The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.
Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.
The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.
The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated.
The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.
In a statement, the FBI and Justice Department vowed to continue to devote resources to address all cases and said they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis testimony, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science.”
RTFA for a long and painful tale. One serious aspect of the questions unanswered by this declaration is the role to be played by prosecutors, local law enforcement, district attorneys in many of these cases who, like so many in state judicial systems refuse to acknowledge any need to revisit these cases. Something the Innocence Project has encountered in state after state.
Judges, prosecutors, district attorneys often are political animals. They refuse to confront fallibility or responsibility for participating in lousy trials. Even in hindsight. This is a completely separate task facing those who came together for these revelations. Updating the science is the easy part. Getting law enforcement to review trials is going to be a much harder task.
Innovation + Police State = Lots of profits + no oversight
The FBI is taking extraordinary and potentially unconstitutional measures to keep local and state police forces from exposing the use of so-called “Stingray” surveillance technology across the United States, according to documents obtained separately by the Guardian and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Multiple non-disclosure agreements…revealed in Florida, New York and Maryland this week show federal authorities effectively binding local law enforcement from disclosing any information – even to judges – about the cellphone dragnet technology, its collection capabilities or its existence.
In an arrangement that shocked privacy advocates and local defense attorneys, the secret pact also mandates that police notify the FBI to push for the dismissal of cases if technical specifications of the devices are in danger of being revealed in court.
The agreement also contains a clause forcing law enforcement to notify the FBI if freedom of information requests are filed by members of the public or the media for such information, “in order to allow sufficient time for the FBI to seek to prevent disclosure through appropriate channels”.
The strikingly similar NDAs, taken together with documents connecting police to the technology’s manufacturer and federal approval guidelines obtained by the Guardian, suggest a state-by-state chain of secrecy surrounding widespread use of the sophisticated cellphone spying devices known best by the brand of one such device: the Stingray.
“The device has the ability to pull content, so all the sudden your text messages are at risk, your phone calls are at risk, and your data transmission, potentially,” said John Sawicki, a former police officer who consults attorneys on technological evidence, of the Stingray device made by Harris Corporation…
The ACLU has shown that at least 48 agencies across 20 states likely use the devices. Documents obtained by the Guardian show police from states as such as Texas, Florida, Washington, Minnesota, Virginia, Florida, Maryland, Illinois,Arizona, and California utilize the devices.
The Florida agreement – obtained from the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office by the Guardian after a series of Stingray-related Freedom of Information Act requests sent over the past seven months – reads in part:
“The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will, at the request of the FBI, seek dismissal of the case in lieu of providing, or allowing others to use or provide, any information concerning the Harris Corporation wireless collection equipment/technology, its associated software, operating manuals, and any related documentation.”
Law enforcement agencies that sign NDAs similar to the one in Hillsborough County are barred from providing “any information” about the Stingray-style devices in search warrants, pre-trial hearings, testimony, grand jury proceedings, in appeals or even in defense discovery. Per the agreement, police can only release the “evidentiary results” obtained with the device.
RTFA. Just in case you mistakenly thought you lived in a country where constitutional freedoms were honored and the government is working to bring a new level of transparency to law enforcement.
When the Dutch journalist Tom Egbers first decided to find out what happened to his father’s footballing hero, he could never have imagined where it would lead. Almost 40 years had passed since the South African striker Steve ‘Kalamazoo’ Mokone spent two seasons playing for Egbers’ hometown club Heracles Almelo in Holland’s third division. But in 1993 no one had heard from him since…
“I decided to try and track him down but of course this was in the pre-Google age so it was not an easy task,” adds Egbers. “I eventually traced him to New York where he lived at the time working as a doctor in psychiatry and political science at a hospital. At first he was a little bit reserved and wanted to know who I was and why I wanted to talk to him. It was only years later that I was able to find out exactly why.”
After spending time with the man who had become the first black African to play professionally in Europe when he signed for Coventry City in 1955, Egbers published ‘De Zwarte Meteoor’ (The Black Meteor) – a novel based on Mokone’s successful spell at Heracles that saw them win promotion at the end of the 1957-58 season. It was remarkably well received and ‘Kalamazoo’ was invited back to the provincial town close to the German border for the first time in almost four decades as the club named the new stand in their Polman Stadion in his honour. Within five years the story had been turned into a film, too…
“Five days after the premiere there was a story in the newspaper by a Dutch journalist who had spoken to a South African who had told him that Steve had been in prison for years in America.
