Archive for the ‘Law’ Category
Marisa Taylor reports for McClatchy:
Thomas Drake became a symbol of the dangers whistleblowers face when they help journalists and Congress investigate wrongdoing at intelligence agencies. He claims he was subjected to a decade of retaliation by the National Security Agency that culminated in his being charged with espionage.
But when the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office opened an inquiry into the former senior NSA official’s allegations of retaliation in 2012, it looked at only two of the 10 years detailed in his account, according to a recently released Pentagon summary of the probe, before finding no evidence of retaliation. That finding ended Drake’s four-year effort to return to government service.
Whistleblower advocates say Drake’s experience, spelled out in a document McClatchy obtained this month through the Freedom of Information Act, underscores the problem that intelligence and defense workers face in bringing malfeasance to the surface. The agencies that are supposed to crack down on retaliation are not up to the task, especially when the alleged wrongdoing involves classified information, they charge.
“This report epitomizes the utter lack of protection for national security whistleblowers,” said Jesselyn Radack, Drake’s attorney. “This is a pathetic, anemic excuse for an investigation.”
Although investigators appear to have rejected Drake’s claims almost a year ago, the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office did not publicly disclose its findings and hadn’t shared them even with Drake’s attorneys. McClatchy gave the attorneys a copy of the report.
The news of the rejection comes as McClatchy has learned that the same officials who are supposed to be helping whistleblowers such as Drake claim that they themselves have been forced to blow the whistle on their own office.
Multiple former and current officials from the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office have alleged to the Office of Special Counsel, the independent government agency that investigates whistleblower claims, that they’ve been retaliated against for objecting to how cases are handled. Drake’s case is one of several singled out for criticism.
“It illustrates the bleak landscape faced by whistleblowers and IG investigators,” said one of the several people who described the accusations but asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter. “The numerous allegations of reprisal and misconduct directed against senior IG officials call into question the efficacy of the whistleblower mission. If true, one can make the case that the office of inspector general has failed.” . . .
Continue reading. There’s a lot more, including a video.
Obama is dedicated to making the US government a secret operation and will go to any lengths to prevent the public from learning what the government is doing. “Transparency” and “protection of whistleblowers” was his promise, but his actions are the opposite.
Note also Obama’s war on privacy. While he wants government activities to be secret, he wants your own personal life exposed for government inspection.
It’s notable that the officer has no support from the men in his own platoon. Whatever the cause, his actions and words are strongly reminiscent of what we know of SS officers in WWII. Dave Philipps writes in the NY Times:
Nearly two dozen soldiers from an Army platoon were on patrol in a dangerous valley in southern Afghanistan when a motorcycle sped toward them, ignoring commands to stop.
As he tells it, First Lt. Clint Lorance, the platoon leader, ordered his men to fire just seconds before the motorcycle bore down on them that July day in 2012. But the Afghans were unarmed, and two died. The next year, Lieutenant Lorance was found guilty at a court-martial of second-degree murder, one of the few times an American soldier has been convicted of a crime for actions in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. He is serving a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
But the case is far from over. Mr. Lorance, who was dismissed from the Army, has become a cause célèbre for conservative commentators, including Sean Hannity of Fox News, who say the Obama administration punished a soldier for trying to defend his troops. Three Republican representatives — Duncan Hunter of California, Matt Salmon of Arizona and Ryan Zinke of Montana — have asked the secretary of the Army to review the case. And more than 124,000 people have signed a petition to the White House demanding a pardon.
“The warfighter doesn’t always have the benefit of time, given lives are always at risk in a war zone,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, sent in January, saying the case “deserves a high level of attention and scrutiny.”
That chorus of supporters, however, is notable for what it lacks: members of the platoon itself.
Though many members of the platoon have never publicly expressed their views of the case, nine came forward to testify against Mr. Lorance at his trial, and in interviews several of those soldiers have contradicted Mr. Lorance’s account of a split-second decision to protect his troops. The picture those soldiers paint is of a young lieutenant who, during just three days in command, ordered soldiers to fire repeatedly on unarmed Afghans, tried to falsify reports in order to cover up his actions and so alienated and outraged his troops that they refused to follow orders and turned him in.
