Justice Dept., FBI to Review Use of Flawed Forensic Evidence in Thousands of Cases

The Justice Department and the FBI have are reviewing thousands of criminal cases searching for flawed forensic evidence, officials recently said. They will be examining cases conducted by all FBI Laboratory hair and fiber examiners since at least 1985 and may reach earlier if records are available.

The review comes after The Washington Post reported in April that Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work may have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people but never reviewed the evidence or notified defendants or their attorneys of cases they knew were troubled.

“The Department and the FBI are in the process of identifying historical cases for review where a microscopic hair examination conducted by the FBI was among the evidence in a case that resulted in a conviction,” spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said in a statement. “We have dedicated considerable time and resources to addressing these issues, with the goal of reaching final determinations in the coming months.”

Chitre said the new review would include help from the Innocence Project, a New York-based advocacy group for people seeking exoneration through DNA testing, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

In its April report, The Post identified two men convicted on the testimony of FBI hair analysts who wrongly placed them at crime scenes. Santae A. Tribble, now 51, was convicted of killing a taxi driver in 1978, and Kirk L. Odom, now 49, was convicted of a sexual assault in 1981. Since the Post report, Tribble’s conviction was vacated, and  prosecutors moved to overturn Odom’s conviction and declare him innocent.

The National Academy of Sciences is urging the White House and Congress to remove crime labs from police and prosecutors’ control, or at least to strengthen the science and standards underpinning the nation’s forensic science system.

The last time the FBI abandoned a forensic practice was in 2005, when it ended efforts to trace bullets to a specific manufacturer’s batch through analyzing their chemical composition after its methodology was scientifically debunked. The bureau released files in an estimated 2,500 bullet-lead cases only after “60 Minutes” and The Post reported the problem in 2007.

The Post reported in April that hair and fiber analysis was subjective and lacked grounding in solid research and that the FBI lab lacked protocols to ensure that agent testimony was scientifically accurate. But bureau managers kept their reviews limited to one agent, even as they learned that many examiners’ “matches” were often wrong and that numerous examiners overstated the significance of matches, using bogus statistics or exaggerated claims.

In past reviews, the department kept results secret and gave findings only to prosecutors, who then determined whether to turn them over to the defense.

Justice Department, FBI Investigating Shooting Death of Trayvon Martin

Amidst growing public outrage, the Justice Department and the FBI have begun an investigation into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teen, by a neighborhood watch captain who local police declined to arrest.

More than 435,000 people, including celebrities such as movie director Spike Lee and musician Wyclef Jean, signed a petition on Change.org, a social action website, calling for the arrest of the shooter, George Zimmerman.

“The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

The shooting occurred on February 26 when Zimmerman spotted Martin walking home from buying candy and iced tea at a convenience store.

Zimmerman, patrolling the neighborhood in his car, called the 911 and reported “a real suspicious guy.”

“This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about,” Zimmerman told dispatchers, adding, “These @!$%#s. They always get away.”

The dispatcher, hearing heavy breathing on the phone, asked Zimmerman: “Are you following him?”

“Yeah,” Zimmerman said.

“Okay, we don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher responded.

Several neighbors subsequently called 911 and reported a scuffle between Zimmerman and Martin. While some of the callers were still on the phone, cries for help were heard followed by a gunshot in the background.

“I recognized that (voice) as my baby screaming for help before his life was taken,” Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, told Reuters.

“(Zimmerman) was reacting to the color of his skin,’’ Fulton, said Monday on NBC’s Today show. “He committed no crime. My son wasn’t doing anything but walking on the sidewalk, and I just don’t understand why this situation got out of control.’’

Police declined to arrest Zimmerman. Prosecutors are reviewing it. Police cited Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, enacted in 2005. The Florida law allows a potential crime victim who is “in fear of great bodily injury” to use deadly force in public places.

Ben Crump, the victim’s family lawyer, said Zimmerman should not be protected under the Stand Your Ground law. “It’s illogical, you can claim self defense after you chase and pursue somebody,” he said. “That’s a courtroom defense. That’s not something the police accept on the side of the street.”

Five years after Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was enacted, a 2010 review by the St. Petersburg Times found that reports of justifiable homicides had tripled, and a majority of cases were excused by prosecutors or the courts.

 

 

Anonymous Reveals Haditha Massacre Emails

The loose knit internet collective known as Anonymous have unveiled their release for this week’s installment of FuckFBIFriday. This time around their target is Frank Wuterich, the US Marine that admitted to killing Iraqi civilians and received no jail time for his crime.

Anonymous began circulating news early Friday that the website for Puckett and Faraj, the high-profile attorneys that represented Sgt. Frank Wuterich in his recent trial, had been hacked. Wuterich admitted to leading a Marine raid of two civilian homes in Haditha, Iraq in 2005, murdering 24 innocent civilians including women, children and an elderly man who was confined to a wheelchair.

