Rep. Lewis passed over for powerful chairmanship

Republicans passed over  Rep. Jerry Lewis in favor of a veteran Kentucky lawmaker Wednesday to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

The party’s steering committee rejected Lewis’s request to waive term limits that bar him from reclaiming the post he held when Republicans last held the majority.

The decision deprives Lewis of a position that would have given him control over the federal government’s purse strings and a heightened ability to direct millions of dollars to his home district, which includes some of the Pass area.

See also: CREW’s Most Corrupt: Rep. Jerry Lewis

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US school for disabled forces students to wear packs that deliver massive electric shocks

Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI)  has filed a report and urgent appeal with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture alleging that the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center for the disabled, located in Massachusetts, violates the UN Convention against Torture.

The rights group submitted their report this week, titled “Torture not Treatment: Electric Shock and Long-Term Restraint in the United States on Children and Adults with Disabilities at the Judge Rotenberg Center,” after an in-depth investigation revealed use of restraint boards, isolation, food deprivation and electric shocks in efforts to control the behaviors of its disabled and emotionally troubled students.

Findings in the MDRI report include the center’s practice of subjecting children to electric shocks on the legs, arms, soles of feet and torso — in many cases for years — as well as some for more than a decade. Electronic shocks are administered by remote-controlled packs attached to a child’s back called a Graduated Electronic Decelerators (GEI).

The disabilities group notes that stun guns typically deliver three to four milliamps per shock. GEI packs, meanwhile, shock students with 45 milliamps — more than ten times the amperage of a typical stun gun.

A former employee of  the center told an investigator, “When you start working there, they show you this video which says the shock is ‘like a bee sting’ and that it does not really hurt the kids. One kid, you could smell the flesh burning, he had so many shocks. These kids are under constant fear, 24/7. They sleep with them on, eat with them on. It made me sick and I could not sleep. I prayed to God someone would help these kids.”

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Report to Congress about the USA PATRIOT Act

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, released a new report Report to Congress on Implementation of Section 1001 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

This report details “Section 1001 of the USA PATRIOT Act (Patriot Act), Public Law 107-56, directs the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ or Department) to undertake a series of actions related to claims of civil rights or civil liberties violations allegedly committed by DOJ employees. It also requires the OIG to provide semiannual reports to Congress on the implementation of the OIG’s responsibilities under Section 1001.”

Justice Lawyers Try to Define Cyber War

Run for the hills! The Department of Justice‘s lawyers are trying to figure out just what would constitute an act of war during a cyber attack. OK, it may not be that bad, but the specter of a room full of government lawyers trying to decide what constitutes an act of war when it occurs via the Internet is not terribly reassuring.

To be fair, no one has come up with a decent answer to what turns out to be a very thorny question. The hardest question to answer in cyber war is the one that used to be pretty simple: who attacked us. But the structural anonymity of the web allows attackers to mask their origins.

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Government posting wealth of data to Internet

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday is posting to the Internet a wealth of government data from all Cabinet-level departments, on topics ranging from child car seats to Medicare services.

The mountain of newly available information comes a year and a day after President Barack Obama promised on his first full day on the job an open, transparent government.

Under a Dec. 8 White House directive, each department must post online at least three collections of “high-value” government data that never have been previously disclosed.

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Smith & Wesson Executive Indicted

A Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. sales executive and a former Secret Service official were among 22 officials at companies that supply law enforcement and the military who were charged with violating U.S. anti-bribery laws.

Amaro Goncalves, vice president of sales at Smith & Wesson, and R. Patrick Caldwell, chief executive officer of Protective Products Of America Inc. and a former deputy director of the U.S. Secret Service, were among the individuals indicted for engaging in schemes to bribe foreign officials, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer said today in a statement.

The indictments, which name only the individuals and not the companies they work for, stem from a Federal Bureau of Investigation undercover operation that focused on bribery allegations in the military and law-enforcement products industry, Breuer said. Yesterday, 21 defendants were arrested at a convention in Las Vegas and one was arrested in Miami, the government said.

The indictments unsealed today in Washington represent the largest single investigation and prosecution against individuals under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Department of Justice said. The law prohibits U.S. citizens and companies from paying bribes to foreign officials to gain business. The indictments were returned Dec. 11 by a grand jury in Washington.

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Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio Investigated by Federal Grand Jury

PHOENIX —  Two officials said Thursday night they have been subpoenaed to answer questions next week before a federal grand jury about a high-profile Arizona sheriff who gained attention for aggressively cracking down on illegal immigration.