“War is hard, there is collateral damage. I get that — I’ve got my own stories,” Staff Sgt. Daniel Williams said in an interview. But Sergeant Williams, who was on his third tour in Afghanistan and was a squad leader in the platoon, added, “That’s not what this was; this was straight murder.”
Mr. Lorance’s lawyers have cast doubt on the platoon members’ accounts, noting that the nine soldiers who testified against him were granted immunity. The lawyers also point to newly uncovered evidence suggesting that the men on the motorcycle may have had ties to enemy bomb makers — a detail that was not revealed to the defense before the trial.
“If the entire evidence had been turned over, this case would be decided differently,” said John Maher, Mr. Lorance’s lawyer. He is appealing the conviction and asking the Army to grant clemency.
Mr. Lorance is barred by the Army from speaking to reporters. But he denied any wrongdoing in an August 2014 letter to the general presiding over his court-martial, saying, “My sole purpose during my tenure as a platoon leader was to bring my men home safely.”
The events of that day continue to haunt many members of the platoon. Some, stalked by anger and regret, say they have trouble sleeping. One cried while talking about how the episode tore apart the platoon. One recently checked into a clinic for post-traumatic stress disorder, saying the calls to free Mr. Lorance had revived disturbing memories.
In 2012, the platoon — part of the Fourth Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment — was based in an outpost overlooking a mud-brick village amid fields of grapes in Kandahar Province. . .
Law enforcement in general, including correctional officers, operate under a kind of immunity: they are allowed to commit crimes without being called to account—an example. From the article at the link:
But here’s my question: Why aren’t the seven witnesses to Dendinger’s nonexistent assault on Cassard already facing felony charges? Why are all but one of the cops who filed false reports still wearing badges and collecting paychecks? Why aren’t the attorneys who filed false reports facing disbarment? Dendinger’s prosecutors both filed false reports, then prosecuted Dendinger based on the reports they knew were false. They should be looking for new careers — after they get out of jail.
If a group of regular citizens had pulled this on someone, they’d all likely be facing criminal conspiracy charges on top of the perjury and other charges. So why aren’t these cops and prosecutors?
In a police state, it’s extremely difficult to prosecute or even discipline the police, who use what the Mafia calls “omerta” to protect the malefactors among them. You can see that in these articles in the NY Times about Rikers Island today, where guards continue brutalizing prisoners without no let-up in sight despite many promises from the administration.
Now we get another test to see whether violent officers will be held accountable: Tom Robbins writes in the NY Times:
ATTICA, N.Y. — On the evening of Aug. 9, 2011, one month before the 40th anniversary of the bloody Attica prison riot, a guard in that remote facility in western New York was distributing mail to inmates in C Block, one of the vast tiers of cells nestled behind its towering 30-foot walls.
The prisoners were rowdy that night, talking loudly as they mingled on the gallery outside their cells, a State Police inquiry found. Frustrated, an officer shouted into the din: “Shut the (expletive) up.”
Normally, that would be enough to bring quiet to C Block, where guards who work the 3 to 11 p.m. shift are known for strict, sometimes violent, enforcement of the rules. This night, somewhere on the gallery, a prisoner shouted back, bellowing “You shut the (expletive) up.” Emboldened, the shouter taunted the officer with an obscene suggestion.
Inmates were immediately ordered to retreat to their cells and “lock in.” Thirty minutes later, three officers, led by a sergeant, marched down the corridor. They stopped at the cell of George Williams, a 29-year-old African-American from New Jersey who was serving a sentence of two to four years for robbing two jewelry stores in Manhattan.
Mr. Williams had been transferred to Attica that January following an altercation with other inmates at a different facility. He had just four months to serve before he was to be released. He was doing his best to stay out of trouble. His plan was to go home to New Brunswick and try to find work as a barber. That evening, Mr. Williams remembers, he had been in his cell watching the rap stars Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy on television, and missed the shouting on the cellblock. The guards ordered him to strip for a search and then marched him down the hall to a darkened dayroom used for meetings and classes for what they told him would be a urine test.
