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posted by martyb on Saturday May 20 2017, @07:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the shouting-questions-in-a-crowded-hallway dept.

John M. Donnelly, a senior writer at CQ Roll Call, said he was trying to talk with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly one-on-one after a news conference when two plainclothes guards pinned him against a wall with the backs of their bodies.

Washington Post

“Not only did they get in between me and O’Rielly but they put their shoulders together and simultaneously backed me up into the wall and pinned me to the wall for about 10 seconds just as I started to say, “Commissioner O’Rielly, I have a question,” Donnelly said Friday.

Donnelly said he was stopped long enough to allow O’Rielly to walk away.

Los Angeles Times

Donnelly, who also happens to be chair of the National Press Club Press Freedom team, said he was then forced out of the building after being asked why he had not posed his question during the news conference.

O'Rielly apologized to Donnelly on Twitter, saying he didn't recognize Donnelly in the hallway. "I saw security put themselves between you, me and my staff. I didn't see anyone put a hand on you. I'm sorry this occurred."


According to the publication for which the reporter works (archived copy),

Senators, including Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, are warning the Federal Communications Commission about its treatment of reporters after a CQ Roll Call reporter was manhandled Thursday.

“The Federal Communications Commission needs to take a hard look at why this happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. As The Washington Post pointed out, it’s standard operating procedure for reporters to ask questions of public officials after meetings and news conferences,” the Iowa Republican said. “It happens all day, every day. There’s no good reason to put hands on a reporter who’s doing his or her job.”

Additional coverage:

Related stories:
Reporter Arrested for "Yelling Questions" at HHS Secretary Tom Price
FCC to Make Proposals Public, Rescinds Net Neutrality Claims
ISPs “Reminded” to Not Use Government Money for Alcohol and Vacations
Buyer's Remorse on Net Neutrality
FTC V. AT&T to be Reheard
Bot Floods the FCC's Website with Anti-Net Neutrality Comments
John Oliver Leads Net Neutrality Defenders to Crash FCC Website. Again.
Crowdfunded Billboards Shame Four Members of Congress Who Sold Out Your Online Privacy
Trump Signs Bill Allowing ISPs to Share or Sell Customers' Browsing History
"Dig Once" Bill Could Bring Fiber Internet to Much of the US
US Congress is Trying to Roll Back Internet Privacy Protections [UPDATED]
Rally Marks Anniversary of Net Neutrality Rule as New FCC Chair Puts It in Crosshairs
FCC Lets "Billion-Dollar" ISPs Hide Fees and Data Caps, Democrat Says
With Net Neutrality Pretty Much Dead in the US, Your Privacy is Next
Ajit Pai to Become New Head of the FCC
FCC's Tom Wheeler Accuses AT&T and Verizon of Violating Possibly Short-Lived Net Neutrality Rules
After Setback, FCC Chairman Keeps Pushing Set-Top Box and Privacy Rules
Facebook in Talks With U.S. Government About Bringing "Free Basics" to America
Verizon to Disconnect Unlimited Data Users Who Use "Extraordinary" Amounts of Data
U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Net Neutrality Rules in Full
Netflix Slows Data Transmission for Certain Customers
Facebook Moves in to Make the Web a Facebook Monopoly
The Dragonslayer: An Interview with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
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FCC Had "Productive" Net Neutrality Talks With Comcast and T-Mobile

Original Submission

posted by n1 on Saturday May 20 2017, @06:37AM   Printer-friendly
from the free-beer dept.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Oscar López Rivera has been freed and has returned to Chicago:

Lopez was considered a top leader of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN, an ultranationalist Puerto Rican group that claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings at government buildings, department stores, banks and restaurants in New York, Chicago, Washington and Puerto Rico during the 1970s and early '80s.

[...] former President Barack Obama commuted his sentence in January. Since then he has been on house arrest in Puerto Rico.

The National Review reports that he is to lead the Puerto Rican Day parade in June in New York City, and that

He’ll be granted the title of “National Freedom Hero,” a designation never before bestowed on anyone.

additional coverage:

related stories:
Chelsea Manning Released from Prison, Remains on Active Duty Pending Appeal
Puerto Rico Files for Biggest Ever U.S. Local Government Bankruptcy
Chelsea Manning Reportedly on Obama's Short List for Commutation; Assange Offers Himself in Trade
Puerto Rico: 1 Substation Fire; All 3.5 Million People Lose Power

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Friday May 19 2017, @05:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the embassy-bed-no-more dept.

Swedish prosecutor has decided to discontinue the investigation against Julian Assange, who has been accused of sex crimes in Sweden. If this means that Julian is free to leave the embassy to go to Ecuador or not remains to be seen.

takyon: It does not mean that Assange is free to leave the embassy at this time, although his lawyer is asking for an arrest warrant to be dropped:

The London Metropolitan Police, however, made it clear in a statement that there is an outstanding arrest warrant for Assange. "Westminster Magistrates' Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on the 29 June 2012. The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy," it read.

