Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cops are actively lying to courts

By  ARS Technica

In a Baltimore trial courtroom on Monday, a local judge threatened to hold a police detective in contempt of court for refusing to disclose how police located a 16-year-old robbery suspect’s phone. Once the Baltimore Police were able to locate Shemar Taylor’s phone, they then searched his house and found a gun as well.

But rather than disclose the possible use of a stingray, also known as a cell site simulator, Detective John L. Haley cited a non-disclosure agreement, likely with the Harris Corporation, since the company is one of the dominant manufacturers of such devices. Stingrays can be used to determine a phone’s location, and they can also intercept calls and text messages.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams retorted, "You don't have a nondisclosure agreement with the court," according to the Baltimore Sun.

The prosecution then withdrew the evidence of the phone and gun but said it would still pursue the case. Neither Assistant State's Attorney Patrick R. Seidel nor defense attorney Joshua Insley immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment. Angelita Plemmer Williams, a spokeswoman for the State of Maryland Judiciary, told Ars that Judge Williams was prohibited under court rules from speaking to the press “on pending cases that may still be appealed.”

Related article: The NSA has a lot of our personal information and SHARES that intelligence with the DEA, IRS, FBI, police departments etc. 

According to the Sun, Haley also told the court that the Baltimore Police was not using a stingray, but Insley “still believes that police used a stingray to find Taylor.”

Pushback begins slowly

Relatively little is known about how stingrays are used by law enforcement agencies nationwide, although documents have surfaced showing how they have been purchased and used in some limited instances.

Last year, Ars reported on leaked documents showing the existence of a body-worn stingray. In 2010, Kristin Paget famously demonstrated a homemade device built for just $1,500.

In recent months, some new information has trickled out as the result of public records lawsuits in various jurisdictions—particularly Florida. In September 2014, new documents released by the City of Oakland, California revealed that it is one of a handful of American jurisdictions attempting to upgrade an existing cellular surveillance system.

Harris Corporation, makers of the StingRay and other related devices, has traditionally refused to speak with Ars about its products. "We do not comment on solutions we may or may not provide to classified Department of Defense or law enforcement agencies," Jim Burke, a spokesman for Harris, previously said.

Related article: Fake cell phone ‘towers’ are spying on Americans’ calls, texts

Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union found that at least in Florida, law enforcement had signed similar agreements with the Harris Corporation.

Worse still, cops were actively lying to courts about their use—asking a judge to sign off on a “pen register/trap and trace” order, which is far less invasive than a stingray.

Due to some recent reporting in Tacoma, Washington, judges in Pierce County are now requiring that law enforcement seek specific permission when requesting to use a stingray as of this week.

UPDATE 2:45pm CT: Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and former federal public defender, told Ars that judge's typically do not like such evasive action by witnesses.

"It's also a remarkable bit of chutzpah for the officer to refuse to answer the questions when sworn under oath in a proceeding," he wrote by e-mail.

"[The detective] may have been following orders but its ridiculous that superiors, whether police or prosecutors, direct officers to evade answering questions about surveillance technology that is now widely known about. Its even more remarkable the prosecutors simply chose to not use the evidence rather that disclose details about it. That says a few things: first maybe we don’t really need the surveillance if the government can prove a criminal case without the evidence they gather from it (though that remains to be seen in this specific case). Second, that the technology must really be capable of some remarkable things if the government is so desperate to keep it under wraps."

Brian Owsley, a former federal judge and current law professor at Indiana Tech, told Ars he was not aware of another instance of any law enforcement using a non-disclosure agreement "as a shield."

"It is common knowledge that state and local law enforcement agencies are purchasing this technology with grants from the Department of Homeland Security," he wrote. "In exchange for the grants, the agencies must sign the nondisclosure agreement. As courts delve into these Fourth Amendment issues more, there will be more confrontations between the Constitution and the agencies’ obligations pursuant to the agreements. One significant remedy is that prosecutors may lose evidence because judges suppress it due to the lack of a search warrant"

We can no longer in good conscience trust the politicians, the corporations or the police to police themselves. 

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Monday, November 17, 2014

U.S. sovereign group's leader convicted of selling fake IDs

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal jury in Virginia has found an Ohio man who led an anti-government group guilty of selling fake diplomatic IDs to help group members avoid arrest or paying taxes and debts, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria.

James McBride, 60, the leader of the sovereign citizen group Divine Province, contended that the U.S. government was a "municipal corporation" that did not have authority over the group's members, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a statement late on Wednesday.

