Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

A big problem with police body-cameras: Police body-camera policies

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

A new study involving more than 2,000 police officers from eight departments in the United States and the United Kingdom produced some surprising results: Assaults on police officers who wore body cameras went up, while police use-of-force incidents remained unchanged.

That flies in the face of all other studies I’ve seen so far, which have shown body cameras to reduce the incidence of both.

But there’s a catch.

The researchers set out a protocol for officers allocated cameras during the trials: record all stages of every police-public interaction, and issue a warning of filming at the outset. However, many officers preferred to use their discretion, activating cameras depending on the situation.

Researchers found that during shifts with cameras in which officers stuck closer to the protocol, police use-of-force fell by 37% over camera-free shifts. During shifts in which officers tended to use their discretion, police use-of-force actually rose 71% over camera-free shifts.

“The combination of the camera plus the early warning creates awareness that the encounter is being filmed, modifying the behaviour of all involved,” said [principal] investigator Barak Ariel from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology.

“If an officer decides to announce mid-interaction they are beginning to film, for example, that could provoke a reaction that results in use-of-force,” Ariel said. “Our data suggests this could be what is driving the results.”

Letting the officers choose when to turn on the cameras would also seem to defeat the goals of transparency and accountability. Telling them when to use the cameras but then failing to hold them accountable when they fail to follow those procedures isn’t all that different from having no procedures at all.

The takeaway from this study is

Continue reading.

I think we often think of technology as a solution in itself, and think of policies as mere red tape, but policies can determine whether the technology is a help or a hindrance.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 May 2016 at 7:27 am

States caught in tug of war over whether cops can keep your stuff: On one side, the public; on the other, cops (who get to keep the stuff)

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No real contest, eh? The more powerful will win. What we’re doing now is finding out which is the more powerful. The cops have guns and are willing to use them, and a vow of silence that resembles the Mafia’s omerta. And prosecutors don’t like to take them on. And they mostly are (for now) attacking the marginalized and powerless.

I’d say it’s a close call.

Here’s the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2016 at 12:32 pm

An autistic man writes a moving letter to police

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This Washington Post report by Colby Itkowitz is well worth reading:

For the first 14 and a half years of Gordy’s life, Evan and Dara Baylinson had no reason to think their son could comprehend anything they said: He had never spoken, and he couldn’t really emote. They worried aloud about his future, not filtering what they said, because they didn’t think he understood.

But Gordy, it now appears, was absorbing everything.

“My brain, which is much like yours, knows what it wants and how to make that clear,” he wrote in a letter he sent this month to a police officer. “My body, which is much like a drunken, almost six-foot toddler, resists.”

He typed each letter one at a time with his right index finger. No one coached him, edited his words or told him what to say, according to his parents and therapist.  After two one-hour sessions, he had written a nearly 400-word note. [See full letter below.]

“This letter is not a cry for pity, pity is not what I’m looking for,” he wrote. “I love myself just the way I am, drunken toddler body and all. This letter is, however, a cry for attention, recognition and acceptance.”

Unbeknownst to his parents for so many years, their son was a beautiful writer with a lot to say.

Gordy’s autism spectrum disorder was diagnosed when he was 17 months old. Gordy, now 16, doesn’t speak, but his mind is a treasure trove of knowledge and opinions about the world that he has picked up from listening.

But it wasn’t until February 2015 that his parents found that out.

It was then that one of Gordy’s many therapists, Meghann Parkinson, started teaching him the Rapid Prompting Method, a relatively new communication technique developed for people with severe autism. She asked him questions and he answered by pointing to letters on an alphabet board. In a little more than a year, Gordy has advanced to aQWERTY keyboard, his words appearing in large font on an iPad screen propped in front of him as he types.

The technique is very controversial, with some experts convinced that therapists are leading the autistic children who employ it. But others say it’s possible that in a minority of cases people like Gordy can learn to communicate independently using the technique and can benefit from it.

