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What It Means to be a True Public Servant

I have struggled with this column the past few months. Part of that comes from the demands of my day job, trying to keep my small company successful in today’s economy.

James Sloan-the Gold Standard for Public Servants
James Sloan-the Gold Standard for Public Servants

But, the balance of my distraction comes from my discomfort in trying to be relevant in the era of Facebook and Twitter and tweeting and blogging.

I think I preferred the less formidable presentation of news by the traditional media that I came to age with. In any case, recent events have jarred me to express my dismay at how attitudes have changed in my lifetime about many things, but, none more so than what it means to be a public servant.

In recent weeks, we have witnessed the quirky behaviors of two Governors, Sarah Palin’s whimsical resignation of her office in Alaska, and Mark Sanford’s explanations for his international leave-of-absence from his duties in South Carolina.

Both luminaries, much in the news, purport to be public servants, a description whose definition, I believe, has drifted considerably from its original historical moorings. My understanding of a public servant is close to that which describes the ancient Roman office of tribune, a person who upholds or defends the rights of others.

I know a real tribune who recently died on June 24 after a long struggle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). James F. Sloan was a friend; a fellow retired U.S. Secret Service executive and veteran Army officer. He was also in his time the Director of the Department of the Treasury’s FINCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) , and most recently until this past February, the Assistant Commandant of the Coast Guard for Intelligence and Criminal Investigation.

Jim’s whole adult life was a testament to the true definition of public service. Public service, especially in federal law enforcement – is a vocation.

The men and women who devote their lives to this high calling every day, as true tribunes of the people- do so in the face of corrosive self absorption and promotion that all too often defines public service today.

James F. Sloan was the gold standard for duty well-performed, honor in all things, and country above the self which was the officer’s code, he learned at the outset of his federal career, and which he lived his life fulfilling.

When one contrasts his dedication and purposeful life with the shallow traces of what the cult of celebrity serves up today as exemplars of public service, we realize the true loss of this fine man and deeply appreciate those who are like him.

(Jim Huse is the CEO of IntegriGuard, LLC, a program integrity, payment accuracy company in Omaha, NE. You can learn more about him and his company at www.integriguard.org).

Physical Appearance and Presentation Important in Today’s Job Hunt

After spending the bulk of my career in the highly competitive world of television news, a place where the color of your lipstick can be as important as the facts of a story, I thought I had seen the last of superficial hiring managers.

You know the type.

Managers who judge professionals by how they look, rather than their performance. Surely the suit you wear to interview with a B2B manufacturing company can’t be as critical as what you wear for a network broadcast with seven million people watching.

Wrong! I can’t tell you the number of times I heard the word “frumpy” used to describe both male and female candidates applying for a senior level position or the number of professionals that have been ruled out of a job search because they did not show well.

Executive presence is a critical component to any candidate’s success.

But what is executive presence? And how do you get it? The term is often used as a catchall phrase to describe leadership, presentation skills, your ability to effectively interact with executives, and yes your appearance.

“Appearance is important,” says Mark Palmer, the V.P. of Communications for Sysco, a leading food service marketer and distributor in North America. “It’s an issue, so take care of it. Are you well groomed? Are your shoes shined? Do you look sharp? I’ve seen suits that would be great for a nightclub, but not a Fortune 100 company.”

You know executive presence when you see it. It’s the person in a meeting or a social gathering who exudes the right level of confidence, the clarity of thought and the ability to express those ideas in a meaningful, yet concise way. It’s that “wow factor” that makes leaders stand out and others listen.

“Confidence is about being able to make your point without having to go on and on about it,” says Palmer. ‘If you are confident and know your stuff, you can present it in a way that people understand without using a $5 word and paragraphs. It’s about story telling, relating the topic to the person you are talking to.”

Self-confidence is just one ingredient in the mixed bag of qualities that make up executive presence. Here are some additional qualities that will help you communicate with confidence in the C-suite.

Candor: The appearance of honesty. The skill to tell it like it is, yet be judicious in what you say.

