New Book, Viral Video Focus on Police, Prosecution, Judicial Abuses

A new book on paramilitary police tactics underscore ongoing assaults on American civil liberties. So does a video about a sexual attack in a Nevada courthouse by a court marshal, who arrested the victim while the judge failed to intervene.

Rise of the Warrior Cop is the title of a book published in July by Radley Balko, left, a columnist for the Huffington Post. He amplified the book’s themes with two recent columns on “Police Militarization” and “America's Misbehaving Prosecutors.”

A graphic example of the arrogance that some law enforcers possess even in court is a video that went viral this spring after CBS-affiliate KLAS-TV in Las Vegas exposed the treatment of a young mother who was groped and arrested. Much of the abuse occurred in front of a judge and the victim's daughter, age 2, who tried to intervene to protect her mother against a Clark County security officer, James Kenyon, at center in the photo at right.

“Horrifying Video Of Alleged Sexual Assault While Family Court Judge Literally Looks The Other Way” was the headline of one column about the 2011 scandal, portrayed on a nearly five-minute video.

Authorities withheld the evidence until this spring as part of their cover up of abuses in Nevada’s largest local court system.

Balko's overviews and the dramatic video from Clark County complement revelations from the Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning national security trials. The scandals illustrate how authorities are implementing a harsh new model of police state repression against the domestic population -- not simply against faraway terrorists and alleged sympathizers in the United States. Update: The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to limit media shieild protections to "salaried" staff: "Senators Trying To 'Narrow' Definition Of Journalist In Media Shield Law."

The enemy appears to be "us" as Michael Collins and Paul Craig Roberts wrote this week in columns excerpted below. Both of those writers suggest that foreign war costs, jobs off-shoring, and similar policies have led to worsening austerity in the United States -- and a fear by authorities that they must prepare to restrict civil rights to prevent protests if conditions worsen.

In general, I concur with that scenario while recognizing that it contains several hypotheticals open to debate. But there is no doubt that economic hardship and 9/11 have too often been used by authorities to inflict abuses upon the public with scant fear of sanction.

On Aug. 6, I am scheduled to appear on WWL-AM/FM New Orleanson the Garland Robinette 'Think Tank' Program. Topics include DEA's cover-up of surveillance program (Reuters), FBI permission for informants to commit crimes (USA Today) and nationwide patterns of prosecution misconduct (Huffington Post).

Rodney Balko is a Nashville-based senior writer and investigative reporter for the Huffington Post. The website is generally perceived as left of center. But his columns tend to lack a partisan identification, and his own roots extend to a relationships with the free-market and liberterian communities, including the Koch Brothers-funded Cato Institute and Reason Magazine. I heard him speak last month at a forum in the House Rayburn building summarizing themes from his book, Rise of the Warrior Cop.
 
The publisher's introduction begins:
 
The last days of colonialism taught America’s revolutionaries that soldiers in the streets bring conflict and tyranny. As a result, our country has generally worked to keep the military out of law enforcement. But according to investigative reporter Radley Balko, over the last several decades, America’s cops have increasingly come to resemble ground troops. The consequences have been dire: the home is no longer a place of sanctuary, the Fourth Amendment has been gutted, and police today have been conditioned to see the citizens they serve as an other—an enemy.

Today’s armored-up policemen are a far cry from the constables of early America. The unrest of the 1960s brought about the invention of the SWAT unit—which in turn led to the debut of military tactics in the ranks of police officers. Nixon’s War on Drugs, Reagan’s War on Poverty, Clinton’s COPS program, the post–9/11 security state under Bush and Obama: by degrees, each of these innovations expanded and empowered police forces, always at the expense of civil liberties. And these are just four among a slew of reckless programs.

Endorsements include those by Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, a best-selling author who broke the Snowden revelations in June. "Vibrant and compelling, Greenwald wrote. "There is no vital trend in American society more overlooked than the militarization of our domestic police forces, and there is no journalist in America who is more knowledgeable and passionate about this topic than Radley Balko."
 
Another blurb came from former Republican congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, who wrote that the book "is a comprehensive look at the reasons for, and the results of, the increasing militarization of law enforcement. Civil libertarians on the left and limited government conservatives on the right should pay especially close attention to Radley Balko’s examination of the link between the ‘the war on drugs’ and law enforcement’s increased use of police state tactics.”
 
