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NYT Editorial: Justice Department Too Slow to Apply Mercy

jail2photoBy Editorial Board
New York Times

President Obama last week commuted the prison terms of 214 federal inmates who were sent to prison under draconian, ’80s-era laws that have since been revised. Among them were 67 people serving life sentences, nearly all of them for nonviolent drug offenses.

Mercy was granted in these cases. But the federal clemency system — which moves far too slowly and is too often blocked by politics in both the Justice Department and the White House — was never intended to manage miscarriages of justice that happen on a vast scale, as was the case when so many Americans were sent to prison under the “tough on crime” policies of the 1980s.

The country needs a variety of mechanisms for reducing unreasonably long sentences. And the Justice Department, which has considerable latitude in these matters, needs to do more within the course of its regular operations to deal with the legacy of sentencing policies that have been recognized as destructively unfair.

The former attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., took an important step: In 2014, he supported the United States Sentencing Commission’s decision to reduce sentences for many nonviolent drug crimes and asked that people in prison be made eligible for the reductions. According to the Justice Department, more than 12,000 people have been released under that effort.

Recently, however, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a Justice Department agency, has come under criticism for not doing enough with the powers it already has to help inmates who deserve to be released. The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 authorizes the bureau to ask a federal judge to reduce an inmate’s sentence when there are “extraordinary and compelling” reasons for doing so.

To read more click here. 

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Weekend Series on Crime: The Contract Killer called ‘The Iceman’

FBI Agent Was on Scene of ‘Draw Muhammad’ Attack in Garland, Texas

Garland_TXBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An undercover FBI agent was on the scene when two ISIS supporters opened fire at a “Draw Muhammad” contest in a Dallas suburb, according to newly filed court documents.

The shooting on May 3, 2015, involved two men who used assault rifles to attack people at a convention center in Garland, Texas, where a “First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest” was taking place, The Hill reports. 

Hour before the attack, the FBI warned local police of one of the shooters, Elton Simpson, whom the bureau had spent years tracking.

It’s unclear why the FBI didn’t intervene before the attack.

PolitFact: Relatives of Slain Border Patrol Agent Wrong About Available Agents

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Relatives of Brian Terry, the Border Patrol agent who was killed in a shootout with Mexican bandits in December 2010, criticized President Obama for “thinly equipped” Border Patrol agents.

“In Arizona, for example, there are only one and a half agents per every 10 square miles,” Kelly Terry-Willis said July 18. “This is unacceptable.”

Kent Terry continued, “Only one candidate is serious about border security, and that’s Donald Trump.”

PolitFact checked the assertion about Border Patrol staffing and concluded it was “false.” 

PolitFact wrote:

Terry-Willis said, in Arizona,”there are only one and a half (Border Patrol) agents per every 10 square miles.”

Based on our calculations, she actually overestimates the number of Border Patrol agents compared to square miles. But that’s still misleading — and leaves out important context.

Most Border Patrol agents survey areas closer to the Arizona-Mexico border, not the rest of the state. The number of agents per linear mile is much higher.

We rate the statement False.

Homeland Security Searches for Drones Capable of Facial Recognition

FBI-facial-recognitionBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Homeland Security is looking to Silicon Valley for specially designed drones.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that officials met last week with technology entrepreneurs in search of small, light-weight drones that are easy to fly and can cover vast stretches of desert.

The drones also need to be able to provide images good enough to scan faces against a database for prior criminal history.

“There can be questions about how accurate that is and legitimate questions about how someone’s picture got into a database,” said John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project.

Border Patrol currently uses drones, but the technology isn’t up to snuff, officials said.

FBI Released Aerial Video Footage of Baltimore Protests

FBI surveillance video from the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore.

FBI surveillance video from the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI captured more than 18 hours of aerial surveillance video from the Baltimore protests following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.

The video was shot from traditional piloted aircraft, not drones.

The videos were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU.

The raw video is available at the FBI’s website.

The FBI has been using surveillance planes since the 1970s.

Other Stories of Interest

D.C. Transit Officer First Law Enforcement Official Charged with Terrorism in U.S.

ISIS flag

ISIS flag

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A patrol officer with Washington D.C.’s regional transit police has become the first law enforcement official to be charged with terrorism in the U.S.

Nicholas Young, 36, of Fairfax, was arrested and charged Wednesday with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group, ABC News reports. 

The FBI alleges Young purchased gift cards that he thought ISIS would use to buy mobile messaging apps. Turns out, Young was talking to an undercover agent.

Young faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Secret Service Arrests Ex-Cop for Entering Trump Tower with Concealed Gun

Trump Tower in New York City, via Wikipedia.

Trump Tower in New York City, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former police officer was arrested after the Secret Service found him with a concealed gun trying to enter Trump Tower late Tuesday night.

The incident happened as Donald Trump’s motorcade was approaching the building in Manhattan just after 10 p.m. Tuesday, Patch.com reports. 

The Secret Service said the man was in a secured area on the sidewalk and refused to obey commands of agents.

Authorities found him with a conceal weapon, which he had a permit to carry.

It was unclear whether the man intended to harm Trump, who “entered the building without incident,” the Secret Service said.