The maximum penalty for breaching bail is up to a year in prison or a fine.

The police also recognized that Assange is now "wanted for a much less serious offense" and said they would "provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense."

It remains unclear whether there is a standing U.S. extradition order for Assange. The policy of Britain's Home Office is to neither confirm nor deny extradition orders until such time as a person has been arrested in relation to an order. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was stepping up efforts to arrest Assange as part of a broader fight against those who leak secrets into the public domain.

Also at BBC and The Guardian.

Original Submission

posted by on Thursday May 18 2017, @01:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the illegal-fake-bodily-functions dept.

Among its orders issued on Monday, the Supreme Court did something usually unremarkable: it summarily refused to hear an appeal without comment. Most appeal requests are denied by SCOTUS, but docket 16-984 was unusual in several respects. For one, it involved a 13-year-old boy arrested, handcuffed, and taken to jail for making fake burping noises in gym class. But recently it also became a notable dissent by recently appointed Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch from when he had served on a Federal Circuit Court.

The facts of the case were straightforward. As summarized in the introduction to the petition for appeal:

Thirteen-year-old F.M. burped in gym class, laughed, and, after the teacher removed him from the classroom, he leaned back into the classroom while sitting in the hall. Because these acts divided the teacher's attention, Officer Arthur Acosta ("Officer Acosta") handcuffed F.M., transported him to the local juvenile detention center, and charged him with Interference with the Educational Process, N.M.S.A. 1978, § 30-20-13(D) ("Section 30-20-13(D)"). Officer Acosta handcuffed and transported F.M. even though F.M. was compliant at the time he arrested him and there was no state interest in transporting him.

Ultimately, the case ended up in the hands of a federal Tenth Circuit Court, which found in a 2-1 ruling that the policeman's qualified immunity was sufficient to summarily dismiss any action against him. Gorsuch, however, found this absurd and began his dissent:

If a seventh grader starts trading fake burps for laughs in gym class, what's a teacher to do? Order extra laps? Detention? A trip to the principal's office? Maybe. But then again, maybe that's too old school. Maybe today you call a police officer. And maybe today the officer decides that, instead of just escorting the now compliant thirteen year old to the principal's office, an arrest would be a better idea. So out come the handcuffs and off goes the child to juvenile detention. My colleagues suggest the law permits exactly this option and they offer ninety-four pages explaining why they think that's so. Respectfully, I remain unpersuaded.

In his concise 4-page dissent, Gorsuch skewered the majority's convoluted reasoning, which seemed to spend much of its 94 pages constructing a careful path circumventing a New Mexico appellate court ruling that "interference with the educational process" required a "substantial, more physical invasion" of a school's operations. On this basis, Gorsuch concluded that the statute in question (which used identical language to the statute in the previous court case regarding colleges) obviously did not intend to criminalize minor "noises or diversions." He noted several other court cases from other states dealing with similar issues that concluded the same thing.

On this basis, he wrote that a "reasonable officer" in New Mexico should have known better.

But why did the Circuit Court come down so harshly and construct such convoluted reasoning just to let a police officer off the hook? The answer may be in the quiet sea-change in SCOTUS jurisprudence that seeks to limit almost all challenges to the "qualified immunity" given to police officers. Despite the fact that it doesn't appear in any federal statute, "qualified immunity" became de facto law after the 1982 Supreme Court ruling in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, which interpreted 42 U.S. Code § 1983 "Civil action for deprivation of rights" extremely narrowly. Over the years, this qualified immunity has expanded to the point that almost any police action -- no matter how unconstitutional or egregious -- is immune to civil action.

One recent illustrative case is SCOTUS's 2014 ruling in Plumhoff v. Rickard. After a routine traffic stop for a broken headlight, a car sped off resulting in a high-speed chase. After the car was cornered by a police patrol car, the police fired 15 shots into the car at close range, killing the driver and passenger and causing the vehicle to crash into a nearby house. SCOTUS reversed the appellate court's decision unanimously, determining that qualified immunity was still in effect. It should be noted that the doctrine of "qualified immunity" does not merely find officers non-liable for their actions; it necessitates a summary dismissal of any claims against them, preventing any actual consideration of fact in a lawsuit.

But what does this have to do with the "burping teen"? As argued in a recent Minnesota Law Review article, the Supreme Court has not only expanded its "qualified immunity" exceptions, but it has attempted to stamp out any possible dissent among lower courts. Rather than the standard jurisprudence concept of relying on citation of precedent, SCOTUS has instead chosen to quietly expand this doctrine (which it itself created in 1983), "describing it in increasingly generous terms and inexplicably adding qualifiers to precedent that then take on a life of their own." During the past 15 years, the Court has ruled in favor of the "qualified immunity" in 16 of 18 cases it chose to take. And in 6 of these cases it chose summary reversals of Circuit Court decisions, with no allowance for oral argument or briefing. (As the law review article notes, that represents about 1 of every 7 summary decisions in recent years.)