Police state tactics and cover-up have been on vivid display in a Nevada family court and in a video released this year thanks to the Freedom of Information Act persistence of local television station KLAS-TV. The conduct by court marshals is clearly outrageous. But perhaps most chilling was the unwillingness of the presiding judge to take any action, or the reluctance of authorities to take action until after the investigative reports this spring despite a complaint by the victim a month after the attack.
 
Here is a chronology of the incident compiled from blog and news reports.
 
Monica Contreras argued a routine motion in her divorce case without a lawyer, accompanied by her daughter. She was seeking to vacate a temporary restraining order that her ex-husband had sought. The husband did not appear. So, the request was denied. Next, a marshal led Contreras from the court into a waiting room for a drug search, with no probable cause or other reason explained.
 
She then says court marshal Ron Fox touched her on her private parts and ordered her to lift up her shirt. She fled into the courtroom and complained to the hearing master, Patricia Donninger. Contreras begged for a female marshal.
 
Fox had her arrested for "making false accusations against a police officer," which is not a crime in the United States aside from extraordinary circumstances not apparent in this instance.
 
The hearing master never responded as Contreras pleaded with her and the marshal to know why she was being arrested. Instead, Donninger turned her chair from the incident to play with Conteras' daughter for four minutes. At one point in the video, Contreras is heard begging Doninger to turn around and watch what was happening to her. The toddler tried to intervene while the judge did nothing.

KLAS obtained the video in March 2013 even though Contreras had filed a complaint with internal affairs two years previously. Contreras filed a lawsuit in April.
 
"What kind of system are we running here?" wrote Above the Law commentator Elie Mystalm in mid-June. "I get that bad people slip through the cracks. But it’s been two years and Doninger, this magistrate who literally turned her back on a woman who was molested in her own courtroom, still has a job? Could we at least get somebody sitting in her courtroom tomorrow to make sure Doninger isn’t looking away as people are violated right in front of her?"
 
A video that went viral led to action the next week when Clark County quietly fired Doninger. But how many more such incidents occur? We have investigated many at the Justice Integrity Project.
 
 
 
 
 
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Related News Coverage

National Police, Prosecutor Trends
Huffington Post, Seven Ways the Obama Administration has Accelerated Police Militarization, Radley Balko, July 10, 2013. Policing is primarily a local issue, overseen by local authorities. But beginning in the late 1960s with President Richard Nixon, the federal government began instituting policies that gave federal authorities more power to fight the drug trade, and to lure state and local policymakers into the anti-crime agenda of the administration in charge. These policies got a boost during Ronald Reagan's presidency, and then another during President Bill Clinton's years. Under President George W. Bush, all of those anti-drug policies continued, but were supplemented by new war on terrorism endeavors -- yet more efforts to make America's cops look, act and fight like soldiers. President Obama might have been different. Unfortunately, while not insignificant, the change in rhetoric has largely been only that. The Obama administration may no longer call it a "war," but there's no question that the White House is continuing to fight one. Here's a quick rundown of where and how Obama's policies have perpetuated the garrison state:

1. Pentagon Giveaways. In 1997, Congress added a section to a defense appropriations bill creating an agency to transfer surplus military gear to state and local police departments. Since then, millions of pieces of equipment designed for use on a battlefield -- such as tanks, bayonets, M-16s, and armored personnel carriers -- have been given to domestic police agencies for use on American streets, against American citizens.

Read more via link above.

BenSwannTV, Politicians Given “Invisible” License Plates That Make Them Immune To Traffic Laws, Ben Swann, Aug. 7, 2013. Although politicians are “public servants,” they often think they are above the law. And in Colorado, they actually are above the law. Colorado lawmakers do not have to follow traffic laws, as they are exempt from speeding and parking tickets. The legislators are issued special license plates that are “invisible” to both traffic cams and traffic tickets. Their specially-issued plates do not show up in the DMV database. As reported by CBS Denver, “The plates issued to the 100 state lawmakers and representatives elected to serve Colorado are preventing them not only from receiving photo radar tickets but also collection notices from past due parking tickets. The legislative plates are not entered into the Colorado DMV database, so when photo radar cameras catch these drivers speeding, they never received tickets. That’s because of a loophole that doesn’t allow the City of Denver to electronically cross-reference those plates with a home address.”