Egbers spent 18 months trawling through the archives looking for information on Mokone’s arrest and trial. Having also enjoyed brief spells at Cardiff, Torino, Barnsley, Salisbury, Marseille, Barcelona and Valencia, he had moved to the United States in 1964 and began studying psychiatry. Thirteen years later, having separated from his first wife and endured an acrimonious but eventually victorious custody battle, Mokone was accused of throwing acid into her face before a similar attack the following week left her lawyer blind in one eye.
“I had promised myself that, if I had found out that Steve was indeed guilty, I would write it down,” Egbers says. “But I became convinced more and more that he was convicted for a crime he didn’t commit.”
RTFA – please. It’s not just the tale of an athlete whose talents were challenged by the racist apartheid system of his home country, South Africa. He suffered through a trial and conviction in his adopted country, the United States. A trial manipulated by the FBI and the CIA.
Mokone’s death at the age of 82 in Washington last month after a prolonged illness was covered extensively in the Netherlands and South Africa’s players wore black armbands in this week’s friendly against Nigeria to commemorate one of their most important pioneers.
Following a ceremony at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium – the venue for the 2010 World Cup Final – next week, the ashes of the man described as “our flag bearer in all the corners of the world” by the sports minister, Fikile Mbalula, will be scattered in his homeland.
Bags of heroin recovered from Lowry’s car
An FBI agent in the District fired for stealing heroin, collected as evidence, for his personal use has been charged with 64 criminal offenses and, through his attorney, said he would plead guilty and focus on avoiding a drug relapse.
The 33-year-old former agent, Matthew Lowry, had been part of a team targeting violent drug traffickers who cross between Maryland and the District. His misconduct compromised cases and forced the dismissal of charges against 28 defendants. It also exposed weaknesses in the handling of drug evidence in the FBI’s Washington field office…
The case represents a stunning turn for the Maryland resident, who graduated near the top of his class at the University of Maryland, earned a graduate degree while working full time for the FBI and tried to follow his father’s distinguished career in law enforcement. He was found six months ago, seemingly incoherent, on a lot near Southeast Washington’s Navy Yard with open bags of heroin in his agency car…
Friends had noticed Lowry’s erratic behavior, but knew that he had a new baby at home and was having trouble in his marriage. They took Lowry to a fellow agent’s apartment that night.
But the next day, agents were cleaning out the trash in the car when they found the drugs. Inside were evidence bags, full of heroin, that had been cut open…
The Washington Post obtained more than 600 pages of internal documents, memos and transcripts of interviews with Lowry’s fellow agents that detail how he managed to obtain the drugs and the personal events leading to his downfall.
In those documents, Lowry described how he took advantage of procedures that allowed a single agent to sign out drugs for lab analysis and did not track whether the packages reached their purported destination. As a result, Lowry was able to store drug evidence in his car, sometimes for as long as a year, with no questions asked. Lowry described how he forged signatures of agents on forms and evidence seals, repackaged drugs in bags and used store-bought laxatives to replaced heroin he had taken to avoid discrepancies in package weight…
Many of the 28 defendants whose cases were dismissed had already pleaded guilty and had been sent to prison, some for up to 10 years or more. Within two months, all of them had been freed and sent home with the convictions erased. Those charges had been filed based solely or substantially on drug evidence that Lowry stole from.
A scary example of unintended consequences – even from a drug addict.
First lynching the FBI ever “solved”
The US justice department will be accused in front of the United Nations on Thursday of failing to account for hundreds of African Americans who disappeared or were murdered by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights era.
The UN’s human rights council in Geneva will be told at a special meeting of its working group that the wave of racial violence that swept through the deep south in the 1940s, 50s and 60s has never been accounted for, despite a congressional law passed seven years ago that instructed the FBI to look again at the issue. The message will be delivered to the UN by a team of lawyers and civil rights experts from Syracuse University who have investigated scores of cold cases of race murders that have never been brought to justice.
They will tell the UN – as part of the world body’s review of the human rights record of the US that reaches a climax in May – that they have compiled a list of more than 300 suspicious killings that the FBI have not even recognized, let alone cleared up. By that calculation there have been hundreds, possibly thousands, of individual murderers who have killed in the name of white supremacy and enjoyed total impunity…
The UN spotlight falls at a time of rising concern about the unresolved nature of America’s sordid history of race killings. It follows the recent publication of a study by the Equal Justice Initiative that identified almost 4,000 lynchings in the country between 1877 and 1950 – vastly more than previously reported.