This tendency to not only reverse Circuit Court decisions (often unanimously), but often without even allowing argument, shows an unusual trend in SCOTUS jurisprudence. Even more remarkable is that through a series of rulings, SCOTUS has effectively short-circuited the process of appeals by insisting that (1) "qualified immunity" can only be denied in cases where officers violate "clearly established law," but (2) effectively limiting the determination of "clearly established law" to SCOTUS itself. Hence, if your case is not basically identical to the circumstances of a previous successful challenge to "qualified immunity" litigated by SCOTUS, lower courts are now implicitly instructed to grant immunity no matter what.

Indeed, earlier this year Bloomberg reported a story with the headline "Supreme Court Has Had Enough with Police Suits," after the most recent summary reversal -- just because the facts were "unique":

The justices made it clear that they wanted to send a message. [...] And the opinion referred to several occasions "in the last five years" in which the Supreme Court has reversed lower courts on the qualified immunity issue. There's little doubt of the message to the lower courts: The Supreme Court wants fewer lawsuits against police to go forward.

In an era where police misconduct seems to be getting more attention all the time, why are we not hearing more reporting about this quiet revolution in Supreme Court jurisprudence that has effectively made it impossible to make police accountable for their actions?

Returning to our "burping boy" case, perhaps we can read Gorsuch's dissent in a new light. Were the Circuit Court judges simply trying to find a way to grant immunity just to avoid another smackdown by SCOTUS? In his conclusion, Gorsuch comes close to accusing his colleagues of manufacturing an argument that they don't actually believe is just: "Indeed, a judge who likes every result he reaches is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels. So it is I admire my colleagues today, for no doubt they reach a result they dislike but believe the law demands..." He then goes on to say that he doesn't believe the law is "quite as much of a[n] ass as they do."

Because of his prior involvement with the case, Gorsuch was forced to recuse himself from consideration of the SCOTUS appeal. But if his dissent was sincere, maybe his voice will remain one dissenting voice among the otherwise unanimous Supreme Court justices who now allow for almost no possibility of personal culpability for police negligence, incompetence, or abuse.

Original Submission

posted by n1 on Wednesday May 17 2017, @10:31PM   Printer-friendly
from the home-sweet-home dept.

Chelsea Manning has been freed from the Fort Leavenworth military prison, according to a US Army spokesperson:

In January she tweeted that she wanted to move to Maryland after being released, a state where she previously lived. On Monday she tweeted: "Two more days until the freedom of civilian life ^_^ Now hunting for private #healthcare like millions of Americans =P".

Manning will remain on active army duty while her military court conviction remains under appeal. She will have healthcare benefits but will be unpaid, the army says. An online campaign set up by her attorney has raised $150,000 (£115,725) to pay for her living expenses for the first year after her release. If the appeal is denied, she could be dishonourably discharged from the army, US media say.

The mentioned Chelsea Manning Welcome Home Fund. Also at NPR, NYT, and CNN.

Original Submission

posted by on Wednesday May 17 2017, @11:21AM   Printer-friendly
from the leakers-are-everywhere dept.

President Donald Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russia's foreign minister about a planned Islamic State operation, two U.S. officials said on Monday, plunging the White House into another controversy just months into Trump's short tenure in office.

The intelligence, shared at a meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, was supplied by a U.S. ally in the fight against the militant group, both officials with knowledge of the situation said.

The White House declared the allegations, first reported by the Washington Post, incorrect.

[...] One of the officials said the intelligence discussed by Trump in his meeting with Lavrov was classified "Top Secret" and held in a secure "compartment" to which only a handful of intelligence officials have access.

After Trump's disclosure of the information, which one of the officials described as spontaneous, officials immediately called the CIA and the National Security Agency, both of which have agreements with a number of allied intelligence services around the world, and informed them what had happened.

Also at The Washington Post and The New York Times.

[Update.] According to Ars Technica, President Trump then proceeded to Tweet information about this meeting:

Statements from President Trump on Twitter and from White House National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster did not directly contradict details initially reported by the Washington Post late on Monday. McMaster said that no sources or methods were exposed in the conversation. However, the unnamed officials cited in the Post report were concerned that Trump's citing of the exact location "in the Islamic State’s territory where the US intelligence partner detected the threat" could expose the source. Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted:

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017 terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

Trump also lashed out at the intelligence community for leaking about his actions:

I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community.....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

Original Submission

posted by on Tuesday May 16 2017, @09:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the plenty-of-dirty-laundry-to-go-around dept.