Huffington Post, The Untouchables: America's Misbehaving Prosecutors, And The System That Protects Them, Radley Balko, Aug. 1, 2013. The last year or so, a number of high-profile stories have fostered discussion and analysis of prosecutorial power, discretion and accountability. Even many on the political right, traditionally a source of law-and-order-minded support for prosecutors, have raised concerns about "over-criminalization" and the corresponding power the trend has given prosecutors. Background: Slate, Cruel but Not Unusual, Clarence Thomas writes one of the meanest Supreme Court decisions ever, Dahlia Lithwick, April 1, 2011.In 1985, John Thompson was convicted of murder in Louisiana. Having already been convicted in a separate armed robbery case, he opted not to testify on his own behalf in his murder trial. He was sentenced to death and spent 18 years in prison—14 of them isolated on death row—and watched as seven executions were planned for him. Several weeks before an execution scheduled for May 1999, Thompson's private investigators learned that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence that would have cleared him at his robbery trial. This evidence included the fact that the main informant against him had received a reward from the victim's family, that the eyewitness identification done at the time described someone who looked nothing like him, and that a blood sample taken from the crime scene did not match Thompson's blood type.

New York, T.S.A. Expands Duties Beyond Airport Security, Ron Nixon, Aug. 5, 2013.As hundreds of commuters emerged from Amtrak and commuter trains at Union Station on a recent morning, an armed squad of men and women dressed in bulletproof vests made their way through the crowds. The squad was not with the Washington police department or Amtrak’s police force, but was one of the Transportation Security Administration’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads — VIPR teams for short — assigned to perform random security sweeps to prevent terrorist attacks at transportation hubs across the United States. With little fanfare, the agency best known for airport screenings has vastly expanded its reach to sporting events, music festivals, rodeos, highway weigh stations and train terminals. Not everyone is happy. T.S.A. and local law enforcement officials say the teams are a critical component of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts, but some members of Congress, auditors at the Department of Homeland Security and civil liberties groups are sounding alarms. The teams are also raising hackles among passengers who call them unnecessary and intrusive. T.S.A. officials respond that the random searches are “special needs” or “administrative searches” that are exempt from probable cause because they further the government’s need to prevent terrorist attacks.

Tom Dispatch, Welcome to Post-Constitution America, Peter Van Buren, Right, July 30, 2013. What If Your Country Begins to Change and No One Notices? On July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress created the first whistleblower protection law, stating “that it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds, or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states.” Two hundred thirty-five years later, on July 30, 2013, Bradley Manning was found guilty on 20 of the 22 charges for which he was prosecuted, specifically for “espionage” and for videos of war atrocities he released, but not for “aiding the enemy.” Days after the verdict, with sentencing hearings in which Manning could receive 136 years of prison time ongoing, the pundits have had their say. The problem is that they missed the most chilling aspect of the Manning case: the way it ushered us, almost unnoticed, into post-Constitutional America. Even before the Manning trial began, the emerging look of that new America was coming into view.  In recent years, weapons, tactics, and techniques developed in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in the war on terror have begun arriving in “the homeland.” Consider, for instance, the rise of the warrior cop, of increasingly up-armored police departments across the country often filled with former military personnel encouraged to use the sort of rough tactics they once wielded in combat zones. Supporting them are the kinds of weaponry that once would have been inconceivable in police departments, including armored vehicles, typically bought with Department of Homeland Security grants.

Reuters via Huffington Post, DEA Special Operations Division Covers Up Surveillance Used To Investigate Americans: Report, John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, Aug. 5, 2013. A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin -- not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges. The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence -- information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses. "I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers. "It is one thing to create special rules for national security," Gertner said. "Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations." The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.

Today, much of the SOD's work is classified, and officials asked that its precise location in Virginia not be revealed. The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked "Law Enforcement Sensitive," a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential. "Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function," a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD's involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use "normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD." A spokesman with the Department of Justice, which oversees the DEA, declined to comment. But two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to "recreate" an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily.