In statements read by a county spokesman, Maricopa County Manager David Smith and Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson said they met with a federal prosecutor to discuss the case and will testify Wednesday.

Wilson said the general subject of the inquiry was abuses by Sheriff Joseph M. “Joe” Arpaio‘s office. Neither Wilson nor Smith offered specifics, said county spokesman Richard de Uriarte, who spoke with the two officials Thursday night.

Arpaio is widely known for tough jail policies and pushing the bounds on local immigration efforts. He has led a dozen crime and immigration sweeps, some in heavily Latino areas.

Critics allege that some of Arpaio’s deputies racially profiled people during immigration sweeps. But Arpaio maintains that people pulled over in the sweeps were approached because deputies had probable cause to believe they had committed crimes.

Sheriff’s spokesman Brian Lee said Arpaio was declining to comment on reports of the investigation. “He has stated that we will conduct business as usual,” Lee said.

Sandy Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S attorney’s office in Phoenix, said she couldn’t confirm or deny a grand jury investigation.

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Jury selection begins in trial of Ohio DEA agent

CLEVELAND — Jury selection began Wednesday in the trial of a federal drug agent charged with framing 17 people in a case that could influence the way confidential informants are handled.

Prospective jurors crowded the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. for the opening of the government’s case against Lee Lucas, 41. Lucas, a 19-year U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration veteran, sat between his two defense attorneys and took notes, watching prospective jurors as they responded to the judge’s questions.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.

Lucas, whose work included a stint in Bolivia fighting drug traffickers, faces 18 charges including obstruction of justice, making a false statement, perjury and violating civil rights. If convicted, he could face more than five years in prison.

Lucas, who was turned aside interview requests, has pleaded not guilty. He is on administrative leave.

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Federal Agencies Need Not Confirm or Deny Electronic Surveillance under FOIA

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed that the National Security Agency and the Department of Justice do not need to confirm or deny the existence of electronic surveillance records under the Freedom of Information Act. The appellate court found that federal agencies are allowed to file “Glomar” responses, which were first judicially recognized in 1976 and grant an agency express refusal to even confirm or deny the existence of any records responsive to a FOIA request in the national security context.

The lawsuit was brought by advocates for former Guantanamo Bay detainees after the agencies invoked FOIA exceptions to information request regarding warrantless electronic surveillance conducted by the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Get more particulars here.

Ex-Air Force spouse gets 30 years for killing boy

A former U.S. Air Force spouse convicted of beating his 8-year-old stepson to death while living near Kadena Air Base in 2007 has been sentenced to 30 years in prison by a federal judge.

Roberto DeLeon, 28, was found guilty in October of murdering Jordan Peterson and had faced a maximum of life in prison. He was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, according to The Associated Press.

The Air Force handed off the case to federal prosecutors early last year because DeLeon was a civilian spouse charged with felony offenses. Since 2000, such cases fall under the Department of Justice.

Peterson was found unresponsive while under DeLeon’s care at their home in April 2007 and was pronounced dead at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Lester later the same day.

An autopsy revealed that the boy died of massive internal injuries to his liver.

DeLeon severely beat Peterson, killing him with blunt force trauma to the abdomen, according to court records.

Evidence in the case pointed to past abuse and the boy’s death raised questions about the involvement of the Air Force and Japanese child welfare officials.

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More than 12% of youths in juvenile prisons are sexually abused while in custody

More than 12% of youths in juvenile prisons are sexually abused while in custody there, according to a Justice Department study out Thursday, and the vast majority of cases involve female staff and boys under their supervision.

In the worst facilities surveyed — in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina and Texas — more than 30% of youths reported they had been sexually victimized. The study, the first of its kind, shows a rate of sexual assault more than seven times higher than that indicated by a 2008 Justice Department report that collected sexual abuse claims to juvenile facility administrators. It is also higher than a similar study of adult prisons because of the “very high rate of staff sexual misconduct,” said Allen Beck, who directed the survey for the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The survey of 9,198 youths ages 13 to 21 — all in custody by order of a juvenile court — included methods to eliminate interviews considered unreliable. The survey covered 195 facilities, at least one in each state. Approximately 26,550 juveniles — 91% of them boys — are held in more than 500 such facilities around the country.