Clarity: The ability to tell your story in a clear, compelling and concise way.

Listening: Listening is a leadership skill. It includes being accessible and conveying genuine interest in others and the challenges they face.

Passion: Speak with energy and purpose. Exhibit commitment, motivation and drive for what you do.

Poise: The look of sophistication, conveying a background of education and experience. A polished personal style isn’t just about the clothes you wear; it’s about how you feel in those clothes. Your business attire should make you feel confident and powerful every day.

Sincerity: The conviction of believing in what you say.

Thoughtfulness: Think first and then talk. Have the confidence to pause. Don’t share your internal debate with others.

And here are some final thoughts. Stand up straight and make steady eye contact. When you stand tall, you tell the world you are confident in who you are, what you are doing and where you are headed. If these pointers seem like a lot to digest, remember, executive presence can be learned, improved upon and mastered. Most of us are not born with it.

Shellee Smith is a communications expert with an extensive background in management consulting, broadcast journalism and executive search. She is married to a retired federal agent. Shellee can be reached at Shellee.Smith@ticklethewire.com.

The State of Alaska and the Prosecutor Are to Blame in DNA/Supreme Court Case

By Ross Parker

The greater majority of Americans long assumed that the criminal court system worked just fine. With criminal defendants afforded substantive Constitutional rights, many people assumed the nation’s prison held no innocent men or women.

This blithe assumption was upset in recent times by the use of DNA technology in post-conviction settings, which scientifically demonstrated that the innocent do indeed – even if only rarely– get convicted in this country.

Not only has the infallibility of the jury system suffered a blow by this development, but whole categories of evidence upon which we prosecutors relied upon like confessions and eyewitness identifications, which were utilized in over 75% of the wrongful convictions, have been called into question and become the targets of “reform” movements.

Last week the Supreme Court ruled in the 5-4 Osborne decision that an Alaska inmate did not have the right under the Due Process Clause, in the context of a Section 1983 civil rights suit, to have access, at his own expense, to semen evidence from his rape trial for DNA testing.

Although the Court recognized the “unparalleled ability” of DNA to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and identify the guilty, the majority held that the power to establish rules to regulate the use of this investigative resource belongs primarily to the state legislatures. Since Alaska’s post-conviction relief procedures were not fundamentally unfair, the federal courts could not upset procedures which disallowed “freestanding” discovery rights.

The majority relied on principles such as federalism, comity, finality and states’ rights, to reject the broad-based due process right of access to evidence for testing purposes advocated by Justice Stevens’ four-member minority.

Read by a career legal technician, particularly an ex-prosecutor, the majority opinion seems to rely on sound, time-honored legal reasoning. It is, moreover, as pointed out by Attorney General Eric Holder, both limited in scope and unlikely to foreclose the DNA testing examinations being conducted by the tens of thousands in the state and federal crime laboratories.

However, now that we must acknowledge that there are factually innocent people in prison and that there is an inexpensive and uniquely definitive test to exonerate them, as well as confirm the rightness of the imprisonment of the guilty, principles such as finality and comity seem rather underwhelming. One wonders whether the moral credibility of the nation’s criminal justice system would not benefit from the

Supreme Court stating, for the first time, that there is a fundamental right to be released from punishment upon proof of actual innocence.

Whatever your doubts about the balance struck by the Supreme Court in Osborne, the real target for moral criticism in this case ought to be the State of Alaska and its Prosecutors. In addition to having no law on DNA testing, the state has apparently never authorized a post-conviction DNA test, either at the instance of the prosecution or as a result of a court’s order.

What was the Prosecutor thinking? Instead of consenting to a simple test and settling the defendant’s culpability once and for all, they chose to spend thousands of hours of litigation, undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of dollars, and years of time litigating an issue without articulating a single reason justifying these extraordinary expenditures. Why do it? Apparently because they can.

Prosecution policy-making like this weakens our system of justice and encourages “reforms” which complicate and impede law enforcement’s search for the truth.

Is it OK to Shout Fire in a Chatroom?

When Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes posed the question about falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater, he was illustrating that freedom of speech does have limitations.

In 1995,  the first criminal threat case on the Internet would again test the limits of free speech. In 1994, Jake Baker (Jacob Alkhabaz) was a University of Michigan student, who was described as quiet and nice.

He wrote stories with innocent titles like “Going for a Walk”.  But he harbored some demons. The stories were graphic depictions of kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing of young women – so called snuff stories. Jake posted these stories on the Internet at a site called alt.sex stories (ass). The Internet was in its infancy. His case raised issues we had not faced before.

Interestingly, 14 years later, we’re still faced with the perplexing question: Where does Freedom of Speech End? And when does it become a crime?

To examine the issue, it’s interesting to look back at the Baker case, which I was involved in. Back then, few people knew of, let alone used the Internet. Baker was discovered, thanks to a Michigan alum, who happened to be in Russia. He was using the Internet and stumbled across one of Jake’s snuff stories and knew from the IP address that Jake had some affiliation with the University of Michigan.

The story was one that used the name of an actual Michigan coed as a victim in the story. (In court papers and media accounts, she would be referred to as Jane Doe.) The real Jane was not aware of her characterization in the story or that she was about to be a player in an international cyber – 1st Amendment controversy.

The Michigan alum contacted University officials about Jake’s snuff story. The matter was turned over to the University Department of Public Safety, which talked to Jake and obtained a search warrant for Jake’s computer and email account.

Jake was residing in the East Quadrangle Dormitory (the same dorm where Ted Kaczynski once resided).The search revealed several more snuff stories authored by Jake. Two of the stories used Jane Doe’s name and one of these had her actual address and phone number.

One of the stories used Jane Doe’s last name as the title of the story. A paragraph in that story achieved some notoriety as it was repeated often by the media:

“Then, Jerry and I tie her by her long brown hair to the ceiling fan, so that she’s dangling mid-air. Her feet don’t touch the ground. She kicks trying to hit me, Jerry or the gorund (sic). The sight of her wiggling in mid-air, hands rudely taped behind her back, turns me on. Jerry takes a big spiky hair-brush and starts beating her small breasts with it, coloring them with nice red marks. She screams and struggles harder. I’ve separated her legs with a spreader-bar; now I stretch out her pussy lips and super-glue them wide open. Then I take a heavy clamp, and tighten it over her clit. Once it’s tight enough, I let go.”

In addition to Jake’s stories UMDPS gained access to Jake’s email account. The search of the email produced numerous messages between Jake and an individual identifying himself as Arthur Gonda, believed to be residing in Ontario, Canada.

In these messages Jake and Gonda also discuss actually getting together to commit the acts Jake had been depicting in his stories. This is an excerpt from an email sent by Baker to Gonda in December, 1994:
“I’ve started doing is going back and rereading earlier messages of yours. Each time I do, they turn me on more and more. I can’t wait to see you in person. I’ve been trying to think of secluded spots, but my area knowledge of Ann Arbor is mostly limited to the campus. I don’t want any blood in my room, though I have come upon an excellent method to abduct a bitch — As I said before, my room is right across from the girl’s bathroom. Wiat (sic) until late at night, grab her when she goes to unlock the door. Knock her unconscious, and put her into one of those portable lockers (forgot the word for it), or even a duffle bag. Then hurry her out to the car and take her away …what do you think?

This was Gonda’s response:
“Hi Jake. I have been out tonight and I can tell you that I am thinking more and more about ‘doing’ a girl. I can picture it so well … and I can think of no better use of their flesh. I HAVE to make a bitch suffer!”

Jake’s response in part:
“I know how you feel. I’ve been masturbating like the devil recently. Just thinking about it anymore doesn’t do the trick …I need TO DO IT.”

UMDPS were advised by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor that there was no appropriate state statute with which to prosecute Jake’s actions. UMDPS then contacted the local office of the FBI. After reading Jake’s stories and emails, I concluded that the emails in context with the stories constituted a threat as defined by 18 USC 875(c), “Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or to injure any person….”