USA TODAY, Exclusive: FBI allowed informants to commit 5,600 crimes, Brad Heath, Aug. 4, 2013. The FBI gave its informants permission to break the law at least 5,658 times in a single year, according to newly disclosed documents that show just how often the nation's top law enforcement agency enlists criminals to help it battle crime. The U.S. Justice Department ordered the FBI to begin tracking crimes by its informants more than a decade ago, after the agency admitted that its agents had allowed Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger to operate a brutal crime ring in exchange for information about the Mafia. The FBI submits that tally to top Justice Department officials each year, but has never before made it public. Agents authorized 15 crimes a day, on average, including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies. FBI officials have said in the past that permitting their informants — who are often criminals themselves — to break the law is an indispensable, if sometimes distasteful, part of investigating criminal organizations. "It sounds like a lot, but you have to keep it in context," said Shawn Henry, who supervised criminal investigations for the FBI until he retired last year. "This is not done in a vacuum. It's not done randomly. It's not taken lightly." USA TODAY obtained a copy of the FBI's 2011 report under the Freedom of Information Act. The report does not spell out what types of crimes its agents authorized, or how serious they were. It also did not include any information about crimes the bureau's sources were known to have committed without the government's permission.

Wall Street Journal, Bezos Buys Washington Post for $250 Million, Deal Doesn't Involve Amazon.com, Staff report, Aug. 5, 2013. Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon.com Inc., is buying the Washington Post Co.'s flagship newspaper and some related publishing assets for $250 million. Mr. Bezos is buying the publishing business as an individual, and not in his capacity as CEO of Amazon, according to the announcement. Washington Post Chairman and CEO Donald E. Graham said the company decided to sell the business "only after years of familiar newspaper-industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post."

Huffington Post, You Call This Justice? How America Became a Prosecutocracy, Conrad Black, left, July 18, 2013. The saga of Stephen Nodine has taken a new turn with the unctuous statement of the Republican Party chairman in Alabama that he would never approve a "felon" as a candidate, in this case, for Congress. Those who follow the torrent of injustices that thunder through American criminal courts to the bloated and corrupt prison system will recall the Nodine case. It possesses an unusual singularity of official irregularities from its inception to the present. Nodine, the former Mobile County Commissioner, was charged with murder after the death of his frequent and intimate companion, Angel Downs, from a gunshot wound in her driveway in 2010.

Nodine (shown at right inspecting Hurricane Katrina damage with then-President George Bush) was a coming figure in the Republican Party in Alabama, and professed to have been concerned about his girlfriend's mental state as he drove away from her home following an argument. The ensuing trial failed to convict Nodine, though it ran him out of money and threw him on the mercies of the threadbare legal aid system, and the investigation prior to trial did turn up evidence of his being a drug user and owner of an unauthorized firearm in a manner prohibited to public officials. As a consolation prize for their failure to convict him of murder, the prosecutors obtained a sentence against him of 15 months on those and related charges to which he pleaded in the usual coercive manner of the American plea bargain, (for which prosecutors would be disbarred in any other civilized country). Nodine now says that he is paying for ethical and character failings but remains strenuous in his professions of innocence on the main charge. The Stephen Nodine case is a disgrace from the beginning to the present, and the Republican Party should not be legitimizing his oppression, much less pandering to the ignorant with sanctimonious claptrap.

Las Vegas Family Court
KLAS-TV, I-Team: Cover-Up Alleged in Family Court, Nathan Baca and Alex Brauer, March 8, 2013. Multiple employees and managers at the Clark County family court are under investigation for allegedly covering up a sexual assault by a court marshal. The I-Team has uncovered video showing a woman claiming a court marshal sexually assaulted her. She was later arrested by that same marshal. The marshal has since been fired. The I-Teams investigation shows how the internal affairs investigation is revealing much larger problems at family court. There are multiple marshals involved and allegations ranging from sexual assaults to choking a citizen in court. Monica Contreras went to family court with her 2-year-old daughter in August 2011. As Contreras was leaving, family court marshal Ron Fox ordered her into a waiting room for an unexplained drug search. Contreras said Fox touched her buttocks, breast, and ordered her to lift up her shirt. A later internal investigation by Clark County courts validated her claims. Contreras went back into the same courtroom and told hearing master Patricia Donninger that her requests to have a female marshal handle the search were ignored. The video shows Marshal James Kenyon preparing to arrest Contreras. She can be heard pleading with him. "For what, sir? Why would I be arrested? Can you please tell me?"

Gawker, Judge Ignores Pleas of Woman Arrested for Protesting Sexual Assault, Max Read, June 12, 2013. From the "Videos That Will Give You Nightmares" department: KLAS in Las Vegas has obtained tape of family court marshals illegally arresting a woman accusing one of them of sexual assault—as the presiding officer ignores her pleas for help or explanation.