Connie Kasari, a well-known expert in autism and a founding member of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA, said the question of whether RPM works is a “highly charged issue,” but that she tries to keep an open mind about evolving communication methods for autism.

“I’m not going to be a naysayer,” said Kasari, a professor at UCLA. “Some kids will benefit, some kids will not. It’s not one size fits all. Some individuals who aren’t verbal are incredibly smart.”

Gordy’s father was initially skeptical. He knew there had been controversies with forced “facilitated communication.” But the more he watched, the more he said  it became clear to him that these words were Gordy’s and Gordy’s alone.

It’s through this work with Parkinson at Growing Kids Therapy in Herndon, Va., that Gordy wrote an eloquent and poignant letter to a police officer about what it’s like to be autistic.

Weeks earlier, the Baylinsons, who live in Potomac, Md., had seen a flier for an Autism Night Out held by the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland. They asked him if he’d rather attend that or his prom on Friday. He chose the police event. There was an email address at the bottom of the flier, and Parkinson asked him if he’d like to send the officer a letter.

They had no idea their son had strong opinions about the police or the treatment of autistic people. But they sat stunned as the words poured out of Gordy with humor and empathy and maturity.

The letter reached Laurie Reyes, a police officer who started a department autism outreach program that trains officers on how to approach and handle someone with autism. They get two to four calls per week for “elopements,” which means an autistic child who has wandered off, she said. More than a decade ago, she started the unique program to teach officers to treat autistic people with dignity and compassion. . .

Continue reading.

Gordy’s letter is reproduced at the end of the article. By all means click the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2016 at 4:55 pm

Law-enforcement links from Radley Balko

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Just a few of his links from his Washington Post column:

  • The criminalization of parenthood: A mother says she was “pinned to the ground by police, repeatedly accused of being drunk, frogmarched barefoot aboard a ferry in handcuffs, jailed in leg irons and charged with child abuse” after letting her 11-year-old son drive a golf cart at a North Carolina resort.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2016 at 4:42 pm

A Harvard MBA Guy Is Out to Bring Down the Clintons. The charge is charity fraud.

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

Remember Harry Markopolos? That’s the tenacious financial expert that pounded on the door of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for years, providing it with detailed, written evidentiary support for the premise that Bernie Madoff, the respected former Chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, was running a massive Ponzi scheme. The SEC never confirmed the fraud before Madoff confessed as he ran out of money in December 2008 because it skipped the most basic of investigation techniques: it failed to verify if real stocks and bonds actually existed in Madoff’s client portfolios. They didn’t.

There’s a new Markopolos in town with that same brand of leave-no-stone-unturned tenacity and he has his sights set on the charity operations of Hillary and Bill Clinton, known as the Clinton Foundation and its myriad tentacles. Ortel’s actions come just as Hillary Clinton makes her final sprint for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States with Bill in tow as her economic czar. Like Markopolos, Charles Ortel does not mince words.

In a 9-page letter dated yesterday and posted to his blog, Ortel calls the Clintons’ charity the “largest unprosecuted charity fraud ever attempted,” adding for good measure that the Clinton Foundation is part of an “international charity fraud network whose entire cumulative scale (counting inflows and outflows) approaches and may even exceed $100 billion, measured from 1997 forward.” Ortel lists 40 potential areas of fraud or wrongdoing that he plans to expose over the coming days.

Like Markopolos, Ortel has an impressive resume. Ortel’s LinkedIn profile shows that he received his B.A. from Yale and an MBA from Harvard Business School.  He previously worked as a Managing Director at investment bank Dillon Read and later as a Managing Director at the financial research firm, Newport Value Partners. In more recent years, Ortel has been a contributor to a number of news outlets including the Washington Times and

The charges being made by Ortel are difficult to dismiss as a flight of fancy because mainstream media has tinkered around the edges of precisely what Ortel is now calling out in copious detail.