I presented the case to the Detroit US Attorney’s office, which  agreed with my conclusion. Our contention was that Jake had threatened not only Jane Doe, but any coeds in East Quad.

Jake was arrested on a complaint and warrant and arraigned before a U.S.  Magistrate. We did not request detention, but after reading some of Jake’s literary works, the Magistrate on his own motion detained Jake as he believed him to be dangerous.

The case was assigned to U.S.  District Court Judge Avern Cohn. It was apparent that Judge Cohn was not a big fan of the Government’s case. He made it clear that Jake’s stories could not be part of the prosecution as they were protected by the 1st Amendment’s free speech clause.

Consequently, when Jake was indicted, all references to the stories were eliminated. (I argued against dropping the stories as I believed Judge Cohn would toss the case no matter what we did. In addition to providing context, the stories named a potential victim with her actual address.) Judge Cohn did dismiss the indictment, saying Jake’s emails were nothing more than a private conversation between two males discussing their shared sexual fantasies and were thus protected as free speech. Judge Cohn went on to criticize the Government and its “overzealous agent”.

The Government appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. A 6th Circuit three -judge panel in a curious opinion said Jake’s emails did not constitute a threat because it was, “not conveyed to effect some change or achieve some goal through intimidation.” The dissenting Judge, I think correctly, points out that if Congress intended to require proof of such an intent, they would have said so. In fact in section 875(b) of the same statute, Congress specifically criminalizes threats made with the intent to extort money and provides for more severe penalties. (The case made it into the Criminal Law textbook, but it’s in the chapter on attempt not threats.)

I don’t know where Jake is today, and I have no reason to believe he ever tried to bring his fantasies to life. Maybe he would have had we not interceded. But in an age of terrorism, both domestic and international, law enforcement is left with the conundrum of how to address internet communications that could be preparation for criminal acts — or just fantasies.

Such communications of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were ignored ten years ago – Columbine resulted.

To contact Greg Stejskal write: gmanstejskal@yahoo.com

Prosecutors Need More Accountability

Some believe that prosecutors are the most powerful figures in the criminal justice system. Many of their decisions are virtually unreviewable: charging, case disposition, dismissals, plea bargains, and sentence recommendations, to name a few. Local and State prosecutors can be held accountable to the voters.. But given the power of incumbency, that checks and balance is rarely exercised.

The advent of DNA exoneration reversals (233 at last count) in the last decade has hammered home the point: The criminal justice system is not perfect. A 2003 study by the Center for Public Integrity claims that prosecutorial misconduct contributed to decisions on charge dismissals, conviction reversals, and reduced sentences in 2,012 cases since 1970.

Conversely, some say, given the millions of cases during that 23 year period, the “error rate” of less than .1 % is probably the lowest of any civilization in human history. Likewise, almost everyone active in the system would probably say that that rate has fallen dramatically in the last half-century with the judicial reforms of criminal procedure.

Still, a raw number of instances of material misconducts in the thousands is alarming to a public who blithely assumed that the system was always right and that procedural reforms have guaranteed that no innocent person could get convicted.The misconduct figure, plus various estimates of 1% or higher of wrongful convictions, i.e., conviction of the factually innocent, have spawned a nationwide movement to require more transparency and accountability for prosecutorial decision-making.

Such groups as The Justice Project conclude: “This lack of accountability has led to widespread abuse of prosecutorial power, and a flawed and inaccurate criminal justice system.”

In response to this over-generalization, the group recommends sweeping reforms, including: Clearly defined official policies and procedures, open file discovery, documentation of all witness and informant agreements, mandatory judicial reporting of every instance of prosecutorial misconduct, and a review board to investigate and sanction any such misconduct.

For those of us who were and are federal prosecutors, these “reforms” are essentially the status quo, but for many state prosecutors, these changes would severely curtail the wide discretion in which such an overworked system has come to depend.

The Project also advocates wide ranging reform to criminal procedures generally, including: improving and standardizing eyewitness identification practices, electronic recording of interrogations and confessions, expanded discovery rights, and higher standards for the performance of counsel in capital cases.