Mr. Williams is 5-foot-8, and a solid 170 pounds. But corrections officers tend toward linebacker size, and the three officers towered over him. The smallest was Sgt. Sean Warner, 37, at 5-foot-11, 240 pounds. Beside him was Officer Keith Swack, 37, a burly 6-foot-3 and some 300 pounds. A third officer was standing behind the cell door. Mr. Williams thought it was Officer Matthew Rademacher, 29, who had followed his father into the job six years earlier. Officer Rademacher was six feet tall and weighed 260 pounds. All three men are white and had goatees at the time.
Mr. Williams was wondering why a sergeant would be doing the grunt work of conducting an impromptu drug test when, he said, a fist hammered him hard on the right side of his rib cage. He doubled up, collapsing to the floor. More blows rained down. Mr. Williams tried to curl up to protect himself from the pummeling of batons, fists and kicks. Someone jumped on his ankle. He screamed in pain. He opened his eyes to see a guard aiming a kick at his head, as though punting a football. I’m going to die here, he thought.
Inmates in cells across from the dayroom watched the attack, among them a convict named Charles Bisesi, 67, who saw Mr. Williams pitched face-first onto the floor. He saw guards kick Mr. Williams in the head and face, and strike him with their heavy wooden batons. Mr. Bisesi estimated that Mr. Williams had been kicked up to 50 times, and struck with a dozen more blows from nightsticks, thwacks delivered with such force that Mr. Bisesi could hear the thud as wood hit flesh. He also heard Mr. Williams begging for his life, cries loud enough that prisoners two floors below heard them as well.
A couple of minutes after the beating began, one of the guards loudly rapped his baton on the floor. At the signal, more guards rushed upstairs and into the dayroom. Witnesses differed on the number. Some said that as many as 12 officers had plunged into the scrum. Others recalled seeing two or three. All agreed that when they were finished, Mr. Williams could not walk.
His ordeal is the subject of an unprecedented trial scheduled to open on Monday in western New York. Three guards — Sergeant Warner and Officers Rademacher and Swack — face charges stemming from the beating that night. All three have pleaded not guilty. An examination of this case and dozens of others offers a vivid lesson in the intractable culture of prison brutality, especially given the notoriety of Attica, which entered the cultural lexicon as a synonym for prison havoc after 43 men died there in 1971 as the state suppressed an uprising by inmates. This account is based on investigative reports and court filings, as well as interviews with people on both sides of the bars at Attica, state officials and prison reform advocates. . .
Based on past practice, no real reform will occur.
Bruce Schneier writes:
In December, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt was interviewed at the CATO Institute Surveillance Conference. One of the things he said, after talking about some of the security measures his company has put in place post-Snowden, was: “If you have important information, the safest place to keep it is in Google. And I can assure you that the safest place to not keep it is anywhere else.”
The surprised me, because Google collects all of your information to show you more targeted advertising. Surveillance is the business model of the Internet, and Google is one of the most successful companies at that. To claim that Google protects your privacy better than anyone else is to profoundly misunderstand why Google stores your data for free in the first place.
I was reminded of this last week when I appeared on Glenn Beck’s show along with cryptography pioneer Whitfield Diffie. Diffie said:
You can’t have privacy without security, and I think we have glaring failures in computer security in problems that we’ve been working on for 40 years. You really should not live in fear of opening an attachment to a message. It ought to be confined; your computer ought to be able to handle it. And the fact that we have persisted for decades without solving these problems is partly because they’re very difficult, but partly because there are lots of people who want you to be secure against everyone but them. And that includes all of the major computer manufacturers who, roughly speaking, want to manage your computer for you. The trouble is, I’m not sure of any practical alternative.