Iraqis outraged as Blackwater case thrown out

In this Oct. 2007 image, Mohammed Hafiz holds
a picture of his 10-year-old son, Ali Mohammed,
who was killed when guards employed by
Blackwater allegedly opened fire at Nisoor
Square in Baghdad. Iraqis responded with
bitterness and outrage Jan. 1 at aU.S. judge’s
decision to throw out a case against Blackwater
guards accused in the killings.

BAGHDAD — Iraqis seeking justice for 17 people shot dead at a Baghdad intersection responded with bitterness and outrage Friday at a U.S. judge’s decision to throw out a case against a Blackwater security team accused in the killings.

The Iraqi government vowed to pursue the case, which became a source of contention between the U.S. and the Iraqi government. Many Iraqis also held up the judge’s decision as proof of what they’d long believed: U.S. security contractors were above the law.

“There is no justice,” said Bura Sadoun Ismael, who was wounded by two bullets and shrapnel during the shooting. “I expected the American court would side with the Blackwater security guards who committed a massacre in Nisoor Square.”

What happened on Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007, raised Iraqi concerns about their sovereignty because Iraqi officials were powerless to do anything to the Blackwater employees who had immunity from local prosecution. The shootings also highlighted the degree to which the U.S. relied on private contractors during the Iraq conflict.

Blackwater had been hired by the Department of State to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq. The guards said they were ambushed at a busy intersection in western Baghdad, but U.S. prosecutors and many Iraqis said the Blackwater guards let loose an unprovoked attack on civilians using machine guns and grenades.

“Investigations conducted by specialized Iraqi authorities confirmed unequivocally that the guards of Blackwater committed the crime of murder and broke the rules by using arms without the existence of any threat obliging them to use force,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement Friday.

He did not elaborate on what steps the government planned to take to pursue the case.

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Record High Federal Prosecutions in 2009

FY 2009 Federal Prosecutions Sharply Higher

Analyzing data from the United States Department of Justice, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University has released this report showing a 9% increase in federal prosecutions compared to last year. At a total of 169,612, the swell in prosecutions is attributed to “an unusual flood of immigration prosecutions.” According to the report, immigration and narcotics cases represented the majority of prosecutions, with the former at 54% and the latter at 16%.

In regards to what agencies referred cases for prosecution, Customs and Border Protection filed 46.5%, Immigration and Customs Enforcement filed 12%, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) filed 9%, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives filed 6%, and all other agencies filed 18%. The report also touches on the administrative priorities of the Justice Department.

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America’s Secret ICE Castles

“If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” Those chilling words were spoken by James Pendergraph, then executive director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement‘s (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008. Also present was Amnesty International‘s Sarnata Reynolds, who wrote about the incident in the 2009 report “Jailed Without Justice” and said in an interview, “It was almost surreal being there, particularly being someone from an organization that has worked on disappearances for decades in other countries. I couldn’t believe he would say it so boldly, as though it weren’t anything wrong.”

ICE agents regularly impersonate civilians–Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors, insurance agents, religious workers–in order to arrest longtime US residents who have no criminal history. Jacqueline Stevens has reported a web-exclusive companion piece on ICE agents’ ruse operations.

Pendergraph knew that ICE could disappear people, because he knew that in addition to the publicly listed field offices and detention sites, ICE is also confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants–nary a sign, a marked car or even a US flag. (Presumably there is a flag at the Department of Veterans Affairs Complex in Castle Point, New York, but no one would associate it with the Criminal Alien Program ICE is running out of Building 7.) Designed for confining individuals in transit, with no beds or showers, subfield offices are not subject to ICE Detention Standards. The subfield office network was mentioned in an October report by Dora Schriro, then special adviser to Janet Ann Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, but no locations were provided.

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FBI Linguist Leaked Classified Docs to Blogger

An Israeli-American attorney who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a translator pled guilty yesterday to unlawfully disclosing five classified FBI documents to an unidentified blogger last April, who then published information from the documents on his blog, the Department of Justice announced.

In a signed plea agreement (pdf), Shamai Leibowitz stipulated that he had “knowingly and willfully caused five documents, which were classified at the Secret level and contained classified information concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States, to be communicated… to a person not entitled to receive classified information (’Recipient A’).  Recipient A was the host of a public web log (’blog’) available to anyone with access to the Internet.”

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Retired Army Major Sentenced to 57 Months in Prison for Role in Bribery Scheme Involving DOD Contracts in Kuwait

A retired major in the U.S. Army today was sentenced to 57 months in prison for his role in a bribery scheme related to Department of Defense (DOD) contracts awarded in Kuwait, announced Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer and Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division Christine A. Varney.

