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Justice Department to Perform Expansive Review of FBI Lab’s Forensic Testimony

U.S. Attorney Sally Yates

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department is performing an expansive review of forensic testimony by the FBI Laboratory to determine whether evidence was overstated to secure convictions, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced.

Beginning in March, the Justice Department will determine how it will audit samples of testimony from FBI units that handle pattern-based evidence, which includes crime-scene evidence such as bullet impressions, fiber, soil and shoe treads, the Washington Post reports. 

It won’t be an easy task. More than 100,000 examinations of such crime-scene evidence is conducted annually by the FBI and other crime labs.

“We are undertaking this quality-assurance review because we think it is good operating procedure — and not because of specific concerns with other disciplines,” Yates said Wednesday in an address to the American Academy of Forensic Scientists’ annual meeting in Las Vegas.

The move comes after serious flaws were found in the collection of so-called hair matches.

The FBI declined to comment.

Other Stories of Interest

Kalamazoo Man Accused of Killing 6 People During Shooting Spree Had Cache of Guns

Jason Dalton

Jason Dalton

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Kalamazoo, Mich., Uber driver accused of shooting dead six people and critically injuring two others in a shooting spree Saturday bought the firearm used in the attack in the middle of last year, the ATF said.

Investigators also found 11 long guns and four handguns at his Cooper Township home, WoodTV.com reports. 

The ATF’s Donald Dawkins said 45-year-old Jason Dalton used a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun in the shootings.

But, investigators said, Dalton was not licensed to carry a concealed pistol.

Dalton regularly visited a gun shop in nearby Plainwell and purchased a coat designed to conceal the handgun hours before the shooting spree.

Other Stories of Interest

Congress May Create Commission to Address Debate Over Apple’s Fight with FBI


By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

As Apple and the FBI square off over hacking into an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters, Congress is debating a solution over the divide between digital privacy and national security.

NPR reports that lawmakers may form a commission modeled after the one created to investigate the 9/11 security breakdowns.

“There is no easy, knee-jerk, legislative response at this time,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said. “If Congress does nothing, as some would advocate … and we get hit in the United States with a Paris-style attack? I don’t want that on my hands.”

Apple has said it supports the formation of a commission, which could include members from the tech industry, law enforcement, privacy advocates and the Obama administration.

The commission would then submit a report of its findings.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. said Congress should have acted earlier.

“In many ways the current litigation that’s taking place might not have been needed if we’d had this kind of approach a few years back,” says Warner, adding that he fears that the sides are “talking past each other.”

CIA Director: ISIS Has Become Bigger Threat Than Al-Qaeda

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

CIA Director John Brennan told NPR that ISIS is a bigger threat than al-Qaeda.

In the interview, Brennan also said may stay with the agency if a new presidential administration supports him at the helm.

Listen to the interview above.

USA Today Columnist Hacked Mid-Air While Writing Apple-FBI Story

Apple logoSteven Petrow
USA Today

“I don’t really need to worry about online privacy,” I used to think. “I’ve got nothing to hide. And who would want to know what I’m up to, anyway?”

Sure, I’m a journalist, but I’m not an investigative reporter, not a political radical, not of much interest to anyone, really.

That was last week, when the standoff between the FBI and Apple seemed much more about principle than practice to me. That’s when I thought I’d write a column on whether this legal fight matters to regular folk — people like my mother, a retired social worker; my best friend, who works in retail; or even my 20-year-old niece in college. That was before I found out — in a chillingly personal way — just why it does matter. To all of us.

Just before midnight last Friday, my plane touched down in Raleigh after a three-hour flight from Dallas. As usual, I’d spent much of the flight working, using American Airlines Gogo in-flight Internet connection to send and answer emails. As I was putting on my jacket, a fellow in the row behind me, someone I hadn’t even noticed before, said: “I need to talk to you.” A bit taken aback, I replied, “It’s late … need to get home.”

“You’re a reporter, right?”

“Um, yes.”

“Wait for me at the gate.”

[I didn’t answer, but I did wait.]

“How did you know I was a reporter?” I asked while we started walking.

“Are you interested in the Apple/FBI story?” he responded, ignoring my question.

“Kind of. Why are you asking me that?” I thought he was some kind of creepy mind reader.

Then he dropped the bombshell.

“I hacked your email on the plane and read everything you sent and received. I did it to most people on the flight.” He had verbatim detail of a long email that he repeated back to me essentially word for word.

To read more click here.

Obama Administration to Crack Down on Cities That Provide Sanctuary to Illegal Immigrants

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Obama administration plans to target sanctuary cities that actively thwart federal efforts to deport illegal immigrants.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she would go as far as ceasing federal grant money from going to cities that provide sanctuary to illegal immigrants, the Washington Times reports. 

The move surprised many lawmakers because the Obama administration has long opposed crackdowns on sanctuary cities.

As part of the crack down, Lynch aid the federal Bureau of Prisons would stop releasing illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities and instead would turn them over for deportation.

“This is a very significant change, and we’re deeply grateful to you,” Rep. John Abney Culberson, Texas Republican, told Ms. Lynch at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee.

Culberson said he would provide a list of sanctuary cities.

“If they insist on paying it out of their policy, and they won’t honor detainers, and they won’t share information, you know, don’t ask for federal money unless you follow federal law,” he said. “Delighted to hear you’re moving in that direction, and we’re going to work with you cooperatively and in a supportive way to ensure that that happens.”

Bernie Sanders Defends 40-Year-Old Statements That CIA Is ‘Dangerous Institution’

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is not backing away from his comments in 1974 that the CIA is a “dangerous institution” that has supported “fascist dictatorships,” the Boston Globe reports. 

But Sanders said at a CNN town hall in South Carolina that his arguments were “40 years ago” and that the CIA plays “an important role.”

Still, he said the agency has “done things which they should not have done on behalf of the United States government.’’

Sanders said that the CIA backed the overthrow of a democratically elected prime minister in 1953, leading to “the Iranian Revolution, and we are where we are today.”

The presidential candidate also pointed to the overthrow of another democratically elected leader, Salvadore Allende in Chile.

Other Stories of Interest

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Ferguson City Council’s Problems with Consent Degree Make No Sense

Ferguson protest.

Ferguson protest.

By Editorial Board
St. Louis Post Dispatch

The more we learn about the Ferguson City Council’s decision to reject key terms of a consent decree with the Department of Justice and fight it out in court, the less sense it makes. The council seems intent on inflating cost estimates as a tactic to avoid compliance. Members should reconsider before it’s too late.

“There is no chance, zero, that the city of the Ferguson will prevail in this kamikaze mission,” police accountability expert Scott Greenwood told the Post-Dispatch’s Stephen Deere. “They are never ever likely to get the deal that they had. … It will never be that good again.”

Greenwood works for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been involved in dozens of consent decree negotiations with police departments around the country. None of the precedents augur well for Ferguson’s case. TheDOJ filed suit Feb. 10, the day after the council objected to seven of the 464 points in the consent decree its representatives had negotiated with Justice Department lawyers.

Rather than collaborate and rely on the federal judge who will oversee the agreement to handle sticky issues, the city decided to tug on Superman’s cape. Ferguson officials still don’t quite understand that they can’t wing it anymore.

Ferguson’s objections center on the costs involved. The city’s already got a $2.8 million budget deficit. Its municipal court cash cow has been severely restricted. The cost of monitoring the consent degree has been pegged at $350,000 a year, but other costs have not been publicly quantified. That should have been the first step.

Instead, the city’s estimates keep going up, more than quadrupling in one 10-day period from $800,000 to $3.7 million.

To read more click here.