 to provide support to Navy veterans in need, the charity recorded astonishing financial success. In its first eight years, it raised around $100 million in charitable contributions, almost all of it through a direct marketing campaign. The organization, headed by Jack L. Nimitz, boasted of 41 state chapters and some 66,000 members.
This would be a great story of charitable success, except for the fact that virtually everything about the association turned out to be false: no state chapters, no members, no leader with the name redolent of naval history. Instead, there was one guy: a man calling himself Bobby Thompson who worked from a duplex across the street from the Cuesta-Rey cigar factory in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa.
But the money raised was real enough, generated by a series of for-profit telemarketers. The victims, by and large, were unsuspecting small-money donors who received urgent solicitations asking for support for needy naval veterans. Most of the money raised stayed with the fund-raisers, though plenty apparently dripped through to Mr. Thompson and a succession of Republican lawmakers who received generous contributions from the association’s political arm. But little ever made it to the intended beneficiaries. In 2010, the scheme was unwound by two reporters for what is now The Tampa Bay Times, but not before Mr. Thompson had fled the state of Florida.
From June 2010, Mr. Thompson was on the run, the search for him hamstrung by the fact that no one had any real idea of who he was. Finally, on April 30, 2012, federal marshals tracked him down in Portland, Ore., finding him with a card to a storage unit containing $981,650 in cash and almost two dozen fake identity cards.
Earlier this month in Ohio, where the charity’s registration documents had been filed, the man arrested as Bobby Thompson was convicted on 23 felony counts, including fraud, theft and money laundering. Authorities have identified him as John Donald Cody, a former Army intelligence officer and Harvard Law graduate. Given its sensational facts, the case has drawn more attention than your average matter in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. But the story is worth paying attention to for a more important reason, if we want to prevent more Bobby Thompsons in our future.
The most outrageous aspect of the case is that much of what Mr. Cody did was probably legal, or at least not specifically illegal. . .
Corporations are taking a number of steps to ensure that they can shed what little accountability they have in the US. For example, note this story today by Tim Lee in the Washington Post:
In a letter sent to KlearGear on Monday, the couple describes what happened next. When their furnace broke last month, their bad credit meant they couldn’t immediately pay for a new one. As a result, they and their 3-year-old son lived without heat for three weeks. The Palmers say credit problems resulting from KlearGear’s actions prevented them from getting auto loan last year. Worst of all, they say they’ve been unable to sell their home due to the damage KlearGear’s did to their credit.
The Palmers are seeking the removal of the $3500 charge from their credit report, $75,000 in compensation, and for KlearGear to discontinue its use of the non-disparagement clause. The couple is threatening to file a lawsuit if they don’t get a satisfactory response by December 16.
The couple is represented by Public Citizen, which has a blog post about the case. The group notes that KlearGear’s threat is part of a broader trend of companies trying to use contractual terms to muzzle customers who complain about their products and services online. I experienced this issue myself in 2011, when a dentist asked me to sign a “mutual privacy agreement” giving the dentist copyright over any reviews I might write about his services in the future. (I refused to sign.) Public Citizenrepresented another patient last year whose dentist used a similar agreement against him.
I tried to call KlearGear, but the number listed on their website led to a recording directing us to visit the company’s website. An email to the company’s legal department was not returned either.
And an animal-rights activist who exposed a company’s animal cruelty is now facing prison time, as reported in Salon by Lindsay Abrams:
If you’re a person who loves animals enough to take a job at a cattle company, solely for the purpose of exposing abuses that may occur there, you’re going to have reconcile yourself with a few necessary evils — like allowing the abuse to happen, temporarily, in order to get the footage you need to build your case.
That nuance, unfortunately, is lost on the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, which cited three employees at Quanah Cattle Company in Kersey, Colorado with misdemeanor animal cruelty, and then went on to also charge Taylor Radig, the activist who exposed that cruelty, for the same crime.
Radig, a member of the animal rights group Compassion Over Killing, spent two months at the cattle company, during which she caught workers on film kicking, throwing and otherwise mistreating newborn calves. The workers were fired earlier this month after the group released the footage, about two months after it was initially filmed; the charges against Radig were added later.