Above the Law, Horrifying Video Of Alleged Sexual Assault While Family Court Judge Literally Looks The Other Way, Elie Mystalm, June 13, 2013. A disturbing video is making its way around social media today. It’s a six-minute family court video from August 2011 of a woman who complains that a marshal sexually assaulted her in a back room. The woman becomes increasingly agitated as the marshal, who is in the courtroom, then arrests her for “making false allegations about a police officer,” all while the magistrate plays with the woman’s child, at least until the child begs the arresting officer to not take her momma away.

Las Vegas Tribune, Clark County Court to Patricia Doninger: YOU’RE FIRED, Rolando Larraz, June 19, 2013. The family court hearing master that allowed two court marshals to abuse, degrade and sexually assault a woman that was in court for a divorce matter was quietly fired last week. Patricia Donninger is no longer employed by Clark County Courts after an alleged investigation into the August 11 incident in her court, during which she turned her back on a disgusting situation to play with the victim’s underage daughter.

Chicago Tribune, Kass: Was police killing of 95-year-old necessary? John Kass, Aug. 03, 2013. Common sense tells me that cops don't need a Taser or a shotgun to subdue a 95-year-old man. When John Wrana was a young man, fit and strong and fighting in World War II with the U.S. Army Air Corps, did he ever think he'd end this way? Just a few weeks shy of his 96th birthday, in need of a walker to move about, cops coming through the door of his retirement home with a Taser and a shotgun. The old man, described by a family member as "wobbly" on his feet, had refused medical attention. The paramedics were called. They brought in the Park Forest police. First they tased him, but that didn't work. So they fired a shotgun, hitting him in the stomach with a bean-bag round. Wrana was struck with such force that he bled to death internally, according to the Cook County medical examiner. "The Japanese military couldn't get him at the age he was touchable, in a uniform in the war. It took 70 years later for the Park Forest police to do the job," said Wrana's family attorney, Nicholas Grapsas, a former prosecutor. The Illinois State Police are investigating the horrific incident but won't comment, and neither will the Park Forest police. (The 2005 family photo at left showsJohn Wrana and his late wife, Helen, who died that year.)

Domestic Austerity

The Huffington Post, Food Stamp Cuts Twice As Deep In New GOP Proposal, Arthur Delaney, Aug. 1, 2013. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are considering a new food stamp bill that would cut nutrition assistance by twice as much as a previous bill that died on the House floor last month. The previous measure would have reduced spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $20.5 billion over 10 years, or roughly 2 percent of the program's $800 billion cost in that time frame. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), one of the Republicans huddling on food stamps since then, said the new proposal would have deeper cuts.

Bradley Manning

FireDogLake, Bradley Manning’s Sentencing: WikiLeaks, Manning Have No Blood on Their Hands from Afghan War Logs Release, Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 1, 2013. During the first day of the sentencing phase of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial yesterday, a military judge heard testimony about names of local nationals revealed in the “Afghanistan War Logs” Manning disclosed to WikiLeaks and whether anyone had been killed as a result of their name being disclosed. The government initially tried to slip testimony suggesting Manning’s disclosure had resulted in the death of someone past Judge Army Col. Denise Lind. The government was trying to hold Manning responsible for using the “war logs” as propaganda to justify killing someone, but the judge said at the end of the open session that she would disregard all testimony on the Taliban killing someone who was not named in the disclosures. Once again, it is proven that government officials will hype up how released information will lead to deaths or cause great damage, even when it is rare for casualties to occur as a direct result or that damage would occur because naturally the military adapts so forces are not vulnerable. Finally, the evidence that no persons were killed as a result of their names being disclosed should be good for Manning.