Last month, a military tribunal completed a hearing on Sgt. Wuterich, more than six years after the notorious incident. He was reportedly expected to receive only 90 days of prison time but ended up getting none.

In response, hacktivists with Anonymous have uncovered gigabytes worth of correspondence from Sgt. Wuterich’s attorneys and affiliated parties and left the following message on Puckett and Faraj’s website.

As part of our ongoing efforts to expose the corruption of the court systems and the brutality of US imperialism, we want to bring attention to USMC SSgt Frank Wuterich who along with his squad murdered dozens of unarmed civilians during the Iraqi Occupation. Can you believe this scumbag had his charges reduced to involuntary manslaughter and got away with only a pay cut? Meanwhile, Bradley Manning who was brave enough to risk his life and freedom to expose the truth about government corruption is threatened with life imprisonment. When justice cannot be found within the confines of their crooked court systems, we must seek revenge on the streets and on the internet – and dealing out swift retaliation is something we are particularly good at. Worry not comrades, it’s time to deliver some epic ownage. And to add a few layers of icing to this delicious caek, we got the usual boatloads of embarrassing personal information. How do you think the world will react when they find out Neal Puckett and his marine buddies have been making crude jokes about the incident where marines have been caught on video pissing on dead bodies in Afghanistan? Or that he regularly corresponds with and receives funding from former marine Don Greenlaw who runs the racist blog http://snooper.wordpress.com? We believe it is time to release all of their private information and court evidence to the world and conduct a People’s trial of our own.”

Anonymous operatives also released a recorded phone message that they intercepted from the FBI and Scotland Yard. Hours later, The Associated Press reports that the FBI confirmed the interception and says it is going after the parties responsible.

Lawmakers Submit Letter Opposing Indefinite Detention for U.S. Citizens

Forty members of Congress have sent a letter urging the House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders to protest provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens. The NDAA first passed in the House of Representatives weeks ago but endured strong opposition from a handful of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate last Thursday, where the bill was passed but with the addition of an amendment that forced the measure to be revised for a final vote. The final version of the NDAA was completed and a vote on it is set to take place this week.

“I strongly oppose mandating military custody and allowing for indefinite detention without due process or trial. These provisions are deeply concerning and would risk putting American citizens in military detention, indefinitely. In short, this authority is at complete odds with the United States Constitution.” stated Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)

On December 5, Senator Rand Paul (R-KT.) wrote of the dangerous provisions found in the NDAA in the National Review: “If you allow the government the unlimited power to detain citizens without a jury trial, you are exposing yourself to the whim of those in power. That is a dangerous game.”

The final version of the bill does not address any of the concerns of members of congress.

Any issues that the Obama administration supposedly had with the Senate-passed version of the bill, apparently had nothing to do with the indefinite detention of Americans. Recent revelations by Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) indicate that the White House actually insisted that any language exempting American citizens from the indefinite detention provision be removed.

“The language which precluded the application of Section 1031 to American citizens was in the bill that we originally approved … and the administration asked us to remove the language which says that U.S. citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section.” said Levin.

The provisions found in Section 1031 of the bill provide the President full power to arrest and detain citizens of the United States without due process. Under that provision, the President is also given the authority to use the military to apprehend and detain those suspected individuals, dubbed “covered persons.” Section 1031, defines a “covered person” as one who either engages in terrorist acts, or is associated with an organization guilty of “belligerent acts.”

According to Senator Rand Paul the FBI publishes characteristics of people you should report as possible terrorists. The list includes the possession of “Meals Ready to Eat,” weatherproofed ammunition and high-capacity magazines, missing fingers, brightly colored stains on clothing, paying for products in cash, and changes in hair color.

Still, supporters for the bill say that it should not make exceptions for anyone, regardless of their citizenship.

“It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next,” remarked Senator Graham (Rep.-S.C.) “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”

According to the Huffington Post, “the last time something of this magnitude was even talked about was during World War Two when Japanese-Americans were put into internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.”

While the indefinite detention provision managed to remain in the bill, some other significant items found their way out of it, including a 2014 audit requirement for the Pentagon, reports Congressional Quarterly.

Local Law Enforcement Using Predator Drones in U.S.

On June 23rd Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke went looking for six missing cows on the Brossart family farm. Some of the Brossarts allegedly belong to the Sovereign Citizen Movement, an antigovernment group that the FBI considers extremist and violent. According to the sheriff three men with rifles prevented him from completing his search. Fearful of an armed standoff, he called in reinforcements from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances, deputy sheriffs from three other counties AND a Predator B drone.

