Friday, June 7th, 2013 — Good Afternoon, Stay Safe
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Crime Scenes Unit / Police Lab
NYPD Almost Destroyed Ricin Sample Before it Was Tested, Sources Say
By Murray Weiss — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘DNAinfo New York.Com News’ / New York, NY
MANHATTAN — The NYPD nearly destroyed deadly ricin sent in a threatening letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg by testing it for fingerprints and other evidence without identifying what the substance was, sources told DNAinfo New York.
As "On the Inside" reported Wednesday, city officials, led by the NYPD, ignored their own protocols in dealing with the letter, which was found at a city mail facility last month. As a result, the city didn't determine that the letter was laced with ricin, a potentially deadly substance.
Sources say in the NYPD's zeal to crack the case, they focused on finding forensic evidence, such as DNA or fingerprints, on the letter to try to identify the sender.
Those efforts included spreading fingerprint dusting powder and other chemicals on the evidence, which nearly destroyed the ricin sample, sources say.
The ricin languished for days unidentified in the NYPD lab, leaving the city and investigators in the dark as to the threat it caused.
It was only after Mark Glaze, the head of Bloomberg’s Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns organization, received a similar ricin-laced letter at his Washington office days later that officials realized the letter Bloomberg received had never been properly tested.
“This was an important breach of protocols that placed Mr. Glaze in harm’s way,” a federal law enforcement source said.
“If we knew the substance was ricin right away on the day it arrived in New York, it would have triggered notifications to people to be on alert for similar letters, which would have been intercepted, and Mr. Glaze likely would have been spared exposure to the ricin letter.”
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The screw-up started when a letter threatening Bloomberg over his anti-gun initiatives arrived May 24 at the Gold Street mail center in Lower Manhattan. The letter contained a mysterious orange substance.
City bioterrorism protocols established after the near-deadly 2001 anthrax attacks in New York required the NYPD to take the toxic missive to the city's Department of Health for sophisticated tests.
But that never occurred.
According to a DOH spokeswoman, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection conducted a test, which sources say only determined that the air was safe.
But the DEP does not test or identify potentially hazardous materials. That job is left to the Health Department. Its website clearly spells out under the category “Responding To A Suspected Bioterrorist" that "if a bioterrorism agent is suspected there will be proper specimen collection and packaging to transport to the NYC DOHH Public Health Laboratory for reference lab testing.”
Meanwhile, three Emergency Service Unit cops were sickened by their contact with the New York letter.
Ultimately, it was not until Tuesday, May 28 — after the scare involving Glaze, whose letter was found that Sunday — that New York officials realized their mistake.
On May 29, the letter to the mayor was finally turned over to the feds and was driven by agents from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force to the U.S. Department of Defense National Bioforensic Analysis Center in Maryland, where it was finally determined to be ricin.
NYCLU Report Shows Racial Disparities In Marijuana Possession Arrests
By: Jeanine Ramirez — Thursday, June 6th, 2013; 8:24 p.m. ‘NY 1 News’ / New York
Marijuana arrests are way up. A new report from the New York Civil Liberties Union says that the city is the marijuana arrest capital of the entire country.
"In 1991, in New York City, there were 771 arrests for marijuana," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. "Last year, there were nearly 50,000."
The report covers about a decade of statistics. It finds that blacks were arrested far more often than whites.
"New York City has a problem of racial disparities that is evident to everybody who looks at the numbers," Lieberman said.
Those disparities are greatest in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where blacks were nine times more likely than whites to be arrested for low-level marijuana possession. Yet Lieberman said studies show that whites use marijuana more.
"It's been well-documented that white people use and smoke marijuana far more than black people do," she said.
Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who's been a loud critic of the New York City Police Department's stop, question and frisk policy, said the NYCLU findings don't surprise him. Many of those arrests are made during stop-and-frisks, which critics argue target young blacks and Hispanics in the first place.
"We have a big problem when the mayor and the commissioner simply don't acknowledge that there's a different policing strategy that's based solely on race," Williams said.
"Marijuana is the top arrest category for stop-and-frisk," Lieberman said.
In a statement, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne told NY1 that marijuana arrests "are down 32 percent this year on top of a 22 percent decline last year."
He also said that the NYPD focuses efforts on stopping violent crime in poorer neighborhoods.
"All 26 individuals shot last weekend, including seven fatally, were black or Hispanic. But only the NYCLU would, in the face of 14-year old D'aja Robinson's shooting death last month, denigrate the NYPD's confiscation of 796 guns in street stops last year. Police enforce the law everywhere, but in greater numbers in poor neighborhoods experiencing violent crime the most," Browne's statement read, in part.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said he hasn't looked at the report in detail yet but found fault with it immediately.
"What they don't mention is that marijuana arrests are often ancillary to other arrests," he said. "In other words, possession of marijuana is found on an individual arrested for some other reason."
Kelly also said that the NYCLU focus is off base if it's looking at marijuana arrests while the police department is targeting violent crimes. He maintained that stop-and-frisk is a deterrent.
Opponents say the end result is that many wind up in the criminal justice system based on their race.
Report: racial disparities in NY marijuana arrests
By Michael Hill (The Associated Press) — Friday, June 7th, 2013; 10:35 a.m. EDT
ALBANY, N.Y. — Black people in Brooklyn and Manhattan are almost 10 times more likely than white people to be arrested on low-level marijuana possession charges, and similar racial disparities can be seen around the largest cities in upstate New York, a civil rights group charged Thursday.
The New York Civil Liberties Union analysis of statewide low-level arrests and summonses for violations and misdemeanors from 2010 came two days after its parent organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, reported that blacks nationwide face marijuana arrests more than whites, even though marijuana use by both races is similar.
The New York group analyzed information including FBI crime and census data to conclude that blacks statewide were almost five times more likely to be arrested on low-level marijuana charges.
‘‘This is about a law enforcement policy that targets people of color for behavior that white people can get away with, and there’s something fundamentally wrong with that,’’ said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman, who claims the arrests are a waste of public resources.
Black people were more than four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana in each of the five boroughs of New York City.
‘This is about a . . . policy that targets people of color for behavior that white people can get away with.’ — Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union
In upstate New York, black people were more than seven times more likely to be arrested in Onondaga County, which includes Syracuse; more than six times more likely in Monroe County, which includes Rochester; and more than five times more likely in Erie County, which includes Buffalo, the NYCLU report says.
Police disputed the notion that black people were being targeted.
In New York City, police spokesman Paul Browne said marijuana arrests were down 32 percent this year on top of a 22 percent decline last year. He said while police enforce the law everywhere, enforcement is more focused in poor neighborhoods with the most violent crime.
‘‘Leave it to Donna to worry about minority pot smokers and not the blacks and Hispanics shot and killed in grossly disproportionate numbers each year,’’ Browne said in an e-mail.
Richard Carey, deputy director of the New York State Association Chiefs of Police, said he had not seen the report but the group was not aware of any targeting by any force in the state.
New York State leads the nation in marijuana arrests with 103,698 in 2010, according to the NYCLU.
24 Precinct Police Pursuit / Communications Division
Mistake delayed ambulance to girl, 4, struck by SUV on Upper West Side
In an interview late Thursday , FDNY spokesman Frank Gribbon conceded there was an unnecessary delay of more than 4 minutes for EMS to respond to the call. But he said “human error” was to blame.
By Juan Gonzalez — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
GLITCHES and repeated crashes in the city’s new 911 computer dispatch system appear to have delayed emergency responders during several life-and-death situations this week — possibly even in the crash that killed 4-year-old Ariel Russo.
Ariel died Tuesday when a 17-year-old unlicensed driver who was fleeing police rammed his parents’ SUV into the girl and her grandmother on an upper West Side street corner at about 8:15 a.m.
Logs of 911 calls obtained by the Daily News, as well as interviews with emergency responders, show that it took an unusually long 4 minutes and 18 seconds from the time of the first request for an ambulance from police at the scene to a 911 operator, until the time an ambulance was finally dispatched. Once FDNY and EMS dispatchers received and acknowledged the transmission, it took 3 minutes and 52 seconds to dispatch an ambulance and for it to arrive at the scene.