“Radig’s failure to report the alleged abuse of the animals in a timely manner adheres to the definition of acting with negligence and substantiates the charge Animal Cruelty,” a statement signed by the sheriff explained. They’re also accusing her of having participated in the abuse. If convicted, she faces up to 18 months in jail.
Journalist Will Potter, who broke the story over the weekend, called such charges “unprecedented,” although, as he pointed out, industrial agriculture companies have been pushing hard for “ag-gag” laws that would punish those who dare get anywhere near a slaughterhouse with a video camera. Despite not being one of the states where these laws are in effect, he writes, Colorado’s clearly joining the bandwagon.
The Colorado effort reflects the growing popularity of Ag-Gag laws, an on-going conservative effort to make criticizing a company not only a crime, but also a terrorist act so that those who criticize fall under the Patriot Act, which allows them to be imprisoned indefinitely with no charges filed and no recourse to a lawyer. Torture, we’re told, has been discontinued (except for solitary confinement, which the US seems to love as much as the old Soviet Union loved locking up activists in mental institutions).
A couple of days ago I wrote, in a post on how corporations are building intelligence networks, staffed and run by former military and civilian intelligence agencies (NSA, CIA, and so on), to spy on any organization or person critical of the corporation or industry. I mentioned then that the gloves were coming off. Now the push is on to make any speaking out or taking action against a corporation a crime that requires prison time.
Corporations really are starting to run the government and the country. Since their number 1 mandate has nothing to do with the common welfare, we are heading for bad times.
Corporations are, legally, persons, though they never have to go to jail (they just pay fines, almost always trivial in terms of their revenues). And I thought they never went to church, but now we have a corporation that claims that it is religious. (I wonder: Has it been baptized? Does it tithe?) I find that difficult to grasp, since I don’t know of any actual religions that have maximizing profit among their essential commandments.
It seems an awful lot like a corporation wants to make personal life decisions for its employees.
Very interesting article indeed in Salon by Benjamin Winterhalter:
Since at least 1985, the American Bar Association’s Section on Legal Education has published annual statistics about the rates of enrollment at American law schools, the costs of attendance, and the eventual employment of law graduates. Looking at how these numbers have changed since the financial crisis of 2008, one thing is clear: Law schools are doing quite well for themselves. Tuition at private law schools has steadily increased, climbing from a mean of $34,298 in 2008 to a mean of $40,634 today – an increase that, by my calculations, outpaces inflation by about $3,000. And although enrollment has declined slightly from its all-time peak of 52,488 new students in 2010, the general trend has been unmistakably positive.
But if you sought information about how law schools weathered the financial storm in the pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or the Atlantic, I would not have faulted you for coming to the conclusion that they must be undergoing a major crisis. As these publications have tirelessly (and accurately) reported, the picture for law graduates is rather bleak. Student debt is astronomical, with some law students borrowing upwards of $200,000 to finance their educations, and employment prospects are dismal, with even well-established, “white-shoe” law firms being forced to make massive cuts and layoffs.
As a straight value proposition, it seems, it is no longer clear that going to law school makes any sense. So, law schools, one might reasonably expect, surely must be feeling the pressure. College students, one could not be blamed for thinking, surely must be considering other careers. But it has not been thus.
Why? How, in other words, can we explain the fact that young people are still going to law school in droves? How are we to make sense of the fact that so many intelligent college graduates are, to all appearances, deciding to commit financial suicide? The accounting just does not add up.
A couple of answers suggest themselves. First, . . .
From The Wire, an article by Connor Simpson:
A new map details how many companies across the world have been infected by malware by the National Security Agency’s team of hackers, and where the companies are located. [map at link - LG]
Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reports the NSA uses malware to infect, infiltrate and steal information from over 50,000 computer networks around the globe. This new, previously unreported scope of the NSA’s hacking operation comes from another PowerPoint slide showing a detailed map of every infection leaked
Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reports the NSA uses malware to infect, infiltrate and steal information from over 50,000 computer networks around the globe. This new, previously unreported scope of the NSA’s hacking operation comes from another PowerPoint slide showing a detailed map of every infection leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden.The practice is called