Christopher H. Murray, 42, a resident of Cataula, Ga., was also ordered by Judge Clay D. Land of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia – Columbus Division to pay $245,000 in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release following the prison term.

Murray pleaded guilty in January 2009 to a five-count criminal information charging him with four counts of bribery and one count of making a false statement. According to the court documents, in 2005 and 2006, then-Major Murray served as a contracting specialist in the small purchases branch of the contracting office at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. As a contracting specialist, Murray was responsible for soliciting bids for military contracts, evaluating the sufficiency of those bids, and then recommending the award of contracts to particular contractors. In this capacity, Murray solicited and received approximately $225,000 in bribes from DOD contractors in exchange for recommending the award of contracts for various goods and services.

See document here.

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Intelligence Improperly Collected on U.S. Citizens

WASHINGTON — In February, a Department of Homeland Security intelligence official wrote a “threat assessment” for the police in Wisconsin about a demonstration involving local pro- and anti-abortion rights groups.

That report soon drew internal criticism because the groups “posed no threat to homeland security,” according to a department memorandum released on Wednesday in connection with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The agency destroyed all its copies of the report and gave the author remedial training.

That was just one of several cases in the last several years in which the department’s intelligence office improperly collected information about American citizens or lawful United States residents, the documents show.

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Arizona Dictator Sheriff Joe Arpaio Approaching Retirement

The day after the federal government told Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. “Joe” Arpaio that he could no longer use his deputies to round up suspected illegal immigrants on the street, the combative Arizona sheriff did just that.

He launched one of his notorious “sweeps,” in which his officers descend on heavily Latino neighborhoods, arrest hundreds of people for violations as minor as a busted headlight and ask them whether they are in the country legally.

“I wanted to show everybody it didn’t make a difference,” Arpaio said of the Obama administration’s order.

Arpaio calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff” and remains widely popular across the state. For two decades, he has basked in publicity over his colorful tactics, such as dressing jail inmates in pink underwear and housing them in outdoor tents during the brutal Phoenix summers.

But he has escalated his tactics in recent months, not only defying the federal government but launching repeated investigations of those who criticize him. He recently filed a racketeering lawsuit against the entire Maricopa County power structure. On Thursday night, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued an emergency order forbidding the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office from searching the home or chambers of a Superior Court judge who was named in the racketeering case.
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No laughing matter for CIA

The top lawyer at the Central Intelligence Agency, General Counsel Stephen Preston, recently introduced himself during an American Bar Association conference on national security as “the chief legal officer of a well-understood and enormously popular agency, the object of universal praise and appreciation.” He was greeted with laughter, reports The Washington Post.

We imagine that as Mr. Preston went on to describe some of the issues on his plate, the grins faded. The multitude of problems faced by the national security agency are no laughing matter. They include:

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ACTION ALERT: Force DEA to Tell the Truth About Medical Marijuana

In a significant reversal, the American Medical Association on November 10 acknowledged the medical value of marijuana and called for the U.S. government to reconsider marijuana’s current classification as a Schedule I substance (drugs that the government says have “no currently accepted medical use”).

However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still claims on its website that, “The American Medical Association recommends that marijuana remain a Schedule I controlled substance.”

Please use the form at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com/dea to send a message to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice, asking them to correct this misinformation on a government website.

New DOJ Report: Gang Information Management System Needed

Review of the Department’s Anti-Gang Intelligence and Coordination Centers

The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General just released this report which examines the intelligence and coordination activities of the National Gang Intelligence Center and the Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordination Center. Additionally, the review “assesses the effectiveness of their contributions to the Department’s anti-gang initiatives.”

The review found that, although located in the same office, both NGIC and GangTECC are not collaborating or sharing information. The review also found that NGIC, perceived as an Federal Bureau of Investigation organization, does not effectively share intelligence with other law enforcement agencies, and that GangTECC has no budget, hindering its ability to carry out its mission. It recommends the development of a gang information management system.

According to the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment, criminal gangs commit as much as 80 percent of the crime in many communities.

 

Justice Department issued secret subpoena for news site’s traffic

The Department of Justice earlier this year served and shortly thereafter withdrew a grand jury subpoena that sought information about all visitors to the journalism website Indymedia.us for one day, and also contained a gag order “not to disclose the existence of [the] request,” CBSNews.com reports.