In a 2013 New York Times article, “Unease at Clinton Foundation Over Finances and Ambitions,” reporters Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick hint that Hillary Clinton’s political operatives are occupying offices at the Clinton Foundation headquarters, writing that they “will work on organizing Mrs. Clinton’s packed schedule of paid speeches to trade groups and awards ceremonies and assist in the research and writing of Mrs. Clinton’s memoir about her time at the State Department, to be published by Simon & Schuster next summer.”

A June 2015 article in the Wall Street Journal by Kimberley Strassel stopped hinting and spelled it out boldly, calling the Clinton Foundation a “Hillary superPac that throws in the occasional good deed.” Strassel explained: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2016 at 4:13 pm

How the Pentagon punished NSA whistleblowers

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This is the article referenced in the preceding post. As a “long read” in the Guardian, Mark Hertsgaard reports:

By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did. He leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people across the world, collecting the phone calls and emails of virtually everyone on Earth who used a mobile phone or the internet. When this newspaper began publishing the NSA documents in June 2013, it ignited a fierce political debate that continues to this day – about government surveillance, but also about the morality, legality and civic value of whistleblowing.

But if you want to know why Snowden did it, and the way he did it, you have to know the stories of two other men.

The first is Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same NSA activities 10 years before Snowden did. Drake was a much higher-ranking NSA official than Snowden, and he obeyed US whistleblower laws, raising his concerns through official channels. And he got crushed.

Drake was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally. The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today. Adding insult to injury, his warnings about the dangers of the NSA’s surveillance programme were largely ignored.

“The government spent many years trying to break me, and the more I resisted, the nastier they got,” Drake told me.

Drake’s story has since been told – and in fact, it had a profound impact on Snowden, who told an interviewer in 2015 that: “It’s fair to say that if there hadn’t been a Thomas Drake, there wouldn’t have been an Edward Snowden.”

But there is another man whose story has never been told before, who is speaking out publicly for the first time here. His name is John Crane, and he was a senior official in the Department of Defense who fought to provide fair treatment for whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake – until Crane himself was forced out of his job and became a whistleblower as well.

His testimony reveals a crucial new chapter in the Snowden story – and Crane’s failed battle to protect earlier whistleblowers should now make it very clear that Snowden had good reasons to go public with his revelations.

During dozens of hours of interviews, Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute Drake. First, he alleged, they revealed Drake’s identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge.

The supreme irony? In their zeal to punish Drake, these Pentagon officialsunwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches when the 29-year-old NSA contract employee blew the whistle himself. Snowden was unaware of the hidden machinations inside the Pentagon that undid Drake, but the outcome of those machinations – Drake’s arrest, indictment and persecution – sent an unmistakable message: raising concerns within the system promised doom.

“Name one whistleblower from the intelligence community whose disclosures led to real change – overturning laws, ending policies – who didn’t face retaliation as a result. The protections just aren’t there,” Snowden told the Guardian this week. “The sad reality of today’s policies is that going to the inspector general with evidence of truly serious wrongdoing is often a mistake. Going to the press involves serious risks, but at least you’ve got a chance.”

Snowden saw what had happened to Drake and other whistleblowers like him. The key to Snowden’s effectiveness, according to Thomas Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), was that he practised “civil disobedience” rather than “lawful” whistleblowing. (GAP, a non-profit group in Washington, DC, that defends whistleblowers, has represented Snowden, Drake and Crane.)

“None of the lawful whistleblowers who tried to expose the government’s warrantless surveillance – and Drake was far from the only one who tried – had any success,” Devine told me. “They came forward and made their charges, but the government just said, ‘They’re lying, they’re paranoid, we’re not doing those things.’ And the whistleblowers couldn’t prove their case because the government had classified all the evidence. Whereas Snowden took the evidence with him, so when the government issued its usual denials, he could produce document after document showing that they were lying. That is civil disobedience whistleblowing.”

Crane, a solidly built Virginia resident with flecks of grey in a neatly trimmed chinstrap beard, understood Snowden’s decision to break the rules – but lamented it. “Someone like Snowden should not have felt the need to harm himself just to do the right thing,” he told me.