OpEdNews, Double-Feature: "Bradley Manning Verdict Convicts Washington" and "Hiding Economic Depression With Spin," Paul Craig Roberts, Aug. 1, 2013. Bradley Manning's "trial" was equivalent to Joseph Stalin's "trial" of Nikolai Bukharin. It did not take place in a real court with a real jury. Imagine the US government accusing Manning of aiding the enemy when the US government itself is supporting al Qaeda's attempt to overthrow the Syrian government!...By printing dollars to support the banks, the Fed has created a bond market bubble, a stock market bubble, and a dollar bubble. If the Fed stops printing money, not only will the banks' balance sheets take a hit, but so will the bond, stock, and real estate markets. Wealth would be wiped out. No one could any longer pretend that there is an economic recovery. The real reason that the US economy cannot recover is that it has been moved offshore. Millions of US manufacturing and tradable professional service jobs such as software engineering have been moved to China, India and other countries where wages and salaries are a fraction of those in the US. Using "free trade" as a cloak, corporations have turned labor costs into a profits center. The use of foreign labor in place of US labor is beneficial to executives and shareholders in the short-run, but it is detrimental in the longer-run. The long-run effect is to destroy the US consumer market.

Agonist, We are the enemy Manning and Snowden aided, Michael Collins, July 31, 2013. What do Manning and Snowden have in common? I asked that question and came up nothing at first.  Manning gave specific information on the content of U.S. intelligence.  Edward Snowden exposed the structure and targets of a massive spying operation without exposing specific content.   However, there is a common element to both cases – aiding the enemy.  And, who are the enemies?  The enemies are we the people, the citizens of the United States. Since our allies are partners in the NSA spying programs, the fact we spied on them should have been no big surprise. The citizens of the United States, however, were not aware of the vast array of information collected concerning their communication patterns.  Snowden, like Manning, had a main target for their whistleblowing — the citizens of the United States.

Edward Snowden

Voices on the Square, US Senate IP Caught Defacing Edward Snowden's Wikipedia Entry, Reader submission, Aug. 3, 2013. An IP address linked to the United States Senate was caught defacing Edward Snowden's Wikipedia article last evening. The "less than neutral" edit was to change the lead sentence to describe him as a "traitor." When this was discovered by Wikipedia staffers, it was quickly edited back, but the fact that a United States Senate staffer has the time to deface Wikipedia entries does not bode well for our democracy. Get back to work, Government, and stop spying on us when you should be doing your real jobs.

AP via Washington Post, Snowden has left Moscow airport, his lawyer says, Staff report, Aug 1, 2013. A Russian lawyer says documents were granted that allowed the former NSA contractor to enter Russia. Snowden’s whereabouts will be kept secret for security reasons, he adds. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden left transit zone of a Moscow airport and entered Russia after authorities granted him temporary asylum, his lawyer said Thursday. Anatoly Kucherena said that Snowden’s whereabouts will be kept secret for security reasons. The former NSA systems analyst was stuck at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23. The U.S. has demanded that Russia send Snowden home to face prosecution for espionage, but President Vladimir Putin dismissed the request. Putin had said that Snowden could receive asylum in Russia on condition he stops leaking U.S. secrets. Kucherena has said Snowden accepted the condition. The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday published a new report on U.S. intelligence-gathering based on information from Snowden, but Kucherena said the material was provided before Snowden promised to stop leaking.

NSA Surveillance

Washington Post, NSA chief asks a reluctant crowd of hackers to help agency do its job, Robert O’Harrow Jr., July 31, 2013. It doesn’t get much stranger than this, even in Vegas. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, stood in front of a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday, selling the idea of government surveillance programs. His audience? More than 3,000 cybersecurity specialists, including some of the world’s best hackers, an unruly community known for its support of civil liberties and skepticism of the government’s three-letter agencies. Alexander praised the group as one of the brightest collections of technical minds in the world. He asked them to help the NSA fulfill its mission of protecting the country, while also protecting privacy. “We stand for freedom,” Alexander told the crowd in a vast ballroom at Caesars Palace. “Help us to defend the country and develop a better solution.” Some in the crowd weren’t buying, and one hacker hurled an expletive back at him. “I’m saying I don’t trust you!” a voice shouted. This is Black Hat, the annual hacker conference. For a few days every year, it takes center stage in the topsy-turvy worlds of cyberspace, network computing and digital security. The conference serves as a platform for hacking seminars, partying and — more and more — policy discussions about what the government and corporate worlds ought to be doing to confront problems like cyber-espionage and cyberattacks, growing threats with no clear-cut remedies.