That neatly explains Google. Eric Schmidt does want your data to be secure. He wants Google to be the safest place for your data as long as you don’t mind the fact that Google has access to your data. Facebook wants the same thing: to protect your data from everyone except Facebook. Hardware companies are no different. Last week, we learned that Lenovo computers shipped with a piece of adware called Superfish that broke users’ security to spy on them for advertising purposes.
Governments are no different. The FBI wants people to have strong encryption, but it wants backdoor access so it can get at your data. UK Prime Minister David Cameron wants you to have good security, just as long as it’s not so strong as to keep the UK government out. And, of course, the NSA spends a lot of money ensuring that there’s no security it can’t break.
Corporations want access to your data for profit; governments want it for security purposes, be they benevolent or malevolent. But Diffie makes an even stronger point: we give lots of companies access to our data because it makes our lives easier.
I wrote about this in my latest book, Data and Goliath: . . .
The idea that law enforcement (and “official” law-breakers like NSA) can have a backdoor to your encrypted data and criminals won’t be able to use it is as realistic as the idea that law enforcement can have guns and criminals cannot.
One point of interest: “official” backdoors to allow decryption of data is being pushed by the wealthy (e.g., Hillary Clinton) and the powerful (e.g., NSA), and those are the entities with the most to lose once criminals and other (hostile) governments find the backdoors. This will be interesting to watch from a distance.
Wall Street seems to control DoJ. Marcy Wheeler reports at The Empty Wheel:
Loretta Lynch is an excellent nominee for Attorney General, and her prior actions in whitewashing the blatant and rampant criminality of HSBC should not be held against her, because she didn’t know that at the time she last whitewashed that criminal enterprise, right?
No. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is a cop out by Lynch’s advocates. Lynch either knew, or damn well should have known. She signed off on the HSBC Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), if she was less than fully informed, that is on her. That is what signing legal documents stands for….responsibility. Banks like HSBC, Credit Suisse, ING etc were, and still are, a cesspool of criminal activity and avoidance schemes. Willful blindness to the same old bankster crimes by Lynch doesn’t cut it (great piece by David Dayen by the way).
But, all the above ignores the Swiss Alps sized mountains of evidence that we know Lynch was aware of and blithely swept under the rug by her HSBC DPA. So, we are basically left to decide whether Lynch is a bankster loving toady that is her own woman and cravenly whitewashed this all on her own, or whether she is a clueless stooge taking orders to whitewash it by DOJ Main. Both views are terminally unattractive and emblematic of the oblivious, turn the other cheek to protect the monied class, rot that infects the Department of Justice on the crimes of the century to date.
And that is only scratching the real surface of my objections to Lynch. There are many other areas where Lynch has proven herself to be a dedicated, dyed in the wool “law and order adherent” and, as Marcy Wheeler artfully coined, “executive maximalist”. Lynch’s ridiculous contortion, and expansion, of extraterritorial jurisdiction to suit the convenient whims of the Obama Administration’s unparalleled assault on the Rule of Law in the war on terror is incredibly troubling. Though, to be fair, EDNY is the landing point of JFK International and a frequent jurisdiction by designation. Some of these same questions could have been asked of Preet Bharara (see, e.g. U.S. v. Warsame) Loretta Lynch has every bit the same, if not indeed more, skin in the game as Bharara, whether by choice or chance.
Lynch has never uttered a word in dissent from this ridiculous expansion of extraterritorial jurisdiction. Lynch’s record in this regard is crystal clear from cases like US v. Ahmed, Yousef, et. al. where even Lynch and her office acknowledged that their targets could not have “posed a specific threat to the United States” much less have committed specific acts against the US.
This unconscionable expansion is clearly all good by Lynch, and the ends justify the means because there might be “scary terrists” out there. That is just dandy by American “executive maximalists”, but it is toxic to the Rule of Law, both domestically and internationally (See, supra). . .
At the list, it may show you never “reached for your waistband,” as videos of the mentally ill unarmed man in LA, shot to death by two police officers who fired 21 shots. And take a look at this report from the Washington Post:
The latest example of cellphone video vindicating someone from false charges is a doozy. It comes from Washington Parish, La., and WWL TV.