In the Jan. 23 subpoena the Justice Department demanded that the Philadelphia-based site’s server administrator turn over “all IP traffic to and from http://www.indymedia.us”; — meaning the logs of the Internet addresses of all the site’s readers — as well other available information including visitors’ e-mail and home addresses, Social Security Numbers, and credit card numbers, for June 25, 2008.

The administrator, Kristina Clair, eventually sought the assistance of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in San Francisco, which sent the Department letters discussing various legal defects of the request.

In its reply, the Justice Department stated the subpoena had been withdrawn — after its attorneys allegedly urged EFF not to disclose the existence of the subpoena. The Department of Justice did not reveal to which investigation the subpoena related, CBSNews.com reported.

See also: Independent Media Center

New Audit Report on FBI’s ‘Sentinel’ Case Management System

Sentinel Audit V: Status of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Case Management System

This Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General audit report is the fifth in a series of reports assessing the FBI’s ‘Sentinel’ case management system.

“The objectives of this current audit, the fifth in our ongoing review of Sentinel’s progress, were to: evaluate the FBI’s implementation of Phase 2 of the Sentinel project, including the project’s cost, schedule, and performance; and assess the FBI’s progress in resolving concerns identified in the OIG’s previous Sentinel audits.”

See the FBI’s Response to this Audit (Released Today)

 

FBI Demands Tattoo Shops Rat On Customers

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in league with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (part of the Department of Justice), has launched a program that harks back to East Germany’s Stasi.

In Philadelphia, the FBI has instructed tattoo shops to rat out their customers if they demand privacy, insist on paying with cash, engage in “suspicious behavior,” make “anti-US” comments, or request tattoos that are “extremist symbols.”

According to the Missouri Information Analysis Center report, the Gadsden flag is a “militia symbol.” The Department of Homeland Security’s Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment report characterizes militias as “white supremacists,” domestic terrorists and a threat to the president. MIAC is part of the federal “fusion” effort now underway around the country.

It is not merely “extremist symbols.” In addition, the FBI literature instructs tattoo shops to be on the look-out for people who change hair color, style of dress, or shave beards between visits. Suspicious people also include those with missing fingers or hands, chemical burns, strange orders or bright colored stains on clothing.

Read the handout below for more absurd “extremist” indicators according to the FBI.

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Is VOIP Now the Go-To Tool For Gov’t Spying?

There’s an interesting article this week about a new Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) report on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and some of the issues the Bureau faces in reviewing and processing evidence. One of the areas that is apparently singled out in the IG report is the review – or lack thereof – of audio recordings gathered as part of investigations.

It’s not clear what percentage of the audio recordings are telephone wiretaps, but it’s probably a fair percentage – and given that the total unreviewed audio runs to over a million hours, even a small percentage is, objectively, a lot of recordings.

What’s most interesting to me is an offhand comment at the bottom of the story:

“In some cases, the bureau explained, the technology that allows them to listen to phone calls means they create a new phone number, which telemarketers can then call, creating new recordings even after a warrant has expired.”

“[T]he technology that allows them to listen to phone calls means they create a new phone number” – to me, that sounds for all the world like a thinly-veiled description of Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP – and VOIP through a commercial provider like Skype or Callcentric or Vonage, at that.

Hmmn…

Too bad the Bureau is so bad at reviewing the recordings, though; if they were more on-the-ball, they might be able to do something about the con artists and scammers who call cellphones and home phones and business lines and unlisted numbers over and over and over again. Hey, a guy can dream, right?

Feds issue new medical marijuana policy (to Good Ol’ Boy Hoops)

WASHINGTON – Pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers should not be targeted for federal prosecution in states that allow medical marijuana, prosecutors were told Monday in a new policy memo issued by the Justice Department.

Under the policy spelled out in a three-page legal memo, federal prosecutors are being told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.

The guidelines issued by the department do, however, make it clear that federal agents will go after people whose marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes.

The memo advises prosecutors they “should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

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Telephone Company Is Arm of Government, Feds Admit in Spy Suit

The Department of Justice has finally admitted it in court papers: The  nation’s telecom companies are an arm of the government — at least when it comes to secret spying.

Fortunately, a judge says that relationship isn’t enough to quash a rights group’s open records request for communications between the nation’s telecoms and the feds.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation wanted to see what role telecom lobbying of the Justice Department played when the government began its year-long, and ultimately successful, push to win retroactive immunity for AT&T and others being sued for unlawfully spying on American citizens.