The issue has also been heightened by growing public concern about contemporary police shootings of unarmed black people such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. The Syracuse experts will invite the UN to draw a parallel between the recent spate of police shootings and killings in the civil rigohts era, many of which occurred with the active co-operation or silence of local law enforcement agencies.
One more overdue class of justice ignored, dismissed, falsified by our political establishment. With few exceptions, even self-described liberals rely on lousy information and excuses from the Department of Justice, the FBI. Phony reports which neither recognize real numbers and real reasons. Racism is something that “other people” are guilty of as far as American law enforcement is concerned. More self-deception.
Not until the era of Mississippi Burning could the FBI even claim to have solved a lynching. And they didn’t do the grunt work in that case either. Civil Rights activists, groups constituted to fight for legal protection for civil rights workers, knew from the beginning where to look for the murderers of Schwerner, Goodman and Cheney. The FBI dragged their feet, as ever. They were pushed by public pressure into finally doing something useful.
The FBI track record through the whole disgraceful history of racist murders in the United States was absolutely perfect up till then. No lynchings were ever solved by the FBI. None. Zero.
During an unannounced visit to Apple’s Covent Garden store
Following comments regarding Apple Watch specifications and an upcoming Apple Store revamp, Cook spoke with the Telegraph in an extensive interview covering data privacy, government snooping, terrorism and more.
The Apple chief is cognizant of the amount of customer information being “trafficked around” by corporations, governments and other organizations, saying data sharing is a practice that goes against Apple’s core philosophies. He said consumers, however, “don’t fully understand what is going on” at present, but “one day they will, and will be very offended.”
“None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information,” Cook said. “This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn’t give it up. We shouldn’t give in to scare-mongering or to people who fundamentally don’t understand the details…”
The publication also asked about implications of terrorism, especially government surveillance operations created with the intent of aiding law enforcement agencies. Cook took a hard-nosed stance on the topic, saying the issue is a non-starter in his book because terrorists use proprietary encryption tools not under the control of U.S. or UK governments.
“Terrorists will encrypt. They know what to do,” Cook said. “If we don’t encrypt, the people we affect [by cracking down on privacy] are the good people. They are the 99.999 percent of people who are good.” He added, “You don’t want to eliminate everyone’s privacy. If you do, you not only don’t solve the terrorist issue but you also take away something that is a human right. The consequences of doing that are very significant…”
The executive reiterated Apple’s mantra of making products, not marketing consumers as products. Every device and service that comes out of Cupertino is designed to store only a minimal amount of customer information, Cook said.
Finally, Cook talked about privacy as it applies to Apple Pay, the fledgling payments service Apple rolled out in October. Unlike other payments processors, Apple designed Apple Pay to reveal little to no information to outside parties, including itself.
“If you use your phone to buy something on Apple Pay, we don’t want to know what you bought, how much you paid for it and where you bought it. That is between you, your bank and the merchant,” Cook said. “Could we make money from knowing about this? Of course. Do you want us to do that that? No. Would it be in our value system to do that? No. We’ve designed [Apple Pay] to be private and for it to be secure.”
I love the privacy of Apple Pay. I haven’t stopped smiling since the first time a checkout clerk exclaimed…”It doesn’t even tell me your name!”
This is excerpted from a long interview in the TELEGRAPH – worth reading.
The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers…
That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.
Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said.
The firm declined to publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. The NSA is the agency responsible for gathering electronic intelligence on behalf of the United States.
A former NSA employee told Reuters that Kaspersky’s analysis was correct, and that people still in the intelligence agency valued these spying programs as highly as Stuxnet. Another former intelligence operative confirmed that the NSA had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts relied on it.
Kaspersky published the technical details of its research on Monday, which should help infected institutions detect the spying programs, some of which trace back as far as 2001.
Another opportunity to confirm which politicians and pundits are serious about protecting individual privacy and which consider kissing government spy-butts more important. Let’s see who lines up on which side in coming days discussing this latest revelation.
Meanwhile, our government will continue to tell us the biggest cyber-dangers are script-kiddies dwnloading movies and crooks raiding ATMs. Just ignore wholesale spying on everyone on the planet who owns a computer or a cellphone.
If the NSA gets their way, the Internet of Everything will have your refrigerator telling American spy agencies what you plan to have for lunch.
When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech before huge crowds on the National Mall in August 1963, the FBI took notice.
“We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security,” FBI domestic intelligence chief William Sullivan wrote in a memo two days later. A massive surveillance operation on King was quickly approved, and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover became increasingly fixated on proving that King had Communist ties, and discrediting him generally.