A U.S. District Court jury in Alexandria, Virginia, found McBride guilty on Wednesday of conspiracy, causing the impersonation of a diplomat and producing false identification documents, the U.S. attorney's statement said. He faces up to 35 years in prison.

McBride, of Columbus, Ohio, sold the identification documents to Divine Province members, charging $200 for a set of two. One identified the holder as a “Universal Post Office Diplomat” and another was an “International Diplomatic Driver Permit,” the statement said.

He claimed his authority to issue the IDs came from the Vatican. 

McBride also sold the ID cards online and shipped them throughout the United States. Divine Province earned close to $500,000 from the sales, according to the U.S. attorney's statement.

“This is my mission in life; that’s why I’m here,” McBride said in an interview with ABC News in April 2013. He said his only objective was “world peace.”

“I’ve been stopped five or six times, and every time, they give me my driver’s license back and they say, ‘Have a good day. Please slow down,’” McBride told ABC News.

McBride started selling the identification cards in September 2012.

We can no longer in good conscience trust the politicians, the corporations or the police to police themselves. 

Click the PayPal donation button (scroll to top) to support a 'free press'. And thank you for your support. Follow on Twitter

Resist tyranny. There are four boxes to be used in the defense of liberty: 
soapballotjury and the cartridge box.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Police Use Dept Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize

By TheNewYorkTimes

The seminars offered police officers some useful tips on seizing property from suspected criminals. Don’t bother with jewelry (too hard to dispose of) and computers (“everybody’s got one already”), the experts counseled. Do go after flat screen TVs, cash and cars. Especially nice cars.
 
In one seminar, captured on video in September, Harry S. Connelly Jr., the city attorney of Las Cruces, N.M., called them “little goodies.” And then Mr. Connelly described how officers in his jurisdiction could not wait to seize one man’s “exotic vehicle” outside a local bar.
 
“A guy drives up in a 2008 Mercedes, brand new,” he explained. “Just so beautiful, I mean, the cops were undercover and they were just like ‘Ahhhh.’ And he gets out and he’s just reeking of alcohol.
 
And it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, we can hardly wait.’ ”
 
 
Mr. Connelly was talking about a practice known as civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government, without ever securing a conviction or even filing a criminal charge, to seize property suspected of having ties to crime. The practice, expanded during the war on drugs in the 1980s, has become a staple of law enforcement agencies because it helps finance their work. It is difficult to tell how much has been seized by state and local law enforcement, but under a Justice Department program, the value of assets seized has ballooned to $4.3 billion in the 2012 fiscal year from $407 million in 2001. Much of that money is shared with local police forces.
 
The practice of civil forfeiture has come under fire in recent months, amid a spate of negative press reports and growing outrage among civil rights advocates, libertarians and members of Congress who have raised serious questions about the fairness of the practice, which critics say runs roughshod over due process rights. In one oft-cited case, a Philadelphia couple’s home was seized after their son made $40 worth of drug sales on the porch. Despite that opposition, many cities and states are moving to expand civil seizures of cars and other assets. The seminars, some of which were captured on video, raise a curtain on how law enforcement officials view the practice.
 
From Orange County, N.Y., to Rio Rancho, N.M., forfeiture operations are being established or expanded. In September, Albuquerque, which has long seized the cars of suspected drunken drivers, began taking them from men suspected of trying to pick up prostitutes, landing seven cars during a one-night sting. Arkansas has expanded its seizure law to allow the police to take cash and assets with suspected connections to terrorism, and Illinois moved to make boats fair game under its D.W.I. laws, in addition to cars. In Mercer County, N.J., a prosecutor preaches the “gospel” that forfeiture is not just for drug arrests — cars can be seized in shoplifting and statutory rape cases as well.
 
“At the grass-roots level — cities, counties — they continue to be interested, perhaps increasingly so, in supplementing their budgets by engaging in the type of seizures that we’ve seen in Philadelphia and elsewhere,” said Lee McGrath, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that has mounted a legal and public relations assault on civil forfeiture.
 
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Much of the nuts-and-bolts how-to of civil forfeiture is passed on in continuing education seminars for local prosecutors and law enforcement officials, some of which have been captured on video. The Institute for Justice, which brought the videos to the attention of The Times, says they show how cynical the practice has become and how profit motives can outweigh public safety.
 
