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Archive for September, 2013

Weekend Series on Crime History: FBI’s Abscam Sting and Congressman John Murtha

httpv://youtu.be/l-HfC2-tKVg

Snowden Documents: NSA Has Undermined Encryption That Protects Online Privacy

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The NSA has surreptitiously succeeded in unscrambling encryption that protects people’s privacy online, the New York Times reports.

It’s the latest discovery from documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

According to the Times, the NSA has been able to undermine coding to access information ranging from personal e-mails to medical records.

The NSA used supercomputers, technical trickery and old-fashion persuasion, the Times wrote.

“For the past decade, N.S.A. has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies,” said a 2010 memo about NSDA accomplishments for employees of its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. “Cryptanalytic capabilities are now coming online. Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.”

Terrorism Suspect to Be Charged Today with Trying to Get FBI Agent Killed

diagram of car bomb

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A suburban Chicago terrorism suspect is expected to be charged today with trying to solicit the murder of an FBI agent, the Associated Press reports.

Adel Daoud, who is accused of attempting to ignite what he thought was a car bomb outside of a downtown Chicago bar, is expected to plead not guilty.

Investigators allege Daoud was attempting to have an undercover FBI agent killed while behind bars in 2012.

Video: Before Ariel Castro Hanged Himself in Jail, He Revealed A Lot

 

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

When Ariel Castro hanged himself in his jail cell earlier this week, he left behind many questions.

How was he able to avoid arrest for abducting and raping women? Why did he do it?

Some of the answers can be found in recently obtained FBI video of the convicted kidnapper, who said authorities had chances to catch him much earlier than they did, Today reports.

Castro also said his girlfriend had suspicions.

“She seen that I had a TV on in the upstairs room,’’ Castro said in the interrogation video. “And she says, ‘What is that? You have a TV on up there?’ And my heart started beating, and I was like, ‘Okay, she’s probably catching onto something.’”

Judge Dismisses DUI Charges Because Border Patrol Unlawfully Held Suspect

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A Vermont woman who was charged with drunken driving will walk away after a judge ruled the U.S. Border Patrol held her illegally, the Associated Press reports.

Judge Howard Van Benthuysen said Border Patrol agents did not have the right to take Meaghan Leary’s keys from her, which effectively forced her to wait 53 minutes for a state trooper to arrive, the AP wrote.

The judge said agents never gave Leary a lawful reason for holding her.

Janet Napolitano’s Leadership at Homeland Security Expires at End of Today

Janet Napolitano/file photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who served longer than either of her two predecessors, will step down at the end of today to become the first female president of the University of California.

“It’s challenging; it’s very rewarding. Because the things you do really impact human lives,” she said in an interview with NBC News on Thursday at the department’s headquarters in Washington.

Beginning Saturday, new interim Homeland Security Secretary Randy Beers will take over until President Obama decides on a predecessor.

Obama sought out Napolitano, who served six years as governor of Arizona.

Napolitano is credited with getting rid of the color-coded threat system and introducing body scanners and airport pat-downs, NBC News reported.

She oversaw more than 300 natural disasters and relentless terrorism threats.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST


Parker: Congress’s Brutal Sequester of Federal Defenders Offices Harms Law Enforcement

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office. He is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan.

Ross Parker

 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
 

Congress has modified the Miranda rights:

You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed to represent you, that is, if he or she is not furloughed, laid off or too busy to pay any attention to you.

The initial reaction by some federal prosecutors and agents to the disproportionate and devastating sequestration cuts imposed on Federal Defenders Offices by Congress’s absurd sequester might have ranged from indifference to outright glee. But the reality is that the crisis for that program has harmful implications for the government’s side of the aisle in addition to undermining criminal defendants’ rights. The cuts result in hidden costs to the public and will damage both public safety and the rule of law.

In the 2013 fiscal year FDOs were forced to impose over 100.000 furlough hours on their staff, an average of about four weeks of unpaid leave per person. Many offices have permanently laid off attorneys and staff, including investigators. They have terminated future involvement in death penalty cases as well as curtailed representing complex fraud defendants and in other time consuming and expensive cases. Most have greatly curtailed or eliminated expenses for experts, investigations, and interpreters.

In contrast the Department of Justice has gotten off relatively lightly by being allowed to reallocate its budget in order to avoid most furloughs with some belt tightening. No such clemency for defense attorneys.

FDO caseloads have been creeping up for years because of Congress’s decisions not to allow defense budgets to keep up with DOJ’s. Decimating their budget further can only pile on more cases to this crushing load. A diehard FDO attorney told me recently that work he used to love had become so oppressive that he was casting about for any kind of employment to escape the impossible demands.

That’s the bad news for FDOs. The really bad news is that starting on October 1st in Fiscal Year 2014, the cuts will double. Many offices will be forced to lay off from one-third to one-half of their offices. They may be the lucky ones because those left will inherit a crippled system incapable of functioning effectively even with reduced caseloads. The Attorney General has stated that the cuts threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system to ensure due process.

Read more »

Congress’s Brutal Sequester of Federal Defenders Offices Harms Law Enforcement

 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
 

Congress has modified the Miranda rights:

You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed to represent you, that is, if he or she is not furloughed, laid off or too busy to pay any attention to you.