In an interview late Thursday , FDNY spokesman Frank Gribbon conceded there was an unnecessary delay of more than 4 minutes for EMS to respond to the call. But he said “human error” was to blame, not the new computer system.
“An EMS dispatcher apparently got up from his desk at some point for several minutes and missed the transmission for an ambulance that had been sent by the NYPD operator on a relay,” Gribbon said. “We’ve interviewed the dispatcher and he’s admitted he missed it.”
“At some point, a new person sits down at the dispatch terminal, sees some portion of the transmission — that’s when it gets a high priority and an ambulance is dispatched,” Gribbon added.
Inspector Kim Royster, an NYPD spokeswoman, said in an email only: “There was no operational delay when the call was routed to the dispatchers.”
What is clear is that from the time of the crash until the ambulance’s arrival — roughly eight minutes — cops from the 24th Precinct, including a lieutenant at the scene, radioed 911 four different times in increasingly desperate attempts to get Ariel medical assistance.
In the lieutenant’s last call from the scene, at 8:21 a.m., the cop said Ariel was “semiconscious.”
“Rush EMS to location,” the lieutenant pleaded.
She was still alive, but no one knows if she could have been saved.
“I don’t know how this could happen,” Ariel’s grandmother, Ledy Russo, 61, said Thursday night. “People were saying, ‘Where was the ambulance?’ It took a long time.”
Insiders who work with the new computer system blamed the technology.
“Four minutes is a long time to take down a call,” conceded a 911 supervisor, “but the public doesn’t understand the problems we’re having with this new dispatch system.”
“When you’re trying to type in information, your computer begins buffering, and you then have to wait for 30 seconds or even a minute before you can use it again,” the supervisor explained. “That’s okay if it’s my computer at home, but not okay for a system this important.”
NYPD brass at the main 911 call center in downtown Brooklyn have taken to urging telephone operators to periodically reboot or refresh their computers to avoid the constant freezes — but that also delays the work of answering calls promptly.
According to several insiders, the new system, which NYPD brass deployed for the first time last week, has gone down several times already. The system crashes have forced operators to resort to writing down information about 911 calls on slips of paper, though police officials have said all calls were answered and no one has been endangered.
“It works,” Mayor Bloomberg said of the dispatch system on his radio show Friday, referring to the problems as “bugs” common to any new system.
“You wish you didn’t have bugs,” Bloomberg said, “but that’s the real world.”
Bugs don’t nearly explain the story, emergency officials say.
“This is serious stuff,” said one high ranking EMS official. “The police computers keep getting disconnected from our dispatchers. Sometimes they don’t send us any calls from entire busy precincts for hours at a time. Public safety is being jeopardized.”
That official pointed to other incidents of failed communication this week that have received no attention.
The same morning that Ariel was struck — allegedly by Franklin Reyes, who has been charged with manslaughter — a motorist on I-95 lost control of his car near Co-op City in the Bronx. The car hit a median and overturned. The injured driver managed to get out of the car and a highway police sergeant who arrived at the scene immediately radioed 911.
EMS logs show that the first notification to FDNY and EMS of the accident came in at 11:48 a.m. Within five minutes, an ambulance and fire company had arrived on the scene.
But according to the EMS official: “When our units got there, the sergeant said: ‘What took you guys so long? I’ve been waiting here for an hour and a half.’
“The sergeant kept radioing in the information, but we got it very late,” the EMS official said.
“Our ambulances keep sending messages to police radio and they just disappear in the system without police receiving them,” a veteran EMS dispatcher said. “Something’s very wrong here.”
The new $88 million computer-aided dispatch system, known as ICAD, was developed by Alabama-based Intergraph Corp. As The News reported last week, eerily similar problems emerged when Intergraph rolled out versions of its 911 systems in both Nassau County and San Jose, Calif.
The ICAD is part of a larger overhaul of the city’s 911 system, the first that’s been attempted in decades.
The Bloomberg administration launched the effort after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. But that effort was plagued by years of delays and the failure of several major contractors to deliver what they promised.
Meanwhile, the cost has skyrocketed from $1.3 billion to more than $2 billion.
With Rocco Parascandola and Kerry Burke
FDNY head says 911 glitches not to blame in death
By Unnamed Author(s) (The Associated Press) — Friday, June 7th, 2013; 11:22 a.m. EDT
NEW YORK — New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano says human error is behind a delay getting an ambulance to the scene of an accident that killed a 4-year-old girl.
Cassano said Friday that a dispatcher received the emergency call after Tuesday's crash on the Upper West Side.
But he says it took four minutes before someone spotted the call.
Cassano said it took a total of eight minutes for an ambulance to reach the scene.
Cassano says glitches in the city's new 911 system were not to blame for the delay.
He says it's not clear whether a faster response would have helped Ariel Russo.
Police say an unlicensed 17-year-old driver struck the girl and her grandmother.
The teen has been arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter.
Communications Division / Unprofessional Employees
911 dispatcher LAUGHED during fatal stabbing call — then passed along bad info to cops, tapes reveal
By KIRSTAN CONLEY — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
A 911 dispatcher was caught on tape laughing about a call for a Brooklyn stabbing — then passing along bad information to cops that allowed the victim’s body to rot for days in a basement apartment.
The woman found it hysterical that a mental patient — whose shrink had just called in the potential murder — wasn’t sure whether he had imagined stabbing his girlfriend or if it really happened.
Gregory P. Mango 911 tapes show that a dispatcher passed along bad information about a fatal Brooklyn stabbing - and even laughed during the initial call.
“This man said that he had a dream that — I can’t even talk right now,” the woman chortles on a recording obtained by The Post.
But the dream turned out to be real, cops say.
Ronald Friedfertig was arrested Wednesday for allegedly stabbing Yvonne Geffner to death in their Midwood apartment.
A note left behind said, “She was casting spells on me.”
The shrink made the 911 call on May 30, but Geffner’s body wasn’t found until four days later, when neighbors reported a stench.
“[The call center] got a call for a person possibly stabbed inside a home,” a law-enforcement source said. “The door should have been taken down.”
But cops weren’t told that no one had seen the woman in a week — or that the man’s psychiatrist made the call — so they just knocked and left when no one answered, a source said.
NYPD brass are furious. “They are pissed, and they’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” a source said.
Friedfertig initially told his brother, Menacham, he had a vision that he stabbed Geffner.
Menacham then told the shrink, Noam Koenigsberg.
“He’s not sure if it was real or if it was a dream, but no one has been able to reach [the victim] since,” the doctor told one dutiful 911 operator, Vera McFarland.
McFarland accurately and professionally took down the information and said, “I just hope that it’s not true, but you never know.”
She passed the information to the childish dispatcher, who could barely contain herself, saying the report was “crazy.”
She told a cop no assault had occurred and even mixed up the victim and suspect, mistakenly telling police a hospitalized man wanted his home checked because he dreamed he was attacked there.
By the time cops busted down the door, Friedfertig was already in a mental hospital after throwing himself in front of a Q train.
He’s awaiting arraignment on murder charges as he recovers at Kings County Hospital Center.
An NYPD spokesperson said that the allegations against the dispatcher are being investigated.
Additional reporting by Dan MacLeod
911 Delays & Glitches / Communication Division
Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’ Editorial:
Balky new 911 dispatch system has too many delays and too many questions
Mayor Bloomberg has to figure out what is wrong and fix it
In life-and-death circumstances, 4 minutes and 18 seconds are an eternity. They passed unmercifully for 4-year-old Ariel Russo as she fought for survival on a Manhattan sidewalk — denied the emergency response New York owed her.
Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News reveals that the city’s 911 emergency system failed for that period of time to dispatch an ambulance after police called urgently for one to aid Ariel.
She had been pinned to a wall by a speeding SUV that then pulled away, leaving her semiconscious.