The surveillance failed to show that King was a Communist, but it did result in many tapes of extramarital sexual liaisons by King. So, the next year, Sullivan sent the following unsigned letter to King’s home. An unredacted version of it was only recently unearthed by Yale historian Beverly Gage, and published in the New York Times in November:
RTFA for all the racist and reactionary crap involved in this FBI project. Understand one thing – one thing the nicely-nicely journalists who published this in the NY Times and at Vox.com online will not say.
The miserable lowlife pricks who think like this have infected our government since before we won our independence. They have occasionally been shut down. They never left. Preserving creeps like this, saving them to get their taxpayer-funded pension, is part of what Good Old Boys Clubs are for. They’ve learned not to be as public about their racism, they don’t even use code words like the smarmy bigots in the Tea Party.
But, they’re still here. They still get their chances at character assassination every time someone decides security is a higher priority than democracy and transparency.
While many Americans were cozying up on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the National Security Agency was busy posting dozens of quarterly reports detailing incidents where it potentially violated U.S. laws through improper monitoring of U.S. citizens and foreigners…
Yes, they hoped no one would notice.
The NSA, like other American intelligence agencies, relies on a 1981 executive order that legalized the surveillance of foreigners living outside of the U.S. It uses that same executive order “to sweep up the international communications of countless Americans,” the American Civil Liberties Union writes.
…The NSA report’s executive summary reads, “After foreign intelligence or counterintelligence information is acquired, it must be analyzed to remove or mask certain protected categories of information, including U.S. person information, unless specific exceptions apply.”
“Data incorrectly acquired is almost always deleted,” it continues.
Bet that makes you feel secure.
Of course, it doesn’t happen quite like that. Edward Snowden’s 2013 leaks revealed the NSA is monitoring more than 1 billion people globally. Its spying on Americans is expansive.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that has been dredging up documents since July 2013. These most recent documents are a series of quarterly reports turned over to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board. They date from late 2001 to mid-year 2013…
The heavily redacted reports detail many, many incidents where NSA agents pulled up the wrong information with the database. Each incident is followed by a statement that the data was either not accessed or the query and results were deleted.
Other reports cover agents being granted access to data without the proper training or using searches that were no longer meant to be in effect. Raw data was at times accidentally emailed or kept on an unsecured computer.
There is also at least one instance where an NSA employee purposefully sought out data that was both unnecessary and illegal. One document states a woman went through her husband’s phone contacts “without his knowledge to obtain names and phone numbers for targeting” over a period of 2-3 years…
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board published a report in January stating the case for ending phone records collection. But legislators have yet to pass any limits on the NSA’s power.
Anyone who believes Congress controlled by Republicans and Tea Bag Nutballs will clamp down on the NSA should know I have a seawater resort I’d like to sell them in La Bajada, New Mexico.
Not that the usual clot of Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and just plain cowards of both parties are likely to make any bipartisan changes in NSA or CIA or FBI practices.
Mitch McConnell’s new intern
Due to technological revolutions outside its control, the Department of Defense (DoD) anticipates the dawn of a bold new era of automated war within just 15 years. By then, they believe, wars could be fought entirely using intelligent robotic systems armed with advanced weapons.
So, they may as well help it along. Right?
Last week, US defense secretary Chuck Hagel announced the ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’—a sweeping plan to identify and develop cutting edge technology breakthroughs “over the next three to five years and beyond” to maintain global US “military-technological superiority.” Areas to be covered by the DoD programme include robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, Big Data and advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing…
The Pentagon plans to monopolize imminent “transformational advances” in nanotechnology, robotics, and energy…
Pointing out that “sensitive personal information” can now be easily mined from online sources and social media, they call for policies on “Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to determine the Department’s ability to make use of information from social media in domestic contingencies”—in other words, to determine under what conditions the Pentagon can use private information on American citizens obtained via data-mining of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and so on.
Just in case the NSA missed anything.
Yet the most direct military application of such technologies, the Pentagon study concludes, will be in “Command-Control-Communications, Computers and Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (C4ISR)”—a field led by “world-class organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA).”
RTFA for lots more scary crap from the government sector responsible for bringing us everything from Agent Orange to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.
Let me say it once again. Either takeover the Democrats and install a backbone or go the 3rd Party route to twist their arms and inspire the courageous action needed to forestall this version of the future. Because you know we ain’t gonna have any robots big enough to fight back against theirs.