The U.S. has lost track of two known or suspected terrorists given identities under the federal witness protection program, says a Justice Department audit that indicated the program was so poorly monitored the department didn't even know how many such individuals were in it, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The new identities of individuals who had cooperated in terrorism investigations were not properly shared with other agencies, the Justice Department’s inspector general reported yesterday.
As a result, some known or suspected terrorists in the witness protection program who were on the federal "no-fly" list were allowed to travel on commercial flights. “We found significant deficiencies in the handling of known or suspected terrorists who were admitted into the WitSec [witness security] Program,” the watchdog agency found. “Therefore, it was possible for known or suspected terrorists to fly on commercial airplanes in or over the United States and evade one of the government’s primary means of identifying and tracking terrorists’ movements and actions.” Since it began in 1971, some 18,300 witnesses, family members, and other associates of witnesses have received identity protection – relocated with new names – under the program. As of a year ago, there were about 700 participants in the program. Witnesses typically testify in cases involving organized crime, drug trafficking, gang activity, and terrorism.
Under pressure from Congress, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has disclosed new details about the criminal backgrounds of some of the approximately 2,200 immigration detainees let out of custody in February in anticipation of spending cuts, saying that 32 of the 622 convicted criminals released nationwide had multiple felony convictions, reports the Arizona Republic.
The new details raised more questions about the decision in February by Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials to release 2,226 immigration detainees from facilities in several states in order to slow rising detention costs in the face of $300 million in automatic budget cuts known as the sequester, which kicked in March 1. During two congressional hearings in March, ICE Director John Morton insisted that only detainees who did not pose a threat to public safety were released and that all remained under supervision. Information released by DHS in response to requests from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations shows that ICE has taken back into custody 58 of the convicted criminals released nationally after a review showed the seriousness of their offenses. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told the newspaper: "You should be concerned with people who are guilty of second-degree robbery, DUI, stalking convictions — those kinds of things. They’re just released out into the public when they are in this country illegally."
Lorraine Martin, a Connecticut nurse, was arrested with her sons when the police raided her home and found a small amount of marijuana. The charges were later dropped and the official record was purged, says Philly.com. Martin has been unable to find a job, and she claims it is because when you type her name into a search engine, articles like one titled “Mother and Sons Charged with Drug Offenses” are still available through online news outlets. Martin filed a class-action suit against local news outlets on behalf of those who were arrested but whose criminal records have since been expunged.
The suit claims that the online media outlets defame them by continuing to make available content about the story. The novel question is: Can an article written about an incident that accurately describes an event that did take place be false if the record of that event was later expunged? In other words, does the truth change into a falsehood over time such that what happened after the fact makes the event described at the time defamatory? And if it does, then does the online news agency have an obligation to take down content that hurts a person’s reputation or ability to earn a living if the subsequent events make it clear that the arrest should not have happened or where the prosecutor has, by expunging the record, shown that the person who was arrested for a crime should not continue to be judged on the basis of her arrest for it?
The terrorist tracking task force in Boston failed to act on notices that one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers had traveled to and from Russia last year, FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that handles the Justice Department's budget, reports Politico. Mueller said authorities would "do better" next time in following up on such information.
Mueller said that before Tamerlan Tsarnaev went to Russia last year, the Joint Terrorism Task Force was notified by a database known as TECS (formerly Treasury Enforcement Communications System). Tamerlan's travel was being flagged because the Russian intelligence service told the FBI in 2011 he'd become more religious and was interested in joining Islamic radical groups in Russia. "When [Tamerlan] returned to the United States there as an automatic message that was pushed out that also came to the task force in that way and there was no additional action taken on that," Mueller said. "It may well have been because of the numerous inquiries that we handle. [ ] That particular Joint Terrorism Task Force in any given year handles hundreds of similar assessments and leads and the like." Mueller said changes are being made to make sure such notices are followed up on.
Washington residents and out-of-staters could buy an ounce of tested, labeled marijuana, seven days a week, up to 20 hours a day, in state-regulated stores under draft rules for a new legal-pot system proposed yesterday by the Liquor Control Board, reports the Seattle Times. The rule is more permissive than in Colorado, the other state creating an adult recreational-pot market. Colorado lawmakers limited out-of-staters to buying one-quarter ounce in stores in an effort to impede “smurfing,” the practice of making repeated buys and aggregating pot to sell on the black market.