The feds argued that the documents showing consultation over the controversial telecom immunity proposal weren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act since they were protected as “intra-agency” records:

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IG Report on the U.S. National Central Bureau of INTERPOL

United States National Central Bureau of INTERPOL

The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General has just released this report which addresses the United States National Central Bureau (USNCB) of INTERPOL. “Our objectives for this audit were to evaluate the USNCB’s efforts to ensure sharing of INTERPOL information among federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies; review the USNCB’s processes for the exchange of INTERPOL information to ensure that requests for assistance and information were handled in an appropriate, efficient, and timely manner; review the USNCB’s controls over INTERPOL case information; and examine the USNCB’s organizational role and strategic priorities to ensure that they are in line with DOJ priorities.”

The Justice Department wages war on pain relief

No good deed goes unpunished when a private citizen is up against the federal drug warriors–those members of the Department of Justice who have been seeking, with increasing success in recent decades, to effectively control the practice of pain relief medicine. But a current drama being played out in federal court in Kansas portends an even darker turn in the DOJ’s war–a private citizen is being threatened with prosecution for seeking to raise public and news media consciousness of the Feds’ war against doctors and patients.

The current contretemps in Wichita has its roots in 2002 when Sean Greenwood, who for more than a decade suffered from a rare but debilitating connective tissue disorder, finally found a remedy. William Hurwitz, a Virginia doctor, prescribed the high doses of pain relief medicine necessary for Greenwood to be able to function day-to-day.

Yet when federal agents raided Hurwitz’s clinic in 2003 and charged the pain management specialist with illegal drug trafficking, Greenwood’s short-lived return to normalcy ended. He couldn’t find another doctor willing to treat his pain–the chances were too good that the “narcs” and the federal prosecutors who work with them would assert impossibly vague federal criminal drug laws. Three years later, Greenwood died from a brain hemorrhage, likely brought on by the blood pressure build-up from years of untreated pain.

Greenwood’s wife, Siobhan Reynolds, decided to fight back. In 2003 she founded the Pain Relief Network (PRN), a group of activists, doctors and patients who oppose the federal government’s tyranny over pain relief specialists.

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The Atlantic Interviews Radley Balko

Radley Balko is a senior editor at Reason Magazine whose award-winning investigative work focuses on criminal justice and civil liberties. His blog, The Agitator, is one of the most carefully curated resources for stories on the same subject.

Q. In your work, you’ve frequently reported on police abuses and the appropriate role of law enforcement in a free society. Though you’re often writing in regard to specific controversies, I wonder if you have any general criticisms of the American criminal justice system. What’s wrong about where we’re at? What are the most urgent improvements you would recommend?

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House GOP Wants Cuts To Drug War

When President Obama’s drug czar declared an end to the war on drugs, Republicans were apparently listening closely.

House GOP leadership now wants to cash in the peace dividend.

Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) released a set of proposed budget cuts Thursday that included trimming $220 million from drug war spending over the next five years.

The duo propose eliminating the National Drug Intelligence Center, saving $44 million the first year and $220 million over five years, they say.

The NDIC “has been the subject of significant public debate recently because it unnecessarily duplicates the work of other agencies and its justification seems to have more to do with its powerful patron than its benefits to the taxpayer,” the leadership team offers.

The NDIC referred a call to the Department of Justice, which did not immediately respond.

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FISA Surveillance Down, NSL Requests Up in 2008

During calendar year 2008, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved 2,083 applications for authority to conduct electronic surveillance and physical search of suspected foreign intelligence and terrorist targets under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to a new annual report to Congress (pdf) from the Department of Justice.  The Court made substantive modifications to two applications and denied one application.

This is a decrease from calendar year 2007 (pdf), when the Court approved 2,370 applications for electronic surveillance and physical search, modified 86 applications, and denied three (and one “in part”).

The new report, transmitted May 14, 2009, also states that in 2008 the FBI made 24,744 “national security letter” (NSL) requests for information concerning 7,225 different United States persons.  In 2007, according to newly revised figures included in the report, the FBI made 16,804 NSL requests pertaining to 4,327 different United States persons.  National security letters are obligatory demands for information or records, comparable to subpoenas but without judicial oversight.  The scope of such instruments was expanded by a provision of the USA Patriot Act.

The Congressional Research Service discussed “Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Set to Expire in 2009″ in a report that was updated March 16, 2009.

