Tagged: Guardian

Feds counting killings by US coppers — finally

The US government is trialling a new open-source system to count killings by police around the country, in the most comprehensive official effort so far to accurately record the number of deaths at the hands of American law enforcement.

The pilot program was announced by the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, on Monday and follows concerted calls from campaigners and lawmakers for better official data on police killings, after a nationwide debate about race and policing was sparked by protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

In anticipation of the launch, further details of the Department of Justice program were shared with the Guardian, which publishes The Counted, a crowdsourced investigative project that attempts to track all those killed by US law enforcement in 2015. The program is understood to be already active, with a view to full implementation at the start of 2016.

The program will be run by the DoJ’s statistics division, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and is seen internally as a more robust version of the currently defunct Arrest Related Deaths Count, which published annual data between 2003 and 2009 using statistics supplied by some of the United States’ 18,000 law enforcement agencies. The BJS eventually stopped collecting this data in 2014 as the level of reporting varied dramatically from state to state, due to the voluntary nature of the program.

The new program, Lynch said on Monday, will start by procuring open-sourced records, such as media reports, of officer-involved deaths, and then move towards verifying facts about the incident by surveying local police departments, medical examiner’s offices and investigative offices.

This approach is near-identical to the one employed by The Counted. A BJS official told the Guardian that the methodology would essentially standardise data collection, meaning the DoJ would no longer have to rely on voluntary reporting by local law enforcement. It is understood that The Counted along with the Washington Post’s police shootings count are being monitored as part of the DoJ program.

RTFA for some discussion, some bullshit, from government officials. Some truth leaks through.

Still, we’re witnessing a good example of citizens and journalism together shaming the government into doing their job. Casual engagement based on budget and happenstance isn’t a productive way to serve the public.

Kudos to everyone from The GUARDIAN to localized groups like #blacklivesmatter for keeping the pressure on.

UK terrorism case ends in acquittal – no one allowed to say why

Ian Cobain

Ian Cobain, a reporter with The Guardian, is one of very few people who know why a student arrested by armed British police officers in 2013 was finally acquitted this year of terrorism charges.

Problem is, he cannot report what he knows. He was allowed to observe much of the trial, but only under strict conditions intended to keep classified material secret. His notebooks are being held by Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. And if he writes — or even talks — about the reason that the student, Erol Incedal, 27, was acquitted, Mr. Cobain faces prosecution and possibly jail.

“I know the essence of what was happening,” Mr. Cobain said, “but I can’t tell, I can’t even talk to my editor about this.”

Having initially gone along reluctantly with the reporting restrictions, a number of British news organizations are now challenging them in court. And yes, the challenge itself is being heard under secrecy rules that leave the public mostly excluded. Were Mr. Cobain to break the law and disclose what he knows publicly, his prosecution would also take place in secret…

The case is among the latest to highlight the growing debate about the proper balance between civil liberties and national security in the age of terrorism. That debate has intensified this year in the United States and across much of Europe, with nations reflecting on decisions they have made since the Sept. 11 attacks and reacting to more recent developments, from the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris to disclosures in Germany about eavesdropping by the United States National Security Agency…

But the Incedal case has focused attention on whether governments are cloaking too many of their activities in national security classifications, insulating themselves from public debate and accountability for mistakes or collusion with suspects.

It’s hard to know quite who is being protected in all this,” said David Davis, a lawmaker from the governing Conservative Party and a former minister…“The implication is that this is more about the embarrassment of the agencies than it is about real questions of national security…”

Please RTFA. This case, the repressive manipulation by government, courts and the thought police is not happening in isolation. The parallels with the American FISA court and actions of the NSA, FBI, other alphabetized fascists is striking.

The good fortune is that journalism in the UK is willing to challenge restrictions – even in roundabout ways – while most US media is self-restricted to entertainment. And it ain’t folks who believe in Free Speech who get to determine what is entertainment.

There is beaucoup detail, anecdotal adventures in the dreamland nightmares of our spooks and politicians.

Pic of the Day – and more

Click to enlargeAP/Nati Harnik

Sunlight streams through the windows of a burned-out building in Plattsmouth, Nebraska.

US polar vortex: the best pictures: The most extreme weather in decades has swept across North America, sending the mercury plummeting and causing chaos – but also creating stunning pictures.

Snowden raises the count of world leaders bugged by NSA to 35

The United States monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders according to classified documents leaked by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, Britain’s Guardian newspaper…

Phone numbers were passed on to the U.S. National Security Agency by an official in another government department, according to the documents, the Guardian said…

It added that staff in the White House, State Department and the Pentagon were urged to share the contact details of foreign politicians…

“In one recent case, a U.S. official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders,” reads an excerpt from a confidential memo dated October 2006 which was quoted by the Guardian.

The identities of the politicians in question were not revealed.

The revelations in the center-left Guardian suggested that the bugging of world leaders could be more widespread than originally thought, with the issue set to overshadow an EU summit in Brussels.

It’s worth a chuckle to see the stodgy and sanctimonious “neutral” editors at Reuters feel the need to identify the GUARDIAN as “center-left”. Poisonally, I think they point out corruption and class-based politics enough to qualify properly as just plain “left”.

Either road, there ain’t any “center-right” newspapers or politicians working at protecting our privacy and liberty regardless of the number of times they mouth those words in their populist blather.

Our government opposes request to reveal spying demands

The U.S. Justice Department has told a secret surveillance court that it opposes a request from technology companies to reveal more about the demands they receive for user information, according to court papers released on Wednesday.

Negotiations between the federal government and companies such as Google have gone on for months, and while U.S. spy agencies said they plan to be more transparent, they have opposed company requests to disclose more detailed data…

Microsoft, Yahoo!, LinkedIn and Facebook are among the companies seeking permission to publish statistics about the extent of the demands placed on them.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post, using former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as a source, reported beginning in June the companies’ deep involvement with U.S. surveillance efforts.

The companies said some of the reporting was erroneous, so they want to reveal, for example, how many of their users are encompassed in surveillance demands and the total number of compulsory requests under specific laws.

The Justice Department said in its response: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

The surveillance court has not yet ruled publicly on the companies’ request.

RTFA if you honestly feel you need to read the crap the DOJ released as an answer to the questions raised in this confrontation.

Frankly, I think the average 6th grader has heard sufficient phony-baloney press releases read on the evening news by TV talking heads to be capable of coming pretty close to reproducing the excuses offered by any group of American politicians.

The whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said…

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing…”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government…

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.

As for his future…he views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.

But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

Lots more in the article. A worthwhile read – to aid in understanding the processes that brought Ed Snowden to these conclusions. Watch the whole video up top. He’s bright, articulate, obviously he has been thinking about the hows and why of such a decision for a long time.

I wish him well. He’s done our nation, our democratic traditions, a service.