Events

Heritage Foundation, Government of Wolves, Aug. 9, 2013, Washington, DC. Speaker: John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. In 1982, he established The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization headquartered in Charlottesville, VA. Whitehead charts the transition from a society governed by 'We the People' to a state governed more and more by the strong arm of the law. Once a society that valued individual liberty and privacy, in recent years, our culture has quietly accepted surveillance cameras, police and drug-sniffing dogs in our children's schools, national databases that track our finances and activities, sneak-and-peek searches of our homes without our knowledge or consent, and anti-terrorism laws that turn average Americans into suspects. In A Government of Wolves, Whitehead posits that our nation is at a critical juncture in addressing the growing power of the state versus the retention of personal freedoms.

Rutherford Institute via YouTube,

, You Tube (1 hour, 53 minutes, shown below), June 4, 2012. Bruce Fein, the former associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, speaks on "The American Empire, Before the Fall" as part of the Rutherford Institute's Summer Speaker Series. The Institute's Summer Speaker Series engages leaders from a cross-section of cultural, philosophical and legal backgrounds in stimulating discussions with law students, lawyers, civil liberties activists and community members. This year's lineup of speakers will address issues ranging from civil liberties post-9/11 and criminal justice reform to the dissolution of the print media, religious freedom in America, TSA scanners and threats to the Fourth Amendment, and what Americans can do to guard against attacks on the Constitution.

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

The Huffington Post, Senators Trying To 'Narrow' Definition Of Journalist In Media Shield Law, Jack Mirkinson, Aug. 2, 2013. In the wake of the many different scandals surrounding the government's surveillance of journalists, senators are attempting to craft a new federal shield law that would ramp up some of the protections for reporters. But, as McClatchy reported on Thursday night, the politicians have hit a bit of a snag: they can't agree on who is a journalist and who isn't. McClatchy sat in on a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where senators argued about who, exactly, they were trying to help: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Feinstein suggested that the definition comprise only journalists who make salaries, saying it should be applied just to "real reporters." The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was against that idea, since there are bloggers and others in the Internet age who don’t necessarily receive salaries.

Huffington Post, Supreme Court Ethics Act Proposed In Response To Controversial Behavior By Justices Scalia, Thomas, Nick Wing, Aug. 1, 2013.

Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Chattanooga editor fired for ‘shove it’ headline aimed at Obama, Jim Galloway, Aug. 1, 2013. A Chattanooga newspaper editor has been fired for that “Take your jobs plan and shove it” headline that greeted President Barack Obama on his arrival to the city earlier this week. We noted the rude nature of the greeting here: Chattanooga newspaper's welcome to Obama: ‘Take your jobs plan and shove it.’

OpEd News, Ties that Bind: How the Bureau of Prisons Undermines Families, Part Two, Joan Brunwasser, Jujly 30, 2013. My guest today is Judy White. Judy, did you ever get to actually see Gary and was there any visitation left by the time they were done messing with you? Background: Gary White was a county commissioner in Jefferson County, Alabama. Good friends with Les Siegelman, he introduced Les's brother, former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, to Richard Scrushy, a local Republican businessman. Because of this, White became inextricably intertwined with Siegelman, who was one of the biggest targets of the Karl Rove-directed, heavily politicized Department of Justice. Scrushy and Siegelman were later indicted and convicted on charges stemming from that relationship. According to affidavits provided by Gary [and his wife Judy, who was also in the room] White was asked to perjure himself before a Grand Jury in order to make the case against Siegelman and Scrushy. White refused and the very next day, the DOJ started delivering subpoenas to build a case against him. White is serving ten years and has been moved most recently to Federal Prison in Arkansas.

RT, Germany scraps old surveillance pact with US, Britain over NSA leaks, Staff report, Aug. 2, 2013. Germany has dissolved a fifty-years-old surveillance pact with the United States and Britain in response to a “debate about protecting personal privacy” in the country, which was sparked by revelations of the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The agreement that dated back to the late 1960s gave the US, Britain and France the right to request German authorities carry out surveillance operations so as to protect their troops stationed within the country. “The cancellation of the administrative agreements, which we have pushed for in recent weeks, is a necessary and proper consequence of the recent debate about protecting personal privacy,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement on Friday. At left, German demonstrators against surveillance don Edwart Snowden masks in support of his disclosures. Flickr Photo by Ubiquit23.

Dystopian Film Fantasies

(1968) Starring Jackie Cooper, Gene Hackman. Made-for-TV drama about fascist takeover of America.

(1970) Glenn Ford, Rosemary Forsythe, Dean Jagger. Made-for-TV drama about an elite secret society and pressures to fulfill its obligations.