WikiLeaks announced Friday it is prepared to pay $100,000 for any tapes of conversations between President Donald Trump and former FBI Director James Comey. The message was sent out from its Twitter account just hours after Trump sent out his own tweet apparently warning Comey not to leak information to the media because of tapes he has of their meetings.

Update: U.S. lawmakers ask Trump to turn over any Comey tapes. Background on Comey's firing.

Original Submission

posted by on Tuesday May 16 2017, @04:08AM   Printer-friendly
from the guilty dept.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that he has directed his federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties possible, including mandatory minimum sentences, in his first step toward a return to the war on drugs of the 1980s and 1990s that resulted in long sentences for many minority defendants and packed U.S. prisons.

[...] In the later years of the Obama administration, a bipartisan consensus emerged on Capitol Hill for sentencing reform legislation, which Sessions opposed and successfully worked to derail.

In a two-page memo to federal prosecutors across the country, Sessions overturned former attorney general Eric H. Holder's sweeping criminal charging policy that instructed his prosecutors to avoid charging certain defendants with offenses that would trigger long mandatory minimum sentences. In its place, Sessions told his more than 5,000 assistant U.S. attorneys to charge defendants with the most serious crimes, carrying the toughest penalties.

More at Washington Post, Fox News, Huffington Post, The Hill

Memorandum on Department Charging and Sentencing Policy - US Department of Justice PDF

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday May 14 2017, @05:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the you-may-even-get-tired-of-integrity dept.

A press release, dated 11 May, posted to the White House Web site (archived copy) announces (all links and party affiliations were added by the submitter):

[...] the issuance of an executive order forming the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Integrity. The President also named [Republican] Vice President Mike Pence as Chairman and Kansas Secretary of State [Republican] Kris Kobach as Vice-Chair of the Commission.

Five additional members were named to the bipartisan commission today:

        Connie Lawson [Republican], Secretary of State of Indiana
        Bill Gardner [Democratic], Secretary of State of New Hampshire
        Matthew Dunlap [Democratic], Secretary of State of Maine
        Ken Blackwell [Republican], Former Secretary of State of Ohio
        Christy McCormick, Commissioner, Election Assistance Commission


The Commission on Election Integrity will study vulnerabilities in voting systems used for federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations, improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations, and fraudulent voting. The Commission will also study concerns about voter suppression, as well as other voting irregularities. The Commission will utilize all available data, including state and federal databases.

Secretary Kobach, Vice-Chair of the Commission added: "As the chief election officer of a state, ensuring the integrity of elections is my number one responsibility. The work of this commission will assist all state elections officials in the country in understanding, and addressing, the problem of voter fraud."

Additional Commission members will be named at a later time. It is expected the Commission will spend the next year completing its work and issue a report in 2018.

According to Wikipedia's biography of Mr. Kobach (citation style changed by submitter):

Kobach has come to prominence over his hardliner views on immigration, as well as his calls for greater voting restrictions and a Muslim registry.[cite][cite][cite] Kobach regularly makes false or unsubstantiated claims about the extent of voter fraud in the United States.[cite]

As Secretary of State of Kansas, he has implemented some of the strictest voter ID legislation in the nation and has fought to remove nearly 20,000 properly registered voters from the state's voter rolls.[cite] After considerable investigation and prosecution, Kobach secured six convictions for voter fraud; all were cases of double voting and none would have been prevented by voter ID laws.

additional coverage:

related stories:
Kansas Secretary of State Finally Convicts an Immigrant of a Voting Irregularity
Former Colorado GOP chairman charged with voter fraud
Hundreds of Texans may have voted improperly
Donald Trump is Filling Out His Transition Team
Hacking Voter Registration Data in Indiana
Study Finds Texas Voter Photo ID Requirement Discourages Turnout

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday May 12 2017, @02:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the Will-he-be-fired,-too?-- dept.

The new, temporary FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe says that employees loved Comey:

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe Thursday rejected assertions by the White House that FBI employees had lost faith in James Comey and that the bureau's probe into Russian election meddling was one of its most minor concerns. "I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity," McCabe told members of the Senate intelligence committee. He said Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, enjoyed "broad support within the FBI and still does to this day." He added, "The majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey."

Furthermore, he will inform the Senate of any interference with the Russia investigation:

Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe vowed Thursday that he would tell the Senate Intelligence Committee if the White House tried to interfere with the bureau's probe of possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election — though he asserted that there had "been no effort to impede our investigation to date."

Meanwhile, President Trump has undermined the White House's messaging on Comey's firing, saying that he planned to fire "showboat" and "grandstander" James Comey regardless of any recommendation from Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein. The President also insists that he is not under FBI investigation.

Original Submission

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