One of the worst days of Douglas Dendinger’s life began with him handing an envelope to a police officer.
In order to help out his family and earn a quick $50, Dendinger agreed to act as a process server, giving a brutality lawsuit filed by his nephew to Chad Cassard as the former Bogalusa police officer exited the Washington Parish Courthouse.
The handoff went smoothly, but Dendinger said the reaction from Cassard, and a group of officers and attorneys clustered around him, turned his life upside down.
“It was like sticking a stick in a bee’s nest.” Dendinger, 47, recalled. “They started cursing me. They threw the summons at me. Right at my face, but it fell short. Vulgarities. I just didn’t know what to think. I was a little shocked.”
Not knowing what to make of the blow-up, a puzzled Dendinger drove home. That’s where things went from bad to worse.
“Within about 20 minutes, there were these bright lights shining through my windows. It was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I mean I knew immediately, a police car.”
“And that’s when the nightmare started,” he said. “I was arrested.”
He was not only arrested, he was also charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor. A prior drug charge on his record meant he was potentially looking at decades in prison. Seven witnesses backed up the police account that Dendinger had assaulted Cassard.
But Dendinger had asked his wife and nephew to record him serving the papers. It was a last minute decision, but one that may have saved him his freedom.
From what can be seen on the clips, Dendinger never touches Cassard, who calmly takes the envelope and walks back into the courthouse, handing [prosecutor Leigh Anne] Wall the envelope.
“He’d still be in a world of trouble if he didn’t have that film,” said David Cressy, a friend of Dendinger who once served as a prosecutor under [former St. Tammany District Attorney Walter] Reed. “It was him against all of them. They took advantage of that and said all sorts of fictitious things happened. And it didn’t happen. It would still be going like that had they not had the film.”
Dendinger spent nearly a year waiting for trial, racking up attorney’s fees. As a disabled Army veteran on a fixed income, Dendinger said the case stretched him financially, but in his eyes, he was fighting for his life. . .
Pretty clearly that fails the test of reciprocity. Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports at Motherboard:
When the US demands technology companies install backdoors for law enforcement, it’s okay. But when China demands the same, it’s a whole different story.
The Chinese government is about to pass a new counter terrorism law that would require tech companies operating in the country to turn over encryption keys and include specially crafted code in their software and hardware so that chinese authorities can defeat security measures at will.
Technologists and cryptographers have long warned that you can’t design a secure system that will enable law enforcement—and only law enforcement—to bypass the encryption. The nature of a backdoor door is that it is also a vulnerability, and if discovered, hackers or foreign governments might be able to exploit it, too.
Yet, over the past few months, several US government officials, including the FBI director James Comey, outgoing US Attorney General Eric Holder, and NSA DirectorMike Rogers, have all suggested that companies such as Apple and Google should give law enforcement agencies special access to their users’ encrypted data—while somehow offering strong encryption for their users at the same time.
Their fear is that cops and feds will “go dark,” an FBI term for a potential scenario where encryption makes it impossible to intercept criminals’ communications.
But in light of China’s new proposals, some think the US’ own position is a little ironic.
“You can’t have it both ways,” Trevor Timm, the co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told Motherboard. “If the US forces tech companies to install backdoors in encryption, then tech companies will have no choice but to go along with China when they demand the same power.”
He’s not the only one to think the US government might end up regretting its stance.
Someday US officials will look back and realize how much global damage they’ve enabled with their silly requests for key escrow.
— Matthew Green (@matthew_d_green) February 27, 2015
Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University, tweeted that someday US officials will “realize how much damage they’ve enabled” with their “silly requests” for backdoors.
Ironically, the US government sent a letter to China expressing concern about its new law. “The Administration is aggressively working to have China walk back from these troubling regulations,” US Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a statement.
A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Motherboard.
“It’s stunningly shortsighted for the FBI and NSA not to realize this,” Timm added. “By demanding backdoors, these US government agencies are putting everyone’s cybersecurity at risk.” . . .