OIG Report on the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist Nomination Practices

This U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General report reviews the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist nomination practices. “The federal government’s consolidated terrorist watchlist was created in March 2004 by merging previously separate watchlists that were once maintained by different agencies throughout the federal government. The watchlist is managed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), through its supervision of the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). The watchlist is used by frontline screening personnel at U.S. points of entry and by federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials. The watchlist serves as a critical tool for these screening and law enforcement personnel by notifying the user of possible encounters with known or suspected terrorists and by providing instruction on how to respond to the encounter. FBI Response Press Release

Each day the watchlist is updated with new or revised biographical information on known or suspected terrorists gathered by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. Within the FBI, submitting the name of a known or suspected terrorist to the consolidated terrorist watchlist is referred to as a watchlist nomination. In general, individuals who are subjects of ongoing FBI counterterrorism investigations are nominated for inclusion on the watchlist, including persons who are being preliminarily investigated to determine whether they have links to terrorism. In certain circumstances, FBI policy also allows for the nomination of an individual for who the FBI does not have an open terrorism investigation.”

DEA AGENT CHARGED WITH OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE, PERJURY IN CONNECTION WITH MANSFIELD, OHIO DRUG INVESTIGATION

CLEVELAND (AP) – A federal drug enforcement agent has pleaded not guilty to a federal indictment that accuses him of framing 17 people during controlled drug buys through an informant.

Lee Michael Lucas, 41, of Cleveland appeared Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver on charges, including obstruction of justice and violating civil rights. Lucas allegedly used a drug informant in 2005 to make controlled drug buys and then put false information in his reports on the transactions.

He was released on personal bond, and has a Jan. 6 trial date.

The informant pleaded guilty in 2007 to related charges and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

(This version CORRECTS that Lucas pleaded not guilty instead of guilty.)

Department of Justice News Release

WHITE HOUSE CZAR CALLS FOR END TO ‘WAR ON DRUGS’

Kerlikowske Says Analogy Is Counterproductive; Shift Aligns With Administration Preference for Treatment Over Incarceration

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S.  is fighting “a war on drugs,” a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation’s drug issues.

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Arrests of U.S. border agents on the rise

WASHINGTON — A rising number of U.S. border enforcement officers are being arrested on corruption charges as Mexican drug cartels look to bribes as a way to get around tougher enforcement, border officials say.

Investigators arrested 21 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on corruption charges in the fiscal year that ended last September, up from eight in the previous 12 months, according to CBP. This year, 14 have been arrested.

Since 2004, 84 officers have been arrested and 62 were convicted, says James Tomsheck, assistant commissioner for internal affairs at CBP, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. That number represents a small fraction of the more than 52,000 people employed by the agency, which enforces U.S. law along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

Still, the trend is alarming, Tomsheck says. “We’re deeply concerned. The numbers are disturbing.”

Another troubling trend: Mexican syndicates are trying to plant their own people in the agency. Investigators have arrested at least four agents since 2007 who they believe were sent by drug cartels to infiltrate the CBP, Tomsheck says.

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Congressman Lewis paid $30,000 in legal defense fees in March

Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, paid more than $30,000 in March to a law firm defending him in a federal probe into his alleged ties with lobbyists and defense contractors, campaign records shows.

It brings the total of what Lewis has spent on legal fees since the investigation kicked off in 2006 to nearly $1.2 million.

Lewis spokesman Jim Specht couldn’t say Wednesday what services the Washington D.C.-based law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has performed for Lewis over the last four months to warrant such a hefty bill.

Attorney’s at the law firm didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

See also:

Two local Congressmen named on list of 20 ‘most corrupt’

Prosecutor in Rep. Lewis probe cites rules, not politics in exit

Lewis campaign filed incomplete funds report

San Bernardino County Records Are Subpoenaed

Lewis Surfaces in Probe of Cunningham

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Humboldt cities take on military recruiting — and U.S.

ARCATA – David was sitting in a coffee shop when he first got the idea to take on Goliath.

The “David” in this story has a last name of Meserve. The “Goliath” is less metaphorically known as the United States government.

And the tale revolves around a first-of-its-kind effort by two small Humboldt County cities to prevent military recruiters from trolling for prospects among the towns’ residents under age 18.

Virtually unnoticed by the rest of the world, voters in Eureka (population 26,000) and Arcata (population 18,000) last November approved ballot measures that were collectively referred to as “the Youth Protection Act.”