The system failure followed a series of breakdowns in the NYPD’s attempt to launch a new computer-assisted 911 response network. Gonzalez chronicled those snafus starting eight days ago, each of his reports warning public safety was at stake.
Mayor Bloomberg, for one, minimized the threat, saying in the third of Gonzalez’s reports, “You wish you didn’t have bugs but that’s the real world.” Now, the mayor owes an accounting as to what “bugs” delayed Ariel’s care, along with an urgent plan of remedial action.
Ariel was on Amsterdam Ave. with her grandmother when Franklin Reyes, 17, barreled into them as he fled from police, who had pulled him over for driving erratically. Reyes took off only because he was driving without parental permission.
The log of communications by cops is heartbreaking and infuriating. With increasing desperation, they made five calls from 8:15:40 to 8:19:58 — and only then did the system succeed in relaying the summons to the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Service. From that point, an ambulance got to the scene in 3 minutes, 52 seconds.
There is no way to say Ariel would have survived her grave injuries had an ambulance reached her more speedily. But it is certain she was intolerably left without the care she needed, and New York must know that no one else will suffer the same fate .
24 Precinct Police Pursuit
Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’ Editorial:
The cops made me do it
A sweet, beautiful 4-year-old girl is dead, her grandmother is injured and a lawyer wants to blame the police.
The story begins Tuesday morning with 17-year-old Franklin Reyes, who was driving the family SUV without permission and with only a learner’s permit. Cops pulled him over on West 89th Street for driving recklessly. As the police walked up to his car, Reyes sped off, leading them on an eight-block chase, blowing through red lights.
It ended with Reyes hitting and killing Ariel Russo, as well as injuring Russo’s grandmother, Katia Gutierrez.
We’ve all read stories about joy-riding teens that ended in tragedy. What bothers us about this one is that the lawyer for the driver is implying it’s all the cops’ fault.
“For some reason or other, they put those lights on, and they scared the wits out of him and he took off,” said Martin Schmukler. Elsewhere he said of police that “they didn’t have to chase him.”
We’ll leave it to a jury to decide the charges against Reyes. We limit ourselves to the obvious: A 17-year-old man who attends a private Catholic high school has no excuse for not knowing what a law-abiding citizen does when the police pull you over.
Ariel Russo is dead not because Reyes went on a joy-ride, or because cops overreacted, but because he stepped on the gas when he should have stayed put.
NYPD Renowned Watering Hole ‘Glacken’s’ Now Being Personally Monitored by 44 Pct. C.O. Insp. Kevin Catalina
NYPD detective charged with DUI
Detective David Rojas was allegedly reeking of booze when Inspector Kevin Catalina spotted him driving in Highbridge.
By Alfred Ng AND Thomas Tracy — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
NOTE: For those non-Bronx and Harlem cops and the geographically challenged NYDN reporters, Glacken's - always an NYPD favorite - is in Mott Haven, not Highbridge and used to be covered by the 40 Precinct before ‘co-terminality’. Now it's right on the southern border line of the 44 Pct with the 40. Geographically, it's actually closer to Harlem's 32 Precinct [1.1 mile] and the 40 Precinct station houses [nine-tens of a mile] than the 44. The 44 Pct. S.H. is a good 2.1 miles away, not six blocks. [Authority: Goggle Maps and MapQuest] - Mike
A detective was charged with driving drunk after a precinct commander found him reeking of alcohol behind the wheel of a car, court papers reveal.
Detective David Rojas was charged with driving while impaired after Inspector Kevin Catalina, the commanding officer of the 44th Precinct, spotted him operating a 2011 Mitsubishi outside Glacken’s Bar and Grill on E. 149th St. in Highbridge Wednesday afternoon, according to court documents.
The bar is about six blocks from the Bronx precinct stationhouse (???). Cops would not say if Rojas is assigned to the 44th Precinct.
The complaint charges that Rojas, who earns more than $82,000 a year, had “glassy, watery eyes and a flushed face” and that Catalina “smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage” on his breath.
Police said Rojas was on duty when he was arrested and suspended, but it was unclear if he was on duty when Catalina allegedly saw him driving drunk.
Rojas scored a .07 on a Breathalyzer, documents showed.
He was released on his own recognizance following his arraignment.
His attorney could not be reached Thursday.
Confines of the 103 Pct.: Viper Unit (Former 83 Pct.) P.O. Sherlon Smikle: Homi - Suicide
Cop who killed self after murdering wife had his gun and badge taken away in May for slapping his spouse
Sherlon Smikle was not charged because she was not badly injured. It remains unclear where and when he got a shotgun.
By Rocco Parascandola , Edgar Sandoval AND Corky Siemaszko — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The New York Daily News’
The crazed cop who murdered his wife on a Queens street with four shotgun blasts before killing himself had his badge and gun yanked in May after he slapped his spouse, sources said Thursday.
Sherlon Smikle was not charged because she was not badly injured, but he was given a “do not harass" order that allowed him to stay in the family home in St. Albans if he behaved himself, the sources said.
And Smikle was also supposed to turn in whatever guns he had at home because of concerns he might harm his wife, they said.
“He understood what was happening and he didn’t make a big fuss about it,” one source said. “He said, ‘Yeah, I know the deal.’"
Smikle handed in his 9-mm. Glock service weapon and his personal 9-mm. Sig Sauer handgun. Police are unsure where and when he got a shotgun.
And on Wednesday evening, Smikle opened fire on 46-year-old Lana Morris outside their Camden Blvd. home, police said.
She was wearing her school-safety agent uniform.
Then, as the mortally wounded Morris lay bleeding amid the scattered shell casings, Smikle walked back inside the home and pumped a single slug into his head, police said.
It’s not clear what kind of weapon Smikle used to kill himself.
The doomed couple’s 8-year-old daughter was not home at the time, police said.
Smikle’s mother, who refused to give her name, called them “good, trying people.”
“At age 32, who you think would have a house like that,” she said of her son, who was actually 33. “He almost finish paying for his house. I love him. He’s caring, decent honest man.”
Smikle has been on the force for eight years and was assigned to patrol Police Service Area 2 in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
But he had a rocky career with the NYPD.
In 2008, Smikle and his then-partner, Blanch O’Neal, threatened to sue the department after claiming a black superior used a racial slur to deride them.
They said their sergeant had given them a tongue-lashing for hanging around the 83rd Precinct instead of patrolling Bushwick on a 97-degree day.
Wife killed by NYPD cop husband in murder-suicide had called to have locks changed hours before brutal slay
By GEORGETT ROBERTS and LARRY CELONA — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
The Queens woman killed by her cop husband contacted a locksmith to have her front-door locks changed just hours before she was gunned down, sources said yesterday.
NYPD school-safety agent Lana Morris — whose husband, Sherlon Smikle, 33, shot her and then himself Wednesday evening — contacted Paragon Security and Locksmith in Queens the day she was killed, asking for two locks to be changed at her St. Albans home.
She already had a restraining order against Smikle, who handed her divorce papers in March, the sources said.
But she apparently wanted more protection — and reached out to the locksmith through Safe Horizon, an agency dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse.
Hours after the call, Smikle chased his wife down the block and blasted her four times with a shotgun. He then went back in the house and killed himself.
Cops had been called to the house at least twice in the past month. In the most recent dispute, Smikle’s NYPD-issued gun was taken away and he was transferred from the 83rd Precinct to the Housing Bureau, the sources said.
Weiner: ‘NYPD Cop Are Fat; Should Do a Couple of Hours Each Tour on Foot & Bicycle Patrol’
Weiner makes big fat cop gaffe
By LIA EUSTACHEWICH and AMBER SUTHERLAND — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The New York Post’
Mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner put his foot in his mouth at a campaign stop yesterday, implying to a crowd in Brooklyn that NYPD officers are fatsos.
The Democratic former congressman was talking about putting cops on bike and foot patrols when he blurted, “I think a few of them could use a few hours on a bike, if you know what I’m saying.”
He later tried to clarify his remark to the crowd at Temple Shaare Emeth in Canarsie, adding that he just wanted cops to “go out and walk and to bike and just be a presence in the community.”