The unmanned aircraft circled 2 miles overhead the 3,000-acre farm next morning, using it’s sophisticated sensors to pinpoint the three suspects and show that they were unarmed. Police rushed in and made the first known arrests of U.S. citizens with help from a Predator, the spy drone that has become a powerful yet controversial weapon used to fight the war on terror.

Local police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June and the FBI and DEA have also used the drones for domestic investigations.

“We don’t use [drones] on every call out,” said Bill Macki, head of the police SWAT team in Grand Forks. “If we have something in town like an apartment complex, we don’t call them.”

The drones belong to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates eight Predators on the country’s northern and southwestern borders to search for illegal immigrants and smugglers. The use of drones to assist local, state and federal law enforcement has occurred without any public acknowledgment or debate.

In an interview, Michael C. Kostelnik, a retired Air Force general who heads the office that supervises the drones, said Predators are flown “in many areas around the country, not only for federal operators, but also for state and local law enforcement and emergency responders in times of crisis.”

Congress first authorized Customs and Border Protection to buy unarmed Predators in 2005, but former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), who sat on the House homeland security intelligence subcommittee at the time and served as its chairwoman from 2007 until early this year, said no one ever discussed using Predators to help local police serve warrants or do other basic work. Using Predators for routine law enforcement without public debate or clear legal authority is a mistake, Harman said.

“There is no question that this could become something that people will regret,” said Harman, who resigned from the House in February.

In 2008 and 2010, Harman helped beat back efforts by Homeland Security officials to use imagery from military satellites to help domestic terrorism investigations. Congress blocked the proposal on grounds it would violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which bars the military from taking a police role on U.S. soil.

U.S. courts have allowed law enforcement to conduct aerial surveillance without a warrant ruling that what a person does in the open, even behind a backyard fence, can be seen from a passing airplane and is not protected by privacy laws.

“I am for the use of drones,” said Howard Safir, former head of operations for the U.S. Marshals Service and former New York City police commissioner. He said drones could help police in manhunts, hostage situations and other difficult cases.

Privacy advocates say drones help police snoop on citizens in ways that push current law to the breaking point.

“Any time you have a tool like that in the hands of law enforcement that makes it easier to do surveillance, they will do more of it,” said Ryan Calo, director for privacy and robotics at the Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.

“This could be a time when people are uncomfortable, and they want to place limits on that technology,” he said. “It could make us question the doctrine that you do not have privacy in public.”

 

Al Qaeda leader invited to the Pentagon for lunch after 9/11 attacks

Radical Islamic cleric, Al Qaeda operational planner and U.S. citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki, was assassinated by the Obama administration via predator drone missile strike in Yemen today. Apparently the president now has the authority to sentence  U.S. citizens to death without any evidence being presented, charges being brought or trial taking place. What’s more disturbing than that though is that Fox News, yes that Fox News, claimed to have obtained documents last year that show that Al-Awlaki was invited to the Pentagon for lunch months after the 9/11 attacks.

Yes, you read that correctly.

According to Fox, Awlaki was taken to the U.S. Department of Defense’s headquarters as part of a military outreach program to the Muslim community during the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

In an FBI interview conducted after the Fort Hood shooting in November 2009, a Defense Department employee told investigators that she helped arrange a meeting with Awlaki after seeing him speak in Virgina. One of the documents stated that the employee had ‘attended this talk and while she arrived late she recalls being impressed by this imam. He condemned Al Qaeda and the terrorists attacks. After her vetting, Awlaki was invited to and attended a luncheon at the Pentagon in the secretary of the Army’s Office of Government Counsel’.

Awlaki was apparently interviewed at least four times by the FBI in the week after the September 11 attacks because of his links to three of the hijackers. He was also said to have been linked to Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who emailed Awlaki before the attack as well as 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Former Army Secretary Tommy White who led the troops in 2001 has said he doesn’t recall having lunch or any contact with Awlaki.

White said: ‘If this was a luncheon at the Office of Government Counsel, I would not necessarily be there’.

The Pentagon has yet to offer an explanation as to how one of the world’s most wanted men with clear connections to other terrorists could have ended up at a lunch for Muslim reconciliation soon after the attacks.

Army spokesman Thomas Collins said: ‘The Army has found no evidence that the Army either sponsored or participated in the event described in this report’.

A former high-ranking FBI agent told Fox News that nine years ago when Alwaki went to the Pentagon lunch, there was tremendous ‘arrogance’ about the screening process and who they allowed in the building.

‘They vetted people politically and showed indifference toward security and intelligence advice of other’, the former agent claimed.

Fox News’ report on Awlaki via Youtube user “MoxNewsdotcom”

 

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