Passed by convincing margins (73 percent in Arcata, 57 percent in Eureka), the act prohibits military recruiters from initiating contact with anyone under the age of 18 within the cities’ limits. Violations can result in a fine of $100 for both the recruiters and their commanding officers.

See also:

Assembly Bills Aim at Recruiting Youngsters for Overseas Wars

ACLU files suit to allow counter-recruiting

Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From No Child Left Behind

Feds Act Against Eureka, Arcata Over Voted Measures to Restrict Military Recruiter Access to Minors

Military at ToysRus Austin

“No Child Left Behind “: “Trojan Horse” for Pentagon Recruiters

America’s Child Soldiers: US Military Recruiting Children

New Army Recruiting Tactic: Obama will “Get Us Out of Iraq”

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DOJ Prosecuted Texas Sheriff in 1983 For Waterboarding Prisoners

In 1983, the Department of Justice prosecuted a Texas sheriff and three of his deputies for waterboarding prisoners to get them to confess to crimes.

The deputies were sentenced to four years in prison and Parker pleaded guilty to extortion and federal civil rights violations and received a 10-year sentence. Parker admitted that he had operated a “marijuana trap” on U.S. Highway 59, arrested suspects, and, according to court documents, subjected “prisoners to a suffocating water torture ordeal in order to coerce confessions.

“This generally included the placement of a towel over the nose and mouth of the prisoner and the pouring of water in the towel until the prisoner began to move, jerk, or otherwise indicate that he was suffocating and/or drowning,” the complaint said, which referred to the technique as “water torture.”

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New guidance from Justice on processing FOIA requests

The Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy issued new guidance Friday further implementing the attorney general’s memo that gives direction to federal agencies regarding the Freedom of Information Act.

The guidance applies to all federal agencies and stresses “that the FOIA is to be administered with the presumption of openness.”

It also says the “combined impact” of the memos “is a sea change in the way transparency is viewed across the government.”

The change in attitude toward FOIA requests, personnel and the importance of transparency is particularly striking in the wake of the Bush-era guidelines on FOIA.

The new guidance came out in the same week that the Obama Justice Department released several controversial Office of Legal Counsel memos the Bush administration had relied on to justify torture.

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GAO Report on DEA’s Post-9/11 Drug Control Responsibilities

Drug Control: Better Coordination With the Department of Homeland Security and an Updated Accountability Framework Can Further Enhance DEA’s Efforts to Meet Post-9/11 Responsibilities

“Given the global context of the war on drugs-coupled with growing recognition since September 11, 2001 (9/11), of the nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism-the mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and efforts to forge effective interagency partnerships and coordination are increasingly important. the Government Accountability Office was asked to examine, in the context of the post-9/11 environment, DEA’s priorities, interagency partnerships and coordination mechanisms, and strategic plan and performance measures. GAO reviewed DEA policy, planning, and budget documents and visited 7 of DEA’s 21 domestic field offices and 3 of its 7 regional offices abroad-sites selected to reflect diverse drug-trafficking threats, among other factors. GAO also contacted other relevant federal agencies-including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)-and various state and local partner agencies.

GAO recommends that the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security take actions to enhance the effectiveness of interagency partnerships involving DEA, ICE, and CBP and the multiagency Special Operations Division and the OCDETF Fusion Center. DOJ agreed. DHS responded that discussions with DOJ are ongoing. DHS neither explicitly agreed nor disagreed with GAO’s recommendations but suggested revisions to the wording, which GAO did not make.”

Glenn Beck and Penn Jillette on MIAC report

See also: The Radical Polarization of Law Enforcement

The Radical Polarization of Law Enforcement

The Radical Polarization
of Law Enforcement

Patriots, Christians and concerned citizens are increasingly in the cross hairs of the U.S. intelligence community, and battle lines are being quietly drawn that could soon pit our own law enforcement and military forces against us.

A February 20 report entitled “The Modern Militia Movement” was issued by the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) that paints mainstream patriotic Americans as dangerous threats to law enforcement and to the country. Operating under the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the MIAC is listed as a Fusion Center that was established in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.

Because authenticity of the report was questioned by some, this writer contacted Missouri state Representative Jim Guest (R-King City) who had personally verified that the report had indeed been issued. Rep. Guest is chairman of the Personal Privacy Committee and is a prominent leader in the national Blowback against the Real ID Act of 2005 that requires states to issue uniform driver’s licenses containing personal biometric data. (See Guest warns against Big Brother, Real ID)

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