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One of New York government’s most influential and well-known politicians faces serious charges that he used his extraordinary power in return for millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, The Associated Press reports.
The FBI arrested Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who posted $200,000 bail after being charged with federal counts of bribery and conspiracy.
The powerful 70-year-old now faces up to 100 years in prison.
After his release, Silver was dogged, saying he was “confident that after a full hearing and due process, I’ll be vindicated on the charges.”
He is accused of abusing his power to obtain about $4 million in payments characterized as attorney referral fees solely through the corrupt use of his official position.”
Democrats said they plan to stand behind Silver, a prominent voice.
“Along with the Senate majority leader and the governor, he plays a major role in creating state budgets, laws and policies in a system long-criticized in Albany as ‘three men in a room,’” The Associated Press wrote.
An activist tied to the hacking group Anonymous was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of threatening an FBI agent and spreading stolen data.
The Business Insider reports that Barrett Brown, who had faced more than 100 years behind bars, read from a lengthy statement before sentencing, saying he broke the law to uncover unlawful government activity.
“If I criticize the government for breaking the law, but then break the law myself in an effort to reveal their wrongdoing, I should expect to be punished just I’ve called for the criminals at government-linked firms… to be punished,” he said. “When we start fighting crime by any means necessary, we become guilty of the same hypocrisy as law enforcement agencies throughout history that break the rules to get the villains, and so become villains themselves.”
Brown was arrested in 2012 after threatening an FBI agent in a YouTube video.
He pledged to “ruin his life and look into his (expletive) kids.”
Brown also was charged with sharing information hacked from defense contractor Stratfor, Business Insider wrote.
The problems with Justice Department employees getting drunk and acting out 20 years ago have not been sufficiently addressed and are failing to curtail boisterous off-duty conduct, the Inspector General found.
The Washington Times reports that the department never followed through on recommendations from as far back as 1996 to adequately train employees on the responsibilities and consequence of off-duty conduct.
“We found no indication that DOJ had revisited its off-duty conduct policies or training in any comprehensive manner since then, and no indication that DOJ, despite its significant international presence, had established a department-wide policy or training directed at off-duty conduct abroad,” investigators said.
The IG said part of the problem is that many employees don’t know what is unacceptable behavior when off the clock.
The recent discovery of a drone carrying methamphetamine near the U.S. border in Mexico has raised some eyebrows.
But the DEA said drones will not become tomorrow’s drug mules because they are not cost-effective, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“This method will only allow a small amount of drugs to be flown at a time, and that coupled with the ease of detection, does not make this method very profitable to these drug trafficking organizations whose motivation is money,” DEA spokeswoman Amy Roderick said.
It wasn’t immediately clear where the recent drone was heading, though one media report suggested the unmanned aircraft system was carrying drugs from one Tijuana neighborhood to another.
“While we would not call using drones a new trend in smuggling, we do know that drug trafficking organizations will use any and all means to get their drugs in the United States,” said Roderick.
The ATF is looking for clues to determine what caused a mammoth fire that gutted an Annapolis mansion and is believed to have killed six people, including four children, on Monday.
The Washington Post reports that two more bodies were found in the wreckage Thursday.
The mother, Stacey Boone, posted on Facebook on Thursday: “I never knew that I could hurt this badly. It’s unreal. All one big nightmare that I can’t wake up from.”
As another day passed since the fire, investigators still had no idea what caused the fire, said Anne Arundel Fire Capt. Russell Davies Jr.
“Until we make a determination one way or another, it’s going to stay a criminal investigation,” Davies said.
Also on Thursday, the ATF began to deploy dogs to smell for explosives.
Microsoft took less than one hour to provide the FBI with data connected to the Charlie Hebdo investigation, an attorney for the software giant said Tuesday, The Los Angeles Times reports.
After concluding the request was “proper,” Microsoft gave the FBI the information in within about 45 minutes.
Microsoft attorney Brad Smith said the quick turnover underscores that private companies can work with law enforcement.
But Smith emphasized that new laws expanding the government’s right to access information from the Internet could sacrifice civil liberties.
“If those in government want to shift the line between safety and privacy, the appropriate path is to do so by changing the law rather than asking those of us in the private sector to shift this balance ourselves,” he said. “Democratic societies, not private companies, need to decide on the balances to be struck between public values such as public safety and personal privacy.”
The GOP is considering alternative ways to disrupt President Obama’s immigration than cutting off funding to the Homeland Security Department at a time when the nation is on high alert for terrorists, Politico reports.
Republicans are exploring several options, including suing to overturn the president’s executive decision to prevent millions of undocumented immigrants from being deported. Another option is approving a short-term budget for DHS while considering other options.
“Either way, Republican leaders hope to reach a deal that would allow Homeland Security funding to continue past Feb. 27, without making it appear to their right flank that they are caving to the White House,” Pollitico wrote.
Still, some Republicans aren’t balking and want to take a hard line against the president.
“How Republicans resolve the fight will help answer a lingering question for their new congressional majority: Will they use their new power to go toe-to-toe with the White House or pick and choose their political battles even if that risks riling up their right flank?” Politico added.