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Archive for April, 2014

New FBI Agents Will Be Required to Visit Martin Luther King Memorial

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

New FBI agents are already required to tour the Holocaust Museum.

FBI Director James Comey is adding another required visit in Washington D.C. – the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the USA Today reports.

“I think it will serve as a different kind of reminder — one more personal to the bureau — of the need for fidelity to the rule of law and the dangers in becoming untethered to oversight and accountability,” Comey said.

The move marks quite a departure from the bureau’s attitude toward King prior to his 1968 assassination.

The FBI conducted secret surveillance of the civil rights figure in an effort to discredit him.

The requirement to visit the Holocaust Museum has been in place since the late 1990s.

Comey said the MLK memorial tour will remind agents that “we will be judged not only on whether we succeed in defeating crime and terrorism, (but) on whether we do so while safeguarding the liberties for which we are fighting.”

Seattle Times: ATF Needs to Provide More Regulatory Oversight After Gun Shop Blunder

By Seattle Times
Editorial Board

Revelations about the sloppy, arrogant business practices of a nationally known Skagit County retailer with a lethal inventory are stunning.

To know that Kesselring Gun Shop had been arming generations with virtually no regulatory oversight, even after grotesque violations were discovered, made Seattle Times reporter Mike Carter’s story all the more shocking.

Nearly a decade ago, after more than a half-century in business, the gun shop received its first visit by inspectors with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

They discovered that nearly 2,400 assault-style rifles and handguns could not be accounted for. A seemingly incurious ATF did nothing for the next five years.

Incredibly, it took a nasty state workers’ compensation claim inside the family-owned business to provide any transparency about the pumping of thousands of lethal weapons into society.

As Carter pointed out, when the ATF finally made Kesselring a priority, inspectors spent four months compiling evidence of ATF violations “in virtually every aspect of the shop’s operation.”

The gun shop failed to have buyers provide key information on purchase forms. Instant background checks were not documented. Guns were sold to non-Washington residents. Multiple handgun sales to one person were not documented in a half-dozen cases.

The company surrendered its license last October. That leaves Washington with 1,093 firearms dealers.

To read more click here.

Supreme Court to Consider Warrantless Cell Phone Searches

 
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

The U. S. Supreme Court will hear argument today on two cases involving warrantless searches of cell phones. The case is probably the most important and most difficult 4th Amendment case of the term. Lower courts are split on the issue, and the number and tone of the appellate briefs in the cases illustrate the future ramifications of the case in the Cyber Age.

In U.S. v. Wurie the Court of Appeals threw out drug and firearm convictions for a defendant whose cell phone was searched incident to his arrest. The California Court of Appeals went the other direction in Riley v. California, upholding the police search of a man’s cell phone when he was arrested on firearms charges. The search produced data linking him to a gang shooting, and he was convicted of attempted murder.

Warrantless searches of all materials on the person of one lawfully arrested have traditionally been upheld without serious controversy. Isn’t the cell phone just a 21st Century version of a personal notebook or photo album? That is why many, perhaps most, commentators are predicting that the conservative majority of the Court will hand down a decision sometime before the end of the term in June which upholds the law enforcement position in these cases.

However, several factors seemingly unconnected to traditional 4th Amendment theory make this a much closer question. First, everyone including Supreme Court Justices has a cell phone and increasingly relies on it for a variety of purposes. Second, the latest cell phone technology has an ever-expanding capacity to store all kinds of private information. Finally, the Court has shown an increasing propensity to rein in law enforcement’s use of advanced technology. Thermal imaging, DNA, and transponders are a few of the techniques found to be “unreasonable searches” without prior judicial authorization. Traditionally conservative Justice Anton Scalia has surprised many by his views in this area.

Prediction: 5-4 vote requiring warrants for cell phone searches incident to arrests.

Parker: Supreme Court to Consider Warrantless Cell Phone Searches

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office. 
 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

The U. S. Supreme Court will hear argument today on two cases involving warrantless searches of cell phones. The case is probably the most important and most difficult 4th Amendment case of the term. Lower courts are split on the issue, and the number and tone of the appellate briefs in the cases illustrate the future ramifications of the case in the Cyber Age.

In U.S. v. Wurie the Court of Appeals threw out drug and firearm convictions for a defendant whose cell phone was searched incident to his arrest. The California Court of Appeals went the other direction in Riley v. California, upholding the police search of a man’s cell phone when he was arrested on firearms charges. The search produced data linking him to a gang shooting, and he was convicted of attempted murder.

Warrantless searches of all materials on the person of one lawfully arrested have traditionally been upheld without serious controversy. Isn’t the cell phone just a 21st Century version of a personal notebook or photo album? That is why many, perhaps most, commentators are predicting that the conservative majority of the Court will hand down a decision sometime before the end of the term in June which upholds the law enforcement position in these cases.

However, several factors seemingly unconnected to traditional 4th Amendment theory make this a much closer question. First, everyone including Supreme Court Justices has a cell phone and increasingly relies on it for a variety of purposes. Second, the latest cell phone technology has an ever-expanding capacity to store all kinds of private information. Finally, the Court has shown an increasing propensity to rein in law enforcement’s use of advanced technology. Thermal imaging, DNA, and transponders are a few of the techniques found to be “unreasonable searches” without prior judicial authorization. Traditionally conservative Justice Anton Scalia has surprised many by his views in this area.

Prediction: 5-4 vote requiring warrants for cell phone searches incident to arrests.

Column: The U.S. Government’s Hypocrisy When It Comes to Freedom of the Press

Reporter James Risen

By Trevor Timm
Freedom of the Press Foundation

The US State Department announced the launch of its third annual “Free the Press” campaign today, which will purportedly highlight “journalists or media outlets that are censored, attacked, threatened, or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting.” A noble mission for sure. But maybe they should kick off the campaign by criticizing their own Justice Department, which on the very same day, has asked the Supreme Court to help them force Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter James Risen into jail.

Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports that the Justice Department filed a legal brief today urging the Supreme Court to reject Risen’s petition to hear his reporter’s privilege case, in which the Fourth Circuit ruled earlier this year that James Risen (and all journalists) can be forced to testify against their sources without any regard to the confidentiality required by their profession. This flies in the face of common law precedent all over the country, as well as the clear district court reasoning in Risen’s case in 2012. (The government’s Supreme Court brief can be read here.)

Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee commendably grilled the State Department spokesman about the contradiction of its press freedom campaign and the James Risen case at today’s briefing on the State Department initiative, repeatedly asking if the government considers press freedom issues in the United States the same way it does abroad. The full transcript is below.

As Gerstein noted, “The Justice Department brief is unflinchingly hostile to the idea of the Supreme Court creating or finding protections for journalists,” and if the Justice Department succeeds “it could place President Barack Obama in the awkward position of presiding over the jailing of a journalist in an administration the president has vowed to make the most transparent in history.”

To read full column click here. 

Homeland Security Department Goes Way Beyond Its Original Mission to Protect U.S. from Terrorists

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Department of Homeland Security, which was created in November 2002 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has gone far beyond its original purpose and is being used to investigate crimes unlearned to terrorism, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

The new law was simple: “The primary mission of the department is to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States; reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism; minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery from terrorist attacks that do occur within the United States.”

But more than 11 years later, the mission has included interrogating people suspected of pirating videos, seizing counterfeit NBA merchandise and going after pickpocket cases.

“They’ve kind of lost their way,” former Secretary Tom Ridge said. “I was proud to be associated with those men and women, but it just seems to me … the focus – the primary focus – has been substantially diminished.”

But Homeland Security wants to expand its operations even more, especially in New Mexico, the Journal reported.

“I really do want to expand the footprint as far as my side of Homeland Security,” said Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New Mexico.

U.S. Rep. Michael G. Grimm to Surrender to Federal Authorities on Charges Tied to Old Business

Rep. Michael Grimm

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Michael G. Grimm, the New York Congressman under investigation over his past ownership of a restaurant in Manhattan, is expected to turn himself over to federal authorities today, the Washington Post reports.

Grimm faces multiple charges connected to his former Manhattan health food restaurant that had ties with an Israeli fundraiser. The related donations reached more than $500,000.

The FBI declined to comment.

Grimm, who has denied improprieties, acknowledged collecting up to $300,000 in contributions from followers of Israeli Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto. Members of the congregation donated tens of thousands of dollars in allegedly illegal contributions that included gifts.

Secret Service’s Quick-Acting Rescue Caught on Camera Outside of White House

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Two quick-acting Secret Service agents are being credited with saving the life of a 59-year-old woman who collapsed in front of the White House, ABC News reports.

The first patrolling Secret Service Uniformed Division officer on scene discovered the woman had no pulse Thursday afternoon.
“He assessed the situation, she was unconscious and unresponsive, and so he radioed in another uniformed division officer,” Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie told ABC News today.

“She was not breathing and was turning blue,” Ogilvie said, adding the second officer was a trained EMT.

The entire 16-minute rescue was captured on camera, show the officers administering CPR and using an automated external defibrillator device.

“They actually delivered a shock, and continued with compression until DC Fire [Department] responded,” Ogilvie said of Officer William Grimmer, who first saw the woman collapse, and Officer Thomas Hammond, the trained EMT.

The woman was taken to George Washington Hospital, where she was recovering, authorities said.