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Archive for August, 2014

New York Times Editorial: Racial History Behind Protests Over Death of Michael Brown

Michael Brown

By New York Times
Editorial Board

The F.B.I. may be able to answer the many questions surrounding the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black student from Ferguson, Mo., who was a few days from heading off to college when he was shot by a police officer on Saturday. The shooting of Mr. Brown, who was unarmed, led to three days of protest, some of it violent, and several tense confrontations between residents of the St. Louis suburban town of 21,000 and the police.

But it doesn’t take a federal investigation to understand the history of racial segregation, economic inequality and overbearing law enforcement that produced so much of the tension now evident on the streets. St. Louis has long been one of the nation’s most segregated metropolitan areas, and there remains a high wall between black residents — who overwhelmingly have lower incomes — and the white power structure that dominates City Councils and police departments like the ones in Ferguson.

Until the late 1940s, blacks weren’t allowed to live in most suburban St. Louis County towns, kept out by restrictive covenants that the Supreme Court prohibited in 1948. As whites began to flee the city for the county in the 1950s and ’60s, they used exclusionary zoning tactics — including large, single-family lot requirements that prohibited apartment buildings — to prevent blacks from moving in. Within the city, poverty and unrest grew.

By the 1970s, many blacks started leaving the City of St. Louis as well. Colin Gordon, a professor at the University of Iowa who has carefully mapped the metropolitan area’s residential history, said black families were attracted to older, inner-ring suburbs like Ferguson in the northern part of the county because they were built before restrictive zoning tactics and, therefore, allowed apartments.

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Two Influential Senators Demand to See Report on Protections for FBI Whistleblowers

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Two powerful U.S. senators are getting impatient with a long overdue Justice Department report that is supposed to examine the effectiveness of the FBI’s whistleblower protections for bureau employees.

The Oregonian reports that Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, expressed frustration that the report has not yet been released, even though Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. pledged to deliver a report by April 8, 2013.

Holder submitted the report in June, but no one has turned it over.

“Whistleblowers play a critical role in holding the government and its employees accountable,” Wyden wrote in a joint news release with Grassley. “The FBI has had special rules for its own employees for decades that desperately need to be updated. It’s important for the Justice Department to explain whether they will fix this on their own, or if Congress needs to step in.”

Inspector General: Obama Administration Not Notified of Massive Release of Immigrants

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

More than 2,000 immigrants were released from jail because of budget concerns, but the Homeland Security secretary was never notified, according to a critical report from the inspector general.

The Associated Press reports that ICE also poorly planned for the influx of immigrant arrests at the Mexico border and failed to accurately track spending.

Information on the massive release was never shared in advance with political appointees or other White House officials of the implications of the budget cuts, according to the report.

The Obama administration initially denied an AP report about the release of more than 2,000 immigrants, but that’s because there was no knowledge of the situation, the report found.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FBI Director Comey Says Homegrown Terrorists Pose Urgent Danger But Hard to Track

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director James Comey said it’s impossible to gauge how many Americans are joining Islamic insurgents in Syria but emphasized that the threat is urgent, the Associated Press reports.

Comey said he’s concerned about what he called “lone wolves,” or people who are connecting online with others interested in jihad.

Those people are hard to track, said Comey, who originally estimated about 100 people have made the trip to Syria or at least tried to.

“When I give you the number of more than 100, I can’t tell you with high confidence that’s a 100 of 200, that’s a 100 of 500, that’s a 100 of a 1,000 or more, because it’s so hard to track,” Comey said.

The FBI has made several arrests in connection with terrorism in Syria.

 

14 Pulitzer Prize Winners Ask Justice Department Not to Jail Reporter

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

More than a dozen Pulitzer Prize winners urged the Justice Department on Monday to stop trying to force New York Times reporter and author James Risen to identify a confidential source, the US News reports.

Risen has said he’d go to jail before testifying at the trial of former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling, who is accused of providing a tip for Risen’s book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.”

Prosecutors allege Risen divulged a CIA scheme to provide flawed nuclear weapons designs to Iran.

Fourteen Pulitzer Prize winners issued a statement in support of Risen.

“Enough is enough,” said three-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Barstow of The New York Times. “The relentless and by all appearances vindictive effort by two administrations to force Jim Risen into betraying his sources has already done substantial and lasting damage to journalism in the United States. I’ve felt the chill firsthand. Trusted sources in Washington are scared to talk by telephone, or by email, or even to meet for coffee, regardless of whether the subject touches on national security or not.”

DEA Paid Amtrak Insider $854,000 for Passenger Data It Could Have Gotten for Free

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA forked over $854,460 to an Amtrak secretary for confidential information the agency should have gotten for free, according to an internal investigation.

The DEA paid the employee to be an informant despite the agency’s right to obtain the information at no cost as part of a joint drug enforcement task force, the Associated Press reports.

The payments were made over a two-decade span, the investigation found.

The Amtrak secretary provided passenger information without the proper approval, but the information was available through the proper channels, the inspector general found.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FBI Opens Civil Rights Investigation of Fatal Shooting By Cops of Unarmed Teen

The FBI has launched a civil rights investigation to determine what prompted a police officer to shoot an unarmed blacked teenager in a St. Louis suburb on Saturday afternoon.

The New York Times reports the inquiry into Michael Brown’s death came on the third day of protests. Ferguson, a city of 21,000 residents, has a history of racial issues. Although black people make up a majority of the residents, the local government and police are predominately white.

When the all-white school board suspended a black superintendent, protests broke out.

“The community is still highly segregated,” said Karen Knodt, interim pastor of the Immanuel United Church of Christ, whose congregation has 800 members, only four of whom are black. “The institutions of power don’t yet reflect the changing demographics of the county.”

The city also has been under a Justice Department investigation following claims of racial disparities for juveniles in Family Court.

 

FBI Sketch Artist Writes Tell-All Book About Tracking Down Criminals

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former sketch artist for the FBI has written a tell-all book about his 32 years working with the bureau, the New York Post reports.

Gene O’Donnell, who is shopping his book “Faces of Crime: Memoirs of an FBI Forensic Artist,” said he’s had a lot of bizarre experiences at the bureau, but the strangest may have been drawing a face based on visions of a psychic.

“Officially, I don’t believe that the FBI has ever really admitted to using psychics, but I can assure you that they do. Rarely, but every once in a while, the real FBI looks more like Mulder and Scully’s FBI,” said O’Donnell, referring to “The X-Files.”

O’Donnell, who retired in 2009, started working with the FBI after studying commercial art.

In one his more well-known sketches, O’Donnell helped capture the Russian handler of spy Aldrich Ames.

O’Donnell also helped sketch the face of a man who had been badly decomposed.