In the sessions, officials share tips on maximizing profits, defeating the objections of so-called “innocent owners” who were not present when the suspected offense occurred, and keeping the proceeds in the hands of law enforcement and out of general fund budgets. The Times reviewed three sessions, one in Santa Fe, N.M., that took place in September, one in New Jersey that was undated, and one in Georgia in September that was not videotaped.
 
Officials offered advice on dealing with skeptical judges, mocked Hispanics whose cars were seized, and made comments that, the Institute for Justice said, gave weight to the argument that civil forfeiture encourages decisions based on the value of the assets to be seized rather than public safety.
 
In the Georgia session, the prosecutor leading the talk boasted that he had helped roll back a Republican-led effort to reform civil forfeiture in Georgia, where seized money has been used by the authorities, according to news reports, to pay for sports tickets, office parties, a home security system and a $90,000 sports car.
 
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 In defense of the practice, Gary Bergman, a prosecutor with the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, said civil forfeiture had been distorted in news reports. “All they hear is the woman was left on the side of the road and the police drove off with her car and her money, no connection to drugs,” he told other prosecutors at the session.
 
“I’m not saying that that doesn’t happen — it does. It should not. But they never hear about all the people that get stopped with the drugs in their cars, in their houses, the manufacturing operations we see, all the useful things we do with the money, the equipment, vehicles. They don’t hear about that.”
 
In an interview, Mr. Connelly said that the Las Cruces ordinance does only what the State Supreme Court has said is permissible.
 
Sean D. McMurtry, the chief of the forfeiture unit in the Mercer County, N.J., prosecutor’s office, said forfeiture contributes to only a small percentage of local budgets but it is a good deterrent and works especially well against repeat offenders, such as domestic violence perpetrators who repeatedly violate a restraining order. “We’re very proud of our forfeiture operation,” he said in an interview.
 
But in the video, Mr. McMurtry made it clear that forfeitures were highly contingent on the needs of law enforcement. In New Jersey, the police and prosecutors are allowed to use cars, cash and other seized goods; the rest must be sold at auction. Cellphones and jewelry, Mr. McMurtry said, are not worth the bother. Flat screen televisions, however, “are very popular with the police departments,” he said.
 
Prosecutors boasted in the sessions that seizure cases were rarely contested or appealed. But civil forfeiture places the burden on owners, who must pay court fees and legal costs to get their property back. Many seizures go uncontested because the property is not worth the expense.

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And often the first hearing is presided over not by a judge but by the prosecutor whose office benefits from the proceeds, and who has wide discretion in deciding whether to forfeit the property or return it, sometimes in exchange for a steep fine.
 
Mr. McMurtry said his handling of a case is sometimes determined by department wish lists. “If you want the car, and you really want to put it in your fleet, let me know — I’ll fight for it,” Mr. McMurtry said, addressing law enforcement officials on the video. “If you don’t let me know that, I’ll try and resolve it real quick through a settlement and get cash for the car, get the tow fee paid off, get some money for it.”
 
One criticism of civil forfeiture is that it results in widely varied penalties — one drunken driver could lose a $100,000 luxury car, while another forfeits a $2,000 clunker.
 
In an interview, Mr. McMurtry acknowledged that he exercises a great deal of discretion. “The first offense, if it’s not anything too serious, we’ll come up with a dollar amount, depending on the value of the car and the seriousness of the offense,” he said. “I try to come up with a dollar amount that’s not so high that they can’t afford it, but not so low that it doesn’t have an impact. If it’s a second offense, they don’t get it back.”

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Prosecutors estimated that between 50 to 80 percent of the cars seized were driven by someone other than the owner, which sometimes means a parent or grandparent loses their car. In the Santa Fe video, a police officer acknowledged that the law can affect families, but expressed skepticism of owners who say they did not know their relative was running afoul of the law.
 
“I can’t tell you how many people have come in and said, ‘Oh, my hijito would never do that,’ ” he said, mimicking a female voice with a Spanish accent.
 
We can no longer in good conscience trust the politicians, the corporations or the police to police themselves. 

Click the PayPal donation button (scroll to top) to support a 'free press'. And thank you for your support. Follow on Twitter

Resist tyranny. There are four boxes to be used in the defense of liberty: 
soapballotjury and the cartridge box.


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The truth of prison brutality

By TheWashingtonPost

When FBI Agent Susan Hanson examined the claims of corrections officers regarding the brutal death of 24-year-old Alabama prison inmate Rocrast Mack, they simply didn’t add up.