His bike comment came after another campaign event yesterday in which he had an uncomfortable moment during a meeting with Hasidic leaders in Brooklyn.
Rabbi Moshe Leib Rabinovich, a prominent community leader, had asked Weiner about metzitzah b’peh — the controversial Hasidic practice of sucking circumcision blood from infants’ penises.
The Hasids want to repeal a city policy that forces parents to sign waivers before such procedures, and Weiner awkwardly danced around the slicing issue.
“I think Mayor Bloomberg deserves credit for being concerned about health, but there are lines that get drawn all the time,” he told them.
“But government always has to try to find that line.”
Weiner got a blessing from the rabbi, despite his noncommittal response.
NYPD Counterterrorism Surveillance
The Dangerous, Infectious Logic of National Security
By Kai Wright — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘ColorLines Magazine’ / New York, NY
Colorado Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall tried to tell us. “We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” they wrote in a public letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last year. They were correct, both in thier warnings and in their judgment of the public’s stunned response. The senators are bound by oath from offering details, since the Obama administration’s collection of mass data about Americans’ phone calls and Internet communications is classified. But thanks to good journalism we know the truth this week: In the name of fighting terror, President Obama has continued and expanded George W. Bush’s secret trampling of basic civil liberties. The administration has routinely violated rights that American law and culture hold sacred and that this president has repeatedly claimed to defend.
But Wyden and Udall aren’t the only ones who’ve warned, loudly and repeatedly, that the national security apparatus is out of control, verging on lawlessness. Since 2001, Muslim American communities have been under siege. Religious and racial profiling has become the norm, from the FBI down to local police agencies. Some of the most shocking behavior—among the practices we know about, at least—has come from the New York Police Department. Following what we’ve now learned to be common logic at the federal level as well, NYPD has engaged in widespread, indiscriminate spying on Muslim residents across the Northeast. In mosques, universities, restaurants—wherever Muslims gather, NYPD has sent spies and collected information. Everyone making a life inside a Muslim community is guilty until proven innocent.
Muslim community leaders and civil liberties advocates have insisted this sort of preemptive surveillance is unjust and unproductive. But following the logic of the Obama administration, Ray Kelly and Mike Bloomberg insist they must spy on everyone they deem dangerous, because a terrorist could emerge at any moment.
Others have warned of this reckless expansion of “national security” as well. Like Muslim communities, immigrant communities of all sorts have been battered by it since 2001, and with particular force by this president. The Obama administration has deported more people than any previous one. It has done so using legally questionable enforcement programs that shrug in the direction of things like due process—of the systems we’ve created as a nation to protect residents from the whims of the state. Anecdotal evidence suggests detainees are deliberately housed in places that make it more difficult for them to access legal support. States and localities have been compelled to turn over to the feds information about people accused of crimes, in order to begin the deportation process. In one border-state program, which is poised to expand as part of the Senate’s immigration reform bill, detained immigrants are processed together in mass hearings that make a mockery of measured justice. They accept plea deals en masse and with limited legal counsel for the crime of crossing the border without authorization, deals that land them in detention for anywhere from a couple of weeks to 20 years. In fact, border crossing has been prosecuted with such haste and so little measure that, according to one study, “illegal entry” and “illegal re-entry” were the most prosecuted crimes in the federal judicial system in 2011, accounting for more than 70,000 prosecutions.
Immigration reform advocates have for years been warning that these processes are un-American. They have argued that the legal and political justifications for our breakneck deportation system degrades our basic values as a nation. But the administration has defended its deportation pipeline, successfully and with vigor, by draping it in national security. It is necessary, we are told, to keep us safe. We must violate our ideals to defend our laws and hold our border.
And we can’t stop with Muslims and immigrants. The same logic has long been used to justify the so-called war on drugs. Our political leaders long ago exempted many urban, black communities from due process protections. Our prisons and jails are filled today with hugely disproportionate numbers of black men and women not by accident, but because Congress and states passed laws that, like the Patriot Act, declared the state could do as it pleased when pursuing those it deemed dangerous. Prosecutors and police were given unchecked power; judges were stripped of their balancing authority. Today in New York City, in the name of keeping my neighborhood safe, the police routinely detain and search young black men with no more justification than their desire to do so.
It is comforting to believe these things have nothing to do with one another, to insist that the administration’s shocking spying program is a distinct issue from the trends we’ve witnessed in communities of color for years. But the logic used to defend secretly collecting the communications data of people not accused of any crime is the same logic used to defend NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program and Homeland Security’s deportation apparatus. The logic of “national security” was developed and honed by law enforcement practices inside communities of color. It is one of the more striking examples of a basic truth: racial injustice is cancerous; it eats the national body from the inside out.
“The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue,” the New York Times editorial board wrote in a withering June 6 op-ed. Indeed, but a fair review of the record must conclude that credibility was lost long ago, perhaps somewhere along the way to deporting 400,000 people a year via morally, if not legally questionable powers. It’s a cautionary tale for people across the ideological spectrum on state power. Injustice ignored will surely spread.
NYPD $$ Lawyer Lotto $$
Witness Deal Tainted Verdict in NYPD Lawsuit
By ADAM KLASFELD — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The Courthouse News Service’ / Pasadena, CA
(CN) - A federal judge threw out a six-figure jury award because one of the witnesses signed a deal to take a cut of the action in exchange for her help on the case.
Sean Thomas had brought a lawsuit against New York City Police Department over the supposed excessive force he endured on Dec. 20, 2008. Police officers had responded to the Bronx apartment of Thomas' then-girlfriend, Letitia Marrow, because neighbors complained about a "domestic violence dispute."
"The night ended with Thomas handcuffed, wrapped in a restraint blanket, strapped to a stretcher, and transported in an ambulance to receive a psychiatric evaluation at St. Barnabas Hospital, where he was involuntarily sedated," U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter Jr. explained.
Marrow testified for Thomas at the July 2012 trial, but the couple never revealed that they had entered into a contract three days earlier promising Thomas "monetary compensation in the amount of 20% of the net worth of the settlement agreement."
The deal said Thomas had five days from his receipt of the award to pay Marrow her share, in exchange for her assistance in the civil matter. It also said Thomas could continue living in Marrow's house rent-free until 60 days after the resolution of the case, regardless of whether he won or lost the case.
Marrow furthermore agreed to help Thomas pay off his motorcycle in $50 monthly installments.
"In addition, plaintiff's counsel, David Zelman and Ryan Asher, were indicated as being 'cc'd' on the agreement but they deny any knowledge of the content of the agreement until the time they revealed it to the court," Judge Carter noted.
Zelman, the attorney for Thomas, told Courthouse News that a contract of this nature was doomed from the start.
"This type of contract is void for public policy reasons and never could be enforced," he said.
A transcript of the Thomas trial provided by a lawyer for the NYPD shows that city lawyers grilled Marrow on the witness stand last year about her financial interest in the case.
"Q. Plaintiff is your boyfriend, right?
"Q. So, in other words, you're here to help your boyfriend, right?
"Q. And in fact you have an interest in this lawsuit, correct?
"Q. You have no interest in this lawsuit, that's your testimony to this jury?
"A. Just justification."
Asked about whether Thomas intended to pay her, she answered, "I can't answer for him," according to the transcript.
"Q. No. I'm asking you if you will benefit from plaintiff recovering money from this lawsuit, Ms. Marrow.
"A. If plaintiff decides to benefit me from it. I can't answer what plaintiff is going to do with his money."
That sworn statement helped persuade the jury to award Thomas $625,000 two days later. U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter, Jr. entered the judgment on July 11, 2012.
Later that month, Thomas borrowed money from a lending company for a portion of the award, but he refused to give any of those proceeds to Marrow. She then sued for breach of contract in Bronx County Civil Court.
Zelman, the lawyer, said he and his co-counsel first learned about the contract after the filing of the lawsuit, and that they immediately disclosed both to Judge Carter
Attributing the "misconduct" to Thomas, the judge said he would not entertain "the messy possibility that Thomas's attorneys, had they known about the agreement in advance, had a duty as officers of the court, to divulge it."