No doubt some jurisdictions need some of these reforms. Scientific studies on the need for more objective lineup protocols and methods of avoiding false confessions are increasingly persuasive.

Forensic testing problems, likewise, are likely to receive more attention by a public which is getting used to the forensic infallibility of the many television shows on the subject.

The mind-boggling misconduct alleged in the prosecution of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, and its very public consequences, demonstrates that even federal prosecutors are not immune from such controversies.

Every case like Stevens fosters a new wave of increased and unjustified public cynicism that prosecutors commonly railroad the innocent. The significant difference in these high profile federal cases is that it is the Justice Department itself which has aggressively investigated and taken action in response to allegations of such behavior.

The public is largely unaware that there is a highly effective review and accountability function in the federal system. The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is a meaningful deterrent of misconduct, as well as a source of exoneration for federal prosecutors unfairly accused of misconduct.

Prosecutors, both state and federal, cannot ignore this “reform” movement. They need to participate actively in the public forum, contribute to legislative debate, and acknowledge that, in some jurisdictions, and in some areas of the criminal justice system, changes need to be made.

Ross Parker, a former assistant U.S. Attorney,  is the author of a new book: “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan 1815-2008”  The book is available on amazon.com and rparker54@comcast.net.

Fed Law Enforcement Better Get Necessary Funding For Its Broad Mission

I have struggled with writing this column lately. Every time I have settled on something I want to say, a national event has dumped some cold water on my tentative muse.

Like most Americans, I find the swirl of daily calamitous economic, political and news in general, depressing and intimidating.

I also believe there is a meaner dimension to the streets brought on by the daily onslaught of bad news we endure. When that anxiety is combined with the seemingly clumsy attempt of government to deal with these things it does not leave one confident, to say the least.

I am deeply concerned about the ability of Federal law enforcement to meet the public’s expectations to reign in the rogue financial shenanigans that brought us to this economic quagmire.

How can we broach universal healthcare when we continually struggle with the resources necessary to reign in the fraud, waste and abuse in our existing social insurance delivery systems, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance?

The oversight mission over the stimulus funding given to the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board is staggeringly complex and important.

Yet there can be no compromise in our existing efforts to keep us safe from the unabated terrorist threat. To top it off, we have the boil over of drug war violence on the Mexican border that needs immediate int
ervention.

Where are the resources for all of this? There is no finger-snap solution to the fact that Federal law enforcement has significantly too much mission to address.

Add to this conundrum the increasing public violence of the past several weeks with the deaths of local law enforcement officers and you understand that this mission strain is a very serious concern.

The financial downturn with falling tax revenues is directly reducing the capacity of local law enforcement to deal with these strains. What help can they receive from Federal law enforcement whose own resources are committed to other emergencies?

We need to be aware of these demands and strains and understand that we have to push back and demand the appropriate resources to help the over-burdened Federal law enforcement agencies address these problems and get the job done.

All existing missions need to be reassessed, reprioritized, and in some instances set aside.

On April 19, in my native Massachusetts, there is the annual celebration of the original Patriot’s Day (before it was recast by President Bush after 9/11/01) saluting the brave Minutemen who stood, as Emerson said, “on that rude bridge that arched the flood”, in Concord in 1775 and confronted their exigent furies embodied by King George’s soldiers.

Those patriots found their priorities that fateful day by mustering, setting aside their quotidian concerns,
and arguably focusing on what was important.

Our Federal leaders and law enforcement agencies need to borrow from this historical motivation, and do much the same, make the hard choices and get it done.

(Jim Huse is the CEO of IntegriGuard, LLC, a program integrity, payment accuracy company in Omaha, NE. You can learn more about him and his company at www.integriguard.org).

Mission Support Specialist-Customs & Border Protection

Department: Department Of Homeland Security
Agency: Customs and Border Protection

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Send Mail to:
Minneapolis Hiring Center
Bishop Henry Whipple Bldg
Suite 466
Fort Snelling, MN 55111
Fax: (478)757-44
Questions
For questions about this job:
Staffing Team C
Phone: (612)467-7035
Fax: (478)757-3144
Email: cbp.MHC-StaffingTeamC@dhs.gov
USAJOBS Control Number: 1479726

Sector Enforcement Specialist

Customs and Border Protection
Department: Department Of Homeland Security
Agency: Customs and Border Protection
Job Announcement Number:
MHCBPCE-210850-OC

Overview Duties Qualifications and Evaluation Benefits and other Information How to Apply

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Sector Enforcement Specialist
SALARY RANGE: 26,264.00 – 51,738.00 USD per year OPEN PERIOD: Monday, September 22, 2008
to Monday, September 21, 2009
SERIES & GRADE: GS-1801-05/09 POSITION INFORMATION: Full Time Career/Career Conditional
PROMOTION POTENTIAL: 9 DUTY LOCATIONS: vacancy(s) in one of the following locations:   Many vacancies – Nationwide, US
WHO MAY BE CONSIDERED: United States Citizens
JOB SUMMARY:
CBP:  Securing America’s Borders

Whether on the frontlines or serving behind the scenes supporting our mission, the men and women of CBP are dedicated to keeping America safe.  CBP counts on them.  Our Nation counts on them.  Can we count on you?

This announcement has been amended to include updated evaluation information, and additional locations. See “Duties” and “Qualifications”section for specific information.

This is an open continuous announcement which will establish an inventory of applicants interested in a career as a Sector Enforcement Specialist with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This applicant inventory will be used to fill vacancies as they occur within the Office of Border Patrol at various locations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Applicants are encouraged to apply early in order to maximize their employment opportunities. Applicant selection referral lists will be issued, as needed, for the duration of this announcement. Although this announcement is advertised for multiple organizational components, duty locations, and grade levels, it is not intended to convey any expectation that positions will be filled at all organizational components, duty locations, or grade levels.

You must meet the grade level qualification and eligibility requirements at the time of submission of your application. If your qualifications and eligibility change, you will need to update your responses in the questionnaire and/or resume reflecting those changes; otherwise, you will continue to receive consideration under your original application. Your eligibility will last for 12 months from the submission of your application.

The salary shown above includes the base pay for the lowest grade and the highest step of the highest possible grade.  Salaries vary by grade level and are adjusted for the locality.  The following link displays the locality pay tables by geographic area.

http://www.opm.gov/oca/08tables/indexGS.asp

If you do not see your geographic area listed, select the last table listed “Rest of the United States”.

CBP Mission Statement: We safeguard the American homeland at and beyond our borders. We protect the American public against terrorists and the instruments of terror. We steadfastly enforce the laws of the United States while fostering our nation’s economic security through lawful international trade and travel. We serve the American public with vigilance, integrity, and professionalism Discover a challenging and rewarding career in CBP, the sole organization responsible for securing the nation’s borders.  As part of our carefully selected, highly trained team, you’ll leverage state-of-the art technology, innovative strategies and world-wide partnerships to protect our communities and defend our frontier.At U.S. Customs and Border Protection, we

  • Screen passengers, vehicles, and shipments entering our country
  • Seize illegal narcotics, vehicles, and agricultural products
  • Prevent unauthorized entry into the country
  • Rescue individuals who fall into dangerous conditions traversing our border.

For more information about CBP’s mission, activities, and careers, please visit our web site, www.cbp.gov

Who May Apply: All US Citizens. If you are a status candidate, you may also apply through VIN 209898

Organizational Location: Positions will be filled within Customs and Border Protection, Office of Border Patrol, in various locations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

For a list of all possible locations, see the “Duties” section.

Relocation Expenses: Relocation expenses will not be paid.

Relocation Information: To compare cost of living data, calculate mortgage scenarios, or gather information on communities and school districts, please visit the website: http://www.relocationessentials.com/aff/lifecare/tools/salary/col.aspx

KEY REQUIREMENTS:
  • U.S. Citizenship
  • Background Security Investigation
  • Residency Requirement

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