Serving a 20-year sentence for a drug conviction at the Ventress Correctional Facility, Mack died in August 2010 of severe bruises from his head down to his legs, his front teeth knocked out and his brain swollen from blows to the head.

Prison guards said Mack had gotten into an altercation with a female corrections officer, and they responded and acted in self-defense while trying to restrain an out-of-control inmate. They maintained their actions were consistent with protocol and that his death was the result of a fall.

Facing a lack of cooperation from prison officials, blatant lies from the corrections officers involved in the beatings and silence from inmates fearing retaliation, Hanson doggedly overcame the efforts to obstruct her investigation, painstakingly unmasked the truth and built an ironclad case that resulted in the indictments and convictions of four corrections officers for Mack’s death.

“It is a fact that there was a culture of corruption in not just this prison, but the whole Alabama prison system, and a culture that they can do whatever they wanted,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent William Beersdorf. “Through Susan Hanson’s thorough investigation and the subsequent prosecution, this case showed that no matter what your status, justice will be served.”

He said Hanson was relentless in overcoming every roadblock. “She was a bulldog. She would not take no for an answer,” said Beersdorf. “If she ran into an obstacle, she’d go around it and go over it.”

The events leading to Mack’s death began when a female prison guard caught him engaged in inappropriate conduct. She hit him, he retaliated and the officer radioed for help, beginning what turned out to be a series of brutal beatings in three prison locations over a 40-minute period.

After Mack became unconscious and unresponsive, and he was transported out of the prison to a hospital, where he died approximately 14 hours later.

While an extreme example of abuse, the case provided further evidence of severe problems in Alabama prisons, one of the most overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded systems in the country, and shed further light on a pattern of brutality by Alabama corrections officers.

Hanson said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alabama now is beginning to see some changes at Ventress, with “inmates feeling freer to launch a complaint and let it be known when their rights are violated.”

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Chris Higginbotham described the Mack case as the “most egregious” violation by a law enforcement officer that he’s ever seen.

“The thought of law enforcement officers brutally murdering an inmate was repulsive, and it drove Hanson not to miss anything,” said Higginbotham. “She gave her heart and soul to ensure that these perpetrators were brought to justice.”

Stephen Richardson, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Mobile, Ala., said everyone is afforded rights under the Constitution, a principle that Hanson’s work has upheld.

“It’s our job to ensure that the American people have the confidence in us to investigate violations no matter their circumstances or position in the community,” said Richardson.

With the help of two experienced attorneys, Patricia Sumner of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Jerusha Adams of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alabama, Hanson conducted hundreds of interviews, obtained the testimony of medical experts, arranged the use of specialized computer graphics detailing the assault locations and compiled volumes of evidence against the defendants. She also had to overcome the lack of cooperation from prison officials and break through the false stories provided by the corrections officers.

“There is no way that these hellacious injuries could have occurred the way they claimed,” explained Hanson. “It was clear they’d been coached. In these types of cases there’s a code: You band together and stick to the story.”

Hanson said she approached the case objectively, but it soon became personal. “If I didn’t take it personally, it would have been easier to just move on to the next case when I hit a wall, but I couldn’t.”


As a result of Hanson’s efforts, the main perpetrator, corrections supervisor Michael Smith, was convicted of violating Mack’s constitutional rights, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, and was sentenced in 2013 to 30 years in prison. Three other prison guards pleaded guilty; guard Matthew Davidson received a seven-year sentence, and guards Scottie Glenn and Joseph Sanders each received five-year sentences.

“This was someone’s son and brother paying his debt to society, and he was sentenced to death by those charged with keeping him safe,” said Hanson. “We couldn’t change that, but we could be sure that those responsible were brought to justice and ensure that it could never happen again.”

This article was jointly prepared by the Partnership for Public Service, a group seeking to enhance the performance of the federal government, and washingtonpost.com. Go to the Fed

Page of The Washington Post to read about other federal workers who are making a difference. To recommend a Federal Player of the Week, contact us at fedplayers@ourpublicservice.org.

We can no longer in good conscience trust the politicians, the corporations or the police to police themselves. 

Click the PayPal donation button (scroll to top) to support a 'free press'. And thank you for your support. Follow on Twitter

Resist tyranny. There are four boxes to be used in the defense of liberty: 
soapballotjury and the cartridge box.


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Aren't You Sick of the Government telling You What U Can N Can NOT do with UR OWN BODY/mind/money??

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