The skeptical judge added: "If plaintiff's counsel were aware of the agreement at the time of trial, their knowledge would be imputed to Thomas as misconduct, not to mention the possibility of separate disciplinary action before the bar."
Zelman bristled at the suggestion in a phone interview.
"It was us who disclosed this contract to the court," he said. "It makes no sense that we knew about it and tried to hide about it to the court."
Judge Carter ordered a new trial on the excessive force case because he said "credibility was the very heart of" it.
Zelman insisted that the judge made the wrong call because the contract was an "ancillary matter" involving a non-party witness, and Marrow's testimony was consistent with the other witnesses.
Though the contract was not "completely honest," Zelman said case law for a deception of this nature does not require the court to "vitiate a jury's verdict."
He added that he was considering an appeal.
The New York City Law Department was predictably pleased with the ruling.
"Paying off a witness is a serious crime," city attorney Raju Sundaran said in a statement. "As the court recognized, the plaintiff's misconduct completely undermined the verdict."
New York State
Report: Black NYers More Likely Than Whites to be Arrested for Marijuana
By Jessica Bakeman [Albany Bureau] — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘Gannett News’
ALBANY, NY-- Black New Yorkers are nearly five times more likely to be arrested on low-level marijuana possession charges than whites, and the disparity is much wider in the state's most populous counties, a report Thursday found.
In Monroe County, for example, a black person is six and a half times more likely to be arrested on a pot charge than a white person, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union report, which analyzed FBI data from 2001 to 2010.
Statewide, black people are four and a half times more likely to be busted for pot, and in parts of New York City, they're nine times more likely.
"In all corners of New York state, police are targeting people of color for marijuana possession arrests," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. "Arresting and jailing thousands of people for possessing small amounts of marijuana does not make safer streets. It only needlessly disrupts people's lives and fosters distrust between the police and the communities they are sworn to serve."
New York leads the nation in marijuana arrests, with 103,698 possession busts in 2010, the report said. The state with the second highest total, Texas, had 74,286.
In New York, there are 535 arrests per 100,000 people, a rate that's double the national average.
Police said they do not purposefully pursue minority individuals.
David Harder, sheriff of Broome County, where a black person is nearly six times as likely to get arrested on a pot charge than a white person, said his force's drug arrests are typically a result of information obtained by informants. The officers do not take race into consideration, he said.
"We don't target any particular color," Harder said. "We just look at whoever is dealing, and that's who we go after."
Rochester City Police Chief James Sheppard said the disparity is an issue of economics. In an urban center with high rates of poverty and low levels of education, minority youth turn to illegal activity, he said.
He said the vast majority of Rochester's drug arrests are street busts in which officers spot individuals they believe to be selling marijuana.
"It's not necessarily that black guys are in their cars or in their homes getting arrested for weed. A lot of our efforts are focused on dealing with the street-corner sales," Sheppard said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pushed for decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. He wants to reform New York City's "stop and frisk" policy, which the governor argues disproportionately targets young minorities who are ordered by police to empty their pockets. And if they are found with marijuana, the youth are arrested -- a blemish on their future, proponents of the bill said.
The state Assembly passed a bill last month that would lower the penalty for public possession of less than 15 grams of pot from a misdemeanor to a violation.
But Republicans in the state Senate have opposed the proposal. The GOP conference shares control of the chamber with the four-member Independent Democratic Conference, and leaders of both must agree on whether to bring a bill to the floor.
During a conference call with reporters Thursday, Lieberman put the pressure on the IDC to pass the bill. She said IDC Leader Jeffrey Klein, D-Bronx, claimed that he and his members left the mainstream Democrats in order to enact progressive legislation.
"This is their opportunity to stand up for fair and just criminal-justice policy and change the marijuana laws that make New York an embarrassment to the rest of the nation and perpetrate day after day racial inequities," Lieberman said.
IDC Spokesman Eric Soufer said in a statement that the conference supported a similar bill that Cuomo had floated earlier in the session. Soufer blamed Senate Democrats for stalling the legislation.
"As was reported by multiple news outlets earlier this year, the Senate would have already passed stop-and-frisk reforms had Senate Democrats not stood in the way of the governor's sensible proposal," he said.
Senate Democrats refuted claims that they did not support Cuomo's legislation. Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, stressed in a statement the conference's support for decriminalizing marijuana.
"These arrests, which are usually of young people of color, go on permanent records which impact housing, educational and professional prospects," Stewart-Cousins said. "We must pass a marijuana standardization law now."
Could Stop and Frisk Become Permanent?
A law passes the New York Senate that could make it easier for officers to arrest with little cause.
By Keli Goff — Thursday, June 6th, 2013 ‘The Root’ / Washington, DC
(The Root) -- While stop and frisk, the controversial practice of the New York City Police Department that has been proved to disproportionately target young black and Latino males, faces a serious court challenge, a new state law may render a court ruling to end the practice moot.
The New York Senate has passed a law that would make it a felony to harass an on-duty police officer. But the language of the bill is sure to raise eyebrows among civil libertarians and critics of stop and frisk. The bill would actually make it a crime to "annoy" a police officer.
According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, the definition of "annoy" is "to disturb or irritate especially by repeated acts" or "to harass especially by quick brief attacks." Both definitions, however, leave a lot open to interpretation, which is precisely the problem with writing into the law a behavior as vague as "annoying" someone.
Such a law seems to create more questions than answers. For instance, if an officer stops someone and the person replies, "With all due respect, I haven't done anything that warrants being stopped or frisked," would an officer be able to reply, "I'm going to ask you one more time to cooperate, and if you don't, you will officially be annoying me and I can take you into custody"?
Or what if someone begins filming an officer's interaction with someone else out of concerns over possible police brutality. Could an officer say, "Your camera is annoying me, and I can arrest you for that"? Not to mention the issue of free speech.
In 2006, New Yorker John Swartz was arrested for giving an officer the middle finger during a traffic stop. Not until seven years later did a federal appeals court rule in Swartz's favor after he sued the police department. However, this new law would protect the officer's behavior.
Despite passing the Senate, the law would not take effect until passing the New York State Assembly. The Root has requested comment from the office of New York state Sen. Joseph Griffo, the law's chief sponsor, and will update this post should we hear back.
Report: Ex-Jersey City deputy police chief to get more than $500K in unused sick pay
By E. Assata Wright — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The Hudson Reporter’ / Hoboken, NJ
JERSEY CITY – Recently-retired Jersey City Deputy Police chief Peter Nalbach will receive a 565,797 payout from city taxpayers for 754 unused sick leave days, according to a report by NJ.com.
Nalbach is among several senior Jersey City Police Department brass who retired effective June 1. In total, these retirees, who include former JCPD Chief Thomas Comey, will collectively receive almost $1.3 million in terminal leave payouts for unused sick days.
According to NJ.com, Comey will receive $170,384 for 215.5 for his unused sick days, on top of the $26,496 Comey already received when he cashed in some of his unused time. But the ex-chief’s payout is dwarfed by the $306,604 city taxpayers will have to fork over to Robert Kilduff, another deputy chief, for his 419 unused sick days, according to NJ.com. Former Deputy Chief Hugh Donaghue will receive $252,768 for 344 unused sick days
These payouts are just the beginning.
As previously reported, between June 1 and the end of the year, at least 27 deputy chiefs, captains, sergeants, detectives, and senior police officers are expected to retire. These individuals have already filed the paperwork necessary to retire. According to estimates from the city, residents will have to pay between $4.5 million to $5.4 million to cover the retirement benefits owed to these 27 retirees.
Mayor-elect Steven Fulop, who gets sworn in on July 1, has vowed to audit all unused leave days and payout requests from these retiring officers.
Minnesota: Heroin Back with a Vengeance
Hennepin County heroin fears surge with deaths, ODs
Officials, parents, even a user raised alarms about the ease across state in getting the drug as purity rises and price falls.