Crane’s testimony is not simply a clue to Snowden’s motivations and methods: if his allegations are confirmed in court, they could put current and former senior Pentagon officials in jail. (Official investigations are quietly under way.)

But Crane’s account has even larger ramifications: it repudiates the position on Snowden taken by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – who both maintain that Snowden should have raised his concerns through official channels because US whistleblower law would have protected him.

By the time Snowden went public in 2013, Crane had spent years fighting a losing battle inside the Pentagon to provide whistleblowers the legal protections to which they were entitled. He took his responsibilities so seriously, and clashed with his superiors so often, that he carried copies of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the US constitution in his breast pocket and pulled them out during office conflicts.

Crane’s attorneys at GAP – who were used to working with all types of government and corporate whistleblowers – were baffled by him: in their experience, most senior government officials cared little for whistleblowers’ rights. So what motivated Crane to keep fighting for the rights of whistleblowers inside the Pentagon, even as his superiors grew increasingly hostile and eventually forced him to resign? . . .

Continue reading.

There’s a lot more: this is a “long read.”

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2016 at 11:48 am

Vindication for Edward Snowden From a New Player in NSA Whistleblowing Saga

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Jenna McLaughlin and Dan Froomkin report in The Intercept:

The Guardian publisheda stunning new chapter in the saga of NSA whistleblowers on Sunday, revealing a new key player: John Crane, a former assistant inspector general at the Pentagon who was responsible for protecting whistleblowers, then forced to become one himself when the process failed.

An article by Mark Hertsgaard, adapted from his new book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden, describes how former NSA official Thomas Drake went through proper channels in his attempt to expose civil-liberties violations at the NSA — and was punished for it. The article vindicates open-government activists who have long argued that whistleblower protections aren’t sufficient in the national security realm.

It vindicates NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden who, well aware of what happened to Drake, gave up his attempts to go through traditional whistleblower channels – and instead handed over his trove of classified documents directly to journalists.

And it adds to the vindication for Drake, who was already a hero in the whistleblower’s pantheon for having endured a four-year persecution by the Justice Department that a judge called “unconscionable.”

The case against Drake, who was initially charged with 10 felony counts of espionage, famously disintegrated before trial – but not before he was professionally and financially ruined. And now it turns out that going through official channels may have actually set off the chain of events that led to his prosecution.

Drake initially took his concerns about wasteful, illegal and unconstitutional actions by the NSA to high-ranking NSA officials, then to appropriate staff and members of Congress. When that didn’t work, he signed onto a whistleblower complaint to the Pentagon inspector general made by some recently retired NSA staffers. But because he was still working at the NSA, he asked the office to keep his participation anonymous.

Now, Hertsgaard writes that Crane alleges that his former colleagues in the inspector general’s office “revealed Drake’s identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge.”

Crane’s growing concerns about his office’s conduct pushed him to his breaking point, according to Hertsgaard. But his supervisors ignored his concerns, gave him the silent treatment, and finally forced him to resign in January 2013.

Due to Crane’s continued efforts, however, the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the Department of Defense for its treatment of whistleblowers, and Hertsgaard tells The Intercept that a public report on the results of the investigation is expected next year.

Crane brings unprecedented evidence from inside the system that ostensibly protects whistleblowers that the system isn’t working. And defenders of the system can’t accuse him of having an outside agenda. Crane has never taken a position for or against the NSA’s programs, or made contact with Drake during the investigation.

“Crane kind of made it a point not to know him,” Hertsgaard told the Intercept on Monday. “He didn’t want it to become something personal.”

For him, it was about whistleblowing, Hertsgaard explained, and the principal that “anonymity must be absolutely sacred.”

Snowden told the Guardian that Drake’s persecution was very much on his mind when he decided to go outside normal channels. And he told theGuardian that colleagues and supervisors warned him about raising his concerns, telling him “you’re playing with fire.”

In his Guardian interview, Snowden called for changes. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2016 at 11:43 am


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