The initial reaction by some federal prosecutors and agents to the disproportionate and devastating sequestration cuts imposed on Federal Defenders Offices by Congress’s absurd sequester might have ranged from indifference to outright glee. But the reality is that the crisis for that program has harmful implications for the government’s side of the aisle in addition to undermining criminal defendants’ rights. The cuts result in hidden costs to the public and will damage both public safety and the rule of law.

In the 2013 fiscal year FDOs were forced to impose over 100.000 furlough hours on their staff, an average of about four weeks of unpaid leave per person. Many offices have permanently laid off attorneys and staff, including investigators. They have terminated future involvement in death penalty cases as well as curtailed representing complex fraud defendants and in other time consuming and expensive cases. Most have greatly curtailed or eliminated expenses for experts, investigations, and interpreters.

In contrast the Department of Justice has gotten off relatively lightly by being allowed to reallocate its budget in order to avoid most furloughs with some belt tightening. No such clemency for defense attorneys.

FDO caseloads have been creeping up for years because of Congress’s decisions not to allow defense budgets to keep up with DOJ’s. Decimating their budget further can only pile on more cases to this crushing load. A diehard FDO attorney told me recently that work he used to love had become so oppressive that he was casting about for any kind of employment to escape the impossible demands.

That’s the bad news for FDOs. The really bad news is that starting on October 1st in Fiscal Year 2014, the cuts will double. Many offices will be forced to lay off from one-third to one-half of their offices. They may be the lucky ones because those left will inherit a crippled system incapable of functioning effectively even with reduced caseloads. The Attorney General has stated that the cuts threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system to ensure due process.

For fifty years since Gideon v. Wainright the 6th Amendment has been held to require the effective representation of counsel in serious cases. Since this right is a mandate, the reduction and elimination of FDOs will mean that private attorneys must be appointed to represent indigent defendants, who now make up 90% of those charged with crimes.

Although there are many fine and qualified panel attorneys, my own experience is that, as a whole, they are less experienced and less skilled in criminal defense than FDO attorneys, especially in the federal system. Simply put, FDOs in most districts like Detroit are the best criminal law firms available. So why should the elimination of such opponents matter to the guys who wear the white hats?

First off, the cuts will cost more. Gutting FDOs will cost taxpayers more than any “savings” from the budget cuts. Panel attorneys cost, on average, about 30% more per case than FDO attorneys. Shifting representation will result in other less obvious costs as well. Continuances are always more prevalent from private defense attorneys. Some are masters at delaying the inevitable for clients on bond.

The resulting transition as well as involvement of less experienced attorneys will also mean increased pre-trial detentions and inevitable delays which will slow down the system and increase judicial and prosecution expenses. Even the increased caseloads for the FDOs left standing will cost more in terms of scheduling as well as their making more mistakes which create appeal issues.

Second, although some of my former colleagues will be reluctant to agree, reducing the role of FDOs will negatively affect the outcome of cases. Every prosecutor can point to cases in which an effective defense attorney has revealed facts and circumstances which are unavailable to federal investigators. A more complete understanding of the case leads to a better assignment of culpability.

Good defense attorneys usually mean more defendant cooperation in continuing investigations. They have the confidence and experience to know when this is in their clients’ best interests. Cooperation leads to more cases, better results and more arrests of those up the ladder who would otherwise escape justice.

FDO attorneys are sometimes accused of encouraging plea bargaining. But the fact of the matter is that 95% of the federal defendants end up being convicted. Advice by experienced attorneys not only increases the system’s efficiency but almost always mitigates the eventual disposition for most defendants.

Finally, the DNA reversals have punctured the myth that the criminal justice system is perfect. Once in a great while factually innocent defendants get convicted although in the federal system the number is surely far less than the 1-2% estimates for the state system. I have a visceral belief that FDO attorneys nearly eliminate even this small number.

Third, crippling the FDO system will erode public confidence in the entire criminal justice system. The public perception will be that the “government” has placed its meaty finger on one side of the scales of justice. The intangible effects of such a perception will show up in juror bias, witness cooperation and judicial attitudes. Judges, even more than some do presently, will conclude that the adversarial system has broken down and that they must step in to assist the defense in key decisions in order to balance things out.

An eroded public confidence will also impact law enforcement officers in their already difficult jobs. It will discourage public assistance for investigators, make witnesses less willing to testify, and encourage bad guys to intimidate and influence witnesses.

Public cynicism is that justice is for sale. Rich defendants get off because of the legal representation they pay for. I happen to think this is not a fair perception of the federal system as a whole. But, valid or not, this rich-poor gap perception will certainly be enhanced by the results of the sequester cuts.

Finally, on a more speculative note, what effect will these draconian cuts mean to some simmering, long term public policy issues? Anyone who doubts the ability of financial considerations to influence substantive policy questions need only examine the effect of the economy downturn on the administration of the death penalty. See my earlier columns on this subject. The pressure to reduce spiraling corrections costs have certainly affected who we think should go to jail and for how long. And no one should be so naïve as to conclude that economic considerations played no part in the Attorney General’s recent announcements of changes in mandatory minimum and drug enforcement policies.

So what else is vulnerable to the kind of meat-ax approach wielded by our elected and unelected politicians? Legalization of drugs? Law enforcement cuts? If you think there are limits, buy a copy of This Town by Mark Leibovich and prepare for an at times hilarious and at other times depressing appraisal of Washington at “work.”

For all of these reasons and probably others that my prosecutorial bias has obscured, eviscerating the Federal Defender system will be bad for criminal defendants. But it will be even worse in the long run for the public, law enforcement and the rule of law