By KELLY SMITH — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The Minneapolis Star Tribune’ / Minneapolis - St. Paul, MN
Heroin deaths and overdoses surged to record levels in the Twin Cities metro area last year, leading officials to warn Thursday that the toll could climb even higher in 2013.
“The supply of heroin has never been greater … it’s limitless in the state of Minnesota,” said Carol Falkowski, a former state chemical health director.
Hennepin County, which saw drug seizures double from 2010 to 2012, recorded 37 deaths in 2012 — up from four in 2008. So far this year, 15 people have died of heroin overdoses in Scott, Dakota and Hennepin counties, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office, which handles many autopsies from beyond its own boundaries.
“It’s a very tough battle,” Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said at a news conference Thursday at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. “This isn’t just one problem for one county. It’s everywhere.”
Part of the reason for the rise in heroin use is the increased use of prescription pills such as OxyContin and Vicodin, authorities said Thursday. People who abuse such medications often turn to heroin, which mimics the effects of pills but in Minnesota can be even cheaper and stronger.
The amount of heroin seized across the state rose 78 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to Department of Public Safety figures released last year. For at least the past three years, authorities report, Mexican drug cartels have flooded Minneapolis with high volumes of cheap and near-pure heroin, designed to increase demand.
‘He took a risk’
One of the 37 people who died of a heroin overdose in Hennepin County last year was Nick Moore, a marathon runner and University of Minnesota graduate student with big plans to “save the planet” with his bioengineering master’s degree, his mother said.
When the avid rugby player went to a doctor with an injury, he was given prescription pills that triggered a craving for heroin, which he had tried years before. He vowed to his sister he wouldn’t yield to the desire, but a few months later, on Feb. 12, 2012, another shoulder injury had him injecting heroin so he could study that night pain-free.
He was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment from an overdose. He was 25.
“Nobody could believe that was Nick; it just didn’t make sense,” said his mother, Laura Moore, of Fridley. “He was in no way a recreational user. It was to relieve pain for that night. … He took a risk; he just paid the ultimate penalty.”
His story is part of a grim trend that shows no signs of slowing.
Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, which runs treatment centers across the state, set a record for admissions earlier this year. In March, Dakota County had its largest heroin bust in its history, seizing more than 2 pounds from an Apple Valley apartment. And emergency rooms at the Hennepin County Medical Center and North Memorial Medical Center are seeing more heroin and prescription overdoses.
“Just about every hospital in the state is seeing heroin overdoses; it’s not just an urban problem,” said Dr. David Roberts, who works in the North Memorial ER. “It’s an enormous problem. [And] it’s getting worse.”
A deadly combination
Earlier this year, new data compiled by Falkowski showed that heroin and prescription pill abuse reached a record high in the Twin Cities in the first half of 2012, accounting for 21 percent of all addiction treatment patients, second only to alcohol. Heroin use has quadrupled since 2000, rising from 3.3 percent of addiction treatment admissions to 12.5 percent last year. Similar statewide data are difficult to track down.
While heroin has been around for years, dealers have adapted the drug from needle-injected forms to more popular methods such as snorted powder, Stanek said. Heroin can be up to 93 percent pure and cost only $1 a milligram — “a deadly combination,” he added.
For Amanda, 29, of Pine City, drug addictions morphed from cigarettes and alcohol to prescription pills and heroin.
“I was just digging a deeper, bigger hole for myself,” Amanda, who declined to use her last name, said at Thursday’s news conference.
Her family ties became strained, she stole to make ends meet and she resorted to living out of a garage with her boyfriend as they shot up 80-mg pills of OxyContin every day, arriving high at her job as a hair stylist. In debt and with no place to turn, she entered Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge in Minneapolis. She’s now nine months sober, hoping to graduate from the program this fall.
“It’s definitely changed my life,” she said.
‘Such an unpredictable drug’
Heroin users come from all economic backgrounds and everywhere from the affluent west metro suburbs to rural Minnesota. According to state data released earlier this year, most patients admitted for heroin overdoses in Minnesota in 2012 were white and between 18 to 25 years old; men outnumber women three to one. In Dakota County, of seven heroin deaths last year, most were men, three were in their 40s and the rest ranged in age from 18 to their 30s, Sheriff Dave Bellows said.
But a strong stigma remains associated with heroin, preventing some from speaking out, Laura Moore said. “There are a lot more families touched by this, but it’s so devastating … you know that your child was so much more than this one dose of heroin that killed him,” she said.
Although she tracked down the dealer who sold the heroin to her son, she was told the county wouldn’t have enough evidence to prosecute him. Now, she wants other young adults to know that using heroin at all can be deadly.
“It’s such an unpredictable drug,” she said, her voice breaking as she spoke of her son’s death. “As a parent, it’s the guilt of, what did I miss? I didn’t get to help him. I didn’t get to put him through treatment. I didn’t get to give him a chance.”
Immigration Enforcement / Illegal Aliens
Ariz. sheriff suspends immigration efforts
By JACQUES BILLEAUD (The Associated Press) — Friday, June 7th, 2013; 4:06 a.m. EDT
PHOENIX (AP) -- An Arizona sheriff who led the way for local police across the country to take up immigration enforcement is reconsidering his crackdowns - and other law enforcement officials who followed his lead are expected to eventually back away, too.
Joe Arpaio, the sheriff for metropolitan Phoenix, has temporarily suspended all his immigration efforts after a federal judge concluded two weeks ago that the sheriff's office had racially profiled Latinos in its patrols, Arpaio spokesman Brandon Jones told The Associated Press.
Arpaio critics, including the federal government, are gaining ground in their fight to get the sheriff out of immigration enforcement. Even before the ruling, Washington had stripped Arpaio's office of its special federal immigration arrest powers and started to phase out the program across the country amid complaints that it led to abuses by local officers. The Arpaio ruling is expected to impact state immigration laws in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, where local officers question people's immigration status in certain instances.
The national mood on immigration also has changed dramatically. Fewer states are seeking their own immigration laws, and proponents for Congress to overhaul the nation's immigration system have public opinion on their side.
Peter Spiro, a Temple University law professor who specializes in immigration law, said the May 24 ruling marks a big blow for Arpaio and the movement for more local immigration enforcement. "It's a cautionary tale for any other would-be Joe Arpaios out there," Spiro said. "This is an example that others can hardly afford to ignore."
The temporary suspension of Arpaio's immigration enforcement efforts marked the first pause since the lawman launched his crackdowns more than seven years ago and made combating the nation's border woes a central part of his political identity.
His immigration work will remain on hold until at least June 14, when lawyers will attend a hearing and discuss possible remedies to the constitutional violations found by U.S. District Judge Murray Snow. It's not known whether Arpaio will resume immigration enforcement after the hearing. The ruling doesn't altogether bar Arpaio from enforcing the state's immigration laws, but imposes a long list of restrictions on his immigration patrols, such as a prohibition on using race as a factor in deciding whether to stop a vehicle with a Latino occupant.
The sheriff won't face jail time or fines as a result of the ruling. But lawyers opposing the sheriff are expected to seek more training for officers, better record-keeping of arrests and a court-appointed official to monitor the agency's operations to make sure the sheriff's office isn't making unconstitutional arrests.
"We are out of the immigration business until that hearing," Jones said. "Until that hearing, better safe than sorry."
After Arpaio lost his federal immigration arrest powers in October 2009, he cited state immigration laws as he continued to carry out enforcement efforts.
It has been almost two years since Arpaio conducted his last signature sweep, in which deputies flood an area of a city - in some cases, heavily Latino areas - over several days to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders. Even so, he continued enforcing Arizona's immigrant smuggling law and another state law that bans employers from hiring immigrants living in the country without permission. The sheriff's office put both enforcement approaches on hold after Snow's ruling.
Cecillia Wang, a lawyer who pressed the profiling case on behalf of a group of Latinos and the leader of the American Civil Liberties Union's immigrant rights project, said the Arizona sheriff isn't the only local official that has violated the rights of Latinos in immigration enforcement, but he's the most vocal about it. "There are other agencies out there that have been doing similar things more quietly," Wang said.
The ACLU pointed to several counties in North Carolina, for instance. The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit in December alleging that Alamance County Sheriff Terry S. Johnson and his deputies made unwarranted arrests with the goal of maximizing deportations. Federal authorities accuse Johnson of ordering his deputies to arrest motorists who appeared Latino - even for minor traffic infractions - while letting white drivers off with warnings. They also allege Johnson ordered special roadblocks in neighborhoods where Latinos live.
Chuck Kitchen, an attorney representing Johnson's office, vigorously denied the allegations and said he didn't see any similarities between the cases. "I don't think the ruling has any effect on Alamance," Kitchen said.
Jessica M. Vaughan, a local immigration enforcement expert for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for stricter immigration laws, disputed the notion that Arpaio's racial profiling ruling will have a chilling effect on local immigration efforts. Vaughan said the prevailing view within local agencies is that it's their responsibility to work with the federal government on immigration. "They would be derelict in their duty if they did not," Vaughan said.
In an interview earlier this week, Arpaio said he was surprised by Snow's ruling, but declined to talk about the decision's effects on his immigration enforcement. "I respect the courts, but they have a job to do. We have a job to do," Arpaio said. "The federal justice system also gives you the opportunity to appeal."
Tim Casey, Arpaio's lead attorney, said the decision against Arpaio's office is historic in the world of immigration law. "It will invariably impact individual rights and law enforcement operations throughout the United States," Casey said. "It's going to be cited and relied upon for many others for a long time."
Electronic Monitoring For Undocumented Immigrants: How Is It Working?
By Ted Gest — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The John Jay College of Criminal Justice Crime & Justice News’ / Washington, DC
The federal government says it is less expensive to monitor undocumented immigrants through phone calls, at-home check-ins, or electronic monitors than to keep them in jail, says the Miami Herald. Recently, to save money, the government released more than 2,000 undocumented immigrants nationally.
The 700 beds at Broward Transitional remain mostly full. It's not clear how many immigrants have been released from the center and are now in the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program. Nationally, there are an average of 21,634 immigrants in the monitoring program daily.
Several immigrants with electronic ankle monitors and immigrant rights activists questioned whether the real motivation of monitoring undocumented men and women is to generate more revenue for BI Inc., the private company with the only contract to provide the service.
In 2010, a year after BI Inc. obtained the federal contract, the company was bought by GEO Group Inc., a controversial private prisons corporation based in Boca Raton, Fl. GEO Group also owns Broward Transitional Center, the only private detention center for immigrants in Florida.
To read the original Miami Herald article, go to: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/07/3438064/instead-of-detention-many-undocumented.html
NSA taps in to user data of Facebook, Apple, Google and others, secret files reveal
• Top secret PRISM program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Facebook and Apple
• Companies deny any knowledge of program in operation since 2007
By Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill — Friday, June 7th, 2013 ‘The Guardian’ / London, England
The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.
The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims "collection directly from the servers" of major US service providers.
Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.
In a statement, Google said: "Google cares deeply about the security of our users' data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data."
Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of PRISM or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. "If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge," one said.
An Apple spokesman said it had "never heard" of PRISM.
The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.
The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.
It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.
Disclosure of the PRISM program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.
The participation of the internet companies in PRISM will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.
Some of the world's largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan "Your privacy is our priority" – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.
It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.
Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks.
The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.
Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users' communications under US law, but the PRISM program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies' servers. The NSA document notes the operations have "assistance of communications providers in the US".
The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.
When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA's inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the PRISM program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies' servers.
A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.
The document is recent, dating to April 2013. Such a leak is extremely rare in the history of the NSA, which prides itself on maintaining a high level of secrecy.
The PRISM program allows the NSA, the world's largest surveillance organization, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.
With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.
The presentation claims PRISM was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a "home-field advantage" due to housing much of the internet's architecture. But the presentation claimed "Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage" because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.
"Fisa was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them," the presentation claimed. "It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States. There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all."
The new measures introduced in the FAA redefines "electronic surveillance" to exclude anyone "reasonably believed" to be outside the USA – a technical change which reduces the bar to initiating surveillance.
The act also gives the director of national intelligence and the attorney general power to permit obtaining intelligence information, and indemnifies internet companies against any actions arising as a result of co-operating with authorities' requests.
In short, where previously the NSA needed individual authorizations, and confirmation that all parties were outside the USA, they now need only reasonable suspicion that one of the parties was outside the country at the time of the records were collected by the NSA.
The document also shows the FBI acts as an intermediary between other agencies and the tech companies, and stresses its reliance on the participation of US internet firms, claiming "access is 100% dependent on ISP provisioning".
In the document, the NSA hails the PRISM program as "one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses for NSA".
It boasts of what it calls "strong growth" in its use of the PRISM program to obtain communications. The document highlights the number of obtained communications increased in 2012 by 248% for Skype – leading the notes to remark there was "exponential growth in Skype reporting; looks like the word is getting out about our capability against Skype". There was also a 131% increase in requests for Facebook data, and 63% for Google.
The NSA document indicates that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider. The agency also seeks, in its words, to "expand collection services from existing providers".
The revelations echo fears raised on the Senate floor last year during the expedited debate on the renewal of the FAA powers which underpin the PRISM program, which occurred just days before the act expired.
Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware specifically warned that the secrecy surrounding the various surveillance programs meant there was no way to know if safeguards within the act were working.
"The problem is: we here in the Senate and the citizens we represent don't know how well any of these safeguards actually work," he said.
"The law doesn't forbid purely domestic information from being collected. We know that at least one Fisa court has ruled that the surveillance program violated the law. Why? Those who know can't say and average Americans can't know."
Other senators also raised concerns. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon attempted, without success, to find out any information on how many phone calls or emails had been intercepted under the program.
When the law was enacted, defenders of the FAA argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA's inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the PRISM program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies' servers.
When the NSA reviews a communication it believes merits further investigation, it issues what it calls a "report". According to the NSA, "over 2,000 PRISM-based reports" are now issued every month. There were 24,005 in 2012, a 27% increase on the previous year.
In total, more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's Center for Democracy, that it was astonishing the NSA would even ask technology companies to grant direct access to user data.
"It's shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this," he said. "The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications.
"This is unprecedented militarization of domestic communications infrastructure. That's profoundly troubling to anyone who is concerned about that separation."
A senior administration official said in a statement: "The Guardian and Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the United States.
"The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.
"This program was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.
"Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.
"The Government may only use Section 702 to acquire foreign intelligence information, which is specifically, and narrowly, defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This requirement applies across the board, regardless of the nationality of the target."
Additional reporting by James Ball and Dominic Rushe
Is Big Data turning government into 'Big Brother?'
By MICHAEL LIEDTKE [AP Technology Writer] (The Associated Press) — Friday, June 7th, 2013; 10:23 a.m. EDT
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — With every phone call they make and every Web excursion they take, people are leaving a digital trail of revealing data that can be tracked by profit-seeking companies and terrorist-hunting government officials.
The revelations that the National Security Agency is perusing millions of U.S. customer phone records at Verizon Communications and snooping on the digital communications stored by nine major Internet services illustrate how aggressively personal data is being collected and analyzed.
Verizon is handing over so-called metadata, excerpts from millions of U.S. customer records, to the NSA under an order issued by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian. The report was confirmed Thursday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Former NSA employee William Binney told The Associated Press that he estimates the agency collects records on 3 billion phone calls each day.
The NSA and FBI appear to be casting an even wider net under a clandestine program code-named "PRISM" that came to light in a story posted late Thursday by The Washington Post. PRISM gives the U.S. government access to email, documents, audio, video, photographs and other data belonging to foreigners on foreign soil who are under investigation, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper said it reviewed a confidential roster of companies and services participating in PRISM. The companies included AOL Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Skype, YouTube and Paltalk.
In statements, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo said they only provide the government with user data required under the law. (Google runs YouTube and Microsoft owns Skype.) AOL and Paltalk didn't immediately respond to inquiries from The Associated Press.
The NSA isn't getting customer names or the content of phone conversations under the Verizon court order, but that doesn't mean the information can't be tied to other data coming in through the PRISM program to look into people's lives, according to experts.
Like pieces of a puzzle, the bits and bytes left behind from citizens' electronic interactions can be cobbled together to draw conclusions about their habits, friendships and preferences using data-mining formulas and increasingly powerful computers.
It's all part of a phenomenon known as a "Big Data," a catchphrase increasingly used to describe the science of analyzing the vast amount of information collected through mobile devices, Web browsers and check-out stands. Analysts use powerful computers to detect trends and create digital dossiers about people.
The Obama administration and lawmakers privy to the NSA's surveillance aren't saying anything about the collection of the Verizon customers' records beyond that it's in the interest of national security. The sweeping court order covers the Verizon records of every mobile and landline phone call from April 25 through July 19, according to The Guardian.
It's likely the Verizon phone records are being matched with an even broader set of data, said Forrester Research analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo.
"My sense is they are looking for network patterns," she said. "They are looking for who is connected to whom and whether they can put any timelines together. They are also probably trying to identify locations where people are calling from."
Under the court order, the Verizon records include the duration of every call and the locations of mobile calls, according to The Guardian.
The location information is particularly valuable for cloak-and-dagger operations like the one the NSA is running, said Cindy Cohn, a legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group that has been fighting the government's collection of personal phone records since 2006. The foundation is currently suing over the government's collection of U.S. citizens' communications in a case that dates back to the administration of President George W. Bush.
"It's incredibly invasive," Cohn said. "This is a consequence of the fact that we have so many third parties that have accumulated significant information about our everyday lives."
It's such a rich vein of information that U.S. companies and other organizations now spend more than $2 billion each year to obtain third-party data about individuals, according to Forrester Research. The data helps businesses target potential customers. Much of this information is sold by so-called data brokers such as Acxiom Corp., a Little Rock, Ark. company that maintains extensive files about the online and offline activities of more than 500 million consumers worldwide.
The digital floodgates have opened during the past decade as the convenience and allure of the Internet —and sleek smartphones— have made it easier and more enjoyable for people to stay connected wherever they go.
"I don't think there has been a sea change in analytical methods as much as there has been a change in the volume, velocity and variety of information and the computing power to process it all," said Gartner analyst Douglas Laney.
In a sign of the NSA's determination to vacuum up as much data as possible, the agency has built a data center in Bluffdale, Utah that is five times larger than the U.S. Capitol —all to sift through Big Data. The $2 billion center has fed perceptions that some factions of the U.S. government are determined to build a database of all phone calls, Internet searches and emails under the guise of national security. The Washington Post's disclosure that both the NSA and FBI have the ability to burrow into computers of major Internet services will likely heighten fears that U.S. government's Big Data is creating something akin to the ever-watchful Big Brother in George Orwell's "1984" novel.
"The fact that the government can tell all the phone carriers and Internet service providers to hand over all this data sort of gives them carte blanche to build profiles of people they are targeting in a very different way than any company can," Khatibloo said.
In most instances, Internet companies such as Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and Yahoo Inc. are taking what they learn from search requests, clicks on "like" buttons, Web surfing activity and location tracking on mobile devices to figure out what each of their users like and divine where they are. It's all in aid of showing users ads about products likely to pique their interest at the right time. The companies defend this kind of data mining as a consumer benefit.
Google is trying to take things a step further. It is honing its data analysis and search formulas in an attempt to anticipate what an individual might be wondering about or wanting.
Other Internet companies also use Big Data to improve their services. Video subscription service Netflix takes what it learns from each viewer's preferences to recommend movies and TV shows. Amazon.com Inc. does something similar when it highlights specific products to different shoppers visiting its site.
The federal government has the potential to know even more about people because it controls the world's biggest data bank, said David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor who recently stepped down as the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection director.
Before leaving the FTC last year, Vladeck opened an inquiry into the practices of Acxiom and other data brokers because he feared that information was being misinterpreted in ways that unfairly stereotyped people. For instance, someone might be classified as a potential health risk just because they bought products linked to an increased chance of heart attack. The FTC inquiry into data brokers is still open.
"We had real concerns about the reliability of the data and unfair treatment by algorithm," Vladeck said.
Vladeck stressed he had no reason to believe that the NSA is misinterpreting the data it collects about private citizens. He finds some comfort in The Guardian report that said the Verizon order had been signed by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Ronald Vinson.
The NSA "differs from a commercial enterprise in the sense that there are checks in the judicial system and in Congress," Vladeck said. "If you believe in the way our government is supposed to work, then you should have some faith that those checks are meaningful. If you are skeptical about government, then you probably don't think that kind of oversight means anything."
US declassifies phone program details after uproar
By JOSH LEDERMAN and DONNA CASSATA (The Associated Press) — Friday, June 7th, 2013; 8:57 a.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Moving to tamp down a public uproar spurred by the disclosure of two secret surveillance programs, the nation's top intelligence official is declassifying key details about one of the programs while insisting the efforts to collect America's phone records and the U.S. internet use of foreign nationals overseas were legal, limited in scope and necessary to detect terrorist threats.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in an unusual late-night statement Thursday, denounced the leaks of highly classified documents that revealed the programs and warned that America's security will suffer. He called the disclosure of a program that targets foreigners' Internet use "reprehensible," and said the leak of another program that lets the government collect Americans' phone records would change America's enemies behavior and make it harder to understand their intentions.
"The unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation," Clapper said of the phone-tracking program.
It was revealed late Wednesday that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of U.S. phone customers. The leaked document first reported by the British newspaper the Guardian gave the NSA authority to collect from all of Verizon's land and mobile customers, but intelligence experts said the program swept up the records of other phone companies too. The possibility of a third secret program letting the NSA tap into credit card transaction records emerged late Thursday in a report in The Wall Street Journal. The White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry about that program.
At the same time, Clapper offered new information about the phone program and another one that collects the audio, video, email, photographic and Internet search usage of foreign nationals overseas who use any of the nine major Internet providers, including Microsoft, Google, Apple, Yahoo and others.
"I believe it is important for the American people to understand the limits of this targeted counterterrorism program and the principles that govern its use," he said.
Among the previously classified information about the phone records collection that Clapper revealed:
-The program is conducted under authority granted by Congress and is authorized by the Foreign intelligence Surveillance Court which determines the legality of the program.
-The government is prohibited from "indiscriminately sifting" through the data acquired. It can only be reviewed "when there is a reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts, that the particular basis for the query is associated with a foreign terrorist organization." He also said only counterterrorism personnel trained in the program may access the records.
-The information acquired is overseen by the Justice Department and the FISA court. Only a very small fraction of the records are ever reviewed, he said.
-The program is reviewed every 90 days.
The Obama administration's defense of the two programs came as members of Congress were vowing to change a program they voted to authorize and exasperated civil liberties advocates were crying foul, questioning how President Barack Obama, a former constitutional scholar who sought privacy protections as a U.S. senator, could embrace policies aligned with President George W. Bush, whose approach to national security he had vowed to leave behind.
Clapper alleged that articles about the Internet program "contain numerous inaccuracies." He did not specify.
Senior administration officials defended the programs as critical tools and said the intelligence they yield is among the most valuable data the U.S. collects. Clapper said the Internet program, known as PRISM, can't be used to intentionally target any Americans or anyone in the U.S, and that data accidentally collected about Americans is kept to a minimum.
Leaders of Congress' intelligence panels dismissed the furor over what they said was standard three-month renewal to a program that's operated for seven years. Committee leaders also said the program recently helped thwart what would have been a significant domestic terrorist attack.
The NSA must collect the phone data in broad swaths, Clapper said, because collecting it narrowly would make it harder to identify terrorism-related communications.
But the widespread notion of a government dragnet ensnaring terror suspects and innocent Americans pushed typical political foes to stand together against Obama as he enforces what many likened to Bush-era policies.