Washington would not allow the sale of marijuana concentrates, such as hash or hash oil, unless they were infused in edible or liquid products. The high-potency concentrates have become popular to vaporize, particularly with younger users. Washington’s 46-page raft of rules covers issues from product testing to growing licenses to advertising restrictions to package labeling. The draft rules would allow sun-grown pot in greenhouses — with rigid walls, roofs and doors — but not open fields. They would not initially cap the number of growing licenses issued by the state, in an effort to include smaller growers in a seed-to-store system untested on the planet. The rules would not cap processing or retail licenses either, for similar reasons. Alison Holcomb, primary author of the initiative to legalize recreational pot, was pleased with the rules’ balancing of public safety and health with the desire to create a workable system.
Federal courts officials asked the White House for emergency funding, saying the judiciary does not have the budget flexibility to absorb the large mandatory budget cuts that have caused furloughs in the nation's federal public defender and court offices, Legal Times reports. The U.S. Judicial Conference said the courts need an emergency appropriation of $73 million—$41 million for federal public defenders and $32 million for court operations. The money would save 550 jobs in public defender and clerk offices, and prevent 24,000 furlough days for 5,000 employees.
The request connected the emergency funding to the Boston Marathon bombing, saying $5 million for projected representation costs "for high-threat trials, including high-threat cases in New York and Boston" that federal public defenders would have been able to absorb had the sequester not happened. The courts want to replace part of the $350 million overall cut to the federal courts budget as part of sequestration earlier this year, said U.S. Circuit Judge Julia Gibbons, chair of the judicial conference, and Judge Thomas Hogan, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. "The judiciary is confronting an unprecedented financial crisis that could seriously compromise the Constitutional mission of the United States courts," they said. "We believe our supplemental request meets the threshold for receiving an emergency designation."
O.J. Simpson's appeal for a new trial sheds light on an issue affecting countless lesser-known defendants: bad lawyering, says the Christian Science Monitor. Along the way, he might get a helping hand from the U.S. Supreme Court. Simpson wants to overturn his conviction on armed robbery and kidnapping of sports memorabilia dealers in 2007. He says his counsel was inadequate and that his lawyer misled co-counsel.
Squabbles between lawyers and their clients and co-counsels are not uncommon, says Robert Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. “Most clients in this situation are so poor or low on the economic scale that their bad lawyering doesn’t get much attention, and so the issue remains largely unnoticed,” he adds. “Whether Simpson prevails or not, this proceeding has a great chance to put the spotlight on this widespread problem. Maryland lawyer Rene Sandler says, “He actually has a case with merits, but these are extreme, uphill battles because you are asking a court to substitute its own judgment, years later with faded memories, for that of the judge at the time.”
The Obama administration asked Congress to revive legislation giving give stronger protections to reporters, responding to widespread criticism over the Justice Department's broad seizure of Associated Press phone records, the Wall Street Journal reports. House Republicans, at a contentious four-hour hearing, barraged Attorney General Eric Holder with questions about the AP case and other issues, including the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups. The AP seizures were part of a Justice Department investigation into national-security leaks. The subpoenas appeared to be handled "contrary to the law and standard procedure," House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), told Holder.
The White House talked to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) about reviving "media shield" legislation that would protect journalists from revealing sources as part of an investigation. Schumer has been a chief proponent of such a law, though an effort to pass it in 2009 failed. Journalism advocacy groups welcomed the renewed interest in protecting journalists, though the effectiveness of a shield law would depend on how it is written and how easily the Justice Department could override the protections, citing national-security concerns. "When you talk about a shield law, it's often completely dependent on what they end up with," said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "If you keep watering down certain elements [ ] you can end up with a law that doesn't mean much."
Prison and jail inmates with mental health problems reported higher rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization than did other inmates, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said today. An estimated 6.3 percent of prison inmates and 3.6 percent of jail inmates with serious psychological distress reported inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, compared with 0.7 percent for both prison and jail inmates without a mental health problem.
The new study provides findings for the first time on sexual victimization of inmates with mental problems and on juveniles (ages 16 to 17) held in adult facilities. Nationwide, 2.0 percent of prison inmates and 1.6 percent of jail inmates reported at least one incident involving another inmate; 2.4 percent of prison inmates and 1.8 percent of jail inmates reported having had sex or sexual contact with facility staff. An estimated 80,600 adult inmates—57,900 in prisons and 22,700 in jails—reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff during 2011-12.
A serial killer who committed suicide in an Alaska jail last year confessed to murdering at least 11 people across the U.S., but Israel Keyes didn't name names, and investigators trying to figure out who he killed are running into a major stumbling block: There is no unified, mandatory national database for missing persons, reports NPR. In a dimly lit back office at the Anchorage Police Department, investigators are piecing together Keyes' travels on a map. They say he may have killed people in places he traveled to over the past decade. He traveled a lot: to Seattle, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago, among other cities.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is federally mandated and has long-term government funding. The closest thing to it for adults is the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, which is funded by the Justice Department. But it's not required by Congress and